Grand Duchy 32

Grand Duchy of Adventure

Session 32
September 9 - October 8, 2014

Ding Dong, the Wolves are Dead

Lunadain 11th of Flaurmont

Two Heads in a Sack

The decapitated form of Kalkask lays motionless next to his headless mother. Steam rises from the dark pools of blood surrounding the werewolf bodies. Akaios stands over them, panting, his hands still gripping tightly his heavy axe that is now dripping with their blood. His own blood covers his neck and most of his chest. The vicious wound just below his chin is still bleeding. Griffin steps up and kicks Kalkask’s severed head a little farther away from it’s body, just for good measure. Burik is sitting down nearby, holding his side where more blood can be seen soaking his shirt. Pytor’s magic sword lays unceremoniously nearby. Marcel leans heavily on his spear, its silver tip catching the moonlight that floods the area. Ree winces as she walks up, still wounded and a bit shaken from her rocky fall only moments ago, though in surprisingly good shape thanks to Draven’s healing touch. Iris looks around nervously, still clutching at the places where some fairly serious wounds had just been but have been miraculously removed, thanks to Draven again.

Remar rushes over to the group, his cries echoing throughout the lair, “That infernal beast got me! It BIT me! IT BIT ME!” He is nearly sobbing by the time he gets to Draven. “Quick, do something! I do not want to turn into one of those things! Help me!”

“Okay, okay!  Remar! SIT DOWN!” Griffin points to a spot near the wall, away from the werewolf corpses. He points at a spot next to Remar. “Big guy, you need to sit down, too,” and he leads the wounded warrior Akaios over to the wall to sit down as well.  

“Draven, I can help. I’ll take this big lug - er, I mean werewolf-slayer” and he points to Akaios, “while you attend to Remar, okay?” He looks at Ree and Marcel. “Why don’t you two buddy up and let the Elves know that the fight is over here. Then hoof it back and we’ll finish up policing the area. This is gonna take a while.” He kneels down and starts performing first aid on his friend. “I probably don’t have Draven’s touch, old friend, so this will probably sting a bit.”

Remar stops and becomes silent, following Griffin’s orders. He sits and stares off at a spot on the ground in front of him. Akaios follows him sits nearby. Griffin searches through his and some other packs, looking for a first aid kit or at least some bandages, but finds none. He rips a piece of fabric from his friend’s pant leg and secures the wound. He thinks that maybe if he takes more time, he can do something more about treating the wounds.

Ree starts for the cave mouth, looking back at Marcel to see if he is coming with her.

“Do we have any of that wolvesbane left?” Draven calls out as he starts to work on looking at Remar’s wounds. “If so, someone get it, with some water, over a fire to steep. Make a tea of it, we’ll use it to bathe the wounds before I call upon the gods for a good clean healing.” To Remar he says, with as stern a look as he can manage, “you’ll be fine. It takes more than a little ill luck to have a wound such as this go bad. Now, let’s get you cleaned up…” He sets to work on early First Aid. “Should have brought a silver solution along with us as well…” he mutters while he searches in his pack for bandages.

Griffin looks the the only unoccupied team member. “Iris! Get a fire started and make Draven his tea!” He motions to his backpack where his flint and steel and personal basics are kept.

Remar begins to calm down under the tender care of Draven. The Alphatian mage settles in and closes his eyes, allowing Draven to clean and bandage his wounds with strips ripped off of Remar’s shirt.

Marcel is somewhat unenthusiastic about running around some more. The door to the outside seems so far, and his legs are aching. Ree is looking back, which is weird since he can’t remember her ever paying attention to him. He musters the energy and takes it in stride to the entrance, carefully avoiding the caltrops by sweeping them aside on the way out.

“Are you OK?”, he asks. Ree must still be shaken by the tumble because she replies that she is OK in a shaky voice. “Yeah, me neither”, he adds as they make it out into the open space where he hope them’ elves have figured out where things are at right now.

The utter humiliation Iris feels is towering. She was hoping to display her prowess and worth to the others in the combat with the wolves but only managed to get herself wounded. Now she is more of a hinderance than ever. Hearing her name, she sighs, holds her whimper from the pain, and goes to work trying to return to some semblance of normal.

Marcel and Ree make it outside the lair and start looking for the Elves. Iris gets a small fire going and makes a nasty smelling tea from bits of the dried wolfsbane, handling it carefully as she recalls that wolfsbane can be harmful to not just Werewolves in certain cases.

After tending to Akaios and turning him over to Draven’s ministrations, Griffin turns to see a very pale Burik sitting against the wall, staring at nothing. “Burik, buddy, you okay?” The warrior looks up at Griffin with glassy eyes and manages a weak grin. “Well, actually, I’ve felt better.” He winces as he chuckles. “That bastard got in some good hits.”

Griffin gulps, “Draven! Draven! Burik’s hurt bad, and too stupid to mention it! Get over here ASAP!” Griffin starts treating for shock., propping his legs up on some random bones. He makes another mental note to make sure that when they get back to civilization that the group medical kit he is planning on having the Company buy for Draven includes things like extra blankets for times like this. Maybe even a pillow for a wounded comrade’s head.

After nearly an hour of patching up some of the wounded, everyone seems to be in a little better shape, though everyone’s clothes are starting to look very ragged and torn. Ree and Marcel make it back with Thallan in tow. The Elf says that while scouting and keeping watch, several of his Elves were engaged by the wolves of the pack. None of them were seriously injured, but they did sustain some minor injuries. He is pleased to see the two decapitated Werewolves then his eyes go to the dark statue of Orcus standing high above. “That abomination bothers me, I will stay in this place no more. I will gather the others not far from here, back toward the crazy one’s mystic circle. We will wait for you there.” He turns and leaves.

After he is patched up, Remar spends some time healing up some of the minor injuries using his magic. He then attempts to cast the healing on himself but the look on his face shows that he failed. He looks to Draven and says “I’ve done what I can… your turn, brother.”

