“My horse has been stolen!” came the lament from a stocky, balding man who had just entered the Dancing Basilisk. Nobody gave him much attention, but his insistent complaints finally drew Gadur Yir’s attention. The fellow shrunk back as the half-orc turned towards him, then, seeing he wasn’t going to get hit, he continued: “Blossom is her name, and Freg the Mover is mine.”
“Anything special about your horse?” Gadur Yir asked, bored out of his skull.
“A five-leaf clover. ... Thank you, Sir, for taking up my cause! Thank you, thank you!”
“A stolen horse, you say? Does this happen often in this place?” The question came from a newcomer, a plain-looking man in nondescript grey clothing.
Gadur Yir took a good look at the man’s sword and heavy crossbow, then paused – “Who wants to know?”
“They call me Armand… Armand the Scumbag. Well, some people do. I am a fortune-seeker, looking for companions.”
The conversation about the horse also seemed to draw the attention of the lean, melancholy elf who had been playing his harp in the corner. Gadur Yir noted a long spear and a tall shield with the image of a crying maiden.
“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Lafadriel Hundertwasser, from the distant west. I have come looking for my brother, Elandir, who was last seen on this island.”
The half-orc looked up and shrugged: “I know him… well, knew. His remains rest beneath the ruins of Perladon Manor, brought down by black magic. He died, along with many others, to a fireball spell.”
Lafadriel sighed. “Alas, poor Elandir! I have come too late, then – I can’t even bury you. Perhaps I will find more of my people on this island, and see if I can join them. Until then, I would be hapy to come with you… just tell me how my brother met his end.”
They sat down to talk some more through the evening, and soon, they all agreed to continue to Baklin together the next day.
At sunrise, the newly formed company – Gadur Yir, Drolhaf Haffnarskørung, Phil the Terror of Turkeys, Lafadriel Hundertwasser and the taciturn Armand the Scumbag – left Haghill through the front gate, just as a row of tired soldiers were returning from the siege of the Singing Caverns. They were leading a row of chained orcs, some of them clearly from Truglag’s Tavern; they were also carrying two cartloads of ale barrels and assorted goods. None of the green-clad men were with them.
“I suggest we should make a small detour. Bramerlic the Mineral Dealer is still missing, and the soldiers might not have found him at Truglag’s” Phil recommended.
They crossed the blooming fields, carefully avoiding the beekeeper’s hut, and descended into the caverns. A short expedition showed that Tuglag’s had been well and truly ransacked: the guardian lynx was slain, and the furniture was all smashed up. There was nothing of value, although the passage behind the counter lead to a few more rooms and a secret escape route into the wilderness. If Bramerlic had ever been held there, he was no longer present.
|The Road to Baklin
Back on the road, the company travelled west. After a few hours, they passed the remains of a primitive village – rotund stone huts conquered by the wilderness, long abandoned. Finding only the tracks of boars, and not interested in a confrontation, they decided to continue rather than investigate. Perhaps an hour from the village, the road crossed a small river.
“Wait! I hear something!” Phil whispered to the others. “Wings! Great wings!”
They scrambled for the undergrowth and hid themselves as well as they could as two great lizard monsters with enormous wings and long, swan-like necks descended on the ford. They hissed and drank in large gulps.
“Wywerns!” hissed Lafadriel. “Beware, the stingers at the end of their tails carry a deadly poison!”
They remained silent as the grave as the beasts drank themselves full, and took to the air again.
“These two were sent by Haldor himself, and you let them get away!” Phil teased the half-orc.
“I am a little disappointed” nodded Armand.
"I wonder if the wyverns are connected to the abandoned manor of the Feranolts on that deserted island. Could they have killed the inhabitants there?" muttered Gadur Yir, mostly to himself.
However, things didn’t stay quiet for too long. Cries came from the north, beyond the pine trees, and strange, rasping roars responded to it. The wyverns had met someone in the woods, and judging from the clamour of weapons, they had met their match.
“After me!” Gadur Yir cried, swiftly crossing the pine forest. But by the time they arrived, silence had fallen on the large clearing where the woods gave way to leafy plants, and they beheld a scene of horror. The wyverns, slightly bloodied, were feasting on the grisly remains of a group of Northmen. The only sounds were the snapping of bones and the tearing of meat as the beasts gorged themselves.
