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Der Talfer Bund
Der ungleichmäßige Tritt seiner Stiefel durch das inzwischen niedergetretene, sich aber Nacht für Nacht trotzig erneut erhebende Gras, ließ die Platten seiner Rüstung klappern und die gespannten Lederriemen knarren, als würden sie ihren Verdruss über die frühmorgendliche Bewegung zum Ausdruck bringen. Auf der Baernfarn-Ebene, die sich von hier nördlich bis zu den Ausläufern der Wutzenmark spannte und sich im Osten bis nach Gallys spannte, glitzerte der morgendliche Tau, der die in sattem Grün leuchtenden Halme benetzte, im Licht der sich besonnen erhebenden Praiosscheibe. Würde nicht die erwachende Geschäftigkeit des erwachenden und nur einen Steinwurf entfernten Talf zu ihm herüberschwappen und sich mit dem murmelnden Stimmengewirr, dem Klirren von Ketten und Waffen, kurz dem aufkommenden Lagerlärm, vermengen, hätte er die Aussicht wohl genossen. Es hätte ihn an seine Zeit nahe der Grünen Ebene und nördlich von Donnerbach erinnert, als er noch ein junger Grenzreiter gewesen war. Eine gefühlte Ewigkeit war das jetzt her. Im Moment konnte er nur durch die Gassen zwischen den wie willkürlich aus dem fruchtbaren Boden gesprossenen Zelten und Feuerstellen sowie der notdürftigen Palisade aus angespitzten, schräg in den Boden gerammten Holzstämmen erahnen, wie sich das hügelige Weideland mit den vereinzelten Imkerhöfen dahinter ausbreitete. Aber er war in seinem langen Leben weit genug gereist, als dass seine Vorstellung die dadurch bedingten Lücken wie von selbst auffüllte. Jenseits der grasenden, an Pflöcke gebundenen Pferde und der Schlange zu dieser frühen Stunde nur hinlänglich bewaffneter Männer und Frauen, die sich am Zelt bei der Essensausgabe versammelten oder keuchend schwere Bottiche mit frischem Wasser zwischen den Zelten herumtrugen, während sie andere, die ihre Wäsche zwischen den Zeltstangen aufhingen, spöttelnd anfeuerten, ruhte zusammengerollt wie ein Hund, der noch in der wärmenden Nähe des Kamins selig schlummerte, der neue Tag und damit auch seine neuen Prüfungen und Herausforderungen, welche die Zwölfe für sie ausersehen hatten. Verborgen im Dunst, dem gemächlich aufsteigenden Morgennebel.

