Grand Duchy 25

Grand Duchy of Adventure

Session 25
July 29, 2014

An Audience with the King

Soladain 3rd of Flaurmont, 1001AC

Finding the Table Rock

The Grey Company follows its newest member, Iris, across the Moor to where she claims to have found the "Table Rock." The group crests a short rise and peers down into a shallow dell below to see a large boulder balanced upon one tiny little base. If anything nearby was to be thought of as a table, this was it.
The Table Rock

While everyone worked on pitching a camp nearby, Marcel spent some time examining the rock. He walked around it then climbed it all the way to the top. From the top of the rock, he could see the entirety of the dell, about 1/2 mile across and 1/4 mile wide, though he could not see beyond the bordering ridges. He noted several possible approaches into the dell and quite a few places to hide in low spots, behind bushes and even a few stands of trees here and there. 

After singing his song of tribute to the Fairy King of Horses, Marcel finally climbed down and started helping with the camp, mainly cooking up another batch of his Moor Stew. Iris politely declined any of Marcel's stew and instead ate dried rations from the homestead and some berries she had picked earlier that day while traveling.

It was decided that since they were expected to be awake at midnight, for some to start sleeping now, even though it was early. When midnight came, Marcel was already on the top of the rock, humming and whistling in anticipation. The Company was all awake while Marcel stood on one foot and whistled the summoning tune. He kept up his tune for an hour, but Fairy King of Horses did not show. The only thing he had to show for it was a stubbed toe gained while trying to balance himself on the uneven surface of the Table Rock.

Disappointed, Marcel climbs down and has a few ideas as to why the Fairy King of Horses did not make an appearance - namely certain non-believers in the Company. He is then reminded that the Traladaran legend stated that one must balance and whistle 3 nights in a row before the Fairy King of Horses would appear. Disheartened anyway, Marcel climbs into his bedroll and goes to sleep. Griffin has a bit more difficulty falling asleep after the ruckus on the top of the rock, but fortunatley, the group had no specific plans to head out early and it was planned for everyone to be able to sleep in plenty.

Lunadain 4th of Flaurmont, 1001AC

The Ruins of Lumm

The ruins of Lumm
The next morning the Company decide to explore the nearby Moor and do a little hunting and foraging. Around noon, Iris spots what appears to be the Old Moor Road. Sure enough, the group follows the remnants of this ancient road and eventually come to the ruins of an abandoned Traladaran village, which Iris says is named Lumm. She had been her before, studying the ancient Traladarans and their
culture. While looking around the ruins, which are nothing more than flat spaces and the occasional outline of a rock foundation, the remains of a recent campfire are discovered. Curious, the Company searches the area and some tracks and a second nearby fire pit are discovered. It is determined that possibly up to 10 or more people recently camped here. Marcel finds some potential boot prints on the north side of the ruins, but no other details are discerned. Marcel attempts to tell about what he knows of the ruins and the ancient Traladarans of the Moor, but Iris seems to relish every opportunity to correct him and explain the true nature of the ruins. Undaunted, Marcel proclaims that "not all learning comes from books!"

With the day growing long, the group heads back toward their camp at Table rock. There, Marcel cooks dinner, and again, Iris passes on his meal, preferring to eat other rations. At midnight, Marcel climbs to the top of the rock and begins whistling. He instructs his companions below to join hands and circle the Table Rock. Griffin and Draven join hands, though Iris just stands uncomfortably to Draven's right, merely feigning participation in this elaborate ritual that Marcel has concocted. Again, an hour or so goes by with Marcel whistling and now doing some elaborate one-legged dance complete with wild arm waving and hopping. Alas, the improved ritual again produces no Fairy King of Horses. Marcel is more direct with his accusations of why the ritual failed to work, singling out "those that did not hold hands" but is again reminded that it is only the second night of waiting. Sure that the next night will produce results, the Company beds down for the rest of the night.

Gromdain 5th of Fluarmont, 1001AC


The next day, the Company decides to stay closer to the camp and Table Rock. In small groups and individually, they range out, not ever going more than a few miles from the dell, looking for food, hunting and watching for any signs of horses or other travelers. Griffin does spot some tracks of some sort of large cat, probably the mountain lion they have heard on previous nights. 

Later that afternoon, a band of 8 people are spotted headed over the ridge and toward the camp. Upon closer inspection, they appear to be Traladarans and in quite bad shape. They are wounded, dirty and worn folk, barely able to lift their feet when they walk. They are greeted by Marcel and Draven and it is learned from the groups leader, a man named Conrad, that they are refugees from Hokol. They are welcomed into the camp and they tell of their story of escaping from their home when it was attacked and burned by the Goblins. They fled into the woods and became lost trying to find their way to safety while still avoiding the Goblins that seemed to be everywhere. The wandered for some time in the Dymrak across the river and south of Susikyn until they came to the river and the Moor. They have been foraging in the Moor for some time but have finally reached the point that the felt they needed to return to the homesteads and seek out help from others.

