Monday, 19 January 2015

Prologue To Chapter Twelve - Ninety-Eight Days To Go...

Gunther Treszhnak, the landlord of The Golden Axe

A contingent of dwarf miners were making quite a racket in one corner of The Golden Axe, but Imogen, Kirchin, Harry and Marigold were focussed on the landlord, Gunther Treszhnak, who was recounting some of the horror stories he had heard about the Witch Of Huldre Forest.

"The orcs of Tanander calls her their queen," he growled in his thick accent, "though I hear some also call her 'Granny'. Maybe thas 'cos she eats their babby's."

The dwarf smiled a slightly crooked smile at Marigold - who could also hear the grains of sand racing through the hourglass that was her mortal life - then slammed his fist down on the bar and roared with laughter.

"But she's mite strong with the magics, and no mistake. Whatever it is you want, she can make it happen, they say. Even Revoreesh treads lightly when it comes to Granny, they say. You cuddies and cubs need to be sharp in the wits if you're lookin' for Granny. You're best route is head down to Bright River Fort, get a ferry across the Bright then follow the track towards Dill. It's about a day's march from the river bank to Dill, but don't get too close - that's an orc town and they'd eat ya as soon as spit at ya."

He roared his slightly unnerving laugh again.

"Head south-east, towards the ruins of Landmaster Hall. Should take you another day or so to get in the forest good. From what I've heard the witch moves through the trees in that part of Huldre. If you don't find her, she'll find you soon enough.

"Once over The Bright, you're on your own. Trust no-one and expect to die. Have ye not heard the legend of Farthwane The Wanderer? A great ranger who travelled the land for years until he ignored the warnings and crossed the Bright. The orcs got 'im like that!" Gunther slammed his fist down on the bar again, making his audience jump. "And he was a better man than any of you."

The gruff dwarf lowered his voice conspiratorially and added: "For the most part these days, the orcs are feudin' amongst themselves, but that doesn't mean they're stupid. You see a green snout, you better run for the hills. They spot you, they'll gi'you more'n a knuckle sandwich. You've have it easy north of the Bright, but there ain't no rules in the south 'cept orc rules. Might even be an idea to get a guide, but Skarg's is the best place to find one and I hear he's no friend of yours, 'specially Davian, wherever the feck he is."

Our heroes exchanged glances. Harry gulped, quite audibly. Gunther bringing up his name reminded them that they had been wondering where Davian had got to. They hadn't heard from him in several hours (he'd left them after their audience with Sir Browyrd to attend to business at his forge). Kirchin rather suspected the old dwarf was asleep somewhere.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Epilogue II - An Audience With Sir Browyrd...

Sir Browyrd, Sheriff Of Dranning...
Sir Browyrd held up his hand, indicating to Kirchin that he should stop talking for a moment. He had been recounting the group's recent exploits and gotten as far as the goblin attack.

"Send a runner immediately," the Sheriff said to his assistant. "To Count Canigli. Tell him this just won't do, he must keep his kin in check as per the ordinances of the peace treaty signed at the end of The Thousand Year War. Tell him, I'm very disappointed." He shook his head, then gestured for Kirchin to continue.

However, instead, with a quiet subtlety the other members of the party did not normally associate with their dwarven tank, Davian Battlebeard stepped forward and whispered something into Sir Browyrd's ear.

[He's playing his 'flashback card' gained from the memory mist in back in Chapter Eight]

For a moment, the Sheriff looked slightly flustered, then addressed the assembled group - Kirchin, Davian, Imogen and Harry had been joined by Marigold, who looked as though she had been crying and was still carrying her backpack, despite popping home first. The pack actually looked fuller, Harry observed.

When Harry turned his focus back to the Sheriff, he realised the young noble was rattling on about Lady Zadell. Turns out she's the matriarch of the neighbouring duchy, Kel, which is a fundamental theocracy.

Kel and Dranning were allies in a conflict several hundred years ago against an evil death cult, The Duvan'Ku, who had spread terror throughout southern Elyntia from their secluded base somewhere in the Gargoyle Mountains.

Eventually, the cult is believed to have committed the ultimate apostasy by summoning its god, Ballor Mnoren, and then sacrificing him! Whatever the truth of the matter, the cult disappeared almost overnight and the mountain where they are believed to have hidden, Frost Mountain, remains shunned by all right thinking people.

This conflict had forged Dranning into a major martial power, but the people of Kel turned to their religion, the worship of the Mnoren Pantheon, for their strength.

The duchy became a theocracy and since then the Duke - or Duchess - has also been head of the region's church.

Lady Zadell, Duchess of Kel
The Duchess, Lady Zadell Kel, has held this post for about 35 years and was initially quite active in the community, often riding out to border towns and villages to deliver The Word Of Jen Mnoren.

But for reasons unknown, she suddenly changed her policy almost two decades ago, stopped her personal evangelising and began to rule the duchy with an iron first and words of 'fire and brimstone' from the security of Cathedral-Fortress Kel (the enormous, sprawling fortified complex that serves as  the capitol city of the duchy).

Sir Browyrd tells his audience the last he heard, The Duchess - now in her 80s - was on her death bed, and various relatives were jockeying for the right to succeed her.

Kirchin, Davian, Harry and Imogen all turned to look at Marigold.

The Sheriff, enjoying the sound of his own voice, failed to notice he no longer held the group's attention, but realising he'd gone off on a slight tangent, coughed and gestured to Kirchin to resume the account of our heroes' latest exploits.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Epilogue I - Marigold & Betty Entwhistle...

Betty Entwhistle
"Oh, you poor, dear child," tutted Betty Entwhistle, after Marigold had recounted her trip to the afterlife - in the broadest of terms and without going into the 'specific requirements' of the curse she was under.

