Chapter Thirty-Five

January 15, 2012


9th of Darkmonth


            We arrive back home in Brasov to much fanfare and celebration.  We take our tax to the castle and give it to the count.  After the public presentation, the count joins us at The Lonely Lady for some drinks, and Ulric begins to talk with him about the keep we’ve found.  He wants to put people to work restoring it to its former glory.  His father doesn’t see any objection to giving it to him as a landed knight, and says he will work on drawing up the appropriate documents. 

We drink and talk and enjoy our evening.  Eventually, Ulric asks his father to accompany him back to our house.  Knowing that he intends to show off his new stunning full plate mail, we all go along to witness the count’s reaction to the rare find.  He is able to tell us that the original owner of this armor had been in service of the Companions, and that he was a great man.  Ulric should be honored to wear it.  Sir Bewlvar had been carrying money in the service of the realm, when he was lost nearly 300 years ago.  Stories say he was killed by a giant, but no one can be sure.

We enjoy town for a few days, then decide to head out toward the capital to put our wealth to good use where the availability of goods and services is much more varied.  We hire a wagon to help haul our valuables, and on the 12th of Darkmonth, we depart.  Our journey is slow and will take nearly three weeks to complete.  While travelling, we cross over the shortest day of the year, and on that day, it just so happens that we run into Ulric’s brother, Iulien, as he is headed to return to Brasov.  Other than this happy meeting, we have an uneventful journey.

When we arrive in Tulcea, Ulric goes to present himself to the Duke.  Everyone seems suitably impressed, and many simply stare gape-mouthed at the splendorous picture Sir Ulric presents in his new armor.  After the appropriate platitudes, the duke makes more casual conversation, and indicates that there is a strange new church in town of dragonslayers who seem to be good and noble people.  He also extends the hospitality of his town and his castle to us should we have need during our stay.

We then go to the main Church of St. Cuthbert.  Some of us go to seek enchantment on our armor.  After placing our various orders and some of us taking confession, we decide to visit this new dragonslaying church.

When we arrive, we find the building uses an enormous dragon’s skull as it’s entrance.  The beasts teeth are as tall as I am!  A man walks out to meet us wearing white-enameled armor with a silhouette of a dragon impaled upon two crossed spears emblazoned on his chest.  He explains that he is a priest of Dorg the Dragonsbane, and that not all members of their church are, in fact, dragonslayers.  He says that soon another priest will arrive who will bring their entire pantheon to this shore.  He mentions that Dorg and St. Cuthbert are on quite good terms, which we find interesting as that is not common of our patron.  We spend some time speaking with him and learning about his diety and the diety’s companions.  “Dorg is the first, followed by Grel, Dagmar, Kalla and Glen, and of course, Lolita—best not to discuss her.  She is” he hesitates.  “She is the patron of . . . of those who have trouble controlling their desire.  The patroness of love and beauty, and everything that comes with uncontrolled love and beauty.”  Korvinean’s ears perk up at this.  “But she means well.”  He goes on to explain “Grel is the god of magic, deception, husbands and gnomes.  Dagmar is the goddess of the hearth, of mothers, and of battle.  Glen is the god of the everyman, and Kalla is the goddess of those who rely on stealth and those enslaved, those who wish to be mothers.  Many of them cover other areas as well, but those are the major associations.”  He openly discusses their beliefs without trying to convert us.

As we are talking, as large hobgoblin emerges from further within the building.  All of us instinctively bristle and prepare to battle, but just as quickly note that he is wearing a red tabard with a similar marking to our host.  Ever the charming diplomat, Ulric extends his hand and introduces himself.  He tells me in Goblin what his name is, and I ask what those who can’t manage the pronunciation call him.  “Thigh-breaker,” he replies.  We all chat for a bit, then we move on about our business.

Later on, I ask Briggette to help me with selling some things and buying some items.  On the way, I notice Boian moving in and out of the shadows, following us to the magic shop.  He appears well-practiced at the task, and I admire his skills—as well as note them for future reference.

After concluding our business transactions, we secure rooms at the Golden Dragon Inn and dress for dinner.  Ulric has offered to treat us all to a celebratory dinner.  We have a fantastic time, and stay in town for about a week, then pack up and head home.

The first week of our journey is quite uneventful, but as we approach an area about 40 miles from where we fought the giants, we see plumes of smoke rising in the distance.  The volume of the smoke indicates a very large fire, so we take half of our men-at-arms with us and head toward the flames.  The other half we leave to guard our wagon and wait for our return.

About four miles into the wood, there is a village that has been nearly decimated by the fires, but as we are looking, we notice that there are no “enemy” forces among the dead.  All of the bodies appear to be villagers.  Korvinean ranges all over the area, and way over on the other side of the village, he finds a very large booted track—hill giant sized, but we have never known a giant to wear shoes.  Korvinean also notes that there are no torches here at all.  We bury the dead and continue on our way; we don’t want to risk the lives of our hired help to pursue this.  We will have to come back another time.

When we return to the teamster and the wagon, one of the men-at-arms hands Ulric a letter.  He says that a man rode by and left this for Ulric by name.  The letter says, “You killed my dragon.  Do you know how long it took to find all of those protectors for that dragon?  I will make you suffer.”  The letter is signed in an extremely long name that none of us can pronounce.  Ulric lights the letter and lets it to burn to ash, but when the fire subsides, there is a small metal charm of a double-sided maul inlaid with silver streaks left lying in the ash.  I recognize it as a symbol of Koshchei, a demon lord who many giants worship as a god.  No one wants to touch it, so Briggette wraps it in a blessed cloth and we decide to take it to the billet.

We arrive back in Brasov at the beginning of Stormmonth.  We take the charm to the billet who confirms that it is a symbol of Koshchei, and that he is a terrible being.  We tell the billet in full detail of all of our adventures, then go back to our quarters.

After about a week, a boy comes to the house and tells us a soldier is here to see Ulric, and that he might be dying.  The man is at the church, so we immediately head that way.  The billet is out of town right now.  We find that the man’s arm is completely crushed, so Briggette heals him of his injuries.  He had a note pinned to his chest with a dagger.  He says that the attackers told him to find the green knight and the white knight and take the message to them.  It is hard to make out the terrible handwriting, which is written in human blood.  “I will wait for you at the crossroads 18 miles north of Brasov.  The celestial urn will be avenged.”  He describes his attacker as a giant rat woman as large as Mo’og, and tells us that he put his lance all the way through her, and she merely pulled it out and kept fighting.

We go to report to the count, and we tell him of this new letter.  We realize this might be an ambush, but we resolve to face the issue head on.

We ride for the crossroads.