Draven gets a moment to look over his friends again and sees that some are still bear minor wounds, though Burik’s injury is still quite serious.

While the first aid is going on, a little investigation is done around Kalkask’s motionless body. It is revealed that the beast had been wearing some sort of necklace or medallion around his neck. The chain can be seen, now cut, laying near him though the pendant hanging on it was now hidden under the fallen creatures body. The Werewolf also wore what looks like a potion belt around his waist. It appears that there are some potions in one of the side pockets.

“Ooo, what have we here?” Griffin grabs the bag he brought his traps in and scoops the pendant into it. “Can’t be too careful with old Big and Ugly looking on.” He pulls off the potion belt and adds it to the burlap sack as well. He eyes it as it goes in. Hmmm… Something like that could come in handy. And I wonder what the potions are. Maybe someone with the magic, Iris or Remar or the Elves, can help us puzzle out that little mystery.

After a little time to rest, Remar has regained enough strength to get nervous again. After performing his limited healing magic, he begins pacing around near the entrance to the lair. “What are we waiting for? Let’s get these damn heads and get out of here!” Akaios look as if he agrees with him, then looks back at his still wounded friend, Burik.
Reviewing the situation, Draven sets to work, summoning the powers of the gods to his aid. He begins with Burik, paying close attention to his wounds and spending a goodly amount of time on prayer before he sets to it. Remar comes next, and finally, after a breather and a bit more time for prayer, Akaios. His head swimming after channeling all of that power, he rests a while before calling Marcel over to bandage him up. “I shall need a new tunic after this, having ravaged this one so in search of bandages and the like.”

“As for getting out of here, I must say not yet. That profane idol comes down - and Griffin, don’t get too far away with that amulet. Whether it too is something we destroy, or if it makes more sense to take it with us for research, or to use as a point of connection for scrying or the like,” he says, trying to sound like he knows much about such things but nodding in Remar’s direction all the same.

“So,” he says somewhat bombastically, “who’ll help me topple a false god?”

Searching the Dens

Griffin grins. “I’m in, brother.” He moves to load the heads of Bailakask and Kalkask into his burlap sack. “While you’re catching your breath, let me check out the rest of the place. Then we can see about climbing up there and taking care of Big and Ugly.”
Two werewolf heads... to go...

Griffin searches each den, making sure that he checks for traps at each entrance. Not that he really thinks that wolves lay traps, but since he doesn’t know which dens are the werewolves, he doesn’t take any chances. Slow and steady are his watchwords now that the fight is over.

He is very methodical, eschewing moving directly to the obvious den that Bailakask emerged from, and starting with the den closest to the entrance. He figures most of them will just have bones, but this place, which obviously has some history beyond that of a werewolves lair, could have more to it than meets the eye. Once that occurs to him, he makes an inspection of the walls both inside of and between the dens. It would be a shame to miss a secret door because he rushes.

While he is curious, he is also a little leary of the statue of Orcus. He saves the trip up the trail for last, hoping that some of the others will have recovered and be able to join him.

Griffin carefully checks and searches the wolf dens. In the den that Bailakask emerged from, Griffin finds some something interesting. Tucked into a narrow fissure at the back of the cave is a small chest, wedged into the brown rock and covered by a small pile of bones.

Griffin chuckles, “Well, hello, my dear. What have we here?” He checks for tripwires before extracting the chest from the hidey-hole. Examining the lock, he talks to himself, “Looks like a Bramah lock, maybe three-four tumblers. I’ll probably need the old number five.” After assessing the chest itself for traps as well, Griffin sets to work on the lock. After a few minutes of delicate work, the lock opens. Griffin lifts the lid and peers inside.

Inside the chest is a pile of old, tattered clothes. Underneath the clothes, though, is a  pile of gold coins, a jeweled-silver necklace and a small velvet pouch with 10 gemstones inside.

He smiles as he inspects the haul. By his estimates, the loot looked to be worth close to 1000 gold! The gemstones would do well as less liquid capital, good for rewards for the Elves perhaps? It was probably not too early to start working on the positive reputation of the Grey Company. You never knew when a grand gesture could come back to benefit you ten-fold.

He was glad he wasn’t in this for the money. Burik was, but fortunately the young farmer did not have a good sense for business. As long as Griffin could drop a sack of gold in front of his friend’s eyes, Burik would think too much about the inner workings of the Company’s finances.

After he has pulled the box out from its hiding place, Griffin notices something else shoved up into the little crevice. It looks like something made of leather and metal.

Carefully Griffin extracts the odd “something” and inspects it. “Hmmm… And what might you be?”

The “something” turns out to be an old saddle. It looks like it must have at one time been very finely crafted and ornate, though now it is falling apart and dry rotted away. Some of the metal parts and embellishments look like they may be salvageable though.

Griffin will cut away the leather and put the metal into the chest along with the coins and jewelry. Someday we’re going to get to a town or market or something. You look like some decent workmanship. I might be able to get a fair penny for you. Or maybe I’ll get a horse again and need to dress up my tack.

I wonder what the rest of the group has gotten up to while I’ve been in here? I should probably let them know what I’ve found. I know it might improve Burik’s mood - gold always seems to.

The Idol of Evil

Meanwhile, while Griffin is examining the wolf dens, Draven feels the need to deal with the statue of Orcus looking down upon the lair.

“Akaios, Burik, when you feel up to it, I’ll want your help here. I suspect Griffin and maybe Iris?” he says, giving her a sidelong glance, “can get up there and loop some ropes around that pompous statue, and I’ll want your sturdy backs, and yours too Marcel, ready to tug it down where it belongs.”