The frumpy hedge wizard, wife of Marigold's still absent master, town wizard Peter Entwhistle, insisted that she be allowed to examine Marigold and ordered the young girl to strip.

"Arrgghh!" Betty suddenly exclaimed and held up a mirror for Marigold to see the mark that Mardrid's touch had left on her left shoulder blade.

'The Mark'
"You've been touched by an agent of The Yellow King, my dear. It hasn't been seen in these parts for centuries. Your fate is sealed! There is nothing I can do. You must leave here, get out of my house, stay away from my children. You mustn't bring the curse of The Yellow King down on this family!"

Even as she spoke, Betty was scooping up Marigold's clothes and thrusting them towards her, while making sweeping gestures indicating Marigold's meagre possessions - making it quite clear she was no longer welcome in the Entwhistle home.

"May Jen Mnoren protect you, child," Betty repeated as Marigold felt a tear welling up in the corner of her eye.

Loading her new spell book in to her backpack along with her other possessions, Marigold left the Entwhistle house and headed towards The Broken Blade, where she knew her friends were meeting with Sir Browyrd.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Chapter Eleven: Marigold Is Cursed...

It's a couple of weeks since our heroes returned to their home town of Bendwyn with the captive outlaw, Margesh Blackblood, and sent word to Sir Browyrd, Sheriff Of Dranning, and they've been getting on with their lives.

Sir Browyrd eventually arrived in Bendwyn - swooping in, ostentatiously, on the back of a giant eagle (which he later explained was a "tarn", a gift from the Pharaoh of Starlight Empire, a land none of the group had heard of), before taking over a suite of rooms in The Broken Blade, the town's largest tavern.

Blackblood was granted parole - on his honour - and moved into Browyrd's rooms and eventually our heroes were summoned for an audience.

They were introduced to a peasant sheep herder called Timmon The Short who had a tale of finding silver coins in the foothills of the Gargoyle Mountains, near the source of the Bright River.

Sir Browyrd charged the group with accompanying Timmon to find an explanation for the appearance of The Duke's coin washing out of the hills and down the river.
It was a two-day hike to the spot where Timmon had left his apprentice Eric guarding the flock and the location of the treasure.

As they readied themselves to make camp in the wilderness on the first night, Davian caught a whiff of goblin in the air, which put everyone on alert.

Darkness fell and they gathered round the fire, listening to Timmon spin tales and crack bawdy jokes, when a strange barking rent the air.

Imogen bravely headed off into a nearby clump of trees to see what she could find and immediately discovered a pack of goblins, complete with a vicious goblin-dog.

Naturally a fight ensued, but the result was never really in doubt. The goblins were brutal, managing to wound Timmon (he was later magically cured by Marigold) and Davian, but even their superior numbers were no match for the hardened adventurers - especially when one of those adventurers (Marigold) was adept at weaving magically webs.

The battle lasted a little over three minutes and the goblins, and their dog, were slaughtered.

The following day the party made it to the foothills and rendezvoused with Eric. They saw where the river emerged from the hills and realised they would have to crawl through the cold water into the passageway to find the source of the coins.

Inside the hill, they found someone had been using the natural caves as a base, but also soon found a desiccated corpse that they believed to belong to the 'Gentleman Bandit' Mardrid, who had disappeared about 20 years before (local legend, Timmon had told them earlier, was that Mardrid's base had been in this area although no one knew for sure).

There was a well constructed bedroom/office off the side of one of the caves that held Mardrid's bed and some of his treasures, but still no clue as to where the coins were coming from.

Following the river deeper underground, the group came to a deep pool (too deep for Harry and Davian to enter), but off to one side was a beach and a tunnel that was unnaturally cold.

Entering the tunnel, our heroes were surprised to see a ghostly spectre resembling the corpse they had just left behind them. It was the ghost of Mardrid The Gentleman Bandit, who pleaded with them to help him find rest.

They asked how and he told them he needed them to bring him a certain Lady Zadell (of Kel Castle, which happens to be in the capitol city of the neighbouring duchy of Kel, on The River Kel) so he could exact his revenge on her for poisoning him.

The party weren't really happy about this - seeing Mardid as a serial robber who probably deserved to be poisoned.

However, Mardrid eventually lost his patience and grabbed the nearest character - who happened to be poor Marigold. The party panicked and fruitlessly attacked the non-corporeal spirit as it drained the life from young trainee wizard.

Marigold fell dead to the floor and Mardrid vanished...

...Marigold awoke in the afterlife, a bizarre, misty, grey and yellow realm, to be greeted by Mardrid who told her in no uncertain terms that he could return her to life as long as she agreed to bring Lady Zadell to him. She had 101 days to complete this task or she would not only turn into a spectral entity like him but be doomed to spend the rest of eternity as his ghost bride!

Marigold awoke - much to the shock of her companions - and quickly explained what had occurred.

The group reluctantly agreed to go along with the deal Marigold had struck in the "underworld" (or was it Purgatory?).

On the way out, Harry spotted a chain under the water of the deep pool, and Davian put his dwarvish mind to engineering a way for them to pull out the weighty chest at its end (Kirchin had waded out and found the chest, but wasn't strong enough to pull it up).

A rusted hole was seen in the side of the metal chest, and silver coins were spilling out! At least they had solved that mystery.

Loading the chest on to their mule - Charles - which had remained outside the caves with the two shepherds, the party headed back to Bendwyn, knowing that when they got home they would only have 99 days left to save Marigold from becoming a "ghost bride".


  • Kirchin (Pete)
  • Davian (Kevin)
  • Harry (Simon)
  • Imogen (Meredith)
  • Marigold (Clare)
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