"Out of the Frying Pan" - Book I: Gathering Wood (reprise)

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Inspired by Ranger Wickett's reprise of his "Savanah Knights" story hour - I have decided to repost the first Book of my "Out of the Frying Pan" story hour.

I will re-posting one installment a night for however long it takes to get it back up.

This way:

1) The first thread will exist here on the new boards.

2) People who are intimidated by its length can join us a little at a time at slower rate instead of being overwhelmed by the amount of information.

3) Those of you who have already read it can read it again! :D And recollect some of the earlier people, place and things that are being recalled in the current story hour thread.


I will be posting the first installment tonight.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
This doesn't count as an installment. :)

Below is the ad I put up at the Compleat Strategist (and up on the web including the Gamer's Seeking Gamers forum from back when Eric Noah still ran the boards), and was able to find two players to join up with me, two friends and another acquaintence.

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It is a hot summer, and war rages in the east. The most powerful kingdom in all of the known world fights against one of its own territories in what promises to be a long and bloody civil war.
But war is soldiers’ work – not adventurers’, not farmers, certainly not yours…

But that one frightening word is on the lips of recruiters, magistrates and town guards, “Conscription!” - There are a million ways to get out of the war, the trouble is finding a good one.

Verdun – the largest city in Aquerra, capitol of the war-torn Kingdom of Herman Land. Amid the towering spires, religious pilgrims, and ships of conscripts heading out to the Black Islands, the answer can be found. Some people will do anything to get out of the frying pan…
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Out of the Frying Pan… is a 3E D&D campaign for 4 to 6 players set in Aquerra. The characters will begin at first level, and all characters must have some reason for wanting or having a conscription deferment.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #1 (part I)

Ralem, the 22nd of Keent, 564 H.E.

It all began in the city of Verdun, largest and most cosmopolitan city in Aquerra – capitol city of the Kingdom of Herman Land, which is embroiled in a civil war to reclaim authority over its wayward protectorate.

Kazrack, black dwarf (1) of some small fighting skill, but mostly just a loyal son to a father of some repute in the small and oft-overlooked dwarven community of Verdun, was walking back from the market with an armful of supplies for his family’s smithy. At the shop he found members of the townguard waiting for him. It turns out Kazrack was eligible for conscription in the war effort. He was given three days to appear before the Council of Conscription at the Temple of Ra. (2) Talking it over with his father, and being the only son (the only one that could carry on the family name), he decided to consult a barrister to see if there might be a legal means to get around this duty.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Mac Duligh, a skald from the area of the Archduchy of Wallbrook called the Dubh Moors, where men still live in their traditional clans – and do not consider themselves to be part of the nation or to have any particular loyalty to the Archduke or the King of Herman Land – arrived at Verdun upon a ferry. The stench and noise of the city hit him like a brick – and he immediately was noticeable for his colorful kilt and huge bastard sword strapped to his back. Also on the ferry, but unknown to Malcolm, was Jana – a young girl fleeing her home in the city of Westron (also in the Kingdom of Herman Land). Independently, being new to the city, they decided to head to the marketplace in the Temple District, where information could always be gleaned from the infamous Dwarf Wall.

Kazrack was having no luck with the barrister. The elderly gentleman, who never stopped writing while talking with the dwarf, suggested that a character witness who could testify that he was not “of age” in dwarven terms (which was a lie) could be helpful – along with a defense based on Kazrack being the only son – might convince the Council of Conscription show some discretion and defer his enrollment. However the fact that Kazrack was both a dwarf and not of noble blood made such a defense a stretch. A third possibility the barrister suggested was that Kazrack could find employment in the war effort in another way and not be shipped off to front. The lawyer said he had a friend in the Shipwrights’ Guild (3) and perhaps he knew of work the dwarf could do. . . The idea of working on ships made the dwarf uncomfortable. The worst part was the barrister’s help would cost between 75 and 90 silver pieces, a fortune for a common worker.

The marketplace was cacophony of activity. A myriad of vendors hawked their goods, while rumor-mongers yelled some of the latest news by the Dwarf Wall, and city guards wandered through the stalls, watching and questioning people all along. Overwhelmed by a city of this size, Malcolm stepped back among some vendors who sold wood-carvings, as he noticed a trio of guards approach him. The sergeant asked Malcolm for his conscription papers, which of course the barbaric skald did not have. After an exchange of terse words, and the threat of incarceration for no real reason, Malcolm was warned that he had three days to appear before the Council of Conscription to be assigned a unit in the Herman Lander Army.

Jana was not too far away trying to figure out what was the best thing to ask the rumor-mongers by the wall, as she could not read the postings and graffiti on the dwarf wall - when the market crowd parted to reveal a tall man dressed in shining plate mail with long feathered blonde hair and a helmet under one arm and a great sword in his other hand. Getting down on one knee, beneath the statue of Horus (God of Vengeance) in the center of the market he swore aloud to gain his revenge upon the followers of the Red God of the West and their “false” god. With that the paladin marched determinedly over to the temple of the Red God of the West (4) and began to bang the door to be let in, intermittently calling them cowards and asking them to call forth a champion he could vanquish.

The market crowd followed the paladin at a distance to watch the fun. This included not only Malcolm and Jana, but Beorth, a quiet young Paladin of Anubis (Guardian of the Dead) who was watering the plants of the nearby monastery yard when this altercation began. Putting down his watering can, he ran out to get a better vantage point to see what was happening. Meanwhile, Jana looked back to see a group of a dozen young children wildly running to and fro between some of the abandoned market stalls and stealing all they could shove in sacks or under their shirt. The crowd was so caught up in the actions of the paladin, that no one else seemed to notice or care. Jana did not seem to care either.

The temple door lurched open, the Paladin of Vengeance stumbled in, and the door slammed shut again. There was the momentary sound of scuffling, then silence. The crowd closed in on the stone steps of the temple – there was nary a breath while they waited to know what would happen. Sensing that the seen could get ugly, Jana moved to the edge of the crowd as to readily flee. The silence was broken by the approach of a dozen city guards. Half went to the temple door and the other half began to try to round up the thieving children. At this moment, Kazrack was walking past the gate to the temple district (on his way back from the barrister) and seeing the commotion came over to see what was happening. He arrived just in time to see a city guard brain a boy of no more than nine years old from behind. The guard made to move towards another of the young rascals, so Kazrack called him over with a deft ploy “Help! I’m been robbed!” The guard came over and Kazrack explained that a man of “vague description” had knocked him down and taken his money. The dwarf now accompanied the guard who pulled people from the crowd asking the dwarf if this or that person was the thief.

There was a commotion at the balcony in the tower of the Temple of the Red God of the West, and a figure stepped out holding something in his hand. He was dressed in crimson robes, had a shaven head and wore a ruby inset on a headband. He said, ”Too long have the infidels and followers of false gods attacked us and dogged our progress towards Paradise at every turn. It ends today!” And with that threw the paladin’s head into the horrified crowd. “This is war! Let our sacred grounds be anointed the blood of infidels!” And the paladin’s body was tossed over the balcony, with his ankle bound to something in the tower, so the headless body hung, its blood pouring slowing down the side of white stone. The crowd cheered. And now city guards were trying to get inside the temple.

Other members of the city guard began to disperse the crowd. Jana decided this was a good time to secure herself a room and wandered into the Residential District to find an inn. Kazrack reported the guard’s striking the young thief to a superior officer, who commanded the guard to bring the boy’s broken form to the healing house of Fallon. (5) The sergeant then turned to the dwarf and demanded his conscription papers. Explaining that he was given three days to report, Kazrack decided it would be a good time to head back home to his father’s shop. Beorth collected the paladin’s head to put in proper keeping in a crypt beneath the monastery until the rest of the body could be retrieved. Thinking aloud, he mused as to how he could get the body down. Hearing him as he turned to leave, Kazrack offered a suggestion (shooting a flaming arrow at night to burn through the rope). Beorth felt this would be too difficult. Kazrack mentioned the injured boy, so the two of them went to see if he stilled lived, and found that the local Medicus of Fallon was already tending to the boy. The two characters bid each other adieu and went about their business.

As Beorth temporarily interred the paladin’s head, Malcolm wandered the market some more asking people if they had seen his friend who had told him to look him up in Verdun sometime. After asking a handful of people, one of the rumor-mongers by the wall volunteered the information that he thought he had seen someone fitting that description at the Slim Stiletto Inn & Tavern – getting directions, Malcolm headed there. In the meantime, Jana had secured a room at the Green Griffon – an inn located next to a chained off and apparently deserted plaza.

As Kazrack discussed his fears about the whole conscription problem with his father – the fact that he’d probably drown to death in a sinking ship before ever getting to see the Black Islands, how if he just fled this would expose the family to danger from the local authority, how his absence would leave his father one worker short at the forge – Beorth was getting a little visit from the city guards himself.

The guards explained that despite his role as warden of the monastery, since paladins of Anubis are not officially recognized as part of a church hierarchy that he must report to the Council of Conscription within three days. He tried to explain his duty to the following of Anubis, but the guards only insisted that he would have to discuss it with the priests of Ra who run the council. They also suggested that Beorth may be given an officer’s rank in the army. Beorth went on to ask if maybe the priests of Ra could help him retrieve the paladin's body and give it a decent burial. The sergeant suggested that this was a bad idea due to the delicate nature of relations between the followers of the Red God and the rest of the temples - as the Priests of Ra wanted to raze the Red God temple in retaliation - Only the reminder that the paladin had broken the law of the temple district in his attack had kept events from escalating. Beorth agreed and wished them a good day. Finishing the day’s chores, he went to sleep, his troubles resting uneasily in his mind.

Meanwhile, Malcolm had found the Slim Stiletto to be filled with a group men that seemed to be in their teens and early twenties. Despite it still being mid-afternoon they were doing nothing but eating, drinking, playing darts and listening to bard. Malcolm procured an ale for a discount price and arranged to play a tune of his own on his bag-pipes, which while well-received by some was hated by others. An older tall balding gentleman seemed very interested and buying Malcolm a drink, struck up a conversation. The man, Deet of Ptah (6), explained that all these young men were “Crumb’s Boys” and had signed up with him to do some kind of job that got them out of the war. Deet suggested that Malcolm might sign up, as he though the bag-pipe playing would be inspirational and helpful during “the long marches”, whatever that meant. Malcolm tried to get Deet to explain more, but Deet said it was not his place to do so, only being the boss’ assistant, and that as soon as Crumb came back he’d introduce them. While they waited they listened to a bard sing a song called “Lalena” (7), about a man whose betrothed becomes a vampire. All the patrons seemed to love the song, but Malcolm found it to schmaltzy, preferring his epic tales of war and death – or mournful tales of love lost forever - like the traditional Wallbrookian song he performed later. (8)

After securing her room, and assuring the inn-keep that even though she was from Westron she was of no relation to Gwar of Westron (the infamous murdered of women and children) (9), he gave her the suggestion that when she settles in for the night she bolt her door and not come out no matter what she hears. Not seeming to perplexed by this advice, Jana went back to the market in search of employment with an herbalist. She found what she was looking for in a twisted middle-aged woman seeing herbal remedies on a spread out blanket. “My rheumatism makes digging around for some herbs hard, I could use some help, “ she said. “Meet me at the new cemetery outside of the city at dawn tomorrow.” Jana agreed and returned to the Green Griffon to rest for the evening and get ready for her new job.

After discussions with his father, who assured him that he would spend the 75 to 90 silver pieces if necessary, Kazrack walked back to the barrister’s office to discuss the chances of the defense working to see if his father’s money would be well spent. Kazrack seemed to feel that it would not be. Kazrack’s suspicions about the qualifications of the barrister were furthered by the old man’s niece blurting out that he had no clients. The barrister did say that he had spoken to his friend in the Shipwrights’ Guild, and that Kazrack could get a job helping to guard the shipyards of Outretowne (where most of the warships for the war effort are being built) and be able to avoid war service. Of course, Outretowne was perhaps the place most likely to be the target of a Black Islander attack (10). Another option, was to commit a crime and be placed in the dungeons of the city. . . Except that certain criminals were being granted pardons to join the war effort.

Downcast, Kazrack left the office again and began to think that he would have to flee the country, and perhaps find a way to bribe officials to leave his family alone in his absence – as much as he was loathe to have to do it. Desperate, Kazrack went to the famed Dwarf Wall and had one of the rumor-mongers read to him some of the things on the wall, in hopes of hearing some news or tale that might help him. However none of the news was helpful. Thinking aloud Kazrack said, “I wish I knew someway to get out of the war.”

“I know how,” the rumor-monger said, and pointed out a fat man with a handlebar mustache and thinning hair a little bit further down the wall. “That guy, Crumb, he stands all day recruiting people for some thing that gets you out of the war.” The fat man noticed that he was being pointed out and began to walk over.

“Need a way out of the war, son?” he asked. “Well, you have come to the right man. Boris E. Crumb the Third is my name.”
Boris went to on to explain that he was hiring men of conscription age for a mission to help the Kingdom of Gothanius and whomsoever signed up received a conscription deferment.

“Where is this place?” Kazrack asked.

“Gothanius? It is one of the Little Kingdoms founded by deserters and the deserted after the failed invasion of Derome-Delem by Herman Land in the 5th Century. . .” (11)

“Derome-Delem?” Kazrack could not believe it. “You mean I get out of the war and I get to go to Derome-Delem? Derome-Delem?”

“And you’ll get paid. . . “

The dwarf was lost in his own thoughts. Excited to tell his father that he had found an alternative, he began to leave.

“Hey, don’you want to know more?” Crumb called.

“I’ll be back,” Kazrack.

“Meet me at the Slim Stiletto!” Crumb said as the dwarf hurried off.

Kazrack joyfully gave the news to his father and aunt (who cried at the luck of Kazrack’s getting to go to Derome-Delem). He and his family went to the secret chapel of the dwarven gods to pray and give thanks.

Back at the Slim Stiletto, Malcolm was in the early stages of tying one on and met one of the other guys signed up to go with Crumb, a fellow Wallbrookian named Chance. Crumb walked in to the joyful cheer of all the lads, ordering three pints of dark ale he sat with Malcolm and Deet – the latter introduced the skald to his future employer.

“So, gonna sign up with us?” Crumb asked.

“What is this all about?” Malcolm asked through his thick brogue.

“I am hiring lads like yourself to help the Kingdom of Gothanius take care of a little bit of infestation in an area they annex for their kingdom. In return you get all your room and board and travel expenses paid for, citizenship in the kingdom and a parcel of land – and a chance at a 5,000 silver piece reward.”

“Infestation? What kind of infestation?”

“Nothing big, just a little problem with a . . .{cough} . . dragon. . .”

“A dragon? You are bringing all these boys to go fight a dragon! You’re just bringing it more food!”

“Oh, only commoners and some drunk merchants have seen it. It probably isn’t even really a dragon, maybe just a fire-breathing cow or something.”

“Heh.”

“All you need to do is sign this contract,” Crumb said as Deet pulled out a scroll of paper. Malcolm looked it over and then asked Deet to read it to him.

“If you sign, while you are here you get a free place to stay, free food and drink,” Crumb added.

Malcolm placed his X on the contract and delivered his fate in the hands of Crumb.

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Notes:

(1) In Aquerra mountain dwarves and hill dwarves are referred to as Black or Red dwarves (respectively) by humans. Hill dwarves tend to have light brown to red hair and mountain dwarves tend to have dark brown or black hair.

(2) Ra is the head of his pantheon. He is the hawk-headed lawful good god of the Sun and Kings.

(3) The Kingdom of Herman Land is constitutional monarchy, with a parliament made up of representatives of the various guilds.

(4) The Cult of the Red God of the West are believers in a monotheistic faith that hold that the Red God is the only true god. They believe that all other gods are really diabolic or demonic forces (fallen angels) that seek to corrupt humans. They also believe that paradise is only for humans, non-humans being aberrations – redemption not being awarded them in death.

(5) Fallon is the Goddess of Healing & Mercy. Once mortal, she ascended to godhood in the Third Age. Her priests are called Medicus, and wear white robes and red headbands to be readily identifiable. They are required to offer healing and mercy to all.

(6) Ptah is the god of Travel & Experience – Held to be the Creator of the Universe and the various planes.

(7)"Lalena" is a song by Donovan. I know it isn't REALLY a song about a vampire - just use your imagination. (downloadable at http://www.matantisi.com/aquerra/ootfp/lalena.mp3)

(8) "I am stretched on your grave" is a traditional Irish song performed here by Dead Can Dance downloadable at http://www.matantisi.com/aquerra/ootfp/onyourgrave.mp3

(9) Gwar is a common name in Herman Land (until recently). It is the name of a hero from the times of tribes who may have been king if he had not died in the Battle of the Azmots. The standard foot is based on the length of his foot as he lay on his funeral pyre. The name has recently been disparaged by a murderer of women and children that continually eludes capture.

(10)The Black Islands Barony is the protectorate that Herman Land is embroiled with in a civil war with.

(11) Derome-Delem is considered the homeland of the dwarves, Kazrack and his family are originally from there.
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #1 (Part II)

Isilem, The 23rd of Keent - 564 H.E.

The next day had three of our protagonists waking very early to get started on the things they wanted to get done.

Beorth attended the Dawn Ceremony at the temple of Ra as a good follower of the pantheon, hoping to visit the priests who made up the Council of Conscription for the Crown afterwards.
Kazrack dressed up in his father’s finest clothes to go meet Boris E. Crumb at the Slim Stilleto.

Jana headed towards the Northeastern Gate out of the City to meet the herb woman at the cemetery.

Malcolm slept off his night of drinking.

The gate out of the city was clogged with peddlers and farmers bring their wares to market. Ra’s Glory (12) was barely up, but the guards picked people at random and looked through their carts and questioned them about their business.

As Jana went to step through one guard approached her and asked her business. The guard looked her up and down as she explained that she was going to meet her new employer and hunt for herbs.

“Well, we’ve had reports of young men dressing as women to avoid conscription. Are you sure you are a girl?”

“And I take it that you would like to check, huh?” Jana said with a twinge of sarcasm, her light brown hair shining golden in the first lights of the day.

Suddenly embarrassed, the guard looked at the petite girl and relented. “Well, I guess you’re too cute to be a boy. You can go on your way.”

Jana went out to the new cemetery (13) with a pishaw. She met up with the old lady (named Lalena) at the get to the cemetery who explained that they would look for Black Vein Mushrooms which grew near fresh graves in the shade. Jana knew what they looked like, but never knew they had any medicinal value. She and the old lady split up to search.

Kazrack arrived at the Slim Stilleto to find it quiet and deserted except for the inn-keep who seemed to be cleaning up after quite a party that must have happened the night before.

“Everyone’s still sleeping,” the innkeep said. Kazrack decided to have breakfast while waiting, which consisted of eggs, thick bread, blood pudding and an ale.

After the Ceremony of the Dawn, Beorth was shown in to see the Council of Conscription ahead of all the commoners waiting to plead their cases. The paladin of Anubis tried to explain to the honored priests that his dedication to Anubis made it difficult to see himself in a role in the war. He explained that he felt it was his duty not only to ensure that the dead received proper burial, but that those caught between life and death (the undead) were freed of their suffering.

The priests explained that by taking part in the war effort Beorth could not only help to ensure that soldiers got proper burial, and that those he fought received quick and painless deaths – but that there were rumors that the Black Islanders, worshipers of Set, were using the undead as foot soldiers in the war.

Beorth explained that he had been left behind by the Monks of Anubis to care for the monastery in their absence. (14)

The priests explained that as “holy warriors” of Anubis were not officially recognized as being part of any church hierarchy that such a duty could not be taken into account.

Sighing, Beorth was down to his last card in getting out of taking part in a war he was not sure was morally right. However, this last truth was a dangerous one to admit.

“I am a Black Islander,” the young paladin said. The priests stared blankly at him. “I was born there. My family was an important noble family there – but I was brought here as a child to be raised by the monks when my parents were killed.”

The priests silently sized him up and then excusing themselves conferred in harsh whispers for a few minutes.

Finally, the center priest addressed him again. “Upon conferring we have decided to let you know that we have heard that Crown plans to announce (with the Parliament’s blessing) that all Black Island nationals should report to their local garrison and might be detained for the remainder of the war. At best you can hope to be put under house arrest in the monastery, but may end up in a special dungeon. Needless to say, we will make a note of your origins and excuse you from conscription – but perhaps you may want to find a way out of the country if you want to continue with your duty to Anubis whilst the war does rage.”

Thanking the priests and praising Ra, Beorth left the temple and wondered what he was going to do about this new predicament.

Having collected a few dozen Black Vein Mushrooms, Jana decided to find the old woman and see what to do next, but she seemed to be nowhere around. So, the young girl began to wander the cemetery looking for her. After walking around the base of the hill she spotted the woman crouched behind a tree. The woman had both of her hands up to her mouth and seemed to be chewing. Jana froze, and then stepped behind some shrubbery to watch from a safe place. Placing something in her bag, the old woman got up and pulling out a spade seemed to dig a small whole in a fresh grave. After not having to dig too deep, she pried a hole in a coffin with the spade’s point and pulled out the fleshed draped hand and forearm of a corpse. Jana had seen enough and fled the cemetery.

Finally, a very hung-over Deet of Ptah awoke at the Slim Stilleto. And found Kazrack waiting in the common room. “Crumb said I should be expecting you. Oooh, my head hurts. But I thought it’d be last night.”

Kazrack began to try to haggle on the pay for the trip. Deet explained that he was in no position to haggle, and that everyone had to sign the same contract and agree to the same conditions and had the same basic role in the group.

“But as a smith I will be fixing people’s weapons and armor and perhaps other equipment,” Kazrack said.

“If it comes to that, you will simply do it - as stipulated by the contract,” the old priest said, remembering that he left the contract in his room and left to get it. Upon returning with the contract, he handed it to Kazrack who snatched it and said he’d be back.

“Hey, you have to sign that – You can’t take it – It has a royal stamp on it!” The dwarf was gone with a quick “You can trust me.” He ran towards the Temple District and the Dwarf Wall to have a rumor-monger read it to him.
As Jana came back through the city gate the guard that stopped her halted his search of a cart to come over and ask her if she were interested in meeting him for a drink later that night.

“Uh-huh,” Jana said, skeptically.

“Meet me at the Slim Stilleto,” he said. “My name is Arnold.”

And with that Jana left the gate behind, with no intention to meet him anywhere. She decided that she needed to go to the monastery of Anubis and report that someone has been desecrating graves. She arrived at the Monastery just as Beorth returned from the Temple of Ra.

“I am here to see the monks,” she said.

“The monks are gone, but I am here in their stead, how can I help you?”

“I’d rather not say it out here on the street,” Jana answered. So the young paladin led her inside where over tea she explained about the old woman and the digging in the grave.

“Can you show me where this was?” he asked her

“Yes,” she answered

“Wait while I retrieve my armor and weapons.”

Meanwhile Kazrack was having a surly rumor-monger read him the contract, and saw the young paladin and the girl walking past him and hailed him.

“Have any luck with getting that body down?” the dwarf asked.

The paladin simply pointed up to the body still hanging on the Red God Temple Tower.

“Oh yeah,” said Kazrack. “Can you read?”

“Sure.” Beorth said.

“Will you read this to me?” the dwarf asked snatching the contract out of the Rumor-monger’s hand.

“Hey don’t trust him, he bares the mark of death!”

“Boo!” said Beorth, and the gossiper ran off.

“I would by I have to help this young woman. It seems she has witnessed the desecration of graves in the New Cemetery.”

“How about I help you and then you read this too me later? I just have to stop home and get my weapon and armor.”

“Agreed,” said the holy warrior, and they entered the Residential District to do just that before heading towards the cemetery.

At the gate the guards stopped the trio, asking where armed and armored men were going. Beorth explained, and recognizing him as the Warden of the Monastery of Anubis let them by. However, Arnold watched jealously as they disappeared from view, frowning.

At the cemetery the three of them looked around, but did not see the old woman. Jana took the paladin and dwarf to the grave she saw the old woman pull the bone from, and they confirmed that it had been freshly disturbed. They looked around some more to no avail, but they did see a funeral going on and walked past quietly to be respectful. Kazrack suggested that from the vantage point of the hill perhaps they could see the woman, or some other clue about flesh-eating people.

Looking for a while, Kazrack noted a broken gravestone, so the three of them went down to examine it – and Beorth in particular wanted to make note of it to make sure it was fixed.

At the grave, Beorth’s foot sunk into the earth and smashed right through into the coffin. It seems it was only buried a few inches deep. Beorth pulled his aching foot out, and was puzzled that he did not feel any body within. He drew his sword and rattled it around in the hole –still nothing. Finally, Kazrack put his head to the hole and looked in using his darkvision – empty.

The three new companions stood about trying to figure out if what had been in had come out of its own accord or whether someone had taken it out – and decided the latter was more likely.

Beorth suggested they return to the funeral they saw and wait until it was over and talk to the grave-diggers. The trio arrived in time to see the mourners and priest walk off and the men with shovels begin their work. The coffin was only a few inches below ground level!

Beorth of Anubis interrogated them and they agreed through their fear of him that the graves they were digging were too shallow. Beorth was very diplomatic about it, saying he understood how things might slip and rules be forgotten with the monks who usually made sure the traditions were followed being gone – but that it was his duty to take up their role while they were gone.

Meanwhile, Malcolm had just woken up and had a bleary eyed breakfast with Chance and the rest of the boys. . .

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Notes

(12) The sun of Aquerra is called Ra's Glory after the god of the sun and the head of the Pantheon.

(13) The New Cemetery of Verdun is located just outside of the city, and was constructed when the one in the Noble District began to fill up about 75 years before this story takes place. Only the very rich are still buried in the old cemetery. The area around the new cemetery is a popular place for duels to be fought, lovers to meet and shady-dealings to be done.

(14) The Monks of Anubis were called away to a convocation to discuss their order and its goals and methods. The convocation is happening in the Archduchy of Wallbrook in the month of Syet.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #2 (part I)


As Jana, Kazrack and Beorth left the New Cemetery of Verdun, having not found the woman that they began to refer to as “the witch”, Malcolm made ready to leave the Slim Stiletto. As he left Deet of Ptah reminded him to visit the Council of Conscription at the Temple of Ra and get his conscription deferment stamped or else it would not be worth much. Annoyed at the bureaucracy of civilization the bard of the Dubh Moors decided he had get that done with before searching for his friend.