Hearing her voice, she smiles tentatively at Draven and begins to climb up to his vantage point. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Here, Iris, let’s get a look at this thing before Griffin gets up here with the ropes. I’m sure it can’t be healthy to touch, and I fear the possibility of traps…”

Orcus sees all!
The statue is about 10 feet tall and constructed out of some sort of dark grey stone. It depicts a grotesque form of Orcus, the Prince of Demons. Goat-headed, pot-bellied, cloven-hoofed and bat-winged, the statue stands overlooking the entire wolf lair. It’s right hand holds up a carved sceptre with what looks to be a human skull on top. The statues eyes glint in the moonlight. They appear to be two dark green-blue gemstones. Many arcane and profane carvings and markings cover the statue and the stone pedestal that it stands on. The statue appears to be weathered, but not so much as to be crumbling or falling apart. Upon initial examination, Iris believes this is relatively new (last few decades) or it is maintained regularly. It should be quite easy to get a rope wrapped around it and topple it, but then Draven begins wondering if the Company even brought any rope with them, since all the horses and gear were left back at Wyrtung’s place.

So after some time examining the statue and situation, it is agreed upon that it would be easy enough to topple, but several good lengths of rope will be needed. Akaios is positive that he could probably tip it off the ledge, though he does not want to touch the profane sculpture. Everyone agrees it needs to be dealt with, though no one is very interested in getting very close to it.

Griffin crawls out of the last den, and dusts himself off. He sees Draven and the others inspecting the Orcus statue, trying to figure out how to destroy it. “Hey guys, can I make a suggestion? It's the middle of the night. How's about we hike back to Wyrtung's, rest and recover, then come back in the morning with supplies and all our gear - maybe even a horse to help pull. Maybe the Elves can ID our finds, or provide us with new clothes or bandages or more ropes? Whadda ya think?”

Heading Back to the Mound

Upon hearing this suggestion, Remar hops back to his feet and begins nodding his head, “Yes, yes! What Griffin said. Let us return to the greasy one’s camp. We can regroup and re-evaluate. THEN we can proceed forward with the best plan!” He grabs his silvered baton and quickly shoulders his backpack then heads toward the cave mouth. As he does this, the bottom and side of his threadbare pack rips out, spilling its contents onto the floor. His two heavy grimoires hit him in the back of the legs, nearly toppling him over. He cries out in desperation and starts gathering up his belongings.

In an unprecedented move, Ariadne steps up and helps him gathers his things, being careful and respectful with his magical tomes. He smiles weakly at her then rushes out of the cavern, carrying his books, blanket and other belongings held tightly to his chest. “I agree with that one,” Ree says, nodding her head toward the fleeing Remar, “and Griffin, of course.” She smiles and blushes a bit remembering that it had been Griffin’s plan in the first place. She turns and follows Remar.

Though he attempts to hide it, everyone else sees Burik shooting nasty looks at Remar after this interaction with Ree, but it is not enough to make him take an alternate view of the situation. He and Akaios both grab their gear and begin moving toward the exit. “We’ll knock this demon pig down tomorrow, come on,” Akaios calls out, trying to sound jovial.

Toppling a statue on the morrow sounds like a well deserved perk at the end of a hard’s day of work. Marcel shakes himself awake as he dozed off while warming up by the fire for a little bit. A man needs his sleep, and somehow he needed to internalize the horrifying moments that they had gone through in the past hour or so.

He adds to the general enthusiasm for a swift return to camp. The silver seem to have held up quite well and he is definitely proud of that. He is, however, rather worried about Remar and Akaios. His graps of lore is at best an intuitive one, but he is pretty sure that something bad was set in motion. He peeked at the smartest of the lot: Griffin, Draven and Iris and tried to maneuver such that they can talk briefly.

“Hey, guys. ”, he doubletakes, “ladies…”, shakes his head. “friends. What is going to happen with Remar and Akaios?”

Hot to trot and ready to end this, Draven is ready to dig in his heels, but seeing the entire rest of the party ready to call it a night, he stifles his argument.

Pondering Marcel’s question, Draven shakes his head. “I’m not sure I know how to remove such a curse if they were, in fact, infected, but where my knowledge fails, the gods shall provide.” He clutches his holy symbol, certain it glows all the brighter in the face of the profane idol. “It may be that Remar, in his altogether natural fear of the creatures, has read up upon them and will know what to expect. Or perhaps the elves may know more, or our aged acquaintance back at the camp.”

“Yes, let’s adjourn there. We must attend to the living before we take such joy as we can from purifying this place. It will give me time to bless some of the water to bring here, to purify ourselves after touching the profane idol.”

Marcel realises that Remar may be the right person to answer the question, although he is concerned that he may be a bit too close to be rational about this. He shuffles faster until he gets to Remar’s position and offer to take on some of his baggage.

“Tough day.”, his voice trails. He meant to continue with something like “should we finish you off before you kill someone in their sleep in Susikyn?”. His thoughts are grim. Remar probably reads through Marcel’s open book and pat him on the shoulder.

“What’s bothering you?”, Remar asks to Marcel.

“Well, what do you make of your bite? Am I crazy to worry about that? What if you caught this curse?”

Remar sort of shrugs his head to one side, “here, on my neck. It’s gone now, Draven’s magic patched it up, but, um yea, I’m sure that I’m fine. I would have already changed, right?” the young mage asks nervously, looking around at everyone and all their silvered weapons.

Marcel and Remar’s conversation is cut short by a bellowing curse from behind them. “To the Abyss and back, the silver is cracking off of my axe!” Akaios holds his axe up, checking and picking at the chipping silver on the blade of his weapon.

Marcel stares are Remar’s neck, looking for a reason to sound positive. “Oh, that is how it works right. I knew that.” Marcel is a bit disappointed by Remar’s lucidity. He can already see the ramifications of bringing two werewolves to Susikyn.

Marcel gets lost in his thought as he stares at his reflection in the silver of the edge of his shield. At this moment, Akaios begins to curse.

“Shoddy work, I tell you.”, replies Marcel. “It is a miracle that the werewolves even believed that these were silver.” Griffin frowns at the logic.

Marcel inspects the axe closely, glances nervously where Akaios was bitten. “The axe won’t be the same. I had to score the surface to make the silver stick.”  

