Grand Duchy 8

Grand Duchy of Adventure

Session 8
March 15, 2014 - March 26, 2014

Bad Tidings, a Feast and Forming a Company

Loshdain 9th of Thaumont, 1001AC

After a long day, the tired and wounded companions finally make it back to the homestead. It is well after dark, but everyone is still awake, anxious for their return. Pytor is ecstatic to see that at good number of the horses were recovered. But then his mood turns dour again. “Come, inside. There are more bad tidings for you to hear.”

Thrilled to have been a part of the adulation that Pytor lavished upon us for recovering the horses, Draven’s not ready for more bad news. “Perhaps a meal, and a chance to wash up before we reconvene and hear of this ill news?” He looks down at himself with some distaste. “I smell worse than any of the horses just now…”

Griffin slides off Wildfire, almost stumbling. He makes an effort to help settle the herd, but Matvey and Irina are already moving amongst the group, leading horses off to corrals and stable. He hands the reins to the young boy and winces as he grabs his kit off the saddlehorn. He makes his way into the homestead.

“Easy there,” says Draven, catching hold of Griffin and guiding him towards the homestead. “Marcel, get hold of Taras there as well, help him inside.” Turning his head back to the homestead, Draven calls out in Traladaran “Kuzma, I’ve got two more for your grandmotherly care!”

Once inside the homestead, it is clear to see why Kuzma did not respond to Draven’s call. She was already tending to the wounds of four other men new to Susikyn. They are all Traladarans and one of them seems oddly familiar. After a moment, he is identified as Villie, on of the rowers from Captain Kalanos’s boat. Pytor introduces one of the men, “This is Gregor, one of the foremen at the Ilyakana lumber camp to the north of here. These other’s are Bisk and Fedor, both lumbermen, and the last here is Villie, a rower on Kalanos’ boat. Their camp was attacked the night before we were attacked here. The Goblins, both Wolfskull and Red-Blade, fell upon the encampment just after dark, just after the Kalanos’ boat arrived. But come, you are tired and hurt. You have done well, you have recovered many of the horses, and then some.”

Gregor gives Pytor a sad look and mumbles quietly, “Can we talk of this no more tonight. Let us rest and we shall speak of this again tomorrow.” Irina, who had been tending to some wounds on Fedor’s leg suddenly begins crying and runs out of the room toward the kitchen. Bahaznic, who had been sitting quietly in the corner of the room with his face in his hands jumps up and runs upstairs, going into the door that leads to the tower. Some of the other homesteaders look at these two youth as they storm out of the room, but no one says anything, they just keep their heads down and continue doing what they had been doing.

“Yes, no more shall be spoken of these dreadful things tonight. Let us tend to our wounded, secure the homestead and get some sleep.” Pytor then moves toward the front door and heads out into the dark night.

Burik and Akaios both seem to be recovering from their wounds quite well. They are seated near the back of the room with Ree quietly playing some cards. When Burik sees his companions looking in his direction, he frowns a bit and shakes his head while glancing around the room.

Draven is torn in multiple directions at once. At first, he thinks to speak with Pytor about what hurt has befallen Irina, and then Bahaznic, but with Pytor also leaving, he’s left with no sure course of action.

Griffin gives the homesteaders some space and goes to sit by his friends. “Deal me in,” he says, as he slowly eases into a wooden chair. He gets about two seconds of peace before both Burik and Akaios insist on the tale of his wound.

“Wait a minute!  Is that your blood?,” Burik says. “See what happens when we’re not around, Akaios?  Griffin learns how important we are to keep his hide intact!” Griffin shakes his head, but gives the group a very brief telling of his adventures. The ribbing continues as the cards are dealt. For some reason, they find it greatly amusing that he suffered such at the hands of a woman, expert fencer or no.

When Kuzma sees Griffin and Taras’ wounds, she abruptly tells them to sit down and then shoves a steaming hot mug of something into their hands. “Drink, Thyatian. It make you strong like Owlbear.” The concoction is pungent, but Griffin sees Taras quickly gulp it down. Almost immediately, Griffin feels less like something the cat dragged in. Kuzma then goes into a healing prayer to one of her patrons. After her laying on of hands, both men are doing much better.

Griffin nods at her ministrations. “Thank you, babushka, for your blessings and those of your patrons.”

“Wise one, you must teach me the secrets to your owlbear brew,” says Draven, forcing jocularity into his voice at seeing the initial response in the two men. Lowering his voice, he takes her aside and asks her conspiratorially “None want to speak of what has transpired here, but many of the folk here are hurt in their souls, even if their bodies are hale and whole. Have they lost kin at this lumber camp? What befell them that leaves them so afflicted?”

Kuzma looks at Draven with one wide eye. If he didn’t know better, he would think the woman was putting the evil eye on him! She grunts and scurries off back toward the injured lumber men. Instead of following her, Draven slides over to where Griffin and his friends are talking. Marcel and Remar are nearby, hoping to get the scoop about what had happened in their absence.

