Kingmaker "the stolen lands"

The Beginning of an Adventure
A blog for your campaign

The Road Taken…

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost

29th of Calistril 4708 AR

It was yet another day on the road. A road away from the civilisation into the wilderness. The air was still chill, but pale rays of warming sunlight penetrated the thin foliage of the trees and seemed to dot the still frozen road with glittering spots. High above from the branches of a tree, a drowsy squirrel followed the unknown travellers with growing interest.

Henry Scaletti did not notice the wonders of nature returning to life on this early spring morning, nor how his own breath, as well as Lucky’s, his trusted mount, turned to fog every time they exhaled. He walked beside the horse. It was too cold not moving on his own, and he knew he could be in the saddle quicker than most would have the time to notice should problems arise. After all, he was a capable horseman, a capable fighter, a capable Sword Lord. That was why he was sent on this mission, wasn’t it? To prove himself a gallant and brave knight that would bring order and justice where none were. He had been given a mission to test his worth – to prove that he was a real Sword Lord. That his place was among their ranks – yes, at the very front – perhaps even as their leader? Most definitely. One day the Sword Lords would ride out under the banner of Sir Henry Scaletti. He straightened his back and tightened his jaw while his deep brown eyes stared commandingly into a future yet to be unravelled. If anyone had looked at the rear guard at that moment, they would have caught a glimpse of the awe-inspiring man the beautiful boy would once become… But none of his companions were in the habit of looking back, and none but the squirrel witnessed the moment’s transformation of Henry Scaletti.

“Why is it called a lone wolf if they hunt in groups?” a delicate female voice cut through his pleasant day dreams and brought him back to the real world. Noble by creed, but not by deed, Henry thought and unwillingly let out a snort as his eyes fixed on the two persons in front of him.

“Because it is used figuratively to express something abnormal,” the Orlovsky replied with a sigh that did not seem as genuinely patronising as Henry was sure it was meant to. Apparently the girl got that as well – at least she simply chuckled and sent the young man at her side a winning, disarming smile. In front of them the gruff dwarf, who was their tracker and guide in the wilderness, mumbled something under his breath. Henry didn’t get hold of the exact wording, but he was certain it was “city slicks” – the dwarf used these words a lot. Beside him, his brown grizzly growled lowly and shook its head from side to side as if it would signify its consent. At the sound of the bear, Lucky rose his head and turned his ears to determine where the sound came from. Henry smiled a little and clapped his companion on its left flank. “Easy, Lucky. Good boy, There’s no danger.”. He was quite proud that he had himself trained the horse so well. Not anything like that wild beast the dwarf, Travin Mongrym, called an animal companion. Henry was certain that the grizzly would attack any of them, probably Lucky, as soon as the opportunity presented itself.

His nervous sentiments were to some degree shared by Daniel Orlovsky, who made sure to keep his pack mule a few paces in front of himself, gathering that the vicious bear would then eat it before him. He had of course tried talking to the little man about that beast of his, but he would just turn away, huffing, “ tha’ Gurul would ‘ever attack anything o’ anyone I don’t want im te attack!” And that would be the end of the argument. This code of conduct was very far from the one Daniel was brought up by. As a noble of the Orlovsky line he was used to the city’s law and order, and especially the civic communication and negotiation that were indeed the hallmarks of his family. Out here, the stubbornness of a crude dwarf was as good as silvery words from human nobles. It wasn’t fair that his own kin had sent him out here – away from the luxurious life of the city with all its pleasures – with this ragtag group, just because of that insignificant misstep. Daniel scowled and let a hand glide through his thick and almost white hair. When he passed through the spots of unhindered sunlight it shone like silver. He was very proud of it – after all, it was a most unusual hair colour, and he liked to entertain the idea that his inner uniqueness manifested in his outer looks. He knew very well that he was haughty, but he was not self-deluded and no one had ever gained anything from hiding one’s light under a bushel – and now that he had to be out here, he might as well gain what he could and then some. Daniel Orlovsky was a man who intended to conquer a world.

Somewhere behind him he heard the hooting of a hawk, and absent-mindedly he raised his right arm which was wrapped in leather bands. He noticed the surprised outburst from the mighty sword lord as a brown feathered hawk swooped close by him seconds before it landed on it’s owner’s outstretched arm. Daniel turned his head to look into the blank eyes of the animal which radiated a surprising intelligence – one greater than most humans, Daniel thought and smiled a little at the notion. “Hunting?” he asked the bird, which croaked confirmatory. He let a finger run down the hawk’s silky-soft chest feathers and promptly it bit him with its razor sharp beak. “Still just a wild animal though,” Daniel concluded with a prosaic shrug that made the bird take off with a shriek.

Erin shivered at that sound. She hated that bird. Unlike the others, she was quite at ease with the bear as well as the horse, but she hated that accursed bird with its intelligent, yet blankly staring, menacing, black orbs and a beak sharper than any weapons she herself carried. And she carried quite a few. Furthermore, it seemed to be the only animal in the group that attacked anyone. And he hasn’t given it a name. At least, he never uses it, she mused and watched the wizard out of the corner of her eye, while she tucked at the reins of her pack mule. The others had given names to their animals, but the Orlovsky had not – like he wanted to establish some dominance over the hawk, which it, apparently, fiercely opposed. Then again, an Orlovsky seeking dominance could hardly surprise her. She had actually feared that their families’ strained relationship would pose a problem in their small group, but it seemed that both reckoned that they were so distant relatives that family politics would be an issue not worth wasting time and energy on. Besides, she had also shown her good will by offering that her mule could carry his things as well, and he had accepted. So she considered it a truce – for now at least. And after all, were not both of them out here in the wilderness to show their own worth? None of them could lay claims to greatness due to their family names – rather, had they stayed in Restov and not heeded the call from the Two-Headed Throne they would have had common and dull lives – married off to nobodies and themselves remained nobodies. For the second time, Erin shivered as she imagined a gloomy past that luckily had not passed. She started walking a little faster. The sooner they arrived at Oleg’s Trading Post, the better. The throne of Restov had promised them a hansom reward for the exploration of the northern part of the Greenbelt, but in truth she already felt rewarded.

Mongrym turned his head to look at the human girl. “Master Mongrym,” she greeted him smilingly as she passed. Erin Surtova was her name – or was it? He knitted his brow as he tried to remember, adding wrinkles to a face that was already weathered by almost fifty years of outdoor living, physical work and harsh weather. If anyone knew about the temper of Mother Nature, Travin Mongrym was the one. He had pledged his life to her violence, hardship, mercy and splendour. And never had he regretted that for just one day. But his intimacy with Nature had also taught him a thing or two about women – they were formidable allies and outstanding enemies and rarely just one of the things. So he had watched the girl that seemed to be ever smiling, waving and winking innocently while braiding her long golden hair and humming different bits and pieces of different songs. But he had also seen those glances of hers when she thought no one was watching her – how their gray softness, that reminded him so of newly sprung catkins, would change into the coolness of a steel blade. She probably did not even know it herself yet, Mongrym mused with a slightly concerned look, but she would become a highly dangerous predator. And the knight and wizard worried about good ol’ Gurul! Mongrym’s deep green eyes rolled in their sockets and he clapped Gurul heartily. They were good friends, and Travin Mongrym gathered that they understood each other better than he would ever understand any of his human companions. Still, he was certain that they would all see and experience wonderful things together, and that was what he had signed up for after all. The humans would probably grow on him anyway, like fungus on a tree…

Daniel was the first to catch sight of the white smoke rising towards the sky.

“Arh, we must be near the trading post,” he exclaimed and pointed out the sight to Henry, who haltered his horse and looked in the signalled direction. “So we are,” he confirmed with a smile. After five days and four nights on the road, he really looked forward to sleeping in a warm bed – perhaps even a warm bath that could remove the stiffness from his limbs.

As they got close to the run down palisades surrounding the trading post, the only tangible sound was the rhythmic pounding of a hammer against wood. The group entered through the big gates and looked around. Everything seemed to be in an abhorring state of disarray and want of proper care. The dismal silence, safe the monotone rhythm of the hammer, only served to emphasise the eeriness of the place. Henry looked up and saw a man sitting on the back of one of the building’s roof. He stared down at the party, but seeing that he had been spotted, he clambered down with a sour look on his face. He was a tall and square man, with brown, coarse hair and piercing eyes. At the moment the glance in them was hostile as well. His strong figure and leathery dark skin told of long days of hard work in the relentless sun. He is tanned even though we’re at winter’s end, Erin thought and quickly glanced down on her own ghostlike pale hand. Slowly he walked towards them, the big hammer still in his hand.

