Friday, November 16, 2012

The gang returns to Milham

Kane caught up with the party as they camped in the forest outside the dungeon.  He'd heard some rumours that the captain and a few of the guards at Red Towers were looking to teach Henril some respect.  Henril was willing to march right back to Red Towers and challenge them but the rest of the party thought it would be better to leave well enough alone.  They had found the scroll they had been looking for (although much of the monastery still remained unexplored) and so they decided to head back to Milham and see what was what with the scroll.  They had a little loot, most primarily a suit of plate mail possibly belonging to St.Ulthur.  Even regular plate armour is a big deal in Beacon - costing upwards of 300gp and taking some time to craft.  This was fancy stuff and even if the gauntlets were missing, it was likely worth a small fortune.  It was also possibly a holy artifact - but don't let that bother you - they also had schemes of fencing the devotional silver bowl and ewer once they got back to town.  They fought a giant bat that evening - and were initially somewhat terrified that it might be the manticore that they had unwittingly set loose.  Good times.

it looked something like this
 - but with rocky death instead of water
They didn't meet anyone on the road north.  Kane wanted to see if they could retrieve his brothers body as they passed the spot by the hollow tree where Ann had told him the goblin warren was.  They made a short foray into the ruins, but were stymied as the goblin scouts fled before them and cut down the rope bridge as they ran.  The ravine the rickety bridge served to cross was some 50-60 ft. across and probably over 100 ft. straight down onto some decidedly pointy rocks and shrubs.  They surveyed this and decided to acquire a grapple and some proper rope in Milham before attempting to go any further into the ruins.  Henril made a point of telling everyone that if he were to die he'd not expect anyone to risk profitless death just to lug his meat back out of some dirty hole.

Once back in Milham they tried to track down the old 'abbot' who had asked them to retrieve the Trials of St. Ulthur.  He was gone, the owner of the Seven Stones said that he had left soon after the party had - presumably returning back north.  The barkeeper's son, an old friend of Klypt, gave them some sage words of advice and they then chose to retire to their usual haunt - the Scarlet Archer, before seeking out the old sage in the morning.  Henril was please to reacquaint himself with the barmaid who had been the bridesmaid at his disastrous wedding and Sannur the barkeep was eager to see some paying customers and had their usual rooms made up.  The next day they visited the sage, gained some information on the time of Ulthur and realized that aside from the documents they had, there was little else known about his sainthood aside from that it was likely some four centuries ago in the time before the new men and the current kingdom.  The sage was keenly interested in their scroll and could only tell them that the other two churches mentioned in it were in Whitewater to the north and Linmere to the east.  He was excited to see some new information from those dark ages.  Henril asked Tim about the history of Ulthur and Ulgar aftrewards remarkking that the entry bar to sainthood was rather low - primarily consisting of having some nice armour, smiting things and having a 'U' in your name.  Henril decided to have the plate mail refurbished for his own use and spent his last coins having the the leathers replaced and getting it fitted.  He wisely didn't mention it's origin to anyone.  Brother Tim took it on himself to purchase the silver devotional and bring it to the abbot in Milham's church.  The abbot was also very excited that the relics had turned up and spoke of sending word to the Bishops in Old Church and perhaps someday returning them and reconsecrating the monastery in the south.

Not a lot of action, but some work got done and most importantly the players seemed engaged in tasks that mattered to their characters beyond mere survival/looting.  They did realize that they might need to do a bit more ruin exploring however.  The goblins they have encountered on the road rarely carry more than a sharp rock or some horrible cheese in their pockets, and bats, spiders and manticores don't even have pockets.

Friday, November 9, 2012

What Kane was doing pt.3

Kane sprinkled more ash into the bowl and reached for another root. This was not a part of The Life that Kane enjoyed.  There was a long road to walk between the thrill of using your power and the drudgery and discomfort in acquiring it.  He rubbed some warmth back into his hands.  The light was going and he knew he had to finish with these roots while he could see.  He could save the rest of the grunt work for fire light, but not this.  He glanced over to the woman on the porch.  She was inspecting the scroll he had finished, holding it up to the setting sun, looking for flaws.

“You do good work.” she finally said.  “I'm so glad I didn't kill you.  If the other two are of similar quality I’ll let you take a quick peek.”  She mimed lifting her skirt and then laughed.  Kane feigned a smile and went back to his work.  She could dance around naked in the moonlight, the only peek he wanted was at her notes and they both knew it.  He was so close now he could taste it.  He catalogued the information in his head, he knew the words but not the forms.  He just needed a couple more pieces to complete the puzzle and in three more days and he’d get his chance.  He quickly put it out of this mind and refocused on his work.  He had to fulfil his part of the bargain first, and one mistake would ruin the whole batch.
He finished the mixture and set it to the side as the last light faded from the tree tops, leaving a red glow against the wall of the cottage.  He eyed the pile of wood he had collected that morning, just enough to keep the fire going through the night.  He might be able to doze a while tonight, if it didn't rain anyway.  He was tired and his fingers ached from the cold.

