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  1. #81
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    10 hours before

    The beaten and battered party returned to the camp. After some discussion, Kudjik decided not to move the caravan until the fast approaching morning. Sounded like the villainous creatures had been defeated as far as the trader was concerned, though he did seem horrified to realize that it was one of the driver’s he’d hired in Welford that had been the shape-shifter.

    At least as Fen could tell before leaving his post, they wre not being followed by the trolls. The druid was also confident, that this late into the night, they’d dare not stry too far from the swamp for fear of the coming day.

    The party all went to the tent where Fen and then Haelan were administering to Duor. Braddok was also battered and bruised, but shunned the cleric’s offer at bandaging. Haelan insisted on rinsing the were-rat scratches with some of the last of their Pure Water from Tidemaster Kama. The water did seem to bubble a bit around the edges of the wound, but left a cool soothing feeling that Braddok was thankful for.

    Between some quickly administered “special berries” from Fen and the druid’s and Hilltender’s non-magical healing skills, they were confident the dwarf would survive the night. Haelan offered to stay the dwarf through the night and sleep in the healing tent so that he might pray for healing as soon as he could.

    Duor himself remained unconscious through the bulk of the ministering and eventually seemed to pass into a restful sleep. His eyes weakly opened once to look at the surrounded companions. His eyes fell on Coerraine. The young Redstar’s face was a palette of shame and sorrow.

    The dwarf mumbled something beneath his beard and again fell into unconsciousness.

    Alaria looked at the mournful paladin and then to the cleric. “Did you make out what he said?” Alaria asked Haelan.

    The daelvar’s face blushed a bit. “I think…” Haelan’s eyes went to the floor. “I think, my dwarven isn’t very good…but I think it was, ‘I hate you.’”

    At this, Coerraine’s head slumped and he left the tent.

    Haelan shrugged an apology at Alaria. “But I’m not sure!” Louder, hoping Coerraine might hear, he added, “He might not have said that.”

    Confident that Duor would live the companions, other than Haelan, quietly left the tent.

    Fen began moving away from camp. The magics of his druid’s cloak seemed to begin wrapping him in the shadows of the early morning hour. Alaria stopped him.

    “Fen, I appreciate your motives to staying behind and attentiveness to our safety. But I really must ask…No, I insist, as long as you are choosing to travel with my group, that you keep us aware of your comings and goings.”

    Fen opened his mouth, presumably to make some kind of defense, but closed it again without saying anything.

    “Things tonight may not have become so dire had we all been present from the beginning.” The magess concluded.

    Braddok walked up behind the wizard, as if to enforce her ‘request.’

    Fen looked at the swordsman, slightly hunched over clasping his side and what the druid was sure must be some bruised, if not broken, ribs. A large bruise was also puffing up impressively around the warrior’s left eye and cheek.

    “You are right, of course, magess. I will endeavor to keep myself in your more…immediate surroundings.”

    “Thank you, Fen.” Alaria said. “And when you next see Gnobert…I suspect you talk to him more than we…relay it to him as well…and my thanks for his intercession.” The exhaustion was plain in her voice. “Now, good night to you all. I can barely keep myself on my legs.”

    The wizardess accepted Kudjik’s offer to use his covered wagon, even his own cot, for her rest. She knew she would need to sleep well into the day to recover her strength andKudjik had been clear on getting on the move at first light. The border of Daenfrii, Bridgetower, was less than a day’s march and the Thelitian meant to arrive as soon as possible, preferably without further trouble.

    Braddok bedded down, with multiple moans and groans at the varying soreness up and down his body. He looked at Coerraine as the paladin stared aimlessly into the failing embers of their fire. The night was, indeed chilly, but neither of them had the motivation to re-stoke the fire.

    Across the fire from him, he was surprised to hear a loud snore. The source of the noise was the gnome. He was sprawled, limbs akimbo on top of the giant furry circle of his ferret, which also seemed asleep. As he watched, the gnome’s cowl and clothes slowly faded from their bright green and blue he had seen earlier to yellow and brown, effectively camouflaging him among Buttercream’s coat. The swordsman from Denil had to admit to himself, the quirky creature (and his pet) had proved themselves that night.

    6 hours before

    The day began, as Kudjik wanted, very early in the soft pinks and oranges of the pre-dawn. The farmers and refugees were a flurry of whispers among themselves relaying the stories of the night’s battle as they packed up and the caravan began moving off for the expected haven of Bridgetower and the realm of the Dragonmage.

    Haelan attended Duor with his healing magic as best he could and helped to dwarf into a crowded but comfortable spot in the wagon of the farmer, Maracus, who had offered to carry the still wounded ‘hero.’

    Coerraine came slowly up to the wagon as Haelan finished situating Duor and hopped down from the back of the cart.

    Haelan smiled weakly at the paladin and answered the unasked question. “He is fine, if still a bit weak.”

    The paladin made no reply and looked down, surprised, when the daelvar priest grabbed his gauntlet.

    “It wasn’t your fault, Coerraine. It was the were-rat’s magic wand. You are not to blame.” Haelan said.

    The paladin grinned and nodded a thanks at the halfling’s face bathed in its innocent sincerity.

    Coerraine neared the wagon. When Duor’s eyes met his, the Redstar Knight lowered his to the ground.
    “Come to finish the job then, Goldshield?” Duor said in a grumble.

    The words pierced Coerraine’s heart as sure as any blade. “My friend, I cannot…” the paladin began.

    His words were interrupted by the most unlikely sound of the dwarf’s strained chuckles.

    “An’ who’s the liar now, paladin? Heheh.” The dwarf paused a moment and coughed. The effort elicited a moan before Duor continued. “Let’s not dishonor ourselves and your god. We are not ‘friends.’ That much is clear.”

    Coerraine felt his face go red. The dwarf was correct, but Coerraine knew that some recompense must be made. His honor demended it.

    Duor continued. “But…I know…it weren’t yer fault. Them charm spells’re tricky things. We dwarves have never been much fer sorcery an’ last night is an excellent example fer why. I know we can agree on that much, at least.”

    Coerraine, heartened by the dwarf’s apparent understanding lifted his gaze to bandaged and swaddled rogue. “Indeed, that much is true, Duor Darksmythe. Still, it is on my faith and honor that I will make it up to you..I must.”

    “Well, if you must, gold’s always good.” Duor smirked.

    Coerraine forced a grin, though the suggestion left a sour taste in the paladin’s mouth. The dwarf really did not have any understanding of honor. The Redstar Knight found this odd considering all he’d come to hear or know of other dwarves. But, Coerraine reminded himself, he could not fault the dwarf for being himself. His was not to judge others, but protect them, and he had failed miserably in that duty.

    “As you know, I am duty-bound to Alaria at the present. The tenets of my order do not permit the acceptance of more than a single charge and that charge is clearly set. But when my time in Alaria’s service, when our current course is complete,” the paladin took his spear and stuck the blade into the ground as he bent to kneel before the cart.

    Duor’s bushy eyebrows nearly rose off of his face.

    Coerraine continued, eyes downscast, “I swear to you, Duor Darksmythe, by the Shield and the Lance, that I will submit myself and my spear to your protection for no less than one cycle of the seasons so long as my Lord and God permit me breathe or take me.”

    The Redstar Knight then rose, pulled his spear from the sod. Without another word, he turned returned to the front of the caravan. The oath he had spoken did not require the dwarf’s consent. It was an oath to his god and his duty. If Duor released him from the oath at some point before a year passed, that was his prerogative. But for now, Coerraine had done as he felt he must. The bond was made. The man’s blond shoulder-length hair and crimson tabard flowed behind him as a breeze swept up. He walked, head high, to Kudjik’s wagon at the front of the train. He also denied the offer of a horse, feeling a day of marching would also serve as an acceptable penance for his transgression against, no not a friend, but a companion-in-arms.

    Duor watched the paladin leave, eyes wide. “Ehrmmm. Ok then.” the dwarf mumbled in response.

    Haelan then saw Braddok and cast another healing spell on the swordsman. The swelling and bruising on his face disappeared. Those on his side (which Haelan did not admit concerned him more than the man’s face) got smaller but did not disappear. Despite the swordsman’s objections, Haelan tightly bandaged the warrior’s middle.

    As Haelan finished, Braddok thanked him. “You do honor to us and your goddess, Haelan. Were it not for Her graces, our company would surely have been lost many times over in our short journey. You should be proud, daelvar. You are as sure a hero as any told in the tales of bards.”

    Haelan smiled broadly at the warrior. “It is by Faerantha’s blessings that I am able to serve us. Your praise should be for her, Braddok, not for me….But I thank you. Still, I think myself no more a hero than you.”

    He caravan moved out beneath the pale grey clouds that extended across the sky as far as any could see. Jarood make some offhanded comment to the Thelitian sky god that they not see rain before reaching Bridgetower. Apparently, Braddok thought, hauling wagons out of a muddy tranch in the rain was no one’s idea of a good time.

    1 hour before

    The weather cooperated and by shortly after midday, the wagons and refugees came over a low ridge to look down over sprawling fields and spotty sparce woods. The river D’Evand wound lazily through the fields in the distance, a ribbon of pale grey-blue. The ribbon was broken some distance away from them by a structure of white and grey with pendants flying above it. A set of guard towers at either edge of the river with a broad expanse of a bridge crossing the wide flow. Details were not possible from their vantage point, but all in the caravan knew it was their destination, the crossing of Bridgetower, southern entrance to the realm of Daenfrii, the vale of the Dragonmage.

    Last edited by steeldragons; Friday, 16th September, 2011 at 02:56 PM.
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  • #82
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    The caravan came to the thoroughly-cleared plain before the two towered guardhouse on their side of the river. The very top of the much higher white tower on the Daenfrii side of the river was just visible behind them. The group was still nearly a half-hour’s trudge away when the gates opened and a troupe of riders came out heading at a gallop for the caravan.

    There were five mounted soldiers wore deep blue tabards. They all seemed armed with spears, two bore bows and quivers on their backs while the rest had scabbards hanging at their sides. The two behind the helmed lead rider flew the banner of Daenfrii at the end of their spears, a serpentine gold dragon (like a reverse “S”) with a large wing outstretched and a bright blue diamond held in its fore claws. The banners stretched out behind them as they rode.

    Kudjik brought the caravan to a halt as the riders neared.

    Alaria, who had finally risen as they’d crested the low ridge sat next to the Thelitian. Coerraine stood next to her, plainly displaying the eight-pointed red star on his triangular shield.

    “Hail travelers.” Said the sergeant as he brought his steed up to a halt. “Hold and state your business here.”

    Kudjik rose an arm in peaceful welcome. “Hail to ye, guardsmen of Daenfrii. We are a company, bereft of hope and home by ill-doings to the south. I am Kudjik Al’Djaliil, humble merchant and trader in fine fabrics from my homeland. These rest are refugees of the Laklans who all seek the security of your master’s realm from most dangerous creatures moving through the lands.”

    The sergeant looked to Alaria and then Coerraine. “Hail Kudjik Al’Djaliil. Traveling with one of Celradorn’s chosen, I see. I suppose I have no reason to doubt your words. Do I Redstar?”

    Coerraine stepped forward. “Indeed, you do not.” The paladin responded. He drew himself up to his most erect. “It is as Kudjik claims. We have seen many unfortunate troubles and crossed paths with several perils in the past week.”

    The sergeant nodded. “Nothing you couldn’t handle from the look of it. I invite you to recoup yourselves within the gates of Bridgetower. Whether or not you will be granted access to Daenfrii, we shall see. But, for now, the road is indeed perilous. We have reports of a large force of goblins in the area. We shall see you to Bridgetower with all speed.”

    “Reports of a large force of goblins here?” Alaria replied. She added more alarm to her voice to get the soldier’s attention. In reality, the news did alarm her somewhat. She was under the impression that they would be several days ahead of the goblin army.

    “Nothing to concern you, my lady.” The soldier replied. The dismissive, if not condescending, tone was not lost to Alaria.

    “You may address me as ‘Magess’, sir. Magess Alaria Staver of Ablidon.” She answered with all intended indignation. Her name would mean nothing to this man, she knew that. But that was no reason for her not to make him feel two feet tall. These were servants of the Dragonmage, after all. Being a fully trained wizard from R’Hath should hold some weight…she hoped.

    “Apologies, Magess.” The mounted man nodded slightly. “Those trained in the Mysteries are held in high regard in Daenfrii, of course. No disrespect was intended.”

    “Of course not.” Alaria replied coolly.

    “I am Sergeant Goren, Magess. It will be the honor of my men and myself to see you safely to Bridgetower.” The man replied and smiled at Alaria.

    “We thank you Sergeant Goren. Now what news of this force of goblins?” Alaria pressed even as Kudjik urged the wagon forward. The other Daenfrii soldiers rode along the length of the caravan looking at the obviously road-weary commonfolk and their meager wares. The cool glares of Kudjik’s guards roused no response from the well-trained mounted men. One of the riders returned to Goren’s side and made a quiet report that the caravan seemed to be nothing more than what they had said but did make mention of a “wounded dwarf, a daelvar, and one of the Anicent Order.”

