August 13-25, 2014
The Keeper of the Circle
Lunadain 11th of Flaurmont
The strange Human stops about 15 feet away and throws his hands in the air, calling out in Traladaran, “I said, what are you doing in my storehouse!”
Marcel realizes that this Wyrtung is heading up to the top of the mound, possibly to get his bucket. The Marcel follows the naked man. Just at the base of the stairs, the Keeper of the Circle stops and turns abruptly, bringing his hand up, as if to make a point. Marcel, who had been following just a bit too closely, ends up more than face to face with the fully naked man. Wyrtung crosses his eyes slightly, then huffs a mouthful of hot, sour breath into Marcel’s face. Marcel blushes and quickly retreats out of arm’s length of the man and steps to the side. Wyrtung composes himself a bit and then says, “You speak of Bailakask. I know of her.” As he speaks, he subconsciously puts one hand on his left elbow, hugging himself. “She does not come here, nor does her vile spawn, Kalkask. But that is why I must be here, must be the Keeper. I keep this circle and this place, but I also keep them out! But stop pestering me, it is time for me to bathe. I must bathe, for I am hungry.” To punctuate this last statement, Marcel can hear the man’s flat stomach growl again.
Griffin tosses the bundle of herbs he carried out of the cave behind a bush. He looks at Marcel with a shrug and a quirked eyebrow. You want to field this, or do you want me to?
Marcel lowers his spear and turns to the man.
“This is a storehouse? Well, this makes sense. I’m very sorry about this.”
Marcel motions the other to keep quiet while he appeases the man and figure out more about him.
“My name is Marcel, traveller who can’t resist exploring cracks in cliffs. For this, I apologize.”
Feigning a cough to avoid laughing at her companions’ shenanigans, Iris smiles at the strange and dirty stranger. “Is this really your storehouse? That’s so incredible! So, you must be very old then. Or you pass down as progeny from one of the caretakers of this religious site.” She stares right at the man and quirks an eyebrow, “What’s your name?”
Not yet joining in on the conversation, Draven takes a moment to pull his armor back on over his head and settle it into place. He listens in for the fellow’s replies, especially keen to see just how he manages to keep himself so clean, but also wondering a bit about the bones in the water off to the north.
The man stares at the companions then cocks his head to the side as if thinking, “I am the Keeper of the Circle,” he says matter of factly. “My name is, um,” he pauses for a moment and scratches his rough, bearded chin, “it is, well, oh yes, my name is Wyrtung. And what are your names, and what are you doing here?”
Marcel steps back into the foreground.
"We are the Grey Company, travelers stumbling here by accident. Our business is not with you, but we must admit that we are most curious about the circle and the reason why it requires a keeper. I hail from a Traladaran family, yet I have never heard of this wonder."
He invites the keeper to get seated on nearby stones and encourages him to talk.
While listening with half an ear, Draven crosses the ruins toward the stream that runs there to wash his hands and face, cleaning up from the dirt of his travels and from crawling through the fissure.
The strange man cautiously approaches the group while Draven excuses himself from the immediate area. “Everything needs a keeper. Your shield, his boots, her family, his gods, they all need keepers. I am this place’s keeper. That is what I am. Why have you come to this place, you say you have business elsewhere, but you are here.” He smiles an awkward smile then grimaces as his stomach audibly growls. “Ahh, excuse me.” He starts looking around on the ground near him. He pats the waistline of his ratty pants. He puts his finger to his mouth, a thoughtful look on his face. “Have you seen my pipe anywhere?” His stomach growls again. He holds his stomach and then looks over his shoulder to the eastern horizon. “The moon will be full tonight. I must bathe.” With that he stands and drops his pants and starts to walk toward the steps leading to the top of the mound.
From his place next to the bubbling brook, Draven is drawn from his washing by an astonished gasp from his companions. He turns around to see Wrytung striding toward him completely naked.
“So, Iris, still want to talk to the guy now? Maybe you should take your pants off?”, Marcel adds in a mock. He remembers the bucket with the pipe that he left on a rock atop the mound and heads for it.
The moon would be full that night.
