"Out of the Frying Pan" - Book II: Catching the Spark (Part One)


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This is the continuation of the "Out of the Frying Pan" story hour - which began with Book I: Gathering Wood, which you can no longer see the original thread on the old ENboards, but a reprise is available here.

Or, you can go to the "Out of the Frying Pan" Story Hour Portal thread to find links to all the books and links to download them in word doc format.

"Out of the Frying Pan" - Book II: Catching the Spark leaves our originally heroes briefly to introduce a new character who has made his way to Gothanius with a different group - fulfilling his debt to the Academy of Wizardry, by being their representative in the this tiny kingdom in the backwaters of Derome-Delem.

The "story so far" tells things from his perspective. . . from there his story will continue until it meets up with that of Kazrack, Jana, Jeremy, Ratchis, Beorth, Chance and their own company.


The Story So Far. . .

Martin made his way to Westron where the Academy had sent him to meet up with a man named Briad Ketchum who was leading a group of young men to the Kingdom of Gothanius in Derome-Delem. However, the man would not let the young alumnus join the group unless he signed a contract that required him to join the effort to slay a dragon that plagued that kingdom and in return gain citizenship, land and monetary reward. Martin acquiesced. He met several of the others traveling to the obscure kingdom, including Simon and Peter, who he became friends with. He also met Cheribuck, who warned that he had seen three of the others picking people’s pockets and conning others in the market of Westron. They traveled upon the Golden Scrag to Princeton, in Derome-Delem, a backward place where knights patrolled the land around tiny fiefs. There a young woman named Maria, joined the group. She seemed to have some skill with the sword and bow. The group traveled from there to Bountiful, where Martin spent a day conferring with Alexandra the Lavender, the Watch-Mage there. While here, Cheribuck had to stop James from beating up his two younger (and softer) brothers.

The group left the road there, and traveled through thick woods, via ways that Briad said he knew to avoid the “cursed” town of Stonebridge. However, while spending a day beside the Tall Twin River, the group was attacked by orcs. Three of the group were killed, but Martin discovered that Tanweil had killed the vast majority of the orcs on his own. Cheribuck, James and Maria seemed to hold their own very well also. Demoralized somewhat after the deaths, they crossed the river and made a harrowing trip up the mountains, to a trail that led to Northfork Wall and eventually Twelve Trolls. Arriving at Castle Gothanius, they found several other groups of would-be dragon slayers had also arrived.


This is the REAL Dramatis Personae in progress.

It is organized by session so that people who have not read past a specific one can avoid looking at NPC information that might spoil the story for them.


In Order of Appearance

Session 1:
Kazrack Delver
, a black dwarf of some fighting skill *
Rak-Kazum, Kazrack's father
Malcolm Mac Duligh, a skald from the Dubh Moors in the Archduchy of Wallbrook (deceased) *
Jana, a young girl fleeing her home in the city of Westron *
Beorth Sakhemet, a quiet young Paladin of Anubis, of Black-Islander descent *
Deet of Ptah, an older balding gentlemen recruiting for "Crumb's Boys"
Boris E. Crumb III, a fat man with a handlebar mustache, recruiting young men for Gothanius
Chance, a Wallbrookian gambler and devotee of Bes

Session 2:
, an "herb woman" robbing graves in the Verdun cemetery
Arnold, a city guard infatuated with Jana
Frank, a shepherd's son from Zootsburg; one of Crumb's Boys
Captain Runwick, of the Verdun City Guard
Jeremy Northrop, a young Neergardian warrior and a friend of Malcolm's *
Sagrow, ill-tempered barkeep at The Cockatrice Tavern
Gwar, Frank's brother; one of Crumb's Boys
Kamir, a doughy young man of a helpful disposition; one of Crumb's Boys
Garcon, self-proclaimed greatest of swordsmen; one of Crumb's Boys
Briar Tulp, a young priest at the Church of Ra in Verdun

Session 3:
, an elderly priest of Thoth; a friend of Beorth
Marta of Fallon, head medicus in the Verdun Healing House of Fallon.
Devon, a tall, powerful man with a bully's temperament; one of Crumb's Boys
Markle, a comrade of Devon's; handsome and charming; one of Crumb's Boys
The Square, a comrade of Devon's; skinny, ugly and quiet; one of Crumb's Boys
Reginald Corr, captain of the Sea Cow
Kristian, boatswain on the Sea Cow
Guisel, a young Herman-Lander, one of Crumb's Boys
John, a young Herman-Lander; one of Crumb's Boys
Carlos, a dark young foreigner; one of Crumb's Boys
David, a hunter at Cutter Jack's
Andre, a hunter at Cutter Jack's; David's partner
Captain Nerelor Threnegar, gate guard for the Safehouse of the Nauglimir Dwarven Merchant's Consortium at Cutter Jack's

Session 4:
, the hospitable priest of Anhur at Cutter Jack's
Finn Fisher, a tanned, dark-haired young fisherman; one of Crumb's Boys
Dunkle, one of Crumb's Boys. Killed on an ill-fated goblin hunt. (deceased)
Doris, one of Crumb's Boys. Friend of Dunkle.

Session 5:
Reginald Cross
, Cutter Jack's Captain of the Guard
Cutter Jack, the earthy lord of the town of Cutter Jack's
Kinney, an assistant to Boris E. Crumb
Horung, an assistant to Boris E. Crumb
Ratchis, a half-orc ranger and friar of Nephthys *
Culum (called Nicholas), a young serving boy at The Silver Vein Inn in Tallow's Post
Nicholas Pinter, innkeeper of The Silver Vein Inn; Culum's father
Warren, the wainwright of Tallow's Post
Janx, a rare white-furred blink dog
Sergeant Fnord, constable of Tallow's Post
Tirhas Tesfay, an elven ranger, traveling to learn more of elves outside her homeland; Janx' companion.

Session 6:
Escher of Fallon
, a former adventurer of the Oath and an openhearted
healer; keeper of Fallon's Post
Rastfar, a wide-eyed young goblin; servant of Escher

Session 7:
Alexandra the Lavender
, the Watch-Mage for the village of Bountiful
Daerngar of Mnornthord-Rymraugh, dwarven priest for the 137th regiment of the Nauglimir Dwarven Merchants Consortium
Kennoch of Ra, young priest maintaining the shrine to Ra in Stonebridge
Amall, barkeep at the Sign of the Six Crows in Stonebridge
Marshal Harrick Moonglum, taciturn and temperamental leader of Stonebridge; not to be bothered while he's drinking

Session 8:
Cort, a wheezing middle-aged herbalist living near Stonebridge
Frances, a timorous young girl whose parents were killed by pirates; Cort's granddaughter
Jack-Knife Hawkins, a cranky trapper
???, crazed keeper of the mausoleum near Stonebridge
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Martin wiped his sweaty palms upon his Academy robes and then suddenly realized what he was doing, and place his hands behind his back to stop himself. He nervously examined his robes were various shades of green for sweat stains, and the suddenly realized that Daniel had made a left turn towards large double doors.

“This must be the audience chamber,” Martin thought. He had been eating his mid-day meal, when the castle steward had approached him and had said that the king wanted to meet and speak with him right away. “I guess I’ll have to get used to this kind of thing,” Martin thought. “I am a representative of the Academy of Wizardry now, wherever I may go.”

Martin took a deep breath.

“Are you okay?” Daniel asked.

“Yes, I just, um, have never addressed a king before,” Martin replied. “Any important protocols you can advise me on, well, I would appreciate it.”

"Fine. You will kneel and bow in his presence and not stand until given permission. You will not look him directly in the eye, and you shall address him as your majesty. I assume that any other basic graces of good manners I can leave in your hands?" Daniel paused before the doors that were flanked by guards in plate mail, wearing the gold and white tabards with the star of Gothanius upon them. The guards bore ransuers.

Martin bit lower lip, "Yes. Thank you for your help."

"Tom seemed to know these things naturally, I assumed they taught you these things in that school of yours," Daniel said, gesturing to a guard who went inside the doors to announce them.

"Tom and I were trained for somewhat different tasks. I assume that you came to know him reasonably well during his time here?" Martin replied.

“Reasonably. He was a good man,” Daniel said, looking down. “It was a shame what happened to him.”
The doors, which were carved with intricate patterns of mountains and flames opened again, and Daniel led Martin through them. Beyond was a small curtained off area.

"Wait here a moment, I will announce you, when you hear your name and the curtain opens you may step through - and remember what I told you."

"Yes. Thank you for your help,” Martin repeated, weakly, and Daniel disappeared through the curtain.
There wass some indecipherable whispering and after a few moments Martin heard Daniel's voice state aloud, "Martin the Green, Watch-Mage and esteemed Alumnus and Representative of the Academy of the Wizardry" and the curtain opened.

Martin stepped through the open curtain looking around to take everything in, while trying not to gawk. He hoped he succeeded.

The audience chamber was not as impressive as he imagined it would be.

Atop a raised dais were two thrones, one more ornate than the other. Three smaller ornate chairs sat on a slightly lower (but still raised) level. A velvet curtain of burgundy was draped behind the thrones, along with a shield holding the coat of arms of Gothanius. At the left and right of the chamber stood more plate-mailed guards, and tapestries on the walls behind them holding scenes Martin cannot pay close enough attention to make out at the moment. The king sat in the more ornate throne. . He appeared to be in his 40's with a thick, but well-kempt brown beard. Martin recognized the captain of the guard from the initial inspection upon his arrival with the others. He was standing off the dais to the right.

Martin walked forward at a slow, even pace, his eyes respectfully downcast, his face in the shadow of his longish shaggy hair, in Thrician style. He frantically looked for scuffed spots on the floor to indicate where prior supplicants might have knelt, as he forgot to ask just where this kneeling business takes place.
Not seeing any spot that is more or less scuffed than any other, he cursed himself inwardly for not asking the right questions. He stopped about halfway to the throne and got down on one knee, bowing.

"You may stand, Martin," the King said in a soothing baritone. "We cannot express enough how happy it makes us to have a representative of the Academy of Wizardry here once again to help our humble nation."

"Thank you, Your Majesty," said Martin, rising. He keeps his eyes on the King's feet, his gaze occasionally rising as far as the man's hands. "I am pleased and honored to be here on the Academy's behalf."

"So, they did send you. . . "

Martin gulped back a “damn!” and hoped the king had not noticed. "It would ill-become the Academy to neglect the Kingdom of Gothanius, Your Majesty. We are all saddened by the death of Tom the Silver, but the duty remains."

Though the chamber felt drafty to the young Alumnus, Martin felt a drop of sweat slid down his back.
The king let out a joyful laugh, "And here we were worried that you had simply come to fulfill the call for citizens and heroes. But of course not, the Academy does not send their graduates so lightly. We had sent word that we need a new Watch-Mage some time ago. We were afraid that the message had never arrived. This is grand news that needs to be announced to Kingdom. We have been without what was once one of our closest advisors and protectors for too long. Did you know Tom the Silver?"

Martin smiled politely, carefully avoiding the King's gaze. "I am afraid that I did not, Your Majesty. But he was well-regarded among the Alumni of the Academy, and many of my fellows have spoken well of him. I cannot hope to fill his shoes... quite literally, I fear, for I would not wish to mislead you here. I am not, in fact, his successor. The Academy is - was - still in discussion as to the best possible candidate for Watch-Mage of Gothanius when I left. But until Tom's successor arrives, I am authorized to act in his stead, and I will gladly fulfill that role to the best of my ability while I am about my other duties."
There was a pregnant pause.

“So, they sent a temporary watch-mage. . . strange that they should bother. . . but still to have someone here with a wide knowledge as they do instill at the Academy will be useful. . .” the King paused again. “Did you sign a contract when you agreed to come here?”

"Yes, Your Majesty."

“Would it please you if we were to strike that contract null and void and simple appoint you to the roles we have for one with your talents here in the kingdom?” the King asked, leaning forward.
"I am at your disposal, Your Majesty,” Martin replied.

"Of course you are,” the king smiled. He sat back in his throne and crossed his legs. "Now, we need to talk about these young men that have found their way to our fine kingdom. You have traveled with them what impression do you get in general?"

Martin gathered his thoughts and the replied, "They are young and healthy, for the most part, but few have any training for combat of any sort. Some of those few who are so trained are scoundrels and blackguards. As a whole, you have a good force of potential farmers, but whether they can be of service in slaying a dragon is in doubt."

The king was silent for a time.

“Is it not often said that heroism is found where least expected. I am sure among these young men there are some who are up to the task, and as for these scoundrels and blackguards - Well, I will have you point them out to Captain Merrick" he gestured to the captain of the guard. "So they can be rounded up and escorted away."

"Ah. That is a great responsibility, determining who is a scoundrel and who is not... I would wish additional time to make that determination properly, and to determine which are redeemable and which are not." With a smile, Martin added, "It is also said that a thief at the table is safer than a thief in the stable, when one's horses are concerned."
The King stood and walked up to Martin clamping a broad hand down on the young Watch-Mage’s shoulder, smiling broadly. "Such wisdom they give you in the Academy. . . We are surprised at the youth of these great advisors. . "

But then the king’s face became gave again, “"But your comment leads us into the first mission we want to give you for your time in Gothanius.” He turned and walked back to his throne and sat. “As you know, we are sending out these would-be dragon-hunters in groups of five. We know good and well that not all will be as dedicated to this task as we might hope. We will not judge these young men too harshly in this endeavor, as long as they cause no harm, and as long as their cowardice does not lead to the harm of Gothanius' subjects. This is where you come in. We want you to be the representative of the Crown in the field, so to speak."

Martin listened to the king carefully.

The monarch continued, “"Of course, your safety is of our utmost concern. We cannot allow such a fate as befell Tom the Silver to befall you, but again, such are the dangers of your station."

Martin felt as if he might swoon, as the waters of his position swelled over his head. He gathered his wits and asked, “That would be a great and formidable responsibility, Your Majesty. What would it entail?"
"As you know the majority of our Alder-villages lie within the valley to the west of here, and it is the new area of our expansion (after the defeat of the Fir-Hagre Orcs) that the dragon appeared - but has moved into our more settled areas - the closest Alder-village to Greenreed Valley is called Summit. We shall send you there,” the king explained. "You will be set up as a guide and advisor for these groups that travel throughout these two valleys searching for the dragon. You will also collect information on their progress and we shall leave it in your hands to judge who among those groups can be excused of their duty and return to Twelve Trolls for whatever reward we deem them worthy of. The groups will be advised to find you in Summit."

"I would be glad to assist, Your Majesty. However, my other obligations to the Academy may require me to travel somewhat within the realm of Gothanius and the adjoining areas, and so I would prefer to have some liberty to move about while fulfilling this task. Would that be possible, Your Majesty?"

“Well, it would be a waste of your talents to keep you chained in one place - of course, you might need to travel out of Summit to investigate some of the reports of these groups for yourself - and of course, you must travel there as well which may take as little as 2 days, but could take longer if the weather does not permit easy travel,” the king replied.

"Then I accept, Your Majesty. In the meantime, if I might be so bold, might I request access to Tom the Silver's quarters, that I might begin to put his affairs in order?" Martin asked.

The King smiled. "Do they teach you precognition at the Academy as well? I was about to offer you his quarters to stay in. I will have Daniel show you to them, and perhaps he can show you the library and the trophy room - where a monument to our former Watch-Mage's service and sacrifice can be found.”
Martin nodded, and took a deep, shuddering breath. "Thank you, Your Majesty. I would be honored."
The king clapped his hands, "Bring us a flagon of wine to share and drink to the coming of this representative of the fine and influential Academy!"

A servant came from behind the wall where the throne sat, bringing a goblet for you and the king and poured a huge portion of wine for each of you.

The king raised his glass and Martin did as well, smiling when he saw his hand was shaking much less than he had expected it to.

The king toasted, "To the Academy of Wizardry, may it help increase the influence of our benevolent nation, so it may take its rightful place among the grand nations of Aquerra!"

“To the Academy!” Martin said, he waited to see if the king drank, and then drank down the wine hurriedly, so they would finish at the same time.

"Daniel, will now show you to your new quarters, and then the library. We will speak again before you leave. Daniel will arrange for you to travel to Summit with one of the groups - if we think that they are appropriate to keep you safe,” the king said.

"There is safety in numbers, Your Majesty. Thank you for your concern."

Daniel walked over to Martin turned to the king and bowed. Martin handed his goblet to the servant that had brought it and bowed deeply to the king.

“Go with my good graces,” the king said, and the steward led Martin out of the audience chamber. The Watch-Mage remained very conscious of his breathing to avoid hyper-ventilating.

"I think the King likes you. Remain clever, but not too clever and you will do well," Daniel says leading you through the dining room to a rear hall,” Daniel said, leading Martin through the dining room to a rear hall and a stone stairway leading up.

“I think I can manage that,” Martin said quietly, and his thoughts went to the banquet meant to initiate the dragon-hunt in only two days’ time.
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Anulem, 7th of Syet – 564 H.E.

There was a soft knocking on the door of Martin’s new quarters. This suite of rooms he found himself in, separated from the friends he had made while traveling here to Gothanius, had once belonged to Tom the Silver. But Tom the Silver was dead, and Martin was still unsure how, and now here he was filling hise shoes, however temporarily, and feeling the weight of this responsibility on his shoulders, and the fear that accompanied it. Martin the Green had searched the room thoroughly looking for some clue, or journal or sign from his predecessor, but all he found were some dusty common components, and a crap-covered bird perch he assumed had belonged to Tom’s familiar.

Martin answered the door. A young servant girl stood there with his freshly washed Academy robes over her arm.

“Here you go, sir,” she said with a shy smile.

Flustered, Martin took the robes with a mumbled “thank you”, not sure of what to do next. She just stood there and looked at him and he at her.

There was a long pause.

“Will there be anything else, sir?” she finally asked. She had been waiting to be dismissed. Martin inwardly berated himself, not being used to the niceties of castle living.

“Um, no, thank you very much,” Martin replied.

The servant wished him a good afternoon and left, and Martin closed the door. At the Academy, students were responsible for dropping off and picking up their own laundry, and it was students themselves who did the washing. He laid out his robes on the bed, and went back to the desk where he had been preparing a letter to his Academy contact. The last group of “dragon-slayers” had arrived that afternoon and banquet in the honor of all who had answered the king’s call had not need to have been delayed as was feared.

As Martin scribbled, he felt something furry climb up his back and onto his head. He felt little furry paws on his forehead as little brown eyes looked into his. “I want a nut,” a voice said in his head.

Martin reached into the pouch he kept at his side at all times and pulled out an acorn and handed it to his squirrelly familiar.
“Yummy,” the squirrel said telepathically.

Martin scratched the rodent’s head and said, “Now leave me alone for a little while, Thomas. I want to finish this before the banquet.”

“Nuts at the banquet?” Thomas inquired.

“Probably not, Thomas. You can’t come anyway,” Martin replied, and he could sense Thomas’ annoyance as he climbed down and took his spot under the bed again.


A few hours later, dressed in his robes of varying green, his hair pulled back in the best pony-tail he could make, Martin made his way down to the Great Hall with a cluster of many other young men, who were eager to eat the good foods the castle had to offer and to finally hear the details of the great mission they would likely risk their lives trying to accomplish.

The Great Hall was packed with the young men, most in the finest clothes they could find among those the castle staff had provided them. The chamber held three balconies, from two of which hung tapestries that showed the symbols of the alder-villages of Gothanius (1), which Martin had seen the day before in the trophy room. In one corner a group of musicians sat with their instruments, surrounded by a choir of young boys. They were all silent, waiting for some signal that the royal family would make their entrance. A good number of what were obviously nobles mingled among themselves, eying the uncouth visitors and would-be heroes nervously. They were decked out in their finest clothes and jewelry. The doors to the dining room were held open by ceremonial guards in shining platemail and golden tabards, bearing ranseurs. This room was also full of young men from many place in Aquerra, but most had the typical Herman-Lander look, olive skin, dark hair and brown or green eyes.

Martin had just started looking around the dining to spot his friends, and noticing that he had missed the first course when the horns announcing the coming of the royal family rang loudly in the Great Hall. Martin turned and went back into the hall as a rush of young men came out of the dining room and he lost Maria in the crowd, whom he had just spotted.

The horns rang out again, and the great double doors which Martin had taken into the audience chamber two days before opened. From the curtain beyond, emerged a man in fine dress, with curly golden locks and boyish face. He stood to the right of the doors and spoke: “Presenting the most honored family of our Queen: the Queen’s Mother: Selma Pratchet!”

A woman wearing clothing much too tight and low cut for her age and build came through the parted curtain. She wore what seemed to be an inch of make-up and she hungrily eyed all the young men clapping for her before standing to the left.

“The Queen’s lovely sisters, Brea and Vivica!” Two homely middle-aged women, dressed as young princesses might came through the part curtains. They curtsied in tandem and then stood to the left beside their mother.

“The Royal Architect, Balphus [insert name]!” A gaunt dwarf with sunken eyes and a frazzled beard walked through the curtain. He wore a burgundy hood, which he pulled off as he walked out and nodded his head to the politely clapping crowd.
Next, the Royal Hunter (a strapping young man with a well-kept goatee dressed in the ceremonial clothing of a fox hunt) and the Royal Smith (a stout man with a mustache, who looked uncomfortable in his pleated vest and bow tie) were announced.
There was another fanfare on the horns and the announcer cleared his throat, “And now the Royal Family!”
The applause swelled. “The Royal Princesses!” the crier said. “Princess Marion!” A pretty little girl of about 12 or 13 came through the parted curtain. She wore a dress of pink and lavender with flowery pattern on the trim and a daisy in her hair. She curtsied, red-faced and shy and then hurried to stand beside her grandmother.

“Princess Tracell!” A short and pretty girl of about fifteen, with a round face and soft curves walked out of the parted curtain. She wore a dress of powder blue, and had fine golden brown hair pulled into two braided bunches on the top of her head. As people applauded she curtsied and then waved and stood beside her younger sister.

“Princess Veldicca!” The next princess was taller than the last two, with darker hair in a long braid and light blue eyes that shone brightly. She had pale skin, and wore a dress of light green, and lept her hands folded in front of her lap when she bowed. Princess Veldicca looked perhaps a year or two older than Tracell. She stood with her sisters.

