Monthly Archives: January 2011

Chasing The Ring

Ludo seeing the two men in chainmail starting to flee, shifted his aim and started to shoot arrows at their exposed backs. “Hasan!” he yelled. ”Quick, two are escaping!”

“Bloody Tartarus,” the elf whined, as the he saw the two men disappear. “There’s nothing for it. We can’t catch them.” The elf watched the men disappear into the forest. “We could catch them on horse…”

Working around the flank after Ludo, Maruc found it difficult to remain quiet. His helm didn’t afford much of a view but he did catch the bulky characters at the back of the mob. He pressed on trying not the catch their attention then as Ludo lithely turned, an arrow leaping from his bow. Maruc threw caution to the wind, he might not catch both of them but one would do. He launched into a sprint. He laughed as he realized his holding incantation would have been more useful here. He was armoured and it slowed him down, but so were they so he kept the pace up.

Miklos heard the clanking of the armoured priest as he rushed after the fleeing leaders. “Stephan. I’m going to help Maruc.” He lightly dashed across the uneven forest floor quickly making up ground between himself and the iron shod slavers.

After launching an arrow at the fleeing reavers, Ludo broke into a sprint and, disregarding caution, pursued the reavers through the forest.

“Or,” the elf continued. “We can move quickly, and leave them behind us. I say let’s move. It would surprise nobody to learn we’ve left Susiskyn, and it might be better for those left behind if it is known we have left.”

While in the midst of battle, Feldard had little time to concern himself with fleeing enemies. Now that the squirmish was done, he noted several others already making their way towards the fleeing figures. There was no way his short legs could catch up. But Feldard,looked to the over to elf at his comment and replied, “Well, horses we got. If you hurry you might just beat the others to them. I’ll deal with what we got here.” He nodded the elf back towards where the horses were hobbled.

Stephan cursed that they’d left the horses back where they’d first detected the spies. It would be a mad dash but it might work. He sprinted back to the horses mounting one as quickly as possible. With a “ha ra”, he urged the horse through the woods in hot pursuit of the Iron Ring minions.

Meanwhile, wearing robes, the mage was able to move faster than his armored friends and foes, and was able to close the gap. First, passing Maruc who was merely keeping pace with the fleeing Ringmen.

Aware that they were being chased, the two reavers split up. Miklos was soon able to get within range of one of them. He launched a web spell and ensnared the fighter.

Ludo pursued the other fighter. The youthful rogue was faster than the bulkier armored man. When it was clear to him that he could not outrun his pursuer, the man turned to face Ludo. He liked these odds much better.

The two faced off and Ludo drew first blood. The reaver gritted his teeth and fought on, determined to kill his rival before any others could join the fight.

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Brainwashed Slaves Make For Lousy Warriors

Ludo frowned, this was a serious development. Already the Iron Ring was on their trail. He moved quietly back into the undergrowth trying to stay silent and hidden from the men who were watching his companions. As quickly as he could once he was away from their view and hearing he made his way back to where his companions waited. Miklos jumped when Ludo silently emerged from the undergrowth next to him. Ludo quickly relayed the situation to the party finishing of with a comment to Miklos. “Miklos I see no alternative but to attack them now while we have some advantage, we cannot leave any survivors”.

Miklos grinned. “Hah!” he caught himself before getting to loud. “You are right of course.” Miklos’s eyes grew bright.

“Perfect! If they had seen you they would be charging us now, excellent work Ludo. They still think they have the advantage of surprise. We must not reveal their mistake to them.”

“Quickly! Before they have chance to encircle us and set up a crossfire we must catch them whilst they are still grouped. They will approach Hasan and Feldard. Stefan you come with me and flank them to the left. Maruc, Ludo to the right. I shall attempt to ensourcal the main force with a sleep incantation then Stephan and myself will then attack to their flank. Feldard and Hasan charge from the front and Maruc and Ludo and surprise them from behind. This way we can stop them spreading out. I should be able the entrap the rest with further magic as necessary.”

He looked at the bemused faces around him. “Yes, yes so I’ve been around Feldard too long! So what! Lets get on with it.” Miklos rushed to the undergrowth on the left flank bringing forth the first mental preparations for spellcasting.

