Monthly Archives: November 2011

Toward the Black Peaks

Stephan tried to shrink away from eyeshot of the town guard muttering, “Looks like this is meant to be a foot journey. No boat today.”

Feldard peered around his companions as they stood clustered at the corner of a building not far from where they’d left the boat tied. The patrolmen were a problem. “I knew it was a bad idea to come back to the city. Did I not say that?”

The dwarf frowned, there were too many out on the street at this time of day to be able to take out the patrolmen without attracting more guard. He turned to Ludo. “Any chance you can find us another boat? Or a means of sneaking out our weapons at the very least?” Currently, the dwarf’s axe and crossbow were bundled up in his cloak and strapped onto his backpack, but it wasn’t difficult to guess by the shape what the bundle contained.

Ludo sighed. He should have realized that the boat’s owner would be out looking for his only way to make a living Ludo looked around, the only thing he could suggest was to scale the town walls. “Feldard, Hasan and Stephen, give me your bows and axe. I will clamber over the walls out of sight of the guard and meet you in the clearing near the town’s north gate.”

Following Ludo into an alley, “Why don’t we hand over our weapons after you’ve found a spot to climb? That way you don’t have to lug two bows and an axe through town.”

The rogue nodded. They explored a bit, looking for a suitable place where Ludo could put his plan into action.

Eventually, they found a spot out of sight of prying eyes. Feldard was almost beet red at the thought of having to hand over his axe once again. What if the rogue got caught climbing over? It was daylight now, not the dark of night. But what choice did the dwarf have? With a glare that warned of dire things to come should there be even a slight scuff to his blade, Feldard handed over his axe and then proceeded to follow the others to the northern gates.

Stephan handed over his bow checking as he did that the tension was loosened. “You rogues are always handy in a town,” Stephan said.

Ludo turned to Stephen, “I will meet you at the dam.” The rogue uncolied his rope and grapple, then nimbly scaled the wall and at the top made sure that all was clear of the town guard.

Fortunately for Ludo, the town walls were designed to keep enemies out, not trap people in. He carefully lowered the weapons to the ground. Wouldn’t want to put a dent in Feldard’s axe was a thought that crossed his mind, Feldard would have a hernia. He then proceeded north along the road to the dam to meet up with the others.

Back in the town limits, Feldard was sour and silent the entire walk. He grunted and glared at the guards at the northern gates as they passed through.

Miklos was thankful that although practicing magecraft in Threshold was against the law, ‘rare book dealing’ was not, however he did his best to huddle amongst his friends as they passed by the gate guards careful not to attract attention.

Hasan enjoyed the moment. It was goodbye to the town and guards, and that was all he had been waiting for. “Cheerio, old man,” the elf nodded, as the grizzled old soldier glared at the departing party of campaigners. “We’ll see you on our return. Do keep the light on,” the elf joshed.

Maruc nodded at the guards as he passed though and offered a blessing. His view was filled with towering mountains that climbed to the skyline. The peaks frosted with snow promised a hard path. He wondered as he turned onto the northern pass road what guardian had kept this pass blind to the adventures of the past that travelled this way before. Never to return. But the favour of Halav was with him and paths of faith are never easy.

It was only as the party waited for their companion that Feldard spoke. “So where the hell is he?”

Maruc smiled when he saw Ludo sat on the side of the road with their gear.

As the others pulled their wargear back on Miklos opened the tapestry and studied the lay of the land.

“The pass we seek leads north around the rocky spur. The river has carved this gorge but there must be a path else this map is false. Let us be on our way, I’d like to get out of the shadow of that restricted city. We have the whole day before us!”

The tapestry clearly indicated a river leading north into the Black Peak Mountains. The group would have to cut across a few miles of hilly terrain to meet the Foamfire River, otherwise, they would have had to waste time backtracking to Rifllian. It was late afternoon when they reached the river, and not long after they arrived at the mouth of the Foamfire Valley.

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That’s My Boat!

Maruc stuffed the last of the gemstones in a sack. “It seems it was not for riches that Golthar sought the secrets of the tapestry.”

Miklos hefted his much heavier backpack onto his shoulders. A spell book was an awkward thing at the best of times, but two were proving much worse. He didn’t complain, he was too excited. The thanked Ludo again.

“No Maruc, although I am surprised that we found no evidence of the Sons of Night here. But still, we cannot let them get ahead of us. There is more than one way to find somewhere. Perhaps the tapestry was the easiest, they may become more desperate, Desperate people make desperate choices. We must not delay here but with all speed seek the northern pass.”

