Chapter One Hundred Eight

September 21, 2013


18th of Woodmonth


Suddenly we hear a sound like a cicada, except that it is incredibly loud.  As we look around, we see a colossal grubworm-like creature coming up from the ground; it smells like the worst of human sickness and detritus.  It is flanked by two giant maggots.  “Arany,” Briggette says, “you need to burn this thing.”

Ulric vaults into his saddle and charges toward the creatures as several giant skeletons appear and run toward our camp.  One of the giant maggots comes up beside me and swallows me whole!  Finn charges over to it and chops it in half, freeing me in the process.

Ulric deals significant damage to the grubworm, and several tendrils sprout from small pustules on its body.  They lash around and sling a bilious pus all around the battlefield.

Brianna, Finn and Korvinean all attack the other maggot and end its miserable existence.  They are now left to deal with only the skeletons, though, looking around, we see that while several are hill giants, there is at least one which is the animated remains of a strange looking dragon with short little front arms and a giant jaw!  Silas casts Chain Lightning, sending sparks flying amongst our enemies.

Briggette leaps into Chancellor’s saddle, vaults over the palisade and charges into the field of pussy tendrils.  She slams into it with her lance and it turns to run away.  Ulric slams into it again on its retreat, but is soon covered with skeletons crawling over him.

Back at the camp, Briana, Korvinean, Boian, Finn, Silas and I are fighting the skeletons that have made it over the palisade when Arany lands and sweeps his tail and claws through the enemies.  Briggette lifts her holy symbol, screaming, “May St. Cuthbert take you, you bony bastards!”  The skeletons turn to dust, including the very large one who is in mid-arc in his swing toward Ulric.  Ulric turns to chase the beast, which has run even farther.  He manages to catch it on a strong swing about the same time as it tries to wiggle into a large fissure.

Brianna takes out one of the skeletons, then steps over and slams her fist into the rear end of another, dropping it, too.  The odd dragon-kin skeleton picks up Finn and begins to shake him around in its mouth, but Boian steps in and slams into it, felling the beast.  Silas sends Magic Missiles into the last remaining skeleton, then we see Briggette charging back across the field toward it.  She slams into it with her lance, and it crumbles to the ground.

With all our enemies dead, we have Arany torch the entire area to cleanse it, and we bathe ourselves and our clothes.  The process takes about three hours.

“Hello,” we suddenly hear a voice from nearby.  We all turn and look to see an older man, probably in his sixties, but still fit.  He is wearing leather pants and a leather tunic with red accents, but has no visible weapons.

Ulric replies, “Hello?”

            “The Knight Paladin I recognize,” he says, “and who might you be?”

            “I am Count Ulric von Zurwald Heltragen.”

            “A good name,” the man replies.

            “And who might you be?” Ulric asks.

            “I haven’t had a name in a very long time.  I assure you I am no threat to you.  Would you like to sit and talk?”

            Ulric seems a bit put off, but agrees, and the old man walks over to sit on a nearby log.  “So you,” he points at Briggette, “require no explanation.”  He turns to Ulric, “But what brings you here?”

            “Glory,” Ulric replies simply.

            “And this is your entourage?”

            “Yes,” he says and goes around the circle introducing each of us, including our titles.

            “Quite an impressive little group here.”

            “Well, we’ve come this far.”

            “You’ve killed the night walker, and his grub friend,” he pauses. “And your intention is to go to the capital?”  He turns to Briggette, “So, you are the one who killed my knight?”

            “I suppose so,” she answers him.

            “I hold no grudges, battles happen,” he says.

            “He fought well—honorably,” Ulric interjects.

            “You speak with a western accent.”

            “I’m Groznian,” Ulric answers.  “I understand you’ve laid a claim to this road?”

            “I’ve laid claims to this area—or parts of it.  You needn’t worry; I have no objections to you slaying what you’ve slain.  There is an army forming to the south of here.  It includes Vera’shan.  They will drive south all the way to the fallen county  They’re planning to cut Grozney in half, then turn west and kill everything there.”