Akaios’s eyes widen and his face reddens in the glow of Marcel’s shield. “WHAT! That axe was my fathers, and his mother’s before him and on and on and back and back! It has felled countless foes, Goblins, Zombies, Beastmen of old! Even DRAGONS! Ahhhhrgh!” He puts his hands to his face and spins away, trembling.

“Not the same doesn’t mean that it is broken. That axe felled a werewolf or two as well. Something to be proud of. All that it needs really is a vigorous round of buffing to wipe the scoring marks.”

Marcel scope the area and take note of everyones’ position.  He directs the other to pause the walk while he tries to get close to Akaios to decide whether he is about to blow. If he is starting to grow a beard, the spear will go in first.

Akaios does not get any hairer, does not “blow,” he merely stalks away and sulks for a while as the Company walks. After a short while, the Company meets back up with the group of Callarii Elves and together they make their way back to Wyrtung’s mound.

Griffin hands the heavy bag with his traps and the werewolf heads to Marcel, then falls into step next to his large hairy friend. “Don’t worry, we’ll get your axe fixed good as new, buddy. You heard Marcel. And we’ll make sure you’re good as new as well. I don’t think a little nip from that pair of low-lifes can really change you into anything. You’re too tough for that.” He goes on to regale Akaois with his recollections of the fight and Akaois’ stellar performance in it.

After a while, the group makes it back to the mound and Wyrtung’s camp. The strange old man is sleeping, curled up into a little ball at the back of his little crevice. His snoring is loud and obnoxious and the group picks a spot in the ruins of the ancient structure to camp, near the horses, which all seem to be perfectly fine. It is considerably late, probably only a few hours until morning.

Marcel drops the heads of the werewolves beside his bedroll. He lies down and dozes off to the drone of chatter. Griffin, in particular, goes a long way to appease Akaios. Marcel sure hopes that helping him keep his cool will buy everyone time while seeking a solution to this tricky situation.  He remembers Bradoort, an old buddy of his from his days in Kelvin’s deep patrols. Bradoort had been bitten by a creature of the night. Despite his protests, his boyish whimper, they had to do away with him before things went bad.

As he drifts to sleep, he hoped that none of this ever need to come to pass. However, he’ll sleep in his chainmail and cuddle his spear for the next few nights.

Marcel enters a fitful sleep, dreaming of full moons, wolves and painful transformations. He wakes up several times, sweating and afraid. By the time he wakes in the morning, the sun is well into the sky and he feels as if he hasn’t slept a wink.

Chatting up the Elves

Griffin makes the rounds, checking in with all the team before they nod off. He takes first watch by himself, figuring that he probably won’t be able to sleep anyway, and dawn coming soon. He is settling in when he notices that a couple of Thallan’s team were still moving quietly about. He grabs, carefully, Kalkask’s amulet and potions and meanders over to their fire.

He clears his throat, as it’s the polite thing to do when you approach someone else’s fire, but he felt pretty sure that they knew he was there. Softly, “Evening, friends. I saw you were still up and wondered if you’d mind if I joined you?”

Thallan, the leader of the Elves, waves him in. “You have done a good thing today. Those foul beasts deserved it.”

Griffin nods. “Thank you. I have a good team.” He reaches into his bag and pulls out the items in question. He unfolds the cloth holding the amulet first, being careful not to actually touch it. “We found this on one of the werewolves, and these potions. Do you or any of your team have a way of helping us understand their natures?”

The gathered Elves all recoil at the sight of the amulet. In the orange glow of the fire, it takes on a purely demonic look. The goat skull in the center seems to grit its teeth and snarl while the empty eye sockets seem to glow with a deep red fire. Griffin can feel heat through the thin strip of cloth he is holding it by. He tries to readjust his grip and he feels it touch his skin, sending a shock of pain and fire through his body. The amulet and chain fall to the ground near the fire.

“Why do you bear such a thing, friend? You should not have brought that with you. It should be destroyed!” spits Vulwin, one of the Elves. He gets up and walks away, clearly not interested in being around the trappings of the Demon Prince.

Thallan leans away from the unholy symbol but agrees to take a look at the potions. “It will take some time, though. May I keep them until the sun has risen again?”

Griffin tactfully scoops up the amulet and hides it back in his bag. “Of course, of course. I’ll check in with you when in daylight.” He heads back to his camp, where he tucks the cloth-wrapped amulet into the chest then finishes out his watch. The sky is just showing the first hint of grey as he wakes Draven. “Your turn.” He heads to his bedroll and tries to sleep.

Pondering an Amulet

Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, Draven prepares to take the next watch. “Leave that foul amulet with me? I will use the time to ponder how best to destroy the thing, if that be the will of the gods.”

He retrieves a few cups of water and, holy symbol in hand, blesses them. Laying the amulet next to the bowl on the ground, he considers what might be gained by taking the thing, whole and unmolested, back to his home church. The scholars there might have a field day with it, reading from it all of the possible ways in which evil slips its foul fingers into the world of the godly and the good. Or they might recoil in as much horror as the elves did at the sight of such a thing, and wonder why he didn't have the common sense to destroy it utterly.
The unholy symbol of Orcus

Draven recalls his teachings on things like this. He knows that the symbols of all the Immortals act as a focus for the patron’s power, though tapping into that power for any reason is difficult for those not of the faith. Capturing an enemies symbol, though, can be seen as a way to target or hurt the opposed Immortal, and since Orcus is an enemy of nearly every sane and rational religion in the Known World, this could be a tool used to attack the Prince of Demons.

First, it should be cleansed in holy water to get rid of the general evil that clings to it. Fortunately for Draven, there is always a ready supply of holy water. He goes off to find a bowl or other container to hold and cleanse the demonic amulet. He smiles to himself as he thinks how proud his superiors will be when he brings this trophy back home.

Half expecting the amulet to either smolder and smoke, or melt clean away in the presence of the holy water, he carefully bathes it, holding it under the surface of the water in a baptism of sorts.