“Ye the guards from Restov?” he asked, his hoarse voice ripe with distrust. Daniel reacted promptly and with a wide smile on his lips he strode towards the man his right hand stretched out to greet their host. “We are the explorers from Restov – here to map these wonderful surroundings of yours. My name is Daniel Orlovsky. Pleased to make your acquaintance.” The man rubbed his unshaven chin for a second or two while he stared at the young man in front of him, who for sure did not look like an adventurer cut out for the dense forests of the Greenbelt. Daniel, however, did not falter, he did not even blink. He simply stood there, the smile still on his face and in his eye, his hand still stretched out prepared to shake the other one’s. He knew that he was being measured, and it was vital not to be found wanting in the eyes of the crude farmer. It seemed like forever, but finally the man shook hands with Daniel. His grip was firm, too firm really, but the young aristocrat did not wince. “I’m Oleg,” the man said with a wry smile.

Encouraged by the success of Daniel, Erin stepped forth with her ever pleasant smile. “I am Erin Surtova and equally pleased to meet you, sir,” she curtseyed him. In return she received a frosty stare and the disapproving words, “by Erastil, who sent a woman?”. He spat on the ground as to underline his point and then turned away. Erin stood dumb-struck. Henry smiled a little, and Daniel outright grinned and padded her on the shoulder, “you Surtovas have never excelled at approaching people from the front.” A less than subtle remark about the Surtova house’s history of piracy. Travin simply grunted – approvingly or disapprovingly was hard to tell.

The small incident was soon mitigated by the appearance of a young, beautiful woman. She came out of what appeared to be the main building. Her facial features were soft and her smile warm and welcoming, though Henry thought he saw a small wrinkle of worry on her brow. “Welcome strangers. It is so good that you are finally here. I’m Svetlana – Oleg’s wife?” she said and stopped beside her husband. Now it was Henry and Daniel’s turn to stand flabbergasted at the sight of the young beauty next to the grim giant. Luckily, Travin was a dwarf with an economical attitude towards words and now he had some to spare. “Nice to meet you too, mam. Me name’s Travin… Travin Mongrym. And this is Gurul. He may look grim, but he’s gentle as a summer’s breeze.” He stepped forth and bowed before her without looking into her eyes. His greeting was through and through awkward, but he had none the less saved the moment, and Svetlana smiled kindly down at him, despite her discomfort due to the bear in her yard.

“When will the rest of the soldiers be here?” she inquired after the introductory greetings. The four companions exchanged glances. “Aren’t you here because of the missives we’ve sent? Bandits have terrorised us during the last many months and we have requested soldiers from Restov to aid us over ’n over again,” she continued the furrow in her brow deepening.

“No. They’re explorers here to charter the surroundings,” Oleg answered her, surprisingly kind, and put an arm around her shoulders.

“But we are quite capable, and more than eager to help,” Henry added quickly as he saw the disappointed look that was about to settle on his hostess’s pretty face, which immediately brightened at his words, and she sent him a radiant, trusting smile. In that moment, Henry thought that smile would be worth all their trouble.

Erin cleared her throat loudly. “Perhaps if you let us in on the specifics it would be easier to help you.”

The bandits had been there regularly every month collecting ‘taxes’, making it impossible for the trading post to prosper in any way. At the beginning they had come in a large group, led by a woman, Svetlana told them and her eyes darkened at the memory. “She even took my wedding ring, that horrible witch!” she spat with an anger that seemed uncharacteristic of her. But their numbers had dwindled a little at a time, and last month they had only been four men.

“When do you expect them to be here next time?” Henry asked the couple.

“Tomorrow noon,” Oleg replied.

“Okay… We better start working then,” Henry sighed.


et lille kort over Brevoy the green belt ligger lidt sydwest for Restov

Hej alle i er velkommen til at lægge detaljer om jeres karaktere ud på forumet, eller tilføje logs eller andre interesante ting.

læs gerne teaseren på forsiden:) enjoy

Exploration of the greenbelt
north eastern part of the stolen lands

Restov Charter:

Charter 1

Explored land

Explored area1

området der er udforsket indtil nu.

Jhod Kavken(priest of Erestil)


Kobolt and Mite

 197  179  160

Exploration of the Greenbelt part2
the stag lord Dead or Alive!

Charter 2


The new kingdom

 074 Udfyld gerne med nogle få noter omkring jeres nye land… Navn osv.

The Riverlight Account


Det nye Barondømme lider under små start vanskeligheder, og udviklingen går langsomt igennem hele året.

Blandt de større begivenheder i løbet af året kan nævnes:

  • en lokal mand og hans kone(Loy Rezbin) beder om Baronessens velsignelse til at starte byggeriet af en landsby i Narlmashen, (Tazzleford).
  • En gruppe af Gnomer fra Restov har besluttet at kortlægge det nordlige Greenbelt. (deres leder rekuteres sener som Riverlights Marshal)
  • En gruppe af lokale skovhuggere kommer i problemer med en Nixie i skoven, da de forsøger at fælde hendes lund af 200 år gamle træer(situationen løses med løftet om at Baronessens folk vil udbeder skaden)
  • En lokal knægt på 14år forsvinder fra landsbyen Fangthorp, hvis Tig Tannersen findes i live vil det styrke den lokale moral.
  • Der er et skift i lederskabet af Riverlight og Jhod indsættes som landets høj præst
  • Riverlight fejre 1års dag ved Riverlight festivalen



  • Gozran-Sarenith: udviklingen er vendt og byen kan grundlægge sin første mølle og udvide landet med 2 nye landbrugsområder samt en flere mil landevej.
  • Erastus: Riverlight får sin første Generalstore , men glæden er kortvarig, da rygter om trolde mod syd giver anledning til en del uro hos de lokale bønder(2UR)
    Arodus: Det besluttes at oprette en park hvor byens borgere kan nyde den lokale natur og glemme deres bekymringer for en stund, dette tiltag skal bidrage til at lede befolkningens opmærksomhed væk fra rygterne om trolde. Samme måned erklære en lille lokal fiskerlandsby troskab til Baronessen, i håbet om at Riverlight fæstningen vil yde dem beskyttelse mod eventuelle troldeangreb.
  • Rova-Lamashan: Rygterne om trolde bliver ved med at komme ind fra syd, og Baronessens tilsyneladende uvilige til at gøre noget ved problemet giver en del utilfredshed i de små byer omkring Riverlight. Byggeriet fortsætter dog ufortrødent og Riverlight kan grudlægge sit første rådhus og en del nye huse.
  • Neth-Kuthona: Et økonomisk boom rammer Nartuska, rygterne om trolde ser ud til at være gået i sig selv, som året nærmer sig sin udgang, riget udvides og nye farme grundlægges, handelsvejen udvides mod vest indtil den støder til den sydlige handelsvej fra Restov, Brevoy sender nye stipendier i andledning af den nye handelsrute og dette giver anledning til grundlæggelsen af en havn, losseplads samt nye beboelser.

4710 Ar:

  • Abadius-Calistril: vinteren har måske gjort det af med de lokale trolde, og der bygges og udvides som aldrig før. Byen får sin første kro og Barak samt nye beboelses kvarterer. Den nye kro giver dog anledning til en fejde mellem Jhod’s puritanske tilhængere og familien der ejer den nye kro.
  • Pharast: Den nye kro giver så meget handel i byen, at en betydelig donation til skatteopkræverne er mulig, og selv Jhod må indrømme, at han gik over stregen.
    Alt er dog ikke fryd og gammen, og med den første forårsmåned vender rygterne om trolde tilbage, samtidig oplever Riverlight sine første mord… og alt tyder på, at det er en varulv, der er på spil. Riverlights ledende personer tager sagen i egen hånd og påbegynder undersøgelser af mordene, hvilket hurtigt leder dem til den lokale kro, hvor en barbar ved navn Kundell hurtigt bliver hovedmistænkt efter en af de myrdedes øreringe findes på hans værelse. Han benægter dog al kendskab til mordene, men overtales til at tage med tilbage til slottet. For at undgå lynchstemning i byen, lader man befolkningen vide, at han er hovedvidne i sagen. Efter test på slottet fastslås det, at han er varulv. Da rådet i overvejende grad ikke mener, man kan erklære en mand, der ulykkeligvis er blevet ramt af en farlig sygdom, for skyldig, bringes Jhod til fangen, hvor han bruger sin præstelige evner til at helbrede Kundell. Erin erklærer over for befolkningen, at sagen er opklaret takket være Kundell og Counsilor Mongrym. Det var ‘blot’ ulveangreb, og Mongrym har fanget ulveflokken. Derudover loves en offentlig begravelse for de to dræbte, hvor byens nye kirkegård også vil blive indviet.