So, Malcolm mac Duligh left the Slim Stiletto and made his way through the crowded smelly streets of the Residential District towards the Temple District and the Temple of Ra, keeping an eye open for his friend Jeremy Northrop. Little did he know that he walked right past the place his Neergaardian friend was staying as he made his way up the street to the gate into the other district – The Green Griffon Inn & Tavern.

At the temple Malcolm waited for good long time, preferring the floor to the stone benches of the waiting room. He waited until it was about to be his turn and then took his spot next to the door the conscriptees were called into to meet the council.

“So, what post do you think you’ll get?” the young olive-skinned lad to his left asked him. (15)

“I’m not going,” Malcolm said flatly.

“What do you mean, you’re not going?”

“I found a way out de bloody war. I’m not going. I’m going on special mission instead.” Malcolm said through his accent.

“A special mission? How?”

“Get yourself to the Slim Stiletto, and find yerself this fat man that will getcha out of it to go clear some land and settle it. That way you don’t have to go to the war.”

The young man was astonished. “You get land and settle it and don’t have to go to the war? That’s great, I’m gonna tell my brother. We’re shepherds. We could go and settle some land and raise some goats and sheep. Thanks!”

With that the boy stood and ran out of the temple to secure his deferment before the day was over and he was required to report to the council. At that same moment Malcolm was called in to see the council, and in few minutes he was walking back out into the Verdunian heat, with a stamped deferment, anxious to shove it in the face of the first guard that stopped him and asked to see his papers.

In the meantime, the others made their way into the market to see if the “witch” Lalena was selling her wares and could be confronted, but she was nowhere to be found. The trio asked around, but the seller of gnomish wares could not help them (though he offered good deals on gnomish torches which they refused). The baskert-weaver could only tell them that the old woman did not come every day and that she lived in a shack in the Port District (16) amid the warehouses. Jana, Kazrack and Beorth decided that they would search the Port District and made their way there, but leaving the marketplace/Temple district were stopped by guards. They were questioned as to their business “running around the city with weapons drawn and heavily armored.” Beorth and the dwarf tried to explain, but the guard would have nothing to do with it, instead he sent them to see the Captain of the Guard at one of the gates to the Noble District.

The Captain seemed very busy and annoyed with the would-be do-gooders, but the presence of the Warden of the Monastery of Anubis made him more willing to be helpful.

“Well, I have to dedicate too many of men to search out conscription-dodgers and don’t have time for something that would be the province of the Monks of Anubis anyway. I give you the authority to check it out, just don’t go running around the city with weapons drawn, and if you find this “witch” bring her in for questioning.”

“How do I sheathe a halberd?” the pole-arm wielding dwarf asked.

“Put a sack over the blade,” the Captain replied.

And so the trio left once again on their interrupted investigation, pausing only to gain a hastily written note of authority from the Captain of the Guard and to stop in the market and buy a sack for the blade of Kazrack’s halberd.

Jeremy Northrop feeling his pouch of silver being a little light and realizing that five days was a little longer than the three days he was given to report for conscription and it was time to leave town tried to get the rest of the money he paid for his inn stay up front back. The inn-keep was having none of it.

“You paid the weekly rate. No refunds. Anyway, you’ve already stayed five days, so you come out ahead.”

Resigning himself to having lost out on a few coppers, and not being too confident in his ability to do math, he figured he’d check the Dwarf Wall for news that might lead to a way out of the “Heart of Aquerra”. At the gate into the Temple District, he was stopped by some guards.

“Conscription papers,” the guard asked.

“Um. . . I don’t have any. I just got into town,” Jeremy replied

“Don’t you know you have three days to report to the Council of Conscription?”
“Three days? Thanks for letting me know. . .”

“When did you get in town?”

Jeremy paused, “Uh, a couple of days ago.”
“A couple of days, so you have to report by today.”

“Three days from when I was told?” Jeremy asked hopefully.

“Three days from when you arrive. I am in a generous mood, however,” the guard said. “You have until the end of today. If I were you I’d go to the Temple of Ra right now.”

Now it was not only the heat of Keent that was making the Neergaardian sweat.

At that same moment, Malcolm arrived at the same gate on his way into the Residential District to search the inns and taverns of Verdun for his friend, who unbeknownst to him was only a few feet away. Of course the Wallbrookian bard was stopped as well and happily showed his deferment papers. Of course the guard could not read and had to bring the papers over to his sergeant who was talking with Jeremy

Jeremy had heard the familiar voice of his friend, but made no move to get his attention.
“What’s your name and where ya staying?” the guard asked the blonde-haired warrior.

“Uh, James Freebooter, and at the uh, Green Griffon,” Jeremy half-lied. “And I’m gonna go to the Temple of Ra right now and get this all taken care of.”

They are interrupted. . . “Oh, uh. . . It says he is exempt from the war because he is going on some mission.”

The guard returned Malcolm’s papers to him and sent him on his way and Jeremy moved to follow his friend.

“The Temple of Ra is the other way,” the guard said.

“Oh, uh. I forgot something at the inn I was staying at. My father’s old ring. I really don’t know how I forgot it, but it is really important to me and I have to get it.”

The guard eyed him suspiciously, but finally sighed and said, “Okay, go ahead. But you have `til the end of the day. I have your name down and I know where you’re staying.”

Malcolm walked down the main thoroughfare out of the Temple District and decided to stop at every tavern he saw and ask for his friend. Coincidentally, the first tavern he happened upon was the Green Griffon.

Despite the fact that the inn-keep had had a conversation with Jeremy that very morning he maintained he had never seen the man Malcolm was describing. But while this conversation was happening, Jeremy stepped into the inn and attempted to sneak up behind his old friend. . . but the inn-keeper gave him away. The two would-be heroes greeted each other happily.
“What are you doing here?” Jeremy asked.

“Ya sed if ah wahs evah in Verdoon-e, to look ya up.,” Malcolm replied.

“Hmmm, I guess I did, but I only got here a few days ago myself and the guards won’t stop harassing me. I overheard you at the gate say something about not having to go to the war. How is that?”

“Les hav a drink and ahll explahn is all to ya. . . “
------------
Not all that too far away, Jana, Kazrack and Beorth were entering the Port District, but rather than being stopped by city guards as usual, it was they who stopped a guard and asked if he knew where Lalena the herb-woman lived. After asking them, who they were and what they were doing and Beorth showing him the letter from the Captain of the Guard (and the guard pretending to read it) he directed them to a shack just beyond the Brine Plaza. (17) He also declined to accompany them saying that he was forbidden to leave his post at the gate.

The trio made their way to the Brine Plaza to find it overflowing with beggars and the infirmed, along with the stench and excrement of so many people cramped in such a small area. A pair of guards stood at each end of the plaza, watching over the ne’er-do-wells .

“Alms for the poor,” said some.

“Help me, I’ve got the Blue Wasting Disease,’ said others.

Taken aback by the overwhelming misery, the party trudge on at Jana’s insistence.
“This is just like home,” she said. “Don’t give anything to any of them or we’ll have to give something to each of them.”

As they emerged from one end of the plaza, where the street formed a cul de sac they found the dilapidated shack. Kazrack also found that a young bare-foot boy in barely more than rags had followed them out the crowd and stood silently by them.

Beorth knocked on the door to have the force of his knock alone make it swing open with a creak. There was only a small round window across from the door to light the cramped dusty shack. The place appeared empty, but a squawk and a flutter brought their attention to a crow sitting on a perch by an unlit lantern.

“Nobody’s home!” it chirped.

Jana and Beorth decided to search the place, while Kazrack remained outside to keep and eye out and watch the boy whom he was suspicious of.

---

On their way to the Slim Stiletto to have Jeremy sign up with Crumb to go to Derome-Delem and the Kingdom of Gothanius Malcolm told the tale of the thane of yore (when all the Equin people (18) lived as they should (as they still do in the Dubh Moors)) who had to gather a band to slay a dragon with scales like platinum and that was as big a mountain. It was such a rousing tale, that when they arrived Jeremy barely read the contract (since he could also barely read) before signing it. The old friends ate and drank some more and then headed back to the Temple District to get the Neergaardian’s deferment papers stamped by the Council of Conscription.

---

Jana and Beorth looked around the dark and dusty shack. They found a hanging piece of smoked ham and a mobile made of skulls from a rat’s down to a human’s. There was a large table with a variety of herbs and other ingredients one might find a local healer or apothecary to have. There was also a large wooden chest and a metal footlocker along with a bunk. As Jana studied the table’s ingredients more closely, Beorth opened the footlocker and rummaged through it –finding nothing by some changes of clothes and a blanket.

The paladin of Anubis moved on to the wooden chest at the foot of the bed, while Jana double-checked him at the footlocker. She found jewelry (a ring, a necklace and some ear-rings) amid the folds in the clothes, while in the chest Beorth found a smaller wooden box. Opening it, inside he found a set of what seemed to be finger bones. This unsettled the two of them. The crow fluttered around and squawked and repeated “Nobody’s Home” a few times.

Being unable to judge the value of the jewelry, Beorth brought it outside to Kazrack, who was getting nowhere trying to talk to the boy.

“Go away, boy,” the dwarf said as Beorth handed him the jewelry, but the boy simply stood just out of reach.

“This is pretty good quality. Not the best, but good for human craftsmanship,” he said after a few minutes. As he looked up from the jewelry, something caught his eye and he looked across the plaza to the form of a haggard woman walking towards the shack. She saw the door open and the dwarf and paladin standing there and ducked down a side-street.

Gaining the others’ attention, Kazrack explained what he saw. Jana and Beorth moved to go find her, and in that same instant the crow took flight and glided out of the door and out over the nearby buildings – roughly in the direction Kazrack had seen the woman go. Jana and Beorth hustled through the plaza, past the begging horde to find the old woman, leaving Kazrack behind to guard the hut.

At the street they looked around, and could not see her – so they wandered down the street. In a few minutes they saw two large men headed in their direction. Looking closely they saw that they had billyclubs.

“Have you seen Lalena?” asked Jana.

“Who wants to know?” one of them asked.

“Well, we are looking to find her because we think she might be desecrating graves and eating the flesh of the departed,” Beorth said, with the straight-face of a man with nothing to hide.

The men looked taken aback for a second, but soon regained their composure.

“We don’t know or care about any of that, but anyone that messes with Lalena, messes with us.” And with that they approached aggressively.
--
Malcolm and Jeremy happily left the Temple of Ra and entered back into the Residential District.
“Let’s go somewhere and celebrate!” said Jeremy, “We’re gonna fight a dragon!”

“Well, between you and mai, if thar's reely a dragon there, ah'm roonin'," Malcolm replied. "Ainway, let's goo bahck to thah Slim Stilletto, it's free.”

“I want to try somewhere different,” and so with that the two friends wandered until the found the “The Cockatrice Tavern”.

The place smelled of brine and was packed with swarthy Herman-lander sailor types drinking hard liquor and swearing like the sailors they were.

The friends debated for a second on what to order.

“Get us a bottle,” Malcolm said, Jeremy asked the barkeep for a bottle of wine. The barkeep smirked and pulled out a bottle of something he called “Verdun’s Piss”, a sparkling golden-yellow wine.
“Piss?” asked Jeremy.

“Yah, Verdun’s Piss. The best we got. What not pansy enough for you?” the barkeep asked. “That’ll be 8 copper pieces.”

“What’s taking you so long? Malcolm asked looking for an empty table.

“The only wine they got is called ‘Piss’,” Jeremy said, paying the coins and grabbing the bottle.
“Well, who told ya ta get wine?”

“You did.”

“I said, “Get us a bottle.’ It coulda been anything.”

“The two of you sound like an old married couple,” a fellow in a stained sail-cloth shirt at a nearby table said.

Malcolm turned.

“I wonder which one is the wife,” the man said standing. “Oh, it must be you since you’re the one wearing a skirt.” He pointed at the bard’s kilt. The tavern erupted in laughter.

“Oh, yeah, well ya wanna be doing something about it ya bloody git?”

“A girl in a skirt is gonna fight me?” the man asked motioning to Malcolm and winking at his friends at the table.

“Are ya daft, man, luke at thees” Malcolm flexed the biceps of his well-muscled arms.
“Hey, fellas. There is no reason to fight. Let’s just have a drink and enjoy ourselves,” Jeremy interjected.

“Ach, I dun wanna fight.”

And with that Malcolm made to turn away, but turned back around suddenly slamming his fist into the sailor’s chin.

The tavern was filled with the sound of men yelling and the scraping of chairs being pushed back, and soon Jeremy was pulled into the fray, smashing the full bottle of Verdun’s Piss over someone’s head. In less than a minute, the original aggressor and his two friends lie unconscious on the tavern floor, and beer and wine was spilled all about. Jeremy was faced off against a stringy fellow who had pulled a knife, and Malcolm was turning to help him, when a yell from the barkeep got everyone’s attention.

Sagrow the barkeep was leaning across the bar with a cocked heavy crossbow.

“Everybody just calm down,” he said. “Anyone moves to keep fighting and I start shooting, and I don’t take sides, so you can consider yourselves all dead.”

The knife-toting sailor backed off and raised his hands up in a gesture of peace.

“Now, you two,” the barkeep said, referring to Malcolm and Jeremy. “You ain’t got no friends here, so if I were you I’d get the hell out.”

“I thought you said you don’t take sides. . .” Malcolm protested.

“I’m not taking sides. I’m just telling it like it is. Now leave.”

As the two companions moved to leave Jeremy turned to the barkeep, “About the bottle of Piss, since we did not get to drink it, you think perhaps we could…”

“No refunds! Get out!” Sagrow roared.

With looks of disgust they took their leave and decided to go back to the Slim Stiletto.
“Hav ah toldja how mooch ah hate thees place?” Malcolm said.

---

The two thugs came forward – one immediately grabbing Jana and putting her into a neck twisting headlock. Beorth defended himself with his quarterstaff, but took a bad blow to the head. Hoping to avoid injuring the thug too badly, he tried to trip him again and again, but the deft thug kept leaping to avoid the ankle-aimed blows, or would catch his balance even when the staff caught his foot. Jana pulled away from her foe, who took a swing at her with his club and missed. Canting arcane words, she motioned at him with her hands and a look of great fear came over him and he fled.

Beorth and the other continued to struggle – Beorth getting the bad end of the deal, as he tried hard to not hurt his attacker. Jana attempted her spell twice more, but the thug’s will was too strong. Finally, fearing for his own life, Beorth let loose with a resounding crack across the foe’s chin. There was sickening snap and the man fell, his head twisted at an odd angle.

“I have to help him,” said a slightly shocked Beorth.

Jana pulled on his arm. “We are obviously in someone’s turf. We need to get out of here!” she said.

“He’s hurt,” the paladin said leaning forward.

“He’s dead, and we will be too if we stay here too long.” She began to run back to the shack.
“Anubis guard your soul,” Beorth said, and took off after the young woman.

Going back through the plaza, the beggars kept back from the bloody and grim-faced holy warrior. At the shack, Jana and Beorth explained to Kazrack what had happened. The girl continued to insist that they leave this place as soon as possible. She seemed highly perturbed and restless. So, the three of them left, Kazrack grabbing the young boy by the arm and pulling him along. The boy’s whimper was the first sound he made.

They stopped by one of the guards at the entrance to the plaza and explained about “the witch” and asked that they keep an eye out for her.

“Oh, and this kid is some beggar or works for her or something,” Kazrack said to the guard showing him the boy.

The guard cuffed the boy, “Get back in there.” The boy ran back into the crowded plaza.
While the dwarf talked with the guard both Beorth and Jana noticed a crow perched up on a roof, cocking its head and looking down at them.

“Let’s go,” Jana repeated nervously.

As they made their way back to the Monastery of Anubis, Kazrack explained a little to the other two about the contract, Crumb and the trip to Derome-Delem.
---
At the Slim Stiletto , Malcolm and Jeremy were eating and drinking even more. The other members of “Crumb’s Boys” were now awake and enjoying the free food and drink. The young man that Malcolm had met on line at the Council of Conscription approached.

“Hey, how are you doing?” he said. “I just wanted to thank you again, and I did not catch your name…”

And so, Malcolm and Jeremy met Frank and his brother Gwar, two shepherd’s sons from the vicinity of Zootsburg. (19) Jeremy soon met Chance as well and the two of them began a dangerous dart game (called Cricket), with shots of Foul Spirits for whoever failed to hit a required mark.

After some time Jana, Kazrack and Beorth arrived at the Slim Stiletto as well. At the monastery, Beorth had called for Anubis’ aid and partially healed himself of the club wounds. Afterwards, he had read the contract aloud to Kazrack, while Kazrack quickly copied a version into the Dwerv Script of dwarves. Jana also seemed strangely interested in the deal, despite not needing any excuse to not go to war aside from her gender.

Jeremy already had his head leaning on the table from too much drink and not being so great at darts, despite natural skill, when compared to Chance’s incredible luck.

“You have to thank Bes, is all,” said Chance. (20)

Kazrack immediately laid into Deet with a bunch of questions, but Deet refused to answer saying that Crumb would be back for lunch soon enough and would answer any questions.

And soon enough, Crumb did arrive to a loud “It’s Crumb!” and hoots and cheers by the now nearly one score young men hanging out in the inn’s common room. Crumb ordered three pints of dark ale, and ordered one for Kazrack as well, as he sat down with his priestly assistant, the dwarf and the dwarf’s two new companions.

“I see, my dear dwarf that you have brought a friend with you to sign up,” Boris E. Crumb III began.
“Four copper pieces a day is not enough to risk your life for,” the dwarf began.
“That is just for personal expenses. All travel, room and board is paid for for the entirety of the trip,” the fat man said pounding down a pint in two gulps.

“Very well. The contract says a land grant. How much land is this exactly?”

“It says it depends on your skills,” Crumb shoved a piece of food the barkeep served into his mouth.
“Who will determine what skills I have, you? And how?” the dwarf asked.

“The Crown of Gothanius will determine, not I. And based on what you tell them, of course.”
“Very well. I will sign up with you,” Kazrack concluded.

“Are you sure it is a good idea to sign up a dwarf, sir?” Deet of Ptah interjected.

“Oh, Deet, it won’t be a problem,” Crumb replied

“But, don’t you think – I mean, aren’t you afraid. . .”

“I said, it won’t be a problem, Deet,” Crumb said curtly.

Kazrack turned to Deet. “Why do you think it might be a problem for a dwarf to come along, Deet?
Crumb answered for the priest. “Oh, he is just worried that once you get to your homeland and see your kin, you’ll forget the contract and abandon us. However, I know that the dwarves are honorable people and would not give their word lightly, and would be bound by a contract. Right, Deet?”

“Yes,” the priest answered.

“Yes, that is true,” the dwarf concurred, and signed the contract.

“And how about you, my dear sir? Need a way out of the war?” Crumb asked Beorth.

“I already have one,” he said, but added with a mumble – “but I need a way out of the country.”

“I am worried that such a contract might interfere with my duties to Anubis,” the holy warrior said to Crumb.

“I can assure that Derome-Delem is crawling with the animated corpses of soldiers who’s only spark is the foul desire for vengeance upon the living. There would be plenty of opportunity to accomplish both this mission and your duty to your god.”

“But what about the land grant? How would the people of Gothanius feel about my wanting to establish a monastery there?”

“The people of Gothanius are decedents of Herman-landers and as such are Ra-fearing folk as you and I. I am sure they would love for such a monastery to be established and it would do them much honor,” the fat man slurped down another thick dark ale, and reached for the third.

“That is well and good, but I must think on this action. I must pray and reflect,” Beorth said in his typical quiet manner.

“Well, do not take too long. There are only three spots left before we have 25, and when we do we will be leaving soon after.”

“Actually, I was wondering if you had a healer for this mission,” Jana quietly asked.

Crumb acted as if this were the first time he saw her.

“Oh, my dear lady. Why do you know of one?”

“I am a healer,” she said.

“My dear young lady, a young woman such as yourself traveling with two dozen young men. It would not be right, plus think of the logistical problems. But then again, I could use someone to assist Deet if things get difficult on the road. Hmmmm…”

“I will guard and watch her,” Kazrack said. “I am a dwarf and have no puerile interest in a human girl.”

“Well, it is another warm body and fulfills the quota. Deet, another contract!”

And with that Jana signed on as well.

“Only two spaces left, my friend,” Crumb said, picking at the meat on his plate. “At this rate they’ll be gone by the end of the day and then where will you be?”

The paladin of Anubis sighed, and as he reached for a contract to sign, the door to the inn burst open.

----

Meanwhile, Malcolm had been carrying the drunken and unconscious Jeremy upstairs over his shoulder. He met a doughy pale young man with sandy brown hair and bad skin halfway up, who offered to help him. The boy introduced himself as Kamir and offered to help Malcolm or his friends with anything at all.

“I help out around here,” he said. “You going to go fight the dragon? Me too. If you need anything at all let me know.”

The two of them got Jeremy out of his clothes and into a room.

--

“Ha Ha!” said the man who tumbled deftly into the common room of the Slim Stiletto. He wore a puffy-collared shirt, deep blue pantaloons, a large hat with a long feather, and had a well-groomed goatee; a rapier hung loosely from his belt, which also had a basket-hilted maine-gauche tucked into it.

“Is this the place that is contracting for heroes?” the man said in thickly accented voice. “I have come to prove my mettle – that I, Garcon, am the greatest of swordsmen and hero, let none say otherwise or fear my wrath and my blade.”

He took long strides into the tavern. “Where do I sign? Ah!” He snatched a pen and contract from Deet and quickly scrawled his name without even looking. “I only regret that I shall outshine you all and you will have no chance to prove your own heroism, however little it may be.”

He sat at the table with Crumb and the others and clapped his hands. “Barkeep, some wine, and please Mr. Dwarf,” he looked at Kazrack. “Please bathe, your odor it offends the senses.” Pulling a bottle of perfume he sprayed some in the dwarf’s general direction.

The fop looked at Jana, "Ah, and such a lovely young woman. I pledge my sword and honor to guard this precious flower."

"Uh, yeah. . . " Jana said.
“You sure do talk a lot,” Kazrack said.

“When you are as great as I, you must speak often for what other voice is so pleasing to an ear as delicate as mine?”

“I wish you were great at being quiet,” the dwarf added.

“Quiet? My good sir, I can be as silent as the hawk upon the wing, gliding down for the kill. So silent, so unnoticed, that even the sun forgets to cast my shadow.”

“Prove it.” And with that the flowery man closed his mouth, but sprayed some more perfume Kazrack’s way for good measure.

Eventually, Garcon moved along to prove his skill at darts, and Deet and Crumb left the table to discuss business. The three companions were left alone to discuss what to do about “the witch” and considered waiting for her that night to return to the cemetery and perhaps catch her in the act of digging up graves.

By this time this time Malcolm had come back downstairs and overheard what they were talking about.

“Witch? You be huntin’ a witch? Thas dangerous. Need someone ta come wit’cha?”
In a few moments it was agreed that they would meet at Monastery of Anubis at sundown and then walk from there out to the new cemetery together. Malcolm would be coning with them. “Witches be cavortin’ wit’ demons and da like, ul be needin’ someone wit’ a sword.”

It was then that Crumb made his announcement.

“As you all know, we received the twenty-fifth of our number today and so will be leaving for Derome-Delem and Gothanius soon. We are going on a good and sturdy cog called the Sea Cow, and will be going by a western route to avoid the Black Sea and the Black Island Navy. (21) We’ll be making one stop in on our way out of Herman Land, and after that it is about a six-day journey over the open sea to Derome-Delem. I am going to make the final arrangements now, and we will be most likely be leaving the morning after tomorrow, but be ready to leave soon. Thank you all for joining up with me and you will not soon regret it when you are enjoying the fruits of the labors before you.”

The young men applauded, and Deet and Crumb left.

In the meantime, Kazrack went to tell his father and family what had happened. And Beorth returned to the monastery. Jana remained behind at the inn, where Kamir showed her to her room. Soon after, Malcolm had Kamir draw him a bath and shave his beard and cut his hair. Kamir was happy to help.

At sundown, the four met up and got to the gate only to find out that once they left they would not be allowed back into the city until the gates re-opened at just before dawn, and that anyone without a conscription deferment was no longer being allowed to leave the city. Unfortunately, Kazrack had forgotten to get his papers stamped.

The four rushed to the temple of Ra to find it closed. After knocking, and getting the public contact, they had to explain the danger of the witch and what she was doing. The young priest, Briar Tulp, promised them they could return in the morning before the services and he would get an elder priest to stamp it. He also implied that perhaps the Church of Ra should become involved in the investigation since the monks of Anubis were absent.

Beorth returned to the Monastery to continue with his preparations to leave, but Jana, Malcolm and Kazrack returned to the Slim Stiletto to talk and have another drink.

At the tavern only the barkeep and three dark-haired figured were awake. Of the three, two talked softly, but the tallest and broadest of them was loud and a bit foul-mouthed.

The three companions ignored them, and sat to tell each other a bit about themselves.

Malcolm ordered a round of ales and some shots of foul spirits. Just as Malcolm was to raise his mug to say a word, Kazarack threw back his shot and followed up with a chase of dark ale.

“Ah guess tha dwarves don toost,” Malcolm said with annoyance.

Kazrack hemmed and hawed.

“Thas ookay, ah'm use to people bein' rood,” the skald added. “To new advenchus!”
He clinked his mug against Jana’s.

“To hunting dragons, or whatever,” she said.

“Do you think there is really a dragon?” Kazrack asked, trying to get into the conversation.
“Ahv sed it b'fore an ahll say it agen, if ah see a dragun, ah'm rooning,” Malcolm said.

“I know I can’t move all that quickly, but dragons can probably move pretty fast,” Kazrack said.
“Ah doon haf to roon fahster than the dragon, ah joss haf ta roon fahster than yoo!” Malcolm laughed, and Jana joined him, but Kazrack did not quite see the humor.

They were interrupted by Boris E. Crumb who returned to the tavern and told them that the Sea Cow would be leaving earlier than expected - the next afternoon. He planned to make the official announcement in the morning but figured that he might as well tell them now.

Upon hearing this, Kazrack excused himself for the night, and Malcolm asked the innkeep, where Kamir stayed.

“In a shack out by the outhouse,” the old man answered.

The barbaric bard found him out there sleeping and woke him.

“Kamir! I need you to wake me up two hours before dawn. Can you do that?”

“Um, sure,” the doughy-boy answered bleary-eyed. “I guess I’m gonna have to stay up all night to do it though.”