While Feldard was more than happy to help clear out the gemstones and other valuables from the hideout, their search seemed to turn up little that might answer any questions they had. He nodded his agreement with Miklos’ assessment. “Those of us with our weapons should return to the boat and meet the others further north of the city before the dam. From there we can regroup and head for the pass.”

Ludo smiled, the night had been very profitable. Golthar was dead, gone from his nightmares forever. They had discovered riches and for once did not have to worry about being followed. They could begin their journey north knowing that the path behind them was free of foes.

“I agree with Feldard. I will collect my bow in the morning from the city guard and meet you north of the town at the dam. Then we can head to the northern pass and make our way to Hutaaka.”

Stephan couldn’t argue with the logic of Miklos’ and Feldard’s plans. He sighed nonetheless at the thought of the missed pint and comfy pallet in the inn. But the thought of more travel in woods spurred him on.

Stephan said in low tones, “The Foamfire River becomes unpassable not too long after we depart. The bulk of our journey will be on foot. But, save that, it sounds like a good plan. Miklos, will you take this gold seal?” He referred to the gold seal of the Iron Ring they’d found in the fireplace.

Hasan shook his head vigorously. “Yes, out of the city and off we shall go. Well done, Ludo, to bring us this good fortune, but it is time to head out into the wild land. Miklos, do share that spellbook as we wait.”

* * * * *

In the morning, the group prepared to leave Threshold as planned. The town guard did not patrol the streets of Fogor Isle at night, but now daylight had returned, and thus they were back. Though they made it through the streets without trouble, when they got to the riverside, their luck ran out. A small group of patrolmen were gathered around the boat that Ludo had stolen the night before. One of them was engaged in conversation with one of the townsfolk.

“Yes, yes. That’s my boat! Someone took it from the dock.”

“It is not legal to moor your boat here.”

“It wasn’t me. Someone stole it I said!”

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Under Cover of Darkness

Ludo sighed, “Thank you Maruc, you gave her more of a chance at life than she would have given you or me. Thats in itself is worth Halav’s blessing”. With that he exclaimed, “We can take the boat I borrowed back into Threshold under the cover of darkness… I can lead you to Golthar’s lair. If it is empty, which I suspect it will be, we could hold up there for the night and depart Threshold in the morning after we have searched it”.

Stephan nodded at Ludo’s plan. He was happy to not fool with turning in their weapons. If the town guard gave them any trouble, he figured they could be convinced to look the other way. Regardless, he planned to cover up his bow and quiver when in town.

He stood ready to follow Ludo’s lead back to the boat although he knew how to get there having seen the rogue make his approach earlier.

Feldard, didn’t like the plan, not one bit, but short of handing over his axe again there was little choice but that. “Let’s get this done then,” he agreed wiping down this blade. “What should we do with these bodies? Leaving them here.. so close to town will no doubt be discovered quickly and rouse the town guard. And the clergy knew of our distrust of the mage so will be quicker to put two and two together.”

He glanced to the river. “Weigh them down with rocks?”

Maruc helped the dwarf sink the bodies, then he picked up Sligh’s shield. “Well if no one can make use of the this mage-wrought shield, I shall use it until someone else has need of it. I shall meditate in the boat.” He dumped his gear into the boat and covered the tell-tale gleam of armour with his travel cloak. He sat in an waited for the others to join him.

When they had all climbed in he unshipped his oars and pulled a draught of water between them and the twilight shore back toward Threshold.

The mage eagerly climbed into the boat. The thought of getting hold of Golthar’s spell book swamped all thoughts of caution. He trusted Ludo’s expertise and the thought that he had fully armed friends around him bolstered his confidence. Especially that they were on their way to Golthar’s lair. Who knows what they might find there? Or Who?

The demihuman’s keen nightvision helped guide the way. Miklos cast a spell of continual darkness on a stone when they drew close to the city to cover their approach. And thus they were able to sneak into the town. Once they found a quiet area to dock their boat, Ludo guided the group to Golthar’s lair, managing to avoid the town guard patrol.

Eventually, they arrived unnoticed at the Iron Ring hideout. They took precautions in case it was inhabited, but soon determined that it was empty. Golthar had used every one of his resources in his battle to recover the tapestry. Now, they had their run of the place.