Baroniet annekterer Tazzleford, samt mere landjord nær Oleg’s Trading Post. Borgmester Rezbin udtrykker ønske om at få bybolig i Riverlight.

Udover rygter om trolde, er der nu også en warg-flok, som nogle fangere gerne vil have fjernet inden de begynder at tage mennesker i byerne. Baronessens folk bestemmer, at det er på tide, at gøre noget ved disse problemer. Den første nat efter deres udrejse andgribes de af wargerne, og efter en ikke helt ufarlig kamp, er wargerne tilintetgjort. Alle medlemmer af ekspeditionen er enige om, at det er hårdt at være tilbage i den rå natur.

Efter et par dage, når de til det lille fiskerleje, hvis beboere havde svoret baronessen troskab til gengæld for beskyttelse. Det er dog åbenbart, at baronessens folk ikke har overholdt deres del af aftalen, da byen er ødelagt og forladt med undtagelse af en enkelt fisker. Gruppen beklager tabet af byen, og hjælper fiskeren af med en besværlig hookjaw, der har besat hans båd. Ligeledes lover de at prøve at finde ud af, hvad der er sket med lejets beboere.

I jagten på trolde, støder gruppen ind i en voldsomt alkoholiseret hill giant. Mens Barim og Daniel drikker den mere fuld, lykkes det med lethed Erin at stjæle et kort. Det er dog uvist, hvad det egentlig skal afbillede. Da gianten ikke lader til at være synderligt agressiv, nøjes gruppen med at sende den i modsat retning af deres riges grænser.

De fortsætter rundt om Candlemere Lake, hvor de bl.a. observerer nattelig, overnaturlig aktivitet ude på øen i søen. Ligeledes finder de de sorte svampe Old Bell er så interesseret i. Travin går lystigt i gang med at plukke og opdager ikke den meget store, meget vrede plante, han får forstyrret i sin svampejagt. Planten er tilsyneladende kun sårbar over for ild, og Daniel må bruge al sin mest potente magi for at slå den ihjel, mens resten af gruppen afleder den med tæsk imens den forsøger at æde dem på skift.

Gruppen har nu været på troldejagt i en uge uden at have fundet dem, og beslutter, at de er nødt til at tage tilbage til Riverlight for at varetage deres officielle pligter. På vejen afleverer de svampene hos Old Bell.

Tilbage i Riverlight Castle møder de en oprevet Akiros. En demagog ved navn Gregory har slået sig ned i byen, og spreder en fjendsk stemning blandt byens borgere ved at påpege alt det dårlige byens ledere har gjort. Anklagerne lader til at være en blanding af løgne og fordrejede sandheder. Ligeledes er Jhod rejst ud til templet i skoven med alle sine tilhængere, hvilket effektivt kun efter Svetlana, Oleg og Akiros tilbage af regeringsstaben. Hvordan skal problemet løses? Arrest, udfordring, mord, tæsk og trusler? Forholdet til befolkningen må ikke skades, samtidig er en retfærdig rettergang risikabel, fordi Gregory er så veltalende. Men han kan heller ikke få lov til at fortsætte med at oppiske en statsfjendtlig stemning i byen. Til sidst sendes Akiros af sted for at tilfangetage ham for at opfordre til uromageri. Straffen er fem dage i kachotten (aka skattekammeret). Kabinetsmedlemmerne arbejder på højtryk for at finde noget på manden eller finde ud af hvad hans motiver er, men intet giver resultater, og imens nærmer dagen for Gregorys rettergang sig. Henry tager en rask beslutning og opsøger Old Bell natten inden rettergangen. Hun lover at ordne deres problem, hvis hun til gengæld bare får en butik inde i byen. Henry indvilliger i aftalen, og rettergangen går let som en leg. Gregory dømmes for statsfjendtlig virksomhed, espionage mm. og fratages alle ejendele, hvorefter han smides uden for bymuren med besked om, at hans eventuelle tilbagevenden til riget vil resultere i dødsstraf. Henry bliver dog noget bleg, da Oleg fortæller ham, at byen ikke har råd til en alkymistbutik endnu.

  • Gozran: Henry må tilbage til Old Bell og fortælle, at han ikke kan give hende en butik før Desnus oprinder. Mao. kan han ikke opholde sin del af aftalen. Bell er dog forstående, og siger at Henry blot skal sørge for at gøre hendes datter, Lily, gravid, når hun ankommer den anden i måneden. Lily kan så også drive butikken, når den står klar. Henry er betænkelig ved aftalen, men tør ikke trodse den gamle heks. Dagen efter notificeres han ved daggry, om at en ung kvinde venter på ham i slottets kirke. Han mødes med Lily, og i Erastils helligdom foretages den ritualistiske undfangelse. Slottets beboere er fascinerede over den mystiske, unge kvindes tilstedeværelse, men interessen slår dog over i mild irritation over de elskendes adfærd som måneden skrider frem.

Den tredje i måneden blomstrer hele riget i et væld af smukke planter, og dette tolkes af befolkningen som et godt tegn.

Den fjerde fejres Grand Diplomat Barim Da’gorands 30-års fødselsdag.

Den tiende fejres Baronesse Erin Surtovas 21-års fødselsdag.

  • Desnus: Lilys nye alkymistbutik og hus står færdige, og hun flytter ud af slottet.

Gruppen tager ud for at finde de frygtede trolde, der bliver ved med at skabe urolighed i riget. De finder dog ikke troldene, men i stedet en gammel, tosset mand og hans leopard. Det kommer til kamp og han dør. Efterforskning i mandens ‘hjem’, et hult træ, indikerer at det er gamle Bukkens bror.

De fortsætter længere ind i skoven, hvor de finder en lizard village. Statslederne vurderer, at disse lizard kan blive et problem for deres rige senere og angriber derfor. Kampen er hård, men tilsidst har gruppen kæmpet alle fjenderne ned. I et telt finder de Tik Tanner, der har været forsvundet i to år. De vender tilbage til Riverlight og overlader Tik til Jhod. Erin indskærper over for præsten, at drengen ikke må flyttes uden, at lederne eller Akiros notificeres herom. I Riverlight venter der også breve fra bl.a. Sootscale-klanen om fredsforhandlinger og Meghran Varn fra Nomen Heights, der gerne vil sende en ambassadør for at besøge Riverlight.

Gruppen drager endnu en gang ud for at finde troldene, og denne gang lykkes det. Troldene besejres, og en del byggematerialer bliver slæbt med hjem til Riverlight.

Da de er tilbage, viser det sig, at Jhod alligevel er taget af sted med Tik uden at give Akiros besked. Denne er sat efter præsten, men gruppen må kalde rigets marshall hjem, da han skal stå for beskyttelse af Varnholds udsending. Det næste stykke tid går med forberedelser til besøget.

  • Sarenith: Falcus Varn, søn af Meghran, ankommer til byen med et større følge. Barim sidder i møde med diplomaterne og vender senere tilbage til det resterende råd for at fortælle, at der er blevet fremsat tilbud om ægteskab mellem Erin og Falcus. Efter længere debat bliver medlemmerne enige om, at fordelene er for store til at afslå. Under aftenens festligheder deklarerer Barim forlovelsen, der dog lader til at komme noget bag på Falcus. Han bevarer dog fatningen, men luften mellem ham og Erin er derefter temmelig kølig.

