Chapter One Hundred Two

August 3, 2013


27th of Haymonth


            As we spend some time at home to allow Arany as much time as possible to rest.  Our horsemaster Saben introduces us to the newest offspring.  She looks beautiful, with a coat of white and gold.  We name her Amber and have him begin training her.

            At my homestead, Boian is out in the field when our butler comes in to tell me that there is a man here to see me.  He gave the name Heinrich, but the butler says he doesn’t believe it.  I advise him to invite the man in, and I will be down in a moment.  He also sends to the field for Boian.  When I greet the man, he is dressed as the average citizen, but when he speaks, his voice is abnormally deep, nearly rumbling the floor with its tone.  “I have been sent with a message for you.  You could kill me, but it would only kill this poor vessel I am inhabiting.”  I lounge across a chair as he continues, “My lord wishes to have your uncle, your cousins, your entire extended family to turn to his side.  As I understand, they are currently serving the six-fingered one.”

            “I have no interaction with or knowledge of my family or their dealings, much less do I care.”  He goes on to tell me that his lord wishes to enlist my influence with my family, and requests that I will bear him a child.  He offers ten thousand demons at my command to defeat the serpent mother.  Still, I refuse him.  He continues to tempt and make idle threats, and I continue to spurn him.

“But what of duty, Cuthbertine?”

            “My duty lies not to you or any of your kind,” I answer.  He tries a few more arguments until I tell him it is time he leaves.  He says that now that I’ve seen this man, he knows I will send an exorcist after him, so he agrees to leave the man with me.  He opens his mouth and a thick black smoke pours out of it, coalescing and forming a swirling black mass. 

            “Remember, several thousand vrocks could tear through the Vera’shan like nothing here has ever seen.  Think about the offer.  You needn’t worry.  We mean you no harm.  We will not come for you in the night or harm you and yours.  The six-fingered one is much higher on our list.  But money?  Power?  Love?  These things we can give you.”

            “I have love.  I have enough money and power.”

            At that moment, the door opens, and before it can even shut, he has drawn his rapier.  The cloud immediately exits through the nearest window.  When I explain what happened, we decide to take the man’s body to the billet and let him know what happened.  When we leave there, leaving the formerly possessed man in the church’s care.

            After that, we go up to the castle to visit with Ulric and Briggette.  Ulric is preparing to travel to visit with Baron Gardell and with Finn.  Briggette is working on building the chapter house.  Further, we are all preparing to go to the Spine as soon as Arany is awake.


            On the 17th of Harvestmonth, we get notice from Finn that he will be marrying the billet he’s been seeing in five days.  She had been dragging her feet, but he finally gave her an ultimatum.  Now that he is a baron, he must produce an heir, and if she refuses him, he will be forced to marry someone else.  She has apparently finally relented.


            On the 22nd, we attend a beautiful wedding and a good time is had by all—with the exception of Finn’s men who remain vigilant.  Boian stays sober as well, nursing one serving of ale for nearly an hour and a half.  I drink, but as usual am not able to get to a point of debauchery.  However, we have lots of fun and truly enjoy the evening.

            When we awake in the morning, we find Arany perched on one of the towers.  We share about the festivities of the prior evening, and we notice that he has grown a bit.  He is bigger and more muscular, and his scales seem thicker.  We continue to make arrangements and two days later, on the 25th of Harvestmonth, we make to leave.

            As we are heading out, however, Gustav rides up and tells Ulric that someone is here to see him, and that he should only bring with him those of the purest hearts.  He assembles most of our group, leaving out Korvinean and Boian, then we follow Gustav to the orchard. 

            On the way there, the cleric of Ehlonna looks down from a tree he is working in and reminds us, “Remember, he talks like a man, but he’s not a man.”

            We move on and a few minutes later, we come on a large white horse bearing a patch of fur that is black in the shape of a shield, with a unicorn over the moon.  As we inspect him further, we realize he has a large horn in the center of his forehead.  We are visiting with a unicorn!