Für einen Augenblick glitt sein Geist zurück zu längst vergangenen Tagen. Mehr als zwanzig Jahre war es jetzt her, seitdem er zum letzten Mal ein Heereslager durchschritten hatte. Natürlich war das kein Vergleich zu den mehreren Dutzend Zelten, die kaum Kampf- oder Marscherfahrene hier in lockerer Ordnung hinter der zusätzlichen und eilig ins Erdreich gestemmten Palisadenreihe hochgezogen hatten … damals waren es fast 15000 Soldaten aus allen Teilen des Mittelreiches gewesen, alleine über tausend Reiter und Dutzende von Rittern und Rondrianern mitsamt Gefolge. Es war das größte Heer und auch die größte Schlacht gewesen, die er jemals in seinem Leben gesehen hatte. Er zog damals unter dem Banner Rondreds Donnerklinge von Salzsteige, der viele Jahre später der Schwertvater seiner geliebten Nichte Ardariel werden sollte, und es war sein letzter, großer Ritt im Schatten des Bären. Graf Helme Haffax und König Brin von Gareth hatten damals die Truppen in die verzweifelte letzte Schlacht gegen die Schwarzpelze auf den Silkwiesen geführt und das ganze Mittelreich war ihrem Ruf gefolgt. Das Lager glich in seiner Hektik und dem Gedränge auf den sorgsam, aber wie mit einem aufgrund der gebotenen Eile von zittriger Hand geführten Lineal gezogenen Zeltgassen einer ganzen, waffenstarrenden Stadt und war erfüllt von der Aufregung, dem Gefühl der Bedrohung durch die dumpfen, hohlen Trommelschläge der nur wenige Meilen entfernt lagernden Orks und zugleich einer fast greifbaren Hoffnung, die durch die Anwesenheit legendärer und schlachterfahrener Helden geschürt wurde. Das Fahnenmeer in dem die größtenteils schlicht und einfarbig gehaltenen Großzelte ertranken, war unbeschreiblich. Banner, Wimpel und Wappen aus allen Teilen des Reiches. Bär und Wolf Seite an Seite mit Greifen, Löwen und Füchsen sowie unzähligen Spielarten fantasievollerer Wappentiere. Er bekam noch heute eine Gänsehaut, wenn er sich daran erinnerte, wie sich die schwere Reiterei mit donnerndem Hufschlag über die Hügelkuppe auf das Schlachtfeld ergoss und den Blick auf die wogende Flut der Schwarzpelze, deren vereinzelt aus der Masse aufragenden Oger und ihre eigene, krude Reiterei freigab. Willbrecht selber auf Graf Siegward, gedrängt zwischen die mächtigen Streitrösser der Weidener und Tobrischen Ritterschaft, die flankiert vom IV. Kaiserlich und Königlichen Garetischen Garderegiment und dem Garderegiment Raul von Gareth, die mit angelegten, blitzenden Lanzen direkt auf die dichtgedrängten Reihen der Orks und damit den Wall aus kruden Speeren, wild gezackten Schwertern und Äxten zusprengten.

Damals war alles noch so einfach gewesen, zumindest gefühlt. Die Orks, wenngleich auch von fürchterlicher und feiger Gerissenheit und brutaler Entschlossenheit getrieben, auf der einen und sie, die letzte Verteidigungslinie des Mittelreiches vor den Toren Gareths auf der anderen Seite. Er fuhr sich mit der behandschuhten Hand durch den vollen, weißen Bart und nickte, während ein Lächeln seine Lippen umspielte, einer jungen Soldatin zu, die gerade einen ausgemergelten, streunenden Hund mit Kochlöffel und Topf von dem krude getürmten Stapel von Schüssel und den daran klebenden Essensresten verscheuchte. Sie stammelte ein bemühtes „Gu … guten Morgen, Herr von … Moosgrund!“ und errötete in Verlegenheit, als sie sich der Tatsache gewahr wurde, dass sich Löffel und Topf beim Versuch zu salutieren durchaus als hinderlich erweisen könnten. Mit einem gütigen Schmunzeln, dass seinen faltigen und aufgrund der im letzten Moment zersprengten Schlacht mit dem Falkenbund ruhelos wirkenden Zügen etwas von der Spitzbübigkeit verlieh, die er so oft auch aus dem Gesicht seines Neffen zu lesen vermochte, befreite er sie von der Sorge sich ungebührlich zu verhalten. Er war nie der Schleifer gewesen, den sich Avon vielleicht manchmal als Vormund für seine Kinder gewünscht hatte … möglicherweise war es aber auch genau diese ruhige, beharrliche Weidener Art gewesen, von der sein Bruder sich erhofft hatte, dass zumindest Teile davon auch auf den jungen Wulfgar und seine ältere Schwester Ardariel übergreifen würden. Rondred Donnerklinge hatte sie mit dem Holzschwert durch den Burghof gejagt und sie alles über den ehrbaren Kampf mit der Waffe des Adels gelehrt, was ihre Körper damals zu stemmen vermochten. Sie bestraft, wenn sie sich wieder mit den Stallburschen gerauft oder eigenmächtig Ausflüge ins Moosgrunder Umland unternommen hatten, während er sich hinter Bittschriften, Urkunden und einer Unterzeichnung harrenden Erlässen vergraben und um die Verwaltung des kleinen Lehens gekümmert hatte. Und der Wulfgar und Ardariel süße Stückchen aus der Küche gebracht hatte, wenn Rondred sie wieder zum Stallausmisten verdonnert hatte.