Dagen efter rejser Varn-følget meget pludseligt, og Henry presses af de andre til at fri til Lily igen, og hun accepterer. Efterfølgende tager de ud til Sootscale-klanen for at forhandle. Det tager en lille uges tid, og da gruppen kommer tilbage til Riverlight er helvedet brudt løs. Der har været angreb. En kæmpe owlbear har angrebet byen, skadet Akiros alvorligt, og tilsyneladende er Lily blevet kidnappet. Det lykkes Barim at redde Akiros og de andre tilskadekomne, der stadig er i live. Rådet er enige om, at det må være Jhod der står bag alle ulykkerne, men samtidig er de også nødt til at finde owlbearen, så den ikke anretter mere skade. De følger den mod syd, hvor den åbenbart deler sin hule sammen med en masse andre naturlige monstre. Alle bliver de dog udryddet, og gruppen vender tilbage til Riverlight blot for at ride ud mod templet i skoven. På vejen møder de farmere, der fortæller at flere kvinder og børn er blevet kidnappet. Ude i skoven overraskes gruppen af Jhod og hans tilhængere, som dog ikke længere lader til at være Erastil-tilbedere. Jhod går med til at udlevere Lily, hvis gruppen til gengæld lover ikke at komme tilbage. Henry indgår aftalen, men angriber alligevel så snart Lily er i sikkerhed. Jhod og hans mænd undslipper dog, og gruppen bliver enige om at forlade området og håbe på, at problemet går i sig selv.

Sidst på måneden besluttes det, at Lily skal overtage Svetlanas erhverv som magistrate. Barim overgår til high priest, og Sasha Torkatla, en paladin fra Tazzlefort, udnævnes til grand diplomat.

  • Erastus: D. 3. bliver Lily og Henry viet.

D. 4. er det Riverlight Festival, hvor Henry bl.a. bliver slået til ridder.

Barim og Travin tager ud i skoven for at genplante de træer, der tidligere blev fældet. Dette forsoner nixien, der til gengæld lover at patruljere rigets floder.

Senere tager hele gruppen ud til dryaden Teresia for at finde ud af mere om temple of the elk. Hun er dog fortvivlet over en blight, der breder sig i skoven, og de lover at hjælpe hende af med problemet. Dette viser sig at være et stort, sort træ med røde blade. Træet slås ihjel med relativ lethed. Tilbage hos Teresia møder de en faun, der fortæller om onde feys længere inde i skoven i de gamle elverruiner. De onde feys har åbenbart bortført skovhuggere, hvis blod de dræner. Derudover giver han dem gaver fra Teresia.

  • Arodus: Måneden går med at udbygge Natuska og dets byer. Daniel tager til Varnhold som udsending, hvor han keder Meghran ihjel med hans fascintion af thessalonian ruiner og drager.
  • Rova: Daniel vender hjem. Riget udvides og forbedres. Alt lader til at være i fremgang, og alle trives.
  • Lamashan, Neth og Kuthona: Riget udvides. Tazzlefort får et tempel til Iomedae og Erastil, mens Riverlight får en markedsplads.

4711 AR

  • Abadius: Riget er nu så stort, at Erin kan kalde sig selv Duchess Surtova.

D. 3. fødes Belle Scaletti.

  • Calistril, Pharast, Gozran: Intet af betydning hænder.
  • Desnus: Falcus Varn kommer på besøg som symbolsk handling på, at Natuska og Varnhold nu er knyttet sammen via vej.
  • Sarenith: Shrine til Guruum opføres i Tazzlefort.
  • Erastus: Midt i måneden modtager rådet brev fra Restovs Swordlord, Jamandhi Aldori, om, at man ikke har hørt noget fra Varnhold længe, og budbringere dertil er endda forsvundet. Aldori beder Riverlights ledere om at undersøge sagen, da han ikke selv kan tage dertil pga. det politisk urolige klima i Restov.
26th of Gozran-1st of Desnus 4710 AR

“Henry Scaletti and Old Bell” or
“The Story of how Henry made deals with Devils”

“… As long as it is possible, he should not stray from the good, but he should know how to enter into evil when necessity commands.”

- Niccolò Machiavelli

Henry could feel the sweat of guilt and fear pouring down his forehead and temples as he rode through the moonlit forest. The branches and newly sprung leaves seemed to use his pale face as a background for their own shadow play. What had he done? When he tried to remember, tried to make his mind focus everything seemed dreamlike… or rather – nightmarish. But the bundle in his lap, which felt heavier than it probably was, reminded him that his actions had been very real – and the consequences would be equally vivid. He wiped his wet forehead with the back of his hand. He felt feverish and cold even though it was a particularly warm spring night. And the horrible, thick taste of the old hag’s tea was still in his mouth. What was even in it, he thought for a second and the answers his fantasy conjured up made his stomach turn. Why had he done it? Those damnable idiots. Too caught up in their politics to do something meaningful. He could hear their voices inside his head…

“We cannot just kill him outright! We will make a martyr of him,” Daniel hissed and pointed his finger at Akiros who sat opposite him in the great throne room. “Then you figure something out, wizard,” the latter retorted with a snarl and hammered his hand down into the large oak table that separated them. “Please, this is not the time to lose our heads,” Erin coolly reminded them from her place at the table’s end. “We will simply have to give him a fair trial. It can be done no other way,” Barim decided, sitting straight in his chair, not a doubt on his face or in voice. “I respect your integrity, Barim, but it would be handing him the victory. He has already swayed the citizens against us with his eloquent speeches, and he will easily win a trial if we have no evidence against him. We need to know more. Who is he? What does he want? Who has sent him?” Erin said looking at the Erastil priest. “Well, how will you get them, your highness?” Daniel asked and leaned forward in his seat, his voice filled with spite. “We have been questioning him for three days, and learnt nothing!”. “Let me get the answers, Baronesse,” Akiros interfered. Henry felt no desire to look at the general. He knew his gaze would be filled with the icy coldness of devotion and anger. The former paladin seemed to radiate an aura of uneasiness, Henry thought while he let his eyes wander over the faces of the present council members. Daniel seemed to relax as he nodded his consent, Barim’s face was tight, his jaw vibrating slightly, but he didn’t object, Travin seemed far off in thoughts and hadn’t uttered a word during the meeting, Erin seemed to study Akiros’s face for a moment, then nodded her consent as well. “Very well,” Henry heard himself say as he rose from his chair. “That is the plan then.” But he knew that torture wouldn’t work on Gregory. The man was too zealous in his hunt for chaos to let a few broken bones stop him.

And thus Henry had left the throne room and walked to the stables where he had saddled Lucky and set the course for Old Bell’s cottage. And now he was here – on his way back from the witch, burdened by a deed halfway done. The image of her grotesque, green face was chiselled out in his mind. “Henry Scaletti, the great sword lord of Riverlight. How good it is to see you again so soon,” she had croaked for a welcome. Had she mucked him? Or had her greeting been sincere? “I have a problem, and… I require your aid, madam,” he had answered her while he hesitantly slided down from Lucky’s back. As she had stood there, withered and bent, in the remaining rays of daylight rocking slightly to and fro, her lips had spread in a knowing smile, revealing black, broken and lacking teeth “Oh but Henry, dear Henry, dearest Henry, of course you do. Please come into my humble abode.” Why had her repetition of his name sounded like an incantation? “I prefer waiting outside,” he managed to state calmly. “As you please, young man. Then do tell me about the nature of your distress,” she blinked, not at all fooled by his composure. “His name is Gregory. He is a scoundrel and an agitator, devoted to creating strife and chaos within our midst. His falsehoods are making the people despise us. Soon they will rebel if his silvered tongue isn’t removed from the cavity of lies in which it dwells, but never seems to rest,” Henry thundered, himself surprised of the increasing power and ire in his voice. Old Bell cackled and pressed her hands against her stomach. “Dear boy – lively lectures on dirty deeds won’t save your soul.” Simultaneously, anger and fear welled up in Henry at her words. “Name your price,” he commanded pulling himself together. “Your first born,” she replied, devilish cunning and scrutiny in her eyes. “No,” he refused point blank. He was regaining control now. He had entered this state of mind that filled him with stoic ease and determination. He had to make this deal, and he would, but not at her unlimited pleasure. “What do you propose then?” she asked sharply, not liking the sudden confidence that had settled over him. “You will get a shop and a house in the city from where you may sell your potions. We will begin the construction at the beginning of Gozran,” he offered looking down at the old witch. She tapped her hooked nose with a long, mould infested nail while considering the offer. Then she looked up at him with a smirk. “Very well then. Let me make you some tea. It will be a long wait out here.” She turned around and hobbled into the bleak darkness of her cottage. Henry thought that the door opening looked like a greedy mouth that would swallow any intruders body and soul.