Iris seems considerably put out by the inclusion of this group of Traladarans and moves her bedroll a good distance away from the camp, spending her time that evening alone. Griffin goes to speak to her and notices her studying from a magical tome, a Grimoire similar to the one he has seen Ree and Remar both study from. 

Back at the camp, Marcel and Draven share the Company's business on the Moor. They talk about the Fairy King of Horses and find that Conrad and his people share different ideas on how to summon the elusive horse spirit. Later that night, Marcel organizes everyone (except Iris) into an elaborate ritual designed to garner the attention of the Fairy King of Horses. Upon the suggestion of Conrad, Marcel decides he needs some candles, but there are none to be had. He settles for asking Iris if he can use her lantern, despite it being out of oil. Reluctantly, Iris agrees to let him use the lantern and she rejoins the group, though watches from a distance. Marcel also takes two apples from his pack, as Conrad says that they are vital to calling the Fairy King of Horses. Marcel puts everyone in their place, arranges the apples, lanter (with burning twigs inside) and himself, on top of the Table Rock and, for the third night in a row, begins his summoning ritual, beginning to believe himself a mighty sorcerer, calling upon mighty arcane powers. Iris scoffs at his elaborate act and stifles a laugh under her breath.

The King Arrives

This time though, Marcel's summoning ritual does something. The sound of horses fills the air and shortly several large horses appear and ring the small valley. A large black horse reveals himself in a magical beam of moolight on the highest point of the nearby ridge.

Excited by this development, Marcel calls out to the horse and the black beast begins to approach. The other horses remain on the surrounding ridge, taking up positons spaced equally around the dell. As the horse gets closer, it motions with its head for Marcel to climb down, which he does so without hesitation. Everyone else stands nearby, speechless, watching the large black horse approach. 

Marcel and Iris both begin to move toward the approaching horse, but he snorts and stamps his feet, indicating to them to stay where they are. No one moves as the horse covers the remaining ground to the Table Rock. When it gets closer, it appears that the horse bears some type of adornments around its neck and back, some type of cloth and metal finery of some sort. The massive horse then passes behind the Table Rock and as it appears on the other side, it has undergone an incredible change. In the place of the regal black horse now stands a tall and muscular Centaur, half man and half horse. It is clearly the same beast as the decorations previously seen are still present on the creature. It rears up on its powerful hind legs and swings a long, sharp axe through the air over his head threateningly!
The Fairy King of Horses is a sight to behold!
He demands to know why "these Humans" have come to his Moor. Marcel engages him and begins going on and on, telling him that they have come to learn the location of the ruins of Xitaqa. Before even listening to their request, the Fairy King of Horses tells Marcel and his companions to immediately release their horses from "slavery." Marcel quickly moves to release his mount, Pepito, and urges the others to do the same. Reluctantly, the others release their horses, hoping that the bonds they share with their animals will be strong enough to ensure that they stick around. Unfortunately, once freed, the horses all move away and run up to join the other horses on the surrounding ridge-line. 

Marcel asks again about Xitaqa and the Fairy King of Horses responds that he will share the information the Company asks for but only if they do something for him first. He demands the heads of Bailakask and Kalkask, two Werewolves that have been enemies of the horses and Centaurs (and the homesteaders, as well) for many years. He gives very specific directions to the lair of the Werewolves and even adds some tactics in dealing with them, suggesting a night assault when most of the pack will be out hunting, then lay in ambush for the rest to return in the morning. 

When the converasation is over, the Fairy King of Horses steps up and puts his hand out toward Marcel. Mistaking this as an offer to shake hands, Marcel reaches for his hand. The Fairy King pulls his hand back and stomps his heavy horse hooves. "NO! Do not touch me, Human," he shouts! "Give me the apples!" Stunned, Marcel hands the apples over and the Fairy King of Horses gallops off into the night, his entourage following.

Tribute for the Fairy King of Horses

Continued on GDA26 - Werewolves on the Horizon

Cast of Characters: 

Garrett "Griffin" Constantine, a Thyatian rogue of a gambler from Penhaligon, rolled by +Arne Jamtgaard 

Marcel Maasa homely but sincere wielder of spears aspiring to cooking greatness, commanded by +Christian Blouin 

Draven Rickart, a Thyatian Acolyte of the Church of Karameikos, ministered by +Jason Packer 

Iris Varda, a Thyatian explorer and historian searching for answers and adventure, guided by +Alex Safatli  

Remar Umerus, an Alphatian battle mage that escaped forced service in the Thyatian army, conjured by +Ben Lipe and currently in NPC mode. 

and +Jason Woollard as The DM


Grand Duchy 24

Grand Duchy of Adventure

Session 24
July 18-29, 2014

Seeking the Fairy King of Horses

Nytdain 1 of Flaurmont, 1001AC

A Night in Susikyn

The members of the Grey Company are relieved to be back in the warm, dry comfort of the homestead. Much has been learned and accomplished during the recent two week trek into the wilderness, though their main objective continues to elude them. Fortunately, there is still hope that Stephan may be recovered. The old Traladaran woman, Babaka, said that he had been taken by some Goblins to “the old ruins of Xitaqa” and the other rescued prisoner, Iris, said she knew something of this place, though not its location. While discussing, the old man, Stellios, suggested going out onto the moor to seek the aid of the Fairy King of Horses. He said to find the Fairy King, one must go to the Table Rock and, for three nights in a row at midnight, stand on one leg while whistling an old Traladaran tune. Marcel is familiar with the tune and whistles it happily.