“Princess Deirdre!” Princess Deirdre was shorter and much thinner than Tracell, with lighter brown hair that ended at her chin. She looked almost boyish, and was an undeterminate age somewhere in the range of Veldicca and Tracell. She wore a dress of darker green with a tall collar and golden buttons.
“Princess Selma!” A tall woman with a sleeveless dress of a cream-color came marching through the curtain, and then catching herself, changed her gait to one more becoming a princess. She had a slightly darker complexion, dark hair like Veldicca, but green eyes like Deirdre. Selma’s bare arms were very muscular. She was definitely the oldest.

There was another fanfare, followed by the announcement of the heir to the throne, “Crown Prince Brevalin the Fourth!” A tall young man, perhaps only a year or two older than the oldest princess came through the curtain followed by a heavily armored guard. The prince was perhaps half a head shorter than his tallest sister and had curly dark hair, and fine clothing of black with golden trim. He bowed to the resounding applause.
There was a pause and then a much longer fanfare, which was followed with a soft theme played by the musicians. “And announcing their royal majesties, may they live long and in good heath, King Brevalin the Third and his Queen Rosemerta!”
Everyone looked up, and upon the balcony above the door way everyone had entered through came the king with his wife two steps behind him. The king wore his finest kingly robe and tall crown, and the queen was similarly draped. Her dark hair in long braids over her shoulders.

Everyone got down on one knee and bowed their head and there was another fanfare.

The king spread his arms open, “You may rise, my guests and subjects!”

All obeyed.

“We want to personally welcome you for answering our call in this our time of need,” the king said, addressing the crowd. “You young men are the future of Gothanius, a fresh infusion of blood that will carry us to a new strength and place in the world through heroism and cleverness. We also want to thank the alderman and their families who are present and their representatives, for their wisdom in leadership will help to form and guide this strength.”

The king paused and a smattering of applause, became stronger as other joined in.

“Now, we know that many of you have journeyed hard and long to be here, and are anxious to learn the details of this endeavor and get started, but we ask you to be patient a bit longer. Daniel the castle steward will be briefing all of you after dinner, but before we eat I we do want to make this announcement in regards to some rumors you may have heard: You all will be asked to form groups of five to undertake your hunting and slaying of the dragon. However, the reward has been increased. The monetary portion has been doubled to 10,000 pieces of silver (to be divided by the successful group) and more importantly the five who return victorious shall gain the hand in marriage of my five remaining beautiful daughters!”

There was a gasp, a pause and then a cheer, but Martin looked at the princesses’ faces and could see that this was news to them.

The king continued, “And now we eat another course and afterwards there will be music and dancing, and do not be shy. Introduce yourselves to the princesses, for who knows? One day soon you may be a hro and choosing among them for your own bride.”

With that the king retreated away from the balcony with the queen and there was more fanfare, and people began to seek seats in the dining room. Martin followed them back in there, and at a far table he saw Simon and Peter taking seats next to each other and chatting with a blonde fellow in a white shirt and black vest. At the end of the table was a smaller fellow in a similar outfit, but with a huge bush of curly hair, and a tall man of horrid looks, red nappy hair and wearing a white toga cinched with a robe belt and bright blue tights. Martin made his way towards them.


(1) The towns and villages of the Kingdom of Gothanius are called “alder-villages” as they are run by alderman appointed by the king, and make up a council of alders that help advise the king.


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Earlier that Same Day. . .

“Women and Dwarves, Crumb?” the dark-haired main with the shadow of a beard said. He wore a suit of chainmail, unlike the other soldiers’ ring mail suits, and had a fine longsword with a jeweled pommel at his side.

Crumb’s Boys were line up in groups of five, with five feet between each row. They watched Crumb and Deet standing by the guard captain.

“I brought what I brought. There was no stipulation as long as they were of age. Now, where do I get my money?” Crumb asked.

“They will take care of you in the castle,” the captain said.
Crumb and Deet began to walk past the group and the portly man turned the lads who had been under his charge. “Well, good luck boys. Have fun. It’s been real,” he said with a wave and he and his the Wayfarer of Ptah disappeared into the castle proper.

They never saw him again.

The man who was obviously now in charge turned towards the group, “I am Edwin Merrick, Captain of the Castle Guard. The defense of this castle and the lives of all inside of it, primarily that of that King and the Royal Family are my specific responsibility, so I just want to tell you all that you are looking at the face of the man who will kill you if by your actions you in anyway endanger my charges.”

He paused for effect.

“You are all honored guests of the Crown and I expect you all to act as such,” Merrick continued.

“Funny way to treat a guest,” Kazrack said.

“Did I give you permission to speak?” Merrick said, curtly.

“So now guests aren’t allowed to speak,” the dwarf replied. “Especially guests who have traveled far and hard to fulfill the request of your king?”

The captain walked up to him, “You can speak all you want when you are a guest of our dungeons, would you prefer that?”
Kazrack did not reply. Devon snickered, and the Captain turned to the tall man with a glare. Devon sneered, but said nothing.
“I didn’t think so,” Merrick continued. “This is the time where I speak and you listen. I say the rules and you learn them. Understand?”

There was a smattering of “Yes, sir” in the group standing at attention.

“My guards will collect all your weapons. We will be searching your packs, but we will trust you to hand over everything else, or else we will make you all strip down out here in the cold if we find even one person holding out on us. However, we will be marching you up into the castle before we collect all such gear. Do not worry, it will be cataloged and inventoried to assure that everyone gets back what belongs to them. Of course, more weapons, armor and other equipment will be provided before you leave for your mission.”

“When will be told more about the dragon and everything?” Kazrack asked.

“You need to learn when to keep your mouth shut,” the Captain said.

There was silence.

“Also, there will be no leaving or returning to the castle grounds until after the hunt is officially declared started. No one will be allowed to leave, and anyone caught trying to sneak out will be considered in breach of contract and will be imprisoned. Understand?”

Crumb’s Boys murmured that they understood.

“Tonight there will be a banquet in your honor, ‘your’ being you and all the others who have answered the king’s call for…ahem… heroes. You will behave in a manner expected for such a Royal event and in appreciation of his majesty’s great generosity.” Merrick cleared his throat. “One last thing, there is a portion of the castle open only to the Royal Family and their immediate servants. If anyone is found there for any reason they will be killed. The safety of the king is before I excuse someone might have.”

Crumb’s Boys murmured.

“Any questions? No? Good. The record-keeper will take your names and then you all can follow me.”

Captain Merrick led the way towards the castle. They walked through a large garden that had its paths and rows cleared of snow. A good number of winter flowers could be seen blooming, and it wa clear that this place would be very beautiful in spring. Two women were clipping flowers in the garden, but looking over at the line of men marching past and giggling. Many of Crumb’s boys turned to look at the women. They were middle-aged and dumpy, wearing frilly dresses of satin and lace, and long tall hats with veils, with fur wraps made of mink or ermine. They waved and giggled.

“Yuck!” said Chance under his breath.

They entered through tall doors into a grand chamber where servants hurried back and forth decorating the walls and preparing tables and chairs. Tapestries were being hung from balconies to the left and right, and another smaller balcony was at the head of the room. They were led through a dining hall to the left and to a back hall and up two sets of narrow stone circular steps. Up here in the western wing of the castle, the halls were narrow and they formed a long line before the door to a room flanked by two heavily armed guards.

“Okay, here is where you turn in your weapons and armor. A record will be kept of who turns in what,” Captain Merrick said.
They moved along one by one handing over whatever they had, though most had nothing to hand over. Kazrack pulled off his scale mail and handed over his halberd and flail.

“Name?” the old man behind the half-door asked.

“Kazrack Delver,” the dwarf replied.

The man looked over his list, “Ah! There you are. What are handing over?”

And on it went.

“Be careful with those,” Jeremy said as he handed over his swords.

And now they were divvied into large rooms with many bunks by a young man who introduced himself as Glenn, assistant to the castle steward.

“These are the rooms you will be staying in. As you know, there will be a banquet tonight. Anyone that needs fresh clothes just tell me or one of the other assistant stewards, and tubs will be filled with water for baths. The banquet begins in about six hours, but the main chamber downstairs will be closed off to everyone for two hours prior to the banquet as final preparations are done, so if you leave the castle proper you may not be able to get back in for a while.”

Crumb’s Boys (could they be called that anymore?) went into their assigned rooms, which already more than half full with other occupants, other young men, most looking to be in their late teens to early twenties; a good number having that Herman-Lander look. Ratchis, and Kazrack were put in one room, with Finn and Frank and Gwar and others, while Beorth, Jeremy and Chance were assigned the same room as Markle, Devon and The Square and some others.

Glenn pulled Jana aside, “We did not know that women would be among the groups to answer the king’s call, but another woman was with one of the other groups that arrived a few days ago so we have had some time to prepare for your special needs. We will have a dressing screen set up around your bunk, and you when you are ready to bathe I will show you down to one of the maids’ quarters and you can use their room.”
Jana thanked him.

“Also, I will see what I can do about getting you some more appropriate clothing, as your skirt looks rather muddy and torn.”
Jana thanked him again.


Most of those who were once “Crumb’s Boys” fell into their cots and fell fast asleep; including Kazrack and Ratchis. Chance, Jeremy and Beorth waited on the long lines for bath water. Jana was shown downstairs and took her bath in the privacy of a maid’s room. She was brought a blue dress with short puffy sleeves and a yellow bow on the front. She felt ridiculous in it, but figured it was better than appearing at a royal banquet dressed like dirty pauper.

Jeremy, Beorth and Chance dressed in their best clothes they had been carrying with them on their long journey. Jeremy and Chance actually had similar outfits, white shirts, black trousers and black vests, while Beorth a white priestly robe with a black belt and trim. He shaved off the bristly red hair that had been growing in as he did every few days. Jeremy and Beorth then went down to the garden to wander and explore the grounds a bit before the banquet started. Chance explored the castle as much as possible.

A few hours later when Ratchis woke up he found what clothes that were spread out that could fit him and winced. He had been given a white priestly garment, a rope belt, blue tights, and sandals with leather ties that wound up to just short of knee height. He was also given a blue cloak that matched the tights that was more of a cape. He felt ridiculous, but Chance assured him he looked fine (with a snicker when the brute wasn’t looking). As self-conscious as Jana, Ratchis joined the stream of young men heading down to the Great Hall when the fanfare of horns called them all to the banquet. Jeremy and Beorth came in from the front of the castle, as they had had to wait out in the garden while the final preparations were being done.

The Great Hall was beautifully decorated with tapestries and ribbons, and lit with many candles, and lamps, including two chandeliers hanging from the ceiling two stories above the main floor. Three balconies circled the room, and large doors were open to the huge dining room, where the smell of food wafted over the perfumes of petty nobles milling among themselves and smiling nervously at all the would-be hunters in their awkwardly worn outfits.

Long tables were set with fine china and silverware and the companions began to take seats near the end of one table. However, as the seats filled at the other tables, a couple of young mane took adjacent seats among the companions and waved over a young woman with short black hair and olive skin.
Servants began to place large pitchers of ale on the table, while a while steward went around filling everyone’s glass.

The two young men were obviously twins, one being maybe only slightly taller than the other, but both were pudgy and wispy sand-brown hair, and a bit of acne. They sat beside Jeremy, while the woman across from them sat between Beorth and Jana. She was dressed in brown woolen trousers and tall boots, and a cream-colored cotton shirt.

“How are your doing?” said the lad closest to Jeremy to the Neergaardian. “I am Simon, and this is my brother Peter.”

“I’m Jeremy Northrop,” the Neergaardian replied. “These are my traveling companions.” He introduced his friends. “Where you guys from? Here to help hunt the dragon, I guess?”

“Yeah, we’re from Swampstop (2) , and my brother Simon knows a lot about dragons, so we figured we’d be useful for such a mission, plus we didn’t want to go to war. You guys a group of five?” Peter said.

“Group of five?” asked Beorth.

“Yes, we heard rumors that we all would be divided into groups of five,” said the woman beside Beorth. “My name is Maria.”
“Maria, came up here in our group,” said Peter.

“So, you know about dragons?” Kazrack asked the other twin.

“Oh yes,” said Simon, his voice was nearly still that of a boy’s. “I have read many books on them, and have spoken to sages and people who have seen them.”

“Oh, yes, Simon is really smart. He knows all about dragons. Watch this! Ready?” Peter paused for effect. “Black.”

“Acid,” replied Simon without pausing.

“Red,” said Peter.

“Fire,” replied Simon with a smile.

“Blue?” asked Peter with a sly smile.

“Blue dragons are a myth, but according to legend they breathed lightning,” the pudgy lad replied, looking very proud of himself.

“What is that you are saying?” Kazrack asked.

“What kind of deadly breath they expel from their mouths,” explained Simon. “Dracologists call it ‘breath weapon’”

“Do you know what kind of dragon they are supposedly having trouble with here in Gothanius?” Kazrack asked.

“Green,” said Peter.

“Chlorine Gas!” cried Simon. “Terrible stuff. Very deadly.”

“Cun weh talk about somethin’ else fer a little while?” asked Chance. “Ahl this dragon talk is pointless fer now.”

“Where are you from, Maria?” asked Beorth.

“I am from here in Derome-Delem, a town on the northeastern coast called Ettinos,” she replied.

“And what made you come here,” the paladin continued.

“A chance to prove myself,” she replied. “I have too many older brothers and all I gained from them is how to use a sword, and my father doesn’t want anything for me but to marry, but I want to do what I want to do. My brothers get to travel, own land, take part in my father’s business, but not me because I am a woman. Heh! Though they don’t treat women much better here. Can you believe that tried to get me to put one some poofy-sleeved dress?!? I’d rather die first.”

Jana shifted uncomfortably in her seat.

“No offense,” Maria added, looking at the young witch.

“I just don’t know about this whole dragon thing. Dragons in stories cause great destruction. They are more obvious, but the dragon here seems to only appear occasionally, and there are no confirmed reports of death (3), though if there really is a dragon a lot of people are going to die,” Kazrack said.

“Din ah juss say I din wanna talk about the drah-gin?” Chance said, annoyed. “Thar will be plenny uh tahm fer that later. Less juss enjah this fahn food.”

“I agree with Chance,” said Jana.

They spoke for some time, sharing some tales of their journey to Gothanius and talking about their homes.

“Whut duhya thank yill spend yer rewahrd en?” Chance asked everyone.

“I think it is too soon to worry about that,” said Kazrack.

“I have no idea,” said Jana.

“I will found a monastery for Anubis,” said Beorth.

“I think we’ll buy a bunch of books and become sages,” said Simon.

“I never thought about it before, but it’s be nice to open an inn. Somewhere where lots of people travel through from many parts of the world, like Earthsea City or something,” said Jeremy. (4)

“Ahm gonna use my part of the reward ta enter one uff does high-stakes poke games in Haffar’s Part,” said Chance with a smile. “I heard ya need a thousand ta enter, but kin walk out wit tin times that! With that Ahl open me own casino!”

“Seems like a strange thing to do with all your money,” said Jeremy. “You could lose it all, but a casino would be a good part of my inn.”

“This all assumes that the dragon does not kill us all,” said Kazrack.

“Ah thought Ah said I din wanna talk about the drahgon!” said Chance, grabbing a piece of asparagus that was served on the table, in large tureen suspended in some onion cream sauce. He then slapped Ratchis hand, who discovering how delicious they were had proceeded to begin shoving asparagus after asparagus in his mouth. “Ya cahnt do that en a fahncee dinna. Ya gotta let other people have some too.”

Ratchis looked around embarrassed waited a minute and grabbed one more, refilled his goblet with ale for the fourth time and tried to get the attention of the wine steward to refill his crystal glass.

The servers began to collect their plates and glasses, and Ratchis tried to nonchalantly eat and drink as much as possible before they took it all away. He looked bewildered.

Chance put a hand on the big man’s arm, “This is only the first course. They will bring more food and drink later, I promise.”
There was a fanfare of horns from the Great Hall, and people began to make their way over there. The companions followed suit. As they stood Maria stepped over to Ratchis, “So where are you from? Not Ettinos, but usually people of orcish descent aren’t treated well anywhere else.”

Kazrack overheard and his eyes opened widely.

“I am from not far from here,” said Ratchis cautiously. “How do you know so much about orcish people?”

“I’m from Ettinos. It’s a half-orc colony. Almost everyone there has some orcish blood in them. Not me, but most people do,” she said with a smile. “I never understood why people have a trouble with half-orcs, they seem just like everyone else to me, just as likely to be a good person or a bad person.”

Maria stepped up her pace to catch up with Simon and Peter, and Kazrack who was lingering behind stepped up to Ratchis.

“I couldn’t help but overhear,” the Kazrack said. “Are you really of orcish descent?”

Ratchis looked down at his dwarfish companion with a stern face, “Yes, I am.” He walked into the crowd of the great hall, taking spot right behind Maria.

Through the fanfare of horns, the family of the queen was announced and emerged, as were some of the Royal servants, among whom the Royal Architect Baulch Stonefingers was a dwarf, which made Kazrack raise an eyebrow. The five princesses followed and then the prince and his bodyguard. There came another fanfare on the horns and everyone fell to one knee and bowed. Ratchis looked around and then followed suit.
The king and queen appeared on the balcony, and the monarch told everyone they could rise.

He spoke,

“We want to personally welcome you for answering our call in this our time of need,” the king said, addressing the crowd. “You young men are the future of Gothanius, a fresh infusion of blood that will carry us to a new strength and place in the world through heroism and cleverness. We also want to thank the alderman and their families who are present and their representatives, for their wisdom in leadership will help to form and guide this strength.”

The king paused and a smattering of applause, became stronger as other joined in.

“Now, we know that many of you have journeyed hard and long to be here, and are anxious to learn the details of this endeavor and get started, but we ask you to be patient a bit longer. Daniel the castle steward will be briefing all of you after dinner, but before we eat I we do want to make this announcement in regards to some rumors you may have heard: You all will be asked to form groups of five to undertake your hunting and slaying of the dragon. However, the reward has been increased. The monetary portion has been doubled to 10,000 pieces of silver (to be divided by the successful group) and more importantly the five who return victorious shall gain the hand in marriage of my five remaining beautiful daughters!”

There was a pause and then a great applause and cheering.

“Oh, great, exactly what I need for a reward! Bah!” said Maria under her breath, obviously annoyed.

The king continued, “And now we eat another course and afterwards there will be music and dancing, and do not be shy. Introduce yourselves to the princesses, for who knows? One day soon you may be a hero and choosing among them for your own bride.”

The king and queen retreated from the balcony and the crowds began to make their way back to the dining room. Kazrack was slowed by the clog of people in the doorway, and by the time he got back to the table he saw that a young man, about six feet tall, with shaggy brown hair and robes of various shades of green had taken his seat, and was talking with Simon and Peter.

He walked up to take a seat opposite them.



(2) Swampstop is a town in the southern portion of the Kingdom of Herman Land famous for drawing adventurers who explore the ancient crypts and abandoned forts of the Black Fens and other swamps in the area.

(3) Kazrack had asked the Captain of the Guard in Northfork Wall about the dragon, and he said he did not know specifically of anyone who died, but that there was a lot of damage to property.

(4) Earthsea City is a port in the southern area of the Kingdom of Neergaard. Named for a famous Neergaardian marine unit, it is a center of international trade for the kingdom.
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Moderator Emeritus
Session #12

“This is our friend Martin the Green,” said Peter. “He traveled with us from Westron. He’s a Watch-Mage.”

“Well, not technically a Watch-Mage,” Martin said to the gathered companions. “But I am an alumnus of the Academy.” He was about six feet tall with shoulder length sandy brown hair that was shaggy and uneven in the back, and wore the familiar robes of an Academy of Wizardry graduate in shades of green.

“Wow, they doobled the rewahrd,” said Chance.

“Yes, however, I am not that interested in marrying a human princess in a land that was stolen from my people,” said Kazrack, as servants poured a spicy tomato soup into their bowls and sprinkled cheese on top that grew soft as it touched the steaming broth.

Ratchis smirked, “I don’t think you are going to have to worry about that..” He lifted the bowl to his lips blew on the hot soup and began to slurp it down.

Chance pulled the big man’s arms down. “Ya cahnt do that,” the Wallbrookian said. “Ya gotta use a spoon.” He handed Ratchis a soup spoon.

Maria smiled as she sipped her own soup. Martin looked at Ratchis with a nervous smile, and the woodsman felt his face grow hot.

“You all traveled here from Westron?” Jana asked.

“Yes, we were recruited by a gentleman named Briad Ketchum,” said Martin.

Several more courses were served, along with more wine and more pitchers of ale. The companions ate and chatted with their new acquaintances, and the meal was interrupted several times for toasts initiated by a tipsy nobleman in honor of the king. Finn, Frank, Gwar and others could be seen eating and talking happily at the far end of the same table that Jeremy and the others were at.

“So, do you plan to travel with the twins and Maria to hunt for the dragon?” Beorth asked Martin.

“Well, perhaps, but my mission here is slightly different, as I was sent by the Academy, and the king may have a different role for me to fulfill. However, if I do go, most likely it will be with them,” Martin replied.

“Well, perhaps our groups can work together? There has been no stipulation that the groups are required to set off alone,” said Kazrack, being practical as always. “If there really is a dragon out there, ten would stand a better chance than five.”

“Well, that seems very reasonable. Even if I do not end up traveling with Simon and Maria and the others, I will try to mention your idea to them. It would seem to be safest,” Martin said.

Everyone ate the succulent pheasant in near silence, with Chance only occasionally chastising Ratchis for his table manners. The servants began to clear the table again, even more quickly than before.

“The king must be done eating,” said Martin. There was a fanfare of horns and then the band struck up and people began to move back into the Great Hall.

“Dessert shall be served after some dancing and the briefing is given,” someone announced to the crowd.

The many young men made a border about the dance floor, and others went to fight over the few free chairs in the chamber. Chance and Jana stood on the western edge of the dance floor and watched as a few noble couple walked out to dance. Princess Deirdre, who was only about five feet two inches tall and had reddish hair and a green dress walked across the dance floor and the crowd parted for her without a word, many of the lads staring at her boyish beauty. The princess took a seat with the musicians before a larp harp which she took and began to play beautifully accompanied by the band. Nobles applauded softly and politely, joined by the would-be heroes.

“Ah neva been inna cahsel buhfuh,” Chance said to Jana. “Ahve you?”

“No, Chance, I haven’t,” Jana said.

“Ya know ya luke very pretty in thut dress,” Chance said, looking down at his feet bashfully.

“Thank you, Chance,” Jana said with a sly smile.

“May I have this dance?” said a soothing tenor.

Jana and Chance turned to see Markle standing there, in a black shirt and jacket, and black pants and shining boots. He was holding his hand out to Jana.