“I may not have the wherewithal myself, but surely Father Laurek and the others back in Kelvin can make use of this conduit.”

Cleaned up, he wraps it up in a tunic that he’s already started tearing into for bandages and stows it in his pack, away from anyone else’s sight lest they feel uncomfortable around the thing.

He considers well the larger statue and what will need to happen there. “No way to bring enough water to purify that,” he mutters to himself as he takes a quick check around the camp. “Just have to bring it down and destroy it. Ought to give our big fellows a bit of fun, taking turns with axes and clubs.”

Gromdain 12th of Flaurmont

New Surprises for a New Day

Griffin groans as the light of day penetrates his tightly-closed lids. He can hear folk moving around the camp and he sighs to himself - even if he wanted to roll over for some more well-deserved sleep, he knows that there is still more to do today. He stretches and sits up.

He looks around, making sure that no one has wandered off in the pre-dawn hours. Akaios is still snoring, sprawled inelegantly across a large swath of real estate. Ree and Burik are sitting on their blankets talking. Griffin smiles. Ariadne has changed quite a bit since they left Penhaligon. Getting out of town looks to have been good for her.

He cracks his neck as he stands, then stumbles over to the fire. Please let there be coffee.  Please let there be coffee. He hunkers down and warms his hands as he gets his mind going. After grabbing Marcel’s delicious Traladaran traditional breakfast of coffee(!), bacon and Traladaran waffles, he feels ready to start the day.

“All right, folks, listen up. We’re going to go back and pull down that ugly old statue today. I don’t see any reason to come back to this camp once we do that, so pack up everything. We’ll bring it with us. With the wolves and their masters taken care of,” and he lifts his coffee mug to Marcel and Akaios,” the horses should be safe in the vicinity.  I’m not sure if the Elves are going to join us or not - I’ll be heading over there after this.”

Griffin hurries to pack up his gear and then heads back to the Thallan’s camp. He greets the Elven leader and inquires about the potions that Kalkask was carrying.

Thallan greets Griffin and holds the two small vials out to him. “As far as I can tell, they are merely healing potions, potent ones, at that. They should serve you well, that is if you trust the elixir’s of a werewolf. I’m not so sure I would.” The Elf wipes his hands unconsciously on his pants after Griffin takes the two potions from him. “You seem to have gotten what you came for, as have we,” he turns and looks at his white horse grazing nearby. “We bid you farewell. We must return to Rifllian now. I shall look for you to bring the rest of the herd soon. The others in Rifllian are eager for the ponies!”

“I was also wondering if you had any first aid supplies to spare. We realized after that fight that we had run out of bandages, and had to start tearing up our clothes to take care of the wounded. I can certainly pay you well for them.”

“Ahh, let me check,” the tall Elf goes over and looks through some of his gear that is stowed near his horse. He pulls a small package from the gear and hands it to Griffin. “Will this suit your needs? An Elvish first aid kit. There are some bandages, ointments and other things that might be useful to you. I could part with it for something sparkly, perhaps, salvaged from a werewolf’s lair.” The Elf gives Griffin a wink.

Griffin grins. “Well, I was planning on showing the appreciation of the Grey Company for your help last night, and now seems like a good time.” He reaches into his kit and pulls out a small pouch. “I found these lying around the werewolf lair. And they’re kinda sparkly.” He hands it to Thallan. The Elf peers into the pouch and a smile crosses his face. “Well, my friend, let me just say that if the Grey Company ever needs the aid of the Elves of Rifflian, I for one would be happy to assist.” Griffin chats for a bit more with Thallan, mostly on what to expect in Rifflian, ways to contact him, that sort of thing, then wishes them a safe journey home and takes his leave.

When he returns to camp, he makes a beeline for Draven. “Here. I have a few presents for you, courtesy of the Grey Company.” He hands over the first aid kit and the healing potions. “We’re running out of clothing - figured we needed to do something ASAP. Maybe we can get some new clothes at Susikyn, whenever we get back there.”

“You’re not wrong. I know it is some distance, and the boats are irregular at the best of times, but we could all do with a week back in Kelvin to get our bearings, gather more and more up to date information, and generally recover.” He stows the kit and the potions, making sure Griffin knows where they lie. “You’ll need these if I go down in the next fight, after all.”

Unexpected Company

The Elves have gone and the Grey Company is making preparations to leave Wyrtung’s sanctuary. The sun is climbing in the sky and it feels as if it is going to be a nice, warm day. A cool breeze blows in from the north, sending a grey bank of clouds in front of the sun and Iris can be heard scrambling down from somewhere near the mound where she had been taking some notes about the stone work. “Um, hey, guys. You need to check this out, we have company,” she rushes into camp, panting from the run down the mound. She points back across her shoulder, up toward the top of the mound.

A light, swirling mist has gathered around the crown of the hill. It was unclear if the mist was coming from the waterfall, the rift in the hill or somewhere else, as it seemed to float and swirl this way and that. But even stranger than this mid-day fog was the group of women standing in the middle of it. There appeared to be five tall, armed and armored women. They were standing in a circle, facing right at the center of the stone circle atop the ever-silent hill. They were slowly swaying back and forth, almost with the motion of the surrounding mist.

Marcel suspects something good. Only good things can come out of a Traladaran mound/circle. He peers back at the fire and take stock of what’s left of breakfast. It will be tight, unless these are only visions. He reaches for his spear and shield, so as to make a good show, and calls out for Wyrtung to come over and fill them in on the vision/visit.

The strange hermit pops his head out of the narrow crevice that is his “storehouse” and looks around with wild eyes. “Who summons me? Oh you, what do you want?” He then turns and looks up toward the top of the mound and sees the gathering mist and strange women in its center. He lets out a high pitched yelp and quickly scrambles out of the storeroom and rushes toward his meager domicile, disappearing inside. His high pitched voice can still be heard, now speaking in his native language.

Griffin jumps up when Iris makes her announcement, then starts to head up towards the mound. He is a little concerned when he sees Wyrtung’s reaction, but his curiosity gets the best of him and he leaves Marcel to follow up with the hermit.