In the various rooms they found gold crona and gemstones stashed in various places. The largest and nicest room had undoubtedly been occupied by Golthar and was where they concentrated their search. The wily Ludo discovered a hidden compartment in the fireplace. Inside was the mage’s spellbook and a locked silver casket. It did not take long for the rogue to open it. Inside were some gemstones, a carved ivory comb, a platinum vanity mirror and a gold seal bearing the stamp of the Iron Ring.

Hasan felt uneasy as he followed his friends back into Threshold. The city stunk on pig and chicken kept in tight quarters. Or maybe that was his friends themselves. The elf longed for a dip in the warm springs the Elyan had found deep in Radlebb wood.

It was rather a surprise when the hulking figure of Maruc pulled up in front of the daydreaming elf. Biff, the elf gasped, as he ran headlong into the cleric’s heavy-plated armor.

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Do You Repent Your Foul Ways?

Miklos nodded with satisfaction, true, only he could see the auras but he was not one for secrets. “Maruc, Jolenta’s mace is enchanted, take it to ensure the servants of darkness are not armed with such. Her shield is magical too. Perhaps Feldard or Hasan or Stephan might employ it? Ah Stephan, I see your shield is already enchanter, no doubt a sacred family heirloom. Sligh’s shield is also magical, I doubt he would make much use of it now. He eye’d Ludo’s hand, but he dismissed mentioning the ring, after all he might have had it all the time and Miklos wasn’t about to be rude.

“What shall we do with Jolenta?” A vision of the interrogation of the Goblin Chief at Sukiskyn floated across his mind. He winced, and felt he must try give her the chance before things got nasty.

He lent toward her. “Listen my dear, you are cultured, I can see that. Cultured people avoid unpleasantness. Please believe me that I for one would not wish to be subject to the whims of Master Feldard. He can be awfully…ahh tense. I’d take this opportunity to reveal what you know freely and our paths may never cross again. Sadly if you chose the alternative…” he shivered, “I doubt taking paths will be an option. I really only am thinking of your best interests.”

Maruc snorted. “Miklos you are wasting your time. She will not talk. She is wise enough to realize she is a dead person. She lost her duel, her friends are dead. She knows we will not let her go to raise a force to follow us. Loosing Feldard on her will probably result in lies to fool us.” he locked his gaze with Jolenta. “Yes. I am no fool. Mighty Halav who is here, present in this world has greater more immediate power. You have failed your god, let us hope he is merciful. But from the little I know, your ‘hereafter’ won’t be that pleasant. May be I’m mistaken? Maybe Holy Pflarr is forgiving? I certainly hope so for your benefit.”

“Good bye Jolenta. I will not say farewell.” with that Maruc turned his back on her.

“Gentlemen we must rest for the night. I am exhausted and I need to heal you. Then I agree with Ludo, We must investigative Golthar’s Lair.

Maruc picked up the mace as he collected his things, surprisingly light, he thought. “Thank you for the gift, Jolenta this will serve the forces of good and righteousness from now on.”

“Why not,” shrugged Hasan, as he hoisted the priest’s shield. “Looks rather battered to me, Miklos. Could do with some greenwash to improve the color, too,” complained the elf, picking at the flecks of yellow and red that lay on a cold black enameled core. Still, the elf could see the use of such a thing. “I’ll need some work with this, Stephan.”

Ludo approaches Maruc and grabs his shoulder. “You cannot allow Feldard to kill this women in cold blood. Yes she is a vanished enemy, but she does not deserve a cold bloody execution. Maruc do not do this. Your soul will be tarnished. I suggest we tie her up, take her armour, weapons and holy symbol, and leave her only with rags. Everybody should have a chance of redemption. Let her see Halav’s mercy! Who knows, this mercy may turn her from the dark path she is travelling on. We will be long gone into the wilderness before she will make her way free and beyond the clutches of the Iron Ring.”

Feldard scowled. Of course the humans and elf would leave the dirty work to him. No one else seemed to have the stomach to kill when it wasn’t in immediate self-defense. Somehow Feldard had given his companions the impression that he was blood-thirsty and brutal – with goblins and orcs sure, but…

The dwarfs scowl deepened “So why did you bother keeping her alive in the first place? Just so I could kill her? Bah!” He’d best get this over with. He roughly forced the female into a kneeling position. This would be execution-style.

Stephan could see the grim nature of Feldard but couldn’t tell for sure that it was out of distaste for having to carry out the execution. He wondered, briefly, whether the dwarf would do it. It was odd, he thought, that the demi-human seemed to be the one designated for this task. To be sure, it was not in any of their natures to wantonly kill.