Maruc looked at Ludo and shrugged. “As good a plan as any. We really don’t have time for a war council.” Maruc grinned. “After you?” he loped off to the right following the lithe rogue.

The dwarf’s ruse of sleeping fooled nobody and the group began making plans involving him. Feldard glared sourly at both Ludo and Miklos. Why was it humans always lumped him with the elf of the party? Was it just to torment him? It must be—why else would they put the woodland elf, one of the stealthiest of forest dwellers on a frontal charge? “Bah” was his response but the cleric was right, there was no time for a war council. He glanced to the elf and began a quiet count to 10, 10 times. Hopefully that would be long enough – the mage hadn’t really said how long to give them.

The dwarf hefted his battle axe, nodded to the elf and backtracked their trail – ready for battle .

“Bah is right, Feldard,” Hasan complained, as the humans crept laboriously and loudly away. “Let us hope these thugs have never entered the wood before. Nobody else would miss our companions.”

“Still,” Hasan continued, as the dwarf reached the century mark, “it is more fun moving forward than moving back. Let’s see what these fellows have to say for themselves.” And the elf saw a hint of misplaced red flannel in the brush. “For the Radlebb!” he shouted, loosing an arrow at the Ringman beyond, and charging into the forest ahead.

Ludo lead the way with Maruc close behind. They were going to have to move relatively quickly to flank their foes so Ludo did his best to balance stealth with speed to get into position before Hasan and Feldard entered combat. Keeping low and using the trees as cover he moved around to where he had last seen their foes waiting. Crouching behind a bush he peered through the foliage and saw the men scrambling for their weapons. Obviously they had heard or seen something. Out of the still forest air he heard Hasans war cry and Feldards bellow as they charged. Sensing Maruc was about to leap into the fray, Ludo held his shoulder and whispered “wait until they engaged, when we hit them it will create more panic”.

Stephan moved with Miklos off to the left as quietly as possible without moving too slowly. As they moved, he readied his bow.

The mage and woodsman’s position was a good one affording them a slight elevation advantage. Stephan could feel his battle blood welling. Then he saw the Iron Ring. ‘Lousy warriors,’ he thought. But there was no time to consider his opponents. The battle had begun…

He loosed two arrows before Miklos and he executed a flanking charge.

Hasan charged, the call of “Radlebb” echoing his oppenents tormented screams, as Vlaak’s great blade turned on the Ringmen. “You will not forget Hasan, Prince of the Radlebb, slavers!” called the elf, as he cut his way past a second man. The elf was crazed.

Indeed, these did make for lousy warriors. Recruited from city slums throughout the Duchy, the ‘Hounds of the Iron Ring’ were beaten and brainwashed into complete submission. They had no sense of morality or fear—it was tortured out of them until all that remained was allegiance to the Ring.

These seven ‘Hounds’ were quickly eliminated. The ones that didn’t fall to Miklos’s sleep spell were cut down by the others. The two armor-clad ‘Reavers’ drew back, and then fled immediately back as the first of their men began to fall.

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Forest Spies

Maruc almost walked into Hasan when he stopped and held up his hand for silence.

“What is it?” he asked. The tall elf waved him into silence. Sensing something was wrong, Maruc freed his chain flailed and eased his hand into the punch grip of his shield. He looped the shield strap over his head and motioned Miklos behind him.

Miklos darted over the Maruc. “What did he say?” he whispered urgently.

“Shh!” replied the big cleric.

“Golthar’s spies?” he insisted.

“Too soon for that I think. Now be silent,” the priest said through gritted teeth.

“Time for an ambush. Perhaps?” Miklos darted over to Ludo.

“Ludo. Golthar’s agents are on to us I think. Can you get a closer look?” he whispered.

Quickly nodding to Miklos in agreement, Ludo darted off the trail into the undergrowth. Using the pine forest and natural foliage as concealment, he backtracked, attempting to move in behind whoever was following them.

Stephan gathered what was going on and glanced about the woods. Sotto voce, “Let’s just keep moving. We know about them now and that’s better. We can watch for them to make a mistake and maybe capture our tail.”