“Full moon tonight hey? I guess this is what we’re here for. We are looking for Bailakask and Kalkask. Are they for real? Are they causing you trouble?”
He follows the keeper up the stairs to see where this bath will take them, and recover the bucket to give it back to him.
Griffin grins as his Traladaran friend interacts with the hermit. Yea, but when we get to town, it’s my turn. He keeps an eye on the hermit, but he’s really curious about the rest of the place. “Hey, um, Wyrtung? Okay, if we keep looking around while you… bathe? This is a really cool place.”
Wyrtung turns and continues up the steps. He seems to have no problem with the Company hanging around the Circle and Mound while he bathes. Marcel follows him to the to top of the mound where he finds his bucket and pipe. “Ahh, yes, that’s where I left it.” He smiles and, from some unfathomable place, he produces a flint and steel, huddles down and lights his pipe.
Iris grimaces and decides to excuse herself after the strange hermit decided to undress. She looks for Griffin and tries to find somewhere the two of them could discuss this place and possibly throw ideas to each other regarding its use and relevance. Her deep red face seems to contrast with her relatively calm attitude, but Iris thinks she manages to keep herself together despite the awkward circumstances.
Griffin chats with Iris about other areas to check out, excluding the storehouse and Wyrtung’s cave. “Maybe there is more to the pool with the bones, or the crack with the weird mist coming out of it. I have a few questions for the old man. Out of respect for your delicate sensibilities, perhaps you could check one of those other areas out while I chat with our bathing hermit.” Iris nods and wanders off, but not too far.
Griffin heads up to the stonepit where Wyrtung is bathing. “Um, excuse me, would it be alright if I asked a few questions? I was wondering what those herbs in your storehouse are. And who do you trade with? Do folks stop by here often? Has the field of tranquility inside the circle always been there, or does it come and go?”
Wrytung looks at Griffin with an odd look, “Sure,” he says while munching on something in between puffs on his pipe.
Marcel heads back down to the others.
“I think that the guys is busy. I think that he is nuts too, but maybe I’m reading too much into this.”, the others grin.
“He knows about the werewolves. There is a mother and a son. The circle keeps them away or something like this.”
Marcel stare to the West. “He is all yours, friends. I’m going to get the others now.”
And Marcel leaves along the cliff’s, keeping an eye on the ground in case that he makes interesting findings.
As Marcel leaves, Wyrtung keeps himself busy. He takes his bucket from the grass on the top of the mound and then climbs back down the stairs. At the base of the stairs. he turns and wades out into the shallow, bubbling pool. There he crouches down and fills the bucket with water, an uncomfortable sight for those keeping an eye on him. He heads back up to the top of the mound and then climbs down into the stone lined pit, disappearing from sight to those still on the ground below the mound.
Griffin talks with the strange man as he performs his bathing ritual. Wyrtung climbs down into the 6 foot deep pit then pulls his bucket down. He sets his pipe aside then starts taking handfuls of water out of the bucket and scrubbing himself vigorously.
He explains to Griffin that the herbs are cyldwort, or wolfsbane. He plants and harvests it here as a hobby. He tells Griffin that he is involved with no trade with any others and that he keeps to himself as much as he can, though it seems that many others seem to want to intrude on his solitude quite often. As for the Circle, he says that it has always been ‘hushed’ up there.
Griffin perks up when he hears the mention of ‘wolfsbane.’ “Wyrtung, how could we use that in our fight against Bailakask and Kalkask.” He hesitates, “Assuming you might be willing to part with some, of course.”
“Even a little could keep them from entering our camp, were they to approach while we were scouting out theirs, right? I’m trying to so what I can to protect our horses. I hear they will be a liability if we try to take them with us to the werewolves’ lair.”
“Well, its all mine. You can’t have it! Why would you want to go to the Wolves Lair? They will eat you, or worse yet, Bailakask will put her mark on you!” He holds up his left arm, turning it out to reveal a dark purple scar on his elbow.
Griffin takes a few steps back. “Wyrtung! Are you a werewolf, too?”