Over the course of the evening, much is accomplished. The Company talks more with Iris to get to know her a little better. The loot from the foray is divided up among the members of the Company. Marcel helps Draven with some shield and weapon issues. Draven does some serious praying and meditating.
Happy to have arrived with daylight to spare, Draven sets about to celebrate Tarastia, the Judge. He breaks out some vestments he rarely wears out and about in the wild and his full range of priestly accoutrements are arrayed before him. “Come, join me, you of the faith. Today is a day to celebrate Tarastia and the benefits of the law of men and the gods upon the world. It is a day to speak from your heart, to unburden yourself of your cares and to receive guidance in how to repent for any ills you may be carrying upon your soul.”
Feeling especially joyful to be in a safe and familiar place, Draven really puts his heart into the beginning of the service, reading (for himself or any others who choose to linger nearby) from the scriptures that relate to Tarastia.

Griffin is also grateful to be back in the warmth and safety of the Susikyn homestead.  His first order of business is to his horse, Lucky. He leads the young mare to the stables for a good rubdown and some feed.  He greets the homesteaders warmly, letting them know his appreciation for this safe haven.  He’ll greet Irina with some special attention, but let her know that he has chores to attend to. “Business before pleasure, don’t you know.” he says with a twinkle in his eye.
Seeing Draven’s intent, he makes time to pay his regards to the Thyatian gods.  He’ll stand respectfully, head bowed, listening to the young priest’s readings. At it’s close, he nods and says “Nice service, brother.  Maybe something of Asterius for your next one?”

After the service, Griffin will go to Draven, Marcel, and Remar and collect the coins they brought back from the goblin lair. “Don’t worry, boys, you’ll be seeing this again.”  Then he retires to the Company’s wagon for some mundane accounting.  A merchant’s son, he can keep basic books, and if the Company is to continue, he needs to stay on top of things like this.
Iris feels a small tendril of her uncle in Draven, and she engages in his sermon like a ball of wild energy. She reacquaints herself with the feeling of being close to a spiritual force and compliments Draven whenever she is able to on his dedication and diligence. She also takes it upon herself to help the chaplain with any sort of rituals he needs another hand with, reassuring him she is familiar with them and has performed them before.
When she is not taking part of this service, Iris is found at the stables, conversing with her horse. She seems wildly respectful of her companion and dotes on him considerably. Those who may come to overhear will probably realize her conversations seem less one-sided and more like Iris is responding to the horse as if it was communicating with her.
As the sermon completes, Draven snaps rigid, sitting upright, his eyes staring off a thousand yards away. He’d never had such a powerful, wonderful experience as the one he did working with those he had chosen as his extended family, and this seemed to open a channel to something greater. Nothing seems to reach him for a handful of seconds that seem to stretch on, before he jerks back to sensibility with a beatific smile on his face. As he gets up to start cleaning up, he can’t help but smile at everyone and everything around him.
“Asterius is it? You would have an affinity for that rascal!” he says to Griffin in high spirits. “Yes, a homily about The Merchant could be just the thing we need before setting out on another journey. Given the miles we’ve covered, afoot and ahorse, I’ve been lax in giving him thanks.”
He turns to Iris and takes her hands his own hand, awkwardly. “Your passion and spirit were like tinder to the dry grasses of my own faith. I look forward to sharing the warmth of the fire with everyone around us.” He bounces off to check on the welfare of the rest of the household before reconvening with Griffin to discuss the spoils of their recent adventures.
Iris looks at Draven in shock when he comes to reach for her hand and moves away. “Thank you, Draven. I look forward to sharing that warmth.”
Griffin suggests that after taking their time over dinner, that perhaps a meeting of the Company and its associates is in order.
All the members of the Grey Company meet at a table at the end of the common room, the others in the homestead make themselves busy with other things to afford some privacy. Iris looks on, interested in what this group has going on.
“Okay, folks, I call this meeting of the Grey Company to order.  We have a couple of things to take care of tonight, before we move on to other pursuits, so I’ll try to keep this short.  First, our trips out into the wilds have borne some fruit, and as members of the Company, we get to share in that bounty.”  He reaches into a large burlap sack at his feet and starts dropping large heavy sacks in front of his comrades.  “Bahaznic, you get a share as a contractor, since you’re not a member of the Company” and he drops his voice, “yet.” He straightens up and continues. “Burik, you get a share even though you were laid up cuz you fell off your horse.”  Burik is torn between glaring at the snickering Akaios, and gazing in wonder at the large sack of coin in front of him.  The coins win.  “The Company gets a share for company expenses - I’ve already set that aside.  The rest is divided evenly amongst those of us who risked life and limb in fine humanitarian effort and managed to profit handily in the process.  Congratulations!”
He pauses to let them drink in the moment, then continues. “A lot of money, to be sure. Now, you can hang on to that if you want, or we can store it together in the Company wagon.  When we get back to civilization, we’ll get a strongbox to help keep that secure, of course.”
“For the short term, Griffin, keep my share of these spoils safe in the community chest. I have grand plans in mind, but they will take time to reach fruition.” It’s hard to say for sure just what, but something is definitely different about the young acolyte. He was always stalwart and ready for aught, but now he seems strangely driven, and his eyes glow with intensity.
He turns to his friends. “Now, on to our second order of business.  There’s an unasked question that’s been floating around since the goblin lair.” He turns to their new friend, Iris. “Iris, you seem to have the chops to hang with this group of miscreants.  You’ve seen how profitable, “ and he waves his hand at the table groaning with sacks of gold, “such association can be.  So I’ll just put it to you straight - would you like to join the Grey Company, with all the risks and rewards that entails?”
Blushing slightly, Iris laughs and says, “Well, I am certainly interested! And your shared interest in finding the ruins I have been searching for is also promising to me. Certainly, I’ll join.” She looks to the others, hoping she is not humiliated by a rejection or scathing reply.
“Okay then.  As a member of the Grey Company, I would like to call the vote that Iris Varda be admitted to our esteemed ranks.  All those in favor?”  And Griffin raises his hand.
The big man Akaios shrugs and raises his hand, then nudges Burik, who is still checking out his bag of gold.  Burik starts and raises his hand.  Griffin looks at Ree, who gives him a harsh look, then turns to Iris and smiles, raising her hand and saying “Yes” with much more enthusiasm than Griffin would have expected.
“I, for one, would have it no other way!” Draven says.
Remar quickly counts his share and does some quick calculations in his head then leans back in his chair, smiling. When the vote comes up he stares at Iris hard for a moment then nods and barely raises his hand. "Ok," he mutters under his breath.