“Tell me news of the Academy.” she asked suddenly.  “Do they still prance and preen for the king’s favours?  Have they widened their net yet, or are they still content to pull minnows from the pond?”

“You know the answer to that”.  replied Kane.  “You wouldn't be here otherwise.  You’re wrong though, the Academy is the best way, the surest way.”

“And what about you my little fish, swimming out into the wide ocean?  If you’re not careful something nasty might snap you right up.”  She flashed her teeth.

“I came after my brother.  He thought he would be a hero, the one to recover a lost phrase or some precious roll of parchment.  All he found was a grave.”

“Still, here you are.”  she said,  “And who can say what other things lie in the ground here.  Perhaps it will be you that finds that parchment... or something more lively.”

Kane snorted and added some sticks to the small fire.  She had a point, he had seen more in his short time in the south than he had in years at the Academy.  The Royal Academy was the real jewel in the King’s crown, there was no doubt of that.  There were all too few new men and without the Academy they would have been overrun countless times by the natives these past centuries.  The traditions were the glue holding everything together.  He watched her retire to her small cottage and settled himself in for a long cold evening tending the brazier.  He looked out into the dark wood and considered her remarks.  There was a danger in only looking inward, in relying only on traditions.  The old people had retained some of their lore, no doubt dwarf magic at it’s heart.  And there were other things out here as well, older than man or dwarf.  Powerful things, you could feel it. He made a motion with his hand and muttered a short phrase. A handful of twigs rose up into the air and fed themselves into the fire. Ah, now that was the part he did enjoy. Tradition was important, but in the end it was all about the power.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What Kane was doing pt.2

The morning sun broke over the hills and burned off the hanging fog.  Kane shivered and drew his cloak tighter around him, but the man to his right laughed and stretched out his arms to embrace the light.
“I thought you northerners were used to a little chill.” he exclaimed. “This is fine weather for travelling.  No bugs. The mud is firm.  And the air doesn't smell like shit and snakes for a change.”  He leaned back against the sacks of grain filling the wagon behind them and flicked the reins lazily.  “You get a rougher ride if they smell a snake.” he continued, indicating the plodding horses.

“My father liked the winter. He said it built character being a bit cold,” replied Kane. “My mother always wanted the hearth well fed, character be damned.  My father took a sword in the stomach fighting The Pretender’s men at Hyntmor and bled out all over the snow.  I take after my mother.”  He was lying of course, but fighting men respected the son of a veteran and it deflected many questions about his lack of sword or bow.  The man grunted, the old folk didn't like to think about The Pretender, many of their fathers had been on the wrong side of that war.  He pointed to the road ahead.

“Just past this turn is the brickworks.  We’ll be heading on for a bit to deliver this and check the road, but that’s where you want to go.  The foreman is a bit of a prick, but he’ll answer your questions if you let him show you how clever he is.”  He spat over the side of the wagon.  “You won’t find no inn there, but there’s a barracks set up for the mudders.  It should do you, if you can find a bed, and if you don’t mind rats.”   Kane thanked him and climbed down off the wagon, then watched as the small supply train wound its way down the road.  

The brickworks was a long greasy red stain on the side of a hill.  Men and women alike toiled to cut away slabs of clay rich mud and carry it on to be mixed and shaped and then stacked high on long hard pallets to be fired with wood from the nearby forest.  Kane studied the trails of the worker ants scurrying along with wood or straw, or buckets of muddy water and sought out their queen.  He found him, a short fat bald fellow, scowling beside a mountain of logs and branches stacked three times his own height.

“What you want?  Not a job from looks of you.” rasped the man. “Your hands don’t fit no shovel and I need no more bookkeepers if that’s your mind.  Season’s near over here, you have to go begging for your winter board some other where.
“Oh I am journeying south from Kingstown and decided to travel here having heard of the quality of this brick.”  said Kane casually.  “I see how you've packed earth around the clamp.  That’s very clever, I bet you get a better burn.”   The man turned to him and smiled.
“A better fire, and more good brick too.  It’s my own process.  It catches heat that slips out the cracks.  Like cooking a duck eh.  Mind you, you have to make sure enough air can get in.”  Explained the man excitedly.

