Chapter Seventy-Four

October 20, 2012


7th of Harvestmonth


We head out of town and make for our southern border.  On our third day of travel, the woods suddenly become barren in a stark line.  The trees have been chopped down, and the land is decimated for as far as the eye can see to the east.  We decide to stop here, on the green side, for the night, carefully stocking up on fresh water from the last stream we passed and whatever game we can find before we enter the dead area.

Arany shifts into a falcon and flies off to get the lay of the land and see how far the waste extends.  He tells us that here it is only about five miles wide, but to the east it expands to fifteen miles or so.  It goes as far as he flew, and in the distance, he could see smoke on the horizon.

The next morning, when we prepare to leave, we drink as much as we can and refill our skins before heading into the waste.  The ground here looks burnt, and we occasionally cross over the remains of a fallen tree.  The only wildlife we see while in the waste are bugs and beetles.  When we get to the far edge, there is another abrupt line marking the edge of the area.  The woods here are more dense than those we left, but we manage to get through on horseback.

The following morning, we come to the ruins of a building surrounded by several bodies staked to the ground.  As we begin to unstake the bodies for proper burial, we notice that great care has been taken to drive the wood through areas that specifically avoid additional bloodshed.  The ten human men have been stripped and none have markings on them that we can find.  We take care of them according to our custom, and move on toward the south.

The following day, around six o’ clock, the woods open up into a large clearing teeming with wildlife—rabbits hop through the meadow and bees buzz amongst the flowers.  About forty-five minutes further on, I hear the faint sounds of fighting up ahead of us.  I alert Ulric, who replies, “Ah, good!  Let’s go pick a side,” and runs off at a gallop.  We all follow him, ready for a break in the monotony of travel. 

When we get closer, we see a small copse of trees where three figures are fighting a fourth.  The three are in chainmail, and the single combatant is in plate carrying a shield.  He uses a flail on his assailants.  There are bodies lying all around them in the woods.

“Goblin!” Korvinean yells, and I fire, barely making contact as the hobgoblin spins his flail and takes out two of the men.

The creature whistles and a large horse runs out from the trees and in between us and him.  He tells the horse to “protect the girl” and it runs off.  He turns to us and yells out in common, “I am Trentonus Crusherson.  Do we do this one at a time or all together?”  He is holding a giant sword which is bathed in flames.

“Gizli, stop!” Ulric yells at me.  Meanwhile, I notice that Briggette is not charging, but is riding up to him.  I stop firing, but keep my weapon trained on it.

“You don’t detect as evil,” Briggette says, “What manner of trickery is this?”

“Gizli, lower your weapon,” Ulric says as the creature begins to stare at each of us in turn explicitly.  He turns toward the creature, “What are you doing here?”

“Well, right now I’m defending the innocent . . . .  I don’t recognize your crest?”

“I am Count Heltragen.”

“Your party seems . . . not intolerable,” he says, and the flames go out on his sword.  “You are a knight?  Cuthbertine…  I didn’t know they had women.”  He returns his sword to his back.  “I have wounded to attend to.  I trust you will excuse me.”

“Allow us to help,” Ulric offers and dismounts.  We help him patch and heal the wounded and exchange stories.  They are apparently followers of Dragonsbane who are on a mission here on the shore.  He is traveling with a few companions and is here at the behest of a young girl who requested help and protection.  There is a dragon to the east of here who dominates her village and is ruling over them.  The Dragonsbane contingent is here to handle that issue.

During all of this discussion, I am extremely uncomfortable.  Goblins and hobgoblins, as far as I know, are and have always been both evil and my enemies.  I avoid speaking to Trentanus and simply listen and learn as much as I can.  I tend to stick near to and speak with their resident Halfling, but, of course, I keep a check on my purse.  We share a meal with them, then head on our way.

The next day, we come across some beast dragon tracks.  There appear to be several, possibly traveling in a small pride.  On the day after that, around six in the evening, we see one flying over us.  It circles past several times, and Arany is beginning to get antsy.  He finally decides to see if he can chase them off, and switches into his dragon form quickly before flying away in its direction.  The chimera flies away, and Arany returns to us. 

We set up a cold camp that night, and we hear large things moving in the woods, but none approach our camp.  During watch that night, I see one of them close to our camp, and hear them sounding back and forth to one another as they stalk the area.  I hear a low humming and turn to see that Finn’s gruisarme is beginning to glow.  He tells me he can’t turn it off, so I cast Darkness to hide its luminance.  The creatures move on, and the night goes uneventfully from then.

The next evening, we come to a town with a giant wall around it.  A blue flag flies from its battlements. 

“Hello, travelers,” a voice greets us from above the gate.

“Hello,” Ulric replies.

“How may I help you today?”

“We seek to resupply so we may continue on our way south,” Ulric explains.

“You have a flag bearer, and another flag bearer.”

“We are from Grozney.”

“You’re a long way from home.  What brings you this way?”

“We come to end the reign of terror of the serpent mother.”

“Hmm.  I’ve never gotten that answer before,” the guard says.  He welcomes us to town and explains their few rules.  He raises the portcullis and lowers the drawbridge over a pit within the gatehouse.  A teenager leads us to the stables and then on to the tavern.  We notice that the town used to be much larger, but that the areas now uninhabited, the people have cultivated stocked ponds, orchards and other areas to grow various foods.  They appear to be mostly self-sustaining.  Later that evening, we sit down with the Lord Mayor and discuss their town and its history.  We spend a relaxing night in town and get back underway the next day.

After a while, we come to a river with a tethered ferry crossing it.  We have to cross in groups, and as Briggette makes it across, something large bumps the ferry, almost dumping her into the river.  Ulric sends Arany to check it out, but we continue ferrying people across.  Arany jumps into the air, transforms into a large golden dolphin and lands in the water.  We get a few more people across, and suddenly, a green dragon bursts from the water with Arany—in dragon form—right on his tail.  They have somewhat of an aerial battle, before it loses him in an area too narrow for his wingspan.

On this side of the river, there is an ancient battlefield where nothing grows.  Unlike the other area, which appeared burnt, this one is simply dead.  Just as we near the far end of this area, several ghouls jump put to attack us.  Korvinean fires, taking two of them out instantly.  Briggette charges into the middle of the fray and cries out, “Begone by Cuthbert’s righteous cudgel!”  Instantly, six of them disappear.  The battle wages for a few more minutes, before several large corpse-like creatures appear to attack us.  They have an odd tongue-like appendage which paralyzes those it hits.  Before we dispatch them, Ulric, Finn and Gustav’s nephew are all temporarily paralyzed.

After the battle, we travel for another week without incident.  The closer we get to Pearl Glen, the more roads we find, each in better repair and appearing to be more frequently traveled than the last.  When we come closer and get to a small, outlying village, we ask about Pearl Glen, and they refer to it as the home of the feathered serpent.  When we finally get to the crossroads outside the town, there is a sign which reads, “Pearl Glen, Home of the Feathered Serpent Statue.” 

As we approach the closed gates, our herald hails them.  A guardsman asks for a few minor bits of information, then lets us in once we’ve paid the gate fee.  We ask about the statue, and the man directs us to the temple of Pelor.  Once we enter, we see a massive wood pillar which is obviously empty.  A young priest of about 20 comes out and, seeing our livery and symbols, he asks why we’re there.

“I was sent here,” Briggette replies.

“That’s not particularly helpful.”

“I was sent here by a coutl,” Briggette elaborates, “which appeared around my newborn son’s crib and told me to come here.”  He directs us to a spot in the woods where he says the creator of the now missing statue lives.  We get rooms for the night, and plan to check it out in the morning.