Burik speaks softly, trying not to upset any of the homesteaders nearby. “So them Goblins, they attacked this lumber camp just a ways north of here. Actually, I guess they attacked the lumber camp first, would have been the same night we got ambushed on the river. So thats where Kalanos and his boat were headed. It was that same night, just after the boat arrived. The Goblins hit the camp harder than they hit here. Burnt the wall down and then swarmed the place, from what old Gregor says. They say everyone was either slaughtered or captured. Pytor’s brother Stephan,Bahaznic’s father, was on that boat. He was taken prisoner by the Goblins. That’s why everyone here is so upset. He lives here. He is related to most of the folk here in this homestead. He is their family. He hired us for this job. This is crazy, but these are good folk. They have been nothing but good to us here, even in their time of troubles, they have gone out of their way to be accommodating.” Akaios and Ree nod silently their agreement with Burik’s description of the events.

“You don’t need to justify your feelings about these people,” says Draven, keeping his voice conspiratorially low. “Something has set these events, and these evil goblins, into motion. And the Immortals, be they Traladaran or Thyatian, demand and expect justice.”

Soladain 10th of Thaumont, 1001AC

A Rainy Day

The night passes without incident and the with the morning comes strong winds and rain. The homestead feels extra warm and cozy due to the weather outside and with even more inhabitants than usual, the place seems quite crowded, though not uncomfortably so. Kuzma insists that Griffin join the wounded folk and rest for the day. Taras and Alfana’s bedroom upstairs has been turned into a makeshift infirmary, with extra blankets and cots brought into the room. Burik and Akaios are still confined here for the majority of the day, as are Gregor, Villie and one of the other men from the lumber camp. The other lumberman’s wounds were not that great and he is released from the infirmary that morning. The homesteaders go about their day to day activities, going out of their way to help and accommodate any of their visitors. The young mother, Masha, has stopped her crying from the other night, though still seems considerably upset. Bahaznic is not seen around the main room all morning.

Draven Wants to Know

After his morning prayers, Draven visits his injured friends, hoping to hurry their healing along a bit, but he is intercepted by Kuzma. The old woman admonishes Draven for attempting to use his divine healing magic on the injured that morning. “You have the favor of the Immortals, you can use that power for great good, boy. But do not waste it or use it lightly. Your friends will mend, in time. If they are not so stubborn and stay in bed. Do not always rely on divine power to take care of what can be done with mortal hands.”

With Taras confined to the infirmary, Draven gives the rest of the homestead a once-over, looking for those who might need a chance to talk, a shoulder to cry on, or otherwise are impacted by news from the lumber camp. He pays close attention to looking for Irina and for Bahaznic, but also keeps an eye out for Pytor. Seeing Pytor focusing on mundanities like ensuring payment with Marcel, he leaves him to the anodyne of normalcy.

When Ree returns to the main floor, he asks her quietly “Have you seen Irina? I’ve not seen her since she fled in tears, nor Bahaznic. I would give such solace as I can to them during this time.”

This seems to be the cue for Irina to arrive with breakfast, and Draven waits for her to complete her duties before approaching her, if she allows it.

Irina sees Draven watching her as she prepares a tray of food to be taken upstairs to the wounded men. “My lord,” she addresses him formally, her red, tired eyes down but Draven detects a hint of blush in her cheeks. “What can I do for you? I was just heading up to take a meal to the wounded men upstairs.”

“Oh, please. ‘Draven’ will suffice. I am not nearly of rank high enough to be granted such titles. I will walk with you, if I may. I only wish to make myself available to you. I know you’ve been through… a terrible shock these last few days.”

“Yes my, um, Draven. Thank you. Yes, you may walk with me. I am taking this food to those resting upstairs. I need to look at their bandages as well. I would be happy for you to join me.” She blushes again and picks up the tray and heads upstairs. “If you could, please bring that pitcher of water with you,” she asks.

Happy to have something to do with his hands in the face of another blushing beauty, Draven gladly takes the pitcher. For a young acolyte, being able to help in times of trouble is something he should be ready for at a moment’s notice, but real life was far more complicated than his instructors had led him to believe.

“I know the people in the infirmary are healing up with time, but… what of you? How are you faring?”

Irina shrugs her shoulders as she mounts the stairs to the second floor. “This life here is hard, though not usually this hard. I am worried for my uncle, but I am more worried for my cousin Bahaznic. He has taken this news hard. His father has always been a wanderer, but in all his travels, he has always come back. This time feels different. We are all scared for him. And the Goblins, they have always been trouble, but they mostly bicker with each other and leave us alone. Banded together like this makes them brave and dangerous. Halav help us. My father will figure it out, he always does!” She turns to Draven at the top of the stairs and gives him a half smile before heading into the ‘infirmary.”

Marcel Accepts Payment

Pytor finds Marcel in the common room after breakfast and takes him aside. “I wish to thank you and your companions again, friend. You have done right by my people. As promised, here is your reward for bringing back some of my horses.” He nods toward a nearby table that holds a small wooden box. He opens it to reveal 5 small pouches bulging with coins. “500 Royals. 20 Royals per horse and you brought back 25 horses. Thank you.”

“We’re sorry for all of your loss.”, mutter Marcel as he stares at the biggest pile of cash that he has ever set eyes on. “Them goblins are a pain in the shield strap”. His attempt at compassion falls flat. He seeks Griffin and Draven. Griffin is resting in the infirmary. “Them gold is burning my fingertips. Griffin, friend, you are good with numbers. We should invest into something bigger.”

Griffin is about to fall asleep, he rubs his eyes:
“Yeah, why don’t we talk about this after I rest”, he replies as he takes the loot along.

Marcel isn’t sleepy anymore. He heads for what’s left of the stables and ask around for the tallest, most robust of the warhorses. He holds that these are the stablest, least fazeable beast on the field. That fits well with his future self-image.