“Let us break now,” said the elf, loudly. “Thank you for looking to take a first watch, Maruc, but we can be at peace here, so close to Sukiskyn.” The elf proceeded to sit down on the great trunk of a fallen ash, calmly extracting a ripe pear from his pocket. The elf bit into the pear, conveying the most disarming air of tranquility his companions had ever seen in him. In fact, as the elf carefully set is bow down beside him, it was clear, the elf didn’t quite mean what he said. “We can handle these watchers unseen the forest,” the elf muttered. “Not so once we reach the clearings beyond, when they have seen our direction. Let them come now, or we shall have to flush them out.” And Hasan finished his pear, all but a little juice that remained, glinting from his chin.

Feldard wasn’t good at deceptive talking, so for him, if they weren’t going to hunt their shadows down, it was best if he didn’t draw attention to himself. So without a word the dwarf moved to the base of a tree and settled his back against it, his axe at his side within easy reach. Snores issued after but 5 minutes.

Stephan shrugged. “Aye, It’s just nigh of midday. Good time for a break.”

He too settled next to a tree in a position that afforded a good view of much of the surrounding wood. He drank deeply from a flask then fished out some jerky he’d taken at the last minute from the Sukiskyn stores.

His scabbard was situated in a way that would allow him to quickly draw the blade.

Ludo was worried, where was the spy? He heard the sharp sound of a twig crack off to right about 30 feet away. Ludo paused in mid step, then gently placed his foot down and slowly crouched down. He recalled the teachings of his fathers gamekeeper, ‘no sudden movement – in a forest when hunting move slow and silently and keep down wind wherever possible’. He was using all his skills to sneak up on a foe that was in all likelihood expecting trouble and it felt like that every movement and every breath was giving his position away.

Anticipating that the spy was close, he drew his dagger from his belt and slowly moved to the right where he had heard the twig break.

Ludo had initially expected to see a lone follower, but soon heard others. From his hiding spot, he saw a group of nine men. Most were dressed in leather armor and carried short bows. They had the same half-crazed look as some of the other Iron Ring minions they had confronted. Two leaders at the rear were clad in chain mail, and carried shields and longswords. A few hundred yards back from the party, they were doing their best to stay quiet and concealed, but they had not been adept enough to avoid catching the interest of the elf, and now Ludo.

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Departure

Following the decision to head out the next day, the dwarf oddly did not partake of the drink and festivities. Instead, he spent his evening sharpening his axe blade as well as those weapons found in the Sukiskyn armoury. They would be battle ready should there be need of them.

As the evening had progressed, Ludo reflected while he sipped on his ale, which was the strongest he had drunk. It was good to be able to have a chance to rest, the travels had been tiring. He contemplated the plan, it seemed good and would in all likelihood make Golthar’s job all the more harder. It would be difficult to ambush them in Hasan’s backyard.

The rogue observed Stephen laughing with his brother and extended family. There is a lucky man—family to look after and family to watch your back, Ludo thought to himself. He envied Stephen at that moment. Moving outside, he toured around the compound greeting each guard in turn, before he retired for the evening, the day had been long and the ale had taken its toll on him.

At the end of the night, in tears, Stephan embraced his older brother the night before departure. “I shall return, brother. And bring yet more gold to pay for my absence!”

The very drunk Pyotr hugged his younger sibling, and then proclaimed the group to be his greatest friends and embraced each of them with a mighty Traladaran hug. His wife Darya then helped the elder Sukiska to bed.

And, with that, the last of the revelers rested for the night, as the dwarf stayed up late into the night keeping watch along with those already assigned to guard duty.

* * * * *

The morning beams shone through the dawn woodland. it seemed a wonderful day to set off in search of Golthar and the curious land of the worshipers of the Jackal headed god. Miklos waved goodbye to the Sukiskyn and followed Stephan as he lead some of the group to the clan’s store in the northeastern tower. The warrior was still groggy with the after effects of the night’s libation

Meanwhile, Maruc rose from his morning prayer and smiled at Kuzma. “Thank you for joining me.” He said. “I found our ethic conversations illuminating last night. You would have got on well with my Lord Abbot.”

“What is his name? Perhaps our paths have crossed?” Kuzma asked.