“In the name of Haldor, perish, you wyrms!” hollered Gadur Yir as he charged the more wounded of the pair, the others following a bit more cautiously. The half-orc rained blow after blow on the beasts, but he was struck by one of the deadly stingers, and went pale from the shock.
“Githoniel Elbereth, Silendil Mithrill!” came Lafadriel’s battle cry as he came to his aid, while those who stayed back, rained arrows and crossbow bolts on the beasts. At last, the two reptilian horrors were brought down, and they exhaled their evil spirits.
“Let us rest a little, because I feel very, very bad…” whispered Gadur Yir as he staggered to the nearest tree, and fell with his back to the thick trunk.
Lafadriel looked far westwards, sighed, and took out his shovel from his backpack. The others collected the Northmen’s loot: 25 platinum coins – a rare and valuable haul – a potion, and an old brass sceptre that Phil appraised for 80 gold pieces, three intact chain shirts (the rest were too chewed up or punctured to be useful), and a rune-engraved longbow named “Kingfisher”. Armand cut up the beasts to check if they had something in their gullets but found nothing, while Phil had carved off some of the scaly skin. They dug shallow graves to bury the dead while Gadur Yir was fighting for his life, hanging between this world and the next. He felt his consciousness fade and his vision dim; but before the spark of life would leave him for good, he felt the touch of a hand over his heart, and the venom of the beasts being drawn from his blood. Haldor had performed a miracle for his champion! With that, he drifted into a peaceful, dark sleep.
Gadur Yir’s body was too heavy to carry over the shoulder, and he was delirious, hovering between life and death. Drolhaf Haffnarskørung and Armand the Scumbag assembled a stretcher from two pieces of wood and a length of rope. They also searched the half-orc with Phil’s help, but found nothing suspicious in his pockets. Finally, they returned to the road.
Beyond the ford, the road entered deep and dark woods, filled with birdsong. They were passing through a ravine between two tree-capped hills, when they heard the merry sounds of a pipe. The source of the unlikely music was a short, jovial-looking man in weathered green clothes and a feathered cap, sitting on a fallen tree by a yawning cave entrance and playing a cheerful ditty. Next to him slept a snoring mound of flesh and feathers – something that looked like a cross between an owl and a bear. The man smiled and nodded.
“Fair greetings, my good fellows! I am the man they call the Piper. What brings you here into these woods?”
Drolhaf greeted him cautiously. “We are travellers, on our way to Baklin.”
“You are on the right way, then!” the man laughed “Just be careful. The woods are dangerous around here.”
Drolhaf cast a sidelong glance at the sleeping owlbear. “Could you tell us about these dangers?”
The Piper laughed. “Sure I would! Consider, for instance, this owlbear. It is fast asleep, but if I were to stop playing this lullaby, it’d get up and become mighty irritated. And suppose someone did away with the owlbear? Why, the only reason the langomir lurking within this cave doesn’t come out is because it doesn’t like the smell. Do you understand my gist?”
Drolhaf’s eyes narrowed, but he nodded solemnly. The Piper played a little trill, then smiled like a cat.
“Let’s make it 25 gold pieces for safe passage, and for another 25, I will tell you a secret.”
Phil the Terror of Turkeys and Armand the Scumbag gasped and quickly traded a glance, but Drolhaf gestured to them to stop, and counted out the money.
“Very smart! Very smart indeed!” came the Piper’s response. “Well then. Ask Gadur Yir about the purpose of his journey. I bet he could tell you some very interesting things. Oh, and here is another one for free: you are lucky I told you this, now that bards are scarce on Erillion.”
Drolhaf quickly nodded, said his farewell, and they left the ravine, followed by the pipe’s merry tunes.
“Wait!” Phil stopped in his tracks. “Gadur Yir – how did he know his name when we never introduced ourselves?!”
His words were followed by an uncomfortable silence, but nobody cared to turn back and ask.