    “Theilitians, R’Hathi, a Redstar with a druid and nearly all the races of realms?” said Goren with a smile. “Quite a diverse group of refugees to be sure.” He instructed the reporting soldier to have the men take up posts along the length of the caravan and then urged everyone to make for the tower before replying to Alaria’s question.

    “It is an advance force, no doubt, Magess. We have received word from the Laklans of the army slowing making its way across the plains. They are still far south and would be fools to threaten the lands of the Dragonmage. But then, goblins are not known for their brains.” He smiled again.

    Alaria grinned politely at the sergeant’s attempt at wit.

    “Our scouts brought word of a large foraging group, maybe 20 goblins, some mounted on zarks, just south of those woods.” He pointed to a line of trees to the south of the cleared plain. “Had a couple of ogres with them too…if the report’s to be believed.”

    “You doubt your own scouts?” Alaria questioned, honestly surprised at the sergeant’s statement.

    “Well no. But as I heard it, the runner was thoroughly spooked by what he’d seen. It’s possible he exaggerated the threat in his fear-addled mind. We don’t get much excitement here. Even creatures as stupid as goblins and ogres know not to challenge the Dragonmage.” Goren explained. “Still, ogres or no, the report placed them a bit too near for my liking, I will admit. So we will not take chances with your safety.”

    Did he actually just wink at me? Alaria thought. He’s old enough to be my father!

    The sergeant continued unaware of the wizard’s thoughts, “But the defenders of Bridgetower would be more than a match for those numbers. No force has broken into Daenfrii through the gates of Bridgetower in more than hundred years.” He concluded with unmasked pride.

    “Have they broken into Daenfrii by other means?” Coerraine asked, innocently.

    The question received a frown. “No, Redstar. They have not. But with you here to protect us, I am sure we could face the hordes of Thole, itself.”

    Men, thought Alaria. Always having to beat their chests at one another. Despite herself, Rhea’s telepathic message ‘They are good for some things’ bubbled up from her memory. Inexplicably, her mind turned to Braddok.


    “Ho! Goblins!” came the cry from one of Goren’s men farther back in the caravan. This immediately turned every head within earshot to look where the soldier was pointing at the ridge beside the wood-line Goren had indicated earlier. A small green figure atop a two-legged very long-necked creature of mottled brown and black raised a horn to its lips and let out a long bleating noise.

    “Go! Go!” shouted Goren, indicating Kudjik to pick up the pace, as he brought his horse around to look at the ridge. “Defenders of Bridgetower, to me! Alath, the alarm!”

    Kudjik didn’t need to be told twice. The wagon lurched forward immediately, nearly sending Alaria flying from her seat. Frightened screams and prayers to the gods went up as everyone in the caravan, carts, horses and on foot took off, in utter chaos, for the gates of the guardhouse several minutes away.

    A horn sounded five quick notes from one of the Bridgetower soldiers.

    Coerraine watched the ridge as five, then ten, then double that number of creatures, half rode atop the bird-creature mounts crested the ridge. The mounted creatures approached very fast, already halfway to the road. At least half of the mounted goblins had bows, as far as Coerraine could tell in the swerving mass of enemies baring down on them. Arrows quickly began whizzing from multiple locations.

    And then, there were ogres. Three of the towering things with moldy yellow and orangish skin, clad in leathers and furs, came lumbering up behind the goblins. Two swung huge clubs, one of which sported some nasty-looking curved spikes, as they bellowed across the plain. The third ogre brandished a huge battle axe and seemed to be giving orders to the other creatures.

    The paladin looked up to Alaria as he began falling behind the wagon.

    “Kudjik, a moment. Let me down.” Alaria shouted in the trader’s ear.

    The Thelitian was about to object when he looked at the wizard to see the determination on her face. He pressed his lips shut and brought the wagon up to a momentary halt. “Your gods go with you magess, Alaria Staver. May they grant we meet again before the day’s end.”

    “Thank you, Kudjik.” She responded as Coerraine helped her down. “Now go. Get yourself safe.”

    Braddok already stood, sword drawn, between the magess and the approaching goblins. Fen raced up to where Coerraine and Alaria stood. Gnobert astride Buttercream followed with Haelan trotting along after.

    “What do we do?” the Hilltender asked.

    “We stop them.” Said Braddok with a determined scowl. Then he looked to Alaria, as if to ask if that was the right answer.

    Alaria looked back at the swordsman, her look questioning his questioning look. Then she noticed the rest of her companions were also looking at her.

    Sergeant Goren unsheathed his sword and commanded his men to charge. The two with bows were already returning fire as they charged into the fray.

    “Yes!” Alaria said aloud. “We stop them…at least until the caravan is safe.” She finished facing Coerraine. “And we protect each other.”

    Everyone nodded and smiled before everything became a flurry of activity.

    The companions dispersed just before three arrow shafts landed around and among where they had been standing.

    Haelan lifted his arms as high as his diminutive stature allowed and called down Faerantha’s blessing on them. Immediately, spear and sword, mace and staff were coated in a honey-colored glow.

    Braddok charged forward determined to take on one of the ogres, if he made it through the array of goblins before them.

    Fen raced in behind the warrior.

    “Oonerd to gloory, Buttercreamshadowfeet! Cheeeerge! Heeeeeheeheeheehee!” Gnobert cried out in maniacal giggle. The ferret took off, hopping along as quickly as she could on her stumpy legs, more or less following Fen and Braddok.

    Alaria reached into her pouch to withdraw the crystal orb. She was acutely aware that she had practically no experience using the item’s various powers. There simply had not been time. She chastised herself at the foolhardiness and general irresponsibility of attempting to use a magical device one did not fully understand. But, it seemed to her, their best option at the moment. She made a mental promise to herself, and Manat, that if she survived the afternoon, she would never use another magic item she had not fully researched again.

    A cry from behind Alaria caught her attention as one of the refugee farmers fell to the ground with a black-shafted goblin arrow in his back. She also noted the farmer-fighter Maracus holding his ground on the road, ushering panicked refugees toward the gates.

    The loud clang of another arrow against Coerraine’s shield snapped Alaria back to the front. The paladin, it seemed, had no intention of leaving Alaria’s position. We have to do something about the arrows, she thought.

    Alaria held the orb before her and began concentrating. Almost immediately, the orb came alive with its inner light swirling blue and white. The air around the magess, began to churn. Robes and hair fluttered and the grasses and dirt across the road also began to blow around. In a flash, Alaria was perfectly aware of the pulsing light within orb and the use of its power. The energies moved freely around and within her, passing from the orb, up and down her arms, like wind blowing through her very body.

    She thrust her arm to the side and a veritable wall of air became nearly visible. The wind persisted such that no goblin arrow could pierce. Black bolts began being flung, fletching over tip, harmlessly to the ground. It did not stop the goblins from shooting, right away, but at least it would keep the refugees safe until they were out of range. Alaria knew she had to maintain concentration to keep the winds doing as she willed and she had every intention of doing so.

    Braddok slashed through one of the goblins on foot in time to divert a spear from a mounted goblin and avoid the snapping beak of the odd (and ugly) reptilian-bird thing that was its mount. His next blow came down hard on the zark’s leathery tan neck, nearly severing it from its body.

    Fen dodged another of the mounted goblins’ spears only to receive a nasty slash from its zark’s curved beak. The druid grimaced at the painful wound but recovered enough to sink his spear into the rider’s side. The goblin gurgled and fell off its mount. The druid continued passed the flightless creature to try to keep up with Braddok. As he did so, he heard the gnome behind him, chuckling into the fray with an almost sing-songy voice.

    “Goblins, goblins, gets all the goblins. All you goblins can't catch me.” The gnome leapt from the ferret’s back. Well, more slid off her rump than “leapt”, as Buttercreamshadowfeet pinned another goblin soldier, raking with claws and sinking its teeth into its shoulder and neck. “Atta girly, BC. All you goblins can’t catch me, Shahiir imber yexi! Heeheeeeee!”

    As the night before, bright streaks of blues and reds, violets and yellows shot out of the Gnobert’s flicking fingertips and snapped and crackled before a goblin on a zark barreling down on him.

    The “firework's” light and noise startled the creature that reared its head back and stumbled backwards, clumsily, over its two talon-tipped three-toed feet. The goblin rider struggled to get the zark under control, shouting in goblin.

    Many of the words, Gnobert was sure, were curses about gnomes. Without stopping to direct the lights, Gnobert continued after Buttercream who had already moved onto her next appetizer.

    One of the zark-riding archers set his site on the armored man who was standing in front of the female, who was obviously a wizard. Despite not wanting to take on a wizard, the armored man with the spear was fair game. His arrows were doing nothing, so the goblin drew a curved serrated blade and urged the zark forward.

    Coerraine used his shield to fend off the zark’s snapping beak while trying to reach the rider with his spear tip. Unfortunately, the zark’s long neck prohibited him getting in a clear shot and so he was forced to attack the interfering leather-necked creature.

    Haelan, watched on nervously from the “inside” of Alaria’s wind wall. Part of his heart wanted to charge out into the melee, especially given Braddok’s praise of the morning. The other part of him looked out over the field horrified at the wave of evil that was moving closer.

    The dust thrown up from the zarx and the Bridgetower soldier’s horses was making visibility more and more limited. The ogres, towering above the chaotic fray, brought a lump into Haelan’s throat. For a moment, watching a horse and Bridgetower guard go flying from a club swing, Haelan felt as though he might feint.

    “Um, Alaria…” the Hilltender began. “I think the arrows stopped, Alaria. Think it might be time for that lightning?”

    Alaria’s brow furrowed at the interruption, but she did notice the arrow fire had tapered off. Still, Haelan was right, the goblins were getting closer…too close, she thought. With the slightest adjustment of her thoughts, the wind shifted from sideways to forward.

    Immediately the dust and grasses clouding their visibility dispersed, blown far into the goblin ranks, stinging eyes as they went. For an instant, the shifting wind seemed to bring the attacks to a halt, as the goblins' general fearful superstition of magic momentarily outweighed their orders. They were not unaware how close to the lair of the Dragonmage they were.

    This hesitation allowed for a round of attackers by the defenders. Several of the mounted goblins went down. Fen and Buttercream felled another two while Gnobert used the pause to generate a blast of light in the eyes of another zark.

    The creature twisted and turned its head, vainly trying to “shake” the orb of white surrounding its head. It pounded its head into the ground three times before throwing its rider and knocking itself unconscious.

    The momentary break also allowed Braddok, with a few slashes through two more foot-soldiers, to make his way to the ogre who had, moments earlier, taken out one of the Bridgetower guards…and his horse.

    With a fierce thundering bellow from the top of the ridge, the ogre with the battle axe began moving into the melee. This snapped his depleting troops from their heartbeat of hesitation and the battle was again joined.

    Haelan noticed Coerraine was still having trouble getting in a solid shot on the rider. He whipped his shield in the direction of the goblin. At the moment before striking the goblin, the zark reared its head back to avoid a strike from Coerraine’s spear and got a solid blow to the head from a shield instead.

    The zark went down, its goblin toppling off over it to find himself at the tip of Coerraine’s spear…before Coerraine sank the spearhead into his chest.

    Coerraine snapped a look back at the daelvar as the shield slipped back onto the priest’s raised arm.

    “What?” Haelan asked defensively. “I wasn’t aiming for you!”

    **FWOOSH!**

    Haelan jumped forward nearly as tall as he stood at the sound of flames and burst of heat rushing behind him. He turned to see two goblins shrieking and floundering in a cascade of violet and red flames.

    The halfling and paladin turned with surprise on the faces to see the last flickers of fire disperse from Alaria’s free hand.

    “Keep your wits about you, daelvar!” she shouted in the most commanding tone Haelan could ever remember hearing from her.

    The magess then held the orb in both hands. A moment of concentration and Alaria saw the shape of the glyph for levitation form within the swirls of light. She placed one palm over the glyph and in an instant, air swirled around her and she was rising from the ground.

    Haelan’s eyes widened, even as his ears heard the nearby clanging of Coerraine engaging another attackers.

    It was just a foot, at first. She bobbed there a moment and then looked up toward the battlefield with a grin that Haelan could only describe as 'wicked.' With a thought and a moment, Alaria floated almost fifteen feet high and shifted her position further from the roadside to get a better look at the crowded battle.

    The Bridgetower guards seemed to be holding their own, though there were only three still visible. The Sergeant and one of the other riders had engaged the second ogre.

    She saw the gnome, whose clothing was currently bright reds and greens racing to catch up to his ferret, which appeared wounded though was still attacking any goblin that got close to it.

    Maracus was battling one creature, another lay at his feet and was that Devrim behind him? The blue-robed mage strode forward beside the chainmail vested “farmer” and she watched as his sleep spell felled two goblins on foot and one of the zarks that were attempting to encroach on the farmer and mage’s position.