“My Abbot now resides beside the Avatars of Mighty Halav awaiting his triumphant return. For He is with us, but He is subtle and only us blessed few know the truth. For he sits and abibes his time within the body of Duke Stefan. It is not yet time for him to reveal himself. But when that day comes we must be prepared. We must be pure.” Maruc grinned.

“I see by your face you find difficulty with this, but fear not. I do not evangelize. I ask only that you do as you have always done. Hold Halav close, and he will reveal his thoughts to you.” Maruc thought for a while.

“Kuzma, have you store of Holy Water? Also, I have need of a set of Halavistic Augury Runes if you have them. I will gladly tithe for them.”

The old priestly woman had at first been skeptical of Maruc. She knew of his church and its reputation—it was referred to as the Cult of Halav, afterall. However, having witnessed firsthand the actions of the group and its priest in particular, she was more than willing to grant Maruc his requests. She was reticent to receive payment, but when Maruc impressed upon her that they had garnered treasure from Golthar’s tower, she relented.

Stephan gratefully took from the stores of Sukiskyn: hard tack, encrusted cheese, extra water skins, quinoa and dried fruits. Having left a fair share of his portion of the take from Golthar’s tower, he knew that his family would have no trouble refreshing their stocks. In fact, if the promise of what the map had revealed to him came true, the family would never have want for wealth again.

Miklos helped himself to the stores of dried fruits and an particularly piquant cheese round. he took some flat breads and a wonderfully tender molasses smoked ham. The Sukiskyn clan didn’t seem to mind. He finished off with a good bowlful of pearl barley and split peas in a stew Kuzma had prepared.

The previous evening Miklos had thought long and hard about what the future would hold and how best to prepare. Worst case was that they were going to be attacked out in the road somewhere or on the river. Therefore, an aggressive selection of magic was called for for attack was normally the best form of defense. He decided that his current selection was most appropriate and spent some time revising his magic for the forthcoming journey.

He checked his armor and clothing, again accepting from his Sukiskyn brethren new trousers and jerkin to wear under his armor. He also took a new quiver to hold his arrows as well as several new arrows to accompany his two enhanced ones. With the help of Stellios, he was able to patch up his boots.

“You sure you don’t want this new pair here, Stephan. They’re hardly worn.” The old man held the boots in his one hand.

“Nay, Stellios. But many thanks. My boots are well fitted to my feet now. I do not want to break in new ones for this trip.”

Once his gear was ready, Stephan assisted the others with gathering food and other supplies. In doing so, he spied a good new length of rope and added it to his pack.

Feldard took only the barest of rations that he would need – mainly dried beans, dried fruits, hard tack and clapbread. He refilled his wineskins with wine, since he drank that less liberally than he did ale.

There was no point in his attempting to find other clothing here. Nothing in this place would fit him without major alterations which he did not have time for so he made do with the stained and torn clothes he had on him.

Feldard hated to make the request for any of the clan’s small store of crossbow bolts but given the fact that his own now were all in need of repair he couldn’t just pass on the opportunity to stock up on even just a few. Once again, the Sukiskyn clan were beyond generous with him.

Ludo too had wandered over to the Sukiskyn stores and filled his backpack with what supplies he figured he would need. Salted beef, nuts, dried fruit, a new canteen and some extra arrows. As he poked around, Darya came over and presented Ludo with a dark green wool cloak.

“Ludo take this, it will help to keep you warm at night”. Ludo muttered his thanks, but was at a loss to fully give his thanks and gratitude for her gift.

The dwarf stood stoutly in the main hall as the group gathered to say their farewells. These folk were good people. “Pyotr, may your house stand firm against any who wish your family harm. Darya – May your hearth fire always burn steady and your larder never empty.” He gave a bit of a gruff nod and looked to the others – ready to leave. He then assembled with his mates in the main hall, preparing to depart.

Hasan thanked the clan. The elf had been ready the first time the bird awakened, but it seemed his companions were reluctant to leave or were troubled rising after the celebratory night. But the elf’s energy was very high. The Radlebb! They were headed back to his home forest on the morrow, Stephan had said. The elf’s feet nearly leaped off the ground with each step, as the party bade farewell and turned their backs on the foresters.

The sun was barely breaking through the trees. Darya assured that the travelers had a full belly before heading out. Pyotr was up and lively despite his condition the night before. He appraised his younger brother’s gear then looked closely in his eyes.