Er duckte sich mit einem verhaltenen Seufzer ob der nötig geworden Verbeugung unter einem allzu nachlässig gespannten und tiefhängendem Zeltvordach durch und wich damit einer die Zeltgasse verstopfenden Ansammlung von leicht gerüsteten Mitgliedern der Zweimühlener Landwehr aus, die eine der Patroullien der Talfer Garde abgepasst hatten und sich scherzend und gelöst über Neuigkeiten aus dem Umland unterhielten. Natürlich hätten die Gerüchte spätestens bis zum nächsten Markttag in Zweimühlen die Runde gemacht, aber die Gesprächsfetzen, die an sein Ohr drangen, klangen eher nach einem lebensfrohen Ausdruck der großen Erleichterung, die mit der im letzten Moment abgewendeten Schlacht einhergegangen war. Innerlich hallte immer noch das Wimmern und Jammern, das Klagegeheul und Schluchzen nach, dass ihn damals eingehüllt und nach der Schlacht wie benommen zwischen den Zelten hatte umhertaumeln lassen. Orientierungslos, wie betäubt und zwischen alleine aufgrund ihrer bloßen Anzahl und Vielzahl verwischten Gesichtern der Vorbeistreifenden auf der Suche nach seinen Waffenbrüdern und -schwestern umherstolpernd. Er zweifelte nicht daran, dass es hier nicht anders gewesen wäre, wenn der Tag einen anderen Verlauf genommen hätte. Doch die Götter hatten Gnade gezeigt und alle Seiten vor großem in seinen Folgen unabsehbarem Blutvergießen bewahrt. Kein offener Krieg zwischen dem Falkenbund und Zweimühlen, sondern letztlich nur das Rasseln mit zweifelsohne geschärften Säbeln.
Etwas, dachte er sich, als er auf das große, schwarz und gold gekachelte Turnierzelt zuhielt, vor dem zwei junge Frauen in Kettenhemden zwei Pferde, einen großen gescheckten Warunker und einen einen elegant tänzelnden schlanken und gleichzeitig muskulösen Rappen, am Zügel hielten und hier in der jungen Morgensonne offensichtlich der Rückkehr ihrer Lehnsherren harrten. Die kleinere der beiden, eine Frau mit einer streng geschnittenen Topffrisur, deren Haare im Schein von Praios Antlitz golden über dem Wappen mit dem darpatischen Stierkopf leuchteten, musterte ihn, ohne eine Miene zu verziehen. Die zweite, eine vom Feuer geküsste Jungfer, auf deren blasser Haut zahlreiche Feenküsse sprossen, hielt die Augen strikt auf den Zelteingang gerichtet, während ihre behandschuhte Hand auf dem Schwertgriff an ihrer linken Seite lag. Eine goldene Scheibe prangte auf dem grünen Wappenrock, den eine goldene Borte umrahmte. Vor dem Zelteingang hatten zwei Soldaten Zweimühlens Stellung bezogen, ein älterer, an den Schläfen bereits ergrauender Mann mit sorgsam gestutztem Bart und kurzem Bürstenschnitt und eine junge unscheinbare Frau mit schulterlangem braunen Haar und einer hässlichen Hasenscharte über dem linken Mundwinkel. Beide trugen Kettenhemden und den gelben Wappenrock mit den beiden roten Mühlrädern und an der Seite ein Kurzschwert. An ihrer Haltung hätten Offiziere der alten, inzwischen fast vergessenen Wehrheimer Schule sicherlich das eine oder andere auszusetzen gehabt, aber die Wachsamkeit, mit der sie ihn in Augenschein nahmen, verriet dass sie sich auf einem guten Weg befanden. Gemäß ihrer Befehle trat der Ältere beiseite und die junge Frau schlug die Zeltplane zur Seite, um ihm Zutritt zu verschaffen und unterstrich dies mit einem knappen Nicken.