Stephan finished gathering his things. He was woefully low on arrows now and planned to purchase more in Threshold.

He turned, ready to knock and let fly an arrow into Jolenta’s heart if Feldard was somehow unable to carry out the deed.

Ludo’s words troubled Maruc. “No. You are right we must not slay in cold blood.” Maruc stayed Feldard s hand. “One moment friend.” he turned to address Jolenta. “Do you repent your foul ways? Do you seek the light? Will you turn away from the foul deeds for your past life and embrace the good?”

Ludo looked on in silence, he knew the answer this woman gave would mean whether she lived or died. He was shocked to see that she started to… smile?

Jolenta’s grin grew bigger and then she started to cackle. A cackle which grew into a maniacal laugh. The disturbing laughter continued until it was silenced by the fall of the dwarven axe.

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Kelmar’s Wondrous Revealer

Ludo tossed the bag of gemstones to Miklos and tried on the jade ring to see if it fit. It did, and quite nicely. “Well there will be no more running from this evil tyrant. The terror he bought to so many is finished. Just before he attacked us, I found his lair in Threshold. I suggest we go back under cover of darkness and finish clearing it out.”

“Threshold again?” questioned Hasan. “Let that rat’s nest fall apart on its own. We are off to, Hutaaka, did he say? That name means nothing to me.”

Seeing all the party members gathered around Golthar’s dead body, Ludo asked “Who is guarding Jolenta?”

“The priest is watching her,” Feldard answered Ludo and nodded over towards Maruc who was frowning in his direction. No doubt the priest had plans to heal him, even though the priest looked in just as bad a state. It was times like this that Feldard almost wished he could return the favour – but he had no such blessings and definitely no magic. The most that he could do was put off the inevitable, hoping it would give the priest time to recover a little himself. Feldard turned away from the priests piercing gaze and looked to Hasan.

“Hutaaka? What’s with this Hutaaka?” the dwarf questioned, having missed the dying Golthar’s last words.

Maruc finished dressing Stephan’s wounds.

“Thank you, Maruc,” Stephan said while inspecting the field dressings. He winced a little while standing.

He nodded over to Jolenta “Let’s go and see what she has to say for herself.”

Maruc lent over her trussed body and removed her holy symbol and kicked away her weapon and shield. He glanced at the Symbol. A jackal head with human-like eyes, much like the other statues they’d encountered in their travels though various Traladaran ruins.

“I know you are Jolenta, Priestess of Pflarr. You are in the employ of Golthar the wizard. We first saw you trailing us in Rifllian in the company of Golthar. You will tell us what Golthar hoped to gain from the secrets hidden in the mountains. Also what you you know of the Sons of Night?”

Jolenta’s cold eyes stared at Maruc. Her jaw was clenched. She would not be talking.

Miklos lent over Ludo. “Hutaaka eh? Hmm. Perhaps he meant the jackal headed statues we have be bumping into in these parts. He seems to have thought them of some value? He has revealed precious little before he died. Miklos lent over the corpse. “Flying spells, always unpredictable.”

Ludo helped carry the dead wizard into the clearing. He was unsure what would happen to Jolenta, but he was certain that some clues to the Sons of Night would be found in the Golthar’s lair. Also, he had to collect his bow from the watch. So he figured one more short visit to Threshold would need to take place before heading off into the wilderness.

Miklos was thinking along the same lines. “You found his lair did you say? An essential visit I’d say. We must know more of what we are heading into. We must pursue this trail to foil the plans of the Sons of Night and their allies. However, we are wounded. I for one need a rest and to memorize my spells. Let us bring his body into the clearing and I will determine what magical artifacts he had.”

“Da,” Stephan said nodding. “Now that Yellow Robes is gone, we don’t need to flee. Let’s go find a warm fire and cool pint in town. Rat’s nest or not. But we’ll have to keep a low profile after that business at the boarded up inn.”

Miklos sat crossed legged in front of the corpse and opened his spellbook. Out of it he read Kelmar’s Wondrous Revealer. An incantation that allowed him to see magical auras.

The world dimmed slightly. Feldard’s axe was picked out in crackling blue. His own spellbook was etched in orange. He raised his glance to Jolenta and the corpse. Amongst Jolenta’s equipment, her shield and mace gave off a glow of energy, not as strong as the dwarf’s axe, but magic nonetheless. Sligh’s shield too gave off a glow. The ring on Ludo’s finger too glowed fairly strongly with the telltale light of the arcane.

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