“Okay,” said Malcolm, not giving it a second thought.

“Do you have anything for me to do in the meantime, to help me stay awake?” Kamir asked.

“Sure, oil this for me,” Malcolm handed the boy his bastard sword and went off to bed.

---

At the Delver home, Kazrack’s father was still awake. He sat in the common area reading quietly from a stone tablet.

“What are you doing up so late father?” Kazrack asked.

“Oh, just going over a prayer for travelers.”

“Thank you father. It turns out I will be leaving earlier than expected. Tomorrow afternoon. I have business to take care of in the morning and might be gone all day so I’m not sure if I’ll see you.”

“Then I’m glad I saw you. Here are the papers of introduction your uncle drafted to seek trade opportunities with our kin when you get a chance. And also,” his father paused. “I wanted to give you this.”

He pulled a fine gold chain upon which was a simple gold band.

“This is the ring I gave your mother when we were married. I want you to have it to use when you find the woman who will be your wife.”

Kazrack was speechless with emotion. They hugged and then adjourned to bed.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes:


(15) The people of the Kingdom of Herman Land tend to be olive-skinned, with dark hair and either brown or green eyes.

(16) The City of Verdun is made up of walls in nearly concentric circles which make up its various districts. These are: Port District, Residential District, Temple/Market District, Noble District and the Palace District (in the center).

(17) All beggars were forced into the Brine Plaza soon after the conscription effort began, when it was discovered that young men were trying to hide among their ranks to get out of the war. Now the number of beggars allowed out of the Plaza is carefully monitored.

(18) The people of Wallbrook, though part of the Kingdom of Herman Land, are ethnically different, called the Equin peoples. They tend to be tall and fair or red-haired and fair-skinned.

(19) Zootsburg is an agricultural center in the western part of Herman Land, that faces the “Inner Ways” (the waterways between the kingdom’s many little islands).

(20) Bes is the god of luck.

(21) The Black Navy is widely regarded as the best and most dangerous, next to the elven naval forces of Tempestas.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #2 (part II)

Osilem, 24th of Keent - 564 H.E.

Malcolm was awakened by a bleary-eyed Kamir while darkness still lurked outside. The barbarian-bard got up quickly and thanking the lackey, walked down the hall naked as the day he was born to wake up his friend Jeremy. He knocked loudly, but there was no answer – so he finally let himself in and his friend looked at him in bleary-eyed amazement.

“What time is it? What are you doing?” the taste of his own putrifying vomit coated the inside of his mouth and he smacked his lips a few times. A poorly cleaned up puddle of vomit was still on the floor next to the bed and stained the sheets of his bunk.

“We're gooing ta hoont a weetch,” Malcolm said and walked back down the hall to his room to dress and get his weapons and armor.

Jeremy flopped back down in bed.

After a few minutes Malcolm came back.

“Coom on! Gat oop! Tha be a foal weetch tha soomuns demans terrorizing young weemen, We haf ta goo,” he said.

“Okay, okay, I’m getting up. Young women did you say?” He grabbed his chain shirt, and began to expertly strap it on.

“Well, one girl, anyway,” Malcolm replied. He left the room and headed down to the common room.
“Is she cute?” Jeremy hopped after him slipping one hip boot on and then the other. He stopped and ran back into his room to grab his short sword and long sword.

The noise in the hallway awoke Jana in her own room, so she dressed and came downstairs as well.
The three of them had a quick bite (prepared by a sleepy Kamir who then trudged off to get some sleep before everyone else woke up and had him do stuff), and then made their way to the Monastery of Anubis to meet Kazrack and Beorth. It was still dark, still no light peeked from over the horizon.

“So what did she do that was so bad? Is this woman really a witch?” Jeremy asked along the way.
“Aye, she be a fool weetch tha endangers tha lifes of chil'en and weemen,” Malcolm said. “An she attacked thees yoong girl..” He gestured to Jana

“She attacked you?” Jeremy asked her.

“Aye, didn’t ya hear me man? She’s loocky to be alive I tell ya,” Malcolm said.

“Well, she didn’t attack me – but if she had seen me watching her dig into graves and rip out pieces of the corpses from within she probably would have,” Jana corrected.

“Oh!” Jeremy said disturbed by the image. “I guess you are lucky to be alive. Someone like that needs to be caught.”

Meeting up with the others they went to the Temple of Ra and got Kazrack’s conscription papers hastily stamped.

“The Church of Ra may have to look into this matter of grave desecration for ourselves,” the elder priest said, and then went off to perform the morning ceremonies of the temple.

Passing the Temple of the Red God, Malcolm looked up at the body and wondered how to get it down. He noticed that heavily armored temple guards now flanked the doors to the place.
The now five companions left the outer wall of the city, flashing their stamped conscription papers and failing to avoid Arnold the guard, who once again asked Jana to join him for a drink.
“Sure, sure. I’ll meet you at the Slim Stiletto at sundown,” she told him, knowing full well that she’d be long gone by then.

The “party” ented the cemetery and after some time wandering looking for the “witch” decided to climb a hill and get the best vantage point they could.

The spread out on the hill looking in all directions (except for Malcolm, who impatiently shifted his weight from one foot to the other). Eventually, Ra’s Glory began to rise in the east, spreading it light and heat like a molasses across the cemetery. Standing and waiting in the rising heat, wearing armor and clutching weapons, the group became more and more restless.


In time they saw a group of grave-diggers arrive and begin to dig. When it seemed they would not dig very deep, their foreman yelled at them and they grudgingly dug deeper in the growing heat.

And still, the group waited – Looking the cemetery over, except for Malcolm who eyed the size of nearby rocks.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #3 (part I)

As Beorth watched a group of mourners shed their requisite and duly paid for tears at the graves of the rich, Malcolm pulled out his dirk and worked a good-sized stone out of the ground.

He rested the stone by his foot, pulled off his studded leather armor, and hefted the stone again.

“Ach, lessee how fir I cun throw this,” and with that he charged forward and tossed the rock so it landed only a foot or two from the base of the hill.

“Ya think ya cun throw a rock further than that?” Malcolm asked Kazrack.

“Perhaps,” answered the dwarf, “But for it to be fair I have to use the same rock.”

He walked down the hill to retrieve it.

At that moment, Jeremy began to dig for his own rock with his short sword.

“I need a smaller rock, I’m not as strong as you guys,” Jeremy said.

“Ach, ya need to use the same stone ta be far. The dwarf said it,” said Malcolm

Kazrack handed the stone to Jeremy, “Here ya go.”

Jeremy hefted the stone and then run forward with a deft flurry of his feet and launched it. It landed at least 8 or 9 feet further than Malcolm’s throw.

“Ach, pretty good. Lemme get it so Kazrack can try,” Malcolm went to retrieve the stone.

“What time of the day was it when you came here with Lalena?” Beorth asked Jana, still sticking to the topic at hand.
“Definitely later than it is right now,” she replied.

Malcolm passed the stone to the dwarf and he tossed it hard over his head. It landed a foot further than Jeremy’s throw. Malcolm looked annoyed.

“This is a place of rest and respect for the dead. You should not be throwing stones and playing games,” Beorth said.
“Ach, their dead, what do they care?” Malcolm called back from on his way to get the stone.

“Respect for the dead is as much for the living as it is for the dead themselves,” the paladin replied.

The skald returned with the stone.

“Well, I guess we are done here. The woman knows we are on to her and I guess it was not very likely that she’d return,” Kazrack said. “I have other things I’d like to do before we leave.”

“Yes, as do I,” Beorth said. “I guess we must leave this in the hands of the city guard.”
He noticed Malcolm hefting the rock again.

“Malcolm, I said that this is not the place for such games. I would prefer if you did not do that.”

“Aye, noted.” And with that he threw the rock with all his strength, and it landed a good foot further than Kazrack’s toss.
Beorth sighed and the others laughed.

The group decided to disperse and do the all the things they wanted to do before leaving aboard the Sea Cow that afternoon.
Malcolm took off with blazing speed calling for Jeremy to follow him, which the young Neergaardian did. However, at the gate to the city they were separated by the mob of peddlers entering the city, and Malcolm lost sight of his friend.
“Meet me at the marketplace!” he called out and continued there in a steady jog.

Meanwhile, as Beorth also returned to the Temple District (22) , Jana and Kazrack returned to the Slim Stiletto, so that the dwarf could drop off his equipment.

The only person that seemed to be awake was an older man with graying dark brown hair and a bushy mustache.
He did not reply to the two companions’ greeting.

“Excuse me, do you know where Deet or the Innkeep is?” Kazrack asked the man, who was tying to a large pack. He wore a longsword, and had a short spear strapped lengthwise to his bag.

The man did not answer. Kazrack stepped closer.

“Excuse me,” he said again.

The man did not even turn to face the dwarf, “Hell if I know. Probably sleeping.”

“You may leave your stuff in my room,” Jana offered, and up the stairs they went. As they walked past one open door they heard a very loud snoring. Kazrack looked into to see a chain shirt tossed casually on the floor, along with a belt holding a short and long sword. Jeremy’s sleeping form was face down on the bed, drooling on his pillow. Kazrack collected the blonde Neergaardian’s belongings and placed them neatly on the table and closed the door for him.

After dropping his stuff off in Jana’s room, Kazrack returned to his father’s smithy to do one last morning’s worth of work with them before leaving, perhaps forever. Meanwhile, Jana close the door to her room, and did not re-emerge for several hours.

After spending some time looking for Jeremy, even returning to the city gate to do so, Malcolm returned to the Slim Stiletto to find his friend asleep. He woke him to borrow some money and then went off to purchase a goat from a peddler he had run into while looking for his friend.

Malcolm returned with the purchased goat, to arrange a feast for him and his friends. He awoke poor Kamir and after having clubbed the goat to stun it and breaking it neck, hung it up for Kamir to gut and clean. Half-asleep and mumbling, the chubby boy complied.

The skald then impatiently waited for his friend Jeremy to awaken.

“Coom un, ah goot sum'thin' for oos ta do,” he said to the groggy warrior.

“What is it?” Jeremy asked, eating some of the goat the inn-keep had prepared for them.

“Have ya gotta bow?”

“I have a crossbow,” Jeremy answered. “What is this all about?”

“Maybe we cun barra a bow,” Malcolm replied. “I want ta shoot down the body hanging in the Temple District.”
And so they made their way there.

“Don’t ya think it’ll be dangerous?” Jeremy asked.

“Nah,” Malcolm replied. “We’re providing a service.”

---

Meanwhile, Beorth was composing a letter to Oneus the head monk of the monastery he was currently warden of, explaining why he had to leave.



He tidied up the place a bit


Beorth then went to the Library of Thoth (23) to say goodbye to his only real friend in the city – Levekt, an elderly priest of the knowledge god.

Beorth was allowed in and told where his elderly friend could be found arranging the herbology section. The holy warrior walked past shelves and shelves of books, knowing he was forbidden to touch even one. (24)

“Father, I have come to tell you that I must leave the city,” Beorth said in his normal quiet manner that need not be toned down one bit for the quiet expected in the library.



The old man was stooped and struggled with the large and dusty books.

“Why is this?” he rasped.

“It is either stay and be imprisoned for being a Black Islander, or go to war, which I neither want to do, or would be allowed to do because I am a Black Islander. It is time for me to seek my fortune elsewhere, and fulfill the will of Anubis wherever that might take me.”

“Aye, well there comes a time that every boy becomes a man and must strike out on his own, and your path is a worthy one. Just remember one thing, lad. . . “

“What is that?”

“Write everything down!”

Beorth allowed himself a chuckle and smile.

“There are great experiences to be had out in the world and things to be learned that many can profit from if it is recorded,” the old man said with coughing glee.

“I will bring back a book for you,” Beorth said, not sure himself if he meant it or was being polite.

“I wish I had some gift to give you - something to help you on your way.”

“Your good wishes are enough, father.”

“I will go to the Wayhouse of Ptah and give an offering in your name for safe journey.”

“Thank you, Levekt.” They quickly shook hands; the old man never being one to show emotion.

“Good luck, and be careful,” the old man said, and Beorth returned to the monastery.

The holy warrior went over his list of things left to do in his mind, and was so deep in thought he did not notice the body was being removed from the tower of the Red God of the West’s temple. Instead, he went inside and after a mid-day prayer decided to inter the paladin’s head, even if he had to accept failure at retrieving the body. However, before he could do that, he heard the bell at the monastery gate.

Washing his hands quickly, the young warrior hurried upstairs to the gate to find four guards bearing a litter covered in a white sheet. An attractive young woman in black hair, in a red headband and white robes stood before them at the gate.

“Beorth, is it?” the woman asked. Beorth recognized her as one of the local Medicus of Fallon.

He nodded his head.

“I think we have met briefly before. I am Marta of Fallon. I was hoping you could help us,” the woman said gesturing to the guards holding the litter, and sweating profusely in the late summer heat.

“You have a body for me to inter?” Beorth asked.

“Yes, the Horus-Son that was left to rot against the Temple of the Red God the West. We were able to negotiate a compromise with them. They realize that their continued survival in this city and nation requires that they cooperate at least in part to keep the peace even with those that feel serve demons.”

“You negotiated with them to retrieve the body?” Beorth gave a thin-lipped smile. “That is good news. Of course, I will attend to the body. Thank you. Thank you. Anubis and Fallon both be praised.”

Beorth opened the gates to allow the medicus and guards into the monastery grounds.

“It is fortuitous that you came now, for I will be leaving this very day,” Beorth said to Marta.

“Are you going to war?” she asked.

“No, to Derome-Delem.”

“I am the only one of my brethren of the temple who has remained behind. The rest have gone to heal the wounded on the field of battle,” Marta said, with only a hint of envy.

“We all must do our duty where it lies, my lady,” Beorth said.

“Call me Marta.”

--

At that moment Malcolm and Jeremy arrived at the Temple District to find the body had been removed. Malcolm frowned with disappointment.

--
After interring the body in the lower crypts of the monastery, Beorth walked over to the headquarters of City Guard by the gate to the noble district to see Captain Runwick.

The captain was busy with a great deal of paperwork.

“I just wanted to inform you Captain, that we were unable to discover the herb woman, Lalena – the alleged desecrator of graves,” Beorth said calmly.

“Uh, okay,” the Captain said looking up from his papers. “Well, we have her name and where she lives, we can bring her in for questioning and pressure some answers out of her.”

“Um, okay,” Beorth said, nervously.

Runwick continued looking through his papers, “You’re name’s Beorth, right?”

“Yes,” the paladin answered.

“Hmm, I could have sworn I saw your name around here somewhere. Something about questioning you for something.”
Beorth felt a fat drop of sweat pour down his face.

“Detaining? Questioning? Something? What was it? Maybe I’m wrong. . “ He looked through his papers for a proper clue.
“Well, if you need me, you know where I’ll be,” Beorth said.

“Yes, I’m sure it is not so important,” the Captain of the Guard said to him looking straight at him.

With that, the young holy warrior returned to the monastery to retrieve his gear and meet the group of would-be dragon-slayers at the Slim Stiletto.

--

At the inn that served as Crumb’s headquarters of recruitment, the boys were having their last meal in Verdun. As Chance played a last game of darts against some of the others (losing as badly as he had won before), Jeremy, Kazrack, Malcolm and Jana enjoyed some of the goat Malcolm had purchased. Of course, a severely fatigued Kamir was busy running about bringing people’s packs downstairs for them (after having helped to pack them) and serving them their lunch.

As Kamir served a tray full of bowls of stew to one table, he passed by the table where the three “dark” fellows sat. There was the tall and broad “loud” one, the medium-build “handsome” one and the short skinny, kind of ugly, “quiet” one – Kamir walked past and the tall one blatantly set out his foot, sending Kamir flying face first to the floor, hot stew and shards of ceramic bowls accompanying him.

“Watch it ya clumsy idiot,” the tall, loud one said. “Ya touched my foot!” He guffawed. The place erupted in laughter.
Kamir began to clean up the pieces of bowl place them on the tray, still down on all fours. He began to apologize profusely, his words garbled by the lump in his throat.

Kazrack came over and began to help him clean it up.

“That is awfully big of you, picking on someone weaker and smaller than you are to puff yourself up,” the dwarf said looking up at the tall man.

“Well, from your height everyone must look pretty big. Huh, stumpy?”

Kazrack paused and glared.

“It’s okay Mr. Dwarf, it was my fault,” said Kamir. “Really, I wasn’t looking where I was going.”

“You can’t let other people push you around, Kamir,” Kazrack said to the boy.

“I hope that by coming along I can help to slay the dragon and become brave like you guys, and maybe a hero, too,” the pathetic lad added. This also gave Kazrack pause.

“Ha! Cowardly little one has nothing to say,” the tall one said loudly.

Malcolm walked over and stood behind Kazrack, who stood and face the man, who also stood. He towered over both the dwarf and skald.

“Looks like another little one has come to join the fray,” the man said referring to Malcolm.

“Listen to me,” Kazrack said calmly. “I know you won’t do anything because we are contracted to not brawl, and I won’t be baited into breaching the contract either. So why don’t you keep to yourself and shut up.”

The man leaned forward with a half-step, his fists clenched and his chest puffed, his shirt rippling in time with the muscles beneath.

“Devon!” the medium-build man said sharply. “Leave it be. Sit down.”

And so, pausing to look back at the dwarf and the skald with a sneer, the man named Devon, sat down and resumed his hushed conversation with his own companions.

“Thank you. Thank you for your help,” Kamir said. ‘But I got it, it’s okay. No problem.”

The dwarf placed the last bits of bowl he had scooped up and dropped them on the tray, as Kamir stood and ran back towards the kitchen.

“Kamir, hurry up with more stew!” another of Crumb’s boys yelled from across the common room.

“We’re gonna help that boy,” Kazrack said to himself.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes

(22) Remember, the market is found within the Temple District of Verdun.

(23) Thoth is the God of Knowledge, Law and Magic.

(24) Research at a Library of Thoth costs upwards of 300 silver pieces per day.
 
Last edited:

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #3 (Part II)

And so the time came for Crumb and his boys to set off. Beorth finally arrived, and Jana emerged from her room.

Boris E. Crumb III gathered the boys together in the common room and said, “We’re going to leaving here as a group to pier 34 where the Sea Cow is waiting to bring us to Derome-Delem. Gather your packs, and you will notice that you have each been given a standard issue pack – put that with your stuff. At the dock is a number of supplied that need to be loaded on to the ship, as you go aboard please grab a crate or sack and bring up to the deck, you will be instructed where to put it.”

And with that, the group headed out and walked to the Port District and the Sea Cow.

Kazrack dropped his pack upon the deck of the ship, and went back down to help with carrying the supplies aboard. Jeremy and Chance grabbed a large box together, and Malcolm grabbed as big as he could manage by himself. Of the rest of the group, some did their share of the hauling; others took as little as they could get away with. Kamir ran back and forth four times carrying all he could each time.

The Sea Cow’s warped timber creaked loudly with every step the new passengers made. Kazrack nervously noted the lack of a life-rail, and the small puddles of water on the bowed deck.

Deet and Crumb gathered the boys together.
Crumb started, “The Captain of this fine vessel is Captain Reginald Corr. Do not speak to him. Do not bother him. He is a busy man and generous enough to transport this rowdy lot for cheap. If you have any questions about your lodgings (which you will be soon shown) or provisions or anything about the ship, ask the boatswain, Kristian Lavar. He is also a very busy man so do not bother him too much, and do not get in the way of any of the sailors. Now, let us join hands and bow our heads so that Deet may lead us in a prayer.”

Crumb’s boys gathered in a circle and bowed their heads.

Deet’s voice raised his head after a moment of silence and then spoke in full baritone, ”Oh, Ptah – Opener of Ways. If it is your divine will allow us to safely journey over Tefnut’s seas and arrive in Derome-Delem so that we may see the splendors of its mountains and vales and experience the wonders while helping the people of Gothanius. But . . . If it should be that do not make it, if this ship is sucked down by a maelstrom or attacked by a monstrous sea beast and we are stranded at sea – Let us learn well from the experience and become better from it – for those of us that survive. Ptah bless this journey, and Tefnut allow it.”

The silence hung in the air with a weighty presence, until Kazrack cracked it in half with a question. “How come that didn’t make me feel any better?”

As the boatswain explained to the passengers where they could find their quarters, Malcolm took to the bow of the ship and began to play his bagpipes as the ship pulled out of dock. The sudden lurch of the ship and the sound of the lapping water immediately made Kazrack’s stomach churn. Beorth stood nearby and listened to Malcolm’s stunningly beautiful, yet haunting, music. While Jana was led to her tiny private cabin by the boatswain. “Didn’t friggin’ know there was gonna be a woman aboard until 20 minutes ago. . .How’s a fraggin’ smaggin’ . . . “ the boatswain faded to an indecipherable mumble as he led the way.

The ship moved slowly through the harbor, and immediately the breeze of movement cooled off the deck much to everyone’s delight, except Kazrack. He stumbled below deck trying to find somewhere he could be comfortable, but failed. The cabins held six passengers each and had hammocks stacked two high. The floor of the lower deck were swollen and warped and an inch of bilge covered everything. Looking and feeling green, the dwarf found Jeremy losing most of his money already to Chance in a dice game When one of the dice fell into the bilge, the dwarf notice what he had been too sick to see or hear – the water!

“The ship is sinking! The ship is sinking!” he cried running all the way back up the broken stair and through the hatch. “There is a leak! The ship is sinking!”

He caught the attention of a few sailors and of those of Crumb’s boys who had not found their way below deck yet. Among them, the boatswain;

“What are ya talking about?” he asked the dwarf.

Kazrack explained with a look of horror.

“That is the bilge. All ships have it. Such some water that soaks through. Nothing to be done about it and nothing to worry about. But if you run around screaming such a thing again, I’ll toss ye overboard meself!”

“Uh, okay.” Kazrack calmed down, but his stomach and head did not. Feeling woozy, he threw himself down near the middle of the deck and moaned.

By this time, Malcolm’s own nausea was overcoming his ability to play his pipes, and he ended his song with a crescendo – Then, tucking his bagpipes beneath his arm, he walked to find his quarters, stumbling from left to right like a drunkard, tasting his bile in the back of his throat.

The first room he found was full. As he passed the second, he saw only Devon and his two companions in there. Devon sneered as the "short ugly one" closed the door. Further down the narrow corridor, he found a room holding the tall quiet older man and a few of the younger ones. Not being able to hold it in anymore, he dropped his goat lunch as greenish muck to float in the room’s bilge. He stumbled away, and one of the young men followed him.

“Hey, you gotta clean that up - that’s disgusting!” the young man said, following Malcolm into the room he would share with Jeremy and the others.

Jeremy was just finishing a story, “. . .and then the fire started to get out of control so I tried to use the left over fat in the pan to smother it and it blazed up singing my eyebrows. It took months for them to grow back.”

“Thas naught very lawky,” Chance said.

Malcolm moaned.

“Hey, you gotta clean up your puke in our room. It smells and it is just gonna float around and around in there,” the young man said, tapping Malcolm on the shoulder.

“Shat the bloody hell up!” Malcolm said, bile flicking from his frothing lips.

“I’m not gonna shut up until you clean that up. And I mean, now.”

Malcolm placed the palm of his hairy hand full on the boy's face and pushed him roughly away, “If ya dun leave me alone Ahm gon break yer puny neck, ya air me?” Anger shone through the dizziness in the bard’s eyes.

“You can’t do that. We’re contracted not to brawl. You can’t intimidate me. I know my rights. I’m gonna tell Deet,” And with that he took off for above deck.

Malcolm dropped his stuff in a hammock and hung there for a second. Then, feeling another convulsion ran back above deck.
There he was stopped by the young man and Deet.

“Guisel here tell me you messed his room a bit and he would like you to clean it,” Deet said.

Malcolm tried to glare at Guisel, but could only find a greenish countenance.

“Ahm sick. If ah try ta clin it awup now, I’ll git sick agin and it’ll become an endless cycle of me puking and clining, clining and puking. It would never end an' would not be a pleasant room to live in. I’ll clean it when ah fill better.”

Deet turned to Guisel. “You see, I told you he would be reasonable. You can’t expect a sick man to clean his own mess while still sick, can you?”

And at that moment, Malcolm ran to the edge of the deck and shot another helping of goat off the side of the ship. Seeing him run, and hearing the loud wretch, Kazrack’s own iron stomach could not hold it any more and he ran to edge as well, stopping a good five feet from it (fearing tumbling in) and tried to aim his own projectile vomiting over the side. Just missing. He collapsed on the deck, as did Malcolm who lay there with his head hanging over the side.

There they remained as the Sea Cow sailed past a forest island to the north, between the many isles of the Kingdom of Herman Land. Of the new friends only Beorth was above deck and in any condition to enjoy the sights. Finally, Ra’s Glory sunk behind an island directly ahead of them and they all found their ways to their respective hammocks.

The next two days passed without incident. Each morning, Kazrack awoke before the sun to ask the navigator which direction was north to that he could place his prayer stone properly. He would spend the rest of the day ill. Jana spent most of her time in her cabin, while Malcolm wandered around annoying the boatswain for permission to climb to the top of the crow’s nest, and never getting it. Jeremy lost even more money to Chance, and Beorth remained above deck in contemplation of the passing scenery and staying out of people’s way – when not practicing with his quarterstaff.
Somewhere in there, Guisel thanked Malcolm for cleaning his mess. Of course, it hadn’t been Malcolm that had done it. It was Kamir.

--

Teflem, 27th of Keent - 564 H.E.

The Sea Cow pulled into dock in the tiny hamlet of Weevon in the mid-afternoon. Crumb’s boys were given shore leave until sundown, as the ship would leave for Derome-Delem at dawn.

Crumb reminded them all about the rules against brawling and promising to follow all local laws and customs. He also asked each of them to grab a crate or box of stuff that needed to be dropped off here as they left, and to stop and see Deet for their 8 copper pieces for their two days of travel.
Most of the “boys” took the opportunity to get off the ship, except for Kamir who remained behind to pump out as much of the bilge as possible to make everyone more comfortable.

Weevon was no bigger than about a dozen buildings with thatched roofs. The group headed over to the only tavern as an unruly mob – Overjoyed to be off the leaky creaky ship.

The market across from the tavern was closing up. It was located among a small grove of trees that provided nice shade in the heat that has begun to press down on them as soon as the ship had slowed down.