Marcel finds the horse he had been eyeing the day before, a fine steed if he has ever seen one before. He imagines himself mounted upon the horse, leading a company of soldiers. A colorful banner hung from the end of his spear, blowing in the air. He is shaken from his daydream by a hand on his shoulder. It is Pytor again. “She is a fine specimen of a horse. You might want to let me handle her for a few days before you go riding off on her though. Trained warhorses are not the easiest friends to make. I will talk to her, though, if you like me to.” Marcel nods, understanding where Pytor is coming from. “Now, where is that chain shirt I saw you messing with the other day. I thought you came out here to fix it but then I didn’t see you wearing it.”

Marcel produces the mail armor and shows Pytor the problems he is having with it. Pytor takes some time showing Marcel the proper way to adjust this kind of armor. “It takes a little time to do it right, but doing it right is the only way to do it,” he says. Thankful, Marcel spends the next several hours mending and fitting the chainmail so it is more comfortable and does its job protecting him.

As he is finishing up, Marcel hears Darya call from the house announcing that everyone is expected at the table for feast in an hour. She reminds everyone to be cleaned and well dressed for this event honoring all the good fortune that has befallen the homestead of late.

Remar Ponders a Grimoire

Remar spends some time in the main room looking over tome that was taken off the Elf horse trader. From what he heard, she had not cast any magic but he did detect magic when first observing the book. He had been careful not to let anyone touch it, as he has heard too many horror stories about grimoire’s being magically trapped. As he looks at the book, he notices Ree peering over the balcony rail from above, watching him carefully. When she sees him looking, she makes a brief face at him and turns away, coming down the stairs to move aimlessly about the common room, helping the women of the homestead in their daily cleaning duties.

Breakfast is Served

For the first time in forever, it seems, Griffin is able to get a good night’s sleep. Despite all the stress he recently encountered, he could let it go and sleep through the night. Upon waking, he felt refreshed and alive like he had not for some time. He gets up and stretches, and then remembers the bandaged wound on his chest. That still hurts, but is mending well under the watchful eye of Kuzma and Irina. Griffin drags his pack from under the cot he was sleeping on and removes the sacks of coins they acquired from the horse traders camp. He starts counting and dividing it into five piles, making sure Taras receives a full share to make up for being backstabbed by the deceitful Elf woman. After he gets done counting, Irina arrives, bringing breakfast for all the recovering men, followed closely by the Acolyte Draven.

Griffin grins at Irina. “Now, that’s what I’m talking about, lass! The best sleep I’ve had in a long time, and now breakfast served by a pretty girl.” He looks at the coins stacked in his lap. He takes one and waves it in the air. “For your troubles, my dear.” He looks at her closer, and sees her red eyes and downcast expression. “Or maybe a penny for your thoughts?”

She looks flustered, distracted by the coin and his brash greeting and more earnest question. “Um, well, it’s Bahanzic, and Uncle Stephan, and everything. Kinda too much, even in the daylight.” Her voice catches, and she snatches up her serving platter and runs out.

Griffin looks stunned, and apologetic.  He looks at the coin in his outstretched hand, then at the retreating girl, then at Draven. “What?”

“We definitely need to work on your empathy, my friend.” He shakes his head. “But then you were less than fully yourself when we arrived. Irina was in a great deal of distress over her uncle. And Bahanzic, well, he’s yet to be seen today. She’s counting on her father to make everything better. Something tells me he’s going to need strong backs, and stronger arms, when he makes up his mind.”

Griffin nods. “Yea, I figured we were going to have to deal with a few things before we could leave. After all, Stephan is the guy that hired us. I’ll probably be up to snuff tomorrow. Not so sure about Akaios or Burik, though. If you and Marcel and Remar and I can be ready to go, we can maybe mount a rescue. Have you seen any maps of the area in your wanderings?”

“No, nothing specific about this area. We’ll likely need someone to come with us that knows the way, and what we’ll be getting into.” Draven pauses briefly to consider. “And Bahanzic will be out for blood, so he might be just the fellow to come with us - I hardly think we’ll be able to keep him away.”

“Okay, maybe. Maybe I’ll go see if I can find him.  Oh, and here’s your share of the bandit’s loot.” He drops 40 gold into Draven’s hands. “We may need to invest in a strongbox if we keep this up.”

Unexpected weight nearly makes Draven drop the coins. “Some few of these will see me through for a good long time. And the church will find good use for the rest.”

Griffin smiles. “I’m sure it will. Now,” and he looks across the room to where the other convalescents were reclining. “And Taras, I have not forgotten you, my friend.” He crosses and drops a stack of coins on the wounded man’s lap.

He gathers up the rest of his loot and heads out to check around for his unpaid friends and a certain young slinger.

“That’s a pretty sum, Taras. What’ll you spend it on?” asks the Acolyte.

“A new lock for the front door,” he responds, trying to be funny. “I’m sure, if I ever get to spend it, it will be something practical, though I would like to buy something pretty for Alfana. And I’ll definitely need a new shirt, that damn Elf ruined this one!” He stares down at the large pile of gold coins in his lap and absently runs his fingers through them. “I’ve seen gold before, hells, father just paid you all quite a sum, didn’t he? But I’ll be honest, I’ve never had this much of my own before!” Draven sees the man’s eyes bulge and gloss over a bit as he stares at the coins. “Is this what it’s like to be an ‘adventurer’ then? Uncle Stephan was something of an ‘adventurer’ in his younger days, I’ve heard, though these days he travels around setting up deals for father and the family.”

