Chapter Twenty-Three

October 29, 2011


We need to visit Korvinean’s parents, so we head over to Little Burg.  Interestingly, we have arrived on safe day.  As we walk into the area, a young Halfling girl comes up to Brianna and hides behind her.  She is playing Hide & Seek with special rules—they cannot hide behind anything that doesn’t move. 
We go to the bar and Korvinean announces his arrival.  He buys a drink for everyone in the bar.  The bartender doesn’t ask me what I want, but gives me a thick, sweet honey-flavored beverage.  Without asking, I drink it down.  Oddly, though I usually hold my liquor well, after this one drink, I am completely and utterly smashed.

As we sit in the bar and plan what we are going to do, the door bursts in, and an unmistakably motherly voice screams, “Korvinean!”

He turns, stands, and in grandiose fashion introduces all of us.  She invites us back home to Korvinean’s house for lunch.  They serve cheeses, fruits, breads and wines.  Korvinean’s sister comes in and makes overt sexual advances toward Ulric, Finn and Briggette—as well as all three of them together!  Ulric and Briggette make their polite withdrawal to ready themselves for their dinner with the Duke, and I surreptitiously follow them.

As they’re walking into town, a goblin bumps into Ulric.  I hang back and watch.  Ulric checks his purse, and finding it there, strikes up a conversation with the goblin.  He somehow manages to convince Ulric and Briggette to follow him to his home.

I follow and watch from the window as the goblin serves them drinks.  He then hands Ulric a scroll and says, “There are some people who think I work for them.  I don’t work for them.”  The scroll contains instructions to cause chaos in the city on certain days.  He also tells them that there are ratmen afoot in the city.  Ulric thanks him for the information, and they part ways.  I continue to follow them.

They make their way to the chapter house, where Briggette breaks off to get ready.  Ulric continues on to the inn for the same purpose.  I make my way to the castle to try to find a way into the dinner hall.

Ulric shows up back at the chapter house to pick up Briggette in an elaborate liter carried by eight strapping young men.  He helps her in, where the entire floor and seats of the liter are covered with red rose petals.  When they arrive at the castle, they make quite the scene as they enter.  I manage to sneak in and find a good spot behind a partially threadbare tapestry where I can see but not be seen.  Ulric does a fine job of paying quite a lot of attention to Briggette while simultaneously ignoring every other woman in the room.  He quite literally sweeps Briggette off her feet on the dance floor.

The Duke bangs a gong and calls Ulric to the front of the great hall and up onto the bier.  “This is Ulric, third son of Count Zurwald.  He is my new ambassador to Nevers.”  The room goes silent as everyone stares.  “I’m sure he and his entourage will do a great job there.”

The rest of the evening goes well, and a good time is had by all.


During our stay in town, several of us are warned of the evils we will face in Nevers.  Apparantly, it is a den of inequity where the women are willing whores and the men are violent pigs.  We simply will not be able to right all of the wrongs we find there. 

While we are there, we all take a trip into the Magic Ward.  Briggette goes to see a diviner, who warns her that once he begins he cannot stop, and that he will have to cut her for the magic to work.  He slashes her hand and begins his trance.  “Your brother is still alive.”  He leans over the water to gaze in, and a rotting hand reaches up from its depths and grasps onto the man’s throat.  Without hesitation, Briggette chops the hand with Helga, and as it falls, it disintegrates into air.  He says that someone who is more powerful than he—of which there are only about fifty on the entire island—apparently doesn’t want him to be looking.  He is not sure if their brother is in league with this powerful wizard or if he is held by this wizard.

We find out that the closest wizard who is more powerful is “The Dread Necromancer” Nicodemus, who lives just across the ward.  We go to his door, Ulric knocks in his particular “here I am” manner.  A man opens a small grated shutter in the door, and basically laughs us off.  However, we are persistent, and after much more “negotiation,” he opens the door to allow us in.  As we go through, we notice that the door is quite thick and built more like a gate.

The interior courtyard is a beautiful, elaborate garden.  When the gatekeeper closes the gate, he pulls a rope for quite some time before the door begins to shut. 

“Do not divulge from the path!” the man tells us, and I notice runes along the side of the path.  When we reach the front door of the tower, I notice that it has silver locks.

He leads us into an opulent parlor which is covered with dust from disuse.  Briggette explains why we are here, and the man takes our measure one at a time. 

He bids us wait as he goes to speak with his master.  When he returns—a full three hours later—he pulls out a book and makes us each swear on the book that we will do no violence to Nicodemus.  Again, he leaves the room and returns after another hour.  He leads us up two flights of stairs and opens the door to a room containing a large silvery pool about fifteen feet in diameter.  Our guide tells us to wait and leaves the room.