Card Games and Epiphanies

As the Grey Company winds down, a few of the refugees to the homestead can be seen peeking over at the sacks of coins. After the meeting is over and everyone has disbursed, Villie, Bisk and Fedor approach Griffin. “You like to play cards? Any of you wanna get a game going, maybe spread some of that gold around?” Villie asks.
Griffin grins.  “Boys, I thought you’d never ask.  Iris!  Pull up a chair!  It’s time you learned something important if you’re to hang with us.”
Iris has wide eyes as she looks over Griffin in bemusement. “What is that?”
Griffin smiles.  “Oh, a fun little game we call Three Dragon Ante.  If you’ve no objections to engaging in a small game of chance?  Five halav to buy in, but you look like a risk taker...” He wiggles his eyebrows at her.
As Griffin tries to round up more players for his game, Draven settles in a sturdy chair with some parchment and ink. As he sits and gathers his thoughts Pytor approaches and stares at his right arm. "A terrible tragedy, friend. What shall you do?"
Laughing as he gestures with what is left of his mangled hand, now a puckered scar on an otherwise healthy pink stump, Draven actually laughs. “No, my friend, no tragedy. A lesson. Indeed, I thought as you did when I was maimed, and I blamed myself for my bravado that led to the wound. But I have, this very evening, had a visitation. You may not know it, but this very night, your humble home played host to the avatar of a god!” His eyes are fiery and full of joyful purpose as he speaks.
“Tarastia is righteous and good altogether and she spoke to me, telling me of the great good that I will do in this land as her champion. And that I may, when times are toughest, call upon her for her direct intercession.” He looks remarkably peaceful as he says this, as though his every care or worry is of little consequence. “If this is the sacrifice I had to make to prove myself worthy of the Judge’s attention, why, it seems like a trifling thing.”
“Great things are afoot here, Pytor. This band of brothers - and a new sister,” he says, gesturing towards Iris, “are going to cleanse and purify this land of yours. The goblins and their hobgoblin leaders won’t know what has come over them when we arrive in triumph. Given time, even the foulness of the dragon shall be brought to heel.”
Pytor merely stands back, in awe at the words and statements flowing from this young man’s mouth. In fact, nearly everyone in the homestead is struck by Draven’s pronouncement of faith, and, as the young man finishes speaking and more humbly collects himself, everyone feels overcome by an inner sense of pride, strength and righteousness.
The gaming table is quiet as they listen to the young priest.  For their own reasons, the players decide to stretch, or get a drink, or in Griffins case, to exchange a few words with a pretty girl.  Soon enough though the siren song of Lady Luck calls, and the table once again enjoys the sound of clinking coins and riffling cards.  Eventually Griffin manages to take the win, splitting things between himself, Villie the young boatman (who Griffin figured for a strong player), and Fedor edges out Iris for third.  Griffin thanks them all for a good game and quietly moves to a darker corner of the room.  He ponders the next step in this contract - talking to the Fairy King of Horses in the middle of the moors somewhere.  As he starts to try and plan the contingencies for the morning, Irina wanders over and soon he is thinking of other things.  Let tomorrow deal with tomorrow, he thought.  Especially if there’s a pretty girl involved.
Eventually, the night winds down and everyone gets to sleep, hoping to be fully rested and ready to go the following day.