Among the vendors, a barber had his chair set up and he called people over for a snip. Devon and his companions went over there, while the others went into the unnamed in driving out the regulars. Crumb’s boys spread out among all the tables and chairs of the very small place and Malcolm performed “The Wind that Shakes the Barley” (23), which did not leave a dry eye in the place and got him a few free drinks.

With an ale in his two days of dry-heaving empty stomach, Malcolm felt a little adventurous and tried to get Jeremy to go hunting with him.

“But we don’t know this area, or what game there is to be found,” Jeremy said.

“Ach! Wull fin' a squirrel or somthin' smoll,” Malcolm said.

“Can’t we just relax? We’ve been on a ship for three days. I just want to drink and eat and have a good time,” Jeremy whined a bit.

“Ach! Boot huntin' IS a good tahm. . .“

“I’ll go hunting with you,” Kazrack said, overhearing. “Just let me get my cross bow from the ship.”
And he did just that, as Malcolm went to scout ahead and see what the local terrain was like beyond the veil of trees that seemed to pen in the village.

West of the trees was rolling farm land, just occasionally broken up by very small clumps of trees. It did not appear like much of a land that was good for hunting. Malcolm could see a shepherd and his flock atop a hill at some distance, and could hear chickens clucking in the yard of a nearby farmhouse. He walked back towards the village proper to meet Kazrack and then led him into the treeline.
“Ah dun think da hunts gunna be too good here,” Malcolm told Kazrack. ‘Wan ta wrestle instead?”

“Why would I want to wrestle?” the dwarf asked with some confusion.

“Why nut? It’s foon,” Malcolm replied. “Fine, we’ll climb a tree instead.”

And with that Malcolm dropped his pack (which he insisted on carrying everywhere) and climbed a large tree.

He let himself down. “Nah you try,” he said to the dwarf.

Kazrack climbed the tree deftly, as if it were the rock wall of a mine and settled down between two branches to look out over the landscape.

Malcolm climbed back up and joined him. The skald and the dwarven warrior sat up in the tree talking a bit about what brought them to their current situation and their pasts. Malcolm began to describe the beauty of his homeland - the Dubh Moors

Kazrack interrupted.

"If it is so beautiful there, why did you leave?" the dwarf asked.

"ah had noo choice," Malcolm answered.

"How's that?"

"Ah wus exiled bah mah clen."

"Why?" the dwarf asked, his curiosity growing.

"Ah killt a mon froom a pow'full famlee," Malcolm answered in a quieter voice than was usual for the boisterous moorsman.

"I'm sure this thing will blow over. You will go back eventually, won't you?"

"Aye, whan ah'm old and doon't care aboot dyin' noo more. Ahll return to mah clan, to die fightin', bleedin' out on the lend of mah burth."

"What did this man do?" Kazrack asked, realizing he was going to have offer many prompts to get the full story.

"He raped mah coosen. No'en booleeved ah, but ah dit."

"And then?"

"Ah befrended 'im, went hoontin' with 'im .. got 'im droonk..", Malcolm answered, the look of a man reliving a memory not far enopugh away yet.

"How did you kill him?"

"Ah knoocked ofer our lenten at our cempsite and when he went ta pick it oop, ah braned 'im .. and then cut him into peeces wit mah sword."

"Oh," Kazrak said, hiding his disapproval. "I would have challenged him to a duel if it were me."

"He wuz a better fightah than ah am," Malcolm said simply.

"I see," managed Kazrak.

"Sometimes you haf do whatcha haf ta do."

--

Meanwhile, Jana, Beorth and Jeremy were still at the village tavern with Chance and the others. Jeremy, never tiring of losing his money to Chance, got up for another game of darts, When soon after Devon and his two companions walked into the tavern, ordered a tankard or three of ale and walked over to a table that was already occupied by three of Crumb’s boys.

“That’s our table. Move on!” Devon said to them.

Guisel who was among them, hesitated, but thought again and got up leaving the table to the three brooding fellows. Beorth and Jana called the three young ones over to their table.

“Thanks,” Guisel said. “Those guys are jerks.”

“Yes, well, not everyone learns their manners,” Beorth replied. “I am Beorth, and this is Jana.”

“I am Guisel,” Guisel said, “and this is John and Carlos.” He gestured to his companion on the left and right. John was tall and skinny, with messy brown hair and green eyes. He, like Guisel and most of the others, and the olive skin-tone of a Herman-Lander, Carlos was shorter and of medium build, with short thick black hair, darker brown skin and brown eyes.

Beorth recognized Carlos as someone who had been watching his quarterstaff training on the ship.

“So I hear we’re gonna be broken up into groups when we get to Gothanius. You guys hear anything about that?” Guisel asked.

Beorth was surprised. “Broken up into groups? How do you mean?”

“Like to go after the dragon. In groups,” John said.

“I guess that makes sense. We could cover more ground that way,” the paladin mused.
“You guys have anyone you’d be in a group with yet?” Guisel asked.

“Well we just found out about the groups, didn’t we?” Jana said. “How big are the groups going to be?”

“I don’t know, five or six people each maybe.”

“That makes sense, they put use six to a cabin, maybe those are our groups,” Beorth said.

“Ugh, I hope not. I’m rooming with that old guy who never talks, even when you talk to him. Won’t even introduce himself!” Guisel said with some disgust.

The group drank silently for a moment that was only interrupted by Chance’s cry of “And ANOTHER bullseye!” from over by the dart board.

“Well, I noticed you have weapons and armor and stuff, and you seem like a nice guy, so if you need a group, the three of us will be glad to have you,” John said to Beorth.

“Don’t you have weapons?” Beorth asked. “I mean, aren’t you warriors?”

“I know a little bit with the sword,” Guisel said. “And from what I can gather Carlos is an okay warrior. John doesn’t know anything.”

“Hey!” said John.

“You know what I mean, John,” said Guisel.

“This is going to be a bloodbath,’ Jana said under her breath.

“Si, yo puedo peliar con el palo grande,” Carlos said.

“What did he say?’ Beorth asked.

“I’m not sure. He’s okay. But he’s from some far away place I never heard of,” Guisel explained.

“Si, muy muy far,” Carlos said, with a smile.

Beorth smiled and nodded.

“Well, I could show you guys some basic moves with the sword, if you want, “ Beorth offered.
“Really? Wow. That’d be great,” Guisel said.

“We can do it right now,” Beorth said, and led them to the grass by the grove of trees. He then fetched his sword and quarterstaff from the ship.

The paladin handed the quarterstaff to Carlos, who smiled and brandished it with some competence. He handed his long sword to Guisel, who held it limp-wristed in his right hand.

“No, like this,” Beorth said attempting to explain the proper way to hold a sword.

---

Meanwhile, Malcolm was growing tired of sitting and talking in the tree and growing restless, moved out to hang from a bough and do pull-ups. Unfortunately, the branch was not strong enough to hold his weight and with a loud crack, broke and sent the squat bard tumbling to the earth.
Kazrack looked down, “Are you okay?”

“Aye, just got the wind knocked out of me is all.”

And with that Kazrack began to laugh and laugh. Annoyed, Malcolm got up, picked up a fist-sized rock and threw it will his might hitting the dwarf, who losing his balance also tumbled out of the tree; landing right on his stomach. Before he could get his wind, Malcolm plopped down on his bag, grabbed his leg and twisted his foot.

“Ow, Ow! What are you doing?” Kazrack asked through rasping breaths.

“Do ya give? Say ya give?” Malcolm asked playfully.

“I give! I give!” Malcolm got up, and in a moment helped the dwarf to his feet.

“We should be heading back,” Kazrack said, so the two of them made their way back to the village.

---

In the grove of trees, Jana watched as Beorth made little headway with Guisel and John. Carlos on the other hand needed little instruction. He seemed very quick and reasonably strong.

As they continued, Devon and his two companions came out of the tavern and walked over to watch for a minute.

“Hey look, their learning how to use a sword. Isn’t that cute?” Devon said. “Don’t waste your time kids. You could practice all you want and someone like me could come along and make you eat that sword with his bare hands.”

Devon laughed loudly; his companions remained quiet. He then looked over at Jana.

“Hey sweet thing,” he called. “Why are you hanging with these losers when you could be with me?” Devon cocked an eyebrow and flashed a lascivious smile.

“That’s okay, I’m fine where I am,” Jana responded.

“Okay, but when you get tired of these wet-behind-the-ear babies, you can come to me and I’ll show you what a real man is,” Devon laughed loudly again.

‘Hopefully you’ll get tired of yourself first and do us all a favor,” she replied.

Guisel, John and the others laughed – including the Devon’s “handsome” companion.

“What?” Devon said, looking confused.

“I think she just insulted you, Devon,” the handsome one said through a smile he gave the young girl. “Maybe you work it out halfway, I’ll explain the rest on the ship. Let’s go.”

They began to walk off. “Ah, she’ll come to her senses. They always do. How can any woman resist me?” Devon said.

By this time Kazrack emerged from the trees and turned to see that Malcolm was no longer with him. More interested in what Beorth was doing than what trouble Malcolm might be up to he went over there.

--

Malcolm was creeping up on some chickens in a nearby farmyard. Stringing his shortbow he fire once and then twice, killing the bird in a flurry of feathers. As he grabbed the dead bird, and hopeful lunch and angry farmer emerged from his home.

“Whaddya doing? You can’t just kill my chickens. Bandit! Thief!”

With twirl of his hand and a melodic word, pulling a strand of wool from his kilt, Malcolm made to run – But the farmer merely shook his head as if to clear it and said, ‘Whaddya doing?!?”
“I was going to knock on your door and pay for this,” Malcolm gestured towards the dead chicken in his hand. He still held his bow in the other. “I’m sorry how much?”

“Three pieces of copper. And next time, ask first.”

Malcolm paid the man and hurried on his way.

--

Guisel and John grew bored of training and wandered away. Carlos shrugged his shoulders and joined them.

Kazrack decided that training the rest of Crumb’s boys was a good idea, and gathered about a dozen sword-length sticks to bring aboard for training. They all ate of the chicken that Malcolm had bought, which the tavern-keeper prepared and gave him another free drink as Malcolm performed another song.

As the sun went down they all returned to the ship. The boatswain stopped Kazrack, “where are you going with all that wood?”

“I planned to train some of the boys in fighting, if I could get a spot on the deck,” Kazrack explained.

“No way. Impossible,” Kristian replied. “You’ll get in the way of the crew.”

“But we need something to pass the time and these boys are in desperate need of some training,” the dwarf pleaded.

“Hmm. Okay, only two people at a time and only during meal times,” the boatswain compromised.
“How will we eat then?”

“That is for you to figure out.”

All adjourned to bed soon after. And in the morning, the Sea Cow left the dock to head westward round the Kingdom of Herman Land’s northern most island and the northeast to the eastern coast of Derome-Delem.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #3 (part III)

Interlude

“There is no reason for goats to bleat backwards, mommy. I told you I didn’t. . . “

“Ya na' makin'any sense, mun,” Malcolm said.

“I wasn’t throwing eggs at the knights, I swear. . . “

Jana felt the forehead of Jeremy who was looking pale, and whose glands were so swollen his neck looked as thick as Devon’s.

“He’s burning up. He’s got the bog flu,” the herbalist concluded. (25)

The second day of the northward journey was dampened by this news, and by the fact that the boatswain would not provide a separate room for the sick passenger despite Jana’s declaration that it was contagious. Instead, Kristian suggested that the whole group quarantine themselves in their cabin. No one else agreed of course.

The training did not go very well either. While Carlos continued to prove his proficiency with the quarterstaff, John, Guisel and others seemed easily bored and others did not even want to try for whatever reason. Kazrack and Beorth found it very disconcerting.

Kamir helped Jana to care for Jeremy.

Things got worse on the fourth day, when way out of sight of land the Sea Cow was hit by a sudden squall, which left everyone below deck sweating and feeling as sick as Jeremy. Kazrack clutched his prayer stone the whole time and mumbled prayers to the dwarven gods to deliver him from such a hellish place.

The storm lasted an entire evening and most of a day, but on the sixth day they were in sight of land, seeing an armored horseman galloping northward along a rocky beach. And by early the next morning they passed cliffs that lined the shore and came to the port of Cutter Jack’s. (26) The estimated six day journey had taken seven.

Teflem, 6th of Ese – 562 H.E.

As Crumb’s boys disembarked from the Sea Cow, Deet ordered them to get into groups of four to collect their tents as the group would be camping out in a field just southwest of the town. Jana was given her own small one-man tent. They were all also give their 28 pieces of copper for their seven days of travel.

Kazrack already had his own larger tent that he and Beorth decided to share, and on Malcolm’s orders Kamir grabbed a tent for him and Jeremy and Chance.

The town of Cutter Jack’s was distinctly larger than Weevon, made up of several score white-washed brick builds and some wooden ones. The port looked as if it could hold a dozen or more ships, but part of it seemed as if it had been recently burned and was still in disrepair.

The town was flanked to the north and south by woodlands, and earthen ramparts were built up to defend the approach from the west and south. In the far distance, Kazrack could see the mist-shrouded mountains, whose peaks were lost in the clouds – mountains as far as the eye could see. The dwarf’s heart swelled with pride.

The band marched through the town towards the southern woods. Malcolm and Chance helping Jeremy to walk. The Neergaardian was a bit more clear-headed, but still felt weak.

As they past one small white building, Kazrack noticed a red dwarf come out and tying a message to a Faultless (27) sent it off. Kazrack saluted the dwarf, who waved back.

Crumb and Deet led the boys to a clearing southwest of the town, just beyond one of the earthen walls. The grass was short and a nearby stream provided water. Everyone began to set up their tents, though Kamir seemed to be doing most of the work. Kazarack and the others put their tents near the center of the clearing, not far from where Crumb had his large pavilion-style tent set-up.

Gathering everyone together, Crumb assigned everyone’s tasks before giving them leave to explore the town or do whatever they like.

“There will some basic chores I will have you all take turns doing to keep our camp running efficiently, so when this meeting is over I will be sending some of you off to do things. However, before we do that, I want to remind you all to obey local laws and stay out of trouble. We will be here for three or four days while I arrange for wagons that will bring us as far we can go into the mountains until we have to go by foot. Gothanius is about a fortnight’s journey away. Okay, now… You, you and you, collect rocks of the central fire pit. And you and you, go get firewood.”
With that Crumb ended the meeting. Kazrack and Jana were chosen to collect rocks along with the short ugly companion of Devon’s, while Malcolm and Beorth were sent off for firewood.

--

Beorth and Malcolm wandered down a nearby ridge picking up the dry wood of fallen trees, Beorth made neat piles to pick up as they head back, while Malcolm just had a huge bundle tucked under one arm.

As they collected wood from a particularly ample spot, a frightened doe broke through the brush and running past them disappeared into more brush to their left. Malcolm immediately dropped his pile of wood and pulling his bow chased after the deer.

“Malcolm! Where are you going?” Beorth called.

At that same moment Beorth heard the sound of movement behind him and turned to see two young men with bows come through the brush. Both were of medium build with longish brown hair and light skin, dressed in the greens and browns of hunters.

“Goodness! I thought you were a goblin,” one of them said.

“A goblin?” Beorth said surprised.

“Did you see a deer come through here?” the other asked.

“Um, yes. My companion went after it,” Beorth explained, pointing to the brush.

“Come on, Andre!” the second said and he and his friend ran off in the same direction that Malcolm and the deer had.

Meanwhile, Malcolm had caught up to the deer by a stream and had sunk an arrow into its rear flank. The deer struggled up the bank and disappeared over the ridge. Malcolm took off after it again, when the two hunter came bursting from the brush.

“That’s our deer!” said Andre.

“The `ell it is,” Malcolm replied. From the top of the ridge, Malcolm fired another arrow that missed, but one of the hunters’ arrow’s aim was true and the deer collapsed and feebly tried to get away.
The three of them ran down towards the deer.

“Git tha hull away from ma deer!” Malcolm cried out. One of the hunters was beginning to pull ahead, so Malcolm tried to trip him up and succeeded in slowing him down, but he slowed down himself allowing the other to get to the deer, pull out a knife and slit its throat.
“That was mah deer!” Malcolm said, “Ya best bock away from et.”

“It is our deer. We have been tracking it for hours,” the hunter closer to Malcolm said.
“Ets nat mah foolt ya could'n' cetch et.”

“Actually, we were about to snag it when you and your companion started breaking wood and spooked it,” the hunter explained.

“Yeah, we thought you were goblins,” the other hunter said.
Malcolm paused.

“Et dosen matta. Ah het et wit mah arrow.”

“So did we. Why don’t we just split it? We really want the hide and antlers. So, we’ll take that and one third of the meat, and you can have the other two-thirds,” one of the hunters suggested.
Malcolm thought it over.

“Fine,” he gave in.

As the cleaned and prepared the deer, the hunters introduced themselves as David and Andre.
“Well, you seem like a pretty good hunter. If you’ll be around for a while you can come by our cabin and we’ll show you where the best game is. You can even trap beaver and stuff further up the crick,” David explained.

“Where are you from anyway?” Andre asked.

“The Dubh Moors. I’m here with a band that is going to help some kingdom further in-land.”
“You are gonna help a dwarven kingdom?” David asked incredulously.

“It is a human kingdom,” Malcolm replied.

“Human kingdom?” asked David. “What is it called?”

“Gothanius.”

“Never heard of it. As far as I know there are no human kingdoms in Derome-Delem. Are you sure it’s a kingdom? Do you mean the Far Shore League?” (28)

“No, I don’t.”

“I think someone is pulling the wool over your eyes,” Andre said.

Malcolm shrugged his shoulders. “Didja seh soomthin' 'bout gooblens, behfore?”

“Yeah, we thought you and your friends were goblins, that is why we hesitated coming through the brush,” David explained.

“Are there a loot uf gooblins around here?” Malcolm asked.
“Not so close to town, usually – but ya never know. They kind of come and go. There is a standing bounty on them of like one piece of silver per goblin ear. Left ear only,” said David. “It used ta just be ears, but people tried to double their money by brining in two ears.”

“The bounty’s been around since our dad’s time,” said Andre. “But be careful, these goblins, the Na-Sor Tribe are crafty and are likely to ambush ya.”

The three men spilt the deer and Malcolm returned to where he left Beorth.

--

Beorth got back to the camp just as Kazrack and Jana were placing the last rock in the fire circle. Devon’s short companion had placed about two rocks and had left the work to the others. Beorth dropped his armful of wood, and Crumb said, “That isn’t enough. You better go get more.” The paladin immediately turned around and complied.

Beorth ran into Malcolm who was on his way back with deer mear over one shoulder and wood tucked under one arm. Beorth grabbed more wood.

Upon returning to camp, Crumb stopped Malcolm.

“When I ask you to do something for the group, I expect for it to be done right away,” he said sternly. “That is not the share of wood you could carry, and you took way too long to do it.”
Malcolm stared back at him, fuming.

“But you did bring back a deer, which is good of you. The men will appreciate some good venison after the ship’s seven days of gruel.”

Malcolm grunted and walked past Crumb, putting the deer down inside his tent, next to the resting Jeremy.

“Make sure nobudy touches mah deer,” he said to Kamir.

“Okay, Malcolm. Whatever you want.”

At dinner, Crumb’s boys noticed that Crumb had hired on two cook/assistants who served the food and helped to keep the camp clean.

Malcolm, Chance, Beorth, Kazrack and Jana gathered together to eat.

“Ah met this hoonters an' they sai' thar is a boonty on gooblins 'tound here,” Malcolm told them.

“Goblins? Grrrr.” Said Kazrack.

“They oofer one piece of silver per gooblin ear,” Malcolm explained.

“Wow! We could rack up some extra coinage,” said Kazrack.

“Do you think that would violate the terms of our contract?” Beorth asked.

“It says no brawling. We wouldn’t be brawling,”

“And the local law says is the one offering the bounty. We are well within the limits set by the contract. And goblins are a foul menace. We’d be helping the people of this town,” Kazrack added.

“It’s settled then,” Malcolm said. “We’ll hunt us some gooblins tamarrah.”

--

As Malcolm and Chance went to bed (Kamir was still stoking the central camp fire and the smaller fires people had closer to their tents), Chance said, “Maybeh you shood give that dahr for the camp ta sharr like Crahm suggested.”

“Why shood I?”

“Ta get in good with everyone `ere. Ya nevah know when ya might need some `elp, an’ me dad always said, ya can catch more flies with `oney than with vinegar.”

Malcolm thought it over, and before retiring brought his venison over to the new cooks; making sure that they told everyone that it was he that had caught it when it would be served for dinner the next day.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes

(25) The causes of “bog flu” are unclear. However, it manifests itself in terms of great fatigue, fever, aching and occasional delirium. Coincidentally, bog flue often coincides with a character’s player missing a session. Chronic bog flu has been known to lead to premature retirement or even death.

(26) Cutter Jack’s is one of Derome-Delem’s “Freetowns”, which were founded by deserters or those left behind after the failed invasion of Derome-Delem by the Kingdom of Herman Land in 409 H.E. This town was named after its current lord who was a commoner who saved the town from a curse by retrieving the legendary “Sacred Rose of Osiris”.

(27) The Faultless are birds with large wings that are impressed with two sites that they can fly between and faultlessly deliver messages. By riding high altitude air currents they can travel over one hundred miles a day. For information see Thoth’s Libram vol II, issue #3.

(28) The Far Shore League is a loose confederation of towns on the western coast of Derome-Delem founded in 562 H.E
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #3 (part IV)

Anulem, 7th of Ese – 563 H.E.

A low grey cloud cover obscured Ra’s Glory the next morning and the air had a refreshing edge of coolness to it.

Malcolm woke up as naked as the day he was born and stretching walked over to the smoking remains oft the camp fire and relieved himself. . . and then walking over to where the buckets of water were kept, dunked his head in one and flicked his hair back in with a snap of his head.

He returned to his tent to get his kilt, awaking Kamir who immediately awoke to light the campfires. Jeremy stirred.

“Oh, are we there yet?”

“We’re in Deh-rome-Deh-lem,” Malcolm answered.

“Good, let me know when we get to the dragon. The way I feel I want to be the first one eaten,” Jeremy said weakly.

“That’ll be a relief to the dwarf,” Malcolm said with a smile.

The camp began to awaken. Kazrack, Jana and Beorth decided to explore the town a bit and see what they could find out about the goblins and perhaps getting provisions. Malcolm decided to seek out Andre and David’s cabin and get directions to a place where goblins could be found.

The original trio of companions that first walked together to see the witch in Verdun, not found themselves in a town hundreds of miles away from their place of origin. The streets were of raked dirt, with cobbled market square that was just filling with vendors. They walked past a boarded up inn that looked as if it had been partially burned.

“Probably goblins,” said Kazrack.

Walking further up the street they came to another tavern called “The Gleaming Star”

A hand-written sign declared “No dogs or Black Islanders Allowed” – But since only Beorth could read, he swallowed his pride and went in with the other two to ask some questions.

The sound of scurrying rats greeted them as they entered the filthy establishment. The barkeep greeted them. He shooed a rat off the bar, and picking up a mug he spit into it and wiped out the contents with a rag, placing is upside down on a tray of “clean” cups.

The barkeep knew little of the goblins, but did direct them to the Safehouse of the Nauglimir Dwarven Merchant’s Consortium (29) only a few blocks north.

The trio walked to the Safehouse, which was built as a small fort of grey stone with a gatehouse and towers. Just within the gate stood a black bearded dwarf in plate mail with a battle axe. Sweat streamed down his face.

“Well met!” called Kazrack.

“Aye, well met,” the dwarf replied in dwarven.

“I am Kazrack Delver.”

“I am Captain Nerelor Threnegar,” the dwarf said. “Where do you hail from?”

“Originally my family is from Derome-Delem, but most recently I have lived in Verdun.”

“Verdun? Heh,” the Dwarf spit. “It is good that you have been able to come back here to our homeland.”

“Yes, it pleases me to be back. I have not seen these lands since when my beard first started to come in. I hope to see a lot of our people’s strongholds while I am here”

“Are you looking for work?” Threnegar asked.

“Um, no. I am working with a group of humans who are going to Gothanius to clear the land of a dragon.”

The dwarven captain was taken aback. “A dragon? Well, be careful, there are many that would want to take advantage of our kin.”

“I am always cautious. But I was wondering. Do you know anything about the goblins in this area?” Kazrack asked.

“Goblins? I know there are some, I guess. But I don’t think they are too much trouble. I spend most of my time here helping to guard the safehouse, so I don’t know much about the town. I sometimes travel from here to various strongholds, but we have everything we need in here.”

“Okay, thank you. How about provisions? Tools, and such – where can we find those?”

“Try the market. Or there is a shop just off the square called ‘Metalgoods’, it is run by a fine dwarven couple,” Threnegar answered.

“Okay, thank you very much.”

“The reason I asked you if you were looking for a job is because the Nauglimir Dwarven Merchant Consortium is always looking for dwarven caravan guards, and it is a good way to see various dwarven strongholds and how our people live,” Threnegar said.

‘Thank you for the offer, but I have this other commitment, but perhaps one day I will be able to accept it,” Kazrack replied.

“Well, you are welcome to come back for dinner and religious services at the temple we have in here. You can learn more about the N.D.M.C.”

“Could my companions come as well?” Kazrack gestured to Jana and Beorth who was just standing there wondering what the two dwarves were jabbering about in their native tongue.

“Dwarves only,” said Threnegar simply.

“Okay,” said Kazrack with a shrug. “Natan-ahb guard you.”

The three friends walked back towards the market, running into Malcolm who had made his way back after gaining the location of the goblins from Andre and David.

“Ach, the hoonters said that it is only a few miles sooth along the shirr. They are oft near eh ole mine whose entrance is eena ravine,” the skald said. “But that we should be karful `cause they ambush people a loot.”

As the party stood there discussing go down there, Malcolm heard:
“Ah, what quaint little village market! Perhaps there is some local craftsman whose day I can brighten by purchasing some of his trinkets. . .”

It was Garcon.

“Who ya talkin’ too?” Malcolm asked.
“Ah, well when one speaks as sweetly as I, and has an adventurous life as I - there is required a bit of narration,” Garcon explained.

“You are daft, mahn!?!”

‘So, you say. . . But I do note that one of these common peddlers is selling phials of fine smelling cologne. Excuse me, I must investigate and perhaps gain a new shirt made from that fine bolt of silk over there.”

He wandered off – And the group walked back to the camp to collect their weapons and equipment to hunt the goblins. Realizing that they did not remember seeing Garcon once during the sea journey.