            “Why would you tell us this?  I assume you are no friend to the Vera’shan,” Ulric says.

            “You are a western lord.  I assume knowing what’s coming will be of help to you.  You can be ready.  A good long war seems more advantageous to me.  I certainly have no desire to see an invasion force come in and simply take over.”

            “You’ve heard the Vera’shan have been spotted off the coast?” Ulric asks him.  “And you’ve heard about the new duke to the south?”

            “Yes, though I can’t find out much about him.”

            “And you’ve heard he controls dragons?  Lots of them, green ones.”

            “I assume then, that he’s a dragon.  Green dragons are very orderly.  Your, um, your Lawgiver—he would be just fine with them from a legal perspective.  That said, you’ll probably have to kill him, but you might have to wait until you drive the Vera’shan off the island,” he says

            “What about you?  When the Vera’shan come, will you render aid to the island?”

            “I will not let the Vera’shan conquer the island.  I don’t need the old gods walking around; the new gods are enough trouble,” the old man says.

            “So are you the old man in the mountain?” Ulric’s curiosity had gotten the better of him.

            “Yes, I am.”

            Silas leans over to Ulric, “He’s not really here.”

            “I assumed as much,” Ulric says.  “Well I mean you no ill will, sir, just tell your men to stay out of my way on the way to the capital.”

            “So, why are you here?”

            “I wanted to see who was able to kill him—know your name.  If you’ve killed the night walker and his damnable grub companion, you’re quite powerful.”

            “These weren’t allies of yours, I’m assuming.” Ulric says.

            “Oh, they were allies of no one.  Certainly no one in the Spine will mourn their passing.  To the north here, you will find the moving college—some call it the secret college.  They will likely leave you be.”

            “Unfortunately, I have business to attend to with them—family matters,” Ulric dismisses the comments.

            “Ah, the master of the capital,” the old man muses

            “I assumed you were master of the capital until you told me otherwise.” Ulric smiles.

            “No, I am master of much of the spine, but the master of the capital has more than two feet and wings.”

            “Is he a dragon?”

            “He was a dragon.”

            “I hear he’s a lich.”

            “He’s a dracolich.  I am unwilling to spend the resources to destroy him because then I would be easy prey.  He is unwilling to spend the resources to destroy me.  The secret college stays out of it.”  He goes on to tell us how to best look for and find this secret college.  He also tells us that the Vera’shan have a brown dragon, but he doesn’t know what it can do. 

            After he leaves, Silas agrees to take a letter back to Heltragen to let them know what’s going on.  The letter reads:


Castilian Gustav:

            It has come to my attention that an army is forming north of the duchy composed of those loyal to the Vera’shan.  According to my sources, they intend to push south and drive a wedge between the eastern and the western counties on their way to the fallen duchy.  Secondarily, it is their intention to weaken the western counties to prepare for an invasion fleet.  The attack will begin this spring and will be accompanied by attacks from the rat men.  Those in the east will have their own problems, but this source could not reveal what those will be.  Please inform the Duke that I have no reason to doubt the veracity of this source, and that as a Count of Grozney, I suggest we plan for war.

                                                                        Count Sir Ulric von Zurwald Heltragen


He seals the letter and sends it with Silas.  Briggette also writes a letter with the same information to Brannick, and also suggests they step up recruitment and training, particularly in the smaller and the less protected burgs.  She asks that he opens up training sessions to non-martial citizens so they might be more prepared for the coming battles.

            Around ten o’clock that evening, we hear from the darkness, “Hail!”

            “Hail,” Ulric replies.

            “My master sent me with a gift.”  We allow the man into the camp; we were expecting him after the earlier conversation with the old man.  He pulls out a large leather bag and hands it to Ulric.  Inside is a disc, roughly a foot across, with an arrow on it.  “Tell it where you want to go, then spin the arrow,” the man tells us.