Loshdain 2 of Flaurmont, 1001AC

The morning comes early, and Griffin knows he still has things to do before they set out to the moors.  He negotiates with Pytor for some camping basics and a double-handful of new crossbow bolts.  
Some other last minute supplies are procured and the horses are loaded and the Grey Company once again heads out from the Traladaran homestead, Susikyn.

Camping on the Moor

After another day of travel, the Company has arrived at the Moor, though the location of the Table Rock has not yet been determined. The Moor proved to be quite colorful and beautiful, though very wet in some places and the insects are a bit annoying.
the moors.jpg
The Moor is beautiful after a good spring rain.
A nice, comfortable camp with some concealment is set up and everyone gets ready for the night, eager to find this Table Rock by the next day and get to summoning the Fairy King of Horses.
Draven surveys the site that was picked out, trying to see just what set it apart for Griffin. He wanders around the outside perimeter and looks for anything that might indicate the presence of others in the area before the company arrived.
Griffin takes a moment to appreciate a comfortable camp on a rainless evening.  Quite different from the ordeal in the petrified forest.  Still, no doubt there would be adventure to be had out here as well.
“Okay, folks, single person watches tonight.  Iris, ladies first?  Then Marcel, Draven, and me.
Iris looks to Griffin with a raised eyebrow, “You don’t have to treat me differently, you know. But, yes, I will take the first watch.”
Marcel is very excited about this turn of event. He wonders what happened in the last few days as they seemed to be a blur. He hums and whistles the old ditty titled “The King’s fair meadow”. The song is played at funerals and at christenings but its origin is long lost. He wonders a bit about some parts, and for this reason, practices a lot. Soon, everyone in the camp are humming the tune whether they like it or not.
The sounds of the Moor increase after the sun goes down and the bright half moon comes up. The light of the moon does its best to peek out between the clouds, but nearly the entire sky is covered in a thick blanket of grey. The temperature begins to fall rather quickly and a deep, misty fog rises up from the moist ground, making everything seem quite spooky and surreal. Wolf howls are heard in the distance, the cries of a large cat can be heard a little closer and the incessant drone of insects, frogs and birds fills in any quiet space. The fog hugs the edge of the campsite, the warmth of the fire keeping it at bay.
Iris takes the time to make her daily visit to the wildlife at night again, inviting them to a place beside her when the others are sleeping. She speaks to them, not expecting any legible response, and gets a sense for their perception of the area around them. She keeps her voice down, but commands a certain nature about her that she hopes is inviting and welcoming to the wilderness around her. She was going back to the Moor. She’s suddenly closer to home.
Marcel feels like he has come home. He tells the others about the heartbeat in the land that he can feel and is perplexed that he is the only one feeling it. “The moors is where it all started.”, he repeats every now and again. “I bet that us Traladarans came from the moors”, or rather he knows.
He cooks with gusto to enliven spirits. Griffin though notices that he adds odds ingredients to his meals: lichen from the rocks, ground barks from twigs of heathers. He assures everyone that these are traditional Traladaran spices. He cautions Iris to thread carefully with the gentle fauna of the Moors for “Thyatians are guest in this ancient land”.
Draven listens to Marcel’s constant stream of stories and suppositions, awkwardly scrawling notes in his journal. “You believe that to be true, Marcel? That your folk sprang from these marshes in time immemorial?”
“Draven, my friend, have another bowl of Traladaran sweetbread.”, he replies with his mouth full. “I must speak the truth to you and I must tell you that I do not know this from knowledge in books.” He dusts the crumb from his lap, swallows and pauses to realize just how tasty what he made really is. “I can feel it… and I’ve been in a lot of shitty places in my days.”
Draven hesitates on whether scrawling in his book or not, slightly perplexed. “Take this recipe. It just came to me.” Now, if this isn’t a validation of his intuition, nothing ever will. Marcel smiles and starts washing the dishes for everyone.
Having seen other things more dubious than this written in the histories he’s read in the past, continues to make his notes, annotating, however “I have heard this, but I do not know it to be true.” He is loath to discount something merely because it is based on intuition. His own faith doesn't make itself plainly known sometimes, after all.
“That was a fine meal, Marcel. You are coming into your own as a chef now. A marketable trade, should you ever decide to retire from this life of wandering.”
Marcel feels more than ever that he found in the Grey Company the brotherhood that he missed so sharply when he left the guard. “You are welcome, Draven. I can’t imagine having life any other way.”
Later that evening, while Marcel is alone and awake on watch, he hears the loud whinny of horses in the distance. The Company’s horses all wake and begin stamping around nervously. Marcel stands to see if he can spot anything, but the cloudy sky is completely blocking the moon and stars, making it difficult to see past the dim glow of the campfire. As he looks, Marcel sees that Griffin is awake also.