------

The four companions stopped at the camp where Kazrack went over his equipment carefully to make sure he had everything he could possibly from his impossibly full pack. Chance joined them “To bring `em a little luck and watch over the lass,” and off they marched into the dismally grey afternoon.

The group moved along ,with Malcolm taking point to watch for ambush. Kazrack and Beorth followed at a distance of 60’ and directly behind them were Chance and Jana.

“Now duncha worry, lassie. If there’s trouble, I‘ll handle it. Ya just stay by me, okay?” Chance said to Jana

“Uh-huh,” was Jana’s only reply.

The party climbed a ridge to a grassy plateau that over-looked the greyness of the sea below and to their left. The place was wide open and the cautiously crossed remaining alert to the possibility of ambush. Coming down the other side of the hill Malcolm spotted the ravine that the hunters must have been talking about. The group walked close to brush that obscured the edge and it was decided that Malcolm would go ahead to see what he could.

The skald moved forward, keeping an arrow ready to be nocked in his short bow, creeping through the dry foliage to edge of the ravine.

The ravine floor was pebbly, and could be access by means of what appeared to be a natural ramp of stone that ran parallel to the side of the ravine that Malcolm crouched on. Otherwise it was a straight drop down of about 25 feet. The opposite side which was covered what appeared to be green thorny shrubs had a less steep grade, but still seemed like a difficult climb.

On the ravine floor Malcolm could see a strange ritual or ceremony in progress. Under the cloud cover that veiled the hated slight of Ra’s Glory, there were a dozen or more short ugly brown-orange skinned creatures. All wore studded leather armor, except one who wore the furs of wolves and a necklace of small skulls around his neck. Two larger of these obvious goblins with spears flanked a black slab of stone about two feet high. A small group of young goblins stood behind the stone and one at a time would step up on to the stone and kneel. Leaning forward, the one in the wolf’s fur would take his head in his hands and speak words in the foul goblin tongue. And then with a jerking motion, the young goblin’s head would be thrown back. Clutching the left side of his head, he would step over to one of the flanking goblins take a spear and join a line of goblins that all looked dazed and stood holding the left side of their head, and holding halfspears at their right sides.

Malcolm slipped back to the group to tell them what he had seen. The party hesitated, not being sure on how to approach the situation. Should they go down the ramp and risk getting picked off?

“Did they missiles weapons you could see?” Kazrack asked.

“They had spears, but not else I could see,” Malcolm replied.

“Maybe we can get tem to come charging up at us and mow them down when they get here. They’re goblins they aren’t too smart,” Kazrack suggested.

“But they haven’t done anything yet,” Beorth interjected.

Kazrack turned about to explain the deep-seated evil that goblins represented when Jana spoke up.

“I think we have been spotted.”

The party turned to their left to see something moving through the branches of the foliage towards the ravine.

“What should we do?” asked Beorth.

“Maybe we should run away,” suggested Chance.

Malcolm headed back into the brush, and Kazrack and Beorth followed fanning out to the skald’s left. They got to the ravine edge to find two goblin warriors charging up ramp at them. The five with spears, remained in a line looking dazed and clutching the sides of their heads. The goblin in furs moved to the ravine wall to keep out of sight of missile fire, while Malcolm fired at the two goblins that passed him by where he stood above them and charged to meet Kazrack and Beorth in melee.



The remaining young goblins who had been waiting their turn at the black stone turned and fled, beginning to climb up the other side of the ravine. With a cry in goblin from the obvious leader, the dazed goblins dropped their hands from the sides of their heads and clutching their spears moved with incredible speed in an attempt to surround the would-be heroes.

The goblin leader spoke a word and pointed at Malcolm, whose mind was momentarily clouded, allowing the young goblins to easily get around him.

Jana moved in behind Malcolm, who dropped his bow to pull his club and meet the goblins in hand to hand combat.

“Wait, where are ya goin’. It isn’t safe,” Chance said, hesitantly following the young girl closer to the battle.

Kazrack and Beorth continued fighting the two more experienced goblin warriors who were being supported by the fresher recruits when they noticed an odd thing. The older goblins had a dry and ugly scar where their left ear was, but the younger goblins had a fresh and still bleeding wound where their left ear was.

“They cut off their own ears!” Kazrack cried.

The goblin in wolf skins stepped up to fill in behind the ranks of goblins that were surrounding Malcolm, stabbing furiously with their spears. He spoke three guttural word and pulling a skin from his belt took a deep swig from something and then leaning forward spit a stream of acid onto Malcolm’s face and shoulders. The barbarian cried out in pain, as his skin burned and hissed. Droplets flicked off on contact and struck the nearby goblins as well and they cried out, but did not stop trying to bring down the stocky moorsman. (30)

As Chance tried to convince Jana that they should step back into the thicker brush between hasty prayers to his god, the young Westronian, spoke her arcane words and flicked her hand in the direction of the obvious goblin spell-caster. However, he shrugged off the spell.

Malcolm dropped a goblin, and Kazrack and Beorth were making quick work of those near them and moved to help their companions.

The tide of the battle was turning. The goblins who had fled made their way up the other side of the ravine and disappeared into the brush. Jana cast her spell again, and this time the goblin-sorcerer turned and fled. Malcolm and Beorth chopped down the last two goblins and took off after him. They caught up to him at the base of the other side of the ravine, but he turned and fled again. Malcolm took a swing at him, clipping him in the back, and Beorth tried for a blow to the head and missed. Barely slowed the little spellcasting creep took off for the cave entrance at the far end of the ravine. Again Beorth and Malcolm took off after him, and Kazrack cam barreling down the ramp and around to take to the chase as well, but his diminutive legs and heavy equipment slowed him.

Jana also started to make her way over there by running, but Chance only hustled, crouching behind the black stone altar-thing to watch the action.

Malcolm and Beorth wanted to stop the remaining goblin before he made it into the darkness of the cave, but failed. They slowed down and entered more cautiously.

The dim light of the cloudy day only did so much to illuminate the inner portion of the cave, revealing only that about twenty feet in the cave widened to the left and right.

“And when the thegn steeped into the darkness of the shadow oov the dragon, his shield did cast the shadow aside!” cried Malcolm and suddenly his club shone with a light that revealed even more of the cave.

Malcolm and Beorth crept into the gloom of the cave and suddenly the goblin leapt out surprising them striking Malcolm with his club. Beorth moved in to take a swing with his quarterstaff, but the goblin took another swig from his wineskin and spit a stream of acid at the paladin. Beorth was able to turn away so that his armor took most of the spittle, but a drop landed on Malcolm as well.

There was a flurry of blow but the goblin in wolf skins was too quick to be hit. Still moving with unexpected deftness he suddenly disappeared. (31) Beorth, having been trained to battle the undead with the darkness of crypts stopped to listen, but Malcolm swung wildly in the spot where the goblin had been screaming like a madman with the increasing rage of his people. The light that now shone from his club made crazy shadows fly everywhere - unfortunately, he did not feel his club connect with anything.

At that moment Kazrack ran into the cave, being able to move without fear because of his darkvision. He moved to his right and down the craggy corridor coming to a steep stairway going down. He paused there, not sure of where to go.

“Where did he go?” the dwarf asked.

“He disappeared,” Beorth replied.

Kazrack turned. Everyone paused, not sure of what to do next. Jana stepped into the cave and Chance followed saying, ‘Don’t go in there, Jana. It could be dangerous.”

He stood just within the mouth of the cave.

Fortunately for the companions, years on the rough streets of Westron’s Thieves’ Quarter made Jana’s ears sharp and hearing a footfall pass her on the right she moved in that direction hands forward. She felt herself bump up against someone she could not see and then felt the painful blow of a club, as the goblin-sorcerer came into view.

The goblin tried to run back out of the cave, but Chance stepped in his way and took a wild stab with his dagger, which missed, but delayed the creature enough for Malcolm and Beorth to step up and finish it with a sickening crack from the skald’s club.
As Kazrack began to search the body, taking a gold ring from the goblin’s finger, Malcolm drew his bastard sword and placing its edge in the goblin’s neck stepped on the blade to remove its head. Blood poured wildly from the neck stump.

“What are you doing?” Beorth cried when he noticed what Malcolm had done.

Kazrack saw that the skull necklace had been cut loose by the barbarian’s blade and lifted it up.

“Anyone want this?”

Jana took it without a word.

“Ahm taking the head as a trophy,” Malcolm explained to Beorth.

“No, you are not. You cannot desecrate the dead that way,”
Beorth said.

“Wait, but they are just goblins,” Kazrack said joining the debate.

“It matters not. They were alive and now they are dead. Anubis would have it no other way,” Beorth said. “Since we cannot easily bury them all, we must gather their corpses and create a pyre.”

“What about taking their stuff? I mean this studded leather they wear is small but might have some value to us,” Kazrack said, clutching the bag of fresh ears he found on the shaman as if they had already transmogrified into the silver coins they were worth.

“Wait, I dun car if he’s the bluddy High Priest of Ra, if he’s dead he dun need his stuff an ahm takin’ it,” Malcolm complained.

“You don’t wanna make Anubis angry do you?” Chance asked.

“Whut about me ancestors? They’ll laugh at me if I don’t take a trophy,” Malcolm said.

“I will not tolerate the dead being desecrated, but these goblins have not been interred yet, so their possession are spoils of war, not part of their funerary accoutrements – so to take them is not to violate their graves,” the follower of Anubis explained. (32) “This also applies to the ears, since they were taken before the goblins died and by their own hands. However, I do believe that we should take a portion of whatever spoils we gain and donate it either to a local temple or to the town’s effort to defend itself from the goblin menace.”

Malcolm began to gather the goblin bodies in a pile on the ravine floor to burn, but searched each quickly and as inconspicuously as possible for whatever treasure they might have. He found none.

“I will agree, but if I were someone else I would say that you should make the donation out of your own share,” Kazrack said to Beorth.

“I already plan to make a donation over and above whatever we agree on.”

Malcolm and Kazrack each took a sample of the goblin studded leather, which amazed Kazrack in its quality.

“Goblins cannot make such things, they must have bought it or traded for it. Do you think they could have chopped their own ears off to pay for their armor?” Kazrack mused.

No one seemed willing to follow up on this speculation. Jana picked up the goblin leader’s club for herself and the after setting fire to the goblin bodies (sending a column of smoke way up into the dark clouds) the five companions headed back to camp, Malcolm wondering aloud what could be found in the cave when they came back to explore it.

End of Session #3

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Notes

(29) The Nauglimir Dwarven Merchant Consortium is a league of dwarven merchants who facilitate trade among dwarves in Derome-Delem and, to a much lesser extent, other parts of Aquerra.

(30) This spell, Acid Spittle, can be found in Sword & Sorcery’s Relics & Rituals.

(31) This spell Disappear, can be found in Sword & Sorcery’s Relics & Rituals.

(32) Believers in Ra’s Panthoen hold those interred with personal effects have spiritual equivalents of those things with them in the afterlife, and to disturb the things in this world is to disturb their rest.
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #4

As the five companions walked back to camp the dark clouds let loose with a soft, yet constant rain that increased in strength as the closer they got to shelter.

“Today is Remembrance Day,” (33) said Beorth. “I am going to go to the temple of Anhur when we get to town to give respects for brave warriors who have fallen in battle.”

The rest of the group seemed more concerned with cashing in on the goblin ears, Kazrack wanted to warn the guard about the goblins’ resources – their ability to make or trade for armor of excellent quality. So as Beorth went off to pay his respects, Kazrack, Malcolm and Jana went to the local guard house. Chance went back to the camp to look in on Jeremy.
At the guardhouse the companions were informed that the bounty was only six pieces of copper per ear. The one silver piece bounty was only during times of emergency, when goblins were a serious problem, which was not the case.

“What about this?” Kazrack said, showing them the studded leather armor, obviously good craftsmanship.

“I am not in a position to determine this an emergency, but I will express your concern to my lord, and it is in his power to do so. May I take this armor as evidence?” the captain asked.

“Will we get the difference in the cost of the bounty if the lord declares an emergency?” Kazrack asked.

“That is doubtful, since the state of emergency had not been declared when the ears were collected,” the guard explained.

“But it is in his power to change that. He can do it according to his discretion?” Kazrack said, pushing.

“Yes, I will mention it to him. Jack is a fair man, and he will give it serious thought, though I cannot promise anything.”

“I will give you the armor for 20 pieces of silver,” Kazrack offered.

“We do not wish to buy the armor. It will be returned to you once the Lord as examined it,” the captain explained.

Kazrack harrumphed and handed over the bag of ears and place the armor on the desk.
The captain looked in the bag and with a look of disgust tossed the bag to his assistant, “that’s really disgusting! Get rid of those!”

Malcolm took the copper and divided it among the three of them, giving Beorth and Chance’s share to Kazrack to hold when the dwarf insisted.

“Actually, I’m surprised that you got any ears at all. Everyone around here knows the Na-Sor Goblins chop off their own ears in defiance, for generations. Sometimes the locals trick foreigners to go hunting for the ears for laughs,” the captain said.

“Well you should stop them from doing that. Someone could get hurt,” Kazrack said, offended.
“Technically, they are not breaking the law, and no once forces people to go hunt goblins. They choose to.”

Kazrack harrumphed again,” I’ll be back to find out what your Lord said.”

----

Outside the rain showed no signs of stopping, making the streets of Cutter Jack’s a muddy mess. The trio walked down the main street, and passed by a place called the White Flag. It was packed with what appeared to be sailors and they recognized two members of the Sea Cow’s crew standing in the shelter of the doorway smoking pipes. Jana decided she was too cold and wet to continue and wanted to stop in for a warm meal and a mead. The other two continued on their way, heading to the Metalgoods shop to get supplies to repair their armor.

Jana shook off her wet cloak and could feel the eyes of many sailors on her as she walked over to an empty spot at the bar. All the tables were full and the air was a cacophony of sound as the men whooped and hollered and sang and gave toasts. The barkeep brought Jana her requested mean and a plate full of steamed crabs, which she happily cracked open and ate with much relish – Crabs are a favorite food in Westron.

From one crowded corner, Jana could hear men cheering especially loudly, and occasional quiet, broken up by grunting and then a cheer! She turned to look and saw a bunch of crowded around one table. From within the ring, Devon stood, his sweaty muscled arms above his head in triumph. “I win again!” he cried. Jana noticed that Devon’s handsome companion was standing by, watching the arm-wrestling from the ring of men, while the short ugly one sat by himself, quietly, in another corner.

She turned back to her food and drink. As she placed the last husk of a crab on her plate, she heard a voice to her right.

“Mind if a join you for a minute?” the voice said. She turned to see Devon’s handsome companion, sitting in the stool beside her.

“No one is sitting there,” she said rather curtly.

“Thank you,” he said in a polite tone. “May I buy you a drink?”

“I’m fine,” Jana replied, gesturing to her mug.

He ordered an ale, and taking a big swig and sighing, he turned to the pretty young girl again.

“I wanted to apologize to you if you offended by anything my companion, Devon, said or did,” he said. “He kind of thinks with his mouth instead of his head. I try to keep him in line, sometimes I feel like his bloody mother.”

Jana smiled at this, and he returned her smile.

“I can see how you would have your work cut out for you,” Jana said. He laughed.

“I’m Markle, by the way. I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced,” he put out his hand to shake and Jana obliged him.

“I’m Jana.”

“Lovely name,” he took another sip of ale. “I was wondering what a girl like you was doing here with us? Going to Gothanius… It is not as if you had to escape conscription.”

“I just was tired of Herman Land. I wanted to see a little of the world.”

“Where in Herman Land are you from?”

“Westron.”

“Oh,” Markle paused, as if deep in thought.

“It is just that I know you’ve signed a contract and all, but some of these small backwards kingdoms aren’t as cosmopolitan as Westron or Verdun. They don’t see women as being worthy of being treated with respect like I do.” He smiled, sipped and continued. “You may be promised something, but I would not be surprised if they tried to deprive you of it.”

“I had thought of that possibility,” Jana said, sipping her mead slowly.

“Well, my friends and I know that seemingly limited opportunities like this might lead to more opportunities and so we keep our eyes open. And I think,” He paused “That there might be room for you to take advantage of these opportunities as well.”

Jana took it in, but did not reply.

“I just don’t want you to be left out. Your chosen friends might mean well, but they are little naïve. Their antics are only going to get them into trouble. Hunting goblins? Seems like fun until someone ends up dead - Too high a risk for too little profit, if you as me. You’ll do well to stay away from such endeavors.”

“I was thinking that as I sat here and ate,” Jana replied.

“Well, I don’t want to bother you too much, so I’ll let you go, but if there is anyway I can help you let me know,” Markle said, placing some coins on the bar. “Barkeep! Her next drink is one me!”

He made to walk off. “And if I can help you with one of these opportunities, please let me know.”
Markle smiled and nodded and returned to his companions.

“I win again!” cried Devon. “Come on! Come on! Who’s next? I’ll beat anybody!”
Jana finished her drink and slipped the coins Markle left on the bar into the folds of her skirt, slipping back through the rain to the camp.

---

Chance got back to the tent to find a wakeful and confused Jeremy.

“Where have you all been?” Jeremy asked groggily.

‘We went ahuntin’ goblins,” Chance said.

“Goblins? Are they nearby?” Jeremy asked.

“No, we had to walk miles to find them in this ravine and there were dozens of them all over the place, but I fought off a bunch wit’ me daggers, shifting back and forth, protecting the lass and making them fear me blade. The others did okay, too. Ya shoulda seen me face off the goblin warlock – I kept him from escaping even though he was using his foul foul magicks.”

“Where is everybody else?” Jeremy asked. “In town collecting the reward. Ya hungry? I’m hungy. We missed dinner.”

Chance stuck his head out of the tent flap. “Kamir! Fetch us some stew or something. A bowl for me and a bowl for me sick friend here.”

“Right away, Chance!” Kamir said, dropping his endless task of keeping the fires burning despite the rain.

Malcolm and Kazrack returned from haggling with Oleg the dwarf at the Metalgoods shop for some supplies to repair the armor, and Kazrack immediately retired to his tent to work on his armor.

Malcolm entered the tent he shared with Chance, Kamir and Jeremy.

“Jeremy! Yer awake mahn! Good ta see it!” Malcolm cried. “Where’d ya get the food?”
“Kamir brought it to us,” Chance said.

Malcolm stuck his head outside of the tent flap, “Kamir! Get me some stew! And a piece of bread! And something to drink!”

“Okay,” said Kamir with a lack of energy. He had just been on his way back to the tent to get some sleep.

Malcolm turned back to his friends, ‘That’s a good lad.”

“So, what’s this about goblins?” Jeremy asked his barbaric friend.

“Aye, we fought gooblins an’ there wus eh foul witch of a goblin, but we killed them all. An’ we’re gunna go back tamarrah to hoont some more!”

“We are?” Chance asked.

“Uf carse we are. Ya feelin’ well enough to cahm with us?” Malcolm asked Jeremy

“I guess I will go. Someone has to watch your back,” the blonde Neergaardian said.
‘Thas tha spirit!’ Malcolm said.

Kamir entered the tent spreading mud all around making it difficult to feel comfortable in the already damp and cramped tent. Malcolm took off all his clothes and slept on his folded kilt, naked as the day he was born, his feet resting near Kamir’s head. Chance and Jeremy slept close together to one side trying to stay as far away from Malcolm as possible.

Outside the rain increased and decreased in intensity like soothing waves broken only my intermittent thunder – but it never stopped.

Ralem, 8th of Ese - 564 H.E.

The sound of thunder cracking open the still dark grey sky awoke everyone to the realization that the rain still showed no sign of stopping. Jeremy and Chance awoke in cold puddles of rain that had run down the sides of their leaky tent and collected in puddles beneath their bodies. Malcolm did not seem to either mind or notice, waking with a sudden stretch and stepping outside naked as he always did, to greet the day.

Malcolm retrieved some drinking water and splashed some on the “important spots”, and then walked over to Jana’s tent to wake her to get ready for some more goblin hunting.

“Jana! Weck up! Time ta go a hoontin’ again!” he cried at the entrance to her tent.
The young girl looked outside to find the bare barbarian standing in the rain. She looked him up and down, taking in his hairy and stocky form, not shying away for one second – then she met his eyes unashamedly.


“There is no reason to go back. No more ears, no more reward,” the girl explained.

“Thar’s a whole lar uv em there to be explored,” Malcolm explained.

“There is no way you’re gonna convince me to go into a goblin lair. I do not have a death wish,” Jana said.

“But the goblins be a dahnga ta eva’one en this aria. We ave ta do something,” Malcolm tried, changing tactics.

“I don’t see that at all. *We* had to go find *them*,” Jana said. “I am not going. There is no reason for us to risk our lives and definitely no reason for me to risk MY life.”

Malcolm gave up and walked (still naked) across the muddy space between their tents to awaken Kazack. The dwarf was already up and getting his things ready.

“Jana dun wanna come,” Malcolm told him.

Kazrack shook his head, more at Malcolm nudity than his news. “Go get dressed, I’ll convince her,” he said.

The dwarf walked over to the human girl’s tent.

“Jana, Malcolm said you do not want to accompany us to hunt more goblins,” he told her.

“Yep,” she said shortly.

“But the goblins are a danger to the town and the people here,” the dwarf said.

“Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t - Still no reason to risk my life going into a goblin lair.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, there is no way you can convince me,” she came out of her tent to get ready for breakfast. “And if you ask me you guys shouldn’t go either.”

By this time Chance and Jeremy had exited their tent, and Malcolm followed draping his kilt over his hairy body. By this time the rain was just an annoying and obscuring mist that made one blink a lot.

“Jana isn’t goin?” Jeremy asked.

“No, I’m not,” she said.

“Well, if she’s nut goin’, Ahm nut goin’” Chance said matter-of-factly.

“Why?” asked Jeremy.
“`Cause I’d only be going to protect ar, and if she’s not goin’ I have ta stay here to watch over `er.”
Jana smirked.

“What do we need for her to come for anyway? She’s just a girl. What can she do?” Jeremy said.

“She’s a wizard,” Kazrack replied.

“I am?” Jana said.

“She is?’ Malcolm and Jeremy both said at once with great surprise.

“I am not a wizard,” Jana insisted.

“Of carse ya nat. Wizards use foul spells ta make people do things they dun wanna and summon up demons ann’ such. Ya not be doin’ that eh girl?” Malcolm said.

“I am not a wizard. I don’t know where he got this idea,” she pointed at Kazack.

“Of course she isn’t a wizard. Women cahnt be wizards, they can only be whi. .. “ Chance swallowed his last words, but looked sharply at Jana.

She returned his gaze without wavering.

“What did ya say?” Malcolm asked his countryman.

“Nuthin’,” Chance replied.

“Well, then if she is not a wizard, she shouldn’t come. She’ll just be in danger and get in the way,” Jeremy concluded.

“That is fine, because I am not going. I am not so greedy and blood-thirsty to risk my life for what? The chance that they might have some treasure in their lair?”

“We’re naht goin’ en the lar!” Malcolm said vehemently.

“We’re not?” Jeremy said.

“Of carse not!” Malcolm elbowed Jeremy. “We ahve no intention av doin’ so. We’re jast gun look `round anhn see if there be mar scarin’ up trouble.”

“I’m still not going,” Jana said stubbornly. “And I’ll say again, I don’t think you should go.”
“We have to go,” Kazrack said. “What about the armor the goblins had? They are being supplied by someone or something. We need to investigate it for the good of this town.”

“How does the good of this town concern me?” and with that she slipped annoyed, back into her tent.

“Well, I’d love ta go with ya, but if she’s nut goin’, I cahnt go,” Chance said.

“Whatever, Chance, we don’t care if you come,” Kazrack said.

“Okay, okay. . . I’ll try en cahnvince `er,” Chance slipped into Jana’s tent.

Inside, Jana was getting her issued bow and spoon together, since the breakfast bell would be rung soon.
“Listen, I jast wanneda tell ya thaht I thank it’s a good idea that yer nut goin’ huntin’ gahblins,”
Chance told her softly. ‘They’re crazy ta wanna go, tittle be dahngerous.”

“Yes, Chance I know,” Jana said, exasperated.

“Well, then…” Chance spoke more loudly now to be heard outside of the tent. “If that’s yer final answer I understand.”

He came back outside.

“Nope, I cahnnut cahnvince `er,” he said.

“Fine,” Kazrack said. “Let’s go find Beorth.”

The three of them walked towards town.

“Ahn we ned ta buy a lahntern,” Malcolm said.

“For what?” asked Jeremy

“For when we go inta tha lar, of carse.”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes:

(33) Remembrance Day is a holiday in honor of Anhur (God of Honor & Battle). This day is spent mourning over fallen heroes and soldiers and honoring the memory of worthy opponents. This is also an official political holiday of the Kingdom of Neergaard.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #4 (part II)

Malcolm, Jeremy and Kazrack found Beorth at the temple of Anhur. They walked through the open courtyard of clay (34) and passed the statue of the great bald and spear-toting god. They knocked on the door. The priest there, Greglon, showed them into a finely appointed wood-paneled parlor, where Beorth was enjoying a breakfast of fluffy biscuits with jam, eggs with sausage and tea.
“I see you’ve had a better breakfast than we have,” Jeremy said, stomach rumbling.

“I’m sorry. Greglon and I were talking way into the night, exchanging stories about brave warriors who honorable fought their way into Anubis’ Realm and finally it just made sense for me to stay the night here.”

“We came to get you because we are going after the goblins again,’ Kazrack said.

‘We are?” Beorth was puzzled. “Why?”

“They are a danger to the town, and it is our duty to do something about it,” Kazrack continued.

“Well, shouldn’t the authorities be alerted?” the paladin asked getting up.

“They ahve ben but tha lousy bastards wunt do nuthin’ `bout it yet,” Malcolm interjected.

“I’m not sure this is the best course of action, but if you are going then I’m afraid I must go too to ensure that bodies are defiled.” Beorth shot a glance at Malcolm. “And to help ensure that you do not go to meet my master too quickly.”

Beorth began to gather his things. “Will Jana be joining us?”

“She doesn’t want to come for some reason,” Kazrack said.

“Who cares? She’s a girl. But since she’s not coming Chance isn’t coming,” Jeremy said.

“Well, Chance…” Beorth sighed as if to say, `what difference does that make?’