“Perhaps it is what an ‘adventurer’ does, but most would not trade a stable job, close by one’s family and with some notion of where he’s going to sleep at night. There are reasons to take up such activities - finding those in need of salvation, for example,” he says with a self-deprecating grin, “but as you’ve seen it’s remarkably dangerous.”

Hefting his own pile of coins, Draven smirks a bit. “But I can see where one might be tempted…”

“Once you’re on your feet, Taras, I’d like to enlist your help. One of the horses we brought back with us, the big bay with the three white marks on his forehead. I think he’s seen service with a soldier or other adventurous sort, and he’s a big, sturdy beast. I’d like your help getting him used to me. I think he’d do well, carrying a fellow with heavy armor on his back, and short of feeding him the odd carrot or apple, I’m not sure how I’d earn his favor.”

In a nearby cot, Akaios had been listening to Draven and Taras’ conversation. He starts to laugh which turns into a pained cough. “Yea, it’s hard to deny the power of a lap full of coins. Priest, you can say you do this for righteous reasons, but you still gather the coins, either for yourself or your church. Its all about the gold, friends.” On the cot next to him, Burik nods, eyeing the stacks of coins with wide eyes.

Taras nods to Draven, “Yes, I will help you with the horse. I remember that one, a fine steed. It would be my honor to help you get to know her.”

“It is definitely less about the gathering of the gold, my friends, than the spending of it. There’s no shame in earning what comes to you - Kagyar rewards those who work hard, after all. But while I will admit some additional armor and a stouter weapon are in my thoughts for some of this money, the bulk will go towards more important things. Feeding the hungry, housing the homeless. Patura doesn’t insist that we do, but when her wisdom falls upon you, you begin to realize it’s something that you want to do, and that it is a right thing to do.

Realizing who he sounded like - nothing so much as a perfect rendition of Father Laurek - Draven leaves off. “Enough of my sermonizing, though. You’ve both fought long and hard for this homestead, Akaios, Burik.” He raises his eyebrows provocatively. “If your friend Griffin doesn’t share some fraction of his reward - either deliberately or by way of the gaming table - let me know. I’ll see to it that your stalwart defense of the place isn’t wholly ignored.”

With that, he heads downstairs, stowing his share of the smaller half of the take, wondering whether the rain will let up enough for him to go to the stables, or if he’ll be better served in preparing a small celebration in veneration of Vanya for their constant successes in the battles fought thus far.

Draven Heads to the Stables

Once downstairs, Draven finds that the rain has subsided a bit so he heads out toward the stables.

Looking through the stables for the new horses, still held apart from Pytor’s recovered bunch, Draven makes his way to the horse he’s had his eye on since the battle’s aftermath, stopping only for an old sour apple and a couple carrots from the feed bin.

“You and I are going to get to be friends, Gilgarion,” he says, calling him by the name he’d long since decided fit the horse - the name that Vanya gave to the flying horse she tamed on her earthly adventures.

The horse stamps heavily on the ground and snorts loudly, shaking its mane at Draven’s approach. The large and muscular horse watches him closely. It throws it’s head out, smacking the side of the corral that he is currently inhabiting. Draven pulls up short, watching the animal cautiously. “That’s an interesting name,” a voice calls out from a dark corner of the stables. The old, one armed man, Stellios, steps out carrying some horse tending tools. “I was just going to start checking these new horses out. I see you’ve taken a shine to that one. She’s a good lookin beast, for sure.” Stellios moves toward Draven and the horse and hands him a brush. “Get ‘em up on the neck, behind the ears and below the mane.They like that a lot.”

Draven takes the brush and moves closer, the horse still eyeing him intently. The horse snorts and shakes his head again as Draven gets closer, but quickly calms down when Draven starts brushing him on the neck.

“See, what did I tell ya,” Stellios smiles. “So, whats that name you chose for him? Tell me about it.”

Try as he might, Draven couldn’t remember any mention of a flying horse in the mythologies of the Traladarans. Oh, he was sure they existed here, but there wasn’t much to go on as far as similar beasts.

“The warrior, Vanya of the Flashing Blade, never had much use for horses when she was younger and hotter of head. But when the time came, she took into her mind the thought that the best possible horse was one that could go anywhere she wanted it to go, and set about to finding, and then taming, a flying horse.” He stopped for a second, recollecting the right word, “a pegasus in your tongue. Gilgarion was that flying horse, and a hard-fought victory it was before he submitted to her reins.”

He continues brushing the now-calmer horse. “I don’t expect my Gilgarion to take me into the skies, or fly me to the citadel of the storm giants, but something tells me he is headstrong enough to give me all the fight I could want out of a mount.”

Stellios nods and smiles, “I believe you may be right about that, friend. He has a fire within him. I just hope it is not too much for you to handle. Say, if you are interested in getting to know them a little better, would you be interested in helping me with some of them. I’m a little short handed, as you might say,” he chuckles and looks down at the place where his missing arm should be. “I need to check these fellas out, probably need to reshoe most of them. I could really use the help.”

A smile lights Draven’s face. “Of course!” He sets aside the curry comb and dusts his hands together. “I ought to learn more about these beasts, after all. I mean, I know which end is the business end, but little else.”