    Alaria smiled. Good for you, Devrim, she thought.

    Braddok, and was that dusty green and tan blur behind him Fen (?), moved to engage the ogre with the club.

    The ogre with the battleaxe had moved into the field and with a single blow decapitated one of the Bridgetower soldier’s horse. The next swing of the axe severed the guard in two.

    Haelan was right, Alaria thought. It was time for lightning. Keeping the orb in one hand, she withdrew the slender white wand. Just one strike, she hoped would be enough to fell the creature. She very much did not want to “use up” the wand’s magic.

    The creature stepped over the horse carcass and took a step toward the other ogre beset by Goren and his guardsman.

    The ogre with the spiked club swung violently but seemed unable to get a solid strike on the Bridgetower defenders. The creature looked to be faltering. Streams of black blood flowed from multiple wounds. Given a few moments, it might be felled, Alaria thought. But with the axe-wielding ogre closing, Goren and his man might not have a few more moments.

    Allhankowsh!” The force of the bolt shifted Alaria back in the air a foot or two, but the lightning streaked over the heads of all of the combatants to slam into the chest of the ogre with the axe.

    Thunder crashed over the field and melded with bellows of pain from the ogre captain as he was pushed back a few steps.

    The creature doubled over for a moment and then looked up. The plainly crafted metal plate that was strapped to its chest was blackened and wisps of smoke drifted off the monster from several locations. The ogre opened its mouth and roared across the field, an earth-shaking ear-splitting roar. Then he began to charge, straight for Alaria.


    Braddok had made a solid strike against the club-wielding ogre and was confident as he wove and dodged the creature’s somewhat clumsy (thought Braddok) swings. The next swing of his blade struck squarely into thick flabby yellow-orange hide of the creature’s waist.

    The ogre howled and while Braddok managed to avoid the swinging club, he did not avoid the fist (nearly half the size he was) that followed it.

    The blow knocked Braddok squarely from his feet, to roll a few feet in the field. He reached for the morningstar on his belt, as his sword had fallen from his grasp. There was a pull in his side, where he’d been bruised the night before, and pain shot through him. Scrambling to fight through the pain and get on his feet, the swordsman looked up to see the ogre smiling a yellowed but toothy smile full of jagged sharp teeth and canines more akin to fangs or tusks than teeth. Then Braddok thought he saw a flaring of green light at ground level.

    The ogre lifted its club over its head and before it could make its killing blow, vines and roots and even gigantic blades of grass whipped up out of the ground.

    The assaulting greenery wrapped themselves around the ogre’s arms and twined around its legs. Vines strapped themselves around the creature’s torso, like a harness, from behind. In fact, all of the entangling shoots seemed to be from behind the monster and strained to pull it back, away from Braddok.

    The ogre bellowed and twisted.

    One or two of the vines snapped at its protests. They were quickly replaced by new growth.

    Braddok got to his feet and reset his shield. He glanced behind him to see Fen, spear butt firmly planted on the ground, leaning and pulling back towards himself, as if the spear were a rusty lever he was trying to throw. There was an obvious strain on the half-elf's face.

    “Don’t look at me! Hit it!” the carrot-topped druid yelled at the dark-haired swordsman. “Hurry!”

    Braddok surged forward, morningstar in hand, and landed it it squarely on the ogre’s abdomen. And again.

    With another bellow, the monster tore free of its binding flora.

    Fen was sent thrown back, as if struck physically himself. He landed heavily on his back and though winded, managed to regain his feet in time to engage another goblin with a hand axe that had been trying to sneak up on him.

    Braddok continued to strike and weave, paying closer attention to the creature’s fist. Another strike or two and, it seemed the ogre might fall. Unfortunately, the pain in his side was hindering his maneuverability. Braddok had the feeling that if the ogre landed another blow on him, it might be his last.

    Then all of the action on the battlefield seemed to stop for a moment again, as all attention went to the streak of lightning, followed by the mind-shaking ferocious response and thundering footsteps as the ogre with the battle axe raced across the field toward...

    “Alaria!” Braddok called out as his eyes fell on her.

    **SLAM**

    Braddok saw stars as his shield flew from his arm, nearly ripped in two further than the swordsman himself flew. The snaps and pops told his heavily dazed mind, even before the pain arrived, that his arm was certainly broken in multiple places.

    Braddok looked up, vision blurred, head ringing, he swung weakly at the ogre’s nearest leg. Sadly, it was not as near as it seemed to him.


    Alaria heard her name but could not tear her eyes from the monstrous form charging her.

    For a moment, there was a small blur of bright red and green in front of the charging ogre.

    A ball of green light hit the creatures face and seemed to produce a small cloud of greenish gas.

    The ogre halted momentarily, sniffed, sneezed and waved the gas away from his face. It bellowed again and with a single STOMP, there was only a red splatter where the small blur of red and green had been.

    “Gnobby!!! Noooooo!!!!” cried Haelan out beneath her.

    Coerraine moved between her and the ogre. A single stab with his spear later the paladin was swatted aside like a fly by a backhanded fist.

    Almost instinctively, she thrust the hand holding the orb forward and in an instant wind howled all around her and rushed to meet the axe-wielding ogre. The winds rose and rose, soon an ongoing howl roared over the field of battle.

    The monster struggled against the wind. Blades and axes and arrows, goblins and zarx (some still living) all shot at the creature with hurricane force.

    Coerraine grabbed Haelan who was about to be swept up off of his own feet and laid on top of him in the flattened grasses which were also beginning to rip up from their roots. He drew his broadsword and struck it deep into the ground, holding onto the teary-eyed daelvar with his other.

    The ogre captain howled and swatted in defiance, but he was, effectively, stopped from advancing.

    Alaria looked to her right and though she could not hear its dying roar, saw the ogre go down between the two remaining Bridgewater guards. Her mind began to burn, the strain of maintaining this much wind this powerfully was definitely not something she could do for long.

    Below her, she heard a strained battlecry and vaguely saw…Duor?!

    The dwarf hobbled up from behind (and beneath) the hovering magess, his dagger drawn and glowing with its eerie green fiery light. Duor jumped into the howling gale and was immediately caught in its winds and flung.

    In what looked like a streak of green flame, the dwarf met the ogre’s belly, beneath the scorched breastplate, and sunk his dagger into the mottled yellow flesh nearly up to his elbow.

    The monster ceased fighting the winds. The axe fell from his hand, being blown a few feet behind him and was, himself, easily blown over.

    Alaria stared agape for a moment before realizing that Duor was grasping for dear life to his dagger’s handle in the hurricane force winds. She settled her mind and the winds stayed their terrible force, though continued to roar around the scene and maintain Alaria’s levitating.

    She scanned the battlefiend in time to see just under a dozen goblins, a few still on zarx were being run down by the remaining guardsmen.

    She also saw the ogre Braddok had been fighting…It was raising its club over its head and roaring at the ground.

    Fen was faltering, attempting to stave off three goblins surrounding him.

    But where was Braddok?

    The ogre’s club came down with bone-crushing force that Alaria felt more than heard.

    Alaria’s eyebrows rose slightly. Then slightly more. A shock that was filling her brain slowly, painfully slowly, began to give way to understanding.


    Alaria heard her heartbeat in her ears. One….two…no…


    “ALLHANKOWSH!”
    Alaria called out. The mighty mystic phrase thundered over the noise of the battlefield and howling winds that held Alaria aloft.

    Around the tip of the ever so slender and delicate looking white wand, the air crackled and sparked before a devastating bolt of lightning streaked through the melee. The wand itself crackled and snapped. Alaria watched as veins of light appeared along the wand’s length. With a final snap and static discharge, the wand splintered into a thousand shards and fell from her hand.


    The final use of her mentor’s gift was far from in vain. Goblins and zarx that did not simply fall in blackened charred lumps flew in various directions. Some were lifted and thrown farther from the gale that had engulfed the fighting. Her primary target, a wounded but still savage ogre, also fell from the blast.


    In the wake of the thunder from the bolt, the battle fell silent. No foes remained moving. No survivors to retreat.


    The gale that surrounded Alaria, and indeed the whole battlefield, subsided quickly. The R’Hathi mage gently returned to earth as the winds calmed. When her feet touched ground her knees buckled and she simply crumpled into a heap.


    The crystal orb rolled from her other hand, her fingers gone as limp as the rest of her. Its swirling cloudy inner light faded from view.


    Exhaustion claimed her clouded mind as tears flowed down her cheeks freely. Somewhere some piece of her thought how pathetic her lack of self-control and unseemly her emotional outburst must seem to the remaining onlookers.


    She didn’t care.


    Alaria lifted her eyes to the body-strewn field. They came to rest on the sundered shield. Her vision blurred and there was a dull awareness of her head hitting the ground before darkness claimed her.
    Last edited by steeldragons; Saturday, 17th September, 2011 at 12:01 AM.
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    Alaria closed her eyes and smiled at the wind blowing passed her. It whipped her hair behind her and she could feel the skirt of her gown rustling around her legs. It felt so nice. Cooling and energizing all at once, like the power of the orb flowing through her once more. Se was one with the wind….One with the energies of the Mysteries…floating…flying…moving at a great speed.

    She staggered a bit, almost losing balance. It felt as if she would lose her footing. But she wasn’t standing…or…

    Alaria’s eyes snapped open. The wind still blew passed her. She was still moving but nearly lost her balance again as a she looked down in wonder to find she was standing on the back of a giant snow white owl.

    She looked around her. The “sky” around her was just a blur of shades of grey. Beneath her, Alaria could only see streaks of browns and greys and greens, an indiscernable landscape whizzing under her and the curious creature on which she now was conscious of trying to balance upon.

    As she balanced and watched in utter shock, the owl’s head rotated 180 degrees to look back at her.

    With a “Hoo-hoot”, it pitched at an angle and Alaria was falling off of the bird head first.

    She fell through streaks of greys and blue until, suddenly, her feet were on the ground. She was standing in a field. It was…yes…it was the field outside of the gatehouse of Bridgetower. The whole landscape was the same, though all muted in shades of grey.

    Looking to her northeast, she saw a huge steep mountain peak that she had not noticed before.
    No, thought Alaria, not “not noticed.” The mountain simply was not there/did not exist in the real world.

    “What is going on?” she wondered aloud. Where was she?

    Scannign the field again, there were no goblins or bodies or indication of a struggle of any kind. Then her eyes fell on a lump of yellowish fur. It stuck out as much for being “in color” against the drab surrounding as it did for being the only object in the field.

    A head popped out of the bundle…a ferret’s black-masked head.

    Buttercream! Alaria realized.

    It twitched its nose and whiskers once and then suddenly lurched at Alaria. Its base did not move, but it stretched the length of the field and shoot passed Alaria’s right…then her left.

    In an instant, she was wrapped in coils of yellowish brown fur by the creature whose front half strength stories high to tower above the magess. She was huge!

    The ferret crossed its black-socked forepaws and shook its head down at Alaria.

    “Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.” Buttercream began. Then, with a voice Alaria knew…a man’s voice? The voice spoke in a clear even tone, very matter-of-fact and devoid of emotion.

    “He’s dead because of you, you know.” Buttercream said.

    Alaria realized it was the voice of her former mentor, Vertior.

    “Master Vertior?” Alaria said meekly. “But…but the ogre…”

    Before the wizardess from R’Hath could explain herself, the yellowish fur…the whole ferret!... began to morph into a golden scaled form. Its head became that of a dragon and two huge wings spread out from either side of its back, shrouding Alaria from the everpresent light of the “sky” with their shadows.

    The length of coils around her turned from fur to golden scales and tightened. Alaria shifted uncomfortably. Her arms were now effectively pinned and her gaze went skyward to the huge dragon’s face. In its foreclaws it head a giant blue diamond-shaped gemstone.

    The dragon spread it’s fore-arms and the blue diamond hung there a moment before seeming to blur and shift, other gems breaking off from it until four stones hung there, rotating slowly. One was the blue stone (though much smaller), one a n oval bright red and multi-facetted jewel, one was a crystal orb (which Alaria readily recognized as the Air Orb she possessed) and one a grey stone, bespeckled with red and green.

    Then, in the center of the rotating stones a light shone, like the sun. When Alaria’s eyes adjusted to the initial glare, another orb floated in the midst of the other four. Much larger than her own and swirling with green and yellow colors.

    Before she could bring herself to say anything, the air…in fact the whole landscape around her darkened and she heard a rumble of thunder. As the entire panorama was slipping into the deep grey of a late evening, the dragon’s wings fell off, the dragon head became more serpent than dragon and the scales dimmed until they were the pitchest black.

    She was aware that the entire scene was now a flat black, the giant black serpent only barely discernable in the darkness. Its red glowing eyes looked down on her. There were no scales now, only darkness…It was a huge shadow snake, Alaria realized.

