GREETINGS RED DRAGON INN LURKERS
Glad you stopped by to hear the tale of The Crimson Crusaders and their exploits in the world of Aihrde in the Realm of New Aenochia.
Pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable, unless you are just passing through for some inspiration on your way to your own exploits!
This particular adventure may contain intense graphic scenes and/or Mature Adult Content that some readers may find to be too sensitive or offensive in nature for their literary tastes!
Please Proceed with Caution! SPECIAL THANKS to the Owners and Moderators of the Red Dragon Inn who make the posting of this and other adventures possible for us InnMates to enjoy!
SPECIAL APPRECIATION to Stephen Chenault of Troll Lord Games who gave me permission to use the Castles & Crusades products to help craft an exciting and entertaining adventure!
And also to James M Ward (the author of “Of Gods & Monsters” published by Troll Lord Games) for creating the Deity Avatars that I have integrated into this adventure, which makes all the difference in creating a totally different and excitingly unforgettable Epic Campaign!
World of Aihrde
City of Ascalon
March 3, 30awd (After Winter Dark)
Gideon urged his light war horse forward across the lowered drawbridge and into the spacious courtyard of Ascalon Castle where the young Knight was greeted by the gruff natured palace guards, who immediately changed their expressions when they cheerfully recognized the valiant consort of the Lady Marchessa Fabressa of Botkinburg.
Upon entering the castle he was immediately escorted to the private chambers of the Empress Pryzmira, being spared the torture of countless delays from the castle court advisors who screened the entrance of all guests, usually turning most of them away from ever meeting the Empress in person, unless bidden by the Empress herself.
Servant girls and ladies of the court giggled and whispered as the consort of Lady Fabressa made his way unhindered to a private audience with the Empress. Many of these women longed to lay in the arms of this magnificent male, sharing their bed chambers and much more, but the young Knight only had yearnings for his Lady Fabressa.
Gideon was bearing a message from his lover to the Empress Pryzmira, a message of dire consequences to the Realm of New Aenochia, which was the only reason he could find to tear himself away from the intimate embrace of his Lady Fabressa.
He bowed himself low as he handed the parchment he was entrusted with to the Empress Pryzmira, drinking in her fabled beauty with his alert eyes, watching every curve, every movement, breathing in the sweet fragrance of her nearness, longing only to return to his Lady Marchessa Fabressa once his duty to the crown was fulfilled this day.
Gideon would find his way back to the arms and bed chamber of his beloved in Botkinburg, but he knew in his heart of hearts that duty would force him back to Asperdi much too soon to oversee the fulfillment of the decree that was to surely come from the lovely lips of the Empress Pryzmira.
The eyes of the Empress flashed as she read and re-read and then read again the message that Gideon had delivered with all haste.
Empress Pryzmira walked across the room and opened a chest, staring at the gold coins, before reading the message one more time as she slowly made her way back across the room in deep far away thought.
Then turning her undivided attention back to Gideon, the Empress Pryzmira studied his eyes a few moments, before questioning the young Knight directly.
"So are things as dire in the environs of Botkinburg and the surrounding area as your Lady Fabressa fears them to be?"
Gideon nodded as he began to explain to the Empress what had transpired in and around Botkinburg over the course of the past year.
Goblinoid raiding parties were seen more and more frequently on the outskirts of Botkinburg as the assorted adventurers and mercenaries who had come from afar to the northern borders of The New Empire fought and died in alarmingly increasing numbers these past months.
Thrice in the past year the Call for Crusaders that the Empress Pryzmira had proclaimed throughout the Realm of New Aenochia had been answered with both successes and tragedies.
Knights and Fighters of various sorts had managed to prevail in spite of heavy losses during their task of securing the over land trade route through the forests between Asperdi and Botkinburg, a 12 day journey by wagon from sun up until sun down. Those 11 nights encamped in the forest were precarious at best and the need for armed escorts was legion.
In the spring of the previous year, crusading adventurers and treasure seekers had boarded the 3 River Boats in Asperdi to go up the Hruesen River to Botkinburg, a 3 day/2 night non-stop journey on special enchanted River Boats.
Those adventurers were divided into groups of 40 as Gold Crusaders, Emerald Crusaders or Ruby Crusaders. Each group of 40 boarded the corresponding River Boat owned by 3 Wizards known locally as the Gold Wizard, the Emerald Wizard and the Ruby Wizard.
Their spells and enchantments protected their boats and their crews from damage or harm, but the adventurers on board each boat were not protected by their enchantments.
Ambushes along the river claimed the lives of a few Gold and Emerald Crusaders, but the Ruby Crusaders were all killed.
During the summer another 3 groups of 40 Gold, Emerald and Ruby Crusaders made the journey with similar casualties. Although the Ruby Crusaders managed to survive the journey with half their number dead from ambushers, the remaining members were slaughtered outside Botkinburg within a week of their arrival.
In the autumn a third group of 40 Gold, Emerald and Ruby Crusaders made their way up river with only about a third of the Ruby Crusaders dying, but inside a month the Ruby Crusaders were completely annihilated in battles near the shadow of the Blacktooth Ridge.
Members of the Gold and Emerald Crusaders also perished, while others went missing in quest of the rumored treasures abounding beyond Botkinburg.
Among the remaining Gold and Emerald Crusaders, it was whispered that the Ruby Crusaders were cursed; commonly known as the Curse of the Crimson Crusaders because their blood flowed in crimson waves as their bodies lay dying wherever they chose to go.
Gideon explained that tales of this Curse of the Crimson Crusaders had become so rampant and widespread throughout the Realm over the winter that it was unlikely that 40 stalwart men or women would even set foot on the Ruby River Boat for any amount of gold coin.
What was certain was the fact that more adventurers and mercenaries were needed to penetrate the darkness beyond Botkinburg that was concentrating its forces along the Blacktooth Ridge.
If no one dared oppose those forces, then it was quite possible that an unknown enemy could muster those dark forces, gain control of the Aratock Mountains to the south and one day descend from those mountains to invade the foothills and plains east of Ascalon, before marching upon and seizing Ascalon itself.
Rumors were running rampant in Botkinburg that the local Halfling Community was preparing for a siege of some sort; also whispers of a legend of a Halfling Champion who would one day find his way to Botkinburg with a group of unlikely heroes who would defy a curse and venture into the unknown beyond Botkinburg to rid the New Empire of a dark and deadly enemy were becoming more and more common each day.
During the past few months several Halflings from the community were seen travelling west on some unknown quest related to this whispered legend. Some have returned. Others have not. But all are preparing for a fight of some kind against some suspected evil that lurks in the Blacktooth Ridge or somewhere beyond its borders.
After further discussion regarding this Curse of the Crimson Crusaders and how best to try to overcome the negative effects that were spreading throughout the Realm of New Aenochia, the Empress Pryzmira dismissed Gideon to refresh himself from the burdens he had held secret for far too long.
Then she called for a Scribe to write the following plea to be sent out to the various regions of the Realm; issuing a Call for Crusaders to assemble at the Hruesen River near Asperdi at an appointed time to go up river to Botkinburg, where adventurers and mercenaries would be paid handsomely and if necessary, be equipped with weapons and armor to investigate and exterminate any and all threats to New Aenochia.
Call for Crusaders
Hear Ye! Hear Ye!
By Royal Proclamation of Her Highness Empress Pryzmira of Ascalon, in response to reports of dark threats to the border territories of New Aenochia, Her Royal Highness requests the services of any and all available stout-hearted Freedom Fighters from throughout the lands to assemble at the Hruesen River near Asperdi to join the illustrious ranks of the Gold, Emerald and Ruby Crusaders to journey up river to Botkinburg.
Registration will be conducted by a trusted Knight of Her Royal Representative the Lady Marchessa Fabressa of Botkinburg for those applicants willing to join a Crusade against the unspoken evils running rampant in the hidden confines of the Black Tooth Ridge and other surrounding environs that may threaten the good people of Botkinburg.
Be it further known that those adventurers who are brave enough to defy the so-called Curse of the Crimson Crusaders and heed this Call for Crusaders will be appointed by said Marchessa Fabressa of Botkinburg to undertake an elite expedition into the aforementioned Black Tooth Ridge and other outlying areas to Expose and Exterminate with Extreme Prejudice any and all threats to Botkinburg and the outlying territories of New Aenochia.
Equipment, Supplies and Ample Gold will be furnished for those brave enough to enlist in the ranks of Her Majesty’s Special Force, to be known hereafter as The Crimson Crusaders, those from throughout the Realm who are Brave Enough to Defy the Rumored Curse upon the Ruby Crusaders and Braver Still to Answer this Special Call for Crusaders!
Those choosing to join the ranks of the Gold and Emerald Crusaders will also receive ample provision and reward for their services.
Be prepared to register and board your Boat of Choice no later than May 5, 30awd.
Her Majesty Empress Pryzmira of Ascalon
Empress of New Aenochia
Hruesen River 9am
Ruby River Boat
May 5, 30awd (After Winter Dark)
Unseen eyes stared unawares and undetected from beyond the banks of the Hruesen River, observing the progress of the Gold, Emerald and Ruby River Boats as they glided across the murky water on their journey to Botkinburg.
First the long-necked 7-foot high Gold Dragon Head adorning the first boat’s prow, followed minutes later by the similarly detailed Emerald Dragon Head intricately carved on the second boat’s prow, made their way up river unchallenged, before disappearing from view around a bend.
Seemingly agonizingly long minutes later the similar, albeit infamous Ruby Dragon Head on the prow of the thrice-cursed Ruby River Boat finally could be viewed afar off as it made its solitary way up river.
All 3 boats sported a single sail of the corresponding color and design matching the Dragon Head on its prow. The only other adornments to be seen were the 5 small dragon heads carved on the wooden railings on each side of the boats. Another corresponding Dragon Head was carved into the stern of each boat. A colorful Dragon Flag flew from each of the sterns, thus identifying the specific wizard who owned each enchanted boat.
The 40-foot long, 15-foot wide enchanted Ruby River Boat with its crew of 10 enthralled Gnomes rode low in the water, making its way up the river at a leisurely pace.
Unknown cargo was magically secured inside the vessel, leaving only the flat deck available for the adventurers who had signed on as Ruby Crusaders (embracing their new title as Crimson Crusaders) to find a suitable place on deck to sit or stand during their journey to Botkinburg.
The Curse of the Crimson Crusaders as it had become known over the past several months had taken its toll on the new recruiting efforts.
Instead of a full company of 40 adventurers as were totaled on both the Gold and Emerald River Boats that had also set sail at the crack of dawn, only 15 hearty souls (or as some whispered, “Foolhardy!”) could be persuaded by Gideon, the consort of the Lady Marchessa Fabressa of Botkinburg, to climb on board in defiance of the perceived curse.
There were plenty of fortune seekers who spat and scoffed at Gideon, before choosing to travel the road through the forests from Asperdi to Botkinburg to hunt for hidden treasures on their own, rather than to commit their allegiance to the Empress Pryzmira as one of her newly appointed Crimson Crusaders.
The lure of title and lands once the Northern Territories were secure and free from the taint of the unknown evil pressing upon her borders was not enough enticement for those who had chosen the Forest Road to pursue their own quest for treasure and glory, instead of signing on as Ruby/Crimson Crusaders once the Gold and Emerald Crusaders ranks had been quickly filled to capacity.
The adventurers on the Gold and Emerald River Boats were paid 50 gold pieces each to answer the Call for Crusaders, but only those 15 souls on board the Ruby River Boat were courageous enough to defy the so-called Curse of the Crimson Crusaders for 100 gold pieces of The Realm.
Gideon had advised each adventurer who enquired about payment procedure that only the survivors who arrived in Botkinburg would be paid in gold coin, be it 50 or 100, the current price of blood money to hire on as a Gold, Emerald or Ruby/Crimson Crusader.
On the deck of the Ruby River Boat could be seen an odd assortment of adventurers who counted the prospect of 100 gold coins reason enough to put their lives on the line in service to the Empress, no matter how hazardous the pay.
Among them were 8 particular Crimson Crusaders whose lives would soon enough be intertwined and bonded together into a War Party destined to penetrate the maw of darkness threatening Botkinburg and quite possibly the very existence of New Aenochia.
Lost in their own thoughts of events over the past few weeks (or perhaps even their life times) were a Dwarf Cleric, a Half-Orc Barbarian, an Elf Ranger, a Half-Elf Bard, a Halfling Fighter, a Human Shaman/Druid, a Human Rogue and a Human Monk.