Serenading the Night

“Hey Marcel, why don’t you try your song now?  Can’t hurt, right?”
Griffin is pretty much reading Marcel’s mind. “I wonder if we’re pissing him off withholding our horses.”, he wonders aloud. He steps forward, puts down his spear that he was cradling in his arms.
“He is here.” He shuffles silently away from the camp and embeds himself into the darkness all around. Beating the rhythm on his belly like a drum:

“The King’s fair Meadow is fuuuuuuuul of heather on this day.
The daaaaaay the sons of toils have set asiiiiide to praaaaaaay.
The hiiiiiiiiiills are glum, the skyyyyyy’s a drum,
That beats darkness awaaaaaaaay.

And so I hear, you drawing near,
Embrace this soul you maaaaaaaaaay.”

“We are here, Fairy King of Horses, meet you soon on fair Table Rock”, he whispers.
“Do not hold the horses if they so choose to go.”, he adds a bit louder so others may hear.
The rest of the camp is woken up by Marcel’s singing and belly drumming. The horses continue to be restless, pulling at their leads.
“Iris, you seem to have a certain… bond with animals. What do you think? If we let them have their lead, will they return to us at need?”
Griffin groans as Marcel’s soldierly tenor rolls over the fields. “Guys, let’s table discussions until the morning, okay?  This is going to be a night op for the next bit - let’s adjust tomorrow.”  He pulls his blanket back up over his head and goes back to sleep.
Iris is fascinated by the effect Marcel’s singing is having on the horses in the camp. Merely nodding in response to Draven’s open question, she walks up to the horses and keeps a wide berth between them and her. With a gentle approach, she tries to gauge the emotions of the animals.
Marcel takes a profound breath and holds it while he listens for a sign, a sound, a song coming back to him. He lifts his foot up as it it would help.
As Iris goes to check on the horses, Marcel tries listening for the Fairy King of Horses, though he realizes that he could probably hear better if he weren’t still whistling. When he stops, he is sure he can hear the faint sounds of several horses galloping over soft ground nearby. Meanwhile, on a nearby patch of dry grass, Griffin pulls his blanket tighter over his head, trying to block out all the commotion around him.
Iris looks to the other in distress. “They seem to be in some sort of rapture. What should I do? Should I try to calm them down?” She points to the horses and seems to have a wild look in her eyes.
“I can’t tell for sure but, the Fairy King believes that hs has ownership over them. We could try to negotiate them back once that we make contact.” Marcel is unsure about this move, but this is nonetheless what he replies out loud. From the corner of his eye, he sees Pepito fretting and stomping.
“Yet again, these are the moors, there may be wolves about. Can you tell the difference?”, he asks Iris. He walks back to his bedroll and begins putting on his chainmail.
Iris looks at Marcel quizzically, “Can I tell the difference between what?” The young woman returns her focus to the horses and tries to calm them down. She fabricates a sequence of calm words and sounds that she has done before to try and placate animals under duress.
Iris’s soothing words and calm gestures seem to help the horses settle down a bit. The distant sound of horses on the Moor have faded away into the sounds of the night. Very quickly, the Company’s horses seem back to normal, and Pepito has already fallen back asleep.
“The King was here.”, Marcel states. “Let’s get some sleep now. Tomorrow will be another day!”
That said, the camp goes back to sleep with Marcel quietly whistling his tune. The night passes with no further incident.