    The creature opened its huge maw and dove down toward Alaria. Despite herself, she flinched and shut her eyes tight awaiting the creature’s fangs to dig into her.

    Then nothing.

    She opened her eyes. She was still in the field, looking as if the snake had never been there….and that high mountain now sat beyond the ridge at the far end of the field.

    Then an arm was slung over her shoulder. She jumped and turned to see Braddok leaning over/on her. The handsome swordsman smiled at her with his bright blue eyes.

    Alaria found herself smiling warming back at the man…and blushing.

    The smile turned into a leer, just as when they’d first met and he leaned in close to her face.

    Braddok whispered into her ear, “We’re going to be very good friends.”

    As she opened her mouth to say…what?...I’m sorry?...Yes we will?...Alaria did not know. What came out was, “Braddok, I….”

    Before she could utter a syllable more, the swordsman from Denil’s face melted. His whole body melted before her. Skin, muscle, exposed bone…the man just began dripping, flowing down off of her.

    Alaria screamed and covered her face with her hands as sobs came wracking up through her.

    No! No…I didn’t mean…

    “Alaria?” came Haelan’s small voice.

    Alaria removed the hands from her face to see the daelvar standing before her. He held a stone bowl. The same grey bespeckled stone she had just witnessed hovering in the circle of gems.

    “Haelan. Didn’t mean to…” the wizardess managed to get out before the halfling interrupted her.

    “We have to go, Alaria. You have to come back.” The Halfling said.

    “What?” she responded, utterly confused.

    Instead of responded, the daelvar began to grow and shape and melt and rise above her. The Hilltender morphed into a huge form that coalesced into a giant version of the ogre with the battleaxe.

    Then it was away at the far end of the field from her. It began to roar and charge.

    Instinctively, Alaria reached for her spell component pouches. They were gone, fading away even as her hand reached into them. The pouch with the orb! She got the same result. Her staff!....Where was her staff?! She had no defense and the monster was barreling down upon her.

    Its thundering roar and earth-shaking footsteps blocked out all other sound.

    Alaria threw up her arms as the creature was about to pound her to mush…or slice her in two…Alaria knew nor cared which. But it was what she deserved, she heard from somewhere…was that Vertior’s voice again?

    All at once, the huge ogre burst into a cloud of bright green butterflies and passed harmlessly around the terrified and defeated magess.

    As she watched the fluttering creatures “pop” out of existence all around her, a bright green light across the field caught her attention.

    There was Rhea standing upon the far ridge in her high-collared cloak and bright green gown. Elegant. Statuesque. The diadem on her brow glittered brightly.

    “Enough of this Magess Alaria of Ablidon. You are needed.” Rhea’s voice thundered through her consciousness though the woman’s mouth did not open.

    “Rhea. What’s happening? Where are…” Alaria began. Again she was cut off.

    “You must awaken. Wake up NOW!” Rhea commanded.

    Alaria again threw her arms up in a feeble attempt to shield herself from the explosion of bright emerald green light.


    Alaria’s eyes snapped open. She bolted to sit upright in…a bed?

    She looked at the room she found herself in. She was in a comfortable bed with soft down pillows and linens. A length of white fabric lay across her lap, indeed the whole length of the wide bed. It was stitched with patterns of thorny vines and roses in various states of opening. White roses. There was a large armoire against the wall. Light from a multitude of candles placed on the small table beside the bed and a dwindling fire in a mantled fireplace cast the room in flickering oranges and shadow. A plush deep chair sat beside the fire. An old woman in light robes and a veil embroidered with a similar pattern of twining thorny vine and rose motif sat in the chair. She calmly set down the stitching she’d obviously been working with into her lap and looked at her.

    “Ah. Praise Gilea. Welcome back to the land of the living, child.” The old woman said with a wrinkled smile.
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    So did Braddok and Gnobby meet their ends in that fight? Sounds rough!

    It's a shame, too, I really liked Braddok.
    "On a long enough time line, everyone eventually rolls a 1."
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    Quote Originally Posted by wolff96 View Post
    So did Braddok and Gnobby meet their ends in that fight? Sounds rough!
    They did, in fact, meet their ends.

    Braddok went into the battle not at full hit points. Haelan had spent 2 Cure Lights on Duor and only one on Braddok. Then he cast Bless at the start of battle...which had run out by the time anyone was getting squashed. He was saving his last spell (presumably a Cure) for after the battle.

    He did great...and Fen helped!...but in the end, just didn't have the HP to go toe-to-toe with an ogre (I think he started combat with, something like 22 HP). It was extremely close. If the ogre had missed and Braddok had gotten another attack (that hit) he probably could have finished the ogre.

    But the dice does what the dice does.

    For Gnobert....the moral of the story is, "A 1st level gnome illusionist/thief with no armor and a mediocre Dex should not get in between an ogre and his prey." Size benefits can only do so much against really good dice...in other words, roll of 19=*SPLAT!*

    Valiant to be sure! A most noble end, trying to interfere to protect the magess. But not the wisest of moves. I suspect the player was bolstered by his excellent performance with the troll the night before and just figured "troll=ogre."

    Quote Originally Posted by wolff96 View Post
    It's a shame, too, I really liked Braddok.
    Well, my most loyal and prolific of posters (don't STOP!), the finality of it remains to be seen....I mean, not for me, of course. The thread is certainly not a "play-by-play." But to tell you here, now, would be "spoiling."

    For what it's worth...I liked him too. Simple but solid character. Good backstory. Understated personality but definitely a presence and IN the game. Most certainly capable...We'll just have to wait n' see.

    I'll also take this opportunity to encourage any other readers (first, THANK YOU!) to throw in their two coppers!

    Did you like Braddok too? Gnobert? Anyone? The story? The writing? Anything...don't be shy. I LOVE feedback!

    Cheers and happy gaming to you all.
    --SD
    Last edited by steeldragons; Wednesday, 21st September, 2011 at 03:48 AM.
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    And then there's Midge.

    “Be at ease, child. You are safe…in Bridgetower.” The woman said calmly.

    She rose from her seat and put down her needlework. The elderly woman shuffled over next to the beside and without Alaria’s consent took her arm by the wrist and held it for a moment. Then reached over and felt her forehead. Alaria thought it strange but was not inclined to back away. The old woman continued.

    “I am Revered Daughter Midgalaine, but everyone here just calls me ‘Midge’, as may you.” She turned to the door that creaked open slowly, a younger girl (no older than 17 summers, thought Alaria) in plain white robes and veil was coming in with a tray of various containers.

    <Author/DM’s note: can’t do the accent right, here, but that should be read as “REV-er-ed” Daughter, not “rah-VEERD”. That is all. continue.
    >

    The younger woman looked in surprise at the sitting wizard and turned to Midge with a smile. “Blessed be the Merciful Mother, she’s awake!” The girl said.

    “Yes, indeed, she is Kathaine. Now, go fetch the Hilltender. He was most insistent.” Midge ordered the acolyte.

    “Right away, Revered Daughter.” Kathaine replied. She set the tray of various healing powders and herbs, bandages and a bowl of clean water down on the small side table next to the bed and hurried out of the room in a flowing blur of white.

    “Haelan is here too?” Alaria said. Her mind still a bit foggy. “I must get dressed.” Alaria tried to slide out of the bed but her body felt heavy as stone. She managed to get one leg on the floor to find she had no strength to stand up on it. Midge hurried around the bed to the side Alaria was trying to get out.

    “No, no, no. My dear. You will still be weak. You must stay abed for a bit longer. Really, I must insist.” Midge said soothingly.

    Alaria had little choice but to comply, she simply could not get out of the bed.

    “You said Haelan is here. What of the rest of my company?” Then Alaria remembered. Fear and shock crossed over her face. “Braddok! What off Braddok? Did he…”

    Midge’s face became solemn, her eyes downcast. “I think it be more fitting that I let your friends tell you all that’s happened while you slept.”
    The old woman’s kindly wrinkled face smiled slightly.

    “You just rest now. They’ll be here soon, I’m sure. T’was days before we could get the daelvar out of here in the first place.” She said lightheartedly and chuckled to herself. “You do seem to engender a great deal of loyalty from those boys.

    “T’was a grand thing you did for those people, my dear. Surely you are blessed by the Merciful Mother. The ‘Tower’s been all abuzz about it and the heroes that helped defend us. Sergeant Goren has been in to see you every day…” Midge was cut off before she could attempt to liven Alaria’s spirit anymore.

    “What do you mean ‘All that’s happened?’ ‘Days’ before you could get Haelan to leave? How long have I been here?” Alaria said in surprise.

    Midge busied herself fluffing up Alaria’s pillows so the magess would be a bit more elevated. She then began reverently pulling off the rose-embroidered sash from across Alaria’s lap and folding it carefully.

    Without looking up from her task she said “Four nights. Tis about midday on the fifth day now.” As casually as if she’d just said “the sky is blue.”

    Another acolyte now entered the room and again gave praise to Gilea for the magess’ recovery. Midge instructed the girl to open the shutters on the one narrow window in the room. “Let in some light and fresh air.” The acolyte scrambled to comply with her superior’s request.

    “Five days?!” Alaria finally said, incredulous at the calm casual manner of the priestesses who both looked up at her with eyes of surprise. The acolyte looked to Midge, bowed her head silently and swept out of the room. “I’ve been laying here unconscious for five days?!” Alaria said again.

    Midge looked at her, the same as if she’d just heard “the sky is blue”, “Yes, child, that’s right. From what we were told by the Hilltender, you exerted yourself quite a bit in the battle.”

    She opened the armoire and tucked the folded sash up on a upper shelf. Alaria could see her robes hanging and pouches and satchel on the floor of the large wardrobe. Midge continued over her shoulder.

    “You were brought into the tower, as were all of the wounded, and we tended to you. Your body was fine, save a couple of bumps n’ bruises. But you wouldn’t awaken.

    "You were in the ‘spell sleep.’ I’ve seen it before, tending to the magicians in the Lordmage’s service. Your mind was exhausted from delving into those arcane energies you wizard’s are so dependent on. I tell you it was all we could do to keep the halfling from trying to summon avatars of his Hillmother to bring you back.” Midge chuckled again.

    Alaria was curious and skeptical at the old healer’s tale. She had been raised in R’Hath, Land of Mages, trained for over a decade in the intricacies of working with arcane energies and she had never heard of this ‘spell sleep.’ She knew of the exhaustion, of course, when her energies were depleted for the day or she hadn’t had enough rest to replenish them. But nothing to put her into a coma for a week!

    Before she could think on it any further, the door to the chamber flung open with a bang.

    “Alaria? Oh it’s true! You’re awake!” Haelan said, a ball of daelvar energy, as he bounded into the room and up to Alaria’s beside.

    “Thank Faerantha! I’ve prayed so hard for your return. Oh,” the hilltender turned to Midge, “and thank Gilea, too! Midge and her sacred Daughters were so wonderful to you. Kathaine’s been teaching me about some of the herbs and incenses they used to try to revive you. Oh, Alaria so much has happened, you won’t believe it!” the halfling leapt up half on the bed and flung his arms around the surprised mage.

    She wrapped a stiff arm around the little hairfoot. Before he could begin his next assault on her ears and mind, Alaria said quietly into Haelan’s straw blond hair. “Haelan, where’s Braddok?”

    The halfling returned his bushy-topped feet to the floor and looked up at Alaria with a face that could only be described as a punched puppy. His bottom lip quivered a bit. His eyes, almost immediately, glassed over with tears that he refused to let fall. He’d done more than his share of crying the past few days. “Alaria, Braddok is gone. He didn’t make it.” Haelan sniffed hard to hold back the tears. “Neither did Gnobby.”

    Just then the doorway was filled with a large figure in a blue tabard. The moustached man had a bright smile on his middling-aged face. There was a shining helm tucked under one arm. A scabbard hung on his hip. “So it is true. The sleeping beauty has awakened.” Sergeant Goren said. He looked at the healer, still smiling. “Old Midge, you’ve done your goddess proud once again. Praise Gilea. I shall make tribute to her shrine this very day when my rounds are completely.”

    “Oh Sergeant.” Midge chuckled like a school girl. “You do honor to an old woman who is only the Merciful Mother’s humble servant.”

    “Sergeant Goren, I understand you’ve been visiting me in my…illness. I thank you for your kindness and the hospitality of Bridgetower.” Alaria said with all due formality, but sincerity.

    The man-at-arms smiled and nodded a curt bow to her. “The thanks is ours to give, Magess Alaria. Were it not for the intervention of you and your company, my men and I, all, and probably all of those refugees would have met with slaughter.”

    “Yes, I am remembering more now.” Alaria said. “I am terribly sorry for the loss of your men.” Alaria mentally steadied herself from letting her mind go to Braddok and her own loss.

    Goren nodded solemnly, “We both have losses to mourn, Magess. But they all fell in a noble fight, gleaming with their honor. We mourn, but we must also praise their sacrifice.”