All were in deep thought as the Ruby River Boat glided up river towards their destination of unknown danger and promised treasure.
NOTE from the CASTLE KEEPER
Please Post Your Character Description Complete with Background Story and History for the reading enjoyment of the Resident Lurkers here at the Red Dragon Inn. This includes the Deity Influence upon your Character. When all 8 Characters are posted we will continue our journey up the Hruesen River to Botkinburg.
The same, miles-long dragon that created the elves and gnomes also created the halflings. Their legend says that one day the sun beat strongly down on the body of the dragon and it greatly enjoyed the heat and turned its body repeatedly so that the sun's rays struck all sides evenly.
The scales from its back rubbed against some very hard mountain granite and pairs of male and female halflings popped out of the scales and ran into the hills to become mated pairs to make many halfling babies.
While these creatures are soft looking and seem to be fun loving, there is a hard edge to them allowing them to survive in dangerous lands. The larger creatures tend to ignore halflings, while the smaller enchanted beasts make peace with halflings or are driven out of halfling lands.
Few records in the libraries of the elves, dwarves, humans, or gnomes deal with what the halflings are capable of doing. Few scholars have bothered to read the records the halflings keep for themselves.
If any of these races did take the time to study the way of the halflings, they would become alarmed at the real power of these creatures and what they have killed when demons, devils and dragons tried to invade their lands.
Halflings seem to get along with everyone and especially humans. Halfling communities that live beside human villages and towns aren't doing so for the protection humans give them.
They live near the community to make sure the humans don't try to enslave halfling kind. Halflings train their young in the art of hiding not because they are cowards, but to better attack an enemy without being seen.
Unknown to most of the world, the halfling race is expanding faster than any other race on the world. In several hundred years, there will be a crowding in some countries and the true nature of halflings will be revealed.
The Tale of Drogo Tulk of the Short Swords
No one in the Halfling communities of the Kellerwald Forest knew for sure where Mother Tulk had found the Halfling infant that bore the purple and red birthmark that resembled two miniature crossed short swords that was so mysteriously etched above his heart.
All anyone really knew was that Mother Tulk had taken the infant into her custody as if he had sprung from her own loins. She gave him more than enough love and attention and named him Drogo Tulk of the Short Swords.
His first five years were spent learning the way of the Halfling, especially in the art of hiding. Although the deity worshipped by Mother Tulk was Keely Choiceroot, the Halfling Deity of Gardening and Hiding, she had the wisdom to teach young Drogo Tulk to worship Preston Tallfellow the Deity of the Sword.
As a worshipper of Keely Choiceroot she had been given a cloak and a garden hoe long ago when she had come of age and she knew that as a worshipper of Keely Choiceroot that Mother Tulk could never hide from the work that was needed to be done.
That meant that it was her responsibility as a worshipper of Keely Choiceroot to make sure that Drogo Tulk fulfill his purpose and follow the true path of his destiny as marked above his heart in purple and red.
She knew that her beloved Drogo Tulk must learn to worship Preston Tallfellow, so upon his fifth birthday she relinquished her charge by taking him to the temple of Preston Tallfellow hidden somewhere in the depths of the Kellerwald Forest northwest of the city state of Heimstadt in the eastern portion of the Kellerwald Forest.
From age 5 Drogo Tulk began serving as an apprentice helper until the age of 10 when he began his training with the Short Sword in the temple fencing studio where using a blade is worship to Preston Tallfellow as all of his people are skilled in the use of the sword.
Preston Tallfellow: Deity of the Sword God Symbols: Sword, Peridot Deity Province: War, Sword Use Ceremony: When a worshipper comes of age, they must quest for the perfect sword. Taboo: Worshippers can never sell swords they acquire. Granted Abilities: Worshippers are +2 in sword use.
This deity has the fewest of worshippers and they are generally males. His temples are all fencing studios dedicated to the use of the sword and no other weapons.
Using a blade is worship to Preston and all of his people are skilled in the use of the sword. There are some humans who worship as well, because they want to learn all there is about the sword.
The sect is unusually well organized and all of their weapons are expertly made and come to them at normal sword prices. Weapon smiths from surrounding countries are paid well to provide swords for new worshippers.
Artifact: Singing Sword of Preston Tallfellow
This mithril, +5 sword has a will of 23 and a lawful good alignment. It uses speech and telepathy for its wielder.
Its lesser powers are: faerie fire 3/day, detect magic at will, deflect missiles 3/day and locate object 3/day.
Its greater powers are: lesser globe of invulnerability 1/day, quench fires 3/day, teleport 2/day and locate creature 3/day.
The sword begins singing in combat and all allies hearing the music are blessed and gain a +2 to strike. The weapon does 2d10 + 5 and + 10 more when striking orcs as its purpose is to slay orcs and orc avatars.
The weapon often appears in the hand of one of Preston's followers when they are facing great odds in a battle with orcs or goblins.
Artifact: Dragon Sword of Preston Tallfellow
The scimitar is a lawful good aligned weapon with a will of 20. Its purpose is to slay dragons. Its speech is halfling and it warns its wielder so that he is never surprised.
The weapon does 2d10 + 5 and doubles that when damaging dragons of all types.
Its lesser powers are: locate object 3/day, suggestion 3/day and detect magic at will.
Its single greater power is light as bright as daylight 3/day.
The weapon is gifted to whoever is fighting alongside Preston when his avatar dies. All of the other equipment of the avatar vanishes when the avatar turns to dust.
Preston's avatar only appears in battles against other avatars or dragons.
Avatar of Preston Tallfellow: (lawful good), 20th level knight, HP 140, AC 20, MV 20ft, primary attributes: charisma 26, strength 25, dexterity 22.
He has all the abilities of a 20th level knight. He fights with two swords and can strike twice a turn with both of them with no penalties.
He always rides a double-sized mountain lion into battle. If he dies in the fight, the lion vanishes from the battlefield.
Drogo Tulk of the Short Swords
Specializes with Short Swords
Although Drogo Tulk trained from age 10 to age 20 with all available swords in worship to Preston Tallfellow, the Halfling Fighter chose to follow the destiny of his birthmark by specializing in combat with the Short Sword.
Drogo learned his craft well and had the good fortune of seeing the Avatar of Preston Tallfellow fight on several occasions during his 10 years at the temple fencing studio when his followers were called upon to venture into the Kellerwald Forest to aid Halflings and others against the raids of goblins and orcs from the north.
Drogo Tulk of the Short Swords became good friends with Basil Whitefoot as they trained in the temple fencing studio during their formative years.
On three occasions, Basil's beautiful cousin Eva Whitefoot accompanied her father to the temple when he delivered a specially crafted sword to be presented to one of the worthy worshippers of Preston Tallfellow.
Drogo was quite smitten by her beauty, but resolved himself to channel his energies into developing his worship with the Short Sword, becoming quite proficient with a Short Sword in each hand. Eva on the other hand, sent frequent messages to her cousin Basil and always included a greeting to Drogo.
A few days prior to Drogo coming of age on his 20th birthday and thus embarking upon his quest for the perfect sword, Eva had sent an alarming message to her cousin Basil to please come to Botkinburg in the Barren Wood to aid the Halfling community from the repeated increasing dangers and evils emanating from the nearby Blacktooth Ridge.
Basil sent his reply that Drogo would soon venture forth on his quest for the perfect sword, promising his beautiful cousin that Drogo Tulk of the Short Swords would find his way to Botkinburg to aid the Halflings against whatever dangers were present, while he continued to train in the temple fencing studio until he too would come of age to quest for the perfect sword.
Red Ruby River Boat
March 5, 30awd (After Winter Dark)
Drogo Tulk of the Short Swords leaned against the left railing of the Ruby River Boat and looked wistfully at the slowly passing countryside. He had taken up a station near the stern and was quite content to keep to himself, unless one of his Crimson Crusader companions chose to acknowledge his presence.
He was an oddity among Halflings, standing a full foot taller (4 ft) than the average (3 ft) Halfling. He was ruggedly handsome for a Halfling, what with his jet-black hair falling about his shoulders. His nose bore the distinction of being rather smallish in a noble sort of way when compared with other Halflings. His bushy black eyebrows highlighting his large oval eyes that bore a piercing look most times from those silver-grey orbs.
His skin fairly glowed with a reddish coppery tone and was covered with ample amounts of hair as were most Halfling males. His large hands were well suited to gripping his Short Swords, whether in worship to Preston Tallfellow, or in a fierce fight or battle if the need arose.
His hairy feet were even larger than most Halflings, but he sported an innate sense of balance and grace that belied the perception that he could have been a mere clumsy oaf.
Drogo Tulk wore a simple hoodless tunic that seemed to blend with his surroundings. It was cut a bit below the knee, affording him unhindered movement when he danced with his Short Swords.
His 2 and a half foot Short Swords bore the imprint of Preston Tallfellow on each silver hilt. The glistening double edged blades had been given to him as a questing gift by the Clerics at the Fencing Studio.
Although no one knew his exact birth date, Mother Tulk had decreed that February 15 be his birthday. So upon his twentieth year he was sent forth from Preston Tallfellow’s Fencing Studio with great promise and greater celebration as he began his quest for the perfect sword.
He promised his friend Basil Whitefoot that he would make the journey to Botkinburg to aid his beautiful cousin Eva Whitefoot and her Halfling Community against whatever unknown evil threatened their idyllic lives.
The morning after the Great Sword Dancing and Feast in honor of Drogo’s quest for the perfect sword, which lasted from the night of his 20th birthday through the next day and into that night, culminating in Drogo Tulk consecrating himself in private worship to Preston Tallfellow as he danced before his deity in a secluded chamber; the Halfling set out on his Quest for the Perfect Sword, armed only with his tunic, his 2 Short Swords and a water skin.
Drogo Tulk began his quest the morning of February 17, 30awd (After Winter Dark) as he bid his companions and Clerics a fond farewell after another celebratory breakfast and further words of encouragement from his friends.
His journey through the Kourwood Forest east of Ratsdorf began without much incident as the Halfling Fighter chose to blend in with his surroundings, rather than confronting the small bands of orcs or goblins sneaking their way through the foliage.
The only times he bloodied his blades was when he discovered a Halfling family or community that such raiders were intent upon pillaging.
His reward was a victory feast and a warm hearth or fire where the whispered rumors of the Halfling Legend would awkwardly be addressed, mostly by the children asking if he were the Halfling the legends foretold?
Drogo Tulk would merely answer “I am who I am and nothing more!” Then he would dance before Preston Tallfellow with his swords and make his pledge and vow to protect Halflings and any other race plagued by the vermin that he had slain earlier in the day or night that had threatened his hosts.
Drogo had made his way up the Ans River to Heimstadt where he decided to spend some time enjoying the peaceful setting of Lake Asfral. It was here that he read the proclamation for the Call for Crusaders and here still where some Halflings asked him once again if he were the Halfling of Legend?
"I am what I am and nothing more!" replied Drogo Tulk of the Short Swords, but he was troubled about the menace lurking about Botkinburg and began thinking about the beautiful Halfling maiden Eva Whitefoot who had sent the message for help.
Drogo Tulk pushed east towards Asperdi to sign on with one of the River Boats. He pondered the mention of the Curse of the Crimson Crusaders as he made his journey and bloodied his blades along the way against the evil doers stalking the dark forests of the land.
"Whether this Curse of the Crimson Crusaders be the curse foretold in the Halfling Legend or no ... I am what I am and nothing more!"
That was his reply to the Halflings that pried him with food, drink and questions as he fought his way through the Asperdi Forest, south of the city of Asperdi, to the registration encampment on the banks of the Hruesen River.
Drogo Tulk turned to look at the assortment of companions who had signed on as Crimson Crusaders. They were of various sorts of alignment persuasions. The Halfling Fighter being what some would call Neutral Good, having a healthy respect for both Law and Freedom, typically choosing a road betwixt the two in order to achieve benefits and mercy for all.
The Halfling had arrived in time to make a choice as to which of the 3 (Gold, Emerald or Ruby) to sign on with to make his way to Botkinburg in search of the perfect sword, plus defend the Halfling Community and the beautiful Halfling maid Eva Whitefoot. He had come to realize in his heart of hearts during his long journey that he wished to make Eva his bride.
An important looking man named Gideon asked Drogo to sign a parchment to commit himself into the service of either the Gold, Emerald or as they were now openly spoken of, The Crimson Crusaders.
Drago knew in his heart of hearts that he was destined to please Preston Tallfellow by boarding the Ruby River Boat in defiance of the Curse of the Crimson Crusaders.