Als er sich unter dem gekachelten Stoff hindurchduckte, benötigten seine von der schlaflosen Nacht noch müden Augen einige Sekunden um sich an das Dämmerlicht im Zeltinneren zu gewöhnen, das nur durch eine Öffnung im Zeltdach und zwei weitere in der Zeltwand vom Morgenlicht gespeist wurde. Weit heruntergebrannte, nur noch trotzig flackernde Kerzen stemmten sich in wachsverkrusteten Zinnhaltern auf dem großen Holztisch in der Mitte des Raumes gegen das Zwielicht, in dem mehrere schemenhafte Gestalten über Karten und zahllose Schriftstücke, die dort verteilt lagen, gebeugt standen. „… in der hinteren Wutzenmark. Die Reiter sollen jegliche Bewegungen entlang der Grenzlinie zu Gallys beobachten. Es ist unwahrscheinlich, aber sicherlich nicht ausgeschlossen, dass von Eulenberg Teile seiner Truppen abspaltet, um festzustellen, wie lange der Verbund hier lagert.“ Wulfgar wischte mit dem Finger über die fleckig gepunktete Grenzlinie im Osten, die das Drei-Baronien-Eck zwischen Gallys, Zweimühlen und Grassing teilte. Die ruhige, im Vergleich zu dem Grollen seines Neffen fast leise wirkende Stimme von Answin dem Jüngeren von Rabenmund antwortete ihm als erste. „Mit Eurer Erlaubnis, Herr von Moosgrund, könnten ausgesuchte Späher meines Banners eure Kontingente aufstocken und den Bereich, den sie abdecken können, erweitern.“ Obwohl er inmitten der hochgewachsenen Krieger wie Wulfbrandt von Rosshagen, Praiodan Bernfried von Bregelsaum und Wulfgar selbst, fast schmächtig wirkte, verlangte ihm der in eine prächtig verzierte, brünierte Plattenrüstung nach Garether Machart gehüllte Mann mit den hageren, glatt rasierten Gesichtszügen Respekt ab. Er konnte seinen Finger nicht darauf legen, was genau es war, was ihm dieses Zugeständnis entlockte, aber der Baron von Bröckling war ein Musterbeispiel für den alten Schlag des darpatischen Adels, dessen berühmt-berüchtigter Vorfahr vor einigen Jahren noch das Mittelreich in eine seiner schwersten Krisen gestürzt hatte. Kompromisslos, stolz und standesbewusst hatte er unter dem alten Ochsenbanner einige der ältesten wenngleich auch nicht zwangsläufig einflussreichsten Häuser der Mark um sich gescharrt. Auch wenn er hier gönnerhaft und als Förderer des neuen Gleichgewichts in der Mark auftrat, wusste Willbrecht, dass ihn die Fortschritte des Falkenbundes gerade unter dem Bekanntwerden der Rückkehr der „Fürstin“ unter Zugzwang gesetzt hatten.

Wulfgar hatte die Stirn in Falten gelegt und nahezu unmerklich streifte sein kurzer Blick in die Runde auch ihn, seinen Ohm. Offensichtlich genügte das, um ihn in seiner stummen, selbst gefällten Entscheidung zu bekräftigen. „Unser Dank für Euer großzügiges Angebot, Euer Hochgeboren, aber seid versichert, dass unsere Grenzreiter in der notwendigen Anzahl das uns wohlvertraute Gelände überwachen. Noch vor unserem Aufbruch in Zweimühlen habe ich entsprechende Anhebungen angeordnet und veranlasst.“ In seinem Lächeln, dass sein schlohweißer, wallender Bart und der Schatten, in dem er sich zum größten Teil noch befand, verbargen, spiegelte sich der ehrliche und aufrichtige Stolz auf seinen Neffen wider. Wulfgar hatte in den vergangenen Monden viel gelernt und in Momenten wie diesen, war es ihm, als würde er das leibhaftige Abbild von Avon dort zwischen Baronen und selbsterklärten Fürsten stehen sehen. Natürlich verfügte Zweimühlen bei der Stärke mit der sie hier auf dem Feld erschienen waren weder über die Mittel noch über die freien Kräfte, um das weitläufige Gelände alleine abzudecken, der Vogt von Zweimühlen hatte jedoch erkannt, dass dies der falsche Rahmen war, um eine solche Schwäche vor einem möglichen künftigen Konkurrenten einzuräumen geschweige denn ihm einen tieferen Einblick in die östlichen Grenzlande der Baronie zu gewähren. Nicht wenige hätten in dieses großzügige Hilfsangebot eingewilligt, aber es war ein nicht ungefährliches Geplänkel zwischen den Zeilen, dass ihm wieder ins Gedächtnis rief, worum es sich bei dieser Zusammenkunft wirklich handelte. Ein loses Zweckbündnis, dass nur die Machtdemonstration gegenüber einem gemeinsamen Feind zusammenhielt, der seine eigene politische Karte jetzt um einige unvorhergesehene und schwer zu durchschauende Seilschaften ergänzen musste.