    Alaria nodded a thankful response before the sergeant made a deep bow of courtesy and regretfully excused himself from the chamber to go make his rounds on the wall.

    He did add, as he was leaving, “I do hope, Magess, that we will have occasion to sup some night while you remain in Bridgetower. When you are strong enough, of course.”

    Alaria grinned politely and nodded.

    When he’d left, Midge looked at the mage and the halfling and bowed her own head. “I’ll set Kathaine to bring you up some food and drink. Our prayers may keep you alive, but they are not exactly ‘filling’. And you will need some real food to regain your strength.” Midge smiled and winked at Alaria. “I’ll leave you two alone to catch up and keep away any other visitors. You’re quite the hero these days, you know.” With that the old woman left and quietly closed the door behind her.

    Halean looked up at Alaria and smiled. Then his eyes shifted to the floor. “Nice bed, isn’t it?” he said to avoid the obvious conversation.

    “Haelan, tell me about Braddok.” Alaria said.

    “Well,” the daelvar began uncomfortably, “there’s not a lot to tell. He fell to the ogre before you blasted it with your wand. In the aftermath, more defenders from the tower arrived and helped load up all of us, any wounded. They piled up the goblins and zarks and burned them. Burned the ogres where they laid since none of them could more them. Oh, Devrim’s getting apprenticed by…”

    “Haelan. Braddok, please.” Alaria interjected.

    “Oh, right. Well, the Daughters of Gilea did what they could to…you know…put him back together, so to speak. But he had no life left within him.” Haelan’s eyes again went to the floor.

    “They summoned the Shaaliir <“SHAY-ah-leer”, priests of the goddess of death, Desri> from somewhere in Daenfrii to come do the rites and lay their men to rest. They arrived two days ago and there was a ceremony yesterday for the fallen Bridgetower guards.” Haelan stopped.

    “And Braddok?” Alaria asked.

    Haelan burst into tears. “He’s still down in the chamber the Shaaliir were using for preparations. Oh Alaria, it’s horrible, like a dungeon. They asked us what we wanted to do, but I refused to let him be buried while you were…you know…not here.” With a sniffle the tears stopped. “Coerraine backed me up, too. I was surprised even Duor agreed to wait…something about honoring a fallen warrior in dwarven style. I don’t know what that means. But, well, he’s downstairs.”

    Alaria wasn’t sure how to react. “A week? Oh no, Haelan, he should not be left to rot in such a manner.”

    “Oh no no!” Haelan interrupted. “That’s what the Shaaliir did, since we weren’t having a cerremony right away. He’s under their special spells to keep him just as he was until we decided what to do. I spoke with the head death-priest, just this morning though. Dolorn, his name is. Fine fellow, actually, despite the creepy death-thing. But anyway, he said they could not wait indefinitely and we would need a decision about what to do with Braddok’s body by sundown today.”

    “What to do with it? Well, I suppose a funeral pyre is the respectable hero’s way, isn’t it?” Alaria offered.

    “Actually, Alaria, we were thinking…you know, if you wanted to…or didn’t mind…that…um..well…”the Hilltender was stuttering and stumbling word after word.

    “What Haelan?!” Alaria finally burst in exasperation.

    “We’d bring him back.” Haelan snapped meekly.

    Alaria was aghast and agape. Bring him back?...Could they do that?...Who could do that?...She had heard in legends and tales of heroes returning from the grave. In the Saga of the Heroes of the Thorn, the Sainted Daughter of Gilea returned the swordsman Elibon from the grave…

    “Is that possible?”

    Before Haelan could explain a commotion came from the hallway.

    “Whaddaya mean privacy?! I’m a hero of Bridgetower too, yeh know! Is she awake or not?” Duor’s voice came booming through the closed door.

    With a look from Alaria, Haelan went over to the door and opened it a quietly.

    “It’s all right, Rever…er…Midge.” Alaria called.

    Duor grumbled under his beard as he entered the room, something about a “crone” was all Haelan or Alaria could make out. Then he was all smiles. “Well there now, boss lady. I knew yeh weren’t down fer the count. Yeh wouldn’t believe it if I told yeh…I wouldn’t believe if I told me! Heh heh heh. We’ve been named Defenders o’ the Tower and everything! And I will say, these folks of Daenfrii know how to treat their heroes.” The dwarf puffed out his chest and stroked his beard in self-satisfaction.

    Coerraine entered behind him with a quiet apology to the Revered Daughter of Gilea. He smiled and nodded to Alaria. “Praise Celradorn and Gilea you have come back to us, magess. There is much to discuss.”

    Alaria nodded and smiled at the Goldshield.

    “And there’s one more thing…” Haelan mentioned as a trimmed form flowed into the doorway. Hair of flowing pale grey flickered almost metallic in the sunlight streaming into the chamber.

    Large deeply violet eyes sparkled above a broad grin on a face of chiseled unworldly handsome features.

    Alaria’s eyes went wide as the figure moved into the room with telltale elegance and grace.

    “…Erevan’s here too!” Haelan finished with excitement.

    Last edited by steeldragons; Friday, 23rd September, 2011 at 02:21 PM.
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  • #87
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    Rangers and Captains and Lap-Drakes? Oh my!

    You are looking well, Alaria Staver of Ablidon. It seems I have missed quite a lot of excitement in my absence.”<translated from elvin> Erevan said with a forced grin.

    It seems you have, Erevan Ryvsorai Aiiri. You have been missed. It is good to see you, again.”<first part translated from elvin> Alaria answered in near-perfect accent.

    The reunion was bittersweet with the question of Braddok hanging over the room. But Alaria moved the conversation along and received all that Haelan could tell about the passed almost-week.

    Two days after they’d battled the goblin and ogre party, reinforcements began arriving at Bridgetower, including a contingent from Celradorn's temple in the Vale of the Dragonmage.

    One of the few Redstar Knights was a “Lightlance”, the rank above Coerraine, and had taken to training the paladin to increase his abilities.

    The whole party had been awarded accommodation in the great tower since Coerraine and Haelan had informed the guards of the "dark wizard who was after them.” Seemed the great tower, though not the whole keep, was guarded by mystical barriers from prying magical eyes.

    Erevan had returned two days passed, carried there by one of his “Kiiri Eres’kai” <translation from elvin: “cousin of my house”> whose mount, Haelan excitedly explained, was a giant hawk that talked! This other elf cousin was apparently an special elvin knight of some sort who had come to discuss the goblin army threat and had left that morning before Alaria awoke.

    They had, apparently, been honored as “Defenders of the Tower” and Duor had thoroughly been enjoying the prestigious rewards of such an honor.

    The lady of the Tower, the captain’s wife, was already preparing a feast for the following night in their (and Sergeant Goren and his men, along with those lost) honor. The lady, Elhianne, had been given the news of Alaria’s recovery as she had been entertaining an audience with Haelan and Coerraine.

    What little time Haelan could be forced away from Alaria’s bedside were being spent learning new healing techniques from the Daughter of Gilea and praying/attending Braddok’s body with the Shaaliir.

    Most of the refugees had continued on to the Vale, fearing themselves too close to any potential conflict in the border keep. But the farmer Maracus, Devrim and a few others had remained, in hope of Alaria’s recovery.

    “And, it seems Devrim has been taken on as apprentice to Bridgetower’s resident…what was it?...Arcanist?...their wizard. He’s very excited about it and praises you for his courage in the battle and his new-found desire to furthering his…er, well, both of your…craft. Isn’t that wonderful?” Haelan concluded with his characteristic smile.

    Alaria grinned at the news and was glad to hear of it. Then she asked for some time to dress and ready herself to leave her sickbed.

    The men graciously conceded, Coerraine had to get back to his training in any event. They all agreed to meet in two hours’ time.

    It didn’t take Alaria an hour to gather up her strength to wash and dress herself.

    She declined aid from the ever-helpful Daughter acolyte who returned with a serving tray of fruits, bread and cheese and a pitcher of water mixed with wine and spices (“to increase your vitality”, said the acolyte before exiting with a nodding bow) which she left in the ante-chamber. Alaria ignored her cautious warning about “over-tiring herself.”

    Alaria exited the bedchamber, needing to lean heavily on her staff. No wonder wizard’s all have staves, she thought and smiled to herself. Outside the bedroom was a nicely appointed sitting room with another fireplace, round table and comfortable chairs. She poured herself some wine from the pitcher on the table and enjoyed the coolness and tingle as it trickled down her long-parched throat.

    The wizardess made her way to the hallway to see the Revered Daughter, Midge, having a conversation with...a satyr?

    The goat-legged man stood as tall as the old woman. He wore a breast plate of leather set with large oval metal studs and similarly studded leather “plates” upon his thighs and forearms. The satyr wore a cloak of deep blue and turned immediately to look at the mage. He had a head of chestnut brown hair with small horns, curved back, poking through the wavy locks and a trimmed goatee hugged his strong squared chin.

    “Ah! Mistress Alaria. I am so glad to see you up and about. I was just relaying a message to Old Midge that the Captain would like to see you when you were feeling able. Able enough, I see.” The satyr piped up as he rushed down the hall. He walked eagerly down the hall with arm outstretched in greeting. His cloven hooves clip-clopping on the stone floor as he approached.

    “Festus, my lady.” The satyr said with a deep bow as he took her hand. “Festus Hornshod, ranger of the Tower and Captain Rynthis’s right hand man.” The satyr looked down at his lower half and then back up at Alaria with a devious grin.

    “Well, half-man.” The satyr winked and moved closer, his horns curved slightly back, but all in all, the satyr only slightly shorter than Alaria, herself. “But all satyr.” He leered again.

    Alaria drew back and looked down the hall at Midge whose eyes were rolling in her head. “Very nice to make your acquaintance Ranger Hornshod.”

    “Excellent! Shall we to the Captain, then? This way. Follow me.” the satyr smiled.

    Alaria found it uncanny how the goat-man’s face changed so swiftly from that of a sex-starved sailor to one of sincere servitude. “Well, Ranger Hornshod..I, uh…” Alaria began.

    “Festus, I think the lady Alaria has had enough excitement for one day.” Midge broke in as she shuffled down the hall to where they stood.

    Merciful Mother, Alaria thought, bless your Revered Daughter.

    “Perhaps, you can tell Rynthis she will meet him tomorrow.” Midge continued.

    “No. It’s alright Revered Daughter.” Alaria composed herself. She was weak, but not incapacitated. Alaria did not wish to insult their benefactor by waiting longer than need be. “Would your lord be available in…what time is it?”

    “Nearing twelve bells, my lady.” Festus cheerfully told her.

    “Very good, I will come to him at half-passed twelve bells…if it pleases him.” Alaria suggested.

    “It will very much indeed, my lady. I will carry the news, myself, forthwith.” Festus bowed again and took his leave. His clip-clopping hooves echoed down the hall long after he had turned the corner at the end of the hall.

    When he’d gone, she thanked Midge for her help and inquired of the whereabouts of the tower’s resident mage.

    “Eager to get back into your studies?” Midge offered. Without awaiting an answer, she added, “Always the way with the magicians. Tis a good sign, child. Exercising the mind with aid the body.” She beckoned Alaria to follow her and led her down the hall and up some stairs.

    When they’d climbed two flights, Midge brought her down another hall to a large dark wooden doorway.

    “ Stenthil always takes his lunch in the library.” Midge offered. “He practically sleeps here.” The old priestess chuckled lightly. “I’ll send one of the serving girls to come gather you.”

    “My thanks, Midge, but don’t trouble the servants. I will find my way.” Alaria said.

    “As you wish.” The priestess nodded a goodbye and headed back for the stairs they had just climbed.

    Alaria opened the large door. Goddess, it was an effort. Her strength had definitely not returned fully.

    When she entered, Alaria felt, immediately “at home.”

    The room, which apparently took up most of the floor, had high ceilings and rows and rows of shelves stacked with scrolls and books. The scent of parchment filled the room. A proper library, Alaria thought. Here in this border fort of all places. Well, Alaria reminded herself, this was the realm of the Dragonamge. She supposed she should not be surprised.

    She made her way down the center aisle which seemed to open in the center of the room to a space among the stacks which held a long dark wooden table and several chairs. Multiple tomes lay open across the table as did wells of ink and writing plumes. The entire area lit by a bright chandelier that glowed from puffballs of even yellow-white light.

    Alaria perused the open books, being sure not to touch anything. The few she saw, that she could read without magical assistance, held material on goblins, the making of potions, maps of the area and other things. One word caught her eye and attention, immediately, a name among the other obscured letters, Sharzaak.

    Alaria placed a hand on the book and then flinched away as a section of the dark grained tabletop seemed to move toward her arm.

    A moment later, she saw it was not the table itself, but the form of a creature, dark brown with veins of black matching the table’s grain.

    A tapered tongue flicked out of a reptilian shaped snout as the snout, then the whole head, then the whole body shifted from dark browns to bright teal.