"Whether I be the Halfling of Legend or no ... I would most likely find those unlikely heroes of legend to be aboard this vessel as well ... and where else would I so easily find 100 gold pieces to present as a gift to my prospective bride?"
Drogo made his mark of the Crossed Short Swords and signed his name, indicating that he chose to sign on as a Crimson Crusader.
Gideon shook his hand with a warm and sincere congratulations for his unpopular choice, assuring the Halfling Fighter that he would be promptly paid upon his arrival in Botkinburg.
The Halfling Fighter smiled as he fondly remembered the Halflings that boarded him in their home while he awaited the day of his departure.
There was Great Feasting and Great Joy among the Halflings in the Asperdi Forest as news quickly spread that Drogo Tulk of the Short Swords had bravely signed on to join the previously obliterated ranks of The Crimson Crusaders.
Now he sat on the deck of the Ruby River Boat, his 125 pound fighting frame resting quite comfortably in his new surroundings, sipping some ale and enjoying the taste of the fresh fruit, home made bread and delicious cheese that the enthralled Gnomes were serving to the 15 adventurers on board the Ruby Red River Boat.
Then he closed his eyes and reflected upon the merriment among the Halflings who held Great Feasts in his honor, hoping that Drogo Tulk of the Short Swords would somehow prove to be that Halfling of Legend who would company with an unlikely band of heroes to rid their land of a great unspoken evil that sought to destroy all who stood in its path.
Drogo opened his eyes to study the adventurers who sailed with him into the unknown, pondering if any of them, himself included, were worthy of becoming such unlikely heroes of the Halfling Legend?
Then he let his thoughts wander to the more pleasant memories of the Halfling maid Eva Whitefoot he wished to make his bride, as the Ruby River Boat continued its journey up the Hruesen River.
"Whether I Be the Halfling of Legend or No ... I Am What I Am ... And No More!"
Born in a place little better than a slum, Brenys quickly had to learn how to fend for herself. Both her mother and father were sick with disease, by the age of 10 her mother had died and her father was bed bound. With no income and highly malnourished Brenys had to find a way to make money to live. Every morning Brenys would wake up at dawn and rain with two swords made of wood and carved by herself, at mid-morning she would travel to Ratsdorf with her dads bronze dagger in case things got nasty, as in her business things could. Brenys is not the usual pick pocketer however, as she would play tricks using dice, cards and other gambling games. On a normal working day Brenys would make enough money to feed herself and her father and just get by, however some days Brenys would make a little more, she would put this to one side as she knew one day she would be by herself, with no place to live and no place to go.
By the time Brenys reached the age of 13 her dad had passed away to begin with Brenys travelled to Ratsdorf after the funeral and set up her own stall using the money she had saved as she knew it was a wise investment. Being an attractive girl she knew she could attract punters and using the stall as shelter at night wasn't ideal and was often scary. Soon Brenys began to save up more and more and was beginning to get a reputation in the city, but it wasn't always a good reputation. One particular punter was upset with his loss on a quite an elaborate bet and raised his hand to Brenys, before he could bring the hand down Brenys caught his hand and put him in a lock he couldn't break, humiliated he walked away with threats of torching the stand that very night. She worked for the rest of the day until an hour before sunset, she had some errands to run.
Using her savings she went to buy a weeks rations, a tent and bedroll, fortunately there had been interest of buying the stall, Brenys travelled to the Businessman's house to make an offer. After 10 minutes of bargaining a fair deal had been struck, Brenys was chuffed full knowing that it was getting ruined tonight. Her next stop was the arms store to buy 3 daggers and 2 short swords and whetstone.
After her purchases she still had a sizeable amount of coin, protection and materials to live off of, however she knew she had to live off the land and who knew what dangers lay ahead of her.
On her travel to a new city each night she would have a dream which seemed more of a vision as, the story changed each night but the one character who told it was always the same a woman that changed in and out of a coyote form. On the 5th night she awoke with a start, and realised who was haunting her it was the coyote deity, her own favourite god, she was chosen by her. On the 7th day as she sat to have her last meal she fainted and a vision struck her and told her to travel to Heimstadt. When she awoke an armband was laid on her lap with the picture of a coyote on it, immediately she put it on.
After her meal she headed off to Heimstadt ready for her challenge and quest.
On the 8th day of travel Brenys stopped at a hamlet named Odenstein, here she stocked up on rations and repaired equipment. As she hadn't slept in a comfortable bed for the past seven nights, and her purse was still bulging, so a treat was in order. Brenys went to bed early that night, after 4 hours of sleep she was rudely awakened by a banging on her door, and shouting from the hallway “GET UP! GET UP! WE'RE UNDER ATTACK.” Immediately Brenys jumped out of bed she had always been a light sleeper, putting on her garments and grabbing her weapons she opened the door.
Running out of the Inn the humble she had seen just hours before was a wreck with fire burning on the majority of straw huts, quickly Brenys ran back into the inn and into her room took her equipment and went back outside. Brenys was no hero she wasn't going to risk her life to save the village or any other life, using her skills in hiding and moving silently she stealthed her way out of the village. Then she bolted N-E to the woods on the way to Heimstadt hoping she wouldn't meet the warband that had destroyed the village.
Fortunately they obviously were based in the woods to the west. Brenys was glad of the decision she made without a shred of doubt in her mind. That night she moved during the night and the rest of the next day, as she was too scared to be near the scene that she had just witnessed.
As Brenys exited the woods she was only two days away or one day and night of travel, it was a big choice to make. It was more or less open ground all the way to Heimstadt it would be tricky to set up a camp somewhere without being vulnerable, however Brenys would be just as vulnerable travelling on foot to the monsters of the dark.
The decision she made ended up to be to soldier through the night, knowing she could use her skills at hiding or if need be put her weapon training to the test. Once she was almost halfway to Heimstadt, aiming to get there at dawn, she saw two shapes move against the background, they were coming her way, she readied herself checking she could draw both of her swords. She tensed not knowing what was about to happen, as the shapes came nearer it appeared they were hostile this is largely because of they're green skin and yellow teeth as they approached she could see they're apparel and weaponry they were shoddily armoured and armed with both carrying only a rusted shortsword, although Brenys thought that she could defeat them she would prefer not to fight. However it looked as though a fight would ensue, Brenys took the initiative and crouched low waiting for them to come to her, she saw them upping there pace as they got closer. Then she sprung leaping into one, a fatal blow, the second one seemed far more confident then he attacked he was fast, really fast, this is a perfect test for her, a first fight, a rite of passage. Brenys parried, ducked and dived, looking for a weakness. As the duel carried on she was getting weary especially since she had no sleep that night, a thought dawned on her, suddenly she dropped everything apart from the sling and ammo she had, she sprinted towards a group of trees, knowing she had to either hide or climb to give her any chance of survival. She got to the group of trees and she could see the city there it was 'Heimstadt.' she bolted using the remainder of her stamina and strength, Brenys glanced back there was no sign of her aggressor. She didn't slow if anything she picked up speed as the city grew closer.
She had made it just as the gate opened for the traders at dawn. Once she was safe she had to re-evaluate her situation, she had her purse however not much remained inside, the only weapon she had was a sling and her fathers dagger, once again her situation looked dire. She knew no-one and knew nothing of this city, her first aim was to get food and a bed at the nearest inn.
At the Bedstock Inn is where she had ended up a warm meal and looked as though the company was friendly, after her meal and a room for 24 hours her money was dwindling. Brenys decided to sleep in the room she had just rented. As she slept another dream came to her the coyote was there again and there were pictures of a strange city, a ship with a ruby sail and a strange bunch of warriors, Botkinburg is where she was headed next.
Using the last of her coin she bought her way onto a cartel of traders travelling to Asperdi. Finally a direction to go again.
Once in Asperdi she thanked the merchants, and said her goodbyes she had made some friends and some enemies on the long journey, a few were clever enough not to bet against brenys' games, and the long journey let her make some coin back, however there was not a fortune in her purse. Then she saw it her calling... a call for crusaders. Brenys headed off following the signs that directed her too a man named Gideon. Then she saw it the stall was grand unlike her shoddy excuse for one back in Ratsdorf. Then she saw a strikingly good looking man sitting at it. She went over and spoke to the man about what the quest entails, and payment. Gideon answered dutifully and there she was signing up for a fools mission on a ruby boat. Still it was good money and what is the point in life without taking risks.
Later on that week she was ready standing in the cockpit of the Ruby boat and that's when it hit her, she missed her parents, her first house, her small stall in Ratsdorf, but there was no chance of that now. Brenys pushed the sadness back, preparing herself for the voyage and adventure ahead.
Posted on 2010-11-10 at 00:41:36.
Edited on 2010-11-10 at 12:36:30 by Luthor
The Story of Trossach Graystone, 1/2orc Barbarian of the Tribe Balliquois
For a half-orc, the story always begins with his parentage. It defines who they are and what they can do throughout their life. For Trossach Graystone, this was certainly true throughout his early years.
Trossach’s mother was a member of the Balliquois Tribe, a nomadic population that moved between the Aratoch Mountains and the Usedom Steppes as the seasons changed. When she was a young woman the tribe was summering on the slopes of the Mountains as usual. Young Tressa was hunting with some of the others of the tribe when a group of orcs that had moved South into the area attacked the hunting party. While several in the group were killed, Tressa was captured. The Tribe responded very quickly and a large group stormed the orc encampment and recued Tressa and another hunter. While the Orcs were destroyed and Tressa saved, for Trossach the story was just beginning, for Tressa had been ravaged by the orcs and was now pregnant with a half-orc.
The Tribe accepted the young child as one of their own, with the tribal elders declaring it to be an act of the gods. Still, despite the wisdom of the elders and the love of his mother, life was difficult for the young half-breed. The young men in the tribe were not as understanding as their leaders. When surrounded by his peers the young half-orc was constantly persecuted, for while many half-orcs show their parentage more clearly than did Trossach, still his orc side was visible to anyone who took the time to notice. The young “man” had grayish skin and piercing black eyes. He was also big boned with heavy jaws and shoulders. At 6’5”he was easily the largest individual in the Tribe, and his physical prowess no doubt intimidated the others.
In Trossach’s Tribe, a young man came of age in their eighteenth year. All of the young men of the season went on a hunt with nothing but their bare hands. They must survive in the woods for a week – and return to the tribe with their kill. During Trossach’s year one of the young men never returned. The others all returned, including Balquhidder Stonebear, the son of the tribes chieftan, who proudly returned with two deer to feed the tribe. Young Balquhidder spent the day of his return bragging about his exploits; sure that he had proven himself the best of the young hunters. He made sure to refer to the “orc who could not hunt.”
Trossach Graystone was the last of the hunters to return. As Balquhidder bragged of his accomplishments and ridiculed the half-orc around a large fire that evening, Trossach emerged from the darkness. He had gone to the peaks of the Aratoch Mountains, for the young half-orc had always loved the highlands. There he had claimed three of the wild rams that roam that land and returned with them to his tribe. On his way back he encountered a herd of deer and brought one down. Nobody had ever returned from the age hunt with 4 large game kills before.
Even as Balquhidder ridiculed him, Trossach became the hero of the day. The rest of that night was a huge feast and for the first time Trossach found himself the center of his tribes praise. But for all of the glory of the evening, there were those who hated the young half-orc for stealing the spotlight. Balquhidder had been sure that the night would be his, and grew to hate Trossach for stealing his glory.
A few days later after the celebration for the young men had ended, life returned to normal, which for the hunters in the tribe meant going into the surrounding lands to find game. The newly adult young men headed off to the North to hunt near several streams that ran down the Mountains near there. But what started as a peaceful day did not remain so. From the moment the young men left camp, Balquhidder taunted Trossach, who he believed had stolen his celebration. Such taunting was nothing new, these two had long been the leaders of the young men of the tribe, being easily the strongest warriors and hunters of the bunch. Two leaders naturally produce a rivalry, but today it was particularly vicious.
In the past Trossach had tried to ignore the taunts. He knew he was a half-orc. He knew what the word “orc” meant to people. It meant the same to him – those orcs had ravaged his mother! That he was the result of that night did not change the basic truth. But he also knew he was not an orc. He did not wish to be judged as an orc. He was not evil, and would not let that side of his heritage win – he was his mother’s son! He was not a slave to anger and terror – as a mere Orc would be. No, for Trossach, remaining in control and not being an “orc” was a deep felt part of his very being. He had always felt he was an outsider amongst his own people – there was little chance of anything else. Yet, he hoped to show that there was more to him than orcish blood. So, with a few exceptions when he was young, he generally ignored the taunts.