Taking a deep breath to steady himself, Draven takes a few seconds to summon around himself a protective aura of purity and good. Armored women are always a good sign by him - the Girder-on of Weapons comes immediately to mind - but it is never a bad idea to be prepared to be wrong.

That completed, he approaches the circle, cautiously.

Wyrtung ignores Marcel’s call and can be heard mumbling inside his little home. Draven and Griffin watch and approach the top of the mound. Iris follows slowly behind Griffin and Remar is near Draven. Akaios and Burik are on alert, guarding the horses and gear. Griffin spies Ree on the far side of the mound, belly crawling through the grass, trying to get close without being seen.

“Wyrtung, Oh! wise one. Are these your girlfriends? Why must you primp like this at their sight?”

Marcel waits for Wyrtung to be promptly corrected by the old man while keeping an eye on his eager friends climbing the mound.

Wyrtung eventually comes out of his little cave clutching a long, curved dagger that shines brightly in the morning sun. He pays no attention to Marcel and heads toward the steps leading up to the top of the mound.

On the top of the mound, the five women stop and turn, facing Draven and Griffin. They all look travel worn and tired, though they carry themselves with a sense of confidence and power.
Strange women appear on the mound

They bear weapons and armor and they wear unfamiliar styles in their clothes and hair. Several of them have markings of blue and white on their faces and exposed skin (though little skin is exposed.) The one with the light colored hair grasps a small locket that is around her neck and opens it in front of her face. She blows a puff of air on it and then a tiny dark shape flies out of it. The tiny shape, almost too small and quick to follow, rises up in growing circles above the mound before flying out past the mound on the far side. It zooms over toward Ree, where it hovers for a moment before flying to Griffin and Draven. As it approaches, a very slight buzzing sound can be heard. It buzzes around the two companions heads for a moment and it is identified as some sort of animated wasp construct. It is dark, possibly made of metal or stone, though a faint red glow can be seen coming from it. After a few seconds it buzzes off and does a flyby of Marcel and Akaios and Burik before flying back to the center of the mound, landing on the woman’s shoulder and hiding itself under her hair.
a metal mosquito!

One of the women, the tallest of the group, wearing some sort of dark yet sparkly plate with a greatsword strapped to her back steps out of the line and stares sternly at Griffin and Draven. She points and waves her hand in their general direction as well as toward their companions down below. Griffin believes she is indicating for them to leave the top of the mound, though Draven interprets it as she is wanting the members of the Grey Company to all come to the top of the mound.

Griffin clears his throat, then speaks, loud enough for Ree to hear. Heck, it’s not like the ladies in the circle can hear me.  “Okay, folks, I think they want us to back off and give them some space. Ree, they know you’re there as well, so let’s regroup and then maybe you and I can climb the cliffs to keep an eye on them while they do whatever it is they’re here to do. Okay?”

“Wait, what? No!” Draven struggles to keep his voice down. “That was a summons, not a dismissal. Now is not the time for you to abandon your devil-may-care sense of adventure!”

As he finishes up, Draven turns and smiles brightly at the women, and takes a first bold step towards them.

As Draven steps forward toward the edge of the circle, the tall woman that had been motioning toward them leaps forward, draws her sword over her shoulder and crouches into a ready position. She grits her teeth and sneers at Draven.

He stops dead in his tracks, smile, now somewhat sickly, frozen on his face. “Get that smug look off your face, Griffin” he mutters out of the side of his mouth without bothering to look back to verify there is one in the first place.

Wyrtung’s cracking, high pitched voice slices through the tension like a hot knife, “Back up, get back! Get off the mound! Let them finish. I know them. They are here, they are finally here! It is time!” He rushes past Marcel and starts climbing the stairs. Iris and Remar have already begun retreating down the slope, as has Ree on the other side of the mound.

Backing away like one might in the face of, oh, say a werewolf, Draven slowly makes his way back towards his comrades and stops to watch what transpires.

“I must say, I have no faith in what our odd little friend intends to do here. Ancient rites are no less heathen for their antiquity. Their age lends them know credence.”

Griffin wipes the smug look off his face as he turns and heads down the hill.  His devil-may-care sense of adventure tells him he wants to see what’s going on up on the mound, but his survival instinct tells him that he would probably meet the same welcome as Draven. He looks around and starts sprinting for the nearest cliff, hoping to quickly climb to a useful vantage point. He doesn’t think these women are evil, but they certainly do look dangerous.

Rubbing his palms in the dirt, Griffin assaults the cliff face. Based on his less-than-perfect awareness of mystic rituals, he should have time enough to climb and watch the festivities.

“These lasses are weird!”, mutters Marcel as he sees Griffin running away and then up the cliff wall. He follows Wyrtung at a slow pace, hoping that more information will come to him by the time that he catches up at all. Who knows… maybe they want to meet him, the Traladaran speaker-to-horses. “I’m a warlock”, he thinks to himself.

Everyone finally gets the picture and backs away from the edge of the circle. Wyrtung hurries up the steps, clutching his shiny knife before him. He continues muttering “they are here, they are here,” over and over as he makes his way to the circle, ignoring everyone else as he moves. Ree moves around the mound and joins Griffin up on the cliffside while everyone else congregates at the base of the hill near the creek. The women go back to their tight circle at the top of the mound, though they cannot be seen anymore by those at the base. Wyrtung stops at the top of the steps, right at the edge of the circle and drops to his knees, his head bowing down to the ground in front of him.

Fearing the worst, Draven sets about chanting quietly to himself, just the most basic of liturgies.

Griffin yells to Marcel, “You know, I bet they’ll be pretty hungry when they finish whatever it is they’re doing. Might appreciate a nice lunch, and maybe even the cook who made it. Just sayin’.”

In the realm of strange request, Griffin gets the palm. But hey, feeding them may be better than groveling. Marcel keeps a keen eye on the mound and gets busy with a seven-man omelette, with a special touch for the gentle palate.