About fifteen minutes later, a man who appears to be about 55 or 60, but not at all decrepit, enters the room.  He has long grey hair and black eyes.
Again, Briggette explains her course and the events that led us here.  He agrees to help us for a favor to be named later, with the caveat that it will not compromise our Cuthbertine values.  He repeats the hand-cutting routine from our prior encounter and drips her blood into the pool.  The blood swirls through the silvery liquid but does not mix with it.  He casts and Finn and Briggette pass out—though Ulric somehow manages to catch Briggette in his arms mid-fall.  Nicodemus scoops some of the silver out of the pool and spreads it on a nearby table and focuses all his attention there.

“Your brother is alive, but he is held by a powerful necromancer named Thanatos.”  He goes on to tell us that Briggette’s blood lives in the Mourning Marsh. 

He takes a lock of Briggette’s hair to cast further spells and investigate this oddity.

He turns to me, gestures toward my horns and tail and asks if I would like to be fixed.  I consider that I might not be able to afford the cost, and I don’t feel particularly broken.  He gets right up in my face and says, “You are broken.  When you realize that, come and see me.”

I finger the white lock of my hair, “Cuthbert doesn’t seem to think so.”

He simply chuckles and pulls away.  He dismisses the rest of us, but asks Ulric to stay.  He warns Ulric of the coming dangers and cautions him to remain sure of who he is, even when facing seemingly impossible choices.  Ulric tells him all about our adventure of finding the source of the river of blood and Mormo’s fingertip.  The two discuss that for a bit, then Ulric asks Nicodemus to deliver the message on the scroll he got from the goblin to his father by some means faster than conventional methods.

Ulric picks up his fantastic new sword, Law’s Claw, from the magic shop.  It is beautifully worked with a bear’s head carved into the hilt.  We prepare our other provisions for the journey and set out for Nevers.


Our first three days are uneventful.  On the fourth, we come to a bridge bearing a sign that says “Toll:  1gp per horse” in crude handwriting.  There is a bucket by the sign.  Ulric rips the sign down and empties the bucket into a pouch, tosses it to Brianna, and says, “Here.  Give this to the orphans.”  Brianna looks at him askance, and he explains, “This is the Duke’s bridge.  If there was a toll, he would have men here and the sign wouldn’t look like Korvinean wrote it when he was drunk.”

We begin to cross the bridge, and a troll jumps out to threaten us.  Ulric looks at him and says, “I suggest you get back under that bridge!  I am Ulric von Zurwald, knight of the realm.  You’re obviously too stupid to realize that you’ve done something monumentally stupid.  Leave, and never return!  You have five seconds to comply.”

In broken common, he tells us that if we pay, he will let us pass, but otherwise, he will enjoy eating our entrails.  He attempts to justify his “job” as a toll taker, and Ulric realizes he will never leave for good—we’ve reached an impasse.

Ulric charges, and the battle is on!  The troll is slow to react, and we all get a chance to land a blow or two before he roars at us furiously.  Then, without preamble, he jumps over the side of the bridge and begins to swim away.  We are unable to catch him, so we put signs up on both sides of the bridge to warn strangers.

We travel on, and as we approach a small town on the seventh day, we see a small group of about ten troops.  Gustav flies our colors and rides ahead to meet them.  He returns and informs us that we are leaving Grozney lands and entering the Barony of Donzey.

Ulric rides forward to make the customary introductions.  “Hail!  I am Ulric von Zurwald.  I and the new ambassador from Grozney on the way to Nevers.”
“Ah!” says their captain, “so you are just passing through, then.  Well, you are welcome to stay in our town, but you’ll have to check your ranged and larger weapons with the guard.”

“We appreciate the hospitality, sir, but we’ll just be restocking and moving on,” Ulric says, laying on the charm.  He sends Gustav and a few of his father’s men in to purchase supplies while the rest of us ride around the town to the other side.

We continue on our way and finally come to Nevers.  We see fortifications at the borders of the barony.  As we ride up, we are met by a contingent of twenty men in large red cloaks and purple tabards.  Peasantries (or unpleasantries, as it were) are exchanged.  Their captain passes out armbands to all our men to indicate they are freemen and guests.  He explains that the law of the land means that if you enter free, you leave free and if you enter a slave, you leave a slave.


We head further into the barony, and ride for two more days before coming to the city.  This place is huge and somewhat intimidating.  Gustav rides ahead through the throngs of people announcing each of us in turn repeatedly.  Our escort leads us to the castle and through the gates to meet the baron.