“Sure,” said Jana, taking his hand and letting herself be led out to the dance floor.

Chance’s sneer followed them.

Markle danced beautifully, and Jana felt a little out of her depth, but the handsome Verdunian glided around with her in tow, making her feel as if she were almost floating.

Jeremy stood by Maria who was watching the women in their dresses dancing with finely dressed men with a sneer.
“Would you like to dance,” Jeremy said gesturing to the dance floor.

“Oh, you think I can’t?” Maria said confrontationally. She grabbed his hand pulled him on the dance floor.

Kazrack and Ratchis stood by Simon and Peter who talked excitedly about dragons. The dwarf crooked his head looking to see if he spotted the Royal Architect, but could not seem him. Ratchis pretended to listen to what they said, but he really watched Jeremy and Maria dance. Chance made his way across the dance floor to where the youngest princess Marion was twitching to the music and looking around wide-eyed for someone to dance with.

“Ya like ta dance?” Chance said to the girl, trying to figure out if she had even reached her thirteenth summer yet.

“Uh-huh,” she replied, nodding her head vigorously.

“Well come on then,” he said, and in a moment they were acting like two childish fools in the middle of the dance floor. Chance swung around Marion and she screamed in joy, making the castle guards that lined the ways peer at them nervously.

Jana looked over from where she danced with Markle and smiled knowingly.

Beorth stood not far from the musicians and noticed that one of the princesses had pushed her chair back behind the crowd watching the dance, and pulled a book out from under her dress and began to surreptitiously read it. He was standing by her trying to see what it was she read when she looked up at him. It was Princess Veldicca, her bright blue eyes shining from behind a border of luminous black hair that fell over her shoulders.

“I’m sorry,” the paladin said meekly. “I was just curious about what you were reading.”

“Oh, you like books?” the princess asked with the slightest bit of a smile.

“Yes, I like to read when I can find some books to read. Religious books, mostly,” Beorth answered.

“Oh, I’d love a religious book. I have read all the books in our library about ten times each, and I’m getting kind of tired of them,” Veldicca said. She gestured to the book she held on her lap. “This is a the second of a three volume set on kobolds.”

“Oh, sound… um, interesting,” said Beorth politely.

“Oh, it is. Did you know that even though both kobolds and gnolls are dog-like there is no evidence that they are in any way a related species despite what many sages say?”


Meanwhile, Jana and Markle continued to dance, even though the song ended and another slower song began.
“So tonight is the night,” Markle said, softly into her ear. “Are you sure you won’t be joining us?”

Jana smiled, as she was whirled around, hardly needing to pay attention to her feet, “I already told you I will do the part you asked, but I will not go beyond that.”

“Well, I will come to you tonight and let you know when it is starting. After that all you have to do is keep your friends out of it. It should not be too hard,” Markle said, and then dipped her.

“And while I will consider our debt fulfilled. I want you to know that there can be further reward just for your little part. When it is all said and done, or if you need a place to go, look for us in Ogre’s Bluff in seven days,” Markle said.

“Ogre’s Bluff?” Jana asked, as they glided past Princess Tracell who was now dancing with Jeremy, when Maria had abandoned him to talk strategy with Simon and Peter.

“One of the small villages far to the west. If you make it there, I’ll find you,” Markle said.

“Okay,” said Jana.

“You know you dance excellently. Have you ever had any lessons?” Markle asked the young witch.
“No,” she replied with her sly pretty smile.

“One would never have known.”
“So, how do you feel about your father promising your hand in marriage and that of your sisters to whomsoever slays the dragon?” Jeremy asked Princess Tracell.

“Well, I hope it is someone handsome,” Tracell said, blushing innocently while blinking her big round eyes on her cherubic face. “Normally, I’d only want someone of noble blood, but someone who is a hero that my father deems a noble will be one, so that will do fine.”

“Oh, heh, Um… What about your sisters? How do they feel about it?” Jeremy asked.

“Well, Marion is kind of too young to really understand what this all means, and Veldicca and Deirdre are always busy with books or music, so who knows, and Selma, all she cares about is acting like a man, learning how to use a sword and talking back. It is very unbecoming for a proper lady.”

“But you want to get married?” Jeremy asked.

Tracell looked at the Neergaardian slyly and then smiled, “Yes, I do. I was so envious of our eldest sister when she got to marry that Prince from Rhondria.”

“Oh, I thought Selma was the eldest,” said Jeremy.

“Oh, no. The eldest, Mariah, had to be married to create a bond between our kingdom and Rhondria,” Tracel explained.

They continued to dance through to another song.

“Listen, I was hoping that we could meet another time and talk. I wanted to …um, ask you a favor,” Jeremy asked.

Tracell cocked her head and a knowing smile came across her face. “Oh, a rendezvous!” she squealed, and then whispered. “How about tomorrow after mid-day meal in the garden?”

“That would be fine,” Jeremy replied.

The song finished and the blare of horns announced that the briefing would now start. A huge banner was unfurled of the front balcony and upon it was a map of Gothanius. Upon the map they could see Twelve Trolls, all the alder-villages, the area leading into Greenreed Valley and many icons of a dragon’s head obviously displaying the place the wyrm had been spotted.

A man with curly dark hair, dressed in an off-white tunic and with a clean boyish face that made he appear to young to have the air of authority that surrounded him stepped before the gathered crowd of would-be dragon-slayers.
“Hello,” the young man said. “As many of you may know, my name is Daniel and I the steward of Castle Gothanius, and aid the king in every way I can. As you can see the map above is one of the grand Kingdom of Gothanius. You will be receiving a copy of a similar map as you register and leave the castle to begin your hunt.”
Kazrack raised his hand.

“Please save your questions for after I am done,” Daniel said. “As His Royal Highness has said, you will be breaking up into groups of five for this mission. Starting at noon tomorrow you may register your group and leave for the valley beyond and go where you will to find the dragon and deal with it. Starting tomorrow after breakfast weapons, armor and some other general equipment will be made available to in the trophy room. You have three days staring at noon tomorrow before you must leave the castle and begin the castle, though obviously the sooner you leave the more likely you are to avoid bad weather on the road and have a chance to find the dragon before anyone else does.”

Daniel pulled a long pointer from behind his back and gestured to the banner/map. “As you can tell the most dragon sightings have been within Greenreed Valley, but also in the vicinity of Summit and Ogre’s Bluff,” the steward said. “We recommend you make your way to one or the other and begin your hunts there.”

He paused and scanned the crowd, “Now, any questions?” Kazrack’s hand was already in the air. Daniel looked the crowd over to see if there was someone else he could call on.

“Is there a person available; a witness to the dragon that we will be able to question?” Kazrack asked.

”No,” replied Daniel. “Any other questions?”

“How big is it?” asked Kazrack.

“It is said to be at from 60 to 80 feet long,” said Daniel.

“Does that include the neck and tail?” asked Kazrack.

Daniel sighed, “The information I have does not rightly say.”

Simon raised his hand and the castle steward happily called on the pudgy kid.
“I heard that the dragon is green in color. Is that true?”

“Yes, eyewitness accounts say that the dragon is green,” Daniel answered.

Kazrack raised his hand again.

“Yes,” Daniel said to the dwarf resignedly.

“Any particular trends in how and where it attacks?” the dwarf asked.

“Many of the accounts say that the dragon enjoys attacking merchant caravans, particularly those with many wagons and beasts of burden,” Daniel explained. “Any more questions anyone?”

Kazrack raised his hand again.

“No?” The steward ignored the dwarf. “Okay, thank you. A dessert of strawberry-flavored ice is now being served in the dining room. Enjoy!”

The crowd began to disperse, and long lines formed to get their dish of the dessert.

As Jana walked into the dining room to get on line, she noticed Devon walking with his bowl and eating the sweet treat, getting back on the back of the line. But as he walked, he slammed into a tall lithe hawk-featured man dressed in a long black cloak.

“Why don’t you watch where you’re going, dimwit!” Devon said loudly.

“Sir, I would inform you that it was you that was not looking where you were going, but obviously your lack of intelligence is such that you would not understand me if I deemed a lowly cretin like you as worthy of an explanation,” the man replied.

“Who you calling names, you pansy-talker!” Devon cried. “I will smash your face flat as a board!”
“Oh, what a witty comeback!” the man said. “I would find your ignorance quite entertaining if you did not have the breath of ox.”

“Why I oughta!” Devon pulled back his meaty fist, but suddenly Markle was right there, pulling the tall man way.

“Sorry about that,” Markle said to the man in the black coat.

“Why look, the ape has a keeper. It is good that they let the peasants take such jobs to pass their time. Do you clean up after his manure as well?” the man said to Markle.

Markle sneered, and Devon moved to get at the man again, but Markle held him back. They walked to the dessert line. The hawk-faced man, walked towards the back hall that led to the room all the “dragon-slayers” were staying in.

Jana smiled while observing the exchange, and then saw Chance swinging a spoon full of the dessert n wide-loops saying “Here come the butterfly!” as he fed it to the young princess Marion. She’d slurp it off the spoon with a big smile and moony eyes directed toward the poofy red-haired Wallbrookian.


Kazrack was waiting on the long line when he saw the dwarven Royal Architect walking by. So he left his place in line and stopped the dwarf.

Baulch Stonefingers was likely a good 60 years older than Kazrack. His brown beard had streaks of steel gray in it, and the little hair on his balding head was gray as well.

“Excuse me, sir,” said Kazrack.

The dwarf turned, “Yes?”

“Oh, I was just surprised to see one of my brethren here, and thought you might know of another dwarf in Gothanius, a rune-thrower, his name is Belear Grithckar,” Kazrack said.

“I find it fairly dubious that there are any other dwarves in Gothanius, but just because I am a dwarf does not mean I would know if there was,” the Royal Architect said with grating attitude.

“Oh,” said Kazrack taken aback. “I um, am sorry to have disturbed you.” The younger dwarf walked back to the dessert line.


Ratchis finished his dessert, enjoying the cold-sweet treat and walked over to where Maria stood talking with Simon and Peter.

“I was thinking that our two groups should work together,” Ratchis said to the warrior-woman. “It would be much safer that way.”

“Heh,” she replied. “Thanks for the offer, but I think we want to forge our own way and see what we can accomplish on our own.”

“But against a dragon, if there really is one, and whatever other dangers there are, ten would do better than five. And we also have the problem that there are six among us, but there are four among you, so maybe one of us can travel officially with your group,” Ratchis explained.

“Well, we are really looking at a variety of people to be the fifth in our group, like Tanweil for example who I think is an excellent fighter and can take direction,’ Maria smiled. “Maybe we can arrange for our groups to meet and have an exchange of information for our mutual benefit. We’ll discuss it and get back to you.”

She turned back to her companions, and Ratchis’ shoulders slumped and he walked across the great hall as the music began again and through the dining room to the rear hall and up to his room. Chance returned to dancing with young Princess Marion, and Beorth continued to chat some with Princess Veldicca, and listened attentively to Princess Deirdre when at one point she played a harp solo. Jeremy continued to drink, and watched the line of young men ask Princess Selma to dance and have her angrily refuse.

Upstairs, Ratchis found the hawk-faced man who had tussled with Devon sitting on a bunk, pouring glassfuls of wine and sipping them.

“Ugh, I must share a room with such a large brute?” the man said, looking up at Ratchis. “This arrangement is getting worse all the time.”

Ratchis just grunted, tore off the clothes he had been lent, and proceed to do his evening push-ups.

“Must you breathe so loudly when you do such savage rituals?” the man asked. “I may have to ask for another room. In a second it will smell like pig’s sty, not that this whole kingdom doesn’t smell like one.”
Ratchis grunted again and ignored the man, and soon went to bed falling straight to sleep.

The rest of the evening continued without event. Eventually the music and dancing was called to an end when the King announced his retirement for the night. The nobles left the castle, and all the those young men inwardly making plans for the hardships to come, made their way to their beds and sleep.

Jana, however, sat in her bed fully dressed, behind the screen they had set up for her, waiting for Markle’s word that she be prepared to stop the others. The minutes stretched into an hour or more perhaps, when suddenly she snapped awake realizing she had dozed. Someone was rapping on the screen.

“Come in,” she whispered, expecting to see Markle standing there.

Garcon walked behind the screen.

“Oh, my Jana, I have something I must tell you now that we have arrived here in Gothanius,” Garcon said.
“Garcon, I do not have time for you right now,” Jana replied.

“Oh, through many days and nights, across many miles and up and down stony hill and along the rushing rivers of the this rough land I have marched only to be by your side,” Garcon continued.
“Garcon, leave!”

“I know you play coy, but how can someone reject one who loves another so deepy and that has come here for no other reason than to be by your side and cast aside all other loves, loves that did not appreciate the depth that one could feel for another. Jana, you must understand…”

“Garcon, it’s the middle of the night, can we please talk about this another time?”

“But Jana, I have to tell you…” Garcon pulled off his hat and the powdered wig beneath, revealing short brown hair. Now she could see in the dim light of the low lantern she had by the bed that sweat was wiping away the face powder Garcon used to lighten his complexion.

“Oh my god,” Jana said, cover her mouth with her hand.


Moderator Emeritus
Session #12 (Part II)

“Yes, Jana. It is I, Arnold,” he who had formerly been Garcon said. “I have watched and waited. Letting one love die and another come to grow in my heart for you, Jana. All for you,” Arnold said. “Your skin like the caramel sweets sold in spring market, and eyes that shine like the waters of the Wizard’s Sea. I dream of you all the time, and I awake in the morning and see you again and I thank Isis that she allows my dreams to bleed into my waking life.”

“What are you doing here? Where did you come from?” Jana asked.

“From the moment I first looked into your eyes I knew there was something special about you. When I came to the Slim Stiletto (5) to meet you and found out you were coming here, I decided that a change would be a good thing and that I would come too and prove that I too can be heroic, and make you love me,” explained Arnold.
“You have to leave right now,” Jana pushed him towards the screen.

“Don’t play hard to get,” Arnold said, falling to one knee. “Let me recite a poem I wrote for you.”

“Jana, it’s time,” a voice said softly, as the screen was being pulled back. Markle stepped in and his eyes narrowed as he saw Garcon/Arnold there. “What’s he doing here?”

“He’s crazy. I don’t know,” Jana replied flustered.

“What is he doing here?” Arnold asked, and then turned to Markle. “Don’t think I won’t fight for Jana’s love, because I will.” He reached for his rapier.

“Arnold, stop!” said Jana with a hiss. “And be quiet, you will wake people.”

Markle sneered, “Just take care of it. I don’t care what you have to do, and if I were you I’d stay in here for at least ten minutes. Until we meet again.”

Markle slipped away.

“He is lucky he left, or he would have seen that I really am a great swordsman,” Arnold said.

Jana momentarily ignored Arnold/Garcon, and with a mental command her little green companion slipped out from under the pillow up the wall, across the ceiling, and through the crack of the door.

“To Jana, my love…” Arnold was starting his poem.

“Arnold, you have to keep it down,” Jana whispered.

Arnold quieted his voice and continued, “As I turn my mind to the thought of the warmth of Ra’s Glory reflecting off the surface of the blue-green sea, I am reminded of a similar warmth that comes from basking in your presence…”

He continued on and on and Jana allowed him, if only to keep him busy, but suddenly there was a thump and muted growl in the hallway, and in a moment her familiar came crazily scurrying back into the room, the voice in Jana’s mind was a scream, “Big animal! Big animal! Big animal!” The tiny lizard slid up Jana’s leg and took her normal spot of safety under the collar of the witch’s blouse.

Kazrack awoke, thinking he heard voices coming from behind the screen.

Jana covered Arnold’s mouth, “Shh! Don’t speak. Let me just look in your eyes for a moment.”

The dwarf walked over the screen, “Jana?”

“Huh?” Jana said in her best groggy voice.

“Can I talk to you about something?” Kazrack asked.

“Can’t it wait `til morning?” Jana replied.

“I guess,” the dwarf walked back to bed and laid down, sleep enveloping him again.

But now Ratchis stirred as there was another sound from the hallway.

Arnold pulled his mouth free, “What was that? Are those villains up to no good? I will check and prove myself to you.”

“If you want to make me happy you will stay where you are,” Jana told Arnold.

Ratchis sat up and rubbed his eyes, but remained in bed, just listening.

“I knew you’d come around,” said Arnold leaning forward for a kiss.

“Uh, read me some more poetry,” Jana said, dodging the smooch. “Just do it quietly.”

“Certainly,” Arnold/Garcon replied.


Beorth woke with a start, someone was shaking him.

“Beorth, weck op!” Chance was saying. “Somethin’ strange is hoppening.”

“What is it?” said Beorth, suddenly alert.

“Ah heard some strange nuzzes from the hall,” Chance replied.

The paladin of Anubis got out of bed and went to the door with Chance close behind. He paused and listened, hearing nothing. He slowly pulled the door open.

The hallway was very dark, with only the slightest light coming from a sconce much further down the hall. Beorth placed one foot out into the hall to get a better look to the left and right, and felt something sticky and slick under his foot. He paused and stooped down, and ran his finger along the substance.

“Blood,” he said, in his typical passionless voice. “Wake, Jeremy and the others. This seems to be smeared all up and down the hallway.”

“Whot’s gun on?” Chance asked.

“We’ll find out,” said Beorth. “I am going to wake Martin the Watch-Mage.”

Chance woke Jeremy.

“What’s going on?” Jeremy asked, annoyed.

“There were strange noises and now there is blood all in the hall,” Chance explained.

“First chance in forever to sleep in a real bed, and there are strange noises and blood in the hall. I should’ve known,” Jeremy replied getting out of bed. “The guards should be getting here soon. We should just wait before we run off doing anything crazy.”

Chance ran out into the hall, trying to leap over the thick track of blood, but just ending up sliding towards the door where Ratchis and the others stayed.

Jeremy stood in the doorway. “Hey, be careful, you are spreading that around,” he said pointing to the blood.
Chance opened the door and went in and Ratchis immediately sat up, “What’s happening?”

Chance was startled.

Ratchis stood up.

“Thar’s blood ol over the hallway,” Chance said. “Beorth’s gone ta wake the Watch-mage.”
A handful of the lads sleeping in the room began to grunt and stir; more than one “Quiet!” erupted from the slumbering forms.

Ratchis walked over and shook the snoring dwarf, “Kazrack, trouble.”
The dwarf awoke, while Ratchis went to Jana. He knocked lightly on the screen.

“Quiet, I’m trying to sleep!” called a groggy voice from across the room, which led to quite a few more “Shhhhhhs”.

“Jana?” Ratchis said, as he pulled open the screen.

“Oh, all the interruptions of my admission of love,” said Arnold/Garcon.

Jana emerged from the screen.

“Chance said there were noises and now blood in the hall,” Ratchis said.

“Really? I haven’t heard anything,” said Jana.

“Hey, whus is he doin’ in there wit’ ya?” Chance said to Jana, sneering.

“A rival suitor?!” said Arnold said stepping to Chance.

“Back oof, or ah’ punch ya lights oot,” said the gambler.

“Arnold, stop!” said Jana.

By this time a few of the others were actually sitting up in bed, “What the hell is going on?”

Another voice said, “Will you shut the hell up?”

In the meantime, Kazrack had moved to the door and saw the wide swath of blood in the hallway. He also saw Jeremy standing in the doorway of the other room.

“Hey, I just notice that Devon and Markle and the other guy aren’t in their beds,” said Jeremy.

“Oh my, oh my,” Martin the Green said, rubbing his forehead nervously as he came around the corner. He suddenly noticed his robes were dragging in the blood, and he lifted them up.

Beorth followed, “The blood goes all the way up the hall, and past Martin’s door.”

“It looks like it does down this way as well,” said Kazrack, pointing past towards the stairs.

Ratchis came out to the hall followed by Chance and Jana. Arnold followed Jana.

“Who is he?” asked Kazrack. “He looks kind of like Garcon.”

Jana sighed, “Long story. What is happening?”

“Someone was killed,” Beorth said.

“We need to stay calm,” said Martin, nervously. “We have to find a guard or the steward and report this.”

Ratchis walked past him, trying not to make tracks in the blood, “We need to see what happened first.”

He kneeled down and examined the blood, as Beorth retrieved a torch. “Looks like the source of the blood is this way.” They followed the blood back to its source, which led to the room where all their weapons had been taken from them and stored. The door was smashed open, and here the blood was spattered all over the walls and door.
Ratchis stepped in and saw the room had been quickly ransacked. The guard they had seen standing before the door all day was nowhere to be seen – except for the blood.

“Weapons have been removed from here,” Ratchis said.

“What is this door?” Kazrack asked Martin referring to a large iron-reinforced door perpendicular to that that led to the weapon storage room.

“It goes to the Royal Quarters,” answered Martin. “We can’t go that way. The guards will attack first and ask questions later. We, uh… I have to go downstairs and find Daniel or the Captain of the Guards. I know where their quarters are. They are in this wing.”

Martin turned, as if to go back down the hall towards the stairs and then stopped and turned back and then opened his mouth and then closed it again. Everyone just looked at him.

“I, uh… Ratchis, would you come with me, and you others could you please keep people from wandering around or touching anything. The danger may not be over,” Martin added.

Ratchis and Martin made their way down the stone spiral steps. The tall woodsman led the way, going cautiously. The blood continued down the stairs, but became thinner as they came to the second floor. Martin directed Ratchis to a door, and then knocked on it.

“Daniel?” the young Watch-Mage called. “There has been some trouble, and perhaps a murder. Daniel?”
There was no answer. Ratchis tried the door and it was locked.

“Captain Merrick’s room is over here,” said Martin walking in the direction of an adjacent hall. Ratchis grabbed the shaggy-haired Thrician by the shoulder and pulled him back.

“I go first,” he said.

The came to another door and this time Ratchis knocked loudly, “Captain!” he called.

“Captain,” said Martin. “It is I, Martin the Green, there seems to have been some kind of incident. There is trouble.”

Again there was no reply. “We should go down to the ground level and see if there is anyone around,” said Martin.
Ratchis led the way to the steps going down to the ground level, but at the top of the spiral steps stuck out a pair of booted feet. Ratchis crept forward and pulled the body up a bit to see the beheaded corpse of a castle guard.

“OH MY!” gasped Martin covering his mouth and turning away.

“Come on, we’re going back up,” said Ratchis brusquely.

Upstairs, Ratchis informed the others of what they had found. By now, others of the would-be dragon-hunters were awake and displaying a mixture of nervousness and curiosity.