The sun sank completely into its watery bed in Candlemere Lake, and yet Bell hadn’t returned. But occasionally Henry could hear her voice speaking in strange tongues and at one point he even caught a sulphurous smell protruding from inside the cottage. Finally she reappeared in the scarcely lit door opening, an object in her hand. She held it towards him and he stepped forward to receive it, but winced as he saw what it was – a grotesquely deformed doll made of skin and leather pieces with crude stitches for eyes and mouth. Its belly was cut open revealing hay as its stuffing. Henry stared at it in disbelief. Again reality hit him right between his eyes. Old Bell grabbed him by the chin and looked straight into his eyes. “You get some of his blood and hair. Then you put it into the doll and stitch it together – and bury it in graveyard soil before the sunlight hits it,” she explained slowly not letting go of his chin until he nodded his understanding. “Good boy,” she clapped his cheek and put the doll in his hand.

He did everything minutely as she had instructed, but he felt animated as he did so. He kept away from the others, not wanting them to know. And the day of the trial, he excused himself with important matters that required his immediate attention. None but Barim seemed to notice his quaint behaviour, but the cleric didn’t speak up, and for this Henry was grateful. Gregory was convicted and banished from the lands, and an air of relief settled in the castle’s halls. “How did it go?” he asked Erin as he returned from his ‘duties’. “Marvellous,” she chuckled “everything worked like a charm.” He could have strangled her for her unwitting remark, but he managed to smile and congratulate her instead.

Early next morning he went to see Oleg in the treasury to inform him of the building plans. “An alchemist’s shop?” the still crude man asked slightly surprised. “Yes, it will have to be ready first thing next month,” Henry confirmed. Oleg leaned back in his big chair watching the cavalier in front of him. “We don’t have no money until next month for such a construction.” Henry froze solid in his tracks. He was getting real tired of receiving beatings from reality.

“Bell, I’m real sorry, but it seems that we will have to wait another month starting constructing the shop. The trial was expensive and we’re running low on resources,” he explained with a light shiver as he once more stood in front of the old witch. She shrugged. “I know Henry. I always knew,” she stressed the last word. Henry looked surprised at her. “It is of course all right, Henry,” she continued and put her hand on his arm. “You will just have to do me one small favour in return for the delay.” “I’m listening,” the young man said suspiciously. “I so yearn for grand children, Henry. And you will help me get them. Tomorrow, my daughter, Lily, arrives in wonderful Riverlight. She will come to you and under the watchful eyes of Erastil the two of you will fulfil my greatest desire…”

26th to 29th of Desnus 4708 AR

The Curious Case of Master Mongrym

Everything possessed the power to transform itself, or else, and what meant more, to be transformed. – Wallace Stevens

Travin felt his blood pumping within his veins. The beating rhythm from within echoed in his ears. And from outside the heavy rain pounded down on him, rebouncing as soon as it hit the stones of the castle’s barricades. Lightning flashed from the ominous night sky, making it possible to see one’s surroundings, though distortedly. Somewhere to his left, Gurul roared and charged forward, ascending the outdoor staircase in one powerful jump, preparing to sink his teeth into the flesh of the grinning atrocity that stood at the top. Through a haze Travin heard the others yell below him and he recognised the soft sound of arrows being released – the snap as they settled in the ground close behind him as well. One, two, three, he counted as he ascended, the menacingly sharp scythe raised above his head in his stretched arms. The dwarf felt battle prowess and balance surge through his hole body. “Nature give me strength, Nature guide my aim,” he whispered under his breath, and fixated his eyes on the giant in front of him, just in time to see it bash in Gurul’s head with its massive, iron spiked club and a vehemently cruel yet stupid grin. Travin was hardly aware of the splash of warm blood that hit his face and neck. Sheer rage was the only imminent sensation in his mind as he threw himself at the giant monster. Slightly surprised the big man stumbled a few steps backwards as the infuriated dwarf attacked, but he managed to get his club between his own head and the curved blade. However, he only held the club in one hand while Travin used both. The dwarf was quick to use his advantage and considerably smaller height, but equal strength. He pulled down and made himself as heavy as possible. The giant wouldn’t let go of his weapon though, and was instead forced downwards. Travin reacted quickly and bashed the pommel and upper edge of the scythe’s blade into the face of his opponent, who stumbled backwards once more, his hands covering his injured face. Travin took advantage of the situation and swung the scythe across the torso and right leg of the giant, inflicting grievous wounds. Blood and fat welled out of them, but it was speeded away with the furious rain. The giant man fell to his knees, still with his hands in front of him. Travin lined up a final blow, but then the giant let his hands fall down, and he looked up at travin with slumped shoulders. “mercy,” he stammered with blood and water running down his face. “Auch sorry – mercy,” he cried and his eyes were filled with sadness and loneliness. Travin held the killing blow back for a moment while thoughts and emotions flew through his mind. Could he trust him, if he showed merci? Was he a creature fit to live? How much hurt and suffering had he caused, and how much would he cause in the future? He had perhaps killed Gurul. A life for a life. The scythe speedily descended and severed the giant’s head from its shoulders in a single, fluent strike. A low thump was heard when the head hit the ground and rolled a little away from its former body. Travin felt a sting of wrongness in his heart, and the rage seemed to seethe out of him. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed that Barim had stopped and stared at him in disbelief. Travin could imagine very vividly what his ally and friend was thinking in that moment, and the wrongness turned into shame. Then an arrow settled in the hides of his armour, and he realised that he was still in the middle of a battle. He caught sight of the archer standing on a bridge just to his left. He charged the archer, who nervously tried to get a new arrow stringed. Certain of his victory Travin raised his weapon once again to strike his new opponent dead. But the rain was heavy indeed and the wooden bridge had become slippery. Despite his physiologic stability, he became unbalanced, and tumbled forward as he attacked the archer with a powerful swing of the scythe. The latter, however, was quick to take advantage of the dwarf’s uncontrolled movements and took a step backwards, barely getting out of harm’s way. The miss caused Travin to continue his swing far wider than he should and consequently he slipped and landed on his own weapon. Too easily the keen blade sliced through his back and its tip protruded from his stomach. Yet the pain doesn’t seem so bad, Travin mused while a bolt of lightning flashed across the sky leaving nothing but utter darkness. The open glossy eyes of Travin Mongrym gazed into the emptiness of death.

The next time Travin’s eyes perceived something again, he was looking up at a beautiful blue summer’s sky with fleecy, white clouds. Underneath him he could feel the soft moss and smell the wonderful scent of green grass and flowers – hear the sound of bees lazily flying around and birds twittering, feel the warmth of the sun invigorating him. He couldn’t remember the last time he had felt such a freshness. It was not just in his mind, his body too felt new. Like a newborn baby, he thought smilingly and lay completely still, afraid of stirring this most wonderful dream. “How good that you are finally awake,” the voice of the Orlovsky cut through the perfect tranquillity and harmony. Travin turned his head and saw the wizard sitting on a nearby tree trunk. “What are you doing in my dreams?” the dwarf mumbled though in truth, he was glad to see a familiar face. Daniel chuckled. “I am afraid this is not a dream, Mongrym,” he said and rose, a big mirror in his hand. “You should take a look in it,” Daniel said and presented it to Mongrym with a sudden seriousness in his voice. Travin sat up and took the mirror watching Daniel suspiciously. Then he confronted the mirror image and a startled roar left his mouth. “Are you playing tricks on me, damnable wizard?” he shouted with a voice that suddenly struck him as much lighter than it ought to. “This is not me,” he continued and clambered to his feet. Why was the Orlovsky suddenly so tall? “You died and I had to get you raised,” Daniel explained and waved his hands apologetically in front of himself. “I had Jhod use druidic magic on you,” he added. Travin looked at the wizard for several moments. “Hm, I see. I guess this is the will of Nature then,” he said and looked into the mirror again. His face had become small and delicately shaped, without a single scar or hair. He then looked at his hands and feet that had become equally small and fine. His height and weight was diminished considerably, and instead of a heavy and stable corpus he now felt nimble though more fragile. “I’m afraid that your equipment doesn’t suit you any more, but we will of course get something new for you as soon as we get back to Oleg’s place. Right now we have to get back and get the others though,” Daniel explained, clearly relaxed now that Travin had taken the news so well. “Where are they anyway?” Travin asked.
“Still at the fortress.”
“Well, Henry and Erin got bitten by a werewolf and we will have to contain them until full moon to see if they are infected.”
“Hm, better get moving then.”
“Yes,” Daniel replied and started walking towards their horses that grassed nearby. The halfling followed a concerned look on his face.
“Do you think they will laugh at me?” he finally asked. Daniel couldn’t help smiling a little. “Probably.”
“Hmpf,” Travin grumbled. “Damnable humans.” Daniel’s smile broadened. Obviously, the halfling was still very much a dwarf.