            “The secret college,” Ulric says as he flicks the small arrow.  It spins around three or four times, but then stops abruptly point off to the north of us.  He makes his goodbyes and leaves to head his own way.  As he is turning to leave, he pauses and bows his head slightly to me.

            I cock my head to one side, “Rise.  You have no reason to bow to me.”

            He smiles, being careful not to show his teeth, “There are many kinds of royalty, my dear.”  He turns back to Ulric, “Although, given my choice, I’d much rather serve your father than hers.”

            “Of course,” Ulric replies with his usual aplomb, “who wouldn’t?”  We all head to sleep, and the next morning, Silas returns.  He reports on the people and situations back home as we pack up our gear to head out.


            We continue moving down the road further into the Spine.  We ride the rest of the day, running across the occasional zombie which we put down with no trouble.  We pass through several smaller abandoned towns.  We make camp for the night. 

            Sometime during second watch, we awake to Finn’s horn blaring.  He tells us he’s seen something off a bit heading into the camp.  We look out and see a humanoid creature lurking in the brush about ten feet outside the ring of light from our camp.  Korvinean put three arrows in it, but it still stands.

            Briggette, frustrated from being awakened once again, simply hollers out, “Who are you?  What do you want?”

            A long, low whisper comes back, “Whooooooo aaaaaaaaarrree yooooooouuuu?”

            “No, you disrupt my sleep, you waste my time, who are you?” Briggette answers.

            “Who are you?” it asks again.
“I’m the Lord Protector of Grozney.  Who are you?”

            “This is not Grozney.  Go home.”

            “’Go home’?  That’s all you’ve got?” Briggette is incredulous.
“The Lord Protector of Grozney has no purpose here.”

            “Sure, I do.  To bring the light of Cuthbert.  Who are you?”

            “No one,” it still whispers across the field.

            “Then why should I tell you why I’m here?”

            “You have no place here.  Leeeeeeeeaaaaave.  You’ve been warned.”

            “It’s still the king’s land,” Briggette answers.  He backs away into the woods, and we spend the rest of the night uneventfully.


            The next morning we ride out, and that evening, we arrive at a drawbridge which is up on the opposite side.  Arany transforms into a hawk and scouts out the area, telling us he found the tower keep on the other side.  After some discussion, we decide he will break the chains to lower the piece of bridge, and let the piece fall into place.  We cross and continue riding, coming late that evening to a large tower surrounded by smaller buildings, all of which are surrounded by a large wall.  As we continue to approach, we find a switchback trail leading up the side of the mountain to the tower.  About halfway up the trail, we meet a man in black robes who greets Ulric directly and asks why we’re here.  Briggette answers that she has come to seek kin.  He asks us to wait, and he disappears.

            About ten minutes later, he reappears with a letter:


To count Heltragen:


We have committed no crime in Grozney.


If you do not wish us ill or to bring us violence please sign below stating that you will not kill squirrels or small animals.


You do not seek to bring violence to us unbidden.

            After much discussion and some tense moments between Ulric and Briggette as he tries to gain her assurance that she will not start anything, Ulric signs the letter, and the man casts a spell which creates a horse out of the dirt before us.  He leads us on up the switchback, and brings us inside the walls through a gate and portcullis made of bone.  As we are led into one of the buildings next to the tower, we note this bone motif continues on the inside doors, etc.  We are taken to a parlor and asked to have a seat.  Inside, we are offered fruits and wine.

            After about 45 minutes, a man in black robes comes in.  He has an extremely long handlebar moustache.  “Briggette Bellyn.”

            “Heltragen,” Briggette corrects him.

            “You may call me Thanatos,” he says.  He offers to let us stay the night and says he will have Briggette’s brother brought to meet with her the next day.  He tells us a bit about the battles to come and the battles which have already been.  He tells us that he and his followers have already survived several different sets of gods come and gone, and that they will survive this one, too.