Ratchis made his way to the weapon storage room, and began to put on his chain shirt, and grabbed his swords. Kazrack, Beorth and Chance followed suit, while Martin went back into his quarters and retrieved his satchel of components.

“You shouldn’t do that,” Jeremy called from where he still stood in the door, refusing to come out into the hall. “We could all get in trouble.”

“Ef something is ripping the heads uf people around here, Ah fer one want me sword n’ armor, dahm the consequences,” said Chance.

“Hmmm,” Jeremy rubbed his chin. “You have a point.” And then carefully, as to not to step in blood made his way to the weapon storage room. Jana followed grabbing a crossbow and a club.

“What do we do now?” asked Beorth.

“We wait right here until some guards show up and we tell them what happened,” replied Jeremy, putting his chain shirt on. “There is no need to go wild, running around the castle looking for trouble.”

“Normally, I would agree with you, but, uh…” Martin swallowed. “I think something is seriously wrong. I suggest we do search, but first perhaps Ratchis and I can go up to one of the towers and see if any guards are up there.”

“Ok,” replied Kazrack. “We’ll wait here, for now, but if the king and others are in danger we need to act soon.”
Again, Martin and Ratchis left the others and made their way to the steps that led up to the tower. Ratchis slowly pushed open the trap door and felt the cold air rush in, as something dripped on him from above. He came up to see blood splattered everywhere up here as well. The corpses of three guards were badly torn apart. Martin came up as well and muffled a cry.

They could see the red glimmer of fire at the castle’s front gate to their left, and could hear the distant voices of men crying out in their attempts to deal with the flame.

“There must have been some kind of attack at the gate,” said Martin.

“It is a distraction for whatever is going on here in the castle,” replied Ratchis.


Martin’s question was left hanging in the cold air as both he and the half-orc noticed movement in the tower across from their, closer to the front of the castle proper. A tall dark man with dark hair was climbing atop the low wall that ran around the edge of the tower, holding on to one of the four posts that held the tower roof up. He looked right at Ratchis and Martin frozen and looking, as he crouched there and then as if in slow motion to them, he let go of the post and began to tumble forward off the tower, but something even stranger was happening.

The man’s skin grew darker and his arms elongated and stretched downward, as if the skin were becoming leather and growing to connect along the side of his torso. The man’s legs collapsed upward and inward, becoming short claws, and his face stretched forward, as his ears bloomed outward, and black hair grew all over his changing body.

And then where a man had stood before tumbling from a tower, before Ratchis and Martin could even draw another breath, there was a huge bat with a wingspan of nearly twelve feet, flapping into the night with a screech.



(5) The Slim Stiletto is the Inn where Crumb’s Boys all first gathered in Verdun, and where Jana and Arnold were supposed to have a date.


Moderator Emeritus
Sesssion #12 (part III)

“Whu-what was that?” Martin said, when he realized that he could move and speak and the horror of the sight had begun to subside.

“Come on, the King’s in danger,” Ratchis said, opening the trap door to allow Martin to go down first.

Downstairs, Ratchis told the others about the fire at the gate and the dead guards on the tower, but Martin did went directly to the door Martin has pointed out as leading to the royal quarters and began to knock as loudly as he could.

“Hello? This is Martin the Green. There is some kind of trouble! I think the king is in danger,” he called through the door, but there was no reply.

Ratchis pushed Martin aside and kicked the door with all his might. The large oaken door, reinforced with slats of iron, shuddered but did not open. He tried and failed again.

“Let me help,” said Kazrack. They slammed their shoulders against the door together, but the door held.

“We will have to find a way to the Royal Quarters from downstairs,” said Martin.

“I don’t think we should go wandering around castle,” said Jeremy.

By this time most of the would-be Dragon-Hunters were wake and were spilling into the hall trying to see what was going on, tracking blood all over the place.

“I don’t think we all should,” said Martin. “Beorth, would you stay here and watch over the others and make sure no one disturbs the storage room or tries to go through that door?”

“Of course,” replied Beorth.

“Ratchis and Kazrack, would you come with me?” Martin asked.

“No way I am staying here when there is something to be done,” replied Kazrack.

“I will stay here,” said Jana.

“And I too shall stay, for this vision of loveliness, this diamond in the rough will need me to watch over her, though my excellent skills as a swordsman would be very useful to you if villainy is afoot, but even ones such as I need to make sacrifices,” said Arnold/Garcon.

“Oh, gav it op!” said Chance. “Ya nut a bleedin’ swashbockler, but ah’ll stay with Jana and Beorth ta.”
Kazrack and Ratchis looked to Jeremy. The blonde Neergaardian sighed.

“Well, I guess I’ll go with you guys to keep you out of trouble,” he said.

Jeremy went down the stairs first, followed by Kazrack, then Martin and Ratchis took up the rear. They made their way past the headless body on the stairs, and found the head a crunched up pulpy nearly unidentifiable thing at the base of the steps, not ten feet from the corpses of two other guards.

“Looks like he was ravaged by an animal,” said Ratchis, he pointed to bloody bootprints that led towards the dining hall.

They made their way through the back hall to the doors to the dining room. Kazrack pulled open the door, while Jeremy covered it with his crossbow. The dining room was silent and empty, wooden chairs piled atop the long now barren tables.

Ratchis thought he heard something behind the large double doors which led to the Great Hall beyond, and rushed past Jeremy, pushing open the great doors hurriedly.

Kazrack, Jeremy and Martin rushed after him.

Ratchis paused. In the area beneath where the king had addressed the banquet from a balcony lay the body of another guard, and a second guard was being mauled by a huge brown bear.
Ratchis knew it was too late for the guard and waited, but Jeremy took up a spot to the woodsman’s right and fired his crossbow, striking deep in the bear’s flank. The animal roared, and the four companions braced for it to charge, but it did not. Instead, the bear backed up to the single door across from the one they had come through and stood there, growling and watching the party.

Martin hurried over to the guard to check for signs of life, while both Kazrack and Jeremy loaded their crossbows. The guard was certainly dead. Kazrack fired and missed, but Jeremy scored another hit, while

Ratchis just waited to intercept the bear if it charged.

Martin left the guard in the growing pool of blood, and taking out a handful of colored sand cast it at the bear and spoke some arcane words. The sand transformed into a explosion of multi-colored lights that enveloped the bear’s head. The beast shook his head and roared.

“Damn!” said Martin. The bear got up on its hind legs and roared again.

“Shoot it!” cried Ratchis.

Jeremy and Kazrack who were busy reloading, both fired and hit. Kazrack’s went deep into it’s flank, but Jeremy’s disappeared into the bear’s neck. Blood gurgled forth and the animal swayed and began to tumble forward, but before it could it the ground it disappeared.

“Where did it go?” Jeremy asked.

“Magic?” said Kazrack.

“It could have been an illusion, except these guards are really dead and the caster would have to be somewhere nearby, unless of course he is very very powerful,” Martin said.

“Which way should we go?” asked Jeremy.

“Well, we should be able to get to the Royal Quarters by way of the audience chamber or above through the balcony,” said Martin.

Ratchis walked over and checked the doors to the audience chamber and they were locked.

“The balcony it is then,” said Kazrack.

“How do we get up there?” asked Martin.

“Well, you could magic us up there or something,” said Jeremy.

“I cannot, um, do that,” said Martin.

“Heh,” replied Jeremy. “Then we’ll grab one of these long table and flip it over on the narrow end and use it as a ladder of sorts.”

Kazrack, Jeremy and Ratchis worked together to flip the table over, but it immediately began to slide backward, so Ratchis held it in place as the others climbed up, and then Kazrack and Jeremy held the table legs in place while Ratchis came up.

Kazrack and Ratchis stood to either side of the door, while Martin knocked. Jeremy was stuck holding the table up.

“Hello?” called Martin. He knocked again and waited. They could clearly hear the sound of someone on the other side.

“We can hear someone there,” said the Watch-Mage. “The King could be in danger. We’ve come to warn you.”

“In the name of the King identify yourselves. None may enter the Royal Quarters without his majesty’s leave!” said a voice from the other side.

“It is I, Martin the Green, and uh…three of the other dragon-hunters. We have found castle guards dead and wild animals about and there is a fire at the front gate. There is some real trouble afoot, we think the fire is a distraction to allow someone to do harm to the king.”

“You should not be wandering the castle at night, and none shall enter the Royal Quarters,” the guard on the other side said.

“Well, perhaps if you could come and help us find the perpetrators, or send someone to help us,” suggested Martin.

“None of the Royal Guard may leave their posts under any circumstances. The immediate protection of the king is our concern,” the voice said.

“But, we are telling you the king is in danger!” cried Kazrack with frustration.

“And I am telling you that the king is safe here with us, and no one shall get us to open this door short of the Captain himself,” said the guard. “It is he you should seek out if there is danger about in the castle.”

“Um, guys,” said Jeremy in a strained voice. “Could you hurry up? This table is getting heavy.”

“Well, could you bring the king to the door so we can talk to him?” asked Kazrack.
The laughter from the other side of the door was clearer than the talking had been.

“His majesty is not summoned by any man, least of all a stranger on the other side of a door in the dead of night when the castle has been attacked,” the guard said dismissively.

“Argh,” cried Kazrack, upset with their failure.

“There is no way they are going to let us in,” said Martin. “Should be head to the gate and try to find the Captain?”

“We cannot risk not being believed or being delayed and whoever is in the castle with magic animals accomplishing whatever it is they are doing, if they haven’t already,” said Ratchis.

“We could smash down this door, and make sure the king really is safe. Those guards on the other side of the door may be lying,” said Kazrack.

“And get into a battle with the Royal Guards? I think not,” said Ratchis.

“I think we should climb back down,” said Jeremy, sweat beading on his brow.

“Yes, I think we should try the door the bear was in front of. I think it was strange it did not charge us, maybe it was just trying to delay us,” said Ratchis.

“Well, it is either that or go out to the front gate and find the Captain, and that is exactly what someone may want us to do,” said Martin.

Kazrack helped Jeremy hold the table as Ratchis climbed down and then he held the table from below as

Martin climbed down, followed by Jeremy and finally Kazrack. The Great Hall was cold and spooky, the splattered blood of the guards and their bodies akimbo juxtaposed with the fine tapestries and the unattended instruments of the musicians left in the corner.

The four of them went through the door that led to the east wing.

“This is where the library and the trophy room are,” said Martin.

Ratchis walked in first, peering into the dark with his darkvision, Martin followed with a lantern, then came Kazrack and Jeremy. Ratchis crept a bit ahead, a short hall connected to his right, and as he turned to note a spiral staircase going downward, his vision was obscured by the shadow of an animal that leapt up onto his head and shoulders.

Martin stepped back as Ratchis struggled to detach the black and white furry animal that was furiously tearing at large man’s face. Kazrack ran up to his companion and shoved his halberd point right through the creature. It squealed as the broad blade burst its very body with sudden violence. However, the squeal ended abruptly as the animal disappeared.

“That was a badger!” Jeremy laughed. “You got tore up by badger!”

Ratchis growled dabbing at the deep scratches on face and neck with torn piece of cloth.

“It came from that stairway,” Ratchis said, and led the way down.


Meanwhile, upstairs Beorth, Chance and Jana stood in the hall, keeping the others from coming out into the hall. Arnold/Garcon was out there with them.

“Ah guess you were too busy talkin’ ta this guy to hear whut wess gunn on,” said Chance snottily.

“You will address me as Arnold or Garcon, or you and I sir will have some words,” said Arnold/Garcon.

“Arnold, be quiet,” Jana said, as Chance’s hands curled into fists. “And Chance, he was just bothering me, you know how he is.”

“Oh, kind of like you looked sa bahthered when ya wuss dancing with yer boyfriend arlyer tonight,” said Chance.

“My boyfriend? What are you talking about?”

“I am more than a mere boyfriend,” said Arnold/Garcon. “I am the love of this woman’s- - - “

“Shut up, Garcon!” said Chance angrily. He turned back to Jana. “Aye! Ya know who ahm talkin’ `bout.

Markle! Ah saw ya dahn-cin ahl clarse n’ ahl.”

“Oh, Chance!” said Jana.

“Come ahn, admit it!”

‘Whatever,” was Jana’s only reply.

Beorth just looked at the both of them in wonder.


The spiral stone staircase came to a barren stone room with two doors. One door had a small barred window in it, the sound of air rushing through the window could be heard, and the cold air stirred in the room. The other door creaked in the wind. It was open.

Kazrack cracked the door open a bit more, while Jeremy reloaded his crossbow. The dwarf peaked in. There were narrow steps leading down into a room filled with barrels, crates and kegs. Ratchis stepped past them and tried to throw the door open, but something heavy seemed to block it from opening more than a few inches. Jeremy, Ratchis and Kazrack all pushed together and the resistance quickly gave. There was the sound of something falling and bursting, followed by a dripping sound.

Now that the door stood open Ratchis could see that the short stone stairway into the sunken room was covered in a black oily liquid. Ratchis leaned back and did a broad jump over the steps and down into the room, but misjudged landed badly. He was stretched painfully on steps, his back covered in the viscous substance.

There was a sudden movement and sound in shadows of the room, Ratchis looked over as torch lit up and was tossed in his direction. He instinctively flinched, but the torch fell below him, and the oil all about burst aflame.

Devon ran out of the shadow through a doorway in the opposite wall, “Somebody came through!”


Moderator Emeritus
Session #12 (Part IV)

Ratchis forced himself to control his breathing and spoke words calling to his goddess, Nephthys, to grant him her Divine Favor and the stood, the flames licking at his clothing.

Kazrack leapt from the landing to the right onto a crate he thought would hold his weight, but the crunching of wood as one leg painfully burst through stranding him there proved him wrong. He cried out from the painful split, while Martin and Jeremy moved onto the landing.

Ratchis ran off the steps, patting his clothes out, and could see now that a lantern light could be seen coming from the next room. Kazrack pulled his leg free and rolled off the crate. Martin and Jeremy came down the steps, for the fire had flared up suddenly and then died down.

Ratchis pushed a crate before him into the room to act as a shield, but then came round the left side of it deeper into the L-shaped room. There he could see Markle and the hawk-faced man he had argued with earlier standing on either side of a small dark archway. Martin came up behind Karack who was now ducked behind the box, waiting for someone to move it.

“Devon’s in there!” said Kazrack.

“Who?” asked Martin.

Markle moved cautiously forward, holding a short sword in his right hand. With his left he reached into a small red bag on his belt and pulled out what appeared to be a ball of fur. He threw it sidearm at Ratchis, and as it tumbled towards him it grew and grew, taking the form of a large wolf that landed before the large half-orc and bit at him, but missed.

“Damn, Jana!” cried Markle. “I’ll choose someone better next time.”

Martin moved into the room, and he and Kazrack felt a wave of dizziness come over them, but they shook it off. Ratchis hurled a javelin at Markle, and the small handsome man dodged enough to make it strike his studded leather armor at an awkward angle, but he could feel the bruise start to swell.

Martin spoke an arcane word and three small globes of light began to dance around the wolf’s head. Jeremy leapt over Kazrack’s head onto the crate, but felt the sharp pain of a blow to his rear right flank. Turning, he saw Devon had emerged from the darkness of the other corner in this part of the room. Kazrack moved around the box, and fired his crossbow at Markle and missed. The wolf seeing him more open took a nip at the dwarf and missed, just as he felt another spell begin to come over him, but fail.

Ratchis pulled a dagger to go along with his drawn short sword, and moved to attack the wolf, which was too wile for him. The lights moved from the wolf which seemed to ignore them to circle Devon’s head, he was taken aback, and the spray of bright colors that followed from Martin sent him reeling. This gave Jeremy an opening which he exploited, drawing blood with both his blades. The wolf continued to bite at Kazrack, but his armor proved too strong for the animal’s teeth to puncture. Markle charged at the dwarf, stabbing with his short sword, but the dwarf parried the blow, impressively displaying skill at keeping both foes at bay. Again, Kazrack felt another spell wash over him to no avail.

Ratchis tried to take advantage of the wolf’s distraction with Kazrack, but both is blows went wide. The flips flipped back over to Marke’s head, but he ignored them, as Martin moved over to strike a blow against the stunned and blinded Devon’s shoulder with his staff. Suddenly, Devon’s head cocked, and as Jeremy’s longsword came down for what would have been a killing blow, Devon parried it with his cutlass, but winced as the short sword bit him. He disengaged from combat.

Kazrack, Markle and the wolf, all struggled with each other, but only Markle’s blade found purchase, causinf the dwarf to spit.

“I knew you wouldn’t be able to mind your own business,” he said. “Really unfortunate for both our parties.”
From the corner of his eye, Ratchis could see the hawk-faced man tracing something in red on the wall behind him. But there was nothing he could except stab forward with a deep blow into the wolf’s haunch that made it yelp pathetically.

Martin the Green twiddled his fingers in Markle’s direction, but he shrugged off the daze effect, and continued to fight.

Jeremy turned and went to finish the wolf, but missed as Devon came swinging wildly at the Neergaardian.
“I may not be able to see, but I can still getcha,” he said.

More blows were traded, Markle felt the bite of Kazrack’s polearm, but the dwarf felt both the wolf’s teeth and Markle’s blade. Kazrack staggered, but kept his feet.

From the other side of the room the hawk-faced man was heard to declare, “Come from the fiendish pit!”

The circle the man drew on the wall burst into bright flame and from it emerged a red hawk, who’s very feathers flicker like flame, and filled the room with a sulfurous smell. It flew right into Ratchis’ face, heat seeming to emanate from it. Ratchis slashed at the bird with his knife as he made a blind stab at the wolf. The bird dodged, but the sword found purchase in the wolf, and with a howl it slumped and disappeared.

Martin came over and took a swing at the hawk with his staff, but the bird was too quick, screeching an unearthly screech as it dove and fluttered. Devon and Jeremy continued to struggle with each other, now that Devon had recovered his bearings and vision. Kazrack desperately tried to get a more solid blow in on Markle, who was looking gravely wounded, but he was too quick and skilled.

The warlock in the corner of the room moved into position and fired a ray of green light at Jeremy, but the ray went wide.

“Why must you do this?’ asked Markle. “Why don’t we stop this now? We go and you go, and forget about the whole thing?”

“Do you expect us to forget all those guards you killed?” Ratchis replied, coming at Markle with a flurry of blows, even as he ducked out of the way of the fiendish hawk’s attack.

Markle had no response, but was hard pressed to block the attacks, feeling the cut of Ratchis long knife again. Martin continued to swing at the hawk and continued to miss, being over-cautious about striking Kazrack or Ratchis by accident.

Devon and Jeremy continued to trade parries and blows, and the blood ran down their armor in bright gouts. Jeremy noticed something and his eyes went wide open, “Devon isn’t human!” he cried.
Devon only smiled.

Ignoring Jeremy, Kazrack found the opening he needed and a hard blow to the hip, sent Markle down into an unconscious heap.

The warlock fired another green ray, this time striking Ratchis, but the Friar of Nephthys shook off the effect.

“Martin, bind Markle,” said Ratchis, moving over to where Jeremy and Devon struggled. The fiendish hawk tried to slow the large man’s progress, but failed. Ratchis delivered two strong blows to Devon. Before Devon could react to having two opponents Jeremy followed up with two strong blows of his own, and the one who had always been a thorn in their side dropped to the ground.

“I surrender!” cried the Warlock, dropping to his knees.

“Call off the hawk!” cried Kazrack, who was still struggling with it.

With a word from the warlock, it disappeared in a sulfurous “poof!”

Martin and Ratchis moved to stabilize Devon and Markle, while Kazrack covered the warlock.

“Make even the slightest gesture I interpret as a spell and I will skewer you,” said the dwarf.

The two rogues looked as if their wounds had already stopped any serious bleeding.

Jeremy pointed to Devon, “I saw his wounds healing of their own accord!”

End of Session #12


Moderator Emeritus
Session #13

Upstairs, Jana, Chance and Beorth waited in the hall, with Arnold/Garcon standing in the doorway. Suddenly, he sound of the door to the Royal Quarters opening coincided with the sound of armored figures hustling up the spiral steps. In a moment, they were surrounded by castle guards.

“Drop your weapons!” one of the guards commanded, and Chance, Jana and Beorth complied. “Why do you have weapons and wear armor?”

Before any of them could reply, a guard cam running up the hall, “Sir! The weapon storage room has been broken into and the blood seems to have its origin there!”

“Yes, that is why we have our weapons,” said Beorth.

“What?!? You killed the guard and broke into the armory?” the guard in charge asked.

“No,” said Beorth quickly. “We were awakened in the middle of the night by noise and came out to discover blood in the hall. We took our weapons from the room, which had already been broken into, and my friends went to investigate, while we stayed and protected those who are the king’s guests and made sure no one else went into the storage room – by order of Martin the Green.”

“You and you,” he pointed to Chance and Beorth. “Come with me.”

He stopped in front of Jana and pulled her weapons from her hands,” You go back to bed, young lady. You shouldn’t get involved in these kinds of things.”

Jana smiled, and went back to the room, noticing that Arnold/Garcon had already slipped back in and was in his bunk.

Chance and Beorth were taken down to the great hall to wait. They could see the blood splattered everywhere and the bodies of the guards were being taken away.

“Ach! Ah hope that tha others ah ahl-right,” said Chance.


Meanwhile, in the bowels of the castle, the three villains were bound.

“I’m telling you, I saw Devon’s wounds close up of their own accord,” maintained Jeremy.

“Well, we can’t worry about that now,” replied Ratchis. “I know of priestly spells that can cause the same effect, maybe this spell-caster here did something. But, what is more important is that the little guy is still missing.”

“What was his name again?” asked Jeremy.

“I think they called him ‘the Square’” replied Kazrack.

“Where is he?” Ratchis asked the bound warlock roughly, pushing him with the toe of his boot.
“He is gone into the vault to find the treasury we sought,” said the warlock.

“What?” Jeremy declared. “That is what you wanted? You guys are thieves?”

“There is literally a king’s ransom in there,” said the warlock. “Do not look down your simple nose at us.”

“Shut up,” Ratchis kicked him lightly again, and then stood to flank the door that led to the darkness of vaults below. It wwas open, but a crack. “Square! Come out of there and surrender. If we have to come in there after you I promise you will die, but if you just give yourself up now, you will make it a lot easier on all of us.”

There was no reply.

“Come out, Square! It’s all over,” Jeremy called into the darkness.

“He’s not going to listen to you,” said the warlock.

“Figures,” said Ratchis, pulling his sword, and looking to Jeremy. “Martin, watch the prisoners.”