Soladain 3rd of Flaurmont, 1001AC

Scouring the Moor

The next morning brings a new day, and scattered showers. Nothing heavy like the previous days, but as camp is being struck, it rains off and on several times. The heavy grey clouds blanketing the sky threaten to treat the Company with much of the same throughout the day.
Not with much enthusiasm does Draven ready his horse. One-handed riding is still something of a chore and not something he can make himself be excited about. “Has anyone been to this Table Rock? And is there any benefit to trying to find a swell of ground or hillock from which to survey the way ahead?”
“I reckon that Table Rock will be on a hillock or something like this. It would be great if we could identify a landmark which is obvious enough for us to fan out and explore in a wider swath during part of the day. It could be a tree, a trail, a stream or a hill.  We certainly don’t want to get separated at night. Alternatively, we can ride side-by-side at the edge of our line of sight.”
Leading his horse roughly along, Draven makes for a nearby rise. Holding the reins in his former off-hand, he finds that he’s sitting uncomfortably, and has to use his legs a lot more than normal to keep the horse on the straight and narrow - probably still antsy from the previous night’s visit from the horse lord. But the rise does provide some better perspective on the lay of the land.
He peers out around him, shielding his eyes with his right forearm.
From the vantage point on the rise, Draven has a very good view of the surrounding moor for several miles, though he does not spot this “Table Rock’ they are searching for. One thing he is able to do is cross off quite a bit of land that he knows the Table Rock is NOT in. He smiles, accepting this progress and rides on.
Iris had been in and around the Moor for a short time of her life, but she did not particularly know the location of this rock they were looking for. Taking the reins of her steed, she goes another direction from Draven, as Marcel suggested, but not too straying too far from the rest of the company. She tells the others she will see what she can find and report back.
Iris and Marcel continue their search to the south and west while Draven and Griffin focus to the north and east. The highland Moor can be difficult to traverse from time to time, especially with the occasional shower keeping the ground very soft and moist. There are lots of sidetracks and backtracking involved. Even moving from rise to rise, it appears there are many places that are still not visible, due to other rises, random knots of trees, low places and hollows, etc. The search carries on throughout the day, everyone meeting back up at mid-day to share any findings, then splitting back up to search again.
Griffin is consulting his map when Draven returns. “Hey, when you were up there, could you see anything higher than those cliffs off here to the north?  Maybe that would give us an even better vantage point.”
Draven shrugs.  “Not really.” He points to the map. “I didn’t see anything in this area, for what that’s worth.”
Griffin nods.  “I may have to take a hike up to those cliffs then.  Looks like a good day for a climb.  Not too hot.”  He looks at the young priest. “Care to come along?  I’d feel better if there were someone to watch Lucky while I climb.”
Draven stiffens for a moment, fearing that Griffin would want him to join in the climb. He was still learning his way around with but the one hand, after all. But to stay with the horses, that was something he could do, and could render other aid should Griffin run into trouble. “Surely. Lead the way.” He nudges his warhorse into motion with his knees.
Griffin leaves a note on a prominent rock near the trail at the base of Draven’s rise to let Marcel and Iris know his plans, then turns Lucky towards the cliffs that mark the northern border of the moors.  With any luck, he could pick out the Table Rock and they could see if this wild goose chase could actually bear fruit.  Out of respect for his friend Marcel, Griffin has not shared how skeptical he is feeling about the pursuit of the Fairy King of Horses.  Still, it’s the only lead they have.  When this fails, they may have to head out east again to find the Seer.
As they ride along, Griffin’s thoughts turn to ‘the next step’.  Always have a plan, son.  It can change as it needs to, but if you don’t have a plan, you won’t know when you get where you need to be.  “I was also thinking.  Once we find this Table Rock, we should probably shift our schedule so we try and sleep during the day.  We’ll all want to be up and ready when and if the Fairy Horse shows up.  Sound good to you?” 

Stirges - vile, bloodsucking vermin

Stirge Attack!

Draven and Griffin head for the escarpment to the north and east, they find the Moor becoming wetter and wetter, eventually becoming full-blown swampland. The horses balk at traveling much further and Griffin estimates the rise still to be another good 2 miles away. From this spot, though, there is still a good view of this end of the Moor, revealing much lower ground at the base of the hills further north. Several miles to the east, the river can be seen, though the hills jut farther south than indicated on the map and block some of it’s view. As the two companions consider what to do next, one of the horses disturbs a nearby bush while eating. Suddenly, up from the ground comes a mass of leathery wings, long, sharp talons and pointy stingers! Stirges! A whole scourge of the foul, bloodsucking creatures fills the air, flapping and grabbing everywhere.
Griffin swears and wheels Lucky around.  “Let’s get out of here!” he yells to Draven.  Recalling his friend’s new riding challenge, he draws his sword, waving it about trying to bat the vile creatures out of the air until Draven gets himself underway.

A Stirge comes at both Griffin and Draven, attempting to latch on with its gripping talons. The one attacking Griffin flies past, missing, while the one coming at Draven is right on target!

Drave awkwardly swats at the stirge with his shield, strapped to his otherwise useless right hand, and miraculously manages to interpose it between himself and the foul creature’s stinger. He kicks his horse into a trot, as fast as feels safe in the marshy conditions, reserving his left hand for the reins alone.

Draven manages to get his horse moving away from the nasty beasts, waving his shield wildly over his head.

Seeing his comrade has managed to get clear of the stirges, Griffin urges Lucky to a gallop and moves out of their area as well.  Foul beasties…
As the two ride away, the stirges scatter and fly off in different directions. The two ride on for a bit more and as they pull and stop, Griffin notices a leathery, winged object hanging from the back of Draven’s mount. Apparently one of the Stirges had found a target! The winged bloodsucker seems to be much fatter than the ones that surprised them a moment ago. It’s lower body seems to throb and pulsate as it feeds on the horse. Draven’s mount does not seem to notice its new passenger.

Griffin gives Draven a look as he sidles up next to his horse, speaking soothingly as he does so.  When he’s in position, his hand shoots out and grabs the huge bug around the wings, hopefully not near the wicked looking spear of a nose the thing has.  He slowly pulls the thing out of the flank of Draven’s mount while wrapping another hand around it.