But this day his rival dug deep. The group had no sooner left the camp when he started suggesting that the orcs in the hills must have helped, “their boy!” The longer they walked the more he referred to Trossach as an orc. And then a Troll. A Troll who loved his orc friends. A Troll who was better suited to life alone in the woods with the sheep – did he enjoy catching those Mountain sheep?!! But he went too far. The longer they walked the more he increased his venom. When they reached the stream Mythrun, Ballquhidder dared to suggest that Trossach had better enjoy the sheep – for sheep and orc women were all he would ever enjoy. “Enjoy like your mother must have enjoyed that orc!”
Everyone in the group stopped at that comment as they knew the chief’s son had just crossed a line. Trossach’s mother had been dragged into the night. She had been the one person who stayed by his side throughout every problem a young half-breed might endure. Almost the only real fights the young Trossach had ever been in had been when someone insulted his mother. Everyone stopped and watched.
Barely whispering, Trossach turned on his rival. “You will take that back. Now. And apologize. Now.”
Ballquhidder’s eyes grew big. He was as aware as everyone else that he had gone too far. But he was proud. He could not back down with all of the young men around them. How could a chief’s son back down to a half-breed? So he didn’t. “Apolgize? He sneered, “perhaps when you apologize to those poor sheep!”
Trossach didn’t bother to respond. He dropped his bow to the ground and, grasping his spear, moved forward towards his rival.
Balquhidder stepped backwards. “Are you crazy?! The elders . . . “ But he didn’t finish, he grabbed a dagger from his waist and threw it at the half-orc. Such a tactic was clearly cheating according to all the rules of honorable fighting amongst the Balliquois, but he was terrified.
Trossach saw the move and swiped the dagger aside in midflight with his spear. There was a collective gasp amongst the onlookers, for the cowardly act they had witnessed and the fight that was just to begin. “A foolish move, Balquhidder. And cowardly. Yet, you say that I am an embarrassment to the tribe? Hah!”
And with that loud cry he sprung at his rival. Balquhidder was a good warrior. In fact, he was clearly the second best amongst all of the young men in the region. But he had picked a fight with the best. From the beginning it did not go well for the boastful chief’s son. Trossach battered him back and forth with the shaft of his spear. The Half-Orc gave him a half dozen small wounds, taunting him, as all those watching knew that he could have driven home any of those blows. Finally, his foe staggered, dropping to one knee and yelled, “Half-breed! You will never lead this Tribe! Son of a Troll!”
Trossach drove him down to the ground, stood over him and raised his spear, poised to deliver the death blow his foe had earned. And stopped. With his rival cowering at his feet, he first paused and then stepped away, never turning his back on the helpless man.
“I will not kill him. The enemy of the Balliquois people is out there, in the hills. We should not fight ourselves. Help him to his feet. Three of you will need to help him back to camp, although you may let him crawl if you wish. The rest of us shall return to camp. The elders must know of this. We go now.”
Upon his return, Trossach told his story to the elders of the Tribe, including his rival’s father. All of the other men supported him. The elders accepted the story. Trossach was not punished for his actions, although the arrogant Balquhidder was. However, things in the tribe were never the same, and they hadn’t been good to start with. The half-orc had nearly slain a member of the tribe. Behind his back there were constant murmurs that he was “too dangerous.” He wasn’t “one of them.”
Both of the two combatants seemed to be increasingly unpopular within the tribe. Ballquhidder for his viciousness and cowardice, Trossach for being a bit too strong and a bit unhuman. It pained him every day. He had done the right thing. He had defended his mother, how could they argue with that? He had not even killed the fool! Yet, he was clearly not welcome.
After several months, it became clear to Trossach that he would never be welcome in his own tribe. Bitter, he left, agonizing over leaving his mother behind, even though she encouraged the young man. He moved towards the more civilized lands further South. He knew he was a good warrior and assumed, accurately, that such skills would always be in demand, for what said civilization more than “warrior?” He knew his heritage would be obvious to those around him. He was tall and massive as many half-orcs were. He skin was grayish, offset by coal black hair. It was part of what had earned him the name of “Graystone.” He had always been drawn to the heights and his natural coloring allowed him to blend into this favorite environment. He had deep set, black, eyes. Some found them quite disturbing when he turned his stare on them. His was not the look of a pure human and he knew it. He just hoped that perhaps in the larger masses of the cities he could find anonymity and acceptance.
While he did not find all that he hoped for in the cities to the South, he did find plenty of work in Methric. A warrior of his stature and skill was always welcome. At first he found the most profitable work to be guarding caravans as they travelled the Southern reaches of the Aratock Mountains or out into the Steppes North East of the city, but that work was extremely tame. He knew there were orcs in the mountains and signed on with a nobleman who guarded the western reaches of Methric on the slopes of the mountains. There he sought to prove that he was not an orc by fighting orcs. It was vengeance for his mother, and satisfying as a demonstration of who he was and what he was not. Somehow, he felt that he needed to prove something to the world.
In the nobles service he became fairly well known in the region as an orc-hunter. It was in the service of this man that he returned to Methric as a guard for the man’s daughter on a business trip. Along the way, they were set upon by a group of bandits. Clearly the bandits had not expected such stout resistance as they were quickly driven off. As they fled, Trossach stood over the leader of the group, prepared to dispatch him with his blade, when he recognized him. His old tribal foe, Balquhidder, had also fled the glares and whispers of the tribe, but instead of honorable work had taken up with the bandits.
Trossach Graystone was momentarily stunned to find him there. Despite their past, he did not wish to kill a member of his home tribe. And so he did not. He yanked the man to his feet, yelled several loud profanities, and ordered him to run for his life into a more honorable profession that would not shame the entire clan. And he ran.
But the noblewoman was not pleased. All she had seen was her captain raise up a bandit and yell at him in a language she did not speak. Although it was clearly not friendly and the man fled in panic, she was left wondering who her orcish captain was. After that their relationship was strained until they arrived in Methric.
No doubt the relationship could have been salvaged, for Trossach Graystone had done much good work for the family and both sides thought highly of the other. But while still angry over having been falsely accused of assisting the bandits, Trossach saw the poster calling for a Crusade. It seemed to him a perfect fit.
He wanted a Crusade. He sought one desperately – a way to prove that he, Trossach Graystone, was more than half-orc. He was also half-human, and that was the more important side. He was a talented warrior and he knew it. Here, in the form of a Crusade, was his opportunity to show who and what he truly was. And the chance for glory, gold and honor did not hurt either. But what he truly sought was redemption from his heritage and how everyone else sought to judge him.
And so he became a Crusader. The young noblewoman was not happy about losing her captain, for she knew her father would be angry about the loss. But Trossach would not be turned aside from his new path.
Trossach Graystone would answer the Call to Crusade.
The following are the reflections of BluddGrinn the Grim during the early hours of May 5, 30awd (After Winter Dark) as the Ruby River Boat made its way up the river towards Botkinburg.
It had been nearly 100 years of long, torturous, difficult battle in the catacombs beneath the Aratock Mountains that stretched their way to the Foothills where BluddGrinn the Grim had been forced to fight for his life at the tender age of 25.
His birth was marked with great joy as his proud parents marveled at his bright red eyes and wide grin, thus the CutterStones named their first born son and only child BluddGrinn.
Little would they know that the harshness of the coming years would multiply a darker meaning to his name, rather than the joyous celebration among the community of Dwarf miners in the foothills of the receding Aratock Mountains.
No one really knows any more when exactly the dark agents of the Winter Dark Wars tunneled their way deep beneath the Aratock Mountains to launch an invasion upon the lands to the south. What they do know is that a courageous community of miners made their stand deep beneath the mountains to prevent such an invasion from ever bearing its malicious fruit.
BluddGrinn's parents were in the forefront of the battle, having been mining for precious mineral ore when a tunnel collapsed to reveal a scouting party of orcs, with death in their eyes and swords in their hands as they spouted oaths invoking the name of the Horned One, as they set about to slaughter the miners who defended themselves with axes and shovels.
His parents shielded BluddGrinn from the initial onslaught of dark invaders, but at the cost of their very lives, affording the young dwarf precious minutes to gain a better vantage point to defend himself.
Somehow BluddGrinn and a few of his mining companions managed to subdue and kill the 20 invaders, but it was soon apparent that in order to preserve their idyllic way of life mining underneath the foothills, a war party of their own would have to be organized to repel any more invaders.
The problem was that most of these miners were more interested in uncovering precious ores and baubles, BluddGrinn included, than in going to war against who knew what type of enemy or how many they would have to confront before peace came to their underground tunnels.
Spurred on by the loss of his parents, BluddGrinn joined a group of volunteers who chose to defend their way of life, rather than to hide themselves in hopes that any invasion plans had perished with the orcs that were overcome that fateful day.
Over a period of time BluddGrinn had left his old way of life behind him, including the worship of a dwarven deity that the miners had prayed to and held great feasts for during his formative years. The young dwarf grew to be one to be feared by the goblins and orcs they encountered in numerous battles, as the group of dwarven freedom fighters chose to penetrate the enemy forces by working their way deeper beneath the tunnels and catacombs beneath the Aratock Mountains to take them by surprise.
Soon the months passed to years and the years to decades of fighting. BluddGrinn had married another freedom fighter and seen the birth of four children, three boys and a girl, who were trained as fighters and died far sooner than they should have, without seeing the light of the surface world above.
His beloved wife died in his arms and the joy he had found underground during the Winter Dark Wars slowly faded from his memory, as the reality of fighting for his life and the way of the life of his people became the only motivation he had to make any sense of the crazy existence that had become his way of life.
He now had no deity and no lover to console his pain and anguish, but the dwarf pressed on with a purpose that no other dwarf of his kind would be subjected to the torture and anguish of the life that he had been forced to live under the Aratock Mountains these many long years of bitter war.
BluddGrinn became reckless and hazarded his life against many unknown foes, his only purpose to bloody his axe blade in vengeance of all that was lost to him, motivated by the dim memory of all that he had once held dear all too long ago.
He would have died alone and unknown in some secluded cavern of battle, had The Tinker not been sent his way to change the course of his life forever, giving the young dwarf a higher purpose in life than just bloodying the heads of goblins, orcs and other nameless monstrosities deep beneath the Aratock Mountain range until he would breathe no more.
The Tinker was an old wizened dwarf, a Cleric of Steel the Dwarven God of War. It was he who brought new purpose to BluddGrinn and taught him the ways of worship in serving Steel.
No one really knew when the Winter Dark Wars hostilities had ceased, being so deep underground and fighting for their lives against a variety of foes, but The Tinker assured BluddGrinn that the dark taint of the Horned One would be evident, both above ground as well as underground, for countless years beyond the cessation of any war by any people.
They returned to an underground cavern near where the Aratock Mountains slope down to the foothills, but chose to remain beneath the surface where The Tinker could train BluddGrinn in the ways of a Cleric of Steel the Dwarven God of War.
His time upon this earth, or under the earth, was inevitably drawing to a close; so The Tinker chose to train another cleric of his order to be prepared to rid the land of the taint of the Horned One, should those defeated minions find a way to regroup and renew their terror against an unsuspecting populace, wherever they may be.
Late one night, a strange occurrence in their cavern hideaway proved to be a major turning point for BluddGrinn the Grim and his mentor The Tinker, as Steel the Dwarven God of War appeared to both clerics in an open vision.
The mighty warrior god spoke with the thrill of battle coursing through his veins, "A great quest against the minions of the Horned One will take place within the year when the Empress of this land sends but one more decree to aid the northern borders of her Realm! Among those answering her call will be a group of unlikely adventurers like none that have ever assembled to overcome a curse in their ranks!"
"This group will venture into the very blackness of the taint encroaching upon the land. They will have need of a Cleric who will not shirk from the dangers ever present, nor from the rigors of war that is sure to come against the minions of the Horned One that are assembling to spread their dark taint across the lands and peoples of this Realm!"
"You young BluddGrinn the Grim! You must journey to the city of Methric after The Tinker has fulfilled his assigned task to prepare you for what lies ahead in your future! Once you arrive in Methric, it will be made known unto you where you must go to join with those chosen, to quell the spread of the plague that seeks to further taint the southern lands!"
Whether it was the shock of his deity appearing to young BluddGrinn and giving him specific instructions, or that Steel had nothing further to say to him directly, the young dwarf cleric no longer beheld a vision or heard a voice of deity giving him further instructions or explanations.