    A dragon-looking creature with small wings folded against its back, about the length of a house cat, came into focus and cooed a warbling sound at the wizardess.

    A lap-drake! Alaria thought in surprise. For the first time in what seemed an age, Alaria thought of her home. Her mother kept two of the small draconic creatures.

    Alaria lowered her hand tentatively and the creature nuzzled its head under her open palm and made a rumbling purring sound. She watched as the creature's scales shifted, starting at its nose and cascading to the tip of its tail, from teal to a shimmery violet that matched Alaria’s gown.

    Just then, a man emerged from one of the other aisles, an old bearded man in a pale grey robe and silvery skullcap that reflected the puffball light. His nose was in a book until he was almost at the table.

    “What is it now, Amarys? Lunch will be here shortly.” the man said. He looked up in obvious surprise at the young woman standing beside the table petting his lap-drake.

    “Ah! Magess Alaria, I presume. Well met, well met. I heard you were back on your feet. Old Midge is a wonder, is she not? I trust Amarys isn’t giving you any trouble?”

    “Uh, well no, Master…um…Stenthil, is it? I trust I am not interrupting.” Alaria said apologetically.

    “Not at all. Not at all, child. Welcome. Welcome!” the old man began closing and stacking books to make a space in front of a chair. He gestured for Alaria to sit. “Sit. Amarys, get down! Sit, child. You must still be tired from so much time in bed.” The old bearded man chuckled and stroked his beard, more grey than its original blond. “Bit of a paradox, there, eh? Tired from being in bed? Heh heh.”

    Alaria sat and thanked the aging mage. Alaria smiled at the wizard’s jest.

    “Now, what can I do for you?” Stenthil said. Before Alaria could make a response, the wizard added, “And I must thank you for young Devrim. Quite a talent, that boy. Proving a most adequate apprentice.”

    Alaria opened her mouth to address the wizard, but was again cut off.

    “Of course, he’s only been helping me for three days. But still, doing very well. Very well.” He smiled and nodded approvingly.

    “Thank you, Master Stenthil. I fear Devrim may have exaggerated my role in his coming to you. Be that as it may, I am glad to hear you approve of him. I do think he will try very hard.” Alaria finally said.

    “But to the purpose of my visit, I was wondering what you could tell me about the ‘spell sleep.’” She asked.

    “Ah. Well, my dear, it is one of the basics. I am shocked a full magess would have questions about it.” the old wizard began. Amarys climbed off the table into the old man’s lap and butted its head against the wizard’s arm. Stenthil began absently stroking the drake’s head without a thought. “Quite handy, really. Puts a creature into an arcane slumber. Its origins are attributed to the archmage Krendellak, if I’m not mistaken. Goes back to the very dawn of wizardry…Became a lich, you know, Krendellak. Nasty business, lichdom…Luckily, there was a band of heroes…”

    “No!” Alaria interjected. “Uh, no, Master Stenthil. You misunderstand. Not the ‘Sleep spell’ the ‘spell sleep.’ The affliction from which Revered Daughter Midge said I suffered these passed days.” Alaria corrected.

    “Ahhhh. Well that’s something completely different, then. Isn’t it?” the old mage chuckled. “That makes more sense.”

    The old man gently placed the lap-drake back on top of the book that had mentioned Sharzaak and moved over to one of the rows of books. He took only a moment to search the titles and pulled one from the shelf. “Ah! Zarcha’s Afflictions of the Arcane. Excellent work. I’m surprised you haven’t read it.”

    The title name did ring a bell, thought Alaria. Zarcha was one of R’Hath’s ‘Founding Five’ archmagi. Had she studied it as a first year at the academy?

    “Here we are.’Dormistrius Arcanis’ in the old Selurian.” The old mage began. “Our Revered Daughter uses the common colloquialism, not being versed in the Mysteries, of course.” Stenthil looked up from the page at Alaria with a knowing smile. He continued to read. “’When using an artifact beyond his capabilities or utilizing too many enchanted items at once, the magus may find themselves overwhelmed with the channeled energies and risks entering the dormistrius arcanis. It is an exhaustion of the mind and soul brought on by overtaxing the magus’ capacity to channel magical energies…’” Stenthil looked up from his recitation.

    Alaria nodded.

    The wizard continued, “…Known cases of the dormistrius arcanis include the effects of physical fatigue, to the point of paralysis of body and mind; entering a sleep from which one cannot be awakened lasting a matter of days to a matter of years, despite physical affliction, mundane or magical; and on rare or untreated occasion, death.” Stenthil closed the book.

    “Sounds like you went a bit too far into the lake, eh?” Stenthil smiled.

    Alaria looked away and frowned. Stupid girl! An apprentice’s mistaken could have taken her life, and for all she knew nearly did!

    “Ah, lunch.” Stenthil chirped.

    A servant entered the opening with a tray, similar to the one Alaria received earlier, though this had a plate of ham in addition to the bread and cheese.

    Alaria could not tell the contents of the pitcher.

    The servant dropped the tray, rather hastily and backed away from the table. His eyes darted about the table. He looked nervous, if not outright fearful.

    “Might I offer you a respite?” the wizard said to Alaria. “A bit of elfvine perhaps? One of the simple joys of a posting so near Miralosta.” He looked hopeful.

    The lap-drake, Amarys, lunged at the slab of ham, becoming again clearly visible in iridescent teal scales. The servant jumped and backed from the table a step.

    “Amarys, manners!” Stenthil chastised. The pseudo-dragon continued tearing into the ham without a glance.

    “No, thank you, Master Stenthil. I have imposed enough. I am grateful.” Alaria said, waving off the waiting servant boy. “If I might impose on your generosity for something else though.”

    “Mm?” the wizard replied, raising eyebrows over a simply carved wooden goblet that obscured the lower half of his face.

    “Might I use your library for some research? I have a good deal of transcribing and study to complete and I do not know how much time we might have access to such a well-stocked trove of information.”

    “Yes. Yes, of course, my dear. You are a Defender of Bridgetower, after all. You may come and go as you please.” Stenthil said gladly. “What else?”

    After a pause, Alaria continued, “Are you versed in the identification of enchanted items?” Alaria asked hesitantly. She did not wish to offend the kindly wizard, nor did she wish to overstay her welcome as the wizard took what she deemed an impolitely large bite of cheese.

    The wizard let out a full mouthed guffaw. “My dear, in my twenty years at this post in the service of our great lord, the Dragonmage, I have had little cause to do anything else!” He guffaw turned to a close-mouthed chuckle as he tore into the hunk of bread on the tray. “What can I help you with?”

    The R’Hathi wizardess pulled the air-controlling orb from her satchel. “This. This is the item I was using that cause my…dormistrius arcanis. I can tell you it is called the ‘Wind Soul’ and I am aware of its powers. But…I would be interested in knowing more.”

    “Of course you would, child. Heh heh. You are Magess, after all.” Stenthil replied, taking the orb from Alaria and looking at it pensively as he chewed on the crusty chewy bread. “The Wind Soul, eh? What secrets have you for old Stenthil?”

    “If you might conduct some research into its history. It’s background. I have cause to believe it an item of much greater use than controlling wind.” Alaria paused again. Would it be too much to ask?...“And I note you had something here about the dread-wyrm, Sharzaak. Anything you might find regarding these two things or any connection between them would be most appreciated.”

    Stenthil’s face, for the first time since they’d met, took on a note of seriousness. “Indeed?” The wizard looked to the orb then his grey eyes looked up from beneath grey bushy brows. “Most intriguing, don’t you think Amarys. I will see what I can find. With young Devrim, now, to relieve me of more…menial tasks, I can spend more time in my beloved library. I should be able to have something for you in a few days.”

    “Thank you, Master Stenthil. I will confer with you soon, then. It was a pleasure to meet you.” Alaria said as she rose from her chair. Standing was more easy now. That spiced wine, perhaps, or just that she was shaking the final effects of the ‘spell sleep.’

    The lap-drake looked up from its preening as Alaria rose. It licked its forepaws, contentedly curled up on the plate which had held the ham steak.

    “And you, Amarys. I will see you both later, perhaps.” Alaria concluded the meeting and nearly left before asking for directions to the Captain’s meeting chamber.

    Stenthil happily gave directions in between chunks of cheese and slurps of elfvine.

    Alaria took her leave from the library in the great tower to attend her meeting with the seneschal, Captain Rynthis.
    Last edited by steeldragons; Sunday, 25th September, 2011 at 09:00 PM.
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  • #88
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    Captain Rynthis

    Alaria sat on one of the brightly-colored pillows that lined the oaken benches against the wall in the ‘waiting room’ for the office of Captain Rynthis. It was little more than a widened section of hallway at the end of the curving corridor that circled the perimeter of the tower. Still, the pillow-lined benches and small corner table, on which sat a silver decanter, pitcher of water and bowl of fruit (apples mostly), and the natural light from two narrow arrow-slit windows made the “chamber” more than comfortable.

    The satyr, Festus stood across from where Alaria sat. He whistled a jaunty tune, arms folded. Occasionally one of his hooves clipped a brief beat on the stone floor.

    Alaria had caught him looking at her, more than once, in the passing minutes. Sometimes he wore an innocent grin to rival Haelan’s and sometimes there was something a bit more ‘carnal’, she thought, for lack of a better word. He certainly was an intriguing creature.

    Satyrs were not such an unusual species in the mage-lands of R’Hath. They were a common enough sight at festivals as performers or footmen and messengers in the service of the grand villas and manors outside of Abildon. Though to find them roaming the streets or strongholds of more populated areas was certainly not commonplace from what Alaria could recall.

    Alaria rose and moved to stare out of one of the windows.

    “Won’t be long now, milady. The captain is just finishing up with his lieutenants.” Festus offered with a smile.

    Alaria returned the smile and nodded. He’d told her the same thing twice in the passed ten minutes. She did not mind the wait, actually. She had much on her mind.

    Looking out the window and down at the broad seemingly impossibly long expanse of the bridge spanning the wide section of the D’Evand. The bridge of Bridgetower was wide enough to allow four men on horseback to ride side by side with room to spare for a footman on either side. The water sparkled and the silvery grey and white stones of the bridge (built back in the Selurian days, Festus had told her the first time she’d looked out the slit in the stone wall) gleamed in the midday sun.

    The two-towered gatehouse at the other side of the river was common-enough looking, built of the grey stone to be found just about anywhere.

    She watched a moment as horses pulled wagons, groups of soldiers in blue tabbards going to or coming from their appointed posts and commonfolk in plain clothes of brown and grey toted bundles and baskets across the bridge from the gatehouse to the tower.

    Alaria turned at the sound of the large iron-banded oak door heaving open.

    Out came three men in armor and jackets of blue with blue and grey cloaks, helms tucked under their arms. Two of the men sported beard while one wore the droopy-styled moustache like Sergeant Goren. All three nodded and grumbled greetings to “milady” as they passed by and disappeared around the bending hallway.

    “Come!” boomed a gravely baritone voice from inside the chamber.

    Festus waited a breath and then stuck his head into the office. “My lord, the Magess Alaria is here for her appointment.” The satyr said, sounding most deferential.

    “Yes, yes. Show her in, Festus.” Commanded the voice.

    As Alaria entered the doorway, Festus began a lengthy and formal introduction.

    “My lord, may I present the lady, Magess Alaria Staver of Ablidon. Lady Magess, may I present his Lordship, Rynthis Thesunder, Senechal of Bridgetower and Captain of the South March to his most exalted luminousity, Arganor, Lordmage of…”

    “Yes. Yes. Thank you, Festus. You may go.” Captain Rynthis said, his voice and face softening.

    He was, Alaria had to admit to herself, quite a handsome man of middling age. A full head of charcoal black hair and neatly trimmed beard both bore distinguished-looking strips of silver white. He wore a thigh-length sleeveless jacket of deep indigo leather worked at the shoulders and trimmed with golden scroll work. A swordbelt hung at his waist, but instead of scabbard, Alaria was surprised to see a rather large, finely woven, grey sack, and other pouches and pockets of varying size. It was then that Alaria became aware that in amongst the scrolling pattern of his jerkin were mystic symbols, though she could not discern their precise purpose.

    The Captain extended an arm in greeting, sleeved in chainmail, ending in a thick gloved hand of matching indigo leather.

    It is a pleasure and honor, my lady Magess. I must first ask to your lady’s health? Feeling better I trust.” <translated from R’Hathi, formal courtly language of the Mage-lands> Rynthis began.

    Alaria’s mind balked at hearing the High Tongue of R’Hath spoken to her. She new a bit of the language of the courts, but had never expected to hear it spoken, so perfectly, this (what she considered) “far” from her homeland. She extended a gentile hand which he gripped and bowed to kiss, leaning over his desk.

    Much better, my lord Captain. Thanks to the generosity and charity of your lordship and his, er… Revered Daughters.” Alaria responded as best she could in the High Tongue before taking the captain’s unspoken offer to sit.