As the party gathered, a light rain began to fall. The whole of Sukiskyn gathered to wish them well. After wishing everyone well, Ludo hefted his pack onto his back and went and stood by Miklos, it was time to move on.

“You look ready, brother. I see our father’s light in your eyes,” said Stephan. “The strength of our ancestors goes with you and your mighty companions. Halav be with you all.”

* * * * *

Rifllian was located at the northern edge of the Radlebb. To get to it, the group would have to cross the mighty Volaga River. They were limited in their options. Stephan knew of a ferry crossing operated by the gnomes that would seem to be their best option.

As they made their way through the Dymrak, Hasan’s finely honed elven senses told them that they were being followed.

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Plotting The Course

Maruc traced his hands over the map. This green area at the bottom looks like Dymrak. These blue lines seem to be rivers. To the upper left is a golden city in the mountains reached by this pass to the south. So by my guess that gateway would be..”

“At Threshold,” finished Miklos. “May we take the tapestry with us Pyotr? It may reveal further clues the closer we get.” Miklos rubbed his eyes and yawned. “I can foresee another river trip coming. Lets hope we get further than last time… Darya where can we catch a northbound boat from?”

Despite the urgency of their mission Miklos felt he could sleep for a week he made his excuses and retired to bed.

“So! It’s off to Threshold, and thence to the Black Peaks,” Stephan proclaimed once the more cerebral of the party had drawn their conclusions.

“And you’ll be able to deliver Nicolai’s ashes.”

“I suppose we are concluding that the reason for the gobo attacks was this tapestry,” he nodded toward the tapestry-turned-map spread out on the table. How can we assure that Golthar will no longer seek it here? Perhaps we should make it well known that the prize has left the Dymrak?”

The dwarf at first had not made any sense of the golden needle work, until Maruc noted that the blue outlined lines were rivers. Then it all came together. Yes. The dwarf pointed to the red pyramid like shape east of the centre. “So that would be the ruins and tower where we lost the Yellow-robed man? Good then, Threshold and then to the Black Peak Mountains.”

He gave a shrug at Stephan’s question. “We could do that. By announcing on our travel away that we have the tapestry or that we destroyed it but know where to go but never openly say what that location is, we become the target and not innocent clansmen here. The yellow-robed man and his minions will be forced to follow us to learn of the location.”

Despite the groups overall weariness, the dwarf urged for leaving no later than mid-day on the morrow. To stay longer would put the people of Sukiskyn at unnecessary risk.

“I think an open assault on us would be likely.” said Maruc, “Especially as we are dealing with a cunning magi. He is likely to divine if we have the information he seeks. I would if I was in his position. What do you think Miklos?”

“It is possible for a powerful mage to divine our whereabouts.” Miklos replied, “I think if we try to shout that we are taking the tapestry it will look like artifice. Better to treat Golthar like he knows what he is doing… it will appeal to his ahhh…vanity. A vain person makes mistakes.”

Stephan eyed Feldard, Maruc and Miklos in turn as they responded to his comment.

“Aye. I suppose he’ll know anyway. Just as long as the attacks in Dymrak end. Then I’m okay. It would be fun, though, to send ‘ol Golthar on a goose chase.”

The fighter smiled and drank; wiped the froth from his lip.

“You know. Send some dummy map southwards or some such.” His brow knitted a bit. “If we draw out on some parchment what’s on this tapestry, do we even need it any longer? Maybe we should destroy it.”

The woodsman was clearly over his depth. He looked like he confused himself with all the pondering.

Ludo shrugged his shoulders, looking at Stephen he said “I don’t think we can in good conscience allow anyone to take the risk of carrying a false map – Golthar I suspect would attack the people carrying that map and would place their lives in danger, the best course of action is the most dangerous, we need to take the map and proceed onto Threshold without delay. Golthar cares nothing for these villages, what he wants is this map. The sooner we leave the better, if only for the safety of these good people” looking at Kuzma”

The good news is now we lead this merry dance, Golthar has no idea where our destination is and what we know so now he has to dance to our tune. He will be more careful in the future, he knows he will need considerable numbers of minions to steal this map from us by force and after the drumming we have given him lately I suspect he will hard pressed to gather the forces to do that – it least for now, so the other way to get this map is by stealth and guile – that is where the greatest danger lies”.