He sat in stunned silence as he observed The Tinker nodding and muttering unknown replies to Steel the Dwarven God of War, as his ancient mentor rocked and swayed in an obvious trance purposely excluding the perception of BluddGrinn the Grim.
Time seemingly stood still as BludddGrinn awaited a response and hopefully an explanation from his mentor. The young cleric sat quietly for nearly three quarters of an hour, until The Tinker slowly emerged from his trance-like state with the following explanatory reaction to what had transpired earlier between himself and their deity.
"It is time young BluddGrinn for you to journey to the surface world and adjust your eyes and ears to the sunlight and the splendors that you will soon fight for against the taint of the Horned One that encroaches upon the northern borders of New Aenochia!"
"You must adjust to the ways of men and other races that you have long been deprived from during your odyssey of battle below the surface of the Aratock Mountains!"
"Most importantly, you must journey to a certain town at a certain place, where at the appointed time you must be sure to locate an old friend of mine who can equip you with some vital knowledge and a few items to help you and your 'companions-to-be' in your quest against the tainted hordes of the Horned One!"
Then pulling a trail-worn flask from his carry-bag, The Tinker further explained that Steel the Dwarven God of War had spoken to him of a long forgotten Steel Shrine secreted in the region where the foul minions of the Horned One were purportedly gathering their forces to strike against the unsuspecting peoples of New Aenochia.
That shrine had been desecrated and nearly destroyed, but hidden in the rubble was an artifact of great power that Steel would grant to BluddGrinn to aid him in his quest against ridding the land of the vermin seeking to spread the taint of the Horned One.
However, the lifting of the artifact required a greater strength of being than that currently possessed by the young cleric. His only hope for wielding the artifact as Steel intended for him to do was contained in the flask that The Tinker now freely offered to BluddGrinn the Grim.
Gaining the required strength will most assuredly cause your charisma to be depleted accordingly, if you are willing and courageous enough to pay such a price for such a gift from your deity.
When the young cleric asked The Tinker what guarantee he would have of successfully finding the artifact of which he spoke, his ancient mentor merely responded: "By Faith Young One!"
BluddGrinn thought long and hard, pondering the consequences of such a choice, but he finally decided after a few hours of prayer, that he would be much better prepared for going to war against the minions of the Horned One with a supernatural increase to his strength at the expense of his charisma ability.
Deciding that now was as good a time as any to undergo a transformation for the sake of his deity and the quest he was appointed to fulfill, young BluddGrinn quaffed the mysterious contents of the flask to gain more strength at the expense of his charisma abilities. (BluddGrinn receives a +3 to his strength attribute for a total of 19 and loses -3 to his charisma attribute for a total of 11).
The young cleric was not aware of any immediate change, but within a few days as he journeyed with The Tinker to the surface world, he was well aware that a permanent new-found strength was coursing throughout his 5 foot 3 inch 150 pound well muscled frame.
It took a few weeks for BluddGrinn to get acclimated to his surroundings in the foothills of the Aratock Mountains. And it took much greater coaxing and coaching from The Tinker for the young cleric to begin interacting with the surface world folk they encountered from time to time.
Soon it became time for BluddGrinn the Grim to make his fateful journey to the city of Methric located east of the foothills. Ironically it was on his 125th birthday which fell on the 17th day of March 30awd (After Winter Dark) that BluddGrinn the Grim first read the proclamation sent forth by the Empress Pryzmira for the Call for Crusaders.
Sitting outside a local tavern drinking a generous mug of Dwarven Mountain Mud, the young cleric spotted a parchment nailed to the wall of the tavern that had many curious onlookers speaking in hushed whispers of a so-called Curse of the Crimson Crusaders.
He pushed his way forward to get a better look at the parchment with total disregard for the protests against his crude rudeness, but the complainers quickly bit their tongues after realizing what manner of creature had invaded their space.
As his fiery red eyes seemingly glowed while reading the proclamation out loud to himself, onlookers curiously surveyed this odd looking silver haired, silver bearded dwarf cleric. He carried a Battle Axe, a throwing axe and a freshly killed homemade hide armor that covered what looked to be the garb of a miner from the nearby foothills.
Once he was satisfied that this proclamation was indeed the one that Steel had revealed to him in a vision, the young cleric set about to readying himself for the journey to Botkinburg via the registration booth south of Asperdi.
Although his journey to Botkinburg would be without the company of The Tinker, his ancient mentor did accompany the young cleric to the city of Ascalon before they parted company, making sure that his young charge was properly introduced to a wagon master in charge of delivering some precious cargo to the town of Asperdi.
Knowing that BluddGrinn would be a valuable asset to assist as a guard against bandits or other desperadoes, plus be well fed and properly housed for his services as a warrior and a healer, the mentor and his pupil parted company for what would quite possibly be the final time either saw the other alive and well on the surface world, or below ground.
A few weeks later, after an uneventful wagon ride and an educational experience in the various forms of social interaction in the town of Asperdi; the young cleric was housed and fed quite lavishly by some local merchants in exchange for his clerical abilities that proved most helpful to those in need of his unique services.
The day finally came when the young cleric ventured south to sign up to journey to Botkinburg, where a young knight named Gideon was explaining to possible new recruits the benefits and responsibilities required for serving as either a Gold, Emerald or Crimson Crusader.
After listening intently to Gideon, the young cleric strode up to the registration booth boldly declaring:
"My Name Is BluddGrinn The Grim!"
"I Hate Orcs!"
"Where Do I Sign Up?"
When asked which boat the young cleric would sign on to serve as a crusader in the service of the Empress Pryzmira, the cleric leaned forward, flashed his fiery red eyes and replied with a question of his own:
"What Color Are My Eyes?"
Posted on 2010-11-11 at 06:58:58.
Edited on 2010-11-11 at 07:18:47 by Hammer
Tohmaz sat near the middle of the boat, his back to the mast and facing the bow. He knew this was only a river but he still longer to be on solid ground again. The rocking of the boat and the sound of water slapping against the prow made him nervous. The rivers were part of Atira’s domain and he knew that they fed and nurtured the lands and forests, but still he felt he was suppose to walk his Goddesses land , place foot to soil as if one with his Goddess. The water separated him from good earth and that was uncomfortable. But it was necessary; he was returning to the lands of his heritage. Tohmaz let his mind drift and reflected on the life and events that placed him on this boat.
In the time before most men could remember, his people had lived in the Saelic Forest. They had stayed even when others felt the land turning to evil. When the Horned One had released his horde they were among the last driven out. But unlike many that fled to the deep south his people had only gone far enough to be out of the worst of the threat.
There his ancestors had lived in the forests near the shore of the lake known as Asfral. Living off the lands and defending it from the incursions from the north. In small bands they wandered wide, covering the lands from the Kourwood in the south to the Gulf of Barahia in the East to the river Drunerry in the north. So it was that they would be there to serve and protect, then move on. Among themselves they were known as “Wimachtendienk”, the Brotherhood. Those outside the people only knew that they had been help by the wild folks passing through and never realized that the Brotherhood was ever watching over the land.
The children of the people stayed with their birth mother. She tended their needs and sheltered them, but the tribe raised them. Although the birth father may be known, he was just the one that give the seed of life, the tribe rejoiced in that life, all taking part in the raising and teaching of the children. So it was that all were of the same family. The pairing of a man and a woman was not seen as something that was permanent unless those two chose to make it so. But this did not change the feeling of love and respect that was shared among the people. The sharing of seed and the bringing of life were part of the natural order.
As the young grew they felt the love of the people around them and in turn learned to love and respect all. They learned to love and respect nature. They learned to track and tread lightly upon the land, to hunt, to cook, make the daily things a tribe may need. They also learned to protect the people, the knife, the tomahawk, the lance and the bow became as part of them. The ways of war were taught as these were still unsafe times. Each of them then choosing what they felt the strongest, be that serving the needs in the camp, providing for the band, tending the needs of the body or protecting the people.
Tohmaz found he a sense of the forest and at healing those in need.To this end he dedicated himself to Goddess Atira. He had grown up hearing of the wilds at the foot of the Ridge. His heart yearned to see the lands of fable. He hoped that someday he could walk the old Saelic Forrest in her name and heal it from the deeply root evil that had so long dwelt there. And perhaps one day carry her healing power beyond to Blighted Screed.
With this dedication came the choice that he would have to leave his band. He would wander the lands learning the secrets of the plants and animals. Also seeking out the wise and learned of the people. Living with them, serving them and learning from them the secrets of the life forces. Plants, animals and the land itself had names ways that he must know.
The Shaman of each band shared the rites and ways to relive suffering, to cure diseases, heal wounds and to relive pain. He learned the how the human touch could aid in the healing of mind and spirit. The tender caress, the warmth of the body soothed and calmed.
The years passed and he grew to Manhood. He now stood tall, over six foot. His dark tanned body was strong and muscular. The sandy brown hair was tied back in a ponytail with a leather band around his head to keep any stray hair from falling in his eyes. His voice was a rich baritone that made the reciting of rituals sound almost like song. Dark brown eyes were set deep in chiseled face. It was little wonder that the woman of the bands took him and taught him the ways of pleasure. They shared themselves with him and taught him how to bring joy to the woman he was with. The harmony of spirit and love of people strengthened his healing skills.
The Shaman also taught him the ways of logic. To see what was best for all and how guide others to these ends. To learn that it is not the imposed will on the people that made things right, but right that made the will of the people. That great event can start from a small nudge. They taught him of his responsibility to uphold the high ideals, to be prepared and to not bring ill light on the ways of the Shaman. For it only take one false heart to taint all.
The day came when the teachers turned him out. It was the summer of his 23rd year. They had nothing more to teach. He now had to wander, practice his skills and find his way. The time would come when he would find the band that would need him and he would stay with them. So as he departed he was given simple basic supplies. His clothing he had made himself, Breeches, loin cloth, deer skin shirt and soft soled boots. He had tooled hide into leather and the leather into strong protective armor. The silhouette of a woman’s face was tooled below his left shoulder, the face of Alira. The armor was both strong and light weight, colored to bland in to the forest. It would help protect from the elements as well as attackers weapons. A floppy broad brimmed leather hat protected his head and eyes from the sun and rain. A long blade sheath knife and tomahawk hung from a waist belt. A strong hunting bow and quiver of arrows hang the backpack he had sewn. A warm wool sleeping blanket was rolled and tied to the pack. A reinforce water pouch hung from a log strap over his shoulder. In his pack were sacks of dried food and grain, flint and a sparker, bowls, sewing supplies, simple tools and rope.
Towmaz set out and for two years traveled alone. He served and healed the people and those other humans that crossed his path. His skills in the forest to heal damage that raiding Orcs and other creatures had done brought him feeling closer to his Goddess. He helped farmer to bring their lands to bare crops where once was barren land. He could feel Atira’s presents and felt guided by her will. The old feeling of his youth grew stronger; the want to return to the old lands and to cleans them in the name of Atira.
He journeyed near the city of Heimstadt. Here he heard of a call for the strong of heart to travel north and free the land that had been held by the evil for so long. This must be the will of Atira; that he should go to the Saelic Forest. So Tohmaz sought out where they were seeking volunteers to travel north. When he arrived there was only one group still taking members so he made his mark in the book and went to the dock. He had never been on a boat before and he was uneasy to board, so being one of last he gathers his pack and walked up the gangway. He had expected to see many on board, but there were few besides the crew. There were barely enough for a hunting party, was this to the band he would serve? Carrying his pack to the center of the boat Tohmaz sat on the deck so he couldn’t see the water and leaned against the mast.
Posted on 2010-11-12 at 04:35:31.
Edited on 2010-11-12 at 23:49:29 by Odyson
Brianna Not Dragon Mistress Karma: 105/32 2282 Posts
Description: At the start of this story Rhiannon is 6’2” tall, 165 lbs. of lean hard muscle in female form. Her hair is a shiny blue-black worn in a single thick braid down her back, if let loose form its confines it quickly curls riotously around her face. It has been a bane of her childhood so she mostly wears it plaited intricately as is typical of her people--often decorated with colored beads, ribbons, and feathers. She wears pants of natural buckskin that give her great freedom of movement and high laced soft boots, a cotton shirt, a leather vest and belt, pouch and back pack. Rhiannon carries a powerful re-curve long bow, a quiver of arrows, several daggers, and an iron tipped quarterstaff. She can use spears and shields but current does not carry any of them.