“Okay,” the Watch-mage replied, as Kazrack brought him a black case that appeared to have belonged to the hawk-faced man.

Jeremy counted to three, and then kicked open the door. Kazrack was covering it with his crossbow.

Ratchis stepped into the darkness, and Kazrack followed, unloading his crossbow and taking up his halberd again.
The area beyond was a series narrow corridors with round stone seals in the wall at about chest height at regular intervals. Ratchis and Kazrack crept down the corridors carefully, when they heard the sound of metal scraping on stone, and then a clang. The jogged in the direction of the sound, and found a tiny alcove with a metal grate.

Ratchis lifted the grate and peered down. The air below was moist and fetid, but the passage way was too narrow for him or Kazrack to follow.

“Looks like he got away,” said Ratchis.

“Makes sense that they would have had an alternate way out of here,” replied Kazrack. “Not that I know how

Devon could possible fit down there.”

They made their way back out of the lower vaults as castle guards burst into the room.

“Drop your weapons and get on your knees!” they commanded.

The four companions obliged, though Kazrack did it reluctantly. The Captain of the Guard, Edwin Merrick walked in.

“What in the hells is going on here?” he demanded, looking at Martin.

“We were chasing thieves, that…”Kazrack began.

“Was I talking to you?” the captain said. “Martin, I ask again.”

“Um, sir, we were pursuing these thieves you will find bound here. Two were taken in battle, but one gave himself up. One seems to have gotten away through a grate in the lower vault,” Martin explained.

“Yusef! Take four men and check out the lower vault,” the Captain said to his men. “You four, stand up and line up.”

They were surrounded by guards and brought back up to Great Hall, where guards watched Chance and Beorth.

The captain gave orders to his men and then went into the royal audience chamber.

“I’m glad to see you’re alright,” said Beorth. “Did you get them?”

“One of them got away,” said Kazrack, disappointed.

“No talking!” commanded one of the guards.

They were forced to stand there for nearly forty-five minutes, when finally the captain returned.

“The king has been awakened. You will answer his questions now,” the captain explained. “Remember, no disrespect to the king, or I will personally spend my off-duty hours beating the tar out of you in the dungeons. And, do not speak unless specifically addressed.”

They were led into the audience chamber. The king was already seated on his throne.

“On your knees!” The Captain issued his command to the party, and they obeyed. “Your highness, these are intruders we caught in the treasury.”

“Very well, Captain Merrick. Thank you, your vigilance and hard work pleases us,” the king said. He was wrapped in his kingly robes, but his eyes looked sunken and dark. “Martin, you may rise.”

“Thank you, your highness,” said Martin, bowing his head.

“Now, tell us what has happened.”

Martin began to tell the tell of the sounds, the blood in the hall, the dead guards, the animals and the confrontation with Markle and Devon.

The king cleared his throat.

“It pleases us that these rogues were caught, and the captain assures us that the fourth in their group will likely be caught, as it is known where all the drainage grates end up. However, there is still the matter of your running about the castle armed without leave.”

“But your majesty, we only did it in your service,” said Kazrack.

“Shut up,” Ratchis hissed to Kazrack.

Martin the Green tugged on the dwarf’s sleeve and put a finger to his lips. The king’s eyes widened, and then narrowed with annoyance.

“We must still think of a proper punishment for your actions, so we shall pronounce our sentence tomorrow after the mid-day meal. You shall be brought before us again,” the king said. “Until then, sleep well, and again we thank you for your efforts.”

“Thank you, your majesty. Your highness has been very generous,” Martin replied.

The party was shown out, and returned to their rooms for an uneasy sleep for what was left of the night. On the way, Beorth asked Ratchis, “I get the feeling Martin did not tell the king the whole story, what happened?”

“Markle said that Jana knew that they were going to attempt this robbery. He even implied that she was supposed to help them,” Ratchis replied.

“Oh,” was all Beorth said in reply.


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

Very early the next morning, Beorth stopped by Martin’s quarters to confer on the events of the previous night.

After a bit of time they decided that they should find Jana and talk to her about it and went to the room she was sharing to find her. However, she was not present.

Beorth and Martin were just walking out of Jana’s room when they noticed her coming down the hallway. She seemed to be upset about something and seemed to be in a hurry to get to the sanctuary of her room. Beorth stepped in front of her and said, “Ah! Jana! I am glad that we have found you. Martin and I have some serious matters to discuss with you.”

For a second, Jana’s breath caught in her throat and she rolled her eyes, “I am sure that you do.”
Martin gestured toward his suite. “Would you care to step this way?” he asked while quickly unlocking the door to his room.

“After you, “ Beorth said, as he motioned for Jana to step into the room ahead of him. After all three were in the room, Martin moved back to the door and Jana could hear the key turn inside the lock.
“Please make yourselves comfortable,” the Watch-Mage said as he waved his hand around the room. Jana lowered herself onto the simple divan while Beorth and Martin placed their two wooden chairs slightly in front of and to the side of Jana’s position.

Beorth took a deep breath and began. “Jana, as you know, the others have accused you of something very serious.

They say that you knew what Markle and his ‘friends’ were planning to do the night before last.”
Beorth paused for a moment, inhaled and then slowly let his breath out. “Jana, what I need to know is what exactly you knew about Markle and his plans…”

Jana looked up at Beorth, “I knew nothing of their plans….”

“But that is not what the others are saying. They are saying that you had prior knowledge of what was to happen and you chose not to say anything to anyone.”

“Listen to me when I tell you that I did NOT know exactly what they were planning…”

“Exactly what they were planning?” Beorth asked, “But you DID know something was afoot?”

Jana looked back at Beorth in silence.

“Jana I need to understand…” Beorth sputtered. “I want to know… Jana, I need…” Beorth cast a look of entreaty at Martin. “Help me, Watch Mage.”

Martin who had been listening quietly, turned his eyes toward Jana and simply said. “He wants to know, can you be trusted?”

“Trusted? By whom? And for what? What does THAT mean?” Jana replied.

“Look, Jana,” Beorth continued, “these are very serious allegations against you. My first impulse is to turn you over to the Royal Guard and let them question you.”

“Well, you will do whatever you want.”

“Ten men have died as a result of your inaction and the life of the King was put in danger because you failed to tell anyone what you knew. I must know what you knew, Jana. You have to tell me what you knew. If I am satisfied that you didn’t know anything, I will let the matter go and I won’t turn you over to the Guard.”

“You have to believe me, I didn’t know what was going to happen. I knew that Markle was planning something but I did not know exactly what it was.” Jana insisted.

“Did you suspect that Markle was involved in the murder of the guard?” Beorth asked.

“I thought he was.”

“You thought he was and you didn’t tell the others? Why didn’t you tell them when you knew that they were walking into danger? Were you scared to?”

“You guys don’t know Markle like I do. You have no idea what he is capable of. He and his friends are VERY dangerous.” Jana explained. “I was scared, not for the group, but rather for myself. Markle and his friends can cause great harm to me.”

“If you knew they were dangerous and were planning something, why didn’t you turn them in or warn us ahead of time? We could have stopped them or protected you…” Beorth wanted desperately to believe her.

“Protected me? PROTECTED me? Do you think that you are safe from him now that he is in the King’s dungeon?”

Beorth had never seen Jana so passionate about anything. “Markle is a very powerful man and his reach is far longer than you know… he is still a threat even if he is a prisoner.”

“What is he planning, Jana?” Martin asked.

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? Or you don’t want to say?” Beorth added.

“I don’t know.”

Beorth sighed.

“Jana, you are a young girl and I don’t blame you for being afraid of Markle. I also believe that you didn’t mean our traveling companions harm, but…” Beorth could not finish.

“But,” intoned the Watch Mage, “would you do the same again?”

Jana paused and thought for a moment before answering, “Had I known the extent of the danger and what Markle was planning, I would not do the same again.”

Beorth watched Jana for a moment and settled back into his chair, “That is all I need to know.”

Martin glanced over at Beorth and then leaned forward in his chair. “But there is the OTHER matter to discuss…”

“What other matter?” Jana groaned.

“It has been said that you have been seen using magic.” Martin began.

“Yeah, so?” Jana replied.

“So where does it come from? No one has ever seen you study a spellbook or use arcane symbols.”

“I do not have a spellbook nor do I use one.”

“Well, then, where does your knowledge of magic come from? Are you self taught?”

“What I know was taught to me.”

“So you studied as an apprentice with someone?”

“No, not exactly,” Jana hesitated.

“Well then who taught you?”

“A friend.”

“Who is this ‘friend’ of yours? What is his name and what does he look like?”

“I will not tell you his name. He is a small creature with wings, a tail and mottled white skin,” Jana said.

Martin glanced over at Beorth who was obviously shaken by the reply. “And when does he teach you?”

“He comes when I ask him to,” Jana said as if it were the most common thing.

“Is he a god of some sort?” Beorth asked.

“No, he is not.”

“Well, is he a demon?” Beorth continued.

Jana’s reply was a flat and simple, “No.”

“Has he ever asked you to commit an evil act?”

Jana chuckled. “Evil? What is evil? I have never really sat down and thought about it.”

“Well, you are sitting now. Now is as good a time as any to consider it,” Beorth said, thoughtfully.

The room was still and quiet for long moments. “I have never harmed others for my magic and I have not done anything ‘evil’ to gain my powers. I use my powers to protect myself.”

“You must understand that magic of your kind can be potentially very dangerous,’ said Martin.

“And you are saying yours is not?” Jana retorted.

“Mine was taught by the Academy. It is codified and tested. It is safe in and of itself, not like witchcraft,” Martin said.

“You know nothing about witchcraft that your precious Academy did not teach you,” said Jana with some venom.

“And that is all I need know, the Academy does not teach falsehoods,” Martin insisted.

“Can I go now?” Jana said.

“We are not holding you here Jana,” Beorth said gently. “We just wanted to talk.”

“Feels more like an interrogation to me,” Jana said, throwing an evil eye at Martin.

“I apologize,” said Martin, and Jana cocked her head thinking she heard sarcasm in his voice. “I am sure you are hungry. We will meet you at breakfast.”

Jana walked to the door and tried the knob, and then turned and looked back at the Watch-mage.

“It is locked,” she said.

“Oh, dear, my apologies,” he got up and unlocked it for her.

Martin and Beorth spoke for a few minutes more and then followed Jana down to breakfast.


At breakfast the next day, the feces hit the fan. . .

The Dining Chamber was full of young men excitedly talking about the previous night’s events and about their plans to leave and hunt the dragon.

Ratchis finished chewing down a piece of buttered toast with a slice of lard on it, when he turned to Jana, “So, how much did you know?”

“Huh?” she replied.

“Don’t play dumb,” Ratchis said. “What did they offer you for you help?”

“Who? What?”

“Markle and the others, what did they offer you and why didn’t you tell us what was going to happen?” Ratchis was persistent. “We know you were supposed to help them. Markle told us as much.”

“I am not going to talk about this,” Jana replied.

“Oh, yes you are,” insisted Ratchis.

“Whut is this about?” Chance asked.

“Markle cursed Jana last night, while we faced him, because she was supposed to help them, and I guess he figured she had told us about what they planned, as she should have,” Kazrack said.

“It is not as if I actually helped them,” Jana said.

“But you didn’t tell us either,” said Ratchis angrily. “And because of bastards a lot of innocent guards were killed!”

He slammed his fist on the table.

“Um, Ratchis, could you keep voice down a bit? People are staring,” said Martin.

“The thing is. . .” Kazrack started.

“I just don’t know if we can trust you,” interrupted Ratchis. “We need full disclosure on everything.”

“Yes, how can we have someone for a companion that…” Kazrack was interrupted again.

“I want to know now,” said Ratchis.

“Ratchis, if I could speak,” Kazrack tried again.

“I want to hear from Jana,” said Ratchis.

“Okay, good,” said Kazrack, not listening to Ratchis and continuing. “I think it is fair to say that we can judge by Jana’s past actions that if she knew that the guards were going to be killed she would have made a different decision. My problem is that by not warning us she allowed us to go into a dangerous situation without all the members of our group.”

“So, why didn’t you tell us, Jana?” Beorth asked in his usual subdued tone.

“I, uh… I was scared. I didn’t know exactly what they were going to do, or what they’d do to me or to any of you if I told,” Jana said in a tone not common to the world-wise girl.

“I find that hard to believe,” Ratchis said.

“Believe what you will then!” she snapped back.

“Look,” said Kazrack getting everyone’s attention. “We have all done something as an individual in the past that has failed the group at one time or another. We should be forgiving of Jana.”

“Fargive uh fer what? She din do nuthin’” said Chance, speaking for the first time.

“Yes she did, Chance,” said Kazrack. “She committed an error by omission.”

“I don’t understand why you all making a big deal of this. It all worked out for the best, didn’t it?” Jana said.

“That is not the point!” Ratchis said loudly.

“Attention everyone!” came the voice of Daniel the castle steward from the front of the dining chamber.

“Immediately after the meal, the trophy room will be open for you all to come and pick out some weapons and equipment. Beginning at noon, groups of five may come to this room to register, gain their map and go on their way. Thank you.”

Many people began to end their meal, but the companions were not done with their discussion.

“I have a simple solution to this whole problem,” said Kazrack. “A little thing I will ask each of you to do, that will relieve us of any suspicision.”

“What is that?” Jeremy asked, with suspicion in his voice.

“I only ask that we all make an oath to put the good of the party before ourselves,” Kazrack said with a smile.
Everyone groaned.

“What?” asked the dwarf, puzzled.

“That’s stupid, Kazrack,” said Ratchis. “I thought you had a real solution.”

“It is a real solution,” said Kazrack. “We all just make a promise to think of the group first.”

“I will not make that promise,” said Ratchis.

“Why not?” asked Kazrack.

“I will not make it either,” said Jana. “Why set myself up to be a liar?”

Kazrack looked at her as if he knew she would say that.

“Why not?” asked Kazrack. “We are a group with common goals. We are companions who rely on each other. We should not keep things from each other or work against each other!”

“I agree,” said Ratchis. “I’m sure Beorth and the…others…” He looked to Jana with a sneer, “ would agree.”

“So, making the promise is no big deal,” the dwarf insisted.

“No, it it is a big deal,” said Ratchis. “I will not make such an oath, because only one thing comes before me and that is my goddess, not this group, not anything.”

“Anyway, a promise is worthless,” added Jeremy. “People can promise anything and still do what they want.”

“But a man who is having a doubt about whether or not something is the right thing to do, and who has made an oath is more likely to come down on the side of the oath made,” said Kazrack.

“Ach! Kahzrahk, thas jast stupid,” Chance said. “How kin ya expect people ta mahk a promise they may not kep? Ah know I cahnt mahk such a oath.”

“Are you saying you plan to betray the group?” Kazrack asked amazed.

“Plahnnin’? No,” Chance replied. “But ya nevah know whut is gunn hoppen. Bad enough ya might be farced ta do somethin’ ya friends won’t like, but ta brek a promise in addition is horrible.”

Kazrack sighed.

“If are all friends then I do not see why we cannot make this oath together,” said Kazrack. “And now that I see all your hesitance, I have to wonder if it is even possible for me to continue traveling with you all.”

“Okay, okay,” said Jeremy, with a forced smile and a bit of a patronizing tone. “I promise to put the group before myself, okay? Right, Ratchis? Go ahead and promise.”

“I promise to behave just as I always have,” Ratchis said.

“We know,” said Jeremy with a sigh.

“My actions and attitude should speak for themselves,” Ratchis added. “I do not need to make an oath to prove my willingness to help and to be a friend.”

“I will make the promise if you want me to,” said Beorth. “But my oath to Anubis always comes first.”

“Well, of course,” said Kazrack. “I am not asking anyway to promise to betray their beliefs.”

“I still will not do it,” said Ratchis.

“Nor will I,” said Jana.

“Ach! Me too,” said Chance.

Martin remained silent.

“Then perhaps I need to leave this group. If you cannot make such a simple promise, especially if you are saying that you are already doing it,” Kazrack looked at Ratchis. “I do not know if I can trust you.”

Kazrack stood to leave.

“Wait,” Martin finally spoke up. “There is another matter of business I think your group needs to discuss. Beorth and I spoke about it earlier.”

Everyone looked to the tall mage.

“It appears that Jana,” he paused. “Is a witch.”

“Yeah, so?” said Kazrack.
“Witchcraft is a very dangerous and non-traditional form of spell-casting,” said Martin.

“Or maybe, it is too traditional that your little Academy would like to admit,” said Jana acerbically

“She’s a witch, so what?’ said Kazrack. “You are a wizard. She is a witch. If you were a woman, you’d be a witch, too.”

Jeremy snickered.

“No, it is not just a matter of gender, it is a matter of form,” Martin tried to explain. “Male witches are warlocks, female wizards and still wizards.”

“So, you’re a witch?’ Jeremy asked Jana, recoiling a bit.

“You could say that, yes,” Jana replied.

“The why didn’t you ever tell us?” the Neergaardian responded.

“Because ignorant people like him,” she pointed to Martin the Green. “react as they do.”

“Well, I just need assurance that you learn and practice your magic in a safe way, because we both know that most witches do not,” Martin said.

“So says you,” was all Jana had in terms of a reply.

“This witch-stuff doesn’t matter so much to me except that it is even more reason for a promise to be extracted from everyone in terms of good behavior and cooperation,” said Kazrack.

“Are you still going on about that?” said Jana.

Kazrack stood, “I must require this oath from all of you if only because without it I cannot trust some of you enough to travel with you,” Kazrack said looking at Jana, and his eyes drifting to Chance as well.

“But Kahzrahk,” Chance said. “Ya friends wit’ someone becahz they’re ya friend, nut becahz ya make a promise.”

“Well, I guess we are not all friends then,” said Kazrack and stormed off.

The rest of the companions sat in silence for what seemed a long time.

Finally, Ratchis spoke, “Might as well see what equipment they have to offer us before we are supposed to meet with the king.”

The half-orc stood and walked towards the trophy room, and Jana and Chance left as well.

“Martin, what does Jana being a witch really mean?” Jeremy asked.

“It means she summons extra-planar beings to gain her magicks from,” said Martin.

“Extra-planar?” Jeremy cocked his head.

“She summons demons that teach her spells, demons she controls – but that could come out of her control and be free to wreak havoc in out own world,” Martin explained.

“That’s not good,” said Jeremy.


Ratchis went to the trophy room where tables of weapons, armor and other equipment were set up among all the trophies on display. Dozens of the lads hoping to win the reward picked through swords (long and short), crossbows, daggers, clubs, maces, suits of ring mail and scale mail, shield and other items like coils of rope, backpacks and whetstones, walking among the trophies. There were two stuffed brown bears on their rear legs and growling, a mountain lion, a moose head above the hearth, and that of 12 point buck on a perpendicular wall. A huge tattered flag and the crest of Gothanius (6) also hung on the wall. What drew Ratchis’ attention the most were two stuffed orcish specimens. They had a reddish glint to their short piggish body hair, and were dressed in studded leather, carried spears and wore horned helmets. He stood and stared at them for a long moment, but was distracted by Kazrack passing him carrying a dwarf-sized chain shirt.

The dwarf stopped, “I want you to know that this whole thing had nothing to do with you, but to be fair to others I thought I would ask the oath from everyone, when it is Chance and Jana that I mostly want it from.”

“It doesn’t matter,” replied Ratchis. “I don’ think a promise of any kind from anyone is going to make a difference in how anyone acts.”

Kazrack sighed, “I disagree.” The dwarf left the trophy room. Ratchis picked up a bunch of equipment he thought he might need, including a heavy crossbow and a long sword.


Beorth made his way to the chapel on the castle grounds, hoping to find a priest of Ra there that he might confer with about the necklace he now carried from the crazed man in the mortuary. (7)

Unfortunately, all he found was a deacon, who helped administer the morning services and lit candles in the evening.


After the mid-day meal, they all (except Jana) gathered before the audience chamber to be led in to see the king. Eventually, Daniel came to them before the king again. They got down on one knee and listened to the king.

“We have thought long in this matter, and have decided to be generous,” the king said. “You punishment shall be a great honor, a simple task that we shall give to you that will do your efforts to do right credit, while you still endeavor to fulfill the task you were originally summoned here to do.”

“Thank you, your highness,” said Martin.

“Thank you,Martin,” the king replied. “We are sure that it was your fine influence that kept these fine men in line in their effort to help, and since you did do such a good job, they will escort you to your post in Summit and make sure you get there safely, and then this group of five can go on the dragon-hunt after accomplishing that.”

The king paused, but the great thanks he expected did not come.

He frowned.

“This means that you five must officially register as a group, and must wait for Martin to be prepared to leave before you can go,” King Brevelan added. “The five of you may go along on your business. There is one last thing we must speak to Martin the Green about in private.”

As the others walked out into the Great Hall, Beorth asked, “What about Jana? She makes six of us.”

“I don’t even think she should count,” said Kazrack.

“We might be better off without her,” said Ratchis.

“Ah cahnt buhlieve ya guys!” said Chance. “Jana has always been ar friend. She’s helped us wit’ ar wounds and used her spells aginst ar foes. We know we cun trust her becarze we always have had ta!”

No one said anything, but the group dispersed.
Jeremy ran out to garden, late for his rendezvous with Princess Tracell. He found her still waiting, chittering with her ladies in waiting. She was dressed in a coat of fine mink pelts, and wore her hair in a tight bun. Her eyes shone brightly in the shocking glare of the sun on the snow.

“Princess! I’m sorry I am late,” Jeremy said.

Tracell walked away from her ladies and shooed their attempt to follow, approaching the Neergaardian.

“I knew that you were among those that had to speak to my father,” Tracel said with a side smile. “Is it true that you and your companions defeated thieves trying to break into the Royal Treasury?”

“Well, it is true that I did, and that my companions were there,” Jeremy winked.

“Oh,” Tracell coverer her painted mouth with the tips of her fingers. “It must have been very dangerous!”

“Dangerous? To the thieves maybe; the only reason they are still alive is because I am merciful,” Jeremy said cockily.

“Oh, I am so sure that you will be the one to defeat the dragon,” Tracell said, siding up to him closely. “You are so brave and skilled and…handsome!”

“Well, thank you,” said Jeremy, feeling his face heat up a bit. “Um, but…I was, uh…hoping you could help me in a way that would help my mission to slay the dragon.”

“Really? What? Anything!”

“Well, you see I need something from town and I can’t leave the castle to go to town, but I need this thing to help me on my trip,” Jeremy explained.