The Varnhold Vanishing

And so it was, high upon the Torres and well above the Vale’s Stairs, where rises the high water a stony isle of dire report. Known as Vordakai’s Island to those that do live thereabout, some legen of its name doth come down through the locals. For they speak of a guardian that doth destroy all who would set foot upon its accursed shores. They did name no fewer than a twelvecount of their hero-knights who had left their bones upon its rocky shores over the years after having tested their mettle against its dread warden, ’til none would any longer go there for fear of its hidden terrors. And the name of this terror was given unto this island.

…It was on one of these jurneys that he discovered the site of Vordakai’s tomb and crossed the waters of the little sellen on a folding boat. On the Island he located wards designed to prevent intrusion and grasped somthing of their dire nature. He was about to turn back when he Glimpsed a cache of treasure just a short way down the corridor leading into the tomb. Greed forced aside common sense, abd he crept inside to investigate- but as he did, he felt the ancient warding go off. Pausing only to snatch a single jade bracelet, he fled the tomb and retreated Back across the river.

…he hurrried back to Varnhold with the bracelet and adjusted his tale to say he had found it on the river bank, hoping to hide his lack of judgement…. but the triggering of the wards had awoken somthing from an ageless slumber, faced with a new world of wonder, the undead cyclope set about tracking the thief back to the settlement of varnhold. Unleasing anchint magic of the Occolus of abbadon, it emptied the settlement of its inhabitants in a single night of horror.

Erastus-Adoran 4711

A Matter Most Mysterious

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.

- Psalm 23:4

“… and so, I am afraid, it falls to you to investigate the mystery of Varnhold,” Sasha read aloud with her crystal-like voice. She had just been inaugurated as Natuska’s grand diplomat and already a pressing matter had arrived at her office desk. It carried the seal of the Swordlords. It was important. And urgent. No one had heard from their neighbour kingdom since Falcus Varn had visited Riverlight about a month ago. Messengers went missing. Sasha felt a shiver down her spine. She had experienced a lot. Seen battles. Heard cries of pain and death from brave men and friends. Fought vicious demons and sent them back to their hell holes. But this silence, this mystery of nothingness scared her slightly. And the heavens’ would know that she hadn’t felt that emotion for years. She looked up from the parchment. Beheld the rest of the council. The Duchess yawned and stretched like a lazy cat. But Sasha didn’t buy her bluff. If she appeared that disinterested, she was very interested. Sasha had of course heard the rumours running wild within the castle’s walls – that the Duchess wasn’t happy about her future marriage to Falcus Varn. More vicious rumours told that she disliked him becomes he took no interest in her. That he had been forced by his father to marry her. That he had been unaware and felt tricked. Perhaps he even had a true love somewhere else. Sasha at least knew that the maidens’ stories and fantasies were tantalising and untrue… Yet, also that the Duchess only wore her impressive engagement ring when officials from the Nomen Heights came by.
She let her eyes wander on. Oleg, the treasurer, seemed as always out of place when he wasn’t positioned behind his great oak table with stacks of paper in the castle’s dungeon. He had a slightly sour expression on his face – probably because he thought he was wasting time sitting here, and time was money. High Priest Dagorand watched the Duchess – not to pry a course of action from her, Sasha mused, but to estimate her reaction as well. Lily, or rather Magister Scaletti, was lean and relaxed, radiating the majestic indifference of a lioness though she had recently given birth to her and Henry’s daughter, Belle Scaletti. And she wasn’t bluffing – she truly was disinterested in this affair. Fighting and fool-hearted adventures she left to her husband. He on the other hand was deeply fascinated and did not miss the opportunity to point out that Natuska really did need a standing army… or at least walls around Riverlight. Whatever threatened Varnhold could soon enough be a problem to Natuska as well. Daniel Orlovsky, a man who had not forgotten the ruthless squalor and eloquent poison of Restov, agreed with him, but was also very concerned with the cleansing of the Candlemere island. After all, a tower had to be built out there. For him, of course. Sasha didn’t really see how either discussion furthered the situation at hand. Nor did Dagorand apparently. “We will of course investigate. After all, a problem in The Nomen Heights, as Henry pointed out, could easily spread to Natuska, and that would be unfortunate as we have just stabilised our own political as well as civil order,” he said. Sasha was impressed with the cleric’s ability to put things straight with few words and immense certainty. When the others lost themselves in mind games and speculations he would cut through, see the goal and dictate a course of action. And often the rest of the council would acknowledge his wisdom and heed it. This time was no exception. “We should decide on a temporary constellation of the remaining council,” Master Mongrym continued Dagorand’s line of reasoning. Sasha always found it amusing that the small halfling was called Master – at least by the Duchess. But it was catchy. Rumours, again, had it that the High Counsellor of Natuska had once been a dwarf. Sasha knew that powerful magic capable of performing such miracles did exist, but still the story seemed farfetched.
“A temporary leader should be constituted while your Highness is absent,” Akiros put in directed at Erin.
“Yes,” Sir Henry agreed. “It seems only prudent that Lily should take Erin’s place while we’re away. After all, she’s the only noble of the remaining.” Sasha thought that even Akiros Ismort’s perpetually stern composure became sterner at that proposal. She wasn’t fond of the Marshall and former Erastil paladin. Something had broken inside of him and he seemed dangerous and unpredictable. But he was one of the Duchess’ favourites and it was unlikely that he would leave the council in near future, so she had to learn to cooperate with him.
“You only want her there because she is your wife. She’s a poor substitute,” Orlovsky spit back at Henry.
“Besides Lily has Belle to look after,” Dagorand quickly put in to appease the imminent confrontation.
Henry looked angered, but held his tongue as he discovered the smirk on Lily’s lips. She was very happy not being appointed with anything. Sasha smiled slightly at the play unfolding before her eyes.
“Sasha should take over while Erin is away,” Daniel suggested rather off-handedly. Sasha stopped smiling. As none seemed to disagree, he continued:
“All in favour?” Nine hands were raised. “Sasha will be the substitute leader of Natuska then,” the wizard continued and concluded.
“We should set out by the first of Adoran. That will give us time enough to get supplies for the journey,” Sir Henry proposed. “No, that’s a rest day. We will have to wait until the second,” Dagorand noted. “Are ye mad?” Master Mongrym almost yelled with great indignation. “Ye don’t begin no thing on a Moon Day! Any fool could tell ye that, me good priest.” Suddenly Sasha wasn’t so sure about the halfling’s heritage anymore.
“We will leave on the third,” the Duchess stated flatly and rose. “I’m sure a day or two extra won’t matter to the citizens of Varnhold.”

A fortnight later they set out as they had done for many years now. But there seemed to be an air of eeriness over them. None liked the implications of the Varnhold letter. None dared to think of the horrors awaiting them to the South-East. And for the first time most of them felt they left a great lot behind in Riverlight. Yet, it did feel right to be back on the road. Good to sit around a campfire and laugh as if heavy responsibilities did not weigh down their shoulders. But sometimes, when the conversation quieted, and the fire’s light became ruthless in its revelation they could mirror their faces in each others’, and it was plain to all that they looked ten years older than the three they ought. Natuska had taken its toll and now it seemed that an even greater sacrifice would have to be made.