Gradually, the forests thinned and they came to a fork in the road. An old, but fairly well-maintained signpost pointed back east towards Haghill, southwest towards Baklin, and northwest towards Barzak Bragoth and Granite Bastion. Drolhaf looked at the pale, unconscious body of the half-orc.
“The way he looks, we might as well bring him to the Valley of Barzak Bragoth for his burial. Then again...”
They turned towards Baklin, and were at last out of the woods as dusk approached. Rolling hills and fields of grass stretched to the distance, broken here and there by tall mounds. When they could no longer go on, they made camp next to one of these outcroppings, covered with hardy scrubs, and crowned by tumbled white standing stones. On Phil’s advice, they avoided it, and instead, made camp in a small depression where they would be hard to see. The hobbit’s instincts were correct: on the first watch, Armand saw a row of lights creep towards the mound. He crept up to Drolhaf, and shook him: “Hey, Soap-man! Something’s afoot!” They watched for a while, but could not make out who was carrying the torches. Waking Lafadriel Hundertwasser, the elf finally saw them for a company of goblins, perhaps thirty men strong. They were climbing up the steep incline in an orderly row, and the wind carried guttural shrieks and rhythmical chanting. They lifted Gadur Yir, and silently left camp, spending the night at a distance. When dawn broke, they returned to the scene, only to find the goblins gone. Lafadriel climbed up to the top, but only the tracks of sandaled feet remained, along with the remains of a bonfire, broken and charred bones, and two antique bronze daggers. Looking around, he could see a mound further north.
They continued along the road, travelling south through the heath, which was filled with vicious snakes they could scarcely avoid. Shortly after noon, the highland began to descend towards the sea, and they could see the white walls of Baklin surrounding a narrow bay. The city walls were built on an escarpment, with the massive palace complex on the northern side; below them were rows after rows of houses until they reached the harbour. At the gates, they paid one gold per person to enter, and Drolhaf paid five more for a simple city map.
“Would you recommend a place to stay while in Baklin?” he asked from one of the guards.
“Depends on the price you care to pay. The fancy kind of travellers go for the Nine Doors, but that’s too rich for me. Below that are the Golden Plate and the Inn, both most affordable and almost as fancy. If you want something cheap – the Naked Hound and the Gullet are in the poor part of town, but you get what you pay for.”
“Where would you go if you had to choose?”
“If I work the western gate, I tend to have a beer at the Inn. That’s a good place for travellers. If you fancy a serious eat, the Golden Plate is close to it.”
“Excellent! We might also be looking for the advice of... well, some kind of wizard. Are there any in Baklin?”
“Why, yes! But he is a very ominous fellow – Slarkeron the Wizard is his name, and you can find him next to the palace. But beware! It is said his garden is full of enchanted statues, and those who come to him uninvited will never leave his tower.”
“We will keep that in mind. Do you know of a shrine to Gladuor in the city?”
“That Kassadian god? There are not many temples in Baklin; ours is not a god-fearing folk. If you are looking for a Kassadian god, though, you might have luck at the palace of Fantagor the Kassadian. He is the richest merchant in town, and he lives close to the marketplace.”
“Anything else to keep in mind while in Baklin?”
The guard laughed. “If you want my advice, go down to the harbour and take a good look at the platform near the Lockhouse.”
“I will do” said the barbarian as he handed another gold piece in the man’s hand.
|The City of Baklin
They made their way down to the city, through the narrow plazas and markets. The Lockhouse was a tall, ominous building overlooking the waterfront, full of pulleys and platforms. Guards and accountants were running to and fro on various errands. The platform they were looking for stood next to the Lockhouse, a scaffold with a pile of leather sacks and multiple long, hafted iron maces chained to a central stone pillar. Drolhaf beckoned to a loitering fellow.
“What is this odd contraption?”
“That be the Sacker” the swarthy sailor grinned “They catch a fellow doing something wrong, they tie him in a sack, and hit him until he moves. Last time they were sacking Hemlar; now he is in the mortuary with the knights.”
“They aren’t too keen on trials around here, are they” mused Phil.
“No they ain’t, but a good look at this thing straightens out most never-do-wells before they stray. Didn’t help Hemlar, though.”
“Who are these knights?”