    “Ah yes, well,” he began, also switching to the Common tongue, “Old Midge is a wonder. I have been fortunate to have Gilea grant she be in my service for so long. She’s been seeing to Bridgetower’s well-being since before I arrived.” He smiled lightly.

    “May I offer you some refreshment?” the captain asked as he moved to a side table set with array of polished silver and crystal decanters and goblets. “Midge tells me you have had little to eat or drink these passed days.”

    When Alaria declined with a thankful smile and polite hand, Rynthis poured himself a deep golden colored fluid from one of the decanters and took a deep swig before returning to his high-backed seat behind the desk.

    “I must also thank you for your company’s defense of our humble outpost. I trust you have been informed that you and your companions are to be honored tomorrow eve with a feast. My wife, the lady Elhianne, is most anxious to meet you and wished me to covey her sincerest relief and thanks at hearing of your recovery.” The captain continued.

    “Uh, yes. My thanks again Captain Rynthis. I would hardly call Bridgetower an outpost, my lord. This is as impressive a keep as any I have seen...outside of R"Hath, of course. Your lady is most gracious to go to the trouble.” Alaria responded…but had more she wanted to ask.

    The captain laughed. “Tis no trouble at all, Magess. My lady would throw a party when the sun set or the moons rose, if I would allow it. I am afraid there are few distractions for her ladyship in such a place as this. But in the face of such bravery and loss, a celebration is most welcome and deserved.”

    “Loss, my lord?” Alaria began before understanding that he’d meant the loss of his soldiers an, perhaps, her ‘soldiers’ as well. “Ah, yes. Of course.” Her gaze went to the hands folded in her lap.

    “Magess Alaria, forgive me. I meant not to cause you pain. The battlefield is a cruel place for even the most stalwart of veterans…” The captain began apologetically.

    “No. No. It is quite all right.” She forced her mind to the task at hand and lifted her eyes to meet the captain’s concerned look. “Your lordship is quite right. Now, I understand you wished to speak with me? I would surely have sought you out, in my own time, to offer the thanks of my people for the exceptional hospitality of your house.”

    Rynthis took another swig of his goblet and lifted a waving hand. “Not at all, Magess Alaria. It is the least we can do. Especially in this countryside and the uncertain times we find ourselves. Goblins so near Daenfrii…I never thought I’d see the day.” His glance wandered to the wall above the side table and decanters.

    “Um, my lord? If I may before you begin, your name…” Alaria tentatively began to ask.

    Rynthis’ grey eyes returned to the magess and he smiled light-heartedly again. “You are correct, Magess Alaria...of Ablidon. I am, indeed, of the High-family Thesunder. Primagus Gorem is my cousin.”

    Alaria could hardly believe her ears. The Primagus of Ablidon, Gorem Thesunder was the cousin of this captain. Here, in Daenfrii? Her eyes betrayed more surprise than she intended. “Um, well…my lord…I must, definitely..um..” Her mind swam. What was she supposed to do? What could she possibly offer for one of the highest royal families in R’Hath!? “How did you…” she stumbled before Rynthis gracefully interrupted her.

    “You’ve done quite enough for now, I am sure. As to how I came here, I renounced my position in my cousin's army as Battlemage to do even as you, I suspect. See the world." He smiled broadly.

    "In my travels, I found myself here, in Daenfrii, where my heart was stolen by my lady love. My skills brought me into the distinguished service of our most beneficent Lordmage.”

    Alaria nodded politely.

    “But, now, yes to the business at hand. Our thanks and generosity aside, I am afraid I have a few items to discuss with you.” Rynthis began, setting the heavy goblet down on the desk.

    “It seems, Magess, that your Hilltender’s ferret got into the chicken coop yesterday morning. We have, of course, compensated the farmer for the loss of…” He rifled through the disarray of letters on his desk before pulling one out and looking at it. “..six chickens. We had to give him double before he stopped ranting for the animal’s head. But I must please ask you to have the daelvar keep the creature tethered or otherwise penned so as to not have a repeat of the incident.”

    The Hilltender’s ferret? Alaria was not sure what to say. She would have to discuss the matter with Haelan. “I will offer recompense, of course, your lordship. It will, of course, be as you say. I cannot apologize enough. Um, where is Butter..er, the ferret, now?”

    "We had the Hilltender take it to one of the dungeons, not really having any other way to cage the thing. The daelvar was quite upset, at first, but said today that the creature seems to be enjoying itself…and helping the ‘Tower in its own way,” Rynthis almost chuckled, “cleaning up the rats.”

    “Well, my lord, I can assure you…” Alaria began.

    “I’ve also received a complaint from the chamberlain about the dwarf.” Rynthis continued.

    Alaria’s eyes went to the ceiling. By the Blue Star, Duor, what have you done now?!

    “It seems, the chamberlain claims, he is running the servants ragged with his requests for food and drink at all hours of the day and night…” Rynthis looked to another sheet of paper, “and, ‘accosted’ more than one of the serving girls.” One of the captain’s eyebrows arched a bit, “According to the chamberlain, quote ‘in a manner less than respectable for a defender of the tower’, end quote. Now, I don’t know what that means. Mistress Angtha is rather proper about these things and I am not one to deny a hero his fair, er, ‘spoils’ if you would. But I must address the complaint, you understand.”

    Alaria did not doubt her face flushed to nearly the shade of her gown. She would ring the dwarf’s neck for such an embarrassment. “Of course, Captain Rynthis. You need have no further concern on that matter. I will turn him into a toad if he continues behaving in the slightest unsavory manner.” Alaria responded in all seriousness. She knew she didn’t have the power to turn him into a toad, yet, but she’d figure out something.

    The captain guffawed. “Well, let us hope that won’t be necessary. But I will leave it to your obviously capable hands.”

    Alaria was glad at the appearance that these ‘transgressions’ did not sully her or her company’s reputation with the Battlemage captain.

    Rynthis’ face then became quite solemn. He spoke softly, gingerly. “Now, there is the lamentable question of your fallen companion.

    “The Shaalir have made it clear they wish to return to their own halls on the morrow.

    “We’ve been informed by the Lordmage’s diviners, and our own scouts have confirmed, that the bulk of the goblin army is passing us by. Heading straight for the elves, from what it seems. So, gods willing, we would have no further need of their services.

    “I know you have been through quite an ordeal of your own, the spell sleep is no simple thing, but I really must ask that you make a decision on the burial arrangements and proper rites for your swordman. I understand from speaking with the Hilltender and Redstar that he hailed from Grinlia? I must confess, I am not familiar with their funerary practices.”

    Alaria nodded in understanding. Her face took on a shroud of solemnity itself. She didn’t know what Grinlians did for funerals either. She fought to hold back the tears she felt welling up in her eyes. She could not, would not, cry in front of one of the Thesunders. Such an emotional display must be unforgivable in the ranks of such a house in their homeland. He’s related to the Primagus, for Manat’s sake!

    “However,” Rynthis continued, his voice filled with comforting concern, “if my lady would prefer, I will see to the arrangements myself. He was a warrior, after all, and I do know how to do honor a fellow warrior.”

    Alaria steeled her nerve and forced the tears to return to the back of her eyes. “My thanks, Captain Rynthis. But you and your house have done quite enough for us, already.” Or had they, Alaria wondered.

    “As you wish.” Rynthis answered calmly. “But I must, again, insist that you make your wishes known to the Shaalir by day’s end.”

    “My lord,” Alaria started, surprising herself with what she was about to suggest, “you have done so much for us already, I fear to ask anything more of your generosity…”

    Rynthis leaned back in his high-backed chair, a brow arched.

    Alaria noticed, for the first time since she’d entered, the great tapestry hanging on the wall above and behind the chair. The golden dragon with outstretched wing, grasping the blue diamond looked down over the captain.

    Alaria gulped and continued. “Would it be within the power of the Shaalir or the sacred Daughters, perhaps, to return Braddok to the living?” There! She’d said it.

    Now both of Rynthis’ eyebrows rose in obvious surprise. He paused a moment and let out a lengthy exhale. “I am afraid, I cannot say, Magess Alaria. Whether it is within the power of the Shaalir or not, or within the power or inclination for Midge or any of our Daughters of Gilea, I simply do not know. This is no small thing you request.”

    Alaria nodded, her shoulders slumped.

    “Of course, it is only natural that we want our loved ones returned to us.” Rynthis offered in condolence.

    “He was not my loved one! He was an honored and trusted comrade and my protector. He…” Alaria replied with a bit too much defense and force. She regretted the obvious admission as soon as the words left her. “He deserves to be returned to us. His…His fate cannot be concluded in such a manner.” Alaria’s will gave under the emotional weight and despite her mental chastising, the tears began to flow.

    Alaira again looked defeated and looked to the folded hands in her lap. Tears leaked down her cheek and dropped onto her hands. Quietly, she finished, “He was my friend.”

    The captain offered Alaria a handkerchief from somewhere in his desk. He nodded and remained silent for a moment as the magess collected herself.

    “You must forgive me, Captain. It has been a trying day.” Alaria offered, attempting to explain away her outburst.

    “No forgiveness is necessary, Magess.” Rynthis said calmly. “Manat grant that I have such a friend as you at my passing.”

    Alaria thanked the captain and rose to leave.

    “Magess Alaria.” Rynthis finally said as Alaria reached for the door. "I can not say whether it might be possible or not, but I will say, if this is the will of you and your company, go speak with the Shaalir…and the Daughters...and find out what might be possible. But I do not wish to give you false hope. It has been a week since the battle. It is very likely possible Braddok’s spirit has received Desri’s judgement and been ferried to its deserved rest.”

    Alaria nodded a bow. “My thanks, Captain. I will look forward to speaking more with you at tomorrow’s celebration. Good day.”

    Rynthis rose from his desk and returned the bow. “The pleasure will be mine, Magess. Good morrow to you.”

    Alaria made her way back to the stairs and began descending. She walked with singular purpose. Finally, where the stairs ended, on the bottom floor of the tower, Alaria stopped a serving boy and asked where she could find the Shaalir priest, Dolorn.
    Last edited by steeldragons; Tuesday, 27th September, 2011 at 07:01 PM.
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    Alaria returned to her room after meeting with the head Shaalir, Dolorn, to find most of the company waiting for her.

    Haelan munched on an apple from the tray of food that had been left for Alaria earlier. His bushy blond-topped feet dangling and swinging happily off the edge of the chair at the round table.

    Erevan stood, arms crossed, staring out the window by the table.

    Duor sat in one of the chairs near the small fireplace, one leg thrown casually over the arm of the chair. He was swigging from a flagon of ale that must have been delivered by the aggravated looking servant Alaria passed on her way back to the room.

    Coerraine also sat at the table, across from Haelan. His shield and spear leaned against the wall behind him. He looked tired, as if from too much exertion as opposed to lack of sleep.

    “Where’s Fen?” Alaria asked the collected heroes.

    Haelan shrugged with a mouthful of apple.

    “He’s not been around much. Once the sacred Daughters knew you would live, he took off to familiarize himself with the surrounding countryside. He’s stopped back in every few days.” Coerraine offered.

    “I’m sure, once word of your recovery gets out, he’ll be back.” Haelan offered.

    “I’m sure.” Duor agreed sarcastically. He took another long draw from his mug and refilled the flagon from the pitcher set on the small table between the chairs by the fireplace. “So, what’s this about, boss lady? What’s next?”

    Alaria took a seat at the table with Coerraine and Haelan. She poured herself some more of the watered and spiced wine and drank thirstily.

    “That is precisely,” Alaria began, “why we are here.”

    Receiving no comment, the R’Hathi mage continued.

    “I have been to see Captain Rynthis and the Desriite, Dolorn. We have much to discuss. First…”

    Alaria first relayed the “concerns” of the Bridgetower seneschal.

    Haelan was overjoyed by the prospect of getting Buttercreamshadowfeet out of the dungeon and keeping her with him, though he had no idea how he was supposed to keep the creature under control.

    Duor was less so but, grumbling, agreed to not “impose” on the tower staff.

    Then a silence fell over the room for a few moments as everyone wondered at the other topic of importance. The sun was beginning to tilt toward the west in the mid-afternoon.

    “Now,” Alaria continued, “about Braddok…” She was not sure how to go about it. She knew she was, for all intents and purposes this group’s “leader”. But she had found, during her brief time on the road of the passed few weeks, it was a role she was not comfortable with.


    She gathered her resolve. “Nothing to do about it but jump in with both feet.” The oft heard advice of her master filled her mind.

    “You are all here because of me. The trials and threats we have faced have been because you were bound to me, as protectors, for my errand. That errand is complete and though I know the terms of our arrangement had been to see me to Welford and returned safely to Hawkview…the circumstances of our gathering have changed…somewhat dramatically.”

    The company was glued to her every word. They were all intrigued by where this line of thought was going.

    Alaria continued, uninterrupted.