History of Rhiannon of The Thunderstorm clan of Amazons
HEr early years
Rhiannon was an Amazon born and bred. Her outlook on life was founded on her upbringing in an Amazon society. The Amazons ruled the great northern plains, the vast expanse of which held the herds of horses that were the wealth of the Amazons. They were a semi-nomadic people moving with the grasses and the seasons. They ranged over their vast lands from north to south--north in the summer and south in the winter. They had permanent settlements but those lay hidden and little known to outsiders. Amazons used tents when traveling between their permanent homes.
Born to the Thunderstorm clan chieftainess, Rhiannon was her youngest child--that counted. Females ruled the clans, and held the most important positions that made all the decisions. Males had roles in the clan as well, but no control and could not inherit. Only females could have a share of the horse herds and own land.
The majority of clans moved two times a year. When they did moved usually as one clan except the largest of them. Those needed to spread out more and went in tribal groups so that the grass was not totally depleted for the next tribe moving through. Most clans had a favorite route that was well established so that contact could be kept if needed. They herded their horses, and everyone was mounted from oldest to youngest.It was sometimes said by outsiders that Amazons were born on horseback and in some cases that was almost true. She herself had been born on the move from their winter home to their summer home. Once born, babes were carried in specially made packs with their mothers.
Rhiannon had known many Amazons who had moved with the clan in the advanced stages of pregnancy and when their time came they just stepped off their horses and gave birth. Amazons jealously guarded their lands. And to hold them Amazons woman were warriors of high repute--skilled with sword, bow, knife, shield, sling, and lasso. They used the mobility of their horses in fast lightning like strikes against their foes, especially the mounted archers who used the powerful re-curve composite horse bows.
Amazon girls were strictly raised regardless of birth status. They had duties to perform that prepared them for their life--small chores at first but of increasing importance. They learned to ride before they could walk far. By the time girls were eight seasons, they were given watch duties on the horse herds during the day. When Amazon girls turned ten they are given a foal of their own to raise. They sat with the mare until the foal was born and then stayed with that foal as close as it mother. Such responsibility helped to form the character of the Amazon girl. It was also a way for the adults to judge the child's fitness. Arms training came shortly thereafter. Stick swords, real bows and arrows, spears, slings, and shields were taught to them-- the weapons of the Amazons. As the girls learned their lessons in weaponry they learned the skills for training their own horses as well. When their foals were ready the girls were taught how to train them for war. Always the girls were evaluated and judged.
Rhiannon was typical of Amazon women, tall and well made. Her mother choose her sire well as she had for all her other children. For most of her life, Rhiannon often wished she was more like other Amazons. Most of Amazons had fair to tanned skin with blond hair of all shades, reds, auburns, and browns, ranging from light golden brown to dark kaffe brown hair and a rare few had black hair. Rhiannon had blue-black hair heavy and when left unbraided it curled in a riot around her face to her chagrin. She has large violet eyes of an unusual shade amongst her people and with very pale skin. She had been a big babe and remained that way growing up taller than most of her age--and she stood out. She grew to not like how different she was form her sisters, and cousins.
While all children had much to learns, more seemed to be expected of her both because of her physique and her birth. While she always tried hard to meet those expectations it she sometimes wished she didn’t have to. Rhiannon’s favorite time what that spent with her horses for now she had ten that were hers including her first horse--a fine young stallion, coming into his prime. He wasn’t one of the fastest but he was one with the most endurance and a great jumper. By the time she was fourteen she had 6 mares one for each year since she was 8, her share of the herd. Three had foals by their side. So she had a small heard that was her own responsibility as well as night herding duties and the warrior training. The time she hated the most was lesson on reading and writing—to her that was wasted time—time she did not have to practice fighting, time she did not have to work with her horses. But it was expected of all Amazons that they learn to read and write and study the history of their people.
At this time in her life was good for Rhiannon, though not easy, and often very hard, none-the-less she had been raised to survive the rigors of their semi-nomadic life of the Amazons. Her days were filled with training her horses, weapons practice, and taking watches on the herds, riding around the the perimeter and through the various bands under the arched bowl of the star filled night sky. With the horses all around the wind in the grass and the passage of the Moon on it appointed round, she felt closer to the divine at these times. Her tribe mostly worshiped, the Great Goddess. Rhiannon loved the festivals of the Goddess, and knew when she was sixteen, at the Summer Festival, she would take her place as an adult of her clan in a rite of passage—upon successful passage of said rite. In the meantime she must master those skills all Amazons must have to keep their clan safe and secure.
The Diffuicult Times
A New Path
A more recent Journey
Rhiannon's path now took towards her peoples lands. Her journey had Once bake ot the mainland Rhiannon made her way north and weat following the tracks she had been brought down. When Reaching she her the call for crusaders and went forth to answer that call. She traveled to the city wnamed and stop at several taverns for travelers that catered to those types that sold their services. and listened to the latest storied. Then she moved on to find the appointed place and person named in the announcements she signed up from the trip. When asked what ship "The Ruby, of course." she stated quietly.
Posted on 2010-11-12 at 20:40:58.
Edited on 2010-11-17 at 23:17:00 by Brianna
Trossach Graystone quickly set out to join the Crusade. It was not a short journey from Methirc to Aesperdi, so he decided to find work on the way.
The sea offered one route, but Trossach had always preferred to keep his feet on the ground. He’d been in plenty of small boats on rivers, streams and lakes, and gone swimming many times. But he wasn’t fond of the impenetrable nature of the waves. Or the way that iron sank. Had time been short he would have taken ship, but as there was time, he sought out a caravan taking the overland route to Ascalon. From there he assumed he would have no trouble reaching Aesperdi.
The trip was uneventful. Almost surprisingly so. While the Southern lands were far safer than his homeland further North, it was hardly tame. But for whatever reason, it was an easy and fast trip. Trossach quickly found himself in Ascalon. There was a small group of potential crusaders staying at the same tavern in the big city as Trossach, which was headed towards the crusader ships. Although a couple of them were clearly uneasy about his lineage, he joined the group for the final leg of the journey. A few may have looked askance at him at times, but none dared openly confront the half-orc barbarian. Irritated, Trossach could only believe them fools as they left themselves exposed at night to avoid staying near the half-orc.
When he had reached the ships, the other crusaders rushed ahead and signed on to the Gold Dragon ship. When Trossach approached the stall, two of the other crusaders who had scowled at him laughed and jeered, “The Ruby Ship for you half-orc! See if a curse affects your ilk!”
Trossach Graystone simply ignored the fools. Yet they were correct, the other ships were all full. All that remained was the cursed ruby dragon. Trossach did not consider himself superstitious, but nor was he a fool. While most curses were simply scared people looking for something where nothing existed, he knew that in a world of magic, curses could be real. He would have preferred the Emerald Dragon.
Still, amongst the Balliquois, curses were believed to be all in a person’s mind. Any curse, even if mere words, could take effect in a weak mind. Trossach did not consider his mind to be weak. He would die if HE failed in battle, not because of the success or failure of previous shiploads. And as he glanced at the sparsely populated deck of the ruby ship, he liked what he saw. While there were not many there, they would be strong minded individuals, not the type to be frightened off by rumors of curses. Those were the type of people he would want at his side in dangerous situations - Not those fools who had signed on to the Golden Ship.
Trossach looked down at the knight signing people up. “Trossach Graystone, Half-human. I would be proud to ride the Crimson Ship.”
It was a very cold and wet evening when an ancient elven priest named Tarwanilyn, was out walking through the depths of the Heimstat forest and came across this figure of half a man laying beside the foliage covered path, frozen and what seemed to be lifeless. As the priest drew closer to the figure, he noticed that it was not a man but an elf. This elf was very young looking, about 17 years of age or so. The priest ever so carefully approached the elf, and with his staff he nudged the seemingly lifeless body and to his surprise the boy leaped to his feet in an attack stance to defend his life with a fear giving gaze in his eye. The priest noticing the boy’s keen posture and abilities, in his response to the staff nudge, took a step back introduced himself and asked the young elf his name. Karvilo , the young elf stated. And whence have you came and whence are you goin’ asked the priest? Noticing the priest was an elf, Karvilo stated, I’m alone and have no home. So the Betula temple priest explained to Karvilo about Betula’s temple and offered to the boy a life of great discipline, courage, and honor. Without hesitation, Karvilo agreed to the priest with an oath of gratitude and loyalty.
Little has been known about Karvilo except that he had been raised by a deceased Ranger named, Epikar the Great, in the Gorgon Woods on the Isle of Ionus. Karvilo had not talked about any events of his past to anyone after the day he was found by Tarwanilyn
As Karvilo grew in the temple and in his worship to Betula he far exceeded the expectations of the temple priest. His skills in hunting were unmatched because of his stealth ability to move and not be seen. His sword worship was complex yet very graceful to the eye and deadly accurate. Karvilo learn to sustain himself with little food for long periods of time. Learning potions and use of magical jewelries and weapons has helped Karvilo to defend the temple from various thieves and evildoers. Over a 150 year period Karvilo succeeded in his yearly worship, in a battle for his life, that Betula requires for every worshiper as well as giving all his earnings to betula until he reached his 2nd level as an elven ranger. August 28th in the year 24 awd Tarwanilyn, the temple priest had given up the ghost and Karvilo was appointed as betula’s temple priest.
In the month of March in the year 30 awd Karvilo received a proclamation from Her Majesty Empress Pryzmira of Ascalon from a well worn trail rider carrying the proclamation to all the designated areas of New Aenocia.
Seeing the desperate nature of the decree, Karvilo determined that this was a call upon his destiny in the realm of New Aenocia. Not considering his current events or reality of the curse, Karvilo the Unseen, set his face as flint to his new journey of life. Karvilo had a special weapon given to him by his god Betula many years ago, to be use only when he was embarking on a great quest. The weapon was a special sword called Betula’s singing and dancing sword. Neither Tarwanilyn or Karvilo knew the powers that the sword carried but knew that it carried a aura of tantalizing delight.
Knowing that this was Karvilos’ destiny, Areana a young 97 years old elven cleric Karvilo’s soon to be wife, was filled with mixed emotions not knowing if he would ever return to her. As he began to prepare for his unknown journey, Karvilo showed little emotions toward his, soon to be elven wife, not wanting to be distracted from his driven purpose.
So with great courage and absolutely no fear whatsoever, for evlen rangers have no sense of fear, Karvilo set out to board one of the three boats at the Hruesen River. Karvilo had appointed a favored acolyte to “hold down the fort” until his return.
As karvilo walked out of the temple with the singing and dancing sword on his left hip, his Ramboish long bow across his back, and three quiver full of his best arrows, a wicked looking knife in a pouch on his right hip and three throwing knives in his utility belt that hung a little loose from around his waist and a short bow that shoots up to three arrows in a single pull. Karvilo stepped out onto the path thru the forest that lead to Lake Mu, all 5’10” and 165 lbs, with his sandy blonde teal streaked hair, and his luring, color changing eye’s and skin strutted on towards his destiny. But his heart could not stop reflecting back to the 5’3” blonde haired silver eyed beauty that he was leaving behind, for he was heart sick and driven with purpose at the same time. But he was fully persuaded that he was able to fulfill his destiny at all cost.
About half way between Heimstat and Lake Mu, just before karvilo reached the edge of the forest, he noticed several figures around a wagon with a couple of horses pulling it in the open field about 100 ft. from the forest ridge line. With great caution Karvilo approached a fallen tree at the edge of the field entrance using it as cover, he looked on to a group of, one eyed bandit road gnomes ambushing a family of half-pint Halflings. As normal, karvilo waits with great thought and patience to deliver the family of Halflings from the ill mannered gnomes. Karvilo then takes his Ramboish longbow and skips an arrow into the adjacent tree line. As the attention of the “one eyed shorty’s” gazed toward the sound of the arrow at the adjacent tree line, they stopped their pillage and slowly walked to the tree line. Karvilo then leaped out of the tree line with his second arrow pulled and sighted in on the closest gnome, released his arrow into the back of the gnomes head, penetrating through the one eye of the bandit. With incredible reflex, Karvilo then takes out 2 of his throwing knives while on the run toward the remaining two gnome bandits and unleashes both the knives in one throw. While one of the gnomes had looked back in time to see Karvilo’s knives in mid-air, he ducked and disappeared. But the other was not so lucky as the throwing knife ripped through his back and into the heart of the gnome, leaving him lifeless in the field.