“No, of course not. Are you? Why would I have all this wolfsbane here if I were a werewolf? Not all bites from a Werewolf turn you, you know. But EVERY bite from Bailkask leaves a mark. She is something MORE than just a Werewolf, though I know not what it is.” He turns back to his washing, scrubbing his nether regions.
“Oh, wait, I think you missed a spot… Well, could we trade for some? What do you need so much for, anyway?”
“I have need of very little here, I am able to take care of myself. But if you are so inclined to go after the Wolves, I can give you some advice.” He pauses for a moment, then continues, “Don’t!”
He then bends over and starts laughing. “No, really, they are dangerous and I do my part to stay out of their way, they leave me alone, but Bailakask has some desire for this circle, which is why I protect it. I grow and harvest the cyldwort and keep it here in such supply that they cannot come. The other wolves, the normal wolves, are for some reason kept from this place as well, though if I venture too far afield, they find me quickly. If you are going there, you would be best served to leave your mounts here. I will watch them for you.”
Griffin smiles. “We would indeed appreciate that, Wyrtung. And I wish I could heed your wisdom, but we are charged by the Fairy King of Horses with this task, and beyond that he promises to help us find a friend kidnapped by Goblins. So we have little choice.”
“There is always a choice. Which is why I refuse to join the others in their “worships” on the mound. They have no idea what they are doing. I think they are under the sway of the Wolves. I think they want to set the evil spirits free. I cannot let them do it. I have not seen them in some time. Usually they would be here, on the day of the full moon. I thought you were them. I thought they were going to try to clear my storehouse. I could give you some wolfsbane if you like, to help you in your quest. Remember, though, when you kill that bitch, you MUST use silver. Or throw her in lava. That would work too.” He finishes his washing and dumps the remainder of the bucket over his head. “Can you give me a hand out, it’s getting harder and harder to get in and out of this thing.”
Griffin offers a hand and helps the old man out of the pit. “You could grab one of those bigger stones and toss it in there as a step to get out, couldn’t you? Or bathe in the pool down there. Why do you come up here instead?”
“No, no, no! The Pool of Gefeoht must remain pure. It is what gives it its power. It protects me from the Wolves!” He starts to shiver and shake as he says this. He calms and then goes on to explain the pool, “I was drawn to this place when I was very young. I am not of these parts, I am Heldanner, from far to the north. A vision sent me here. I traveled for almost a year, not really knowing where I was going. When I got here, many years ago, I found an old man living here. He greeted me invited me into the circle. By that evening he had died. I was sent here as his replacement. Sent to “keep” the Circle and Mound. Sent to keep the Embrenu Sætung safe. Those are the evil spirits trapped in the lava down below, you know.” He points over to the dark fissure in the side of the mound.
“I didn’t, but thanks for the heads-up. We’ll give that a wide berth.”
“Bailkask has been taken by one of the spirits I believe. One of those stupid people who came here several years ago, the ones that “worship” in my garden, he climbed into the fissure and upset one of the receptacles, releasing the spirit. That dark spirit found the darkest and most evil being to inhabit, Bailakask. You must kill her! I can help you. I know a way to approach her lair secretly and safely. I can give you wolfsbane to protect you. I will watch your horses. But don’t get bitten by her and she MUST be killed by silver. The killing blow has to be silver or we are all in danger. Or at least YOU are!
“We’ll gladly accept all the help you can spare, Wyrtung. I hear these Weres have been a plague on the area for a long time. It would be great if we could rid the area of them for good.”
After some time, Wyrtung comes climbing back out of the pit. He smiles and stretches his arms and legs out wide, giving everyone the opportunity to fully see him. This whole process takes nearly 30 minutes, and just as he is coming back down the stairs and putting his filthy pants back on, Marcel calls from the other side of the mound. He has found Remar, Ree, Burik and Akaios and brought them to this site.
Marcel leads the others to Griffin, Draven and Iris. He points out that the place would be somewhat safe tonight and fish for opinion on where to camp the others.
"The werewolves will be out hunting tonight", he stares. "I think that we know where we should be, but how about our friends? Our horses?"