    “It would seem now, that we shall not be returning to Hawkview any time soon. As such…” Alaria paused and took in a deep breath. “…I hereby annul your ties to me. It is my sincerest wish that we remain together to further our collective goals out of friendship and,” she looked to Coerraine, “honor. But I can not continue to ask you to put your lives in jeopardy for me…or because I am paying you to do so.” There she’d said it.

    The companions all looked to each other somewhat uncomfortably. The momentary pause in the room was shattered by Duor jumping up, splashing ale from his mug as he did so.

    “WOOHOO! Heh heh heh! Yer arse is mine, pally!” the dwarf guffawed.

    Alaria and the others looked at Coerraine with some confusion.


    The paladin explained that if Alaria was, indeed, releasing him from her service, that he was duty-bound to the service and protection of Duor.

    “So, you’re still going to stay with us, aren’t you Duor?” Haelan asked concerned.

    “Well, if we ain’t getting’ paid, then what’s the point?” Duor replied honestly.

    “The reason,” Alaria interjected, “for the immediate future, is Braddok. I am neither equipped nor inclined to handle his resurrection on my own. Shaalir Dolorn was quite explicit that the ritual needed to return Braddok to life was very complex and expensive.”

    “How expensive?” Duor asked with a serious furrow in his overgrown brows.

    The group remained silent.

    “Well, for one, the ritual cannot be conducted here. He, nor any of his delegation, are capable of such a feat.” Alaria explained. “The…uh…body, must be taken back to their temple in the Vale where the Shaalir high priestess can conduct it. The other thing is, the ritual actually involves various stages. The first of which is communing and determining if Braddok’s spirit is retrievable…to see if he wants to come back.”

    “You think he may not want to?” Haelan said sadly. “But he liked us all so much.” The Halfling looked as though he would begin to cry.

    “It is not for us to say, Haelan.” Alaria spoke with compassion. “It is up to his spirit and the will of the Grey Lady. If he has already been ushered to his final rest, then it is unlikely he would be allowed to return. But, if the tapestry of his fate is not fully woven, Dolorn assures me, then his return would not only be permitted…but expected by Desri.

    “There is also the concern, Dolorn was very clear, that the Braddok who was returned to us might, and even probably would, not be the same Braddok we knew. Crossing into the Grey Lands and, even further, into the afterlife, could very possibly change him. His return would come with a severe price. Not in gold or jewels, but in his soul and possibly our own.”

    The company continued to watch and listen in silence to the wizard. Finally, it was Duor who again spoke up.

    “So, yer sayin’ we would have to pay some tribute to the goddess of death?” the dwarf asked.

    “That is exactly what I am saying. But Dolorn could not even begin to explain what it would be…or even if it would be necessary. We would have no way to know until the ritual was done. The high priestess would, apparently, know what must be done. But it is possible.”

    “Well,” Duor said chipperly, “if we’re not havin’ to give the temple gold, then why in the Forge not bring him back?” he asked rhetorically.

    “That is the other thing, Duor. A tribute must be paid for the casting…which may or may not bring about the desired result.” Alaria explained.

    Duor put down the flagon and crossed his arms. An eyebrow rose. “How much?”

    Alaria said something so lightly that none of the company, except Erevan, heard her.

    Duor noticed the elf’s slender eyebrow cock up. “Well, that ain’t never good.” The dwarf said.

    “How much, Alaria?” Coerraine questioned gently.

    “Five thousand gold pieces.” Alaria said louder.

    Haelan whistled. “That hardly seems fair!” the halfling protested. “We’ve already paid a dear price by having him die! We shouldn’t have to pay a material price to have him returned. That’s just wrong.” Haelan frowned and again sadness took over his face.

    “There are five of us, friend Hilltender.” Coerraine said gently. “Six, if you count the heathen. It is not so costly a price…given time.”

    “Oh! I’m not saying I won’t pay!” Haelan piped in defensively. “Braddok was my friend. Of course I will do what I can. I just don’t think we should have to. Your death goddess, the Grey Lady of Men, I mean, seems to have quite a racket going.”

    “You have a thousand gold laying around somewhere, hairfoot? I sure don’t!” Duor agrued.

    “Well,” Alaria interjected again to get the conversation back on topic before it descended into arguments. “That is why I have negated our previous arrangement. I have every intention of bringing Braddok back…if he wants to be so brought.” She ended quietly before continuing on with determination.


    “If we are to undertake it…if what you told me earlier about desiring to attempt this is true…I have no right to ask any of you to continued simply because this is the course I choose. You must do it for yourselves.”

    “And where’re we all supposed to get a thousand gold? Yeh might be rollin’ in riches, boss lady, but I’m only here because of your…ehm…generosity.” Duor asked with an accusatory tone.

    “And because the Dusk would have your skin if you hadn’t, of course.” Erevan added dispassionately.

    Alaria nodded, ignoring Erevan’s attempted defense. She’d expected the dwarf’s opposition.

    “We must find some treasure.” Alaria admitted. “The Shaalir said they could only maintain Braddok’s body until the night of Darkveil.” Alaria let that added tidbit sink in.

    “That gives us less than a month!” Coerraine noted.

    “Three weeks and three days, to be exact.” Erevan added.

    Alaria nodded. “Just so. I have at least a week’s worth of research and study to complete before I am willing to undertake any further adventures.” Alaria turned to Duor with one of her dark glares, “Provided we don’t overstay our welcome before then.”

    The dwarf resumed his seat, adequately accepting the warning.

    “Coerraine, how much longer must you train before you would ready to leave?” Alaria asked.

    “Lightlance Anborth says I am making exceptional progress. Another week, at most.” The paladin returned.

    “If it please you, Magess Alaria.” Erevan interjected. “I might join you? I could use some time to transcribe and hone my own limited mystic talents.”

    Alaria nodded and readily agreed.

    “Haelan, in fact, any of us who can,” again she looked at Duor, “if you can ingratiate yourself into the service of the tower, in some way, while we remain. It would do us good to return whatever kindness we can to those in control of Bridgetower and may earn us…or, well, ‘you’, a few coins to finance our future travel. I am afraid the trove of treasure from the harpies is all but spent.”

    With that, she withdrew five of the larger gemstones that remained in her pouch. She places three on the table.


    One for Haelan. One she indicated was for Erevan and one for Duor. Coerraine, she knew, would accept no payment for performing his appointed charge.


    “These are to conclude our prior business. From here on out, we shall act as individuals, bound by a common goal...not to me or my purse strings but to our greater cause and mutual well-being.”

    Duor took the gem eagerly. Haelan and Erevan were a bit more hesitant. But did accept the payment.

    “Let it be done then. Also, while we remain here, we must try to find a suitable quest which might garner us the requisite fees…with discretion.” Alaria finished.

    “FINALLY!” roared Duor. “A proper treasure hunt!” The dwarf’s eyes all but glittered at the thought of a lost hoard of treasure.


    “Collectin’ information is one of my specialities. No worries, boss lady. We’ll have a quest in no time.” The dwarf rose from his seat and with a casual wave of his arm and, “C’mon, Goldilocks. We’ve got work to do.” The dwarf chuckled to himself as he left.

    Coerraine let out a sigh, collected his shield and spear and with a silent nod to the remaining company, followed the dwarf out.

    “That’s so odd.” Haelan mused to no one in particular. “Coerraine in the service of Duor. Hillmother protect us all, eh?” he said with a smile as he jumped down from his seat.


    “Don’t worry, Alaria. I am sure Revered Daughter Midge will find something for me to do. I’ve been learning so much from them…and don’t you worry about Buttercream. I’ll find something for her to do too.”

    The halfling paused in the doorway and turned to look back at the wizard.


    “But Alaira, what about Gnobby?”

    Alaria looked at the hopeful Hilltender sadly, "I’m afraid, Haelan, the Shaalir need a body to perform the ritual…and, well…we don’t have one.” Alaria hoped it had not sounded callous.

    Haelan looked at the floor for a moment, then nodded. “No, I suppose not. Poor Gnobby. I’ll see you both at supper in the great hall, then?”

    Alaria and Erevan nodded their agreement.

    When they were alone, Alaria turned to the statuesque elf. He looked at her with his deep violet eyes. “If there isn’t anything else, magess, when would you like to begin our studies?”

    “I plan to begin as soon as possible. After supper? But there is just one more thing, Erevan.” Alaria answered. “Do you think you could find Fen for me. Explain all of this for him? I’d like to not have to think about it any longer.”

    Erevan nodded, though his lack of understanding was clear. “Til supper then, I too shall take my leave.” The elf extended an arm with hand outstretched.

    Alaria gave him her hand which the elf gently kissed. Even in her weakened state, Alaria shivered with attraction. The elf was just so handsome. “Til then.” She managed to whisper.

    The few hours of activity, Alaria admitted to herself, had taken its toll.


    She summoned one of the serving girls from down the hall and instructed her to see that she was awakened at half passed seven bells. With that done, Alaria returned to her bedchamber and promptly fell into another deep sleep, troubled by obscure images.
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    The days passed with relative ease. Alaria and Erevan copied their spells in the library.

    Coerraine went about his training, even taking in a few guard rotations with the Bridgetower guards.

    Duor had seen fit to “allow” this since, the dwarf thief reasoned, the more powerful the paladin was, the better use he would be. It hadn’t quite sunk in to Duor yet that Coerraine was a protector, not a servant who needed his “permission” for anything.

    Haelan, gleefully had gotten himself and Buttercream rounds at the gatehouse entrance, with the assurances that the ferret was an infallible detector of “were-rats” which the guard sergeants were none too pleased to hear had been on the party’s heels. Haelan offered the occasional “Detect Evil” and “Detect Lie” prayers for any individuals that seemed “suspicious.” In his days at the gate, none did. But it was an appreciated service.

    The seneschal actually instituted a test for all entering Bridgetower (for the south and north gates) with slender rods of silver stuck into their mouths to see if anyone reacted to the metal, presuming lycanthropes would.

    The feast in their honor went off without a hitch.

    The Lady Elhianne was a charming hostess. A woman in her middling years of obvious breeding, beauty and charm.

    The feast had included roast pheasants, apple stuffed geese, gratins of potatoes and cheese, baskets of golden loaves, sweet ripe fruits, apple and cinnamon pies, and honeyed sweets.

    Alarai and Erevan were thoroughly pleased with the quality of the cooking. Haelan even moreso, eating until he could barely speak.

    Rouses of applause echoed through the halls at the captain’s speech and introductions of the party members as well as Sergeant Goren and guardsman Alath.


    Minstels played throughout, including an original composition by the ‘Tower’s head minstrel entitled “The Ballad of the Stormrider”, about the battle with the goblins and ogres. It mostly featured Alaria’s magical prowess, “flying on winds” and “throwing lightning bolts from the sky”. Alaria blushed uncomfortably for most of the performance.

    She also had the unenviable task of declining dance invitations from several of the men in attendance, including Sergeant Goren. In her years and years of study, “courtly dancing” had never been a subject of hers. Alaria was thankful for Elhianne’s intervention on more than one occasion, saying their “Ladies talk” was being interrupted.

    Duor got completely oscified with the satyr ranger, Festus. The two traded stories of their "glorious" histories and the legends of their peoples well after the party had concluded. Neither was seen nor heard from for two days following the night of the feast.

    Fen had returned in time for the party. Erevan had informed him of the party’s new “organization” and the half-elf was more than happy to oblige. He did not, however, believe that Braddok’s return was a realistic expectation.

    Druid philosophy on “death” mandated that Braddok would be re-entered into the Wheel of Life in some form other than the human body his spirit had previously inhabited.

    He did, however, agree to contribute if the party managed to find a treasure that would allow them the attempt. Fen made no bones that his remaining with the party was the will of his superiors in the Ancient Order and protection of “the orb” from falling into the wrong hands was his priority.

    Throughout the week, the party reconvened to discuss possible opportunities for adventure. Duor’s means of “collecting information” were proving generally unfruitful. The party considered what the dwarf learned and dismissed most of them as rumor and/or tall tales. He had discovered, however, that the ranger satyr would be a welcome and eager asset if their adventures took them anywhere within the Dragonmage’s realm.

    At the end of four days since the company became a “company” instead of “Alaria’s entourage”, Coerraine completed his training. Alaria completed her studies and transcribing. Erevan had, he assured them, a single day left to go.

    The wizardess decided it was time to again meet with Abjurist Stenthil to see what his research had unearthed. He had indicated, two days after leaving Alaria left the orb with him, that he was “on to something.”

    Following a substantial breakfast, Alaria went to the library to find the aged wizard. She was stopped on her way by one of the messenger-pages who requested she accompany him to Captain Rynthis’ office. The servant couldn’t say what it was about, only that the seneschal had something to discuss with her.

    Alaria’s mind swam with possibilities of what “the dwarf or ferret could have done now.” Bracing herself to explain away or defend the actions of either, she was completely caught off guard by the actual conversation.
    Last edited by steeldragons; Tuesday, 11th October, 2011 at 01:03 PM.
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