Glancing at Feldard, “I agree with Feldard, we should depart on the morrow, but I think just after dawn and I think Feldard should be the guardian of the map and the needle, Golthar knows that Miklos is the scholarly person of us all and I think that makes him the most likely person that Golthar will focus on to gain the secrets of the map. We cannot risk Golthar getting this map. I am not sure if we still need it, but I suspect we do, it may yet hold secrets”.

A grin spread across Maruc’s face, “Whereas, Ludo. Feldard is a less than scholarly figure? You are too cruel!” Maruc laughed good naturedly. “Either way, I agree the map should travel with us. It may have purposes other than simply showing the way as you suggest. We should package it carefully. It is ancient so a deal of respect is called for. Kuzma do you have a watertight scroll case of a suitable size?”

Hasan finally spoke. “This Golthar will not know where we go, but even without magecraft he will know that Kelvin and High Forge are likely waystations. We should avoid those places, where we will surely be observed. If any of the Sukiskyn know other ways north, they would be valuable guides.”

Stephan responded to Hasan’s request for a guide, “I can lead us. I know a little used trail heading west from here through the Dymrak.” His finger traced the route on the crude tapestry map.

“It leads to well north of Krakatos; south of the Kelvin Barony. We can cross the river and then Duke’s Road and keep going west into the Radlebb Woods for a few leagues before turning north toward Rifllian. We can avoid a river trip. I fear how watched the river will be. It would be a rough, wooded journey. Not many settlements, but not as untamed as the lands from which we just returned.”

“There’s also the matter of the horses. They will fetch a fair price in Riflian, and also may serve the purpose of disguising our true mission. Darya can come with us and return with the proceeds and then we can continue north from Rifllian — on road or not. Then, not many days farther to Threshold. I think the west side of the river may be a route less suspected by our foes.”

Stephan paused. The others seemed a bit taken aback by his verbosity. It must be the ale, Pyotr thought.

“But the river north would be faster and easier in many ways. My point is, I can at least get us to the river. There are places north of Krakatos that will hire out a riverboat.”

“Thank you Stephan.” nodded Miklos, “This we shall do, I agree a boat north of Rifllian seems the most obvious choice. We shall be more exposed, but it will be easiler to see if we are being followed and if we are aware of being followed we can more easily turn the tables and ambush them. We may learn much if we are cunning.”

The joyous feast continued as the adventurers continued to discuss their plans. The evening took on a more exciting tone as everyone now felt that they were part of something larger.

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The Golden Tapestry

It took Maruc and Miklos each explaining to him separately the reasoning for returning to Sukiskyn before the dwarf accepted the fact that they had to retrace their route.

As the party traveled to Sukiskyn, Ludo chatted to Yousef. He could not help but feel admiration for the Yousef’s bravery in resisting the torture that Golthar and Vlaak had inflicted upon him. Yousef smiled when Ludo confirmed to him that Vlaak had been killed in the assault on the tower, and again thanked Ludo for his role in his rescue.

Yet, Ludo felt uneasy. He knew that Golthar would not forfeit ‘the game’ so easy. He had lost this round that was for sure; his tower had been ransacked, his forces routed and, most importantly, the party had recovered Yousef and had gained an invaluable clue to his evil scheme. But, Golthar was a powerful mage and there were two lessons that Ludo had learnt since leaving home. The first was don’t cross a local thieves guild on their territory, and secondly don’t cross powerful spell casters—they both were unforgiving and vindictive. He wondered what Golthar’s next step would be and also reflected on the translation of the parchment. What was the treasure? How would the tapestries show the way? No doubt this treasure was what Golthar was after.

The dampness of the ancient forest gave way to the familiar clearing. The Sukiskyn homestead had broad scaffolding lashed to a newly built palisade wall, it was an impressive amount of work considering the brief time they had been away. Testament to the hardiness of the Dymrak woodsmen. It shamed Maruc to think how quickly repairs could be performed. Perhaps he should have stayed to rebuild the cloister after the raid? He dismissed the idea. Halav had guided him on a different path.