The mountains outlining Varnhold finally rose in the horizon one evening. They were beautiful and the sun coloured them golden. The road leading through the pass seemed to be made of red copper. It was a beautiful sight. Delicate as a dream, Erin thought to herself.
“A day and a half and we should be there,” Travin said as he looked to the mountains hands resting on his hips.
“A day and a half to see if it is a dream or a nightmare,” Erin said with distant worry.
“We should probably hope for the last,” Barim laughed. “We’re more accustomed to that.” But despite the humour his voice trembled ever so slightly. Luckily, only Henry noticed. The rest smiled and continued.

Varnhold was silent as the grave. No people, no animals, no sounds – nothing. “This is quaint,” Henry muttered and stopped Lucky in front of a farm. He knocked on the door, but there was no reply. He opened the door and the stench that hit him and the thousand flies that rolled over him in massive waves made him vomit. Death had settled in the house. Henry was too sick to investigate, but Travin was more accustomed to the entropy of Mother Nature. He walked into the small farm and looked around. Except for the amount of flies and reek of decay due to a dead cow in the kitchen everything occurred extremely tidy. A cup with a bit of water and a bowl with now dried food stood on a table. The spoon lay next to it. Apparently someone had walked out on his or her last supper. Travin knitted his brow in a thoughtful and worried expression and left the building.

“Let us get to the other side of the river. Maybe people have gathered in the inn or temple over there. Perhaps they have even evacuated at the garrison,” Daniel suggested.

Barim carefully observed the water moving beneath him. He was glad that it was not his, but the horse’s legs that were submerged beneath the mirroring surface. The abandoned city in its serene and ominous silence caused him to feel uncomfortable. The horse seemed nervous as well. Its ears shifted direction constantly to catch sounds that were not there. Barim’s glance fell on a farm on the opposite side of the river. A literal army of black crows covered the roof. Alive, but still as a grave. Then the surroundings changed suddenly. Under him his horse plummeted downwards with a shrill neigh, and immediately Barim felt the cold water enclose him from his torso and downwards. The water around him turned red and sped down the stream. The horse was completely still and on its flanks, Barim could glimpse wooden stakes protruding from a crafted hole. Traps against centaurs, his brain concluded despite the million chaotic thoughts rampaging through his mind due to the chock.
“Throw him a rope, Henry,” he heard Erin order anxiously somewhere in front of him. “Are you alright, Dagorand?” Daniel cried out from the opposite side of the shore. It became clear to Barim that he was paralysed by chock and fear. “Catch the rope, priest. I’ll drag you in. Just don’t step on the bottom,” Henry called to him and threw a rope. It took a few tries for Barim to catch the lifeline. When Henry finally got him to the shore, Erin and Travin had been searching the nearby ground and found two additional pit traps. “Them folk sure don’t like centaurs here arounds,” Travin muttered grimly. Barim simply nodded sternly.

This observation was confirmed by a found in one of the houses – the tannery. Several hides in different stages of completion and decaying were stretched over frames. A couple of them were especially big. “Ohh,” Daniel exclaimed when he saw them. “What?” Barim asked. “These are not hides from animals. They’re from centaurs,” Daniel answered and cleared his throat, clearly upset by the fact. Barim simply shook his head in sheer disbelief.

Erin had walked a little away from the others. They were searching the tanner’s tools, but it seemed futile that they should all do that, so she had decided to look through another part of the building. And she wanted to be alone. Thoughts were swirling through her mind. What has happened? Who has caused it? We need more clues. Where is everybody? Dead? No, that is too horrible. What about Meghran? Falcus? Why have you been so horrible to him? Because he is arrogant and loaths me. But he is just an unhappy boy being forced into a marriage. And what about me? You chose it, however reluctantly. And for arrogance – you called him a boy. You accepted Meghran’s offer of peace and cooperation with his son as the currency. I didn’t know, I didn’t. I thought he knew about it. That changes a detail not the picture. It’s not fair. He doesn’t like me. You are not very likeable.
Reason and feeling duelled fiercely while Erin absent-mindedly walked further into the building. She entered an odd hall with several doors and a ladder. Her feet and not head chose the latter. Slowly she ascended while trying to assess whether her behaviour and attitude were childish, unforgivable, justifiable or just common. “Why can nothing be simple?” she sourly pouted aloud just as she reached the top of the ladder. The sight revealed before her eyes immediately got her attention. The hayloft itself was normal enough, but there was nothing common about the number of its eerie looking inhabitants. Erin stared at the massive amounts of crows with eyes wide open. She couldn’t help but gasp loudly in amazement and surprise. There must be hundreds – probably scavengers. After all they had survived, hadn’t they? One of them turned its head and stared at her with an unblinking black eye. Then another, then a third… They started croaking in union – intimidating and menacingly. Before she could even think of getting down, they took to their wings with a unanimous shriek and swarmed over her as a black tide of disaster. Their beaks and feathers were everywhere. She tried to fend them off with one hand while attempting to climb down with the other. Suddenly one got between her arm and face and started hacking furiously at her. The pain was unfathomable when its beak sank into the softness of her left eye. Reflexive she pushed the bird away with force enough for it to hit the wall and break its neck. But the movement had left her face unprotected and new crows attacked relentlessly. Sharp beaks pounded down on her and left nasty wounds on her forehead, cheeks, scalp, everywhere. In sheer panic she brought up her other hand to protect herself, but it was too late. From her right side one of the devils attacked and went straight for her gray, sparkling and watery eye. She screamed in agony and fear and yet another swarm flew into her as if they were trying to pass through her. She fell to the hard stone floor, blind and with hot, red tears pouring down her cheeks.

Henry looked up. Was that a scream? Then he heard it again. Much louder, much more desperate. Orlovsky had already passed him before he got moving. Behind him he could hear the priest and halfling move too. Something in that scream prompted all of them to act with more haste than normally. Henry drew his sword while running.

Daniel stopped abruptly as he entered the hallway. First he couldn’t identify what he was looking at. Blackness swirled around Erin who had coiled up on the floor, trying to shield herself against the darkness.
“Erin, this way,” he cried out while he drew a wand made of delicate ash wood. A second later he was waving it in intricate patterns and called out strange and mesmerising words. The words prompted Erin to act. She was trained in basic arcane arts and knew what was about to happen. If she got hit, the birds would be the least of her problems. She rolled to her stomach and scrambled to her feet. The hair on her arms and head was rising – the air was already filled with electric charges. She stumbled towards the wizard’s voice. He stopped his incantation. She leaped and curled into a rolling dodge, getting to safety behind him.
The devastating bolt of intense electricity filled the entire hall in a roaring and bright white dance of sparkling discharges. Daniel shut the door close and spun around. Travin was in the process of casting a spell. Wind was picking up around them rapidly and tools already flew around them in a wide circle. Within seconds it was a regular tornado that destroyed everything outside its calm eye. They could glance the angry birds that aimlessly and futilely threw themselves into the storm and got ripped apart as a consequence. Barim picked up Erin, who pressed her hands hard against her eyes and cried in utter terror: “They took my eyes, they took my eyes”, while blood continued to stream through her fingers.
“Erin, stop! You’re only making it worse. I need to look at it,” Barim explained in the most calm voice he could muster and took a firm grip around her wrists, forcing her to remove her hands. With his thumbs he gently lifted her eyelids in turn and examined the damage. He looked at the others. “We need to get somewhere safe immediately where I can start treating her wounds.”
“The inn is just across the street. I think it’s our best chance,” Daniel replied and retrieved a winter blanket from his backpack. “Can you cover us? Then I’ll get Erin over there.” Henry nodded. Barim closed his eyes for a second and whispered a prayer under his breath. His skin darkened and hardened. Then it sprouted into brambles and thorns. “I’m ready,” he said. “So am I,” a dry and crackling voice pronounced. The hafling had transformed into the purest of fire.

Daniel watched his three companions bravely charging through the wind wall out into the open courtyard under a sky filled with frenzied crows. He turned to Erin, who now only sobbed relatively controlled. “We have to make a run for it, Surtova. I’ll support you, okay?” he said softly and put the blanket over their heads and then his one arm around her waist. She nodded and put her arm around his neck. “Let’s do this.” He led her to the edge of the protective wall.