“Well, I cannot go to town myself,” Tracel said, and Jeremy’s shoulders sagged. “But, I can have one of my servants go. What is it you need?”

“You see had someone I really cared about, a friend who died on the hard journey up here,” Jeremy said, his lower lip pouted out into an exaggerated sad face. “And I just want a way to remember him, something to help my morale on the road.”

“What is that?”

“A cup, a mug of sorts, that has his name on it,” Jeremy said.

“Is that all?” Tracel said. “What is the name?”

“Malcolm,” Jeremy replied. “M-A-L-C-O-L-M.”

“I will have one of my servants fetch it for me,” Tracel said. “I must go, but meet me here again at the same time tomorrow.”

“Will you have the mug for me?” Jeremy asked.

“Um, no,” Tracel seemed confused. “It will take me more than a day to get it. I only meant so that we could see each other and talk more. Don’t you want that?”

“Oh!” Jeremy exclaimed. “Yes, of course. I’d love to.”

The princess hurried off with her ladies in waiting, and returned towards the castle, passing Ratchis who was on his way out to the garden to do his daily exercises.

He was in the middle of doing his 180 push-ups, when he heard someone walk by and stop. He looked over to see one of the princesses standing there watching him. Ratchis stood.

“You look pretty strong,” she said.

Ratchis said nothing. The princess’s beauty was almost painful against the backdrop of the snow-covered garden.

She wore a fur cape and hood, but no coat, only a light shawl over her brown dress, which looked much too plain for her. She had a dark complexion like a Herman-Lander, dark hair and green eyes. Ratchis remembered her muscular arms from the night before. It was Selma.

“Of course, the size of one’s opponent does not matter to a prepared warrior,” Selma said, eying the long sword Ratchis wore. It was the one he had gotten from the trophy room.
Ratchis grunted, “You know how to use a sword?”

“Very well actually, though my father tries to forbid me to practice anymore. He says more than the most basic martial training is unbecoming a princess. I say that men are frightened of women being able to best them in combat. What do you say?”

“I say that anyone can and should do anything they want,” Ratchis replied. “As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone that is.”

Selma smiled, “So what if I said that I could best you in battle, I just a woman?”

“I would wonder if it were true, but I would not doubt it just because you were a woman,” Ratchis said.

“Heh,” was Selma’s only reply. “If I thought we could spar without our getting in trouble I’d like to see the truth of this…”

She walked away towards the castle.

Ratchis just stood watching her walk out of his view, and then began to jog about the castle grounds looking for a spot where there were no guards. Eventually, he found a quiet and isolated area between the rear wall and the castle-proper, and then hurried back to the castle.


Meanwhile Chance had gone to find Kazrack, who was sharpening his halberd blade.

“Kahzrahk, Ah wanted ta talk wit’ ya,” the Wallbrookian said.

“What is it Chance?” Kazrack said, without looking up.

“Ah wanted ta make eh bet wit’ ya,” Chance said.

“A bet?” the dwarf stopped and looked up.

“Aye! A bet. If I win ya ferget ahl this stuff about the promise n’ everything, if Ah lose then ah’ll not only mek the promise, ahl get Jana ta do it ta,” Chance explained.

“I do not think I can leave such a thing to a wager,” said Kazrack. “It is too important.”

“Whaddya mean by that?” said Chance, getting slightly angry. “Leaving it ta uh wager is leavin’ it in tha hands uf the gods. If it is es good enough fer Bes, it es good enough fer us.”

“Well, what is the bet?”

“Ah betcha ah kin knock down that dar with one hand!” said Chance with a big smile.

“What? Really?” Kazrack said. “It must be a trick.”

“No trick! I will knock it down with one hand all by myself and no magic,” Chance assured him.
Kazrack’s brow wrinkled as he thought and looked back and forth from the door to Chance.

“Wait a minute,” Kazrack said. “You are just are going to knock on the door and move down knocking lower and lower. Knocking down the door!”

“Damn!” Chance said. “Ya know whut Kazrack, here was uh perfect opportunity ta just give in without losing face, but no.”

“I can’t do that,” Kazrack said. “I cannot travel with people I cannot trust.”

“If you could trust us before, ya kin trust us now. Nothing has changed,” said Chance and he left the room, passing Jeremy who had come to speak to Kazrack as well.

“Is Kazrack in there?” Jeremy asked Chance.

“Ya, good luck, ya’ll need et!”

Jeremy walked in, “Kazrack, I wanted to talk to you about Jana.”

“Ok,” said the dwarf, getting back to his blade sharpening.

“Martin said that Jana is a witch,” said Jeremy.

“Yes, I know,” said Kazrack.

“Martin told me what that really means,” said Jeremy.

“What does it mean?”

“It means she controls demons!”

“Yeah, witches, watch-mages, all those folks control demons,” said Kazrack.

“Martin does not control demons,” Jeremy replied.

“Well, that’s no good. He should control demons, someone has to, can’t let them run around wild causing harm,” the dwarf reasoned.

“No, that is not how it works,” said Jeremy exasperated. “She summons them. She bring them to this world to learn magic from them, but they could get free and hurt people!”

“Oh,” Kazrack said as if deep in thought. “I guess that is another reason to not trust her, I guess.”

“Well, if the five of us leave her behind you can forget this whole promise thing and we can continue on our way,” Jeremy suggested.

“I can’t do that,” Kazrack said. “Originally, I wanted the promise mostly because of Chance and Jana, but now Ratchis’ response troubles me. I just don’t understand why he would not make the oath.”

“Some people just don’t like to be told what to do,” said Jeremy. “Friars of Nephthys least of all.”

“That is not a good enough reason,” replied Kazrack. “A dwarf would never make a decision based on that.”

“Ratchis is not a dwarf,” said Jeremy. “But he is stubborn enough to be one if you are an example.”

Jeremy left.


Up in Martin’s quarters, the Watch-Mage taught Beorth how to play King’s Men (8), while Ratchis returned to the Trophy Room and collected some more gear. He carried another sword and a suit of ring mail outside and dumped it in the isolated place he found, being careful to not be seen by any guards. He then went back into the castle and stopped a guard.

“I am looking for Princess Selma,” he said. “Do you know where I can find her?”

The guard looked confused. “The princesses cannot be disturbed and cannot be seen without permission of the king or queen,” the guard replied. “Why are you looking for her?”

“I have a gift for her,” Ratchis replied, and wandered off to find her. He made his way to the east wing and looked in the library. In this small room with less than a dozen books was Princess Veldicca. She sat in a lovely dress with a large book on the table before her. She looked up startled.

“Oh, if you need the library I will leave you to it,” she began to close the book.

“Um, no your highness, I was just looking for your sister,” said Ratchis, feeling his face warm again.

“Which one?”

“Oh, uh… the oldest…Selma?”

“I’m not sure where she is, but if I see her I will tell her you are looking for her,” Veldicca said politely. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Ratchis and thanks,” he walked back out into the Great Hall where he happened to see Selma crossing from the dining hall.

“Oh, uh Selma!” said Ratchis.
The eyes of Princess Selma’s handmaiden widened incredibly at the half-orc’s daring to address royalty like that. Selma cracked a small smile despite her surprise. “Yes?”

“I uh, wanted to know if you, uh, wanted to come outside with me for a little while, I uh… have a surprise for you,” Ratchis said.

“What is it?” the princess asked.

“A place for us to spar,” Ratchis whispered. “I got you some armor and a weapon. I thought you might like the diversion.”

Selma laughed, “Are you crazy? Do you think we could do such a thing anywhere in the castle without being seen? And do you know what would happen to yo if you were caught fighting even in a friendly spar with a princess?”
She laughed some more, and Ratchis just stood there silent and embarrassed.

“Thank you for the effort,” she said, patting his shoulder. “Maybe in some other time and place. I appreciate it.”
She walked off with her servant, still laughing some.

Ratchis stood there dejected for a moment and then retrieved the items he had stowed and headed back to the trophy room. He found the place empty., and dropped the extra gear and looked around. The two orcish specimens seemed to stare at him in silent agony.

Gritting his teeth, Ratchis drew his long sword and with two solid blows chopped the heads of both specimens and then kicked them over. He then walked out of the Trophy Room, calmly.


That night at dinner, Finn and Carlos came by their table and explained that the two of them were going to form a group with Frank and Gwar and a fellow they met from one of the other groups and head out the next morning.
The wished him luck and he thanked them for their help.
After dinner, Kazrack found Daniel the steward to ask him a few questions:
"To whom do I speak if I have questions about the contract I signed?" Kazrack asked him.

"I can answer any and all questions regarding this matter," Daniel replies.

"Very good then. Has any consideration been given to the fact that one of the Princesses would be forced to marry a Dwarf if my group should win?"

"Forced?" Daniel's eyebrows raised. "Regardless, you are being presumptuous in saying your group will the one to succeed. As to the details of such an eventuality, I am not at liberty to discussion such a matter. However, I get the impression that you are trying to imply something specific. Have at it, I do not mean to be rude, but I have a castle and the whims of a king to attend to."

“I will try to be brief as you are so busy. I got the impression, perhaps mistakenly, that the Princesses would be married off to the group that completed the quest. If my group were to succeed I doubt any of the Princesses would be happy to marry a dwarf and, in light of this, I thought it prudent to suggest we alter my contract. Shall I continue - or is there a better time for me to approach you?”

“Alter how?” Daniel asked.

“I would suggest allowing me to act as an individual instead of as part of a group. If I succeed I would ask only for the monetary award and a land grant equal to what five men would have received.” Kazrack explained.

“Unfortunately, that is not possible,” said Daniel. “First of all, the king gave specific instructions that you and your companions accompany Martin the Green to Summit. You are required to do this. If after accomplishing this fact and making sure that Martin the Green is there safe and settled you choose to travel onward by yourself that is your choice – a foolish choice if you ask me, but your choice none-the-less. However, no contracted individual will get more land and resources than one man can easily use. Though we do have some land that could be prospected and become very profitable when compared to other parcels of the same size.”

“Very well then, I have one other request of you,” Kazrack said.


“Would it be possible for me to use the forge on the castle grounds to repair my armor and that of my companions?”

“I think I can arrange it for tomorrow, but you will have to use your own resources,” replied Daniel.

“That will be fine,” said Kazrack. Very well then, I thank you for your time.


Isilem, 9th of Syet – 564 H.E.

The night went by with no event. Early the next morning Kazrack grabbed a small snack from breakfast and then went to use the forge.

The others sat around the table at breakfast and found the Dining Hall to be emptier. Several groups of young men had already left for their journey to seek out the dragon.

“We have a problem,” said Beorth. “We are a group of six and we may only travel as a group of five. What are we to do?”

“Perhaps one of us can find another group to travel with and maybe meet up with us later,” suggested Ratchis, not looking up from his eggs and sausage.

“But I guess that someone must be Jana, since the other five of you have been given a task by the king,” said Martin.

“Well, she is a witch,” said Jeremy, ignoring the fact that she was sitting right there. “Let’s just leave her behind.”
At that moment there was a commotion at the podium, where one of Daniel’s assistants was registering those groups ready to leave the castle for the dragon-hunt.

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN I DON’T COUNT?!?” It was Maria’s voice, echoed by the sound of Simon and Peter trying to calm her down.

“It doesn’t mean you can’t come,” said Peter.

“We still need you,” said James. “We’ll all share some of our reward with you.”

“That is not the point!” Maria declared. “Not only did they wait until the last moment to inform us, they have no right to say that the contract is void because I am woman!”

She stormed off.

“Ah guess that answers that question,” said Chance smiling.
Breakfast ended and everyone went on their way to do what they would to pass the time and think about the problems of party dynamics that faced them. Jeremy went back upstairs to sleep, while Martin prepared his list of things he wanted the court to provide him for the journey to summit. Beorth made his way out to the shrine of Ra to pray, while Jana – who knows how she spent her time.

Ratchis walked out to the garden to do his daily exercises, but was met by Edwin Merrick, the captain of the guards and four of his men.

“Ratchis?” the captain asked.

“Yes,” the Friar of Nephthys replied.

“I need to ask you some questions,” Captain Merrick said with a sneer.

“What about?”

“About some property that was destroyed in the Trophy Room,” the Captain replied. “Will you give your weapons up and come with me please?”

Ratchis looked at the guards that had fanned out. He paused and then slowly drew his sword and handed it to the Captain, who merely pointed to another guard who took the weapon. The Captain turned and Ratchis followed. The guards fell in line behind them.

As they approached the guardhouse, Ratchis could see the front gatehouse scored by fire. The stones were black, and the ground was muddy and covered in ash. However, the damage did not look as bad from as it looked like it might’ve been that night he observed the fire from the tower.

In the guardhouse, the Captain sat, while Ratchis remained standing. Two guards remained in the room, watching.

“Tell me what you know about the damage to the king’s trophies in the Trophy Room,” the Captain said.

“I know nothing of it,” replied Ratchis with an even voice.

The Captain looked at him for a long time.

“You are of orcish descent, are you not?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Fir-Hagre?” (9)

“Darksh,” Ratchis replied.

“Well, the trophies defaced in the Trophy Room were specimens of the Fir-Hagre. They terrorized our people for years, but the efforts of the king wiped them out. Those were his prized possessions,” the Captain explained.
Ratchis remained silent. He could feel the tension in his body; his muscles were like one tightening coil ready to spring forth in sudden violence and anger.

“Where were you yesterday afternoon?” the Captain asked.

“I was training in the garden and then I went upstairs and took a nap,” said Ratchis.
“Really? Who saw you?”

“The princess Selma saw me. I’m not sure if anyone else did.”

“One of our guards puts you in the Great Hall in the afternoon. And one of the servants says she saw you enter the library, which is right across from the trophy room.”

“Yes, I saw one of the princesses there and her retainers,” Ratchis replied.

“Perhaps you were making sure any possible witnesses were indisposed,” said the Captain.

“Are you accusing me of this?” Ratchis asked. “What would I gain from doing such a thing?”

“You are part orcish, they are orcs. Perhaps their presence there offended you. Who knows?” The Captain leaned forward. “I only know that right now you look like the most likely suspect and the time and place fits. So, if you don’t mind, I am going to have to ask you to stay here in one of our cells while we look into this some more.”
Ratchis hands tightened into fists, and he felt his blood boiling over and a pressure in his head. He breathed out long and low.

“I hope you won’t give us any trouble. This will be a lot easier for all of us if you just come along,” the Captain said, slowly standing.

Ratchis relaxed.

“Fine,” he replied. Ratchis followed the guards out a door and down some steps to a lower floor lined with cells. He was searched and placed in the tiny cell. The cot was too small for him and the floor was covered in dirty straw.

The figure in the cell next to him was sleeping, but stirred and looked up.

The man smiled broadly. It was Markle.

“I should have known I’d see you in here,” he said.

End of Session #13



(6) The crest of Gothanius is a quartered field on shield with opposed yellow and red, with a white star (on red) in top left-hand corner.

(7) See "Out of the Frying Pan: Book I: Gathering Wood" session #8.

(8) King’s Men is the Aquerra equivalent of Chess.

(9) The Fir-Hagre is the orcish tribe driven out of Greenreed Valley.


Moderator Emeritus
Session #14

Markle sat up and rubbed his face with both hands, wiping the sleep from his eyes. He looked relaxed. Ratchis had never seen him smile so much.

“So what’d ya do? Strangle her?” Markle asked Ratchis, who sat uncomfortably on the cot that groaned beneath his weight.

“I am accused of defacing the king’s trophies in the Trophy Room,” Ratchis replied.

Markle laughed, “Did you do it? Don’t worry I won’t judge you poorly.”

Ratchis did not reply. There was a long silence.

“So, what did she tell you?” Markle asked. Again, Ratchis did not reply.

“Look, there is no reason for us not to talk. I did what I had to do, you did what you felt you had to do. I hold no grudge. So, I am going to prison. I have been in prison before, most of my life actually. I adapt,” Markle looked through the bars at Ratchis, still smiling.

“If you tell me what Jana knew when I can tell you what she told me,” Ratchis replied.

“Heh, well, she never knew exactly what we were going to do, but she knew when and she was to help us keep you guys from getting involved,” said Markle. “She was supposed to be paying back a favor I did for her.”

“Since Jana didn’t do such a good job for you, perhaps you can tell me what favor you did for her?” Ratchis proposed.

Markle laughed again, “Well, turn about is fair play and all. Just ask her this, I bet she doesn’t even think I know about this… Ask her who Rindalith is.”

“Who is he?”

“Just ask her. Did you know that she was placing you and your whole group in jeopardy? In danger? She is,” Markle said with a smirk.

Ratchis thought about what Markle said and eventually fell asleep sitting up.


As Kazrack hammered at the party’s armor, and Beorth spent his day in the shrine of Ra, and Jana sat bored in her room, while Chance spent his free time trying to start up card games with the other “hunters” and Martin went over his list again and again, Jeremy went out to meet with Princess Tracell one last time.

It was just after mid-day meal, and he had only been waiting a short time in the increasingly cold wind when he saw here approach with her ladies-in-waiting. They waited at a safe distance as she and Jeremy stepped between tall and now-barren rose bushes.

“Oh, Jeremy,” Tracell said breathily, her face obscure a bit by a woolen scarf. “It is so good to see you again.”

“Oh yeah, well… It was just yesterday and I spied you across the way at dinner,” Jeremy replied.

“Ooh! I knew you were looking at me!” Tracell said. “I wasn’t sure, but I should have known.”

It was quiet for a long moment and she blushed.

“So, um, do you have the mug?’ Jeremy asked.

“I told you it’d have to wait a day,” she said, with furrowed brow.

“Oh yes, I’m sorry. I am just distracted by my coming journey and by um, you… uh, of course.”

She blushed again. “Will you be leaving soon?”

“I think we are leaving tomorrow some time, but we haven’t discussed it much. My companions are all about doing their own thing.”

“They are probably waiting for your leadership and guidance,” speculated Tracell.



Martin the Green came downstairs and after asking around found Daniel giving orders in the Dining Hall. He waited until the castle steward was done and then approached him.

“I have completed my list of needed supplies for my journey,” the Watch-Mage said. “I know some of these things will not be available, but I figured I would try.”

“Okay,” said Daniel, looking distracted. “I will see to this as soon as I can. When do you plan to leave?”

“I think we will be ready tomorrow,” said Martin. “Oh, and I was also hoping for a mule or donkey to help carry my gear.”

“That can be arranged,” said Daniel. “Oh, and you might be interested to know that one of you would-be companions has been taken into custody.”

“Oh? Who and for what?” Martin said, nervously.

“I believe his name is Ratchis? The big one,” said Daniel. “It is a shame really, but he has been accused of defacing the orcish trophies in the Trophy Room.”

“Oh,” was all Martin could say.

“Well, it should be all cleared up one way or another soon enough,” said Daniel. “The others should still be more than enough people to escort you to Summit. But before you leave, make sure you come and find me. I will have some last minute instructions and a token from the king to take with you.”

“Of course,” said Martin.

“Speaking of which, the case that was found on that warlock that you and the others captured has been brought to your room for you to examine. His Majesty has said you can do with it what you like,” added Daniel.

“Oh, oh, thank you,” said Martin the Green, forgetting all about Ratchis in his curiosity and rushing back up to his room.

He found a servant with the black valise waiting by his door about to knock. Thanking her, her took the bag into his room, placed it on a table and slowly opened it.

“What’s that?” a chittering voice said in his mind. “Smells funny.”

Martin could feel his familiar crawling up on to the top of his head.

“I’m about to find out what it is, Thomas,” replied Martin.

“Nuts? Could there be nuts in there?”

“I doubt it.” Martin the Green looked inside to find the bag built to hold things securely, with little movement and no breakage.

The bag held two bottles of wine. One was half empty, but the other was still tightly corked and full. They had no labels. It also held two wine glasses in a recess designed to cushion them. The case also held on one side a smaller box that he opened to reveal an alchemist’s kit. There was a silver candle-holder and several candles, most were burned down to a nub, but there were a few unused specimens. The bag also held a velvet pillow, some fine clothing and a small red leather bag tied beneath the lid.

Martin spread several items from the valise on the bed and cast his Detect Magic spell, but only the leather bag had any aura of magic.

Martin picked up the bag and looked inside. It was empty.

“Nuts?” Thomas chittered.

“Quiet now, I’m working,” Martin admonished. He slipped his hand into the bag and felt a fuzzy ball at the bottom. He pulled his hand out and looked inside. There was no such thing. He slid his hand in again and again and felt the fuzzy ball. He grasped the ball and pulled it slowly out and opened his hand. It was gone!

He repeated his experiment with the same results.

“What’s in there?” Thomas asked again, sniffing.

“I’m not sure,” Martin said to the squirrel, taking a moment to scratch his head. “Let me try something else.”
Martin slid his hand back into the bag and grabbed the fuzzy ball and this time yanked it out, tossing what was in his hand away from him. The tiny ball of hair spun in the air and grew and changed. It landed on the bed as a bobcat. It had dark brown fur with deep rust highlights. Thomas dove into Martin’s hood, and the Watch-Mage himself flinched. However, the animal just cocked his head and looked at Martin, as if waiting.

“Now, just sit right there,” Martin said, nervously. The bobcat sat.

Martin’s eyes opened widely.

“Stand up,” he said to the cat. It stood.

“Roll over!” The cat rolled over.

“Hmmmm,” Martin the Green mused. “Turn back into a fuzzy ball!”

The bobcat cocked its head again.

“Um, get back in the bag!” said Martin, holding it open. The cat leapt and reversed his transformation, and disappeared into the red leather bag.

Martin felt back in the bag and there was another fuzzy ball.



The day passed without further event. Jeremy sparred some with Beorth. Kazrack worked until he could do it no longer, and Jana sat bored in her room. Ratchis awoke with a start when he heard the sound of keys in a cell’s metal lock. Markle was being moved.

“Your turn to be taken to the lower dungeons, scum,” said a guard.

Markle turned to Ratchis, “Until we meet again.”

“You won’t be meeting anyone ever again,” said the guard pushing Markle roughly.
“Oh, I know” said Markle with a grin.

Ratchis yawned, and stretched out on the floor, knowing to save his energy whenever he could.

Ratchis had long been awake, watching the tiny square of sunlight move across the floor of his cell, when the Captain of the Guard, accompanied by two other guards came to him.

The cell was unlocked.

“Come on,” the Captain said. “Today is your lucky day. It seems that someone else confessed to the crime. You are being released.”

Ratchis said nothing and got to his feet.