Ceremony on the Mound

Draven continues his prayer while Marcel heads back to retrieve the cooking gear from the packed horses. Griffin and Ree watch from above. The women finish whatever it is they were doing in the middle of the circle then two of the dark haired ones walk to the edge of the circle, toward the prone Wyrtung. They beckon to him and he stands and enters the circle with them. He follows them to the center of the circle, still clutching the knife in front of him with both hands. Each of the women hold a hand out and Wyrtung takes his blade and cuts each one of their palms in turn, letting the blood drip on the knife and his hands. When he is done, he drops to his knees and grips the knife by its blade, holding the handle out to the red haired woman. She reaches out and grasps for the knife, missing it several times, as if she cannot see exactly where it is. She raises the knife above her head and the other women kneel down like Wyrtung.

The mad hermit raises his arms toward her then leans back as she plunges the knife deep into his chest, just below his throat. A dark spray of blood erupts from his torso and covers her. He stays on his knees, hands still up, for a few moments, shaking, then he falls to the grass, face down.

Shocked by this strange and violent turn of events, Griffin almost loses his footing on the cliff edge. He quickly backs up and looks at Ree, who wears a pale, shocked expression on her face.

The woman shoves the knife blade down into the ground near Wyrtung and the other women stand. They turn and walk toward the stairs leading down toward the others, who are all oblivious to the sacrifice that has just taken place out of sight on the top of the mound.

“By all that’s holy.” He shouts, “Guys! Guys! One of them just killed the old hermit, and now the five of them are coming your way! Fall back!”

Thinking quickly, Draven turns his general prayers into a broad call for intercession. “By all the good and holy gods, send us succor!” He gestures to Iris and Remar to fall back with him, to join Marcel and the others near the camp.

Draven, Iris and Remar quickly scramble back across the creek and into the area that had been used as a camp in the ruins of the old buildings. Marcel manages to knock his stew pot over in the excitement of going for his spear and shield. Everyone stands ready, watching the top of the hill for these newcomers to appear over the crest.

As they appear at the top of the hill, for a moment, Draven sees a 6th woman with them. She is taller and walking behind the others. Immediately he recognizes her as one of the venerated Patrons of his Church, the Grey Lady, Vanya the Inquisitor. She smiles down at Draven and spreads her arms out as if to embrace the five women as they start down the stairs toward the camp. The image of Vanya then seems to fade away into the dispersing mist that seems to follow the other women as they descend the stairs.

They do not communicate or even look at the gathered members of the Grey Company as they walk slowly down the steps. At the landing near the steaming rift, they stop and walk off the path toward the dark fissure. The red haired woman stays standing on the path while the others point at and examine the fissure. The white haired woman kneels down near the edge and waves her hand toward the opening.

Emboldened, Draven strides forward toward the red haired woman. “Warriors,” he says, first in Thyatian, then in Traladaran, “my lady Vanya holds you in her embrace, but we must know what you are doing here - we knew Wyrtung but a short while, but to see him cut down…” He doesn’t get too close, but far closer than his usual bravery would allow.

From his vantage point at the bottom of the stairs, Draven watches the women above. The red haired one just stands there on the path above him, her arms at her sides. The other ignore him for a moment, then the white haired one steps away from the crevice and steps to the ledge. She calls down in Thyatian, heavily accented, “You have no place to ask what we do here. This is our place. We will ask you.” As she speaks to him, the little metal bug flies past his face. It circles his head, its low droning buzz filling his ears. He begins to feel dizzy and queasy for a moment. He looks up at her, and suddenly feels incredibly guilty for making demands of this woman, who clearly belongs here. The little insect buzzes away and the young acolyte has to shake his head to clear it for a moment.

“I am Syareen, Star Sister. Who are you and why are you in this holy place? We are here to defeat a great evil. It was prophesied that on this day, the Leádstæf would freed from their prison. We are here to stop that. Have you come to free them?” She looks over Draven and the others. The tallest dark haired woman, the wielder of the greatsword steps up to her side. She puts her hands on her hips and also looks down onto the Grey Company. She says something quietly to Syareen and she responds. Draven can barely hear them but is sure they are speaking in another language. The tall dark haired one then breaks out into laughter. She turns to her companions, shouts something in a harsh, foreign tongue, then looks back and points at the Grey Company and laughs some more. “Bregna assures me that you are not the ones to free the Leádstæf. I agree with her,” Syareen says.

“We know nothing of this Leádstæf, at least not by that name, but the Grey Company did have a mission here as well. And we have accomplished it, just yesterday. The dispatching of a pair of marauding werewolves was our quarry, and they have been dispatched.” He bristles a bit at being laughed at by attractive women far more martial than himself. “Perhaps it is you who may find us of aid in your own quest?”

"Werewolves, you say, that is interesting. You may sit with us. We will hear what you have to say," Syareen replies. The rest of the group follows her down the steps and off the mound.

“Come then, join us. I believe Marcel was at work… oh dear. It appears our supper was was upset in all of the commotion.” Draven turns and attempts to lead the way back to the encampment.

Ree looks at Griffin, "Should we go down there? It doesn't look like they are killing our friends or should we stay up here out of sight?"  As she finishes, the tiny metal bug goes buzzing past. She looks back to the mound and shrugs.

“Yea, I kinda figured they were aware of us. Besides, if we don’t go down now, we might miss something.” He moves to the edge of the cliff, then bows. “Ladies first?”

“Check this out!” Ree says with a playful smile. She speaks a few arcane words and twists her hands into complex patterns. Her smile turns into a frown and her face darkens. “Dammit! Why is this so hard!” She turns and quickly starts to climb down before Griffin can say anything.

Griffin scrambles nimbly down the cliff face after Ree. He is still disturbed by the callous act he witnessed against the old hermit Wyrtung. He hoped that by now Draven would have learned more about these ladies and their plans.