Answin senkte kurz sein Haupt zur Erwiderung auf Wulfgars respektvolle Absage und seine schmalen Lippen spannten sich zu einem dünnen, aber keinesfalls unfreundlichen Lächeln. „Ich werde meine Truppen täglich um eine Anzahl von 3-4 Reitern verringern, die morgens im Rahmen und Anschein eines Patroullienrittes aufbrechen und nach Bröckling zurückkehren. Durch die Häufung an Plünderungen nahe der östlichen Grenze zu Wutzenwald durch die Bande von Sharkush Morchai sehe ich mich gezwungen hier zu Gunsten unserer eigenen Grenzsicherung von einer längeren Stationierung abzusehen. Die gestellten Zelte werden wir jedoch bis zum ganzheitlichen Auflösen des Feldlagers hier zurücklassen, um Spione, die sich vielleicht unter die Flüchtlinge aus Gallys oder Wutzenwald gemischt haben, über unsere tatsächliche Stärke im Unklaren zu lassen.“ Wulfgar nickte und ließ seinen Blick zu Praiodan Bernfried von Bregelsaum gleiten, der neben Willbrecht und Helmbrecht von Weihenhorst aus Goldweiler der Älteste hier im Zelt war, sich aber hier mit seiner aufrechten Haltung und seiner strengen, autoritären Ausstrahlung sichtlich nicht unwohl zu fühlen schien. Auch er war ein sprichwörtliches, aber in keinster Weise abschätzig betrachtetes Relikt aus älteren Zeiten, der noch das alte Darpatien erlebt hatte und auch einen Teil dieses alten, vergessenen Glanzes in dieses Zelt und die Reihen der größtenteils jüngeren und bei weitem weniger namhaften Würdenträger des in jüngster Zeit als „neues Herz der Mark“ bezeichneten Landstriches trug. Männer wie Erlan von Dunkelstein-Schnattermoor oder auch Brunerich Eichblatt sahen zu ihm auf. Es war abzusehen, dass das Haus Bregelsaum eine gewichtige Rolle bei der Befriedung der Mark zukommen würde. Zudem verhielt sich sein Haus weitaus weniger expansionistisch als die untereinander auch noch zerstrittenen Teile des Hauses Rabenmund und verzichtete in diesem Zusammenhang auf die durchaus nicht seltenen und berechnenden Provokationen an ihre direkten Anrainer. „Wir werden bleiben. In Angesicht unserer Waffenbrüderschaft hier auf den Feldern vor Talf und der Tatsache, dass auch meine hochgeschätzten Nachbarn hier geeint stehen, trage ich die Hoffnung im Herzen, dass unseren Grenzen augenblicklich keine anderen Gefahren drohen, welche den Abzug meines Heerbanns begründen könnten.“