He continued, “but perhaps I can convince her to come with us when we stop at camp. Her healing skills might come in necessary if the tide of battle turns against us. Speaking of which…”

Beorth looked at both Kazrack and Malcolm. Seeing that Malcolm was still slightly wounded from the previous day’s engagement. He said, “Malcolm, bow your head.”

The skald obliged him, and Beorth placed his hands upon his head.

“Anubis, please strengthen this man’s corporeal form so that he may not come to meet you before his appointed time.”

Malcolm felt the sudden discomfort of some of his wounds healing quickly, and stretched to get out the sudden kinks in his muscles. “Thahnk Anubis,” he said with a smirk.

The four of them headed back to camp, stopping only to buy a lantern, which Kazrack added to the collection of things he would keep on his overfilled pack.

----

Meanwhile, Jana was waiting on line to get her hard biscuits and watery gravy that was being served for breakfast at the camp, when she overheard two of Crumb’s boys talking ahead of her.

“I’m telling you Finn, they left very early this morning, before dawn,” the one closer to Jana said.

“Hunting goblins?” the one named Finn asked, he had black hair and that permanent tan of a sailor.

“Are they stupid or something? They’ll get themselves killed!”

“Well, they heard some other guys did it. You know, Malcolm and those guys? And they thought, they could do it too.”

“I hope for their sake they don’t run into any goblins. This is bad,” and they got their gravy and biscuits.

Jana wondered who else would be stupid enough to go after goblins as well, as she walked back to her tent in the misty rain, her plate sopping with biscuits drowned in gravy. Instinctively, she looked around to see if anyone she recognized was missing. At that moment, Chance came running up to her, gravy stained his chin.

“Jah-na! Jah-na! Did ya here? It is all over tha cahmp. Sohme of the others went out to hunt tha goblins!”

“I know, I heard,” Jana said.

“What are we gonna do? They could be in dahnger,” Chance said betraying his obvious anxiety.

“Well, the others have already left, so maybe they’ll catch up to them and send them back,” Jana reasoned.

“Ah hope so, but they said they left very early,” Chance said. “Maybe we should go ahfter them to warn them.”

“I think the smartest thing is to just wait. It is best that we don’t wander around by ourselves.”

“Ah hope yer right.”

---

The others returned with Beorth and collected their stuff. Beorth sought out the young girl from Westron. And he was having little luck convincing her to come along as well.

“Honestly, Beorth I am surprised you are going with them. It only encourages them,” Jana said, not caring that the others were there to hear her.

“I must go to ensure that both justice and my god’s will are served,” Beorth replied.

“Ahnd he’s got to help the others that went ahead,” Chance interjected.

“What others?” asked Kazrack.

“In turns out some of the others decided to hunt some goblins for themselves,” Jana explained.

“Oh no, they could be in danger,” Beorth said.

“We’ll find them and send them back,” Kazrack said.

“Ya know, Jah-na, maybe we *should* go. If someone is hurt, they might need ya skills,” Chance said quietly to the girl. “We both knows those kids ud jast git slaughterd by those goblins.”

Jana sighed, and finally relented, “If and when we find them we come right back, okay?”

Most of the group agreed, though Malcolm’s agreement was muffled.

As they began to retrace their steps of the previous day, thunder exploded once again and the rain picked up strength once more.

---

The group fell into what seemed like normal marching order now. Malcolm was out in front scouting, while Jeremy walked alone between Beorth and Kazrack and Jana and Chance who were respectively paired up.

The rain kept coming down, and as Malcolm creeped ahead towards the high clearing where he should have been able to see the ocean to his left he saw nothing but a blurred grey that made no differentiation that could be called horizon.

Up ahead, he saw the lump of a tarp of some kind, figures were cowering beneath. Malcolm waved his companions forward and stepped up to the tarp.

“Who’s there?” a frightened voice called out.

“Ets Malcolm,” the skald said, and he tried to pull off the tarp, but whomever was below held on too tightly.

John and Guisel looked up meekly from beneath the tarp. Carlos was tucked in behind them. Kazrack and the others approached.

“Oh, Malcolm! Thank Ra you found us! There were goblins everywhere it was terrible,” John said.

“Yeah, we thought a couple of goblins would be no trouble. We’re are going to a dragon, aren’t we? But oh, it was worse than terrible. They came out of everywhere,” Guisel added.

“Where was this?” Kazrack asked.

“By a ravine not far from here,” Guisel said. “We thought we’d split up to find them easy and then they started shooting arrows at us!”

“Si! Si! Era horrible! Empersaron a venir de cada lado. Cucos! Cucos!” Carlos cried in his native tongue.

Malcolm tried yanking the tarp off again, and failed.

“Do you want to come back with us?” Kazrack asked

“No!” said Guisel. “There are still two of us back there though.”

“Dunkle and Doris,” said John.

“When the goblins came out they were at the bottom of the ravine and we were forced to leave without them,” Guisel explained.

“You left without them?!” Beorth said, trying to hide his disdain.

Jana smirked.

“What else could we do?” John pleaded.

Malcolm tried to pull the tarp off of them again, and yet still failed.

“Get up!” he roared. “Git back ta tha cahmp!”

The three got up with a start and started moving back towards the direction of the camp. Kazrack stopped Carlos.

“Do you want to come with us? You can fight,” the dwarf asked.

Carlos just shook his head in fear and jogged to catch up to the shelter of the tarp his friends still held.

“What a fine lot of heroes Crumb has collected himself, huh?” Kazrack said more to himself than the others. “We had best hurry. The others might be dead already.”

With that the six of them began to hustle towards the ravine, moving down the ridge, they could see the mist-shrouded rocky out-cropping that stood above the ravine and cave entrance. Kazrack called the group to stop, but Jeremy kept on going eager to find out what had happened to the others.

“Somebody stop him,” the dwarf hissed. “They could be waiting in ambush for us. We should go around the back side of the hill and try to get high ground.”

“I’ll go,” Beorth offered.

“No, let Malcolm go, he runs faster,’ Kazrack said, and with that the skald took off telling the others he’d meet them at the other side of the rocky hill.

Malcolm poured on the speed trying to trip Jeremy once and failing, and finally grabbing hold of his shoulder and spinning him around, not far from where the party had fought their battle on the previous day.

“Ya bloody git! Whadya doin’? Ya cahnt be roonnin’ off by yerself that way,” Malcolm said.
“Where is everyone else?” Jeremy asked.

“They went around tha uther way. Ya woulda nan that if ya had listened.”

“Oh, I. . . “

And with that a rain of arrows came flying through the misty air at the two companions. The rain and fog made it hard to see the exact direction they came from, but it was somewhere to the right. Jeremy dropped prone, while Malcolm ran behind a nearby tree to attempt to get cover, but it was too late they both felt the sting of arrows and already their blood was flowing, however lightly.
“Get back here, ya bloody git!” Malcolm cried to his friend.

Jeremy began to crawl on his stomach into the cover of the brush. He could feel arrows bite at his feet a he did so; more arrows thunked into the trunk of the tree Malcolm was standing beside. Not satisfied with his progress, Jeremy go up despite the rain of arrows and dove in to the brush beneath Malcolm. While they knew the general area that the arrows were coming from, the mist obscured the exact spot.

“They’re shooting arrows at us!” cried Malcolm hoping his friends would hear, but unfortunately they did not.

Kazrack and Beorth began to climb the rocky hill from the other side, with Jana and Chance behind them. This side of the barren hill was a series of small plateaus at varying heights, and mist clung all around it, obscuring vision. They had made their way halfway up when arrows began their rain on them as well.

Kazrack tried to find a way to get to where the arrows cam from, fanning to the right. Beorth, Chance and Jana continued straight on, and the gambler paid the price for this wager. In a second, Chance cried out and dropped to the ground, the bite of two arrows drawing blood. He placed his back to a plateau wall to stay out of their sight.

“Ahm gravely wounded!” he cried out.

Kazrack began to supply cover fire with his crossbow from his vantage point, while Beorth and Jana climbed up to the very top of the hill – a vantage point above the goblins that were firing at them. Unfortunately, when the stepped up there, looking to see how to get down to where the goblins were, there were two things they did not expect. The first, there was another rank of goblins behind those that were firing and they turned from where they were firing at Jeremy and Malcolm and fired point blank at the two of them, injuring them. In addition, at that moment a second volley of arrows came from another direction, somewhere across the ravine, and more blood flowed. Disabled, Jana dropped to the rocky ground.

Jeremy and Malcolm had been looking out of their cover, trying to determine where the arrows had been coming from to no avail. However, they could see Beorth standing above the mist on the highest plateau and the direction he was looking, so they had an idea of where the goblins might be. Malcolm decided to take his chance and drawing his bastard sword ran full speed towards the top of the hill. Suddenly, another rain of arrows came out of the mist from another direction, peppering him, but he did not stop until he had leapt from plateau to plateau and stood among the three original goblins - One had been dropped by a crossbow bolt from Kazrack. The goblins dropped their bows and pulled clubs.

Chance poked his head up over the edge of the plateau having heard Jana cry out and seeing her on the ground, climbed up and shielded her body with his.

“Dun move,” he said to her, but she had no intention of moving, the slightest strain would aggravate her wounds, and she would most likely bleed to death.

Kazrack leapt down to the ground level, thinking he’d find another way around and up at the goblins, but he twisted his ankle and fell to one knee. Jeremy followed Malcolm, but was also shot by arrows out of the mist. The Neergaardian drew his longsword and short sword and arrived beside his companion and now, he and the skald and the Ghosthunter of Anubis surrounded the three goblins. However, Kazrack could now see four more goblins with bows emerging from the brush near where Jeremy and Malcolm had been hiding. Steping into the brush on his own right, he leaned his halberd against a tree, feel to one knee and began to fire his crossbow at them. They fired as well, but the arrows got caught up in the brush, and failed to hit him. Kazrack’s aim was true and one of the goblins dropped with a single shot.

Atop the rocky hill, the three companions were having a hard time with the three goblins. Jeremy and Beorth were both trying fancy double blows from their weapons and failing to make contact. One of the goblins dealt a heavy blow to Malcolm’s brow, drawing blood.
Jana pushed Chance off of her and rolled over to the edge of the plateau to see what was happening in the battle. She mumbled her arcane words, but none of the goblins seemed to take notice.

Finally, the three warriors were able to fell the three goblins. Beorth immediately charged down the hill, leaping and bounding to support Kazrack, thinking that the danger was over at the top of the hill.

But the follower of the Jackal god was wrong, for in that same moment Chance began a stuttered cry…

“Tharce mar coming!”

Jana turned to look and four more goblins armed with bows were hustling up the south side of the hill. These must have been the source of the second flight of arrows.

Malcolm climbed up to where Jana and Chance were, but Chance in fear for his life dropped down, getting in the way of Jeremy who was trying to find a way up. Before they knew it, the goblins were upon Malcolm and Jana. Jana had had her club at the ready and smacked one hard, knocking it down, but it got up rather quickly returning the blow. Malcolm fought fiercely, swinging his bastard sword wildy, but not to much effect. Jeremy finally began to climb up to them, when a goblin struck a lucky blow against Malcolm’s jaw, sending him reeling backward. The back of the barbarian’s head slammed against the stone with a crunch, and blood erupted from his brow wound. He lay still, and the goblin that dealt the blow stepped over him towards Jeremy who came up to the plateau.
Meanwhile, Kazrack had rushed out his hiding place in the brush to charge a goblin with is halberd, shoving the broad blade deep into the creature and flinging up and over his head like a rag doll. Now he and Beorth were fighting side by side against the two remaining goblins that were down there with them.

Jana and Jeremy continued to fight two goblins, one of the other two waited to move into the action, but the fourth still had his bow out and as Beorth dropped the last goblin before him and Kazrack he felt the bite of a goblin arrow in his back. Reaching pathetically for the arrow in his back he slowly turned and dropped, disabled, to the ground.

“No!” cried Kazrack, and pulling his crossbow began to fire bolts up at the goblin.

Jeremy sliced deeply across one goblin’s belly with his long sword and another stepped up, striking a firm blow to the warrior’s hip. Keeping his balance Jeremy swung again, but the blow was parried.

Jana crushed the skull of her opponent and moved to tend to to Malcolm’s wounds. All this time Chance was trying to climb back up to offer help once he heard Malcolm fall, but the slippery stone and constant rain conspired against his efforts.

One of Kazrack’s bolts found its target and another goblin dropped. The remaining goblin turned and ran, but passing Jana she quickly swung out her club, crushing its knee cap and knocking it face first into the stone, where it lay motionless.

“Quick, do something. Help Macolm!” Jeremy cried. He kneeled on the other side of his friend and tried to help the young healer, but his lack of knowledge was obvious.

“Stop!” Jana said to him. “If I need your help I’ll ask for it.”

The blood kept on pouring out, blue, black and red. The skald’s eye was scarred, his breath a thin wisp of steam in the cold air.

Kazrack knelt beside Beorth. “Are you okay?”

“I’ll be okay. I just need some help to move,” the paladin said, trying to get up.

“Just sit still,” the dwarf said.

“Chance,” Kazrack cried up. “Come help me with Beorth!”

Chance obey and came down the hill towards the dwarf.

Jana’s attempts became more frantic. She pressed an absorbent herbal leaf on the wound. Smeared it with a poultice made of berries meant to help coagulation. But more blood began to pour from the skald’s nose, and then he coughed a bubbled of bright red blood. Malcolm’s face looked like one enormous bruise.

And with one last raspy breath, he stopped breathing all together.

Jana and Jeremy just stopped and looked down at their former friend. Kazrack and Chance walked up, carrying Beorth between them.

“How is Malcolm?” Kazrack asked.

There was a long silent pause, the constant rain was the only sound as it fell into Malcolm’s still open and now lifeless eyes.

“He’s dead,” Jana said quietly.

“Whut? No…” Chance said quietly, and helping Beorth to sit, he sat down as well and buried his face in hands no.

“Are you sure?” Kazrack asked. “Isn’t there anything you can do?”

“I have done all I can. The bleeding was mostly internal. There is little to be done about such things.”

Suddenly, Jeremy leapt up from where he sat.

“He can’t be dead! He can’t be dead! I was supposed to watch his back. Do something!” he grabbed Malcolm’s corpse and shook it. Tears flowing down his now ruddy cheeks, his blonde hair plastered to his forehead by the rain..
“Jeremy, stop. It’s over,” Jana said, placing her hand on his arm.

Jeremy roared in frustration, and standing grabbed one of the goblin corpses and made to toss it off the side of the hill in anger. Of course, Beorth moved to stop him, running to tackle him, but the sudden action aggravated his wounds, and he wrapped his arms around him only to collapse. Blood billowed from the wound in his back, and Jeremy paused to look down at the crumpled form However, even as Jana ran over to bind Beorth’s wounds before he bled to death, Jeremy tossed the body over the side and pulling his sword, sunk it repeatedly and violently into all the bodies of the goblins that were about. After a moment or two of this he collapsed as well, dropping his sword and burying his face in one hand.

Kazrcak decided that he would gather the goblin bodies in order to burn them, so that Beorth would not see the desecration of the bodies if he were to awaken. After making a pile not far from where Jana tended to Beorth, the dwarf walked down towards the ravine floor to retrieve the body Jeremy had tossed. He was surprised to find a human corpse beside the altar stone the goblins had used in the previous day’s rite of passage. He recognized it as one of Crumb’s boys, perforated by many arrows and he shook his head.

“Hello?” he heard a voice call out from the entrance to the cave where they had fought the goblin warlock. The dwarf hefted his halberd and walked closer to investigate.

“Someone there?” the dwarf called.

“Kazrack?” said an unfamiliar voice, and another of Crumb’s boys emerged from the cave mouth’s darkness. Kazrack recognized the boy’s face, but knew not his name.

“Are there any more goblins out there?” the boy asked.

“They are all gone for now. My companions and I killed them. What are you doing?” Kazrack asked.

“I was hiding from the goblins. They came out of nowhere…everywhere and this seemed like shelter so I came in here. Have you seen Dunkle? The last I knew he was crouched behind that square black stone.”

“He is dead,” Kazrack said simply.

The boy cringed backward toward the cave mouth. “What? No! Oh, no! Not Dunkle! No,” was all he could say.

“Where are you going?” Kazrack asked.

“I’ve gotta hide. There could be more goblins around. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die!” the boy became hysterical and sobbed, crouching back to the cave.

Kazrack stepped forward and grabbing him, shook him. “Listen. What’s your name?” he demanded.

“Doris.”

“Listen Doris, pull yourself together. This is no time for this. We have to get out of here. We have lost a friend as well.”

“Who?”

“Malcolm.”

“Oh sweet Ra! Malcolm’s dead, too?” Doris sobbed.

“Come help me with your friend’s body. We need to get him out of here.”

“Leave the body. Let’s go. Let’s hurry up. I don’t want to die too.”

“No. Come help me,” the dwarf said.

In time, a stretcher was fashioned for Beorth to be carried back to camp without further harming him. Malcolm’s body was stripped, and Jeremy hefted his friend’s body over one shoulder. Chance grabbed the skald’s bastard sword. Chance helped Kazrack with the stretcher, and Jana and Doris carried Dunkle’s body between them.

The walk back was long and hard, and the companions had to rest often in the rain that never seemed to rest. Eventually, the made it back.

Among the first people they saw was Boris E. Crumb who happened to be returning to camp at the same time.

“What is going on?” the fat man asked in his basso voice.

“Goblins,” said Kazrack. “Beorth is injured and Malcolm and Dunkle are dead.”

“Whut?” Crumb sighed “Whut in Set’s Realm were people doing wandering around after goblins for?”
“I don’t know. We went after them, but were too late to save Dunkle.”

“After ya went off to hunt some goblins yourself I’m sure. I know how it is. Well, this can’t be tolerate,” Crumb grunted, angrily. ‘Well take care of your injured friend and do something about the bodies. I’m gonna have to hold a meeting about this tomorrow. I can’t be letting my investments get killed on wild goose chases.”

He was already turning and walking away and mumbling as he finished. “Deet! Deet! Where are ya?”
Dunkle’s body was left at the camp, but Malcolm’s corpse and Beorth were brought into town to the temple of Anhur. There, Greglon of Anhur, showed them a room where Beorth could be laid in a bunk, and another where Malcolm’s body could be placed (after asking several questions about whether Malcolm had died as a brave warrior). The militant of Anhur then went into the room with Beorth, asking the others to wait outside. In a few minutes he returned.

“Beorth has been healed, but he needs his rest. He asked to speak with you, but keep in mind what I told. I will give you a few minutes alone, but then I will ask you to leave,” Greglon said.

“Of course,” Kazrack agreed.

In the room Beorth tried to sit up, but failing merely turned his head and said weakly, “Malcolm is dead? I’m not sure of the last thing I remember.”

“Yes, he is dead. His body is here in the temple to be taken care of,” Kazrack said.

“We must burn him in pyre as is the custom of his people,” Beorth said.

“Yes, that is what he would have wanted. Shall we try to arrange to send his stuff back to his kin?” the dwarf asked.

“I don’t think that it would matter even if we could,” Jeremy said. “He was exiled.”

“Then we will put his things to the fire as well,’ Beorth said.

“Except his bastard sword. I’m keeping that,” Chance said.

And it was agreed. Chance, Jana and Beorth returned to camp, but Jeremy asked for and received permission to stay at the temple with Beorth, not wanting to be far from the body of his companion who he had loved.

At the camp, Kazrack found Kamir digging Dunkle's grave all by himself - the rain making the sides of the hole erode, even as he shoveled out the dirt. So, he helped.

End of Session #4

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Notes:

(34) Temple of Anhur have open clay courtyards for daily martial practice and sparring.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #5

Isilem, the 9th of Ese – 564 H.E.

Shu (37) did not seem to care that this was the day of a funeral, for he continued to send his rains down upon Aquerra mercilessly. Kazrack awoke and sighed, the memory of Malcolm’s death re-entering his mind with his day’s first breath. He got up and getting dressed walked into town to find Beorth and see what help was needed with the funeral preparations. The camp was quiet.

At the Temple of Anhur, Beorth awoke to find Jeremy still sleeping, rolled into a ball in a bunk across the wood paneled room. He got down on his knees to pray, and then wrote of a list of things he needed for the funeral. As he was doing this, Kazrack arrived, shown in by Greglon of Anhur.

“We need to build a pyre for Malcolm,” Beorth told his dwarven companion.

“I will help in anyway I can,” Kazrack said.

Jeremy awoke and sat up stretching.

“Good morning, Jeremy,” said Kazrack.

“Oh, it is a beautiful day,” Jeremy said through a yawn.

“It is still raining. The skies still cry for our fallen friend,” Beorth said.

“No, it is a beautiful day. The sun feels warm,” Jeremy insisted.

Kazrack looked at Beorth with a puzzled look and then back at the blonde Neergaardian.

“I’m hungry,” Jeremy said, patting his stomach. “Malcolm is hungry too. I have to get him some food.”

“What do you mean, Malcolm’s hungry? Is that some kind of expression?” Kazrack turned to Beorth.

“Is that some kind of expression?”

The paladin shrugged his shoulders.

“He’s hungry. I’m his friend, and I should get him something to eat. I’m gonna get him some him some haggis.”

“Um. . . Jeremy? I’m sorry to tell you this, but don’t you remember? Malcolm passed on yesterday,” Kazrack said gently.

Jeremy stood. “Is there food here? I have to go the inn to get him some food. He’s really hungry.”

“Oh, no. He’s gone crazy. He’s gonna try to eat rocks or something,” Kazrack said to Beorth.

“Different people react to death differently. Often such a shock passes. Let’s hope that is that case with our companion. You watch him and make sure he doesn’t hurt himself. I have to prepare the body.”

“Yes, I’ll make sure he doesn’t eat rocks or anything,” Kazrack said, following Jeremy out.

Outside, Jeremy walked in his shirt-sleeves in the cool rain, seeming to be oblivious to it.

“It is a beautiful day. I hope they have something Malcolm likes at the inn. I don’t want him to be disappointed.”

“Is this some kind of custom of his people? Do you bury him with his favorite food for the trip to the afterlife or something?” Kazrack asked, nervously looking for any explanation of Jeremy’s behavior.

Jeremy stopped and looked at Kazrack, “Malcolm’s hungry. He wants to eat. I’m getting him food.”

He continued to walk.
H
“Malcolm told you this?”

“Of course. Stop being stupid.”

Jeremy wandered in the rain for some more time, followed closely by Kazrack, and eventually made his way back to the temple, where he climbed back into his cot soaking wet and closing his eyes fell back to sleep.

Beorth emerged from preparing the corpse; dressing it properly, wrapping it in a death shroud and such and explained to Kazrack what the pyre should be like – One pile of wood for each compass direction and one large one in the center to rest Malcolm’s body upon.

Kazrack went back to the camp, and found Kamir explained to him what needed to be done, and the eager young lade began to gather wood from under the tarps where it was kept dry. Chance volunteered to help as well, and Jana went to the temple to watch over Jeremy and keep him out of trouble when he woke up. The rain let up slightly, allowing Kazrack and friends to set up the pyre without fear that the wood would get too wet.
When they were done, Kazrack and Chance went back to the Temple of Anhur. They found Beorth and Jana eating biscuits and jam and drinking tea, waiting for them.

Jeremy woke up, “Morning, still raining, huh?”

“Is Malcolm still hungry?” Kazrack asked Jeremy hesitantly.

“That’s not funny,” Jeremy said in a voice of anger.

“Huh?” Kazrack was dumb-founded. “Don’t your remember getting up before? Walking around to get Malcolm something to eat?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Jeremy insisted.

“You must have been walking in your sleep,” Beorth said.

“I don’t do that.”

“Well, anyway, it is time for the funeral,” Beorth said, and with that they placed Malcolm’s body in a wheelbarrow and rolled it over to the camp where the burning and funeral would take place.

All of Crumb’s boys gathered around the pyre, which was right beside the grave where Dunkle’s body lay at the bottom. Deet and Crumb stood to the side and behind the crowd a bit, as did Devon, Markle and their companion (on the opposite side).

-----------

Beorth whispered a short prayer over the powdered incense that he held in his hand and moving from the south (at Malcolm’s head) to the north and then from the east to the west, he placed a small pile of incense in each of the four directions. Silently he lit each pile and within moments the camp filled with the thick scent of incense.

Beorth stepped to the head of the pyre and extended his hands in supplication to the Gods.

“Anubis, I am no priest but I stand before You as Your servant and ask You to grant me this favor. Today I am sending you the soul of Malcolm Mac Duligh. I beg You to greet his soul when it arrives and to allow him entry into Your realm. Watch over him while his soul experiences Duat and until the time comes when Your Father calls upon his heart to be weighed and his soul is judged.”

Beorth plucked the torch he used to light the incense from the ground where he had ensconced it and placed it into the wood piled near Malcolm’s head. The flames fought the droplets of water falling from the sky, but eventually the fire began to grow.

Moving clockwise around the pyre, Beorth came to stand at its northern point. His voice rose over the crackle of the growing flames.

“Father Osiris, Judge of the Dead, today the soul of Malcolm Mac Duligh will arrive at the gates of Anubis’ realm. In Life, he fought honorably and bravely in the name of Good. When the times comes to weigh his heart, I pray that You will find it as light as a feather and the You will speed his soul onward to whatever is planned for it.”

Beorth plunged the torch into the pyre at Malcolm’s feet and watched as the flames spread around Malcolm’s ankles. He tread the distance to the eastern point of the pyre in silence. After glancing into the sky where Shu’s tears still obscured Ra’s Glory, Beorth addressed his words to the King of the Gods.
“All powerful Grandfather Ra, God of the Sun, an honorable and just warrior has fallen in battle and his soul now travels to Anubis’ realm. I ask that You make room in Your celestial barge for Malcolm’s soul and transport him safely to my Father who will be waiting. His soul merits your attention and deserves this honor.”

After igniting the pyre along the eastern side, Beorth came to rest at the West.

“O Great God Ptah, Creator of All, the soul of Malcolm Mac Duligh has left this world and has begun its journey to Anubis. I ask You to protect Malcolm’s soul on this journey and bring him safely into the care of Anubis."

"When we left on our journey many weeks ago, we prayed for Your assistance and I pray now that You will continue to watch over us so that we, like Malcolm, may safely reach the end of our path."
Beorth knelt and lit the wood in front of him. As he walked to stand again near Malcolm’s head, he felt the heat from the fire grow and through the smoke, he could see the flames consume Malcolm’s body.