“Follow me,” said the Captain and led him back up to the office.

As Ratchis ducked his head through the doorway, he saw a lovely figure standing there waiting for them. She was draped in a fine ermine wrap, and stood nearly six feet tall, her dark hair tucked in a fur hat. She wore a blouse of tan cloth and a blouse that passed for “plain” in noble circles. She stepped towards Captain Merrick and Ratchis. It was Princess Selma.

Merrick dismissed the other two guards.

“Thank you, Captain,” the Princess said. Ratchis just stared at her, and then looked back at the Captain and then back at her.

“It appears that the Princess has confessed to defacing the specimens,” Captain Merrick said with some anger in his voice, but not looking at Ratchis, who he was addressing. “This is now a situation to be handled in private by the king. Do you understand?”

“Yeah,” said Ratchis, nodding and still looking at the Princess. She did not smile.

“You are free to go,” the Captain said.

“Captain, please give us a moment alone to talk,” the Princess said, looking at Ratchis.

“But your Highness!” The Captain protested.

“That was not a suggestion, Captain,” the Princess said, sternly.

The Captain’s eyes narrowed, and he turned to Ratchis, pointing a finger at him. “Do not forget you are in the presence of royalty!”

He walked out.

“Thank you,” Ratchis said.

“You owe me more than thanks,” the Princess said. “I just wanted you to know that as far as I am concerned I just saved your life and as such you owe me a great deal. I’m not sure in what way you are going to repay me, but it never hurts to have a big guy who can fight owing you a favor. Understand?”

Ratchis nodded.

“Good, now get out of here before he changes his mind, or I do.”

Back in the castle, the rest of the companions were coming down for a late breakfast, enjoying the comfort of a good bed for one last night. Martin was so late, eventually a servant brought him a tray of food, while Kazrack rushed down, afraid he’d miss out on food. He bumped into Ratchis, who was slowly coming up the circular stairs.
“We should leave today,” said Ratchis without enthusiasm.

“I will be forced to travel with the group for the next two days at least,” said Kazrack.

“About Jana: despite what she did, I think we should give her a second chance,” said Ratchis. “While I do think she betrayed us, I think if she had it to do over she’d do it different.”

“I have not decided what I will do after that. It seems that going off on my own would not be more profitable,” was the dwarf’s only reply, and with that he continued on to breakfast.


While the companions spent the day in preparation and at noon, Princess Tracel nervously anticipated for her last meeting with Jeremy. At noon she waited in the garden for her would-be hero to come to her. She had though to him all night.

She smiled broadly at him as he approached, and she took a step as well, standing closer than she had ever dared before.

“Do you have the mug,” he said, his eyebrows arching in a meaningful way.

“Yes. Yes, I do, and another gift, if you’ll take it,” She looked long and hard in his eyes, her love searching out for the reflection of his own.

“Um, uh . . . of course,” Jeremy said, with a tone of confidence only she could hear.

“Here is the mug with the name of your lost companion,” Tracel said, her voice ringing brightly like a bell of admiration. She stepped even closer, forgetting herself. “I had a servant retrieve it. I find your cherishing the memory of your brother-in-arms very heroic.”

She handed him the mug. It was wrapped up in tissue papers. He slid it in his pocket without looking at it.
“Thank you,” he said, trying hard to conceal his emotions from her, as she looked on knowing the true deep appreciation in his heart. “I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

“I have something else for you,” Princess Tracell said, her eyes wandering down his face, to his square jaw and his neck that flowed into strong and manly shoulders.

“Oh, what is it?” He feigned surprise.

“I want to ask you a question first,” she said, breathlessly. “If you succeed… If you slay the dragon… Will you come back for me? Will you choose me from among my sisters?”

There was a moment of silence between them, and the increasingly wicked and cold wind was the only sound, as if they dared not even breathe in this moment of love revealed.

“Uh, yes,” Jeremy said, with the kind of sincerity only a true romantic could clothe a word in.

“Oh, oh, Jeremy!” she cried, warm tears rolling down her red, cold cheeks like crisp late autumn apples. “I am so happy.”

She looked around surreptitiously, and then placed a small kiss on his cheek.

“Was that it?” he said, his blue eyes sparkling.

“Oh, you are kind to say that a simple kiss from me would be a gift,” Princess Tracel said. “But, I have a token to take with you on your quest, as every good knight who has a lady should do.”

“Uh, yeah, that’s what I meant,” Jeremy said, looking hard at her face.

She drew a white article of clothing from he bosom and placed it in his hand. It felt very silky.

“It is to be wore outside your armor, or tied to the saddle of your horse,” Tracel said, remember the many tales of knights and maidens she had heard from her nanny. “But being from Neergaard, I’m sure you already know that.”
“Yes, of course,” Jeremy said, obviously too overcome with the moment to say anymore.

“Well, I am sure you have much preparation to see to before you leave today,” Tracel said, thinking herself very reasonable.

“Yes. Uh, yeah, I’ll see you when I get back,” Jeremy said, too shy to reveal everything he was feeling.

“When you come riding in upon a white stallion to claim me as your wife?” Tracel said, her smile widening again.

“Yuh-yeah,” said Jeremy, leaning forward as if it were a shared lovers’ secret. She took the moment to kiss him again, and then covering her mouth as she tittered with a joy she had never known, she ran off.

Jeremy watched her for a moment and then walked back into the castle. He caught a glimpse of the first flakes of snow as he entered. Up in his room, he looked at what Princess Tracel gave him. It was a piece of satin one underwear. He rolled his eyes, and tied it haphazardly to the scabbard of his long sword, and then slid it back on his belt so his cloak would cover it most of the time.

He proceeded to unwrap the mug and looked at it. Carved in one side were the letters, “M-A-L-C-O-M.”

“Hmm, spelled wrong,” Jeremy said to himself, but then lifted the mug in the air. “Oh, well. Malcolm would never have known it anyway. From now on we always drink together, until we have drinks at your place!”


The companions spent some time taking care of last minute details before leaving. Kazrack strapped his almost ridiculous amount of equipment to his back and walked out to the front gate.

“Ho, there!” said one of the castle guards. “What is your business at the gate?”

“I want to leave the castle and go to town,” said the laden dwarf, large flakes of snow swirled around him.

“None may leave the castle grounds without their group and none may return until their mission is accomplished,” said the guard.

“But I am only going to town to buy supplies and sell off some other goods,” said Kazrack.

“The Crown will provide you with supplies when you register your group,” said the guard.

Kazrack sighed, annoyed and returned to the castle proper.

Jeremy and Beorth came down the stairs carrying their packs, going to meet the others and register.

“You know Beorth, I was thinking you should put your foot down and not let Jana travel with us,” said Jeremy.
“Excuse me?” Beorth looked at Jeremy in bewilderment.

“She’s a witch!” said Jeremy, lowering his voice. “You know what that means! She summons demons and bends them to her will. She can ensorcell men, and do all sorts of mean, terrible nasty things.”

“I have never seen Jana do any of that,” said Beorth.

“How do we know we haven’t been enspelled already?”

“I’ll keep you opinion in mind, but it isn’t my place to say she can or cannot travel with us,” said Beorth.
“Well, I, for one, plan to watch her closely,” Jeremy insisted as they came into the dining room, where Chance and Ratchis waited.

“Where are the others?” asked Ratchis.

“I am right here,” Kazrack said, entering the room.

“Jana is still upstairs,” said Jeremy.

“And Martin had to talk to the steward before we left. He said to meet him outside,” Beorth informed them.

“I’ll get Jana,” said Ratchis, which he immediately did.

“Jana, we are ready to leave,” the half-orc said to the girl who was still packing her things.

“I am coming,” she replied, slinging her bag over her shoulder and moving towards him.

“We can talk about your friend Rindalith later,” said Ratchis curtly and turned to lead the way.

Jana stopped in her tracks, and her eyes opened widely. After a moment, she regained her composure and followed.


In the dining room, the five of them registered their group, an assistant to Daniel the Castle Steward taking their names.

“What do you call yourselves?” he asked. “I mean, does your group have a name?”

”We don’t have a name,” said Beorth.

“We are the Warriors of the House Divided,” said Kazrack.

“What?” the steward asked.

“Warriors of the House Divided,” Kazrack said again, and it was written down.

“Thassa stupid name,” Chance said.

“Your gear will be waiting for you in the courtyard,” said the steward.

“What supplies do we get?” Kazrack asked.

“The same as everyone else.”

“Which is?”

“I don’t know.”


They met up with Martin the Green and their supplies (2 weeks rations, gallon of water, 1 flask of lamp oil, flint & steel, and a woolen winter blanket) in the courtyard, and cold half hour wait for Martin’s mule and possessions to be brought out by a stable boy. The tension in the air was palpable, as no one in the group said a word to each other. Finally, they were off, Martin feeling the weight of a golden medallion that bore the king’s sigil and a letter of introduction in his breast pocket.

As they came through the gate, the party turned right, using a narrow path that went down into the ravine about the castle and then back up into the nearby mountains. However, Kazrack did not turn and continued on straight into town.

No one said a word.

Ratchis led the way, and Beorth, Jana, Chance, Jeremy and Martin (fighting with his mule the whole way) followed. The snow came down harder and harder. The wind whipping it up into their faces, as they marched right into it. They had only gone a few hours when they decided they had to stop. The castle would still have been in view if it had not been for the snow, but Ratchis found a rock ledge that formed a shelter that would do for the night. It was even tall and deep enough to allow the mule to get out of the weather as well. The remains of a fire showed that they were not the first to use this place for such a purpose.

Ratchis started a fire, as Jana tried to show Martin how to handle the mule a bit. They discussed their aims, and decided they’d try to get to Summit via Ram’s Head.

About two and a half hour later, Kazrack arrived.

“I thought you left the group,” said Jeremy.

“I went to town to sell off my old armor,” said the dwarf. “I told Ratchis I would be traveling with the group as far as Summit.”

Ratchis was silent.

Watches were set for the night, and no one spoke hardly a word to each other. On his watch, Jeremy sat by Jana and watched her very closely.

Tholem, 11th of Syet

In the very early morning, Ra’s Glory reflected from just over a half-foot of snow all about them. The air was crisp and whispered unintelligibly across the snow’s surface, occasionally sending cascades from the rock ledge above them.

They ate a cold breakfast, packed up the mule and began their journey north by northwest towards the alder-village of Ram’s Head (according to the map they had been given) in order to avoid the Ogre Scar. (10)

Ratchis, Jana, Chance, Beorth, Jeremy, Kazrack and Martin marched half the day, slowly move up the mountain, through deeper and deeper snow. Ratchis led the way, pushing through the show with his long muscular legs, and setting a pace the others found exhausting. In time they came to the edge of tall ravine about 120 feet across. It was crossed by a rickety rope bridge, that swayed in the wind that came whipping down the canyon. The mule brayed nervously, and as the party discussed the safety of the bridge, Jeremy took it upon himself to test it out.

He slowly made his way across the bridge, his weight lessening the wild bucking, but still it swayed, and he was about halfway across when losing his balance, he slipped face first onto the bridge, his feet dangling over the side. The bottom of the ravine was over 100 feet below him.

The party watched in horror as he struggled to get back up on the bridge and then crawled slowly to the other side. He stood and turned.

“The bridge is fine!” Jeremy called across. “Come across one at a time!”

“Come back!” called Ratchis. “The mule will never make it across that.”

“It will be fine. Mules are sure-footed!”

“We have to go another way. Come back!”


Jeremy stepped onto the bridge, thought it over and then got back down on his hands and knees and crawled safely across.

“The mule could have made it,” he said on the other side.

“Excuse me if I don’t take your word for it,” said Ratchis.

“I will have to speak to Alderman of Ram’s Head about this bridge,” noted Martin. “This is unacceptable.”


The party headed back southward at a quicker pace, and while it the sun had started to sink by the time they got back to where they had camped the night before, they pressed on towards the village of Three-Trees to stay the night there. They moved down into the valley and found a themselves walking through large orchards, with tiny mal-formed apples frozen on the limbs of trees.

The village was a tiny collection of cottages, guarded by log bunkers guarded by lightly-armored soldiers with bows.

There was a small inn at the center of the village and the companions went in and lowered their aching forms around a table and ordered food and drinks and arranged for lodging for the night. Two middle-aged men sat at the bar talking, and one kept looking over his shoulder at the party as they talked.

“In the morning we will head north to Ram’s Head,” said Ratchis.

“From the map it looks like it is a longer way to Summit, but we will be able to avoid the Ogre Scar,” said Kazrack.
“Mind if I join you?” said a voice. They turned to see one of the two men. He had thinning brown hair, and a pot-belly. He wore nicely-kept clothes, and his skin looked darkened by the sun. He pulled up a chair “My name is Joseph the Brewer. Where are you all from?”

The group was silent for a moment.

“I take it you are one of these dragon-hunting groups?” Joseph continued. “I have seen a few of them traveling through last couple of days. I travel all throughout Gothanius selling my beers and ales, but I am wintering here in Three-Trees.”

“I’m from Neergaard,” replied Jeremy.

“Neergaard, huh? Had some Neergaardian mead once, good stuff. Not many dragons in Neergaard I assume, not with all the knights there and all,” Joseph reasoned. “But the dragon here, oh it’s a mean and scary one, that’s for certain.”

“You’ve seen the dragon?” said Kazrack, happy to have a possible lead.

“Oh yes,” Joseph said, his smile disappearing. “It was just this past summer.”

“What did it look like?” the dwarf questioned.

“It was fifty or sixty feet long, and bright green like Ra’s Glory shining of the muck of a pond in mid-Quark. (11) It came seemingly out of nowhere, attacked my little caravan. It breathed a jet of fire on wagon of ale and it just exploded. Everyone fled and scattered. It was terrible,” the brewer said.

“Were many people killed?” asked Martin the Green.

“None that I know of, but a good amount of property was destroyed. I lost that whole shipment. It cost me a bundle. I hope you get it,” Joseph said, a hint of anger creeping into his voice.

“No one was killed, fascinating,” mused Martin.

“In all the tales of dragons I have ever heard they usually kill a lot of people,” said Kazrack.

“Well, I don’t want to disturb you too much, but if you ever need ales of any kind, let me know. I brew all kinds of seasonal ones. In fact,” he turned to the barkeep. “Hey, Johnson, get these fine men (and lady) a round of that Pumpkin Ale on me.”

The night went by without event and the next day after a breakfast of oatmeal, they were headed northwest again

Balem, 12th of Syet – 564 H.E.

There was less wind this day, which made the cold bearable. They were crossing a snow-filled plain, and passed no signs of life. At mid-morning they crossed a stone bridge that went over what must be (according to the map) the Kelzain Stream. Ratchis then turned them on a more northerly course.

As the day waned they crossed wagon ruts running east/west in the hard earth, and further on they could see the tell-tale signs of civilization atop the nearby foothills. As they climbed up a steep trail Ratchis discovered, they could see the thatched roofs of yurts.

Ram’s Head was a village atop a plateau in the shadow of a tall dark mountain scored with paths and ledges. All the buildings were low round builds of log and thatch, with a corral nearby. The muddy streets were strewn with straw and the droppings of sheep and goats.

They knocked on a random door and Martin asked which house belonged to the Alderman, and followed the directions there, after finding out his name was Morrus..

Martin knocked on the door to the alderman’s Yurt. The voice of boy came from behind the door, “Who’s there?”

“My name is Martin the Green. I am a Watch-Mage and am working for King Brevelan Goth III. My companions and I have come to see the Alderman.”

There was a pause and then another, deeper, voice said, “Do you have proof you are who you say you are?”
“I have a letter of introduction from the King,” replied Martin.

“Slide it under the door,” the voice said.

Martin paused and looked at the others. Jana shrugged her shoulders, and then the Watch-Mage slid the letter beneath the door.

The waited a few moments and then finally the door slowly opened. A tall man with graying dark brown hair in rustic clothing of leather and wool answered the door. Ratchis immediately noticed the hand axe he held low to one side. He looked perhaps in his early forties, but his arms and chest looked very muscular, his face was care-worn.
“My name is Morrus. I am the alderman of Ram’s Head,” the man said, and then gestured to the boy of about fifteen years behind him. “This is my son William.”

The alderman handed the letter back to Martin and showed the party in. “I’m sorry about my initial greeting, but one cannot be too careful in this part of Gothanius,” Morrus said. “Between gnolls from the north and bandits, it can be very dangerous. But that is done with, I am sorry that my home is not as nice as some other alderman’s places, but Ram’s Head is a humble village. However, you are welcome to stay here the night.”

“We greatly appreciate your hospitality,” said Martin the Green.

“William,” said Morrus to his son. “Take care of their pack animal and then bring in more firewood.”

“Yes, sir,” the boy said and ran out.

“Have a seat around the fire,” Morrus said to the group. “Make yourselves at home, though I’d like to learn all your names.”

The party spread out around the fire pit in the center of the one room building, and told the alderman their names.
The floor was dirt, but covered in fur blankets and burlap pillows. The smell of something cooking in a pot above the central fire, just barely smothered the smell of a barn.

“So you are the new Watch-Mage, and are on your way to Summit,” Morrus said.

“Yes, my companions are seeing that I get there safely, where I can help to aid and oversee the hunting of the dragon,” replied Martin.

“So Summit is getting a Watch-Mage then. It figures,” said Morrus with a sigh. “Aside from the dragon that place is relatively safe since the Orc War finished and pretty wealthy. Here in Ram’s Head, we struggle to just get by.”
There was an awkward silence.

“Of course, some aldermen have more favor than others. They are more popular, invited to Royal Balls and get whatever they want, while others suffer,” Morrus continued, until he caught himself. “Not that I am placing the blame in any one place. His Majesty the king, does a very good job, and I am sure he knows what he is doing sending you to Summit to overlook this project of his, but when it is done, I wonder what will become of you.”

“Well, I am only the interim Watch-Mage. I am sure such a decision will be made when the time is right and another alumnus of the Academy is assigned to Gothanius,” said Martin the Green.

Morrus stirred the contents of the pot and then began serving it into wooden bowls.

“It is a local favorite,” he said. “Stuffed intestines stewed in a black sauce.”

“We have something very similar in the part of Thricia where I am from,” said Martin.

William came back in and immediate began to pour the group wine from a gourd.

“You mentioned gnolls before, do they come to these parts often?” asked Ratchis.

“They come down from the north in the winter. The harsher the winter, the more frequent and devastating their attacks. They come looking for food, which can be livestock, but can also be people,” explained Morrus. “Every man in this village has learned to fight because of this and I lead the militia, but we still lose about a half dozen men every year, if not more.”

“Oh,” said Ratchis, and turned to his bowl of black steaming entrails.

The party ate hungrily and then their full stomachs and the warmth of the Yurt took over and they dropped off to sleep one by one.

Teflem, 13th of Syet – 564 H.E.

The wind woke them. It battered the thatched roof angrily, and sounded at times like a growl rolling across the sky.
“Good morning,” said Morrus, stirring the pot above the fire. “It is a gusty day out.”

The companions stretched and got their things ready and ate the re-heated stuffed intestines from the night before, now crusty from where it stuck to the bottom of the pot. Ratchis had seconds

“I was wondering if you know anything about the dragon,” asked Kazrack, as he crunched on the breakfast, and brushed crumbs from his beard.

“I don’t know much. It has not been seen this far north or east,” said Morrus. “I’d be curious to find out more about it myself.”

“Well, this man named Joseph told us he saw it attack his wagon. He said it was long and green,” said Martin.
“An brethed far,” added Chance, with his mouth full.

“Joseph? Joseph the Brewer?” Morrus asked, incredulity.

“Um, yes,” replied Martin.

“Well, I’m not calling him a liar, but I wouldn’t believe everything that man says. He has a heart of gold, but he has a tendency to exaggerate a bit.”

“We’ll keep that in mind,” said Martin.

They thanked Morrus for his hospitality, and he welcomed them back anytime. They found William outside preparing Martin’s mule, and thanked him as well. The whipped like a cruel taskmaster, but they headed to the west by southwest, hoping to make Summit by mid-afternoon at the latest – but they had barely marched an hour when the gusts began to bring volleys of snow upon them.

Ratchis tried to pick the right direction and lead his companions to safety, but visibility was almost nothing and now the wind rarely stopped biting with its cold and cruel teeth. In time they came to a frozen stream that covered in snow was hard to spot, and led to wet feet. Ratchis turned them south, hoping to find an easier place to cross the stream and perhaps find a landmark that could help him find their place on the map. He knew they should find be finding a wood soon, and this either meant they were near the Ogre Scar or near Summit.

They finally crossed the stream, but Jana and Martin began to stumble and they could all feel the deep cold in their bones, except for Ratchis who had placed Nephthys’ blessing on himself to protect him from the elements. Only the deepening gloom let them know that evening was upon them, for they had not seen the sky for hours, all there was a uniform gray from horizon to horizon.

By the time the came to the treeline they were searching for, they were all stumbling a bit, and Chance was helping Jana to walk. Ratchtis led them a few score yards into the wood, and found them a tree to sit beneath. He and Kazrack worked to clear the snow out from under it, and then the half-orc took the last of the tinder he carried and built a small fire.

“I am going to explore a bit, while you all stay here,” said Ratchis. “Hopefully we are closer to Summit than to the Ogre Scar and we can make a last push. If we are near the Scar, we may need to get out of here anyway, so rest up and conserve your strength.”

With that he jogged off.

The others did what they could to warm up. There was not much wood for the fire, though Jeremy threw some pine cones into it. Beorth wrapped himself in a blanket.

Jana looked pale, and she shivered as she felt a sleepiness come over her.

“Are ya okay?” Chance asked her.

“I don’t feel so good,” she said groggily.

“Ya should wrap this a little tighter about ya” Chance said, pulling her cloak closed about her. “Sometimes feeling warm is all about being a little lucky,” he added with a wink and brushed her cheek with his hand. Suddenly, she felt he cold seep out of her body. It was as if it were no colder than an early autumn day.

“Luck?” said Kazrack. “It has nothing to do with luck.”

Jana smiled a Chance.

“Everything has ta do wit’ luck,” Chance said to the dwarf. “Jass sometimes ya gotta mek yer own luck.”

“What does that mean?” the dwarf asked.

“Et mens that ya gotta tek chaunces en life,” explained Chance. “Ya gotta give luck a chaunce ta kick in and help ya out. Et es not considered bad luck when ya try something crazy n’ it fails, but et es good luck when et sacc-seeds. Bad luck comes when ya don’t try anything.”

“That does not make any sense,” replied Kazrack.