Seine geschätzten 30 Reiter, darunter bestimmt ein Dutzend Ritter mitsamt Gefolge waren ein über ein bloßes Lippenbekenntnis hinausgehendes Versprechen an den Talfer Bund und unterstrichen seine Ambitionen den Falkenbund an einer weiteren Eskalation an der Reichsstraße zu hindern. Aber es war bei weitem nicht alles, was der einflussreiche Baron ins Feld führen könnte. Auch hier schwang also eine versteckte Drohung mit, die aber weniger gegen Dergelsmund und von Rosshagen als vielmehr gegen von Rabenmund und die zurückliegenden Nickeligkeiten gerichtet war, die jetzt mehr noch als sonst als unnötige Nebenschauplätze begraben werden sollten. Ein kurzer aber eindringlicher Appell ohne Säbelrasseln oder beleidigende Schuldzuweisungen. Willbrecht war beeindruckt. Wulfgar ließ die Dankbarkeit gegenüber dem Baron von Königsweber in einem freundlichen Lächeln durchschimmern und ließ die Worte von Praiodan kurz nachwirken, bevor er selbst wieder das Wort mit wieder in Ernsthaftigkeit erstarrender Miene ergriff. „In Absprache mit Talf und den übrigen Mitgliedern des Städtebundes werden wir eine Verstärkung der dauerhaften Präsenz an der Reichsstraße in Erwägung ziehen. Angesichts der noch ungeklärten Zugrichtung von Sharkusch Morchais Mordbrennern und der ungewissen Loyalität der Baronie Gallys, auf die der Falkenbund zumindest soweit Einfluss auszuüben vermag, dass sie ihm Durchzugsrechte gewähren, erscheint mir dies als das Mindeste, was wir tun können, um den gegenwärtigen Status der Stadt Talf zu wahren und den freien Handel über die Reichsstraße zu sichern.“ Wulfgar richtete sich auf und verschränkte die Arme hinter dem Rücken. Der Stahl der Plattenteile seiner Rüstung glomm matt im Kerzenschein und im flackernden Lichthof schienen sich die Flügel der Gravur des herabschnellenden Falken, der seinen bartbewehrten Plattenkragen zierte, zu bewegen. „Die Zweimühlener Landwehr wird die kommenden beiden Tage gemeinsam mit unseren Verbündeten hier für ausgiebige Waffenübungen nutzen und dann wieder abziehen. Bis die Lage sich weiter entspannt hat, werden wir hier jedoch den grundlegenden Lagerbetrieb aufrechterhalten und in enger Zusammenarbeit mit den Mitgliedern des Städtebundes für eine ausreichende stehende Besetzung und gesicherten Nachschub sorgen …“ Genaue Zahlen gab er nicht preis, aber es war zu erwarten dass das Klären dieser offenen, ungestellten Frage auch Bestand der anstehenden Gespräche mit ihren Bundgenossen sein würde. Wulfgar wusste, dass der Kostenpunkt dieser Unternehmung, zu der er sich gezwungen sah, nicht unerheblich sein würde und er warb deshalb offensichtlich um die Unterstützung ihrer Verbündeten. In gewisser Weise pochte er auch darauf, aber das würde er später erst im Gespräch mit den Einzelnen hervorheben. Wenn der Städtebund von Zweimühlen sich wirklich als Machtfaktor beweisen wollte, dann war jetzt der Moment gekommen, um zusammenzurücken. Zweimühlen konnte diese Last nicht alleine schultern.

„Wir verfolgen die weiteren Schritte des Falkenbundes mit gesteigerter Wachsamkeit und Sorge ob der kursierenden Gerüchte um die Rückkehr und den Zug der Fürstin, unser größtes Augenmerk gilt allerdings unserer von der Kaiserin höchstselbst bescheinigten Souveränität und des Fortbestehens der gezogenen Grenzlinien. Alles, was hier, auf diesem Feld geschehen ist, war eine Machtprobe des Falkenbundes. Es wäre töricht anzunehmen, dass die Bedrohung hiermit auf Dauer abgewendet ist, jedoch hat der gestrige Tag uns eine Erkenntnis gebracht, die nicht mit Gold aufzuwiegen ist. Wenn die hart erkämpfte Stabilität und der ohnehin unsichere Frieden dreist auf die Probe gestellt werden, stehen wir zusammen.“ Und mit einem Ausdruck ehrlicher Dankbarkeit wandte er sich mit einer Verbeugung direkt an die Barone von Bröckling und Königsweber, aber auch an Goldweiler, das sich erst jüngst dem Städtebund angeschlossen hatte. „Oder rücken zusammen.“
Session: Der Zug der Fürstin - Der Tanz auf der Klinge - Monday, May 29 2017 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Ish
Posted in PhD&D
Another Day's Story
Ish lived a typical childhood among his people. His days where spent playing, exploring, performing chores, and learning the skills necessary to survive on the cold steppe. At night he often sat by a campfire listening to bards bring the stories of the Charamesh to life.