Henry was in the saddle within a blink of an eye, meanwhile slicing down three attackers flying too close by him. Barim swung wildly around himself with his mace. The crowd was almost all but too dense to avoid his blows, but those few who did impaled themselves on the long, sharp thorns of his body. Travin roared as a hungry and all-consuming fire and sent out pulses of extreme heat. All around him, crows dropped in his aura of pure destruction. The sudden and powerful assault made the immediate pack of crows soar upwards and scatter against the gray sky. Daniel knew that now was their chance – before the birds returned, empowered by their rage. “Now!” he bellowed and started running his grip tight around Erin. She followed with surprising ease her blindness taken into consideration. His own sight was extremely hampered as well due to the blanket, but at least he could see the ground beneath his feet. Above him he could hear the angry screams of crows charging back in flight. A moment later, Henry cried out in anger and disbelief.

He found it hard to believe. The warm and wet pain. The inability to see. Not a moment too soon, he caught the sound of the deep and nefarious croaking approaching his left flank. Instinctively he raised his shield to cover his upper torso and head. The heavy impact made his arm buckle slightly. He felt something hit his leg – a sack filled with fluids – then he heard the bump as it reached the ground. He had to get away from the open field. “Lucky, follow Daniel,” he leaned forward and commanded his horse and trusted companion. Lucky understood and hasted after the wizard with a speed extremely uncomfortable to its blind rider.

They had stopped attacking the roaring column of bright death. Some were chasing the fleeing group, but others had turned their attention wholly towards the thorned man. His spikes proved less and less effective by the second. Thorns had snapped off and some were simply too filled with dead carcases to do any damage. And they started getting heavy too – heavier for each swing of the mace.
“Run. I’ll keep them occupied,” Travin encouraged him. The priest nodded and started moving in a controlled pace. Apparently, the halfling did keep them at bay because none stroke down upon him.

Travin praised mother nature for their luck of dumb birds. As long as he agitated them they seemed to forget everything about the others. At his side Gurul happily lunged himself at the flying menace. Sometimes he even succeeded at catching one between his huge paws. Without hesitation, he would bite their heads off. Travin was mighty proud. Suddenly the entire crowd spiralled to the sky with a shriek that sounded like the laughter of an old hag. The swarm flew high and then dived towards the fleeing cleric. They wrapped themselves around him as a wail around a dancer, and hid him completely before they soared upwards again with the same grace of flight. Barim staggered blindly around, then fell to his knees and forward. He used one hand to steady himself against the ground, while he pressed the other against his face. In the sky Travin could see the birds starting to turn so that they might strike down again. Barim did not look like he would withstand another hit by the crowd. Travin dashed towards his companion while transforming back to his natural form with every stride. “Get up. Get up,” he screamed and tried to support Barim as well as his height allowed him. Together they ran towards the inn, Barim having difficulty seeing because of the blood pouring into his eyes from the scratches and wounds the birds had inflicted all over his body and face. Daniel signalled panickingly from the inn’s doorway that they should hurry. From his vantage point he could see the rolling wave of blackness getting closer and closer. Unceremoniously, Travin pushed Barim in through the opening with both of his hands planted solidly in the cleric’s lower back. He fell head first onto the wooden and rough planks of the inn floor closely followed by the druid and 300 pounds of black bear. Daniel slammed the door shot and put his back against it. When the enraged crows crashed into the door it sounded like the thundering of giant hailstones and Daniel had to use considerable strength to hold the door. Several moments later the siege stopped and Daniel could breathe easily again and assess the situation. Erin had finally stopped screaming and now sat literately staring blankly into thin air. The blood had ceased running from her eye sockets and had instead hardened in streams down her cheeks. Her golden hair had escaped their braiding and encased her delicate face. Daniel could not help think that she was the perfect image of loss – painstakingly beautiful in flesh and blood, but without a soul. Serene, mortal and deeply wounded. Barim moaned quietly from his place on the floor. He had only managed to roll onto his back and his left arm rested gently over his face. His wounds were very fresh and blood still trickled from the corners of his eyes to his ears and temples and into his hair. Henry had managed to feel his way to a chair and had sat down with his forehead resting against his palms. He thought of Lily and Belle. Right now he missed them so much. He could almost feel Lily’s soft hands against his hurting eyes and soothing words whispered into his ears. He smiled at the thought at it actually made him feel slightly better off.
“Travin,” Barim hoarsely called from the floor. “Yes,” the druid replied and kneeled beside his companion. “You have to cleanse and apply salves to our eyes if we are not to lose sight. You should find everything you need in my backpack,” Travin nodded and stood up. “You should try to find out what has happened here while I tend to their wounds,” the hafling dictated to Daniel. “Indeed,” the wizard sighed and barred the door. Then he trotted up the stairs of the inn with heavy steps. This was surely not to be an easily accomplished task. And where in the nine hells was everybody?

He did not return until early in the morning. His eyes were hollow and sunken with fatigue. He placed a heavy tome on the big oak table the others were seated around. He fell into a chair with a disparaging look and started running his hand through his beard. Travin looked at him and the others turned their heads in the direction of the sounds. They looked ridiculous and helpless with their heads wrapped in linen to shield their eyes. “All I can gather is that they found a bracelet from a tomb or something like that. Probably belonging to someone named Vordakai – by the guess of a Restovian scholar, an ancient centaur god. And then this word “Nomen”. My guess is that it is simply related to the area. At least I have found no evidence to imply anything else,” he concluded with a heavy sigh and closed his eyes. Almost immediately he started to drift away, but Travin’s voice chased away the peaceful slumber. “I guess our only option is to make contact with the centaur tribes nearby then. Perhaps they will know more of this mystery. I believe out blind mice will be ready tomorrow morning.” “Yes, the centaurs. They will probably be thrilled to see us. How many years is it that Meghran Varn has warred against them now? Not to mention that his citizens have made hides of their neighbours’ skins,” Daniel replied with a rhetorical questioned and thrust his head backwards, staring into the ceiling. This better be worth their while because it would be exceedingly troublesome.


Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

- Friederich Nietzsche

She lay screaming. And crying. Screaming. She seemed small, pale and vulnerable in the big bed wearing a white night gown with her golden hair streaming down her shoulders and chest. Tears and sweat trickled down her forehead and cheeks. She could not stop screaming and she could not wake up. She could not see. The birds – they were everywhere. Their beaks picking her gray eyes from her lifeless body. But she could feel everything. She was paralysed and the world was distorted and dancing before her and then she could see no longer. Until a new image appeared through half-open eyes and dizziness. The light came from another place, through water. So… so dark. It was cold and damp. And a taste, something filled her mouth – dirt – dust. She could feel the enormous pressure surround her body, submerged in earth. Something heavy on her chest. No, she could see, but it was black and shiny – the raven. It blinked and the world changed. She was at the beginning and the dead girl hung from the tree and croaked with joy, “there is no law here”. And she dropped with that horrible sound of her neck snapping like a dried twig under one’s feet. But her dead black eyes still stared – filled with condemnation and malice. She felt how she was sucked into this abyss and her white face disappeared in anguish and blackness, but still she screamed… She was lost, free-falling in nothingness, disappearing. Then something clasped her shoulders and heaved her upwards. Soft feathers caressed her face and with each stroke the fear disappeared. She could breathe again and with a gasp she let air surge through her lungs, and slowly opened her eyes. A single light in the dark. The face of her maid glowed in the flickering flame of the oil lamp. She narrowed her eyes and made out more silhouettes. Kundal’s huge frame, Daniel’s coldly appraising eyes and Gurul’s bared gleaming teeth. “Are you okay?” she heard Travin’s voice. “It was but a nightmare,” she stammered, trying to control her quivering voice. “I’m sorry I awoke you. Go back to bed. I’m fine.” Nothing happened. They all stood perfectly inanimated for seconds. Finally, Daniel turned around and left. “Come on boy,” Travin called. Gurul growled low and threatingly, then heeded his master’s call. Her maid turned away with the light, paused and looked at Kundal who did not twitch, but simply stared suspiciously into the dark. “Leave Kundal! The Duchess has had a hard time, she needs to rest.” Kundal let his gaze drop to mylady who nodded. “We are here if you need us,” he assured her and left. The maid closed the door behind them and everything was dark and silent again. “I died,” she whispered under her breath, barely aware of the warm tears that moisted her eyes anew. “It was just a nightmare,” he whispered and pressed his lips against her forehead. “Sleep!” She sank into the embrace of her pillows, but when morning’s first golden rays slipped in through the windows, her eyes were still wide open for fear of the reaper in the dark.


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