He passed the lonely graves of Novannes and Hakos and bowed his head for a moment in prayer, then made his way with the others to the Great Hall. He could detect the sound of industrious carpentry.

Pyotr was stripped to the waist working on a new strong think door to his hall. He turned as the party approached. A broad grin spreading across his face as he recognized the party. He pulled on his tunic and went straight to Stephan then hugged him warmly. “Welcome home Stephan! And Yousef! I heard about it all and I am glad to see you in good health. Excellent, excellent! Welcome home all!” He turned to the house and called, “Darya! A feast! A feast for our friends! Stephan has returned!”

The dwarf nodded at the palisade being constructed. Maybe if the group remained at the homestead a while, he would offer his assistance, but for now it seemed the women were preparing a meal and the dwarf was not going to say no to properly cooked food.

“Gamarjoba!” Stephan exclaimed in old Traladaran to his clan fellows. “The repairs are coming along well!”

Maruc clasped Pyotr’s proffered hand as he ushered them into his great Hall. “I see the repairs are going well Pyotr.” he said, “Hopefully the goblins will remain away for a long while.” Kuzma came down the stairs and Maruc grinned as she approached. “Halav Reincarnate bless you Kuzma.”

A quizzical look passed her face. “Reincarnate? You must have a story to tell Maruc.” she said.

“Ahh… the truth is all I have to offer…” Maruc smiled mysteriously.

* * * * *

Ludo had felt good when they arrived at Sukiskyn. The reception by Stephans’s clansmen was very welcoming and a great celebration was soon underway to rejoice in Yousef’s safe return. The meal of course was beyond compare and he thanked the ladies of Sukiskyn heartily.

Hasan joined his companions and their hosts in their feast, but he could not join their revelry. The new palisade would burn like the old if they did not press onward to extinguish the Dymrak’s pests and whatever mastermind drove them into their strange alliances.

Aside from the elf’s aloofness, there was much cheer, despite the hardships the family had suffered. Stephan and Pyotr discussed the reconstruction and repairs for the homestead. For the first time since the raid, a gleam returned to the elder brother’s eyes as he spoke about his plans for constructing a bigger barn and stouter gate.

“The horses you recovered, Stephan, are doing well. Molly,” he gestured to a large mare, “has had a strong foal and we expect more. We’ll use their strength clear more land and build a stronger wall.”

Maruc pushed his plate away. It was wonderful to be out of his armour. “Pyotr, again you have welcomed us with over generosity. Thank you, but this business is not yet finished. Have you an ancient tapestry? Stalwart in his resistance to the ministrations of Golthar the Yellow, Yousef here did not bow and yet learned more from Golthar than he revealed.”

“We believe that the tapestry holds a secret that we may have the means to unlock. Miklos?” He looked at the mage across the table.

Miklos nodded, and left the table. He rummaged in his pack, and produced the small box. “Here is what we assume to be the key. For it says on this parchment amongst other things ‘The sacred tapestries and your silver needles show the path.’ These we found in Golthar’s tower. Yousef was being questioned as to the whereabouts of the tapestry Maruc was alluding to. Fortunately, a great disaster may have been averted thanks to Yousef, for if Golthar had gained access to its secrets an Eternal Night is all we would be looking forward to right now.”

Darya stood, “One moment. I hid it during the raid along with all our other valuables in the armoury. I shall get it.”

Darya and Kuzma laid the Tapestry out onto the table. Stephan watched in wonder as Kuzma laid out the beautiful tapestry. It seems to be more intricate then he recalled. “Tis a thing of great beauty.”

The dwarf looked over the fabric. He didn’t see anything special about it.

They all watched as Miklos brought forth the strange needle and thread they’d found in Golthar’s tower. Miklos placed the needle and tread on the surface…and waited.

As the needle was touched to the tapestry, it sparked brightly and its golden thread shimmered. Moving of its own volition, the needle magically weaved through the tapestry, subtly changing the areas it passed through. Soon the geometric patterns were gone, replaced by a beautifully executed map depicting a coastline, mountains and rivers of what the group recognized as a stylized map of the Duchy of Karameikos. A pulsating golden area nestled in a mountain range—the northeastern range of the Black Peak Mountains—depicted a golden temple and no doubt the location of the ancient treasures that Golthar so desperately sought.

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