Draven and Stellios spend the remainder of the morning and a good part of the afternoon working with the horses. Stellios shows him how to properly tend and take care of the animals. Draven is amazed at how much there is to know about beasts of burden. Though he had spent his entire live near horses, he realized he hadn’t know much. But Stellios was a good teacher. Finally, much later in the day, Pytor’s wife, Darya calls out to the yard announcing dinner in an hour. “You boys make sure you are cleaned up and presentable. We are having a feast in honor of our new friends!” she tells them.

Draven looks down at himself. “And I thought I out-stank the horses upon our return!” He hurries inside and washes up, leaving his clothes to air out while he gets himself ready and presentable. A quick but thorough time at prayer finishes out his time and he heads out again to join in at the feast.

Griffin looks for Bahaznic

Griffin wandered the upper floor looking for Marcel or Remar. He glimpsed the mage finally, tucked under the balcony with the Elf bandit’s magical book.  Ree held a position just above him. He also saw the door to the tower standing open. Maybe a breath of fresh air would clear his head.

The tower was cool as he stood at the staircase leading up. Recalling the many steps to the roof, he again wondered whether he really needed to do this now.  Ah, well, it wasn’t like he was doing anything productive lying on a cot.  At least he could get up and move around.  He took a deep breath and slowly made his way up the winding staircase.

Ree does not make eye contact with Griffin as she passes him on her way toward the main floor. He tries to say hello, but she grunts and hurries past. Oh well, he thinks. The air in the tower staircase is cold and damp and a small amount of water trickles in from somewhere up above. He climbs the spiral staircase as quickly as he can, hoping that he does not run into Kuzma on his way past her chamber. He had not noticed her in the main room of the building and whispers a quick prayer to Tyche that the matron is down in the kitchen or somewhere else downstairs.

He makes it to the roof of the tower without seeing anyone. He stops to rest just below the heavy trapdoor leading to the roof, trying to catch his breath. Maybe he should have heeded Kuzma’s advice a little better after all. He grunts and heaves the door open, climbing up onto the roof. It has stopped raining, but everything is wet and the wind is blowing strongly, whipping up drops and nearly threatening to topple the young man over the edge.

Just as he thought, he sees young Bahaznic standing at the far end of the tower, gazing out north toward the trees across the clearing that had just recently been filled with murderous Goblins. The boy makes no indication that he has heard Griffin approach.

Griffin clears his throat. “Um, in case you didn’t notice, kid, it’s ah… kinda wet out.” The young man continues his most intent surveillance of the soggy countryside.

Griffin shivers as a cold wind whips across the tower top. “Well, anyways, I don’t mean to disturb you or anything.  It’s just we’re trying to get a rescue for your father going, and I thought you might be able to help us out.” He sighs. “But I’m still feeling a little less than up to snuff - it still twinges when I breathe hard - so if you’re good here, I’m gonna head back down where its not quite so miserable.” And he turns to descend through the trapdoor.

Without turning, Bahaznic speaks quietly, “I’ve got to find my father. He has been captured by those blasted Goblins. They aren’t so tough. They can be tracked, they can be beaten. I’ll be leaving in the morning” The young boy turns to face Griffin, who has paused in his climb back down. “Will you and your friends help me? Will you help me save my father? I’ll go alone if I have to,” the stern look on Bahaznic’s face seems to crack for a moment and the boy looks scared, “but I think that you and your friends could probably be of some help.”

Griffin nods. “Well that’s mighty kind of you, kid. I’d like to think we have a little something to bring to the table. But we don’t know the lay of the land. D’you think maybe could go back downstairs where it’s not outside in the cold wind? I’ve got a sketchy map of the area, but I need to have someone go over it with me so I can get a feel for things.

Bahaznic nods and follows Griffin back downstairs.

“So, kid, what’s your strategy?  Start with heading to the goblin camps right away, or maybe checking out the lumber camp and try and pick up the trail of the band that attacked it?  Stay based here and come back every couple days, or travel with a bunch of supplies and be able to stay out for a week?” Their voices fade as they descend the tower, in search of a table and a map.

“Well, I hadn’t thought it through that far. Talk to these guys from Ilyakana tonight at dinner and see if they know anything useful. Then probably head up to Ilyakana and see if I can find any clues, after that, I’m not sure,” the boy explains.

“Sounds like an excellent plan, Bahaznic. Maybe you could help me pick out a horse for the trip. I’m supposed to be taking it easy, y’know. Kuzma’s orders.”

They gingerly make their way out to the corrals. Griffin makes his way slowly through the herd, greeting each horse in turn, looking with his not very trained eye for any flaws or infirmities. They all look healthy and well taken care of. Finally he found her. A dark bay, one white sock on her left foreleg, and a white blaze that looked a diamond on her right flank. “Hi there, girl. I think I’ll call you .. Lucky.”

The horse now known as Lucky seems happy to see Griffin. She whinnies and swishes her tail at his approach and lowers her head for him go scratch behind her ears. “She’s a good looking mare,” Bahaznic states. “Looks friendly. You seem comfortable around horses. That’s good. My dad knows how to pick ‘em.” Bahaznic darkens again as he speaks of his father and turns and kicks a rock out of the corral.
Griffin spends a little more time getting to know Lucky, giving Bahaznic his space. “Hey, Nick, I’m thinking I’d better head back in for a while. Gotta take it easy or Kuzma’ll get on my case. Hey, you got any paper and a quill and some ink?  I got something I need to work on.”