“Father, today You will receive another soul into Your care. Welcome him and keep him safe.”
In a whisper few could hear, Beorth added, “Peace be with you, Malcolm. In Death, as it never was in Life.”

And with that Beorth cast the torch into the center of the pyre and watched to ensure that Anubis’ will was done.

-----------

All bowed their heads as the flames licked upward towards the grey sky, which still squeezed out some last drops of moisture. Chance and others began to cover Dunkle in his grave. Beorth walked over and said some words over Dunkle as well.

As the pyre burned down and Crumb’s boys (and Crumb himself) began to wander over towards the mess tent, the companions noticed that standing back a respectful distance from the funeral were a group of armed and armored men. There were a dozen in studded leather, with helmets, holding spears and having short swords and maces at their belts; a handful had crossbows. Standing a little before them Kazrack recognized the Captain of the Guard. The dwarf also noticed standing beyond this group were three men. Two held halberds and maroon tabards, and the flanked the third who wore a chain shirt, and seemed middle-aged had a bushy mustache and bright friendly grey eyes.
Kazrack walked over to the Captain of the Guard.

“Captain.”

“Kazrack, right?” the man asked. “I wanted to say that I was sorry for the loss of your companion, and to tell you that the Lord decided to investigate these goblins himself. He wants to talk to you and your companions before we leave.”

“Of course,” Kazrack said respectfully, and gathered his companions. The Captain brought them over to the man flanked by the two others with halberds.

“My Lord, this is Kazrack and his companions that I told you about,” the captain looked at the young adventurers. “This is Cutter Jack, Lord of Cutter Jack’s.”

They nodded their heads.

The lord spoke in a pronouncedly “unlordly” way, “I just wanted to give my condolences for the loss of your companion and to thank you for your help with the goblin problem and bringing it to our attention. I am convinced that goblins alone could not create such fine armor, so we are going to investigate this. However, before I do I wanted to reward you for your efforts.”

The lord gestured to one of his men, who pulled a fat pouch of coins and handed it to Kazrack who passed it to Beorth.

“I know no amount will repay the loss of your friend, but I hope this does give you some small comfort,” He looked up. “It looks as if the rain was only taking a respite. We need to be going on our way. If your journeys ever bring you back to Cutter Jack’s you must come by the house for dinner. Okay?”

“Um, okay… Thank you,” the friends all mumbled and with that the Lord stepped of accompanied by his men.

“Pleasant chap,” Chance said.

“I think we should donate this money in Malcolm’s name, in his honor,” Beorth said.

“Sounds like a good idea,’ Kazrack said.

“I think we should count it first,” Jana said.

“It doesn’t matter,” Jeremy said, sullenly.

“Aye, we should count it, for certain. No need to be givin’ away too much now,” Chance added.

“Exactly,” said Jana.

“It matters not. Malcolm paid his life for this money. We should do something worthwhile with it,” Beorth insisted.

“Ah think we should use it ta buy the best bottle of booze we can find and get smashed,” Chance said.

“That sounds good, too,” Jeremy said with only slightly more enthusiasm.

“Is that what Malcolm would want?” Beorth asked.

“Of course,” said Chance, eyes gleaming.

“Yes,” said both Jana and Jeremy.

“I think so, too,” said Kazrack.

“Here is five silver pieces, Chance. Go buy something,” Beorth offered.

“Five pieces of silver! Loosen yer pockets, man! Malcolm was worth more than that,” Chance said.

“That is all your getting.”

“Fine, I guess I’ll ahve ta gamble it fer more.”

However, before Chance could take off. The lunch bell was rung and they were all reminded of the meeting Crumb had wanted to call ,and the friends gathered with the others, to where Crumb stood beneath a strange object that Deet held over their employer’s head. It was a parasol with an oilskin cover, that kept the now heavy (again) rain from making him too wet.

He spoke in his deep deep baritone, “As ya all know we lost two of our numbers yesterday and that is very sad, but it is also a waste. There is no need to go running off huntin’ goblins or anything similar, when you have much more important things to be done in Gothanius. I have a great deal of time and money invested in you boys and there is a such thing as `the spirit of the contract’. In Gothanius, you will be equipped and there will be some training. Why risk yourselves now when you are unprepared? As an incentive I plan to up your daily travel pay to 5 pieces of copper…”

Kamir let out a quiet cheer, and Crumb continued, “Luckily for you there are some people here who care enough to go after those who would so easily risk their lives. They wouldn’t go off by themselves to hunt goblins, but would risk themselves to return those who would. I think that if you get a chance you should thank those people for nipping this thing in the bud, before a few people inspired others to go do the same. No need to mention names – We all know who they are.”

Kazrack, Jana, and the others could sense the subtle sarcasm in Crumb’s voice. Everyone knew who they were, and everyone also knew that they were the first to go out there looking for goblins, and they were the ones who had tried to train some of them to fight.

“Regardless of this, Deet and I have secured wagons and oxen and we will be leaving tomorrow, through Bountiful to Stonebridge and north all the Tall Twin Rive from there. Because of all the supplies we need to bring, you will have to switch off riding in the wagons every day – Half of you walking, half of you riding. Except for the dwarf, he will get to ride all the time as to not slow us down. I will be driving the first wagon with Kinney and Deet will be in the rear one with Horung. (38) So get your rest, and we’ll be off in the morning!”

The group dispersed, and Chance ran into town returning with a hand keg and a few bottle of wine and a bottle of Dwarven Spirits.

Jana, Chance, Kazrack and Jeremy sat in the dwarf’s tent and drank away the night, toasting to Malcolm and laughing a lot. Beorth was no where to be found, preferring quiet contemplation to revelry.

When the inebriation had really set in, Chance stood up and sang his “Son of Whore” song:
Ain’t nothing as lucky as a son of whore/ Ain’t nothing as lucky as a son of whore / Ain’t nothing as lucky as a son of whore / Ya get some good luck and then ya get a bit more! / Ain’t nothing as lucky as a son of whore / Ain’t nothing as lucky as a son of whore

“Ya know me mum whas a hooer. Thas right,” Chance said in his drunken slur. “Me Da’ said she’d do anythin’ for a cahpper; for that promise of a cahpper even.”

‘Did you like your mother?” Jana asked.

“Ah nevah metah,” Chance replied. “Ah’d come back ta Verdun to see `er, but I found she had died. Me Da’ brought me up in Wallbrook. He said, thar’s lots of suckers. . . I mean, money to be won I Wallbrook.”

Everyone laughed. “Hold on. I got something fer ya, Jeremy.”

Chance ran back to his tent and returned with a sword wrapped in a cloth, “It’s Malcolm’s bahstard sword. I figured ya’d wan it.”

Jeremy was silent for a moment and then finally spoke, “I don’t know. He always told me a should use a bigger sword, but it really isn’t my style. I guess, I’ll take it, but I doubt I’ll use it.”

“You know there is a custom among my people, where we re-forge an item that belongs to a loved one that has passed away so that can use it in their memory,” Kazrack noted. “If we get to a forge I can use, I could do that with the sword.”

“That sounds nice; maybe some rings we could all wear,” Jeremy smiled.

“I’ll carry it for now,” Chance said.

“Well, we know you won’t use it,’ Kazrack said.

“Now, what da hell is that supposed ta mean?!” Chance said, with the sudden anger of a drunk.

“I just meant that you aren’t exactly the bravest person around,” the dwarf said, a bit of ale and spirits loosening his tongue as well.

“How da hell wouldja know? Ya busy runin’ around killin gooblins with ya big pole-axe or whateva’ da hell it is. I do my part. Ya know, a real hero doesn’t haveta explain himself, but lucky fa me, I’m nutta real hero! I sheltered Jana with me own body when I gravely wounded, an’ there were arrahs flyin’ all about.”

‘That’s true he did,” Jana concurred.

“An’ when the goblin warlock tried ta get away, who blocked his path? I did!”

“Chance has his uses,’ Jana said.

“Ya damn, right!” Chance said, standing.

“I’m sorry, Chance. I guess I misjudged you,” Kazrack admitted.

“Ya damn, right ya misjudged me, and I’ll tell ya another thing…” And with that he passed out.

Kazrack let him sleep there. Jana returned to her tent, and Jeremy stumbled back to his as well. Beorth returned from whatever he had been doing and went to sleep as well.

Tomorrow they would all be deeper into the inland of Derome-Delem.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes:

(37) Shu is the god of Birds & Sky of Ra’s Pantheon – twin to Tefnut (Goddess of Oceans). He is one of the five elemental gods of the pantheon.

(38) Kinney and Horung are the assistants Crumb hired to help him and Deet manage the trip overland to the Kingdom of Gothanius.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Osilem, 10th of Ese – 564 H.E.

It was morning again, and still no sign of the rain stopping for good. The field was a muddy mess, and Crumb’s boys (and one girl) took down their tents with little enthusiasm. Even Kamir seemed sluggish in his frantic running about to help every pack up their tent to be the easiest shape for stowing and/or carrying.

Everyone got into the assigned wagons, Kazrak and his friends were in the rear one, along with the older quiet man, who seemed to re-materialize when it was time to leave. He spoke no word, but simply sat near the edge of the covered wagon. Devon, Markle and their friend were among those who would walk the first day. Kamir, of course walked as well.

Kazrack took note as he helped to load one wagon with supplies that these wagons were in particularly bad shape. They groaned and creaked as the supplies were put on and as the boys climbed on, and when the oxen were finally whipped and pulled with their great strength, it seemed only with great hesitation that the wagons moved from their muddy spots on the field.

The two wagons crawled through the misty rain, breaching the comfort of the nearby roads wagon ruts, because of the great softening of the earth. They traveled through woods most of the day, but before lunch the rear wagon’s wheels sunk into a deep patch of mud and even oxen strength was not enough to pull it out. Those who walked were told push, and Devon put his all into it. His head hanging into the wagon as he and the others pushed.

“Get the hell off the wagon and help push,” Devon said, the others who were pushing concurred.

“Come on, Devon,” Kazrack taunted. “Push! What’s a matter, are you as soft as a girl? Can’t push a little wagon?”

The dwarf and the others hopped off to help.

“Listen, Stumpy, shut the hell up and push, before I push your teeth through your head with my fist,” Devon said.

“Tough words from someone whining for help,” Kazrack said, getting his shoulder into it.

The wagon rocked three times and was free. Those riding in the back climbed back in, covered in mud; of course, Kazrack also rode.

“Your welcome for the help,” Kazrack said, sitting with his legs dangling from the back of the wagon. Devon. “If you are too weak to do anything else, let me know if I can help.

“Your are pretty witty,” Devon said. “Perhaps, if you weren’t so busy being witty and could actually fight Malcolm would still be here to hear you be witty now.

Kazrack opened and then closed his mouth, having nothing to say. He was quiet for the rest of the
day.

After stopping for lunch and to water the oxen, evening fell as Crumb’s Boys emerged at the foot of some hills. The encroaching darkness became too much to risk traveling in. Fires were built despite the rain and camp was made in the grassy place between the rockier hills and the forest.

Tholem, 11th of Ese – 564 H.E.

Another day and still more rain, now rumbling in and out of a roar with polyrhythmic anger and joy. A cold wind smelling of the frost of the obscured mountains to the north and west, shook the canvas covers of the wagons, and helped drops of water find their way through small tears in the covering, to leak annoyingly on those trying to remain dry inside. Now they journeyed along a mud track flanked by grassy foothills on right, and gradual decline to a rolling plain to the left. The going was even slower now. The road was a soup of mud and loose stones. The front wagon become stuck and had to be pushed free twice before lunch, and as evening come close for a second slow and miserable day on the road, the rear wagon again would not move.

Again everyone helped to push the trapped wagon (except Crumb and Deet who stood watching, one covering the other with the gnomish horizontal rainshield). They pushed the wagon and rocked it, and Kinney whipped the oxen as Horung pulled on their horns and chastised them, but to no avail. They all gave it one final heave, and there was a loud cracking sound as the whole top of the wagon came free of the chassis and the covering toppled over, sending crates to scatter in the mud.

Crumb’s boy’s gathered the boxes, as Horung calmed the startled oxen. Crumb and Deet began to talk quietly together, both obviously upset by the occurrence. Kazrack was already thinking of how to put all the supplies in the first wagon and have everyone walk, when Kinney shouted there was a huge crack in one of the front wagon’s wheels and that it would not be going much further either.

Crumb called everyone off of the first wagon and then he and Deet went in there and talked for a long while. The rain was cold and unceasing, and trickled down the hillside in torrents that made huge puddles in the road.

After a time Crumb called for Beorth and Kazrack to join them in the wagon. The dwarf and the paladin found the expedition’s leader hunched over a map that was spread out on the top of crate.

Crumb addressed them in his deep voice, fingering his damp mustache.

“As you know we’re not going to be getting very far without the services of a wainwright,” Crumb said. “Fortunately, there is a mining town less than half a day’s travel north of here called Tallow’s Post.”

He paused.

“As you have proven your willingness to be helpful to the group and your trustworthiness to not just wander off we’re sending you to find a wainwright there to return with you and do the needed repairs.”

Deet handed Kazrack a pouch of coins. “Here are 35 pieces of silver. This should sufficient to pay the wainwright. You only need to go over the ridge to our right and keep the cliffs you will eventually see the village to your left; according to the map. The place is only recently established, so I don’t know too much about it. We are lucky it is on the map at all.”

“Can we bring anyone else?” Kazrack asked.

“Yes, bring your friends along. There is safety in numbers,” Crumb said. “We will wait 3 or 4 days for you and then we’ll have to figure out some other plan.”

Kazrack and Beorth agreed and gathered Jeremy, Jana and Chance.

“Do you want to come?” Kazrack asked.

“Anything is better than staying stuck here,” Jana said.

“Well, if she goes then I go,” Chance said.

“Whatever,” said Jeremy.

The five companions gathered their soaked packs and clambered over the ridge and headed north, gradually rising in elevation towards the mining town.

---------------------

The rain was lightening into just a constantly circulating mist, only obscuring vision, ceasing to cut down to the bone. The surrounding landscape was shrouded, and only the looming shadows of cliff faces to either side and distantly ahead could be made out.

The five companions marched upon the tall yellowed grass that was bowing low with the weight of water, and through the mist – However, they all halted when they saw the silhouette of a large hulking figure. It seemed to stoop and swing its arms back and forth in the mist and shift from foot to foot, waiting in the mist.

Kazrack and Jeremy pulled out their crossbow and readied a quarrel. Chance and Jana hung back, and Beorth held his quarterstaff at the ready.

“We’ll cover you, while you go ahead and see what it is,” Kazrack said to Beorth.

“Alone?” the paladin asked, wearily.

“You do not have a ranged weapon,” Kazrack said. “Don’t worry, we got you covered.”

“I am not worried,” Beorth said, with a hint of annoyance and crept forward towards the figure in the mist coming around it from the right.

It seemed to lurch forward in his direction, and he paused, and then took three quick steps forward, just as the wind dispersed just enough mist to see that it was a large weeping willow swaying in the wind.

“It’s an ogre!” Beorth cried, and both Kazrack and Jeremy fired. Beorth began to hustle back, while Jeremy reloaded, but Kazrack dropped his crossbow, and wielding his halberd went charging through the mist at the figure.

The dwarf paused as he saw the tree and said, “It is only a tree!”
Beorth laughed, as did Chance and Jana. Jeremy fired another crossbow bolt just as the dwarf said this.

------

After their encounter with the ferocious tree, the companions continued moving northward, finding that the willow was just the first of many more trees that made up a sparse forest set between two tall cliff faces, that loomed like stone giants on their flank. The mist became thinner as well, but swirled madly and thickly above their heads, obscuring the tops of the nearby hills and mountains. The wind they walked into was cold and damp, but at least the rain had stopped.

They marched on for another hour among the low and sparse trees; Kazrack and Beorth in front, followed by Jeremy, with Chance and Jana taking up the rear. It was then that they noticed a tall figure come running out of the mist ahead of them.

The man was over six feet tall and shoulders as broad as Chance’s if they were tripled. He wore a fur cloak, the hood pulled over his face, his jutting jaw protruding from the cowl’s shadow. He held a quarterstaff in one hand at his waist, and had a quiver of javelins bouncing against his left hip. He wore deer hide pants and a fur shirt, that lifted occasionally to reveal a chain shirt underneath; a bow stuck out from the top of his pack.

The party stopped. Kazrack called. “Who are you?”

The man only replied with, ‘Get back to back!” The group became immediately aware of what he spoke of, for behind him came running a scrawny grey and black wolf, that leapt at him, tearing a piece off the man’s pants as it bit deep into his thigh, and made the man stagger forward and spin around to face his attacker.

Jeremy charged forward to help the man, but three more wolves emerged from the mist, coming at the group. Jeremy changed his course to meet one wolf, as Beorth went forward to take on another. The fourth wolf seemed to be coming towards Kazrack, who waiting to meet its charge, but moving at incredible speed, it ran past him and around, biting deeply into Chance’s chest, knocking the rogue over. Chance began to cry out as his blood spurted everywhere. The wolf that Beorth faced off against grabbed his pant leg and pulled the warrior off his feet as well. Chance managed to pull off the wolf and climb to his feat as Jana spoke her arcane words and tried to place a deep fear into him, however the wolf was too intent on his prey. Kazrack ran over and slashed the beast with his halberd, created a deep wound in its flank. For a moment it looked as if it might flee, but growling it attacked. Jana and Kazrack both noticed the foam flicking off the creature’s mouth. It was thick and white and foamed, making their muzzles white with the dried liquid.

Chance moved away, gravely wounded. Jeremy finished his wolf with two blows of his longsword, and the ran over to stand beside the strangers who’s own wolf seemed to be giving him trouble.

“Stand aside, I’ll help you,” Jeremy said to the man who was nearly a full head taller than the Neergaardian. Jeremy looked up at the man at his side, and saw a long scar that seemed to bisect his left cheek. It was deep in his ruddy, almost umber skin, and ran all the way up to his eye. The two of them made short work of the wolf, as Kazrack took a last swipe at one that fled in fear from an application of Jana’s spell. Beorth was finally able to get to his feet and crush the skull of the wolf attacking him. It died with a whimper, even as he noted the foaming flecks on the creature’s muzzle as well.

“I never knew wolves would attack people that way,” Jeremy said.

“These wolves are diseased,” said the tall stranger, as he began to pull the corpse of a wolf into a pile he began making.

“I noticed that,” Kazrack said, walking over. “Was anyone bit?”

“I am gravely wounded,’ Chance said, from where he was lying on the cold ground. Jana tended to his wound.

“I was bit,” said Jeremy. “Do you think we can be infected?”

“It is possible, said the dwarf.

“Come here, let me clean out and dress your wounds,” Jana said.

“Looks like you were bitten, too,” Jeremy said as he walked over to Jana. “Don’t you want Jana to clean your wounds?”

“Anubis provides. I will be fine,” the paladin said, turning to the new stranger, who Kazrack was now approaching as well.

“Who are you? What are you doing out here alone?” Kazrack asked the stranger.

“I am called Ratchis,” the man said, in a raspy voice. “I was traveling hoping to find a caravan I had heard of going to Gothanius, and came across these diseased wolves. I decided I needed to try to destroy them before they spread the disease, and so they would not suffer unduly, and of course, to keep them from attacking others. Unfortunately, there were more of them than I could handle alone and had to flee.”

“It is a good thing you came upon us then,” Beorth said.

“How do you know about the caravan to Gothanius?” Kazrack asked.

“I simply had heard that the place was looking for settlers and warriors in its time of need, and that a caravan of such would be heading there. I wanted to join,” the stranger answered. “You know of it?”

“Yes, we are part of it, but our wagons broke down and we are going to Tallow’s Post in search of the services of a wainwright. Do you know the town?”

“Yes, I passed by it on my way here. I can lead you to it, if perhaps you will help me with the plague of wolves.”

“Well, we have kind of a time limit to get back to the caravan,” Kazrack said.

“But if the wolves pose a danger to the people of this area, we should help,” Beorth said.

“Well, there are more wolves in the woods to the north of here, so either way, I have to go towards Tallow’s Post, so I will lead you there and perhaps you will change your mind.”

“Sounds good,” Kazrack said.

So the group gathered together and continued their march.

Chance leaned in close to Jana and whispered in here ear, “Ida trust this man, looks ta me like he led the wolves teh us. He could be en leg with them.”

“Chance, he was bitten too, and was being chased,” Jana explained.

“It could all be a ruse, I say,” Chance insisted. “Imma gone keep an eye on him.”

“You do that.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes:

(39) This road is called The Mountain Door and rains from Cutter Jack’s to the One Road which connects many of the Free Towns of central Derome-Delem, and both are used by the Nauglimir Dwarven Merchant Consortium.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #5 (part III)

Now being led by the mysterious tall man in the fur cloak, they continued to march for a little less than an hour. The cliff face on the right, receded into the distance, but the one on the left was taller and steeper. Eventually they came to a small village of white stone houses with thatched roofs set upon a low plateau in the cliff face. At the edge of the plateau where a stream ran down the crumbled cliffside, was the tarped over foundation of some sort of mill that seemed under construction.

The party walked up the short flight of wide steps up to the village. (40) A broad street lead to a small village square with a well, where an inn and a general store were situated among houses. The followed the sounds of voices and the soft glow of a warm hearth into “The Silver Vein Inn”. In the distance they could see another building under construction. This one was of stone and was built on it own plateau just a little above the rest of the town.

The inn’s common room was very dim, and the tables were full of men dressed in dark utilitarian clothes, and black leather hats. They had dirty face and hands, and they had the smell of earth on them, which hung on the damp air. The warmth of the hearth came over the travelers, and they felt the exhaustion of the day’s travel and the damp that had worked its way down to the bone.
The six of them took a table, as the miner patron looked at them strangely for a moment and then went back to their own meals and conversations. A young boy of about 12 years old with dirty blonde hair and fat chipmunk cheeks, came over to take their order.

“I’m Nicholas,” the boy said. “Whaddya want?”

“What do you have?” Kazrack asked.

“Food. What the heck do ya think we got?” the boy said in a shrill voice. “You’re a dwarf like Rene is!”

“Who is Rene?’ Kazrack asked.

The boy sighed as if this were common knowledge throughout all of Aquerra, “She’s the priest of Thor here in town.”

“A dwarven priest of…” he coughed. “Thor? I had heard of such things it saddens me.” (41)

“Whatever,” said the boy.

“Well, I will have an ale and some mutton. Have you got mutton?”

“Yes, of course we have mutton. What do we look like? And potatoes?” The boy did not wait for the dwarf to answer. “Good, potatoes it is.”

The boy came back with a tray full of plates and mugs.

“No one else said what they wanted, so I brought the same thing for everyone,” Nicholas said.

“Well, you didn’t as us,” Jeremy said.

“Mister, if ya wanna be heard in this world, ya gotta speak up, or so my dad always says.”
He served the food and left.

“Sharp-tongue kid,” Jeremy observed.

As the group ate, Kazrack and Beorth overheard some miner talking about the wolf at a table behind them. It seemed that the number of wolves had increased, and that they were endangering the local shepherds’ flocks of sheep and goats. Jeremy, Jana and Ratchis overheard some other miners saying how they thought the plague of wolves was a curse brought down by the goblins that had been “forced out of the mine” a year or so before, and that travel into and out of the town had become too dangerous to risk for most people.

“Looks like we might have to help out with the wolf problem,” Kazrack said.

“Why do you say that?” Jeremy inquired.

“Well, if no one can leave the town, we can’t get a wainwright to come with us,” said the dwarf.

“He’d be traveling with us. He’d be fine,” Jeremy said.

“But still we should help these people,” Beorth said.

“That is what I plan to do,” Ratchis said. “I need to take care of this wolf problem, with our without your help; though I’d prefer if I had it.”

“You are guys are just incredible. Didn’t the incident with the goblins teach you anything? Why go after these wolves if we don’t have to?” said Jana.

“Well, I have no problem with going after the wolves, but let’s see if we can gain something for doing it. We could all use some extra coinage,” said Jeremy.

“Coinage is good, but I’m not so sure about going after foaming wolves. I was gravely wounded in that last encounter,” said Chance.

Ratchis grunted.

“Well, I’d like to help these people, “ said Kazrack. “but our first commitment is to the caravan and the contract we signed, but again, I think we’re going to have to end up doing it anyway.”
Ratchis looked at the dwarf.

The young boy, Nicholas, came back. “Ya want more ta drink?”

“Yes,” said Kazrack. “Another ale for each of us.”
“Okay, well that will be 18 cps up front and ya better give me a good tip, too.”

“Nickie! Go get a bucket of fresh water from the well!” the innkeep called.

“Dad! Don’t call me Nickie! And I’ll go in a second after I bring these weirdos some drinks!’
His father laughed at his son’s cheekiness, but Kazrack sneered. The boy retrieved their drinks and then went out to the well.

“Well, first thing’s first – We need to find a wainwright,” Kazrack said.

“Did you say, wainwright?” the innkeeper asked, as he had overheard as he walked by.

“Yes.”

“He’s sitting right over there,” the innkeep said pointing to a man sitting a table with two other men.
Kazrack went over and was discussing terms with the man (who insisted he would not leave town while the danger of wolves existed), when there was a ruckus of screaming from outside.

Ratchis immediately ran to the door, followed by Jeremy and Kazrack.

“I hope that isn’t Nicholas,” Beorth said.

From the door, Jeremy, Ratchis and Kazrack saw three townspeople being chased down by wolves. Little Nicholas stood frozen in fear by the well. Ratchis ran out after one wolf, while Jeremy moved towards another. Kazrack moved to block the path of one wolf heading toward Nicolas, but it out maneuvered him, as two other wolves knocked down townsfolk. Beorth stepped up to one just in time to see it pull the throat out of a man sending a shower of blood in all directions. Jeremy pulled his shortsword and longsword and engaged another wolf, as Kazrack decided it made more sense to go after the boy than the wolf, so when the boy panicked and ran the dwarf tackled him and shielded him with his own body, which allowed the wolf to grab a big chunk of the dwarf’s hindquarters in his teeth and start biting through the dwarf’s scale mail.

Ratchis finished a wolf with one mighty blow and ran over and began to swing his quarterstaff at the one atop Kazrack, as Jeremy finished one wolf and went for another. Beorth was pulled off his feet in the muddy and bloody earth and had to struggle to get back and keep from being killed by a wolf as well. Beorth finally crushed the skull of the wolf he was fighting. As Jeremy and Ratchis tried to finish that last wolf that was determined to rip a hole in the dwarf who shielded the squirming kid, a ray of sickly green light flashed from behind them striking the wolf. They did not see where it came from, but its bites became less effective, and they skewered it.