The next hour found Kane feigning interest in the use of green and aged woods, the importance of wind direction, and the best methods for laying out a firing tunnel.  Only when the fellow had thrice exhausted his rather short list of brick-making innovations did it occur to him to ask Kane about his business.
“I'm looking for an old friend who lives nearby in the forest, perhaps you know of her?”  said Kane.  “Ghat.”
“You’re talking about the madwoman.  She lives alone somewhere in the forest, west of here I think.  She comes sometimes to trade a brace of rabbit for a shirt or the like.  She rarely talks. I don’t know how she manages over winter, but she somehow does. What business could you have with her?”
“My own.” he said, then quickly “My pardon friend, it involves an old family debt.  Of interest only to an old family.  I should leave you to your work.”
“Perhaps on your way back we can speak of some of the firing techniques used in Kingstown?” called the man as Kane picked his way through the muddy workers.
“Yes, perhaps.” said Kane.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What Kane was doing pt.1

Kane stopped just outside the gate, there was a mark on the red brick wall of the keep. He moved closer to the outside wall, ignoring the questioning glance of the soldier on watch at the gate. Curious eh?  I should light up his feet like a cat on a stove and see how curious he is, he thought to himself.  Still, better to remain unremarkable. Unseen.   He made a show of brushing dust off his cloak and looked closer.  Yes, there in the shadow of the overhanging brick someone had inscribed a message that only those versed in arcane lore might see.  The message was a simple one, a single name, “Ghat”.  That single name however was enough to know that whoever made the mark was a mage, and that they were looking for others.  He pretended to rub some shit off his boot, and then hurried to catch up with the others.

On returning to the inn, if it could be called such, Kane sent the mendicant off to fetch him some mulled wine and to rid himself of the man while he gathered his thoughts.  The idiot went off quickly enough, but not before some glimmer of resistance appeared around his eyes.  Something would have to be done about that as well.  He removed his cloak and leaned into the fire.  It was getting colder, soon there would be snow even in these forsaken lands. The thought took him back to his life in Kingstown, his time at the academy, and then to Hollaway.  Holl
away who followed after him always and constantly, and who got in the way and who was always bothering him and his companions. Hollaway who cried when he left for the academy and then embarrassed him utterly by again crying when he joined him two years later.  Hollaway who was always so full of excitement and interest and so full of life.  Hollaway who was dead in a dirty hole somewhere a few days ride from here.  He tossed his boots against the hearth and looked down at his worn stockings, where was that bastard with the wine?

Ghat was probably not the wizard’s name, it was however the name he’d be using in town and the name Kane should ask for.  It wouldn’t do to be overly curious either, no use pissing off the man he was looking for, that would make the next bit even more unpleasant than it was already going to be. The idiot returned with the wine and now was standing over him annoyingly.

“Here’s your wine.” he said in his slow dull voice.  Kane reached for the wine and otherwise ignored him.  Off on the other side of the common room an already raised voice broke out into a shout.  

“I want the best ale you can manage, not this swill!  Do you want my coin or not?  I have plenty of it. You! Lackwit! Come drink with me!”  Kane didn’t know if he should be annoyed or relieved when the man stopped standing over him, hesitated for only a minute, and then joined the shouting man and his companions.  This was his hired man and Henril was treating him like a travelling companion.  That was trouble.  He considered their confrontation in the monastery ruins and how the whole party had undermined him, letting the idiot keep that valuable dagger and even a share in the treasure.  He would have expected it from the priest, and that traveler waif probably knew nothing beyond the cook pots and tinker forges of her youth, but Butterbridge was a civilized place and people from there understood a contract.

A local boy Kane had seen before came into the inn. He ignored Kane and ran up to the rowdy bunch sitting on the other side of the room.  That lad is a sharp one, thought the mage, he knows exactly when Henril is in his cups and when to part him with his silver.  He listened through closed lids as Henril shouted a greeting and then after a short minute ordered the lad to fetch him some apples.  As the boy ran past Kane raised his hand to intercept, a silver penny shining between his fingers.   

“Here now lad, do you know a man named Ghat?  He’s an old friend of mine and I’d like to pay my respects.”  The boy looked him in the eye but said nothing.  Kane moved his finger to expose another silver penny but still the boy said nothing.  Swearing to himself, the mage reached into his purse, pulled out three more silver coins, pressed all five coins into the lads hand and glared at him.

“Ghat lives down in the forest near the brickworks, but sometimes he comes for supplies.  It’s a morning's walk to get there but the road is safe, the patrol passes there twice daily.  They know of him down there but not well. You already know your friend doesn't take kindly to strangers poking into his business.”  The lad smiled and ran off, then turned in the doorway and shouted back, "Oh, and he’s a woman."