“Um, paper? Quill? No, I don’t think so. Not a lot of call for writing out here. I don’t know my letters very well anyway. Ask Aunt, she may have some.

“Okay, I’ll do that.  Thanks.” He turns to head back inside. “See you at dinner.  We still have to talk to those lumberjacks.”

Griffin re-enters the homestead and goes upstairs to the “infirmary.” He looks for Darya or Kuzma as he passes through, hoping to get some paper to put down some of the ideas buzzing around in his brain.

Griffin is able to procure a few sheets of parchment and a charcoal pencil from Darya before heading back to the infirmary. Once there, he sits and writes out his thoughts before falling asleep. The mornings activities had worn him out more than he realized. The young Thyatian sleeps the rest of the day away, being awoken in just enough time to prepare himself for dinner. Irina tells him that her father has called for a feast that evening in honor of the companions saving the homestead and returning the horses.

The Feast

The main hall looks very different this evening. There are many candles lit around the hall and the many tables have been brought together to form one long, wide table. A large, fancy tablecloth of dark green covers the entire table from end to end and numerous bowls and platters sit atop it, holding a variety of steaming and aromatic dishes. The homesteaders all move about the room, making last minute adjustments to the setting while having all the guests sit around the table.

Once everything is done, Pytor stands at the head of the table and calls for everyone to be seated. “We sit here today to feast and be thankful for all that Halav has provided for us. We have a home, we have food, we have a means to provide for ourselves, we have friends. None of these things can be disputed. Thank you everyone, let us eat!” He smiles and holds his arms wide, indicating to the feast. Kuzma says a quiet prayer in Traladaran and as she finishes, she looks to Draven and nods to him, silently telling him it is ok to speak a Thyatian prayer over the meal as well.

Draven, in deference to his hosts and the goodwill he’s received from Kuzma, offers his prayers to the five Immortals in his accented Traladaran. “Each of you watches over us in his or her own way, guiding our steps, giving subtle counsel, and lending strength to our backs and our swords. We ask only that you continue to grace us with your gifts, and that we can walk the true path you open for us each day.” He sits, wondering for the hundredth time if this is how Father Laurek would handle himself, out in the wilder lands.

“Amen, brother.” Griffin takes a seat near Gregor if possible, and digs in to the feast. He’s on the mend, and figures he needs all the fuel he needs to get back on his feet. He turns on the charm and chats as best he can in his accented Traladaran (which he notices has gotten better since he left Penhaligon).  He tries to draw out the lumbermen about what happened at their camp, and, for fun, tries to get Gregor to crack a smile or two. He gives Irina more than her share of significant glances as well, but doesn’t push.

Although the homesteaders' are saddened by the news of Stephan's disappearance, they do their best to entertain: Masha sings, Kuzma tells stories, Alfana and Taras dance, Gregor tells jokes. Pyotr proudly shows off the clan treasures
hanging around the hall (a stuffed eagle and a wolf's head, an old hunting horn, and two tapestries. One shows wild, running horses, and the other has a pretty geometric pattern), boasting of his ancestors skill with horses and prowess in battle.

Gregor is prompted to tell of the attack on Ilyakana, though he does so quietly and not when the younger members of the homestead are near. He says that it was predominantly Wolfskull Goblins, though there were some Redblades present as well. He remembers that the Goblins fell upon the camp shortly after Kalanos’ boat arrived. The boat was sunk and all on board but Vilie were killed. Villie chimes in that he recalls seeing the Captain swim for shore as the boat sank but lost sight of him afterwards. Most of the encampment was slain but a good handful of them were subdued and captured, including Stephan, whom Gregor was familiar with. Gregor and the two surviving lumbermen had taken refuge in a burning outbuilding, hiding under a pile of boards while the upper parts of the structure burnt, only crawling to safety when the heat became too unbearable. They found Villie clinging to some flotsam in the water, unconscious.

The visitors to the homestead feel very welcomed and appreciated and come to see how these folk are able to survive in such a harsh wilderness so far from civilization. They have a tremendous ability to see the good in any situation, they accept the bad, make the best of it and move on, using the good in their lives to propel them forward.

Draven listens in to the information that Griffin gleans from the survivors of the lumber camp attack. “The presence of the Redblades is what has me most worried. They’re rumored to live south of here, and a good way away from Ilyakana, and Cherkass lies on the path in between.”

Griffin shook his head. “At least we have an idea where the Redblades are. The Wolfskulls are the mystery that bothers me. Where are they? Where do they disappear to when they’re done with a raid?”

“Bahaznic is hoping to lead a mission to Ilyanka tomorrow to see what can be found. He’s going whether anyone goes with him or not. I told him I’d be joining him, but I really think a larger group has a better chance of success and survival, if you catch my drift. Let me know if you’re coming and I’ll try and arrange for Pytor to give us provisions appropriately.  We’ll start by checking the lumber camp, then maybe loop around Sielo and Cherkass if we don’t get a better lead. Should be out for several days at least.”

“If you haven’t already been to the corral, go pick out a horse for the trip. They should let us move a little faster than we were on our way here.”

