"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.
 

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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.

beorthletter.gif


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.
 

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