“It might be that this is a safe place for them to be. It is a place of holiness, after a fashion, and perhaps will continue to serve in such a capacity even for more modern and worldly peoples than our naked host.”
For the rest of the afternoon, Wyrtung moves about the area doing his own thing, really paying no attention to the members of the Grey Company except to nod and smile at them as he passes. He happily converses when spoken to, but continues to act just a little odd, as if sometimes forgetting they are there or what he had spoken about previously.
He seems content to have the group there and even happy at times for the company despite his lack of social skills or understanding of others. Eventually, even the Elves show up at the site, though they seem uninterested in conversing with the strange Wyrtung.
Marcel kinds of like the keeper and show proper deference to his ways. Griffin fills him in on the his conversation with the keeper. It looks like we’ve found a haven for the mounts, and a friend in these parts. “I say that we split, build a camp and catch some z’s before nightfall. We then take the safe way to the lair and then we…”, he gives a sideways grin “improvise until they are both dead.”
“Something in me suggests that we should be making better use of this protective place. Are we worried at all about them worshippers that the keeper thought we were?”
Hesitating slightly, Iris sighs and agrees that Marcel’s logic is sound. It doesn’t help that both the strange man and this place were incredibly enrapturing. “I think staying here is definitely the best course of action. Something about this place calls to me.”
“Okay, that sounds good. Let’s find a quiet corner and set up camp.” He quickly makes some suggestions for watches and turns in.
A comfortable camp is made with good lines of sight throughout the area. As the camp is being finished the Elves do a bit more scouting of the wider area and report that they find frequent wolf tracks, of varying sizes, nearby, though none closer than about 500 yards or so. Something is keeping the wolves at bay.
Wyrtung agrees to part with just one bundle of Wolfsbane per person, he says that it will hinder the Werewolves, but it is not a guaranteed deterrent. He also suggests to approach the lair along the old road leading away from the mound. He says that the road is “thrice blessed” and “one cannot meet enemies while walking upon it.” Wyrtung also tells stories from his youth, about the strong and severe Heldannic Knights, about his people, a rough and hardy mountain folk, he tells of his travels from this far northern land. Unbelievable tales of survival and luck. He often retells parts, giving different accounts each time, most of the events he describes are outlandish and very lethal, lending continual credence that the man has lost whatever weak grip he once held on reality.
Initially hoping to add to the greater knowledge of the church, Draven began writing in his hesitant left-handed scrawl of what the old fellow had to say. As the stories deviate and mutate along the way, he continues to make notes, but with occasional side references to indicate, for any future reader, just how outlandish it all seemed at the time.
He does occasionally prompt the old fellow into talking more about the faith of the old times that founded this sanctuary.
Draven is very curious to hear that when Wyrtung speaks of faith, some of it is familiar to him, though much is foreign. It appears that Vanya, the Girder on of Weapons, is the primary Patron of the Heldannic Knights, the rulers and protectors of his homeland. He tells of a time when he was very young, before he embarked upon his quest, that the “Knights from the South” arrived at his homeland. He says they moved in quickly with their weapons and warships. They battled the many wild hordes of evil humanoids and even some native Heldanner resistance. Within a year the Knights had placed themselves in charge. Wyrtung makes it seem like these Knights were actually a good thing for the Heldanner people. “They brought order where there was none. They made peace through war.” He also speaks of some other Immortals such as Odin, Thor and Frey, but reminds himself that these gods are now outlawed and the enemies of the Grey Lady. He nods to the nearby mound, “This circle is of Odin and his brood. Built long ago. Many before me have kept this place. The wind blows strange, I feel that maybe it is no longer time for this place.”
Draven files that snippet of supposition away for a later time. Places of great sanctity remain sacred even after the gods to which they were ascribed have forgotten about them. This might a place to serve as a foundation for the spread of the true faith in these lands.
While the hermit rambles, Griffin brings up “The Star of Sairalindë.” “Have you ever heard of it, Wyrtung? It’s supposed to be lost around these hills somewhere.”