            Ulric dismounts and leads Jasper over next to the beautiful beast, who asks, “Who are you?”

            “I am Count Heltragen.”

            “These your lands?  From the sea to the river?”

            “Yes,” Ulric replies.

            “You gave permission for griffons to graze your land to the north?”

            “I did,” Ulric answers.

            The unicorn leans down to be right in Ulric’s face, “The south is full of trouble.  The blood of the innocents spill out.  Too many; I cannot stop it.”

            “Who are those under your protection?” Ulric asks.

            “My herd, some pixies, some pegasi . . .” he answers.

            The two leaders speak of the lands to the south and the dangerous dragons which now reside there.  The unicorn asks permission to move those under his protection to the forest we have granted to the griffons for hunting.  I ask if there is any natural predatory relationship to the two, whether there will be any issues.  He explains that he and talon have an understanding.  Ulric asks if the unicorn and his herd will help us fight in the coming battle.  The creature looks him in the eye as a man would, “It is hard to know you cannot protect those you must.”  The two continue to talk and hammer out the details, and before long, we leave him to gather his herd and we finally leave to head to the spine.


            Our traveling party includes Ulric, Briggette, Arany, Boian, Finn, Korvinean, Brianna, Silas, and myself.  We stop off first in Brasov to visit with family.  Sir Stefan and Laurana are planning to marry in the spring.  We share a nice meal, stay in the castle for the night, then continue on our way.

            Our next stop is with the baron to the northeast who we helped with his giant problem a few years ago.  He says there have been new reports of some giants in the area, but the numbers are nothing compared to what they used to be.  We assure him that if we cross paths we will handle the threat with authority.

            The next morning, we head out again, moving inexorably closer to the mountain range.  Three days later, on the 3rd of Woodmonth, we arrive at the dwarven stronghold.  The city is built into the mountain, and the outside shows only a small tower and a wall which is well-guarded.  As we ride up, one of the dwarven guards calls out to us, “Hail!”

            “Hello,” Ulric answers.  The dwarf looks uncertainly at Ulric’s crest, so the latter elaborates, “I am Ulric von Zurwald Heltragen.”

            “We do not recognize your crest.”

            “Do you recognize this one,” Briggette asks, indicating the large symbol of St. Cuthbert on her shield.  He says that he does, and within a few minutes, they invite us in and celebrate our visit with a large feast.  I drink as much as I normally do, forgetting the potency of dwarven ale, and I end up passed out at my table.

            The men sit around and regale one another with tales of their glories.  They also talk about what may or may not lie on the road ahead of us in the spine.  The next morning, they send us on our way.

            As we travel further into the mountains, Arany abandons his canary form and resumes his normal draconic one.  He tells Briggette that he feels the presence of a big dragon in the area, and that if he can sense her, she can probably sense him as well.  We discuss the situation and decide it’s better to face her first and on our own terms.  We will look for where she may be and fight her there rather than letting her attack us on the cliff face.  We continue riding until we come to a switchback trail leading further up into the mountain range.  Korvinean continues scouting ahead, and tells us that up ahead, there are about thirty goblins who have the height advantage over us.  We decide to send Arany up to breathe on them while we charge the area.

            Arany’s initial attack takes out around twenty of them.  Ulric charges in and targets a goblin that is dressed out in nice armor and carrying a flaming weapon.  The little creature deftly runs up Ulric’s lance and attacks him.  The other remaining goblins converge on the edge of their piece of the trail, pelting us with rocks from fifteen feet above us as we run closer to them.  I notice that these goblins are abnormal.  The do not break and run following the sudden and violent deaths of their comrades.  Instead, they stayed to fight; this is highly unusual goblin behavior.  One of the goblins left standing casts a spell toward Briggette which looks like Magic Missile.  I use my shadow jump ability to pop in behind him and stab him through the throat, killing him instantly.  Briggette polishes off the remaining two, and we move on up the mountain.