It was clear that Pytor was trying to keep a happy face on throughout the evening, but not doing a very good job of it. When he overhears this talk of a ride to Ikyakana to look for his missing brother, his mood lightens. “You are truly heroes. Our household will sing of your deeds for all time. Thank you. Of course we will supply you with whatever we can to help you on your quest. In thanks for this, if you can bring Stephan back to us and if you are still interested in performing the horse drive, I will split any earnings with you instead of the original 100 Royals. You came for the job, you defended our home, you reclaimed the horses when they were lost, and now you offer to help find my brother. I wish I could give you more.  You will always be welcome at our hearth. Thank you friends.” He signals for his wife and she brings in several decanters of wine and Stellios rolls out a barrel of beer. “Now let us drink and be merry!” Pytor says with the first genuine smile on his face.

Griffin raises his glass. “To our hosts, may we be deserving of their hospitality. And our brave stalwarts, may they soon be back on their feet and off their backsides,” as he takes a not-so-sly dig at Burik and Akaios. More to himself, “and to fallen friends, may they rest in peace.”

After that he lets things take care of themselves. He will try and seek out Irina, as if he’s going out in the wilderness again on the morrow, all the better reason to spend time with a pretty girl tonight.

Griffin finds that the company of a pretty girl is not hard to find as Irina seems to linger nearby almost constantly, ready to refill cup or plate, laugh at his jokes and dote on him in general. Almost as often as he catches Irina’s eye, Griffin catches the intense gaze of Kuzma shooting invisible daggers at him as well. She does not say anything and Pytor merely smiles when he sees Irina spending so much time with Griffn, so the young Thyatian does not worry about the old woman. He does notice his recovering companion, Akaios, seems to have taken something of a liking to the Traladaran woman Masha. He sits and talks with her for most of the evening. The burly Thyatian can be seen holding Masha’s baby several times throughout the evening as well. This makes Griffin chuckle as he has never known Akaios to be even the slightest bit interested in women with children, or even children, for that matter. His other friends all seem to be enjoying themselves quite well. Burik and Ree keep an awkward distance from each other and spend the evening staring at each other while trying not to let each other, or anyone else, notice. They fail miserably. Marcel spends time conversing with the Traladarans about various topics and Remar, the least comfortable one of the group, spends the evening in a quiet corner reading over one of his large tomes. Draven imbibes a little too much alcohol, but manages well, singing and dancing with the homesteaders, clearly earning their friendship and respect through his acts of acceptance and entertainment.

Raising a dubious eyebrow, Draven takes a mug of the dark ale that is offered to him. It is stronger than he’s used to, and he can feel it going straight to his cheeks, leaving them bright red. But he gamely finishes the mug, a tall pint worth, before begging off on any more. He opts instead for wine, only to find that the rough country vintage is similarly potent. A cupful leaves him with a bit of a lightness in his head that has him mixing his next cup one for one with cold water from a nearby decanter.

But, mood lightened, he tries to make the most of the celebration, essaying a few songs that his voice is no longer young enough to handle the high notes of, and invests a good bit of time and most of his remaining dignity learning how to dance from Taras.

After many hours of celebration, the party begins to wind to a close. Pytor and his wife retire to their room while Taras and Alfana follow to their own room on the 2nd floor, finally having reverted back to a bedroom instead of the infirmary. Kuzma had long since retired to her room on the third floor of the tower, taking young Matvey and Bahaznic with her. She attempted to gather Irina as well, but the young lady declined and remained in the main hall.

The fellows from the lumber camp, still suffering from some wounds, but in much better shape than when they arrived, greatly enjoyed the hospitality of Pytor’s home, particularly the alcohol and found themselves passed out on chairs or sleeping furs in the dark corners of the main hall. Irina dozes off to sleep on a bench near Griffin, smiling, with one hand outstretched in his direction and Masha is sound asleep, nestled on Akaios’ lap, her baby, Garina, wrapped in a blanket and sleeping in a nearby crib.

The Forming of a Company

The candles are burning low in their holders and the fire in the fireplace is burning out. Feeling this is the right time to address his companions about something he had been thinking about, Griffin draws everyone near as speaks.

Griffin pulls up seats for everyone at the end of the long table, even Ariadne, who never went in for this sort of thing. “Hey, Ree!  You might want to join us for this.  Unless you want us making decisions for you without you.” The young girl scowled, but took a chair close to the circle.

Griffin took the rest of the gold he’d acquired from the bandit camp and spilled it onto the table.

Akaios raised an eyebrow. “What, you want to play cards? You said this was important.”

Griffin waved his hand, “Hang on, hang on. Marcel, could you dump the reward money, all of it, on the table too?”

The soldier shrugged, poured out several pouches, creating another, much larger pile of gold coins next to the first. The metal gleamed warmly in the firelight.

Griffin looked at each of them in turn. “Friends, comrades, tovarischi, what do you see here?”

Burik leaned forward, licking his lips. “More gold than I’ve ever seen. Maybe enough for a real nice sword?”

Other voices murmured similar thoughts. “New clothes.” “Enough to feed the poor for a month.” “Beer for a year.”

Griffin nodded, chuckling at Akaios’ predictability. “True, all true.”  Then his tone grows serious.  “But you want to know what I see?  I see a problem.  And we need to hash this out, now, before the problem gets any bigger.”

“We got this for rescuing horses and beating up some bandits. But, you,” and he gestured to Burik, Akaios, and Ree, “you three weren’t even there. Should you get some of this gold?”