The family of Halflings had ran up to Karvilo with great delight in there salvation from the terrorizing road gnomes, and we’re hugging his legs and speaking many blessings to Karvilo and paid him 50 silver coins for his heroic actions. As the where-abouts of the third “one-eyed shorty” was unknowed, Karvilo was not to concerned with it’s location and continued on toward Asperdi.
As Karvilo reached the southern tip of Lake Mu, the dark of night set in, so Karvilo set up camp for the night. Now in the 9th eve of his journey toward Asperdi with about half the distance covered, Karvilo ushered himself close to the warmth of the fire and began to drift into memories past with emotions current. He thought upon the many battle’s he encountered as he protected the temple armory time after time and the many lives he took in that defense. With thoughts of unknown what’s, where’s, and why’s that lie ahead, he drifts into a sound sleep in the confines his well camouflaged camp site.
As the break of sun was cast onto the water of the lake, it’s reflections had caught Karvilo’s eyes and brought him out of his deep sleep. Karvilo then picked up camp and began to continue on to the registration post just south of Asperdi.
Karvilo had reached the river that fed Lake Mu and had to find a crossing point that was often used for a safe delivery. About a ¼ mile south Karvilo found a low point that was filled with rocks of various sizes that was used to cross. Once Karvilo reached the west bank of the river he entered back into the deep forest which he would drudge thru until he reached the registration post. He figured it would take him about eight more days to arrive leaving a few days to relax before his next journey up the river to Botkinburg.
On the third evening after crossing the river Karvilo had sensed that he was being watched and perhaps even followed. So Karvilo had decided that he would continue on thru the night to try to loose the thing that he sensed was following him. Using the night and his keen sense of direction Karvilo decided to take his follower back in a circle to bring it into plain sight.
As Karvilo circled back south first and then east he had done just as he planed, but to his awe struck surprise as his follower was revealed, he saw the out line of a 2ft. “Road” gnome. The same gnome that escaped the shimmering blade the was intended to take it’s life. But the gnome was not alone; he had brought several of his friends with the intent to kill Karvilo. As Karvilo attempted to disappear thru the trees of the woods he found him self surrounded by enemies of all sorts. He then drew out his short range bow with 3 arrows ready to be loosed. Hiding in the dark shadows of the night karvilo noticed not only was there more of the bandit road gnomes but several renegade kobolds. Releasing his triple shot Karvilo took down two would be attackers of the of the gnome race.
Now reveling his location, Karvilo the unseen, was now seen by several of the Kobolds who thrust several arrows in his direction. Hearing the first arrow wiz by his keen elf ear, Karvilo dashed to the next tree, but as he stepped out from behind the current tree, he took an arrow across his rights arm, tearing about a ½ in. of flesh and a second arrow had penetrated thru his left thigh, leaving his speed and agility at a disadvantage.
Taking aim again with his triple shot bow he fired several times into the darkness taking out more rebels. Fighting to escape this band of evil doers Karvilo looked around himself noticing that he was surrounded by more kobolds and that one road gnome that just won’t die. Taking several blows to the body by the clubs of the kobold karvilo drew out his wicked looking long bladed knife, cutting with precision he managed to take out another kobold. As 4 kobolds drew near to Karvilo, something happened that saved his life. A couple of near by goblins traveling down a beaten path thru the woods had set off the sword that Karvilo was given by Betula. The light was so bright in the eyes of the kobold that they had ran off in a blind fury giving Karvilo the opportunity he needed to escape.
Morning began to emerge into the woods and karvilo was loosing blood quickly. Not having strength to keep movin, Karvilo had lost consciousness and passed out.
When Karvilo had regained his consciousness he found himself in the back of a wagon bandaged up and traveling to the south away from his planned destination. But still being without strength he noticed that he was with a couple of male half-lings. As Karvilo mustard up enough strength to sit up in the wagon he sees the horses leading down a path to a home with smoke rising up out of the chimney. As the wagon comes to a halt the two half-ling men notice Karvilo is awake and asked what had happened to him?
Karvilo began to explain the happenings as they carried him into the house with the smoke coming out of the chimney. The half-ling family was very gracious toward Karvilo as they cared for all his needs.
After a few days of recovery, Karvilo began to journey back to Asperdi in hopes now to not miss the boats going to Botkinburg, for he knew that he didn’t have much time to waste getting to the registration booth.
As Karvilo had some how managed to get to the registration booth in the nick of time, the knight at the booth was getting ready to “close up shop” because the first two boats had already began their travel and the ruby river boat was bout to leave dock. Karvilo declared to Gideon, the knight at the booth, just hold on a minute, I’ve traveled for weeks to get to these boats. I’ve fought against all odds to get here, was wounded and beaten by a band of one eyed road gnomes and a group of kobolds , I was carted miles in the wrong direction, and now I’m here and that boat ain’t leav’n with out me.
Well you better sign yur name on the line said Gideon, cause when that boat in gone you’ll be a travel’n up the river path on your own.
So Karvilo signed his name and made a mad dash for the ruby as she was already 5ft off the dock. Karvilo then leaped out over the water to the boat where a long silver haired and bearded dwarf caught Karvilo by the Hand and pulled him into the boat.
Hruesen River 1am
Ruby River Boat
May 7, 30awd (After Winter Dark)
The second night of the full moon shone eerily upon the brackish waters of the Hruesen River, as silent in its glimmer as the twisted shadows cast upon the waters from the forest on the left bank and the jagged rocks protruding from misshapen boulders on the right bank.
Thus far the journey up river to Botkinburg had proven to be almost monotonous. There seemed to be no signs of threat or danger that first day as the enthralled gnomes brought food and drink to their “guests” and the occasional bucket and pan of water for the passengers to relieve or refresh themselves.
The five women on board were afforded the courtesy of linen sheets hung in the air between the Ruby Dragon prow and the mast supporting the single sail by the magics of the enthralled gnomes. This lent them a bit of privacy from the prying eyes of any of the fifteen men on board; but scarcely shielded any of their grunts, groans or sighs of relief from any listening ears.
The enthralled gnomes merely stared blankly without any note of interest when they retrieved the buckets of waste and the pans of dirty water, which were magically deposited below deck for appropriate disposal when the Ruby River Boat reached its destination.
Botkinburg was now a mere 7 hours journey by enchanted river boat and any thought of disturbance or delay had long ago been dismissed by the most wary of adventurers.
The enthralled gnomes brought bedrolls and blankets for their passengers the first night to spread about on the deck of the boat as it pleased the individual to find a suitable place to sleep without disturbing any of their Crimson Crusader comrades.
That first night passed uneventfully. No unnaturally augmented sounds from beyond the shores of either bank was a cause for alarm. Only the occasional shriek or cry of some type of prey falling victim to a predator cut through the silence, but faded away within moments without further disturbance.
The sixth day of May proved to be no more than a sightseeing tour up the river as the various adventurers struck up conversations with one another and traded tales of valor and other possible exaggerations as the enthralled gnomes served them food and drink to their hearts content.
Occasionally a deer or other wild game good for the appetite would be glimpsed at either shore lapping the water, then bounding or scurrying away before one of the adventurers had time to think about loosing an arrow or a bolt in the direction of a live forest animal to target for wager or mere sport.
In the late afternoon a misshapen hill giant appeared among the rocks of the eastern shore on the right side of the boat, well out of range from any spells or missile weapons, growling unintelligible gibberish as it hurled a few boulders at the Ruby River Boat from nearly 300 feet away.
It was at this point of the journey that the Crimson Crusader adventurers witnessed first hand that the Ruby River Boat was truly enchanted from harm as the well aimed boulders mysteriously fell short of their intended target, splashing harmlessly in the waters of the Hruesen River.
The hill giant beat at a broken rock formation with its giant club and howled in disgust as the river boat made its way unharmed and unimpeded up river, but no other grotesque humanoid or band of evildoers answered or acknowledged the frustrated howling alarm of the hill giant.
A few hearty laughs and more tales of real or imagined adventures settled in upon the merry band as the Ruby River Boat disappeared from view around another bend.
As the day wore on it soon became apparent that some of the party were whispering among themselves that the so-called Curse of the Crimson Crusaders was as much a fantasy as some of the tales of adventure and far fetched exploits being swapped with snickers of laughter among the passengers.
The long shadows of evening soon gave way to welcome moonlight as the adventurers made merry celebration of their anticipated good fortunes for signing on as Crimson Crusaders for 100 gold coins and the promise of untold treasure and glory that awaited them!
Bedrolls and blankets lay unused as many of the adventurers were unusually boisterous at the prospect of having chosen an opportune time to sign on as Crimson Crusaders without any sign of trouble on either side of the Hruesen River, other than the defiant hill giant earlier that previous afternoon.
It was a romantic kind of a night as the Half Elf Bard Shayleigh Bran entertained her Crimson Crusader companions with poetic songs of splendor mixed with orations of inspired poetry, praising her deity Brigit for her skill at war and her beauty. Although no one else shared the Bard's enthusiasm for worshiping Brigit, they did applaud and beg for more inspired poems to help pass the remaining hours of the final night before reaching Botkinburg.
The young Rogue Brenys Darkeyes was using her feminine wiles with all her shapely contours and dexterous talents to toy with the emotions of 2 human fighters who were vying for her affections and attention in a clumsy attempt for a possible threesome if in all unlikelihood they got lucky; while Rhiannon Thunderstorm the Monk glared at any man who even remotely thought of trespassing against her personal space without her express permission, which was nigh impossible for any man during this particular voyage!
Two other human couples were already embracing one another under the light of the full moon, having decided that the next few hours would be better spent together than being alone, yearning for each others company before morning found them in Botkinburg.
One couple standing near the left railing at the middle of the boat were already oblivious to any sights or sounds around them as they pressed their male and female bodies together in smoldering embrace, eyes searching each other and tongues probing and darting as the sweet nectar of passion began to consume their senses.
The other couple near the right railing further down towards the stern of the boat were slowly caressing each another, exchanging nibbles on the neck and ear, stealing sweet probing kisses, swaying together as a man with a woman will do in the moonlight, unaware of anyone or anything else, save their own quickening heart beats as they gently, then fiercely, pulled each other closer with a common goal in mind that burned with mounting urgency.
The Shaman Tohmaz Goodwood sat cross legged on the deck of the ship, first studying the curious Elf Ranger Karvilo the Unseen, who in turn had his eye on the curious Halfling Fighter Drogo Tulk of the Short Swords who was huddled against the left railing near the stern where a huge burly 7 foot tall human fighter, whose chest and belly were much too large for the worn out armor he was wearing, towered over Drogo as he berated the possible fighting prowess of the Halfling.
Then the Shaman looked further to the right side of the stern where the Half Orc Barbarian Trossach Graystone took up a solitary position seated away from the others, his attention focused somewhere along or beyond the shadowy scenery upon the moonlit banks of the east shore of the Hruesen River.
Not far from the Barbarian stood the Dwarf Cleric BluddGrinn the Grim who seemed to be sizing up the potential of the Barbarian as a true warrior, before exchanging perceptive glances with the Shaman, then nodding to Karvilo to whom the dwarf cleric had extended a helping hand as the boat was leaving port, then snorted in amusement at the predicament the Halfling Fighter Drogo Tulk seemed to be having with the burly human fighter, until his personal reverie was interrupted by the boisterous applause that suddenly caught his attention from the 4 other human fighters gathered in a semi-circle around the Bard Shayleigh Bran with their backs turned toward the left railing.
The Bard was making her exit as she dramatically excused herself and took a seat on her bed roll up against the right railing of the boat, as a tall scrawny melodramatic human wizard took her place and began weaving a tale of glory and grandeur that awaited the company of Crimson Crusaders who were bonding together before reaching Botkinburg.
"Furthermore ... there are great treasures to be found around ... and beyond ... the Black Tooth Ridge! The way is fraught with terrible dangers ... bandits and war parties ... monsters of indescribable horror ... lurkers of unknown origins ... but fear not my Crimson Crusader comrades ... I will lead you to glories as yet untold ... I will protect one and all with my powers ... indeed ... my powers will rout out the evil taintin' the land ... and I will UUURRRRKKKKKK ..."
A cross bow bolt through the throat put a swift end to the irritating sound of the self pontificating wizard and his prattling chatter!
Mere moments before, the burly huge 7 foot tall human fighter towering over the Halfling Fighter continued his antagonistic and sarcastic remarks regarding the possibility of the fighting abilities of Drogo Tulk of the Short Swords!