The seven-men omelette slurped on the ground while it was still liquid, Marcel frowns and just walk away. Why can’t cooking be as easy as slaying werewolves? This remains a mystery to him.

Marcel has the sinking suspicion that the death of Wyrtung marks the beginning of a new keeper. He is a bit apprehensive as he has had the nagging feeling that the stars had something in store for him since his encounter with the Fairy King of Horses. He approaches the women with a quiet demeanor, sits quietly and listens: afraid to be called to become a naked old man in Wyrtung’s stead.

The Star Sisters

Syareen, the translator
The women come down from the mound and head toward the small fire pit that Marcel had recently prepared. The are all very tall and powerful looking women, dressed in armor and furs, though still appropriate for the spring weather. They look around at the group and the camp with observant eyes, though none of they speak. Once everyone is seated, Syareen speaks. “We are the Star Sisters, tasked with destroying this great evil once and for all. This mound has been a prison for 6 powerful and evil demons, the Leádstæf. They rest below the mound, there,” she points toward the dark, smoking fissure to the left. “We come from the far north, we are Heldannic Knights and have trained all our lives for this task. Our journey began nearly 1 year ago when Nurmin,” she indicates the red-haired woman next to her, “saw it in a dream. There were more of us when we departed, and now only 5 of us remain. At first it I believed that our quest was doomed when we lost our leader, as there were six demons to destroy and six Star Sisters chosen for the task, but I see now that all is as it should be, you and your companions have slain the first of the Demons already.”
Bregna, the leader
Griffin clears his throat. “Star Sisters, while I can certainly get behind folk killing demons, as that’s usually a good thing, I’m still bothered. What about your mission required you to kill the old man?” He crosses his arms and waits for a decent answer.

“Mmm. My mistake.”, says Marcel with an enigmatic look. He looks at the others with a smile. “In for a copper, in for a crown!”, facing the mound with anticipation.

“His job was done, it was foretold. His fate was set many years ago, before his birth. He was aware of what would happen at the appointed time and he was at peace with it,” Syareen states. 

Griffin looks thoughtful. “Well, now that you mention it, he did seem more than a little excited that you were here, and he did hand you the knife…”

Nurmin, the blind seer
She smiles, “Yes, it has been his lifelong duty and he has completed it. Also, he bore the Mark. It would not have been safe to let him live, considering what we need to do next.”

Syareen goes on to explain that their group, of which she is the translator, has traveled far from the north, from the city of Freiburg. They started with a much larger number in their company, 6 Star Sisters (Brenga, the default leader and wielder of the greatsword; Zau, with the maces and white leather armor; Piobaan, the scout with the staff-sling and cloak of obscurement and Nurmin, the blind redhead monk and seer who is said to be able to see “three heartbeats into the future”) and a handful of other support personnel (archers, bearers, healer, etc.)  When they had first set out, they did not know where they were going, only that they were to go south to fulfill their destinies and destroy an ancient evil. Each of the Star Sisters had been trained from birth to give up their lives to fulfill this prophecy, and though one had died along they way, it is such that prophecies go, that one was not needed as only 5 demons remain since the death of Bailikask.

Piobaan, the scout
Sayreen explains that under the mound is a pit of molten rock. On that rock floats a handful of platinum vessels crafted to be able to withstand immense heat and enchanted with strong binding magics. Inside those vessels are molten ingots of silver into which the spirits of the Leádstæf have been trapped. She does not know what to say about the sixth prison, as it should have been holding one of the demons, but somehow, it seems to have escaped.

Since the Werewolf was slain with a silver weapon, Sayreen is positive that the spirit of the demon had been destroyed. “If it had not been truly destroyed, Wyrtung would have been possessed by the beast when the ritual was complete. He bore the mark of Hyngran, thus one of the reasons for the ritual. All of this has happened for a reason. All is as the stars say it should be.” She turns and speaks to her companions in Heldannic, they reply and nod their heads.

“You all are good folk, it seems. Though I see that some of you bear the Mark. Some of your number were bitten by the wolf, were you not? This may be a problem. Do you wish to sacrifice yourself for the good of all people? I can lead you in the ritual if you choose.” 
Zau, the warrior

Remar and Akaios both look at each other then stare open mouthed at the Heldann woman.
“Um, no. No ritual for me. What are our other options?” Remar asks shakily.

The white haired woman laughs for a moment, then continues,”I believe you to be safe, though just to be careful, you should be nowhere nearby, just in case something goes wrong. The spirits can inhabit those who bear the Mark, though what we must do should prevent that from happening. The spirit can travel up to a mile or so, looking for a new host!”

She continues, telling the group that after they each bathe and eat, they will be ready to start the ritual. She invites them to remain in the area (except for Remar and Akaios) while they perform the ritual to destroy the demons. Burik volunteers to go with them, just to keep them company.

Before he lets Remar and Akaios go anywhere, he insists upon giving them a blessing, to keep them safe while work against the demons progresses.

Not sure that the Patrons had heard his request, the young Acolyte focus on more immediate matters. Draven has heard of demons being bound in ways similar to this, though he is unfamiliar with the specific demons the Star Sisters are dealing with. He assumes that it is the language difference. So many things can be lost in translation.

“Would the other missing demon a horse?”, interjects Marcel. Things are becoming more clear to him, or at least he thinks so. “If so, we know where to find him. He like apples.”

Syraeen looks at Marcel with a strange look, “Horse? No I do not think so. Hyngran takes the form of a wolf. I believe that demon was using the form of Werewolf to increase it’s power.”

“If we’re to do this, let’s do it right.” Draven collects some water and blesses it, and anoints any who are interested in being so cleansed. He prays fervently for the gods to protect him from evil, and from demons in particular as he gears up.

“Um, before we agree to do this, Sayreen, what exactly is it that you need us to do?” Griffin asks.

She stands and looks over the group, “Just be ready. It is our destiny to deal with these demons. I do not know what your destiny holds, just that it brought you here,” Syareen preaches.

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  

and +Jason Woollard as The DM

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