“Et meks more sense than ya know.”

It was nearly two hours before Ratchis returned, and the fire had died out. The Friar of Nephthys had an armful of firewood and re-ignited the blaze.

“I found Summit nearby. The ridge it sits upon is only a mile or two away. We can definitely make it. Take off your boots and socks and put them, and your feet, by the fire to dry and then we’ll get moving.”

“Where’d you get the wood?” Jeremy asked. It looked cut and split.

“I borrowed it,” Ratchis replied.

The party warmed their feet by the fire, and then marched towards the tall ridge the town of Summit stood upon. The snow continued to pile up, and the dark town shimmered white in the places where light could be seen to peek through the windows of houses.

They walked up the main street, which ended in a square with a two-story inn at one end. As they entered, the warm place, they could see the carved sign that read “The Sun’s Summit Inn”.

Inside, the common room glowed with the light of the hearth, and of a few lanterns in the real glass pane windows. The bar was directly across from the entrance, and the hearth was against the right wall, where a bard strummed on a lyre and sang softly, flanked by a tall muscular man that rivaled Ratchis in size. There were about a half dozen table and benches, some of which were occupied. An elderly couple sat across from each other at a table to the right, while two men sat and ate and drank at the bar. Four figures sat at the table closest to the door and to the left.
The party took a table to the right of the door, across from the four who looked like they might be travelers as well. Two busty barmaids were serving the people in common room, and Martin went over to the barkeep, a man who appeared to young to have his steel grey hair to ask about rooms for the night.

The four men at the next table were being loud, or actually one was being loud (with interspersed laughter from another). He was tall, and had a long sword at his belt. He had dirty blonde hair, and well-kempt beard, and pale skin like Jeremy’s. He faced away from the door. Across from him was a short squat man with a bowl of thick black hair, and dark sun-soaked skin. He wore wolf furs, including a hood made from the head of a wolf, that rested on his back. He had a huge two-handed battle axe resting on the table, but gripped tightly in his hands. He sat, teeth gritted, showing no motion, his shoulders taking up all the room on the bench. Beside the dark man was a skinny weasel-faced fellow, who also had long hair and lots of acne scars on his face. He laughed shrilly at everything the blonde man said. Across from the weasel was a rotund bald man, who only had tufts of black hair sprouting from behind his ears. Despite, his girth, he looked strong and a large round nose and a double-chin. He wore black priestly robes with a silver belt cord and had a nasty headed mace at his side.

Martin returned from the bar and sat down, “The innkeep will be arranging for us to get three rooms, two doubles and a triple. He is also sending over a barmaid to take our orders.”

The companions sat there, just wanting to enjoy the warm, and dry off, their boots and cloaks, leaving a puddle of melted snow underneath them, but the conversation of the other travelers destroyed the illusion of peace.

“So then we had her in the hold of the ship, bent over a crate and the whole crew just lined up and took turns,” said the tall blonde man.

The weaselly man broke into a shrill laughter, “Took your turns! Took your turns! Sounds messy!”

“That is why I made sure that I was third in line,” the blonde replied. “Worked in enough for someone of my attributes, but not so much so that I might as well stick my tally-wacker in the ocean and get the same feeling!”
“Stick your tally-wacker in the ocean!” the weasel-man brayed. “That’s a good one. That’s rich!”

“It gets better. I’m getting my turn, and I am slamming into her for all I’m worth, and I can tell she’s really enjoying it, especially compared to all the rest of the crew. She was moaning and yelling and looking right into my eyes,” the blonde man continued.

“Oh yeah, sure. I’m sure she liked it,” said the weaselly man through his laughter. “Them whores always act like they don’t like it, but you know they do.”

The topic of the other group’s conversation was wearing the patience of the companions, and finally Ratchis turned to them and said loudly, “Keep it down!”

“I don’t think so,” said the blonde man, without turning to look. The weaselly-faced man bared his teeth and squat man’s knuckles turned bright white as his grip tightened on his axe.

The man continued his story, “The next day I wake up and the poor bugger is all red and sore and covered in yellow pus. The whore was diseased! If she had been around I would have given her such a slap!”

“Yeah, yeah, ya would’ve slapped her! Slapped her good! Yeah, yeah!” the weasel-man said, with his shrill laughter.

“So we were in port in Ursula City (12), so I went into town to the temple of Fallon and I go right up to the priestess in there and…get this… I whip out my tally-wacker and I say `lay hands on this, bitch!’”

The two men burst into gut-shaking laughter. The other two did not react very much, but the weaselly man could not stop.

“Lay your hands on this! Ha! Ha! Ha! That’s so rich! Oh! That’s a good one!”

The barmaid served their food, and the party ate with the joy of no more loud stories erupting from the other table. The bard played a soothing song, and then walked over to the other table where he seemed to know the others.

“Hey,” the weasel-faced man called over to the party’s table. “Hey, you guys hunting the dragon?”

“Yes,” said Jeremy.

“Well, so are we, and ya might as well give up because we are gonna find it first,” he said with his twisted grin.

“Well, I hope you run into it first, too,” replied Ratchis.

Suddenly, the wind outside the inn picked up into a howl that increased in pitch, ending with a loud thump on the roof that could be heard through the whole second floor above them, and several glasses in the common room bursting.. The boards creaked and moaned as if some great weight had been dragged across the building and the fire in the hearth flared up. The howling wind returned and this time seemed to come in gust straight down the chimney and all the lanterns and candles in the place went out, along with the hearth.

The barmaids began to scream, and the elderly couple just repeated “Oh my! Oh my!”
“Jana, we need a light,” said Beorth, and with a word from the young girl from Westron, the mug of ale before her gave off a bright light that filled half the common room.

Gibb, the barkeep, lit up a lantern and everyone looked around to determine what had happened. One of the barmaids was ducked behind a table, and the elderly couple immediately stood to leave, obviously shaken.
“Gibb, I am going to walk Nelin and Letia home to make sure they are safe,” said the brutish bouncer in a gentle tone, and began to lead the couple out. He took a moment t glare at both parties as he approached the door. “I had better not hear there was any trouble from you people while I was gone.”

“We were just leaving anyway,” said the tall blonde man. “We have a dragon to slay.”

“Yeah, no blizzard can stop us,” said the bard.

They gathered their gear and marched out after the bouncer and the elderly couple.

Ratchis and Kazrack decided to go outside to investigate the sound, while Martin and Jana spoke with one of the barmaids who still obviously nervous, was refilling their drinks.

“Does this kind of thing happen often?” Martin asked her.

“Oh, nothing this bad,” she said and then whispered. “Some people say this inn is haunted, but it is little things – figures out of the corner of your eyes that are gone when you turn your head, creaking footsteps in an empty room, that kind of thing.”

“Really? And it never has manifested itself so violently before?” Martin continued with his probing.

“Oh, I wouldn’t call that violent, sir,” the barmaid said. “Spooky, yes. Violent? No. But you are right to say that nothing that extreme has ever happened before, but please don’t tell Gibb I said anything. The owners like to keep such rumors hush-hush.”

“Is Gibb one of the owners?” Jana asked.

“No, the owners are away,” the girl replied.

The two men at the bar, bid the barkeep good night and went up to their rooms.


Meanwhile, outside Ratchis was climbing up to the roof. He used the uneven stones of the chimney, as Kazrack watched on from below. Ratchis could see a line of something about a foot and a half in with dragged across the length of the roof. Snow was pushed down to the edge of the slightly angled roof, and falling over in big clumps as more piled on it from the sky. He carefully made his way across the roof and examined the mark, while checking for any tracks, but could find nothing else unusual. As he approached the chimney again, his feet suddenly slipped out to his left and he slammed into the roof hip first, the bit of snow beneath him cushioning the fall.

Ratchis held himself in place and could feel the area beneath the snow was very slick, as if covered by oil, but he could not see anything there. He slowly began to get to his feet again, and this time when he slipped he tumbled feet over head and right off the roof, landing painfully despite the snow bank.

Ratchis was lying there for a second, trying to regain his breath, when Beorth came out of the inn, bearing the light-emanating mug.. Kazrack came around the corner.

“Hit an icy patch?” Kazrack asked.

“No, it was just slick. It was weird. I felt for ice, and there was none,” Ratchis replied, as Beorth helped him up.

“Well, Martin spoke with one of the barmaids and she said this place is haunted, but that nothing this extreme has ever happened before,” Beorth said. “If it is a haunting, I am duty bound to investigate it.”

“Well, I am going to go back up on the roof and checking out that slippery spot,” Ratchis said. “Kazrack, can you stand watch again?”

“For what?” the dwarf replied.

“Because I am climbing on the roof of an inn in a strange town and people might find that strange,” said Ratchis with a tone of exasperation.

Ratchis climbed back up the chimney and this time took a rope with him. At the top he tied the rope about the chimney and then tied the other end about his waist, keeping the slack looped in his left hand. He then examined the spot that had been slippery before and found it was just normal wetness from snow. Perplexed, he went back downstairs.


Back in the common room, Chance grabbed his pack and made to go up and choose one of the three rooms the party had rented, but Jana stopped him.

“Um, Chance,” she said softly. “I’m scared. All this stuff that is going on is freaky. Do you mind if I stay with you tonight?”

“Ya scared? Come now, Ah’ve seen ya face down that ondead thing n’ fight gooblins n’such. Why would ya be scared now?” Chance asked confused.

“I just am. Please?” A mischievous look came into the young girl’s eyes.

“Oh!” Chance said, with a sudden realization. “Well, if ya scarred, ah understand completely!”

Chance took her hand and led her upstairs.


Beorth and Martin went up to find a room to use. They found that the party had been given three adjacent room on the east side of the inn, and took on the northeast corner.

As they entered, Beorth thought he heard something skitter in the room.

“Did you hear that?” the paladin asked the Watch-Mage.

“No. What?” Martin asked.

“I’m not sure, let’s look around. It’s better to be safe than sorry,” Beorth replied.

Martin began to look under the beds while Beorth noticing movement in the window stepped over to it. He looked and saw it was only his own reflection in the glass pane. He stepped a bit closer to get a look out the window, wondering if maybe someone or something was behind the inn. Suddenly, his reflection move independent of his own movement, turning to look at him. Beorth was startled as the figure’s eyes turned red and actually taking form reached forward and wrapped its cold hands around the paladin’s throat!

“Well, there is nothing under here, Beorth,” Martin said, not seeing his companion struggling to pry the ghostly fingers from his neck. “Beorth?”

Martin the Green turned to see Beorth struggling, his throat turning black and blue beneath the translucent grip. Finally, he pulled himself free by pure strength, stumbling back into Martin who was moving forward to try to help.
They turned to look back at the window. It looked as any window would.

Kazrack, Jeremy and Ratchis came upstairs. Jeremy and Kazrack took the center room which had two beds, while Ratchis went to the end room which the innkeep had explained had a double bed and one normal sized bed.

The large half-orc pushed open the door, to find the lantern light turned way low and to hear a rustling of sheets and blankets in the double bed. Ratchis grunted and walked in, dropping his pack on the floor and slipping out of his armor. Chance’s head popped out of the top of the blanket, while girlish giggling could be heard from beneath it.

“Oh, we, uh… Yill beh stayin’ in here then, eh?” Chance said.

Ratchis did not reply, but pulled back the blanket atop the bed and lay in it.

“Aye, well that’s fine. Just sleepin’ anyway. Good night,” Chance added.

Ratchis pulled the blanket over his head and tried to fall asleep, but after a few moments he heard the rustling and giggling coming from the other side of the room.


Kazrack walked out of his room, trying to get away from Jeremy’s ceaseless jabbering. The dwarf wasn’t even sure what the young Neergaardian was saying as he just tuned out his foolishness. At the same time, Beorth and Martin came out of their rooms to report the incident with the reflection in the window.

“There is definitely something strange going on around here,” Kazrack said when it had been explained to him. “We should go talk to the innkeeper.”

Kazrack began to make his way down the stairs when he heard screaming from below. He immediately began to run down towards its source. Surprised by the dwarf’s sudden departure, Beorth and Martin were startled and did not hear the screaming until a few moments later, joining the dash towards the sound.

The screams were coming from the other side of the inn. Kazrack came around a corner to a doorway to a small bedroom. One of the barmaids was standing up on one of two beds in the room shrieking.

“What is it?” Kazrack asked, unslinging his heavy flail.

“Rats!” the barmaid cried. “Rats under the bed! Big ones!”

Kazrack let a slight chuckle escape his mouth and scratching his beard in bewilderment over how someone could be so frightened by a little creature, he knelt down to look at the vermin beneath the bed. In the shadows there, he saw three small rodents. They squeaked at him and then suddenly, their eyes turned into two points of pulsating red light, and they grew in size, actually causing the bed to buck upwards as they charged at the dwarf, biting him deeply on the shoulder.

Kazrack stepped back as the rats, now the size of small dogs and their gray fur interspersed with sharp red hairs that rolled across their body like fire. The barmaid began to scream even louder. Beorth and Martin arrived, but the tall and armored paladin blocked the doorway, not allowing the Watch-mage to see what was happening. Kazrack brought his flail down on a rat and smashed it with one blow. It exploded into a bright flash of light, which caused the two warriors to flinch, turning their heads away.

Kazrack and Beorth swung their weapons at the vicious fiendish rodents, but their size and speed such that the two warriors had a hard time connecting with their blows.

Upstairs, Ratchis sighed loudly and sat up, tired of the tittering, shifting, lip smacking and giggling from the other bed. Grabbing the blanket, pillow and his pack, he stormed out of the room. He began to walk down the stairs to spend the night by the hearth, when he heard the sounds of curses and battle from below. He dropped everything, but his sword and took off towards the sound.

Martin tried to get a look past Beorth who stabbed at the dexterous rats with all the skill he could muster, but failing to connect.

“What are they?” Martin asked.

“Demon rats!” cried Beorth. The barmaid’s screaming reached a new register.

Martin began to cant the words to his daze spell, but could not get a good enough line of sight for it to be successful, so he settled for remaining vigilant for an opportunity to cast the spell.

Kazrack managed to smashed any other rat and it too exploded into a bright flash of light, just as Ratchis arrived behind Martin in the narrow hallway.

“What is going on?” Ratchis asked.

“Demon rats emerged in the maids’ room,” explained Martin.

Ratchis stopped and listened. He noticed a cold breeze coming from further down the hall and around the corner and could hear the sound of door slamming over and over. He cautiously walked over and peered around the corner to see a side door to the outside flapping in the wind. Ratchis stepped into the doorway and looked around outside.
“Nephthys, grant me your light so that I may see what dangers threaten us and this place,” he said and suddenly his hand glowed brightly.

He continued to look around, when he noticed a larger amount of snow falling on him from above than the level of snowfall indicated. He looked up, and thought he heard someone or something move away from the edge of the roof and towards the other side of the inn. Ratchis took off around the back of the inn.

Kazrack and Beorth continued to struggle, while Martin waited, but finally Beorth’s sword found its aim and he buried the blade into the creature. Again the rat exploded into a bright flash of light and while, Kazrack was able to close his eyes in time, Beorth felt the light burn his eyes.

“I’m blind!” the paladin cried, and stumbled back out of the room into Martin, just as Gibb the barkeep came running up.

“What is going on?” Gibb asked.

“Demon rats attacked one of the barmaids,” Martin said.

The proprietor pushed past Beorth who was rubbing his eyes over and over to no avail, and made his way into the room. Martin began to lead Beorth back up to their room, while Kazrack tried to explain what happened to Gibb, while the barmaid refused to come down from off the bed.

Ratchis raced around the inn, and one the other side he came face to face with ghostly figure of a woman with a billowing dress and shawl. He could see it clearly, but could still see the snowy ground behind her. She floated a few inches off the ground, but was very tall regardless, nearly six and half feet.

“Go away!” the apparition said, her voice like a cracking ice. “You are not welcome here!”

Ratchis held the chain at his waist and called to his goddess, “Nephthys, fill me with you divine energy that I may expel this poor tortured soul from this world!”

“Don’t make me angry,” the ghost-woman said and floated closer to the half-orc. As it approached, its visage became twisted and its white translucents became corrupted, erupting into a black shadowy form with blank spots for eyes. It reached out to touch Ratchis, but he ducked and called to Nephthys again, this time to temporarily enchant his weapon.

Ratchis swung at the creature, but his sword passed straight through it, and despite the cold he could feel sweat begin to bead on his forehead. The ghost-thing continued to reach for him, and as he swung, Ratchis ducked and moved to avoid its touch – but he could avoid it for only so long. Ratchis felt the cold touch of the apparition on his chest and he could feel the very strength of his muscles begin to leave him, sucked out through the creature’s hand.
The struggle continued and Ratchis brought his long sword through the creature again, this time feeling the slightest bit of resistance, and he could see the smallest amount of shadow-stuff come spilling out from where the sword had been and then dissipate However, his moment of joy was brief, as he felt the cold touch of the creature again, and his arms became heavier, as his strength left him. The majority of his blows went right through the thing.

“Anybody! I think I need some help here!” Ratchis cried.

Upstairs, Chance cocked his head and moved the blanket from over him and Jana.

“Didja hear that?” he asked the girl. “Sounded like Ratchis.”

“I didn’t hear anything,” replied Jana. “Don’t worry about it.”

“It sounded like it came from outside,” said Chance, getting out of bed and going over to the window. “Ratchis is in trouble!”

The Wallbrookian ran towards the door buck-naked and realizing his nude condition snatched a blanket off the bed and wrapped it around himself and then took off downstairs. Jana glanced out the window and saw Ratchis struggling with the shadow creature and grabbed her crossbow and began to load it.

Chance came barreling down the stairs, holding the blanket around his waist in one hand and his short sword in the other, barely keeping from tripping. He raced past Martin and Beorth in the hall, and past Kazrack who was making his way to the common room downstairs and to a side door near where Ratchis was fighting. He then halted about fifteen feet away from the creature.

“Oh me god! Whut tha hell is that!?”

Ratchis looked for a moment at Chance and then regretted it. He felt the cold hand of the creature go straight through his chest and out the other side, as more strength than the two touches before was drained from him. His sword arm felt as if it were made from lead, and his legs felt anchored to the frozen ground.

Kazrack came rushing out of the inn after Chance, and despite the fact that he had never in his life ever seen such a creature did not pause to come to his companion’s aid. Jana, thinking she had a shot let a bolt loose at the creature, but it landed way short.

Martin began to slowly lead Beorth back down the stairs to see what was going on.

“I’ll make my own way down,” the paladin said. “Go ahead and see if someone needs help.”

The Watch-Mage did not pause and barreled down the stairs and out the side door.

“Oh Bes, grant us some luck!” Chance chanted, but it seemed that Bes was not listening because again, Ratchis felt the cold attack of the shadow.

Jana fired another bolt, and this one landed inches from Kazrack.

The yelling and frenzied combat was finally heard by Jeremy, who opened the window, and peered out from directly above the conflict. He watched as the shadow-creature turned on a surprised Kazrack and drew strength out of the dwarf with its cold touch. He watched both Kazrack and Ratchis’ blows ineffectively go through the thing.
Martin invoked his shield spell and stepped closer to the combat, so Jeremy did what any adventurous person would do. He leaped out the window, sword in hand, and joined the fray! He attempted to use the momentum of the jump to attack the shadow, but only stumbled into the melee awkwardly, distracting Kazrack who felt the deep cold of the creature’s touch once again.

And still the party’s blows were ineffective, Martin knew it was time to use magic in this offensive and cast a spray of a variety of bright color at point blank range. However, instead of having the effect he desires, the creature seemed to absorb the colors, and now they swirled over the surface of the creature.

“Isis preserve us!” Martin cried, as Jana fired her crossbow again, and the bolt landed between Ratchis’ legs.
“Run away!” Chance began to yell. “Weh cahnt beat it! Run away!”

The ghost-shadow-thing turned its now colorful swirling face toward Martin and when it reached out and touched him, the colors on its incorporeal body swirled down its arm and flashed upon the young Watch-Mage. Fortunately, Martin was able to resist his own spell, but he felt the cold strength drain of the creature’s touch.

“This isn’t real,” Martin said to himself. He rubbed his eyes, closed them and took a deep breath and said it again with more emphasis. “This isn’t REAL!” He opened his eyes, and the creature was still there. And yet, to the weapons of the others, it was as if it were not there.

“Run away!” Chance continued, but the ineffective blows continued, but at least the creature could not seem to decide which of the party to attack.

Beorth came stumbling through the doorway, “What is happening?”

“Stay inside!” Chance said to the paladin. ‘It’s a ghost!”

“A ghost! Where?” Beorth said, turning towards the sounds of the fight. Jana continued to send crossbow bolts into the thick if the fight, not doing much but creating a deadly rain.

The creature reached for Jeremy. “I will suck out all your souls!” it said in its eerie voice, finally speaking again. The Neergaardian leapt out of the way, and Martin ran from the combat and into the in.
“Help!” the Watch-Mage cried.

“Anubis! Hear my call and send this abomination away!” Beorth cried, clutching the silver jackal head around his neck.

“No, you are facing the wrong way,” Chance said, taking Beorth’s shoulders and turning him towards the thing.
But it didn’t matter either way, either this thing was not undead, or it was beyond Beorth’s faith to turn.

The thwang of Jana firing another bolt was heard by all, and it hit the creature dead on, and then passing through it buried itself in Ratchis’ thigh.

“Ow!” the Friar of Nephthys cried with rage. “Stop! Firing the damn crossbow!”
The shadow was finally able to touch Jeremy, but the hardy Neergaardian resisted sufficiently so that only the slightest bit of strength was drained from him.

Filled with rage Ratchis swung his sword right through the shadow again and felt the slightest resistance, pulling a huge chunk of shadow stuff free from the thing. It threw a fist into the air and dissipated with a shriek.

Both Kazrack and Ratchis slumped to the snowy ground.

End of Session #14



(10) The part had found out about the “Ogre Scar” in the briefing. A mysterious deep tear in the earth, it is known to have been home to ogres, and a place than many Fir-Hagre orcs fled to at the end of the Orc War.

(11) Quark is the fourth month of the year and middle month of summer. Aquerra’s months are as follows (in order): {spring} Prem, Sek {summer} Ter, Quark, Keent, {autumn}, Ese, Syet, {winter} Oche, Nuiet, Dek, Onk.

(12) Ursula City is a medium-sized city in the northern portion of Sandspine Island in the Kingdom of Neergaard. It was re-named for the late Queen, mother of current king Edmund Crownen I.
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