Trust Burik’s fascination with wealth. Wait for it…

Burik started to bluster. “But we couldn’t go with you because we were laid up from defending this little mudhole! Where’s our reward? The priest said you should share with us. You shouldn’t get it all! It’s not fair!”

Griffin sighed, and rounded on the young man. “EXACTLY!” Burik, sat back, confused. “First, keep your voice down. These folks have done nothing but right by us, and therefore this is not a mudhole, clear?” The swordsman nodded, a bit chagrinned.

“And second, thank you for demonstrating so eloquently why this is a problem. Who gets what? How much?”

Griffin continued. “I got a good night’s sleep last night, for the first time in a while. Maybe cuz Akaios can’t snore without it hurting these days.  Anyways, credit that with some clearer thoughts than usual this morning.” He paused, “Here’s what I’m thinking.  Back in dad’s day, they had a way of dealing with this stuff. I think we should try it.

“I think the seven of us, this group right here, I think we should form a Free Company.  Whadda ya think?”

“I like it!”, answers Marcel as the other are scratching their heads. “Make ourselves indispensable. Set up a base, enlist a few henchmen and sell our swords.”

He takes a seat and thinks loudly for a moment. “With the ruins in Kelvin, we could sure raise a whole lot more. There are obviously lots of gold in horses. The homesteaders sure could use a regional patrol?”, so many options.

“Griffin, we got to come up with a way to deal with all this gold. I’ll waste in women otherwise. How about we determine who is willing to be in the company, divvy up shares to those who aren’t interested, then come up with a way to divvy the rest between the company and stipends.”, Marcel basically echos the jargon uttered by the officers during his military days. Except that this time, he cares.

“Yea, Marcel, kinda what I was thinking. Sounds like this is not the first time you’ve run into something like this.  That’s good.” He brings out some papers with writing all over them. “Here’s kinda what I was thinking for divvying up cash…” He points, and explains, and “so out on a mission, you get a good cut, but if you’re laid up, you still get something.  And a single share goes into the group fund for expenses.  Now, other things, like that magical book you’ve spend all day poking, Remar, we need a way to keep things fair.  In the mean time, you might want to let Ree have a look, too. Especially if you still haven’t figured out how to open it.”

“I can definitely see the benefits to such an arrangement. Fewer arguments, formal rules on how things are supposed to go. I will gladly join such a company with but one caveat,” says Draven with the solemnity that only strong drink can bring. “We have to have a moral compass that keeps us on the straight and true. It would be too easy for us to drift into whatever paid the most money without worry over the nature of the work. That will just not do.” He shakes his head slowly, side to side. “If we can ensure we won’t lose our way, I will join gladly, and keep stitching up your hides for you.”

Griffin stops smiling. “I can’t ensure anything like that - I don’t think anyone could, and I won’t promise what I can’t deliver. I don’t have a problem with any shareholder vetoing a job, but to keep the company from being held hostage by one person, a veto will come with an implicit option for the rest of the company to buy out the person exercising their veto. Good enough?”

Remar wrinkles his nose at Griffin. “It’s not that I CAN’T open it, it’s just that I’m a little concerned with doing it without some precautions that I’m not prepared for here. Ree can look at it if she wants, but I’ll be nowhere nearby when she opens it. I’d count that she isn’t adequately prepared to open it on her own either. These things can be trapped, I know MINE is, and they can be dangerous at worst and hexed to destroy itself at BEST. As it is, for now, its nothing more than a worthless paper weight, when we get back to civilization, maybe there will be something we can do about it. As for this company thing you speak of, as long as I’m getting my share, I’m in.

Akaios ponders the question of the free company for a moment, then Masha stirs on his lap. “Well, the free company thing makes sense to me, though I’m pretty sure I’m still not in good enough shape to go traipsing around the countryside just yet. A few more days for sure, and I know that I’ll be in better shape.” Masha wakes up, sits and whispers something into the burly man’s ear then gets up and gathers her baby up before heading out toward the kitchen. Akaios’ cheeks blush and he smiles a wide grin. “Um, well, I think I need to, um, head outside and, um, relieve myself. I’ll be back.” He follows Masha out through the kitchen. No one believes he is coming back.

“Mind those stitches,” Draven says to Akaios in a hoarse stage whisper, a little freer with his thoughts this far into his cups.

Observant even while tipsy, he blows air out through his lips like a horse. “Isn’t it always the way,” he mutters as he wanders towards his bedroll. “The priest sleeps alone.”

The rest of the gathered companions discuss some of the details of this free company business for a while, still nursing their drinks until finally, it is time for bed and everyone finds a nice warm spot. Marcel brings in several armloads of firewood from outside before securing the doors to the homestead. Griffin finds sees that Irina has moved to the floor, laying in a long, wide fur near his pack along the wall. He smiles as he blows out the last of the candles and heads to bed.

Continued on GDA9 - Three Days and Nothing to Show For It

Cast of Characters: 

Garrett "Griffin" Constantine, a Thyatian rogue of a gambler from Penhaligon rolled by +Arne Jamtgaard 
Remar Umerus, an Alphatian battle mage that escaped forced service in the Thyatian army conjured by +Ben Lipe 
Marcel Maas, a down on his luck Traladaran soldier turned mercenary commanded by +Christian Blouin 
Draven Rickart, a Thyatian Acolyte of the Church of Karameikos piously played by +Jason Packer 
and +Jason Woollard as the DM