“What do you think, Draven?  Any good eating on these?” he says with a grin.
Draven looks over surprised at the Stirge that Griffin had pulled off of his horse, “Whoa, thanks for pulling…” He stops in mid sentence, staring at Griffin. “Um, I think you have one on your back as well!” he says, pointing over Griffin’s shoulder.
Griffin twists around, trying to see where the villainous little critter had somehow attached itself to him.  
Griffin can barely see the thing hanging from the middle of his back. He can see the little, brown leathery wings rippling as the creature sucks the blood from Griffin. Realizing now that the Stirge is there, Griffin feels a bit light headed and weak. The Stirge in his hand squirms around a bit and flaps its wings a bit, but seems quite lethargic and does not put up much of a fight to get away. It’s clawed talons snap in Griffin’s direction, but cannot find a good target.
Griffin looks a little woozy.  He tries to smoosh the critter in his hands, grinding his palms together.  It eventually pops, covering his hands with horse blood.  He notices that there seem to be little sparkles on the edges of his vision.
“Dude, can you do me a solid and get this thing off my back?  Maybe bash it with your shield?”
More than a little panicked to see his friend so afflicted, Draven takes a moment to ensure he can get his shield into position and whacks with all of his near-hysterical strength, striking the foul creature with the edge of the shield just as he’d hoped. The beast loses hold on Griffin, and turning his horse Draven guides it towards stepping on and crushing the foul thing as I lays there, engorged with blood.
“Lets get you looked at as well. You look none too good.” Summoning up his calm, he takes a few deep breaths and lays his hand on Griffin’s back.
Griffin shakes his head.  “Thanks, brother.  That’s much better.”  He dismounts and does a careful walkaround both Lucky and Draven’s horse, as well as the young priest himself, to make sure there were no more of the sneaky little bloodsuckers attached anywhere.
Satisfied, he remounts his horse and turns back south.  “We should probably go and check in with the others.  Maybe they found something.”  He looks at the sky.  “At least it looks like it’ll be a nice day tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, some distance away, Marcel takes a moment to scan the horizon for his companions. He sees Iris standing near her horse, about a half mile away. She appears to be crouched over and leaning heavily on the reins of her animal. To the north, he spots several dark winged shapes flying up and scattering in different directions. Some type of bird or other winged menace being disturbed, he assumes.
A half mile away, Iris coughs a few times and spits, wiping her mouth on her sleeve. Her stomach tightened again and she felt like she was going to vomit, though nothing came out. Apparently something she had eaten was not as good as Marcel had led her to believe. She knew she should not have trusted the Traladaran’s advice on eating the thick green shoots growing all over the Moor.
Marcel assumes that the cloud coincides with Draven and Griffin’s last known position. He decides to leave Iris to deal with her Thyatian sensitivities and launches into a gallop towards the winged beasts. His spear whooshing in the “invigorating” moors air.
A short while later, Marcel catches up with his two friends and they tell him what had happened with the Stirges. Marcel nods and mentions he has heard tales of the Stirges before. He asks if anyone had checked out the horse where the Stirge had been attached, because Stirge bites were known to bleed. Sure enough, there on the horses flank was a nasty black wound that was seeping blood. The horse was very touchy around that spot and began to snort and kick. Knowing his warhorse is still a bit temperamental, Draven keeps his distance as he examines the wound, not wanting to get kicked by the massive beast.
Griffin does his best at the horse’s head to soothe and distract it while Draven tends to the wound.  He can sense that the horse is confused.
“Aiee, that does look nasty.” He does his best to soothe the poor horse as he approaches, with a soft voice and gentle words. With time and his cooing, he managed to get close enough to see what has happened. The saliva of the stirge seems to have some property, keeping the wound from healing up on its own. He cleans it, gingerly, as be he can off-handed, before laying hands on the horse’s rump. I do hope the gods care for horses as they do for men. As the flow of divine grace proceeds through him, he lets out a sigh of relief.
“I sincerely hope that’s all the trouble we can expect between here and…” Before he can finish...
As the three companions are standing around on the Moor, they hear Iris yelling from a distance to the south. They turn and see her riding toward them. “I found the Table Rock!” she is yelling over and over, her wide smile visible even from a distance!

The Grey Company has ranged all across the area

Continued on GDA25 - An Audience with the (Fairy) King (of Horses)

Cast of Characters: 

Garrett "Griffin" Constantine, a Thyatian rogue of a gambler from Penhaligon rolled by +Arne Jamtgaard 

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 ministered by +Jason Packer 

Iris Varda, a Thyatian explorer and historian searching for answers and adventure guided by +Alex Safatli  

Remar Umerus, an Alphatian battle mage that escaped forced service in the Thyatian army conjured by +Ben Lipe and currently in NPC mode. 

and +Jason Woollard as The DM