“You must be from a far land, stranger! They be the knights of Yolanthus Kar, who guard the dead in the valley of Barzak Bragoth. Here they only have a mortuary, and they take the bodies up to the mountains.”
Phil nodded “Right. Do you know where I could find an armoursmith? I want the best one there is in this city.”
The sailor guided them to a small shop on the side of the marketplace. The Cauldron & Anvil was busy with the coming and going of several apprentices, working on different metal objects under the hands of their master, Ragorlak Othmar. Othmar wore a mask covering half his face, and when Phil asked about his best wares, he showed them the ingots of dragon iron he was working with, as well as a row of breastplates hammered from Arxine cobalt-steel.
“See anything you like? We can fashion them to your size with a little work.”
“I am looking for something else. Take a look at these things” he unrolled the length of wyvernskin. “I’d like you to make these into a suit for me.”
Othmar looked over the material. “It will not be easy. ‘Tis a fine piece, but damaged, makes the work harder.”
“As you can guess, it didn’t hand it over peacefully. Can you do the work or not?”
“It can be done, especially for your size. It will make for a very light breastplate that won’t hinder your movement, but protect well against blows. I can make it for 500 gold pieces... or if you like, I’d buy the skin for 400.”
Phil shook his head, and started counting out the advance. “I need the suit. Have it ready when possible – I will be back for it in a few days with the rest, and until then, keep the skin as a guarantee.”
Lady Callodric maintained her household in an elegant house next to the western wall. The antique residence had belonged to the Count of Tullomarg, who was back in the Twelve Kingdoms on account of one of the many power struggles that had divided the place into a myriad mutually hostile territories. The Lady’s household included her own guard, servants, and Harkell the Butler, who received the good news of the enchanted flower’s arrival with the same world-weary contempt as anything else. He led the company to a cool little side garden to wait for the lady, and ordered a maid to bring refreshments while he conferred with her mistress.
The Lady was in her early fourties, an elegant sight in her velvets and silks, mixing the fur-lined cloak and hunting boots typical of the Twelve Kingdoms with the more refined Kassadian aesthetic. She nodded courteously as she entered the garden.
“Harkell reports you have good news for me.”
“Indeed we do, my lady!” Drolhaf bowed and beckoned to Phil, who produced the enchanted flower, still intact and glowing with an inner light.
“How beautiful it is! Old Tomurgen was right when he described it to me. It is a most remarkable thing.”
“Know it, oh Lady, that it was costly, too: we had obtained it at the price of multiple lives, and after grave dangers.”
“Your bravery will not be left unrewarded” the Lady rang a little bell to call Harkell. “I will pay you the agreed-upon sum of 600 gold pieces, and for your heroic deeds, I will also give you a magical potion – it contains the spirit of heroes, and you will find it very useful in your further adventures.”
They sat for a while, talking about all kinds of subjects – the odd customs of the island’s burial rites, and the dark ambitions that seemed to lurk below Erillion’s calm surface. Lady Callodric mentioned she would have more work for the company soon, but she would first have to consult the bard Tomurgen – he had spoken of the significance of the enchanted flower, but his further words were still unclear. She would send for the company at the Golden Plate if anything came up. She was also troubled by the disappearance of several travelling trunks, brought from her home by ship and containing her personal effects. The trunks were due to arrive any time now, but they were missing. Agreeing to call on her if they learned anything about the mysterious cargo, they bid their farewell, and – dividing the sacks of gold among Drolhaf, Phil, and the still unconscious Gadur Yir – made for the Golden Plate and new adventures...
(Session date 20 May 2017).
Referee’s notes: The first fully successful instance of divine intervention in the campaign: Gadur Yir was almost a goner, but was saved at the last moment by Haldor’s protective hand. He is still in a rough shape, and needs healing to recover properly, but the longest-lived character of the Inheritance campaign is still kicking.
This session kind of marks the end of the second arc of the series. After bringing back the enchanted flower (with a long stopover in Haghill) to Lady Callodric, there are a lot of directions the game could develop. Alas, this will have to wait a bit – we will probably have only one or two sessions until September – but, as they say, “Season 3 will begin after the break.”