"Don't worry lil one! I be protectin' ye from those who would separate ye from yer gold coins! Jes' look a' d size o' ye! Look a' d blades ye' carry! Ye' do well ta slice d toes o' d enemy! Maybe on a good day d knee caps! An' wha' abou' any treasure ye be tryin' ta' carry? No need ta' fear ya lil bitty runtkin! I be carryin' ur share o' d treasure! 'Cause I be protectin' ye' from all sorts o' danger an' UUUUUHHHHHHH ..."
Suddenly 16 arrows and 4 cross bow bolts simultaneously struck the burly boaster in his exposed chest and belly as he fell forward against the railing, pinning Drogo Tulk to the deck, ironically providing his promised protection from danger!
As the prattling wizard fell lifeless to the deck in a dribbling puddle of blood, his audience of four followed him down into the unexpected depths of death as 2 arrows and a bolt claimed each of their lives! Soon the puddle was an ever growing pool of crimson flowing outward upon the deck.
The Curse of the Crimson Crusaders had seemingly struck again upon the Ruby River Boat.
Both embracing couples died in each others' arms as 2 cross bow bolts struck each of them simultaneously as they groped each other in their unbridled passion of romance under the moonlight.
Their oozing blood mingled on the deck of the boat in a crimson flow, just as they had passionately desired to ecstatically mingle and entwine themselves together in the comfort of one of their bedrolls, now forever denied the pleasure of being fulfilled in this life in the way of a man with a maiden.
Meanwhile, the 2 human fighters failed to make it a threesome with the Rogue Brenys Darkeyes as their futile actions proved to be fatally unlucky as a bolt and an arrow claimed their lives as they crumpled to the deck in a pool of crimson flow!
It was much more than luck for the Rogue Brenys Darkeyes whose worship of Coyote proved to be a life saver! The bolt and arrow meant for her heart sailed harmlessly past either side of her as the Coyote Armband protected her from the missile attack from the silent and unseen enemy somewhere in the forest west of the Hruesen River shore.
Rhiannon Thunderstorm the Monk had no such trinket from her deity to save her life! Fortunately only 2 of the 3 arrows launched her way found their target, as Rhinnona glared at the shenanigans of the Rogue Brenys enticing the 2 human fighters mere seconds ago! She was totally unaware of an attack and had no forewarning to use her ability to deflect the arrows.
One arrow thudded deep into her left shoulder that impacted a sudden burst of unexpected painful light in her mind, that was accompanied at the same time by a second arrow cutting across her right arm, causing her blood to flow a rich crimson!
Fortunately the third arrow flew harmlessly past her head as she was aware of the simultaneous cries of sudden death claiming her unsuspecting Crimson Crusader companions!
She slowly sank to the deck of the river boat as the realization that she had been wounded by unseen and unknown foes, which brought back memories of her slaughtered sisters and her own desire to avenge their deaths! She silently vowed that these unknown devils would somehow someday forfeit their lives for this sudden and unexpected act of cowardice!
As suddenly as the rain of arrows and bolts had burst upon the unsuspecting passengers on the Ruby River Boat, all was eerily quiet with no sign or sound of the mysterious attackers to be seen or heard from beyond the forested shore as the enchanted river boat continued its trek unhindered up the Hruesen River to Botkinburg.
The enthralled gnomes stared blankly at the fallen Crimson Crusaders and the crimson flow of blood that escaped their lifeless bodies. They just went about their business as if the mayhem unleashed upon the Ruby River Boat were merely a dream.
It was up to the survivors to tend to any wounded and to decide what to do with the bodies of their fallen comrades. Sooner or later one or more of the enthralled gnomes would be swabbing the deck and the crimson flow would be removed as it had been done thrice the previous year.
The remaining Crimson Crusaders would soon arrive in Botkinburg without any further incidents from either side of the river. They had learned a costly lesson under the moonlight, but there was much more to learn in the not too distant future.
Their lives would depend upon how they would react and work together against the hidden, unknown and unsuspected hazards that waited impatiently for them and other adventurers beyond the simple borders of Botkinburg.
NOTE from the CASTLE KEEPER
Rhiannon Thunderstorm the Monk has lost 13 hit points and has 11 remaining, so she needs some immediate assistance to stop the bleeding and receive some healing and restoration!
Upon examination of the arrows and bolts you will discover a black lightning bolt insignia on each arrow and bolt shaft.
When comparing notes with one another and upon examination of the dead bodies, you will determine that 50 shots were fired from 20 cross bows and 30 composite long bows simultaneously, which explains why no enemy was detected either before or after the attack.
The attack was launched far out of range of any spell casting abilities of the survivors and happened so suddenly and unexpectedly that every survivor was too shocked to return fire blindly into the silent forest as the river boat continued its journey up river unhindered.
Shayleigh, Tohmaz, Trossach, Karvilo, BluddGrinn and Drogo were the only Crimson Crusaders sitting down on the deck mere moments before the barrage of bolts and arrows were unleashed simultaneously, which accounts for them not being fired upon by the unknown assailants.
Your posts should reflect your physical and mental reactions to the sudden unexpected attack, your inward thoughts as you attend to your fallen comrades (Rhiannon is the only one left alive among the ranks of the fallen adventurers) and any spoken words your character might express in the aftermath of the attack as your journey continues unhindered to Botkinburg.
Of course, you may want to post what you might do in the QnA for any discussion, maybe not so much for this post, but certainly for those to come in the near future!
Also you are free to PM one another about the possibility of certain actions or plot developments between your characters as the adventure develops!
Trossach looked around the ship as he boarded. It was a mixed crew. Not big, but would do.
He found a comfortable place against the rail to watch the city and the other potential crusaders. It was always good to know who would be at your back. He surveyed the ship that would carry them northward. He didn’t like it - not at all. It wasn’t the ship, but the gnomes. In some way he didn’t completely understand, they were magiced. Enthralled is how the knight had described it, but whatever name you wish to put to it, it seemed very clear that they were not masters of their own destiny.
Trossach was not a fan of slavery. It looked like slavery to him. He didn’t like it. Was a slaver civilization worth saving? The lesser of two evils . . . what a thing to risk your life for.
So Trossach spent most of the voyage sitting with his back against the railing. He contemplated the woods around them, the state of the gnome sailors, and the nature of his companions. Some impressed him. Some did not. He understood amorous desires, even as a half-orc was unlikely to ever truly experience much in that way himself, but they seemed misplaced. And if the couples thought that this was their “last chance,” well, with an attitude like that it probably would be. The Bard’s music was nice, even if the audience was amusing.
The giant man and the Halfling brought a small smile to Trossach’s lips. The big man was a fool. No doubt he was strong and anyone that got hit by him was likely to stay hit for a long time. But needing to brag of one’s strength was a sign of weakness, a lack of confidence. Oddly, he found himself liking the little Halfling. He had rarely encountered Halflings before, so he had little personal experience to draw on, but the big man seemed to be making some foolish assumptions. He had seen the one called Drogo walk the ship over the last several days, and while he not drawn a blade, he clearly moved with the grace of one used to weapons.
The big man, on the other hand, seemed to assume that his small stature meant that little Drogo was not dangerous. Trossach smiled at that thought. Little Drogo sat there quietly and ignored the big man. To Trossach that did not look like the actions of someone who was not dangerous. A coward or a weakling would cower in the face of a mountainous bully. But the Halfling hardly appeared to be paying any attention – an appearance Trossach doubted was in fact the case. He had seen little beasts take on big ones before. There was a bit of the wolverine in the Halfing, he guessed. And he had seen wolverines take on bears many times their size. No, if the taunting came to blows, he would not have placed his money on the big man. But even as he grimaced at the actions of the big fool, the image of the Halfling as a wolverine made him smile.
Trossach’s thoughts were cut short by the sudden flight of arrows. From one second to another, the big man suddenly held more arrows than most quivers - and not in the best way possible. He tumbled over onto the Halfling. Arrows flew all over the ship.
Trossach kept his head down behind the side of the ship, grabbed his bow and quickly strung it. 3 seconds later he peered cautiously over the side trying to figure out whom or what had attacked them. There was nothing in sight.
With nothing to target, he kept his head down and scanned the sides. There was no sense in providing a target that he could not retaliate against. From his spot by the side of the railing he surveyed the damage – it was extensive. Many of the Crimson Crusaders lay dead on the deck. A couple more were injured. Only a few were, like him, uninjured. Even the little Halfling lay pinned beneath his giant tormentor.
After the ship had rounded a bend in the river, Trossach quickly rose and, keeping his head down, moved to the various fallen to see if any were still alive. Because he had seen no arrows hit him, his first move was to the side of the half-buried Halfling. Trossach lifted the man off, allowing the Halfling to squirm out from underneath.
‘Even buried in a burrow like a wolverine or badger’ he thought. “Come little Wolverine, let us attend to the wounded.” He hardly realized he had spoken the name aloud.
With the Halfling free, Trossach moved to examine the wounded. Only one was still alive. Trossach would have attended to her wounds, but there were others more suited to such tasks than he. So instead he examined the other bodies to confirm the fatalities while keeping a close eye on the surrounding woods.
The curse came to mind of course, but he immediately dismissed it – the crusaders had been killed by arrows, not curses. There was a real enemy out there in the woods. A real, physical enemy that could shoot arrows – and presumably, could be shot in the same way. But Trossach was ready to get off of the river, he felt far too exposed in the craft.
Brenys gave a quick prayer to coyote thanking her for the protection, thoughts were swirling through her head. She had to gather her thoughts, firstly she searched the two bodies of the lusting males in front of her, finding their gold quickly, she would have taken it even if they were alive.
Then seeing a fallen crusader she went over to help, staying low fearing another ambush, she whispered a few words into her ear “stay strong the gods will come through for you.” She shouted for assistance from someone with healing capabilities. Hoping someone on board would be able to help, all she could do is wait.
Drogo Tulk was just trying to mind his own business while enjoying the songs and poetry from the poetic lips of Shayleigh Bran the Bard as the Ruby Red River Boat made its way through the moonlit darkness up the Hruesen River.
He tried to ignore the more amorous couples as the humans seemed to be ruled more by their passions of the moment than the rationale of true fighters and adventurers.
Besides, they were uncomfortably reminding the Halfling Fighter of his own growing feelings for the beautiful halfling maiden Eva Whitefoot and his desire to marry her. This bothered him just a little bit because Drogo had been sent forth with great feasting from the Sword Studio of his deity Preston Tallfellow to begin his quest for the perfect sword.
He was wrestling with the thoughts of seeking treasure and first collecting his 100 gold coins of the Realm to give to Eva's father as a token of his intentions to marry her, but such thoughts of his were being intruded upon by the burly huge 7 foot tall human fighter whose chest and belly were protruding from a nearly worn out battered armor that did not look to be adequate enough protection for the fighter who was belittling Drogo's own stature and ability as a fighter.
Drogo was determined to try to ignore the big oaf, but the halfling was slowly realizing that the only possible way for him to silence the bellowing boaster may be by his unsheathing his two short swords, dancing around the ankles of the big buffoon, then slapping his fat belly with the flats of his short swords until he could get some peace and quiet and return to his solitary reverie.
But in a matter of moments Drogo Tulk of the Short Swords was denied the opportunity as suddenly his antagonistic comrade was riddled with cross bow bolts and arrows. Before the halfling could react, the burly huge human fighter fell forward, pinning the halfling to the deck as the crimson blood flowed freely from the mortal wounds, staining the trail worn tunic of Drogo Tulk.
As the blood of the dead fighter poured upon Drogo Tulk, the Halfling Fighter struggled beneath the dead weight of his fallen comrade, turning his head to the side to prevent the blood from clogging his own nose, so he would not choke for lack of air to breathe.
After what seemed like a momentary eternity, Drogo was suddenly freed from the dead weight as Trossach the Barbarian pulled the dead body away from the pinned halfling. Drogo blinked as he stared into the eyes of the Barbarian, then stood up and nodded his thanks, before seeking an enthralled gnome to bring him a water pan to wash away the crimson stain as best he could until he could reach Botkinburg and get a proper change of battle garments.
As Drogo waited for a pan of water, the Halfling Fighter surveyed the dead bodies, noted that Rhiannon was alive and in capable hands of healing her hurts, then took a position by the left railing to see if any movement in the forest beyond would reveal the location of the attackers.
Noting the black lightning bolts on the bolts and arrows that claimed the lives of several of his Crimson Crusader comrades, Drogo Tulk of the Short Swords muttered to himself, "I need to get a cross bow and plenty of bolts before we leave Botkinburg if this is any indication of what awaits us along the Black Tooth Ridge and beyond where we may go?"