“Star of Sairalindë, you say. Why yes, there is a full moon tonight. Good night to hunt wolves! Visiblity will be high.” Wyrtung states. He makes no further comment about the “Star” and completely ignores Griffin when asked again.
Also intrigued by the wealth of information this man held, Iris takes the time making an accounting of his stories and comparing them to what she had learned from her research back at home of the histories of this region. Briefly, Iris wondered if her guardian would take stock in the sort of man Draven appears to be. She knew Draven definitely reminded her of him.
As Iris writes down the stories of old Wyrtung, she reminds herself that many of these stories are from the hermits past, before he came to Karameikos. He talks of being a Heldanner, from the Heldann Freeholds far to the north, past the great Ylari desert, through the Dwarven mountains of Rockhome and across the vast plains of grass of the Great Khan of Ethengar.
While they wait for sundown and the imminent battle against formidable foes, Griffin takes time to get to know the Elves that accompany them. He asks about Rifllian and what they might know of this strange place. At some point, he awkwardly asks about how they handle honoring their fallen comrades. He shares the story of Eranthil, killed at the Battle of Susikyn. “I think he said he was from Rifllian. Did you know him?”
Wyrtung comes from far in the north.
The Elves confirm that they knew of Eranthil, more directly they knew his mother, who still lives in Rifllian. Seldanna is her name and she is one of the village weavers.
Marcel wakes up from a nap to find the lot in chatter as if it was a strawberry social. He does the rounds and polishes the silver on everyone’s weapon to make them smooth. “May they find targets tonight.” He prays to the best of his abilities as he buffs, trying to engrain a little bit of the gods in the silver with this vigorous meditation.
“Halav, in this silver, imbue the just cause.”, he intones for each weapon.
Seeing Marcel’s attention to the silver reminds Griffin of the mad hermit’s warning. “Marcel, for what it’s worth, you’re going to be taking point on this one. Wyrtung says that Bailakask, the werewolf queen, may be possessed by some evil spirit from this place. He says the killing blow must be from silver. Going in, let that be your mission, okay? We’ll help, but I’m thinking you’ll be the one facing her anyway.”
“Point taken”, he replies. He wonders whether he shouldn’t have stuffed a small blade in his belt in case it comes down to a skin-to-skin contact.
Dining with Wyrtung
The afternoon progresses quickly and finally the night falls. Wyrtung is invited to dine with the Company and he remains much quieter throughout this meal. As soon as it is done he leaps up, gathers his bucket and proceeds to repeat his bathing ritual as he did earlier in the day, all the while fretting about “too many meals” and “must cleanse and protect.”
When he is done, he looks around, seemingly startled by the Elves, who have been in the camp for several hows now. “Where did these Elves come from?” he asks, though does not wait for answers. He talks about them a bit, though never speaking directly to them, and ignoring the few attempts they make to talk to him. After a while, the Elves just start ignoring Wyrtung all together.
Eventually, the sun sets. Wyrtung gives each member of the Company a sprig of Wolfsbane, though he does not give any to the Elves. When asked about this, he says he does not have enough to spare, that even the small amount he is giving away is potentially catastrophic.
Again, he points out the ancient road leading to the east. “The road is thrice blessed, you will never meet an enemy upon those stones!”
“Okay, guys, let’s get rolling. The Fairy King of Horses said that the werewolves should be out hunting, so if we time this right we’ll get a chance to get in and clear out a few wolves before they get back. Then we can set up a decent ambush!” Griffin makes sure that he has the traps he prepared at Susikyn in his pack. “We’ll be on foot, so let’s keep it quiet. The goal is us surprising them.” He looks at Thallan. “Perhaps one or two of your troop could take point?”
He turns back to his comrades. Now, we may not have a lot of time once we get there. Are there any questions you need answered now?”
Thallan the Elf nods, “We will scout ahead, secure the perimeter and watch behind as well.” He goes on to explain a series of whistles that sound like bird calls that the Elves will use to alert the Grey Company of anything they find.
Cast of Characters:Garrett "Griffin" Constantine, a Thyatian rogue of a gambler from Penhaligon rolled by +Arne Jamtgaard
Marcel Maas, a 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