Yet, even as the party gained their breath from the battle, a howl caught their attention, and looking towards the top of the street they saw what appeared to be a very large and shaggy white wolf, that beheld them with intelligent ice blue eyes. They felt the blood in their veins freeze, as it cocked its head, taking them in, and then just as suddenly as he appeared, the mist rolled in across his position and when it cleared he was gone.

“Didja see that?!” Chance exclaimed and then hushed his voice. “Twas a devil-wolf. Oh, Bes protect us!”

“Yes, I did see it. What was that?” Jana aked.

“I didn’t see anything,” Jeremy said.

“Nicholas! Nicholas!” the innkeep came running out of the Silver Vein Inn and embraced his son, who Kazrack was just helping to get up off the ground. “How many times have I told you not to go out alone at night?” He turned to Kazrack. “You saved my son. You all did. Drinks are on me and you may stay in the common room of the inn for free tonight.”

“These men are dead,” Beorth said, examining the townfolk ravaged by the wolves. “Someone needs to notify their families.”

“Someone help me with these,” Ratchis said, beginning to drag the wolf bodies into a pile to burn.

“You cannot burn those here. They need to be dragged to the edge of town,” said a man who walked out of one of the dark streets. He wore a chain shirt and held a loaded crossbow. “I am Sergeant Fnord, constable of Tallow’s Post.”

He looked over at the dead men and clucked his tongue. “That is a shame. Thank you for your help, generally wolves would not attack the town itself. It must be the disease. People on the outskirts of town have been reporting wolf attacks.” He paused. “And you six are?”

“I am Kazrack Delver,” the dwarf said. “My companions and I are here to acquire the services of a wainwright, but it looks like the wolves are getting in our way. We were thinking that perhaps we might help to take care of the problem.”

“Well, the town would really appreciate it, and perhaps I could even get the burgomeister to offer some compensation,” Fnord said.

“What shall I do with the bodies of these men? Shall we bring them to their families?” asked Beorth.

“No, it would be better if their families did not see them like this without knowing what happened first. I will go and inform them, if you will do me the favor of bringing their bodies to my office.”

“Of course,” Beorth said.

So, Jeremy, Kazrack, Chance, Beorth and Jana brought the bodies to the constable’s office, while Ratchis remained behind to burn the wolves and watch for more. The tall woodsman went into the inn (which had cleared out as people went home after the wolf fight) and pulled a bench the shuttered window. He strung his bow and leaned his quiver of javelins against the wall, and laid his quarterstaff on the floor below him. The warmth of the hearth was getting to be too much, so he pulled off his fur cloak.

---

Meanwhile, the others had to wait a while for Sergeant Fnord to return.

“I’m sorry I took so long, but it would have been rude of me to give the families such news and then simply leave,” he said.

“We understand,” said Beorth.

The constable showed them inside his office.

“I will not be able to speak to the Burgomeister until the morning, but like I said any help would be appreciated.”

“Well, it looks like we don’t have much of a choice but to do something about the wolves,” Kazrack said.

Jana and Chance looked at each other.
“As the wainwright won’t leave town with the wolves running around,’ the dwarf added. “But why don’t you and your guards take care of it?”

“There is only me and two deputies. We do not have the manpower for such a project. Normally,

Rene would help us, but she is away on church business in Rockmar,” Fnord said.

“Rene is the priestess of Thor?” Kazrack asked.

“Yes. She helped with to get rid of the goblins that took over our mines just over a year ago, and as payment the burgomeister agreed to pay for half of building a temple of Thor in the town.”

“We heard that the wolf infestation might be a some sort of revenge by the goblins,” Beorth said. “A curse?”

“Unlikely,” concluded Fnord. “The adventuring party that cleared the mine, called the Oath (42) , collapsed the tunnel to a goblin city in the Plutonic Realms (43) and we haven’t had trouble with the goblins since. And from what I can remember, these goblins used worgs, which are intelligent, not normal wolves.”

“Well, we should return to the inn and rest, since we will probably head out in the morning,” said Kazrack.

“I will come by in the morning after I speak to the burgomeister,” said the seargeant.

-----

At the Silver Vein Inn, they found Ratchis still waiting, and despite the dimness they could now see what their new companion looked like. The scar that Jeremy had noted before ran from above his eye down his cheek and over his eye; when he blinked they could see that the scratch was on his eyelid as well. Despite his broad shoulders, his head seemed disproportionately large. He had a large protruding jaw, with teeth that peeked out in a pronounced underbite from behind his swollen lower lip. Ratchis’ complexion was mottled, with lighter yellow splotches of skin color on his face chest, but darker on the neck and sides of his head his flat broad nose and cheeks was a wash in a myriad of freckles. His eyes, were brown with hints of red fleck, set into narrow slits beneath his nearly ridged brow; his hair was shoulder length nappy bunches of fiery copper, dulled by dirt and grime, tied back. About Ratchis’ neck was the dark shadow of an indigo tattoo, which looked like it probably
reached beneath his clothing.

“Damn, he’s ugly,” Chance said under his breath.

The companions called for a nightcap, which the innkeep happily obliged them with.

“Here ya go,” the old man said. “You know I was thinking, I bet the old hermit has something to do with whole wolf thing.”

“Hermit?” asked Beorth.

“Yes, some solitary man that lives in the woods north of here, where the wolves were seen coming from. People say he has dealings with goblins and might be warlock of some kind.”

“Perhaps he’d be worth asking about this whole thing,” Kazrack said. “We’ll see in the morning.”

“Well, I’ll tell ya one thing, if he’s got dealing with the devil wolf we saw he has ta be a warlock,” said Chance.

The five companions and their guide found spots on the floor by the hearth and went to sleep to dream about hunting wolves or being hunted by them.


Balem, 12th of Ese - 564 H.E.

The warmth that had evaded the companions’ journey for so long now, found them asleep on the common room floor. Birds chirped, and actual sunlight crept along the floor to itch their noses and makes them squirm to find comfort on the hard wood.

They awoke to the innkeeper’s call of breakfast, hard-boiled eggs and butter on yesterday’s toasted bread. As they ate, the constable arrived with a hunched over elderly woman in tow.

“Good morning,” Fnord said. “This woman lives on one of the out lying farms, and she came to me this morning to report what she had seen two nights ago and I thought you might find it interesting. Go ahead, Grandmother, tell them what you saw.”

The old woman sat at a table and in a voice that creaked like a ship at sea began to speak, “It was two night ago, as I close up the house to go to sleep. I heard a howling and looked out from behind my shutters to see… “ She coughed, and clutched her shawl closer around her shoulders. “. . . a white ghostly wolf. . . It seemed to be almost floating over the ground, and it led a pack of other wolves that were trailing behind it.”

The old woman wiped her rheumy eyes. “And then, just when I thought they were all gone, there comes another pale white ghostly form of a girl or something trailing them. It also seemed like it was floating above the ground.”

“Ah knew it was a devil-wolf,” said Chance.

“Grandmother, where was it going?” Kazrack asked.

“In the direction of here, the town. I live alone, so it took me time to get things in order to get here as soon as I did.”

“She has family in town that she is going to stay with,” Fnord said.

“Will everyone from outlying farms be evacuated to town?” Kazrack asked.

“Well, I am sure they know about the wolf plague by now. If they wanted to come into town they would, I cannot make them do so,” Fnord answered. “However, I did speak with Tallow, the burgomeister and he is willing to pay for the services of the wainwright to fix your wagon if you help with the wolf problem.”

“That sounds acceptable,” said Jeremy, thinking of the money Crumb had given them to purchase the services.

“Yes, that will be okay. . . Especially since we will have to get rid of the wolves to get the wainwright down to where the wagons are,” said Kazrack. “Where are the farms? We should go to where the wolves were last seen and track them from there.”

“They were last seen here in town,” Jana said.

“Too many people have probably walked around by now for the trail to be any good,” Ratchis said in his raspy voice from a dark corner.

“Well, you can try anyway,” said Kazrack.

“Yes I can.”

“The innkeep mentioned and old hermit in the woods north of here,” Kazrack said, turning back to Fnord. “Said he works with goblins or something; do you know anything about this?

“I have heard of the old hermit, and herbalist of some kind, but I know nothing of him and goblins. I don’t think he’s been around long, but I hear tell he lives in a shack almost a full day north of here, past the farms on the bank of the river. If you keep the water to you right, you should eventually get to it.”

----

However, as Ratchis had expected, the chance of finding a track at the entrance o town was scuffed away by the passing feet of villagers. So, the five travelers and their new companion, back in his fur cloak despite the growing heat of what looked like it just might be the coming of elfin summer (44), marched north by northeast towards where Fnord told them the farms were.

Eventually they came to a tall embankment that looked down upon the farmsteads, and they could see a large number of dead sheep scattered before the closest one.

“I’m going to go down there and look for tracks,” Ratchis said.

“Shall we all come down?” asked Jeremy.

“No, just keep a lookout, I’ll be back,” said the tall fur-clad man heading towards the steep incline. However, the woodsman miscalculated his decent and ended up tumbling head over feet down the thirty feet to a hard wind-knocking landing.

“Are you okay?” Jeremy called down, his voice echoing across the landscape.

Ratchis waved him off and walked off towards the closest farmstead. What he found was mess of dead sheep, their entrails trailing around the farm yard, and large bites ripped from their throats and flanks. He also noticed that while many sheep were killed only few were eaten and that there were a lot of regurgitated remains as well. The wolf spoor was two days old at the oldest.

Ratchis searched around for a time and found a set of tracks that matched several wolves and followed it up where the embankment turned northward and was less steep. He followed it up, and then went to retrieve the party.

The others had begun to wonder where Ratchis had disappeared to when he emerged beside them.
“Come, I have found tracks that go to the east and north,” was all he said and turned to walk back the way he came. Kazrack, Beorth, Jeremy, Jana and Chance followed.

They marched on with Ratchis trying to sustain a substantial lead to look for unspoiled tracks, but the party kept walking at the same pace and thus catching up with him, much to his annoyance. Also as they marched they all talked, Chance with Jana, Jeremy with Kazrack, Kazrack with Jana, Chance with Jeremy; talking about the wolves, the caravan, the hermit, Ratchis, and whatever else came to mind. Ratchis just kept looking back at them with a frustrated glare, to him it was a cacophony of monkeys. He had never heard people talk to so much. Eventually, he walked back to them and said, “First, keep it quiet back here, you can be heard for miles. Second, slow your pace to be equal to mine.”

They all looked at each other wondering where he got the idea they talked so much. They had hardly talked at all, or so they thought.

The group continued with some better progress. They stopped bumping into Ratchis as he kneeled to check for wolf signs, but still chattered too much for the tracker’s tastes.

While looking, Ratchis found a new set of tracks, a bit fresher than those of the wolves that seemed to run parallel to them. They were small booted footprints of perhaps a woman or child. There seemed like it might be of just one figure.

“Goblin?” he wondered. He walked back to the rest of the group. “Be wary of ambush, it seems like there are things other than wolves in these woods.”

The companions continued northward, running roughly parallel with the river, which they could hear gurgling to their right. They heard birds chirping in delight of the return of the sun and warmth, but not much else as they still talked among themselves quite a bit. After another 20 minutes of marching, Ratchis had lost the tracks, but continued to in the same general northward direction, coming to a clearing that caught his eye. He motioned for the others to stop and peered into what seemed to have been a campsite. The charred remains of a small fire lay beside a fallen log, the woodsman crept along the perimeter of the clearing avoiding the center.

However, a foaming-mouthed wolf emerged from the underbrush and took a bite of his calf, trying to pull the huge man to the ground. He was able to pull free and keep his feet by pure strength alone. Ratchis called out, and faced off against the wolf, but did not see the second wolf creeping from behind and pulling him from his feet, with another bite and pull. Jeremy ran out to aid Ratchis, but a third wolf emerged from the right to attack him, and when Beorth entered the clearing, yet another wolf emerged to attack the paladin. Kazrack entered the fray himself, heading towards Jeremy’s wolf, only to have yet another emerge.

Ratchis found his feet, and turned to brandish his staff against both wolves at once. He slammed them with all his might on the snout, but they did not flee, but only growled, blood mixing with the white foam that bearded their faces. Jana and Chance stepped into the clearing, and the young girl tried to cause a wolf to flee, but it refused to give into the chill of arcane fear, and continued its assault.

Ratchis was having a hard time handling two wolves at once, blood pouring profusely from his leg wounds, but finding an opening to withdraw from the beasts, he mumbled words and laid his hand upon his wounds healing some of his injuries; though none of the others noticed, as the wolves closed in once more. Kazrack made short work of his wolf, and was moving to aid Jeremy, when Jana and Chance gasped. At the north entrance to the clearing they noticed the intelligent ice blue eyes of the white wolf, its shoulders a tangle of thick fur, its white muzzle making the foam that dripped from his gums difficult to see.

Ratchis was able to dispose of one wolf, but the other seemed stronger, if not just and violent and diseased, and bit him again. Beorth finished his, and ran to meet the great white wolf as it bounded towards Kazrack. The dwarf thrusted forward with his halberd, but the creature side stepped, and Beorth saw his opening. The beast moved in such a way to leave itself perfectly open, and his muscles tensed for the impact of what was bound to be a skull-splitting blow… but the blow did not connect! He looked again, and it seemed as if the blow had gone straight through the creature. The dwarf and the paladin, prepared another strike, but then the white wolf was gone!

Jana cried out as she felt and immense pain in her thigh. She turned, wrenching her leg to see the white wolf standing behind her. Jeremy finished his combatant and began to run over to help with the white wolf, but as it avoided a flurry of blows by the companions who attempted to surround it, it disappeared again. Appearing this time behind Jeremy and biting him as well. Ratchis finished the last wolf and ran to join the fray. Jeremy landed a glancing blow with his short sword, but before any more damage could be dealt it, it disappeared again and was nowhere in sight.

“Didja see that? Didja see what it did?” Chance said in a voice cloaked in fear.

“What? I didn’t see anything, “ said Jeremy. “Though the white one did seem to move kind of fast. Where did it go?”

“It just disappeared,” said Kazrack.

“Back ta hell where it probably came from!” said Chance.

“Calm down, Chance,” said Beorth. “We don’t know what it was. Though my blow seemed to go right through it.”

“I was able to injure it slightly,” said Jeremy.

As Ratchis stepped up to join the conversation, he paused and tilted his head.

“You heard that, too?” Kazrack asked him. It was the sound of someone or something moving quickly through the foliage between the campsite and the river. The sound stopped and then immediately seemed to move in the opposite direction. Kazrack and Ratchis charged after it, followed by Beorth. Jeremy decided that it might be best to “cut off” what it was and began to take a circuitous route towards whatever it was. Jana began to make her way in that direction more cautiously, and Chance followed close behind.

Kazrack and Ratchis stopped and listened again, when Kazrack spotted a figure crouched behind a tree.

“There!” he pointed with his halberd, and ran in that direction. Whatever it was dashed into the undergrowth and kept going. Ratchis quickly passed the slower dwarf, and came around a large oak to be face to face with what they were chasing, and with a whispered breath, the huge woodsman toppled over into a slumber.

Kazrack’s tumbled companion cleared the dwarf’s view of a slender androgynous figure, with long golden hair, large blue eyes, pale white skin, and tapered ears. Only the slightest swelling of a breast was visible beneath her near transparent wrap, and she wore long hip-high boots. In a flash of sunlight she turned and ran again, but Beorth who had not slowed down caught up to her as she tried to maneuver about another tree. She turned quickly and in a flash drew her short sword, holding the other hand up, in a unique fighting stance.


End of Session #5
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Notes:

(40) Tallow’s Post was established to support the silver mine, Tallow’s Deep, both of which are run by Burgomeister Grundle Tallow.

(41) In Aquerra, Thor is a member of the Kalevalan Pantheon of northern gods, and is god Thunder and Mountains, and a often a patron of dwarves in those realms. The worship of a human god by dwarves is looked down upon by most traditional dwarven communities.

(42) The Oath this adventuring band is best known for the infiltration and razing of the slaver city, High Port in the Schrab Hills of western Thricia. (This Aquerra campaign ran from fall 1996 to winter 1999).

(43) The Plutonic Realms are the expansive caverns and tunnels that exist beneath Aquerra, from the near-surface strongholds of black dwarves to the deepest colonies of illithids. At one time all the different pockets of these realms were connected by the tunnels of the Undersea, but many have been lost or collapsed since the height of the long ago fallen Second Dwarven Kingdom.

(44) This is the common name for a short period of otherwise uncharacteristic time of near-summer-like condition in the mid-Autumn. Often harvests of autumn foods like apples and pumpkins are done during this time.
 
Last edited:

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #6

“Stand away! I mean you no harm,” the elf said in a soft, but high voice like a morning bird’s.

“What did you do to our friend?” Kazrack asked stepping up brandishing his halberd. The elven figure stepped backwards and crouched reflexively towards the dwarf.

“He is unharmed. He but sleeps and will awaken soon enough,” she said in her liltingly accented voice.

“Why are you here?” the dwarf asked.

“I am hunting my former companion. He is ill and not acting as himself, and may even be dying,” she said in an even tone. “I saw you fighting him and the other wolves.”

“You mean the great white wolf?” asked Beorth.

“He is not a wolf,” she said.

At that moment Chance and Jana came up behind their two companions.

“Oh me loving Bes! It’s an olf!” Chance said, and covered his mouth. “I cahnt believe it!” (45)

Jana sushed him.

“What is he then?” Kazrack asked.

“He is what humans would call a ‘blink dog’. He is as intelligent and sentient as you or I,” she smirked with the word “you”. “If not more so… He has just been infect by the same disease that is infecting the wolves and he is no longer himself.”

“You were attacked by the wolves,” Beorth said noticing, a healing wound on the elven woman’s calf.

“Yes, and Janx, was bitten badly. A few days later his behavior became erratic and then a day later he attacked me, and ran off into the woods. I have been following him since, and caught up once or twice. He seemed to almost know me sometimes, but then would run off. The last I knew he was near the settlement, but I could not follow him there. The last thing I need is for superstitious humans throwing stones at me.”

“What are you doing here at all? I have never known of elves in Derome-Delem,” said Kazrack.

She paused. “I am traveling abroad to learn of elves outside of our homeland,” she said. “But now must help my companion. I need to find a way to heal him.”

Kazrack lowered his guard, but the elven woman did not. By this time Jeremy came walking up and gasped at the woman’s alien beauty.

“We are hunting the wolves to put them out of their misery,” said Beorth. “But perhaps we can help you with your friend.”

“How do you plan to heal him?” asked Beorth.

“I’m not sure,” she said. “I overheard some trappers speaking of an old healer in the woods north of here. I was thinking of seeking him out, but even if he can help, applying any kind of treatment to Janx will be difficult if he does not want to be caught.”

“Do you mean the old hermit? We heard he consorts with goblins,” said Kazrack.

“Well, if that is the case, we should seek him out none-the-less – for such a thing should not be allowed,” the elven woman said.

“Well, your companion is a danger, so one way or another we need to take care of him. I hope you realize that if no cure can be found for him he is going to have to be killed, for his own good and for the good of the town,” said Kazrack.

“It will not come to that, but if it does I am prepared to do what I must do. What are your names?”
The party introduced themselves, including Ratchis, who Chance gone back to and awakened.

“Have you seen any goblins?” Ratchis asked.

“No,” she said.

“What is your name?” asked Kazrack.

She paused. “I am called Tirhas Tesfay,” the elven woman said, sheathing her short sword.
“Well, we will help you to help your friend, if we can,” said Kazrack. “If you help us with the rest of the wolves.”

“Agreed,” Tirhas said.

“One question, however,” the dwarf added. “Why didn’t you help us when your companion and the wolves attacked us?”

“I did not know who you were, or what your attitude might be. I wanted to observe you first,” she replied.

Now accompanied by the elven woman, the companions began to move northward. There was a but of discussion on how the blink dog might be captured, with little decided upon. Tirhas informed the party that Janx could “blink” at will and did not tire from doing it; also, no net could hold him. The best course of action would probably being trying to subdue the dog with non-lethal blows. However, they also considered perhaps trying to drug the blink dog by giving him food.

And so they marched on, Ratchis leading the way, followed by Beorth and Kazrack and then by Jana and Chance. Jeremy slowed his pace to match that of the elf in order to walk along side her, as she seemed to want to take up the rear. She seemed annoyed by him.

Chance leaned in close to Jana and whispered, “Ahve heard that elves have the power to charm men with a look. So, if you see me acting funny you have to do something.”

“Yes, of course she’d choose you to charm,” Jana said sarcastically.

“Why wouldn’t she?” Chance asked, offended.

Jana smiled.

Meanwhile, as Ratchis continued to look back and glare occasionally because the group chatter would not stop, as Jeremy tried hard to get through to Tirhas.

“So, you are a long way from home.” He said.

She did not respond.

“So how did you become friends with Janx?”

She did not respond.

“How does he do that disappearing stuff?”

“You would call it magic,” she finally said, with a flat tone that might have betrayed annoyance to anyone but Jeremy.

“It must be neat to travel around with a dog like that,” he said.

She did not respond.

“You have such lovely golden hair; did you know that?

She did not respond.

“Are all elves as pretty as you are?”

She did not respond.

And so they continued onward for over an hour, moving what was basically northward as they followed the sound of the river, still to their right.

After a time Ratchis lost the track of the wolves, but continued to move in the same general direction that they had been moving. It was then that he heard the sharp high-pitched voices ahead of the group. Holding a hand up so that the others would wait, the tall outdoorsman crept forward to see just beyond the brush, an unusual sight. A group of brown-orange-skinned goblins were marching in the party’s same general direction. There were over a dozen carrying what appeared to be wounded on litters. They were led by a tall goblin in a helmet and a chain shirt.

Ratchis crept back to the group and told them what he saw.

“We should take advantage of their weakness and slay them all,” said Tirhas.

“”Wait. They’re just going along their way – not bothering anyone – Can’t we just let them go?” said Jeremy.

“But they’re goblins,” said Kazrack.

“Exactly, “ said the elfin woman.

“I am in no shape to take on that number of goblins,” said Kazrack.

“But they are injured and unaware. We should be able to take them. We should be able to kill half of them before they even get a chance to react,” said Tirhas.

“This is the kind of foolish that led to Macolm’s death,” said Jana with a sigh.

“Yeah,” agreed Chance.

“They are vermin to be wiped out,” said Tirhas.

“But they may also lead us to the hermit, if he truly works with goblins, or may shed some light on the problem with the wolves. Better we follow them and learn what we can. They might even lead us to a goblin lair that might be a greater danger to the area,” said Ratchis.

“Good point,” said Tirhas. “We shall follow then.”

It was agreed, and Ratchis took his place back at point, keeping a good distance between him and the goblins and the rest of the group led by Kazrack following with the woodsman at the end of his vision.

They followed the goblins for another 25 minutes, when they suddenly turned away from the river rather sharply. Ratchis stopped to wait for the others to direct them correctly, but they took longer than he expected having been momentarily confused when losing sight of Ratchis. When he finally saw them he waved them in the right direction and continued to follow, coming to the edge of a huge clearing.

The clearing was at the base of a black stony hill and covered with thigh-high tall grass. The river was visible against a muddy bank that led all the way up to a wooden fort that the goblins were jogging into. The fort’s walls were 12 feet tall and did not seem to have any apparent towers or ramparts. The entrance was log double doors, with a sign of some kind over them. Ratchis could see some kind of letters or symbol above the door, but since it was 80 yards away could not make out the details.

The tall goblin was the last in and the doors closed. Ratchis crept back to the others and told them what he saw.

“What does the sign say?” asked Beorth.

“I do not know. I do not know my letters,” said Ratchis.

“What are we going to do?” asked Kazrack. “There is no way we an attack a fort of goblins and hope to win.”

“This could be the hermit’s place,” said Jeremy.

“Why would a hermit live in a fort?” asked Kazrack.

“We should watch and see what happens. Perhaps there will be more goblins coming and going,” said Ratchis. “I will make my way around and the clearing and see what I can see.”
“I’ll come with you,” said Jeremy.

Ratchis sneered, “Make sure you are quiet.”

“I can be quiet when I want to,” said the Neergaardian.

“Uh-huh.”

“In the meantime, we’ll make a camp,” said Beorth.

“And I’ll watch the front of the fort,” said Kazrack.


---

Ratchis and Jeremy crept through the tall grass around the west side of the fort, but could see not distinguishing features about it. So, they continued up the steep rocky hill behind it, crouched low, but still risking being spotted to get a perspective from higher ground. From there they could see a wooden building with a slanted slate roof within, and what looked like small garden plots before it, with trees and other plants. The small dark figures of goblins could be seen moving about occasionally. Unfortunately, the east side of the fort was obscured by the building itself. The way was too steep to easily traverse all the way around, so they climbed back down and crept back to their companions to report what they saw.

Ratchis took Kazrack’s place watching the front of the fort for any change or occurrence, while the others settled into camp; by this time Ra’s Glory was making its way towards its nightly rest in Anubis’ Realm.

“I don’t see how we are going to be able to do anything about this,” said Jeremy to Chance and wandered towards the river to wash up.

“Aye,” said Chance turning to Jana. “No way we can handle a whole fort full of goblins.”

“But what if this is where the hermit lives?” asked Kazrack.


“If he can help Janx I must find a way to contact him,” said Tirhas softly.

“If his is in league with the goblins I don’t see how we can get him to help. We may be forced to slay him,” said Beorth, with distaste.

“Or, he could be their prisoner, in which case we have to go in there and save him,” said Kazrack.

“We do?” asked Chance.

Jana smiled, but the dwarf frowned.

“Of course, we do. We cannot allow someone to suffer such a horrible fate, even if we had to die trying to save him.”

“I guess you’re right,” Chance acquiesced.

“Heh,” was all Jana had to say about that.

“But we don’t know if that is the case, and how will we determine if it is?” asked Beorth.

“We can wait until morning and see if goblins come or go or if anything changes and then make a plan,” said the dwarf.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Notes

(45) Elves are a rare sight in Aquerra, preferring their Kingdom of Tempestas - or isolated communities in various forests in Aquerra. While it is probable to see elves in more cosmopolitan places like Verdun, Haffar's Port or the cities of Thricia - Most people have never seen one, let alone spoken to one.
 

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