As an adolescent Ish became a "runner", carryng messages between clan encampments, raiding parties and their scouts. It was also at this time that Ish began to experience intense nightmares involving Gruumsh, He Who Never Sleeps. In these nightmares Gruumsh would always show Ish visions of a calamity that would someday befall his clan. When he woke Ish would always forget the details of these prophetic nightmares, but still feel deeply disturbed by them. By the time he was a young adult Ish could no longer ignore what seemed like a direct warning from Gruumsh. Not long after the start of his twentieth year he set out West in the hope of discovering the meaning of his dreams, as well to sate his growing curiosity about the world that existed beyond the Great Wastes.

A little over two years into his journey Ish made camp after a long day of foraging and hunting. As he lay down to rest he stared at the starry sky above him and felt more at peace than he had in a long time. Though Gruumsh still came to him in his dreams, as he does to all Orcs and half-Orcs, Ish hadn't had a nightmare in weeks. He fell asleep thinking of the open road ahead of him.

He awoke later inside a Drow slave pen, surrounded by strangers, somewhere in the Underdark.
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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 4 — Tavis Burdun
~ ninth-day, 19th of Uktar, The Year of Wild Magic, evening
The Weary Giant Inn and Orphanage


After a day of shopping for new gear and supplies in the town of Hartwick, over the western bridge, the party had taken the ferry over the Clear Whirl (avoiding the floes of ice) and trekked back over Coggin's Rise to Stagwick, where they were now staying once again at the Weary Giant Inn. They had thought it best to wait around in Stagwick, having asked that Livia, the keeper of the inn, might send a message to her friend Tavis, the queen's husband, that they might speak with him. She was willing to introduce them to Tavis, but she did not know how she, a simple peasant, might get a message through to the royal castle. She had suggested that Tavis might visit sometime, as he was fond of doing so. Without any other options, the group stayed at the inn and helped with the chores.

   Belvin, for his part, had not been satisfied with the stories that they were being told by those such as the queen or Basil the runecaster, or rather, he was not satisfied with what they seemed to be neglecting to tell. "When we were on Mount Woe, I spoke with the birds," he had told his companions. "They told me that three migrations ago, the birds went with the giants when the biggest giant of all called them. There was a baby in a tower with its mother. There was a great battle, and many birds died when they flew in the faces of the bad people who were trying to kill the giants and were struck down. Three of the giants died also. The giants, who were always sad, were even more sad. The old giant leader was the saddest of all the giants. Not even the birds could bring him comfort any more. He stayed in the garden and played sad music. Sometimes the birds sang along with him."

   "Was this the giant we passed in the garden?" they had asked him. "Why did you not tell us?"

   "I did not need to tell you! I went and spoke to him myself. He was Anastes, the former paramount. He spoke with Hartkiller’s descendant, the human queen. He was the only one of the six summoned giants who saw her child. He said that the child was ugly, even for a human, and hideously deformed, looking like an ettin or ogre."

   They had discussed what this might mean. Had Brianna been raped by an ogre when she had been taken? Was Galgadayle's prophecy indeed true? Had the High Priest Simon lied? Had the queen really had twins? Was the ugly one protected in the castle? Was the other twin in hiding elsewhere? Perhaps within this very orphanage? Or did the prince have a dual nature? Was Camden, in fact, the true heir of Ottar?

   So Belvin had used fire to melt himself a pool of water. After calling upon the power of his dwarven jungle god in an hour of rhythmic chanting, he commanded the pool to show him Camden. It the rippling water, he saw the image of an old man, dressed in rags, with a mug in his hands, and hunched over. He watched the man for a long time, but he only ever got up to acquire more ale from a barkeep. He spoke with no one. Wherever King Camden now was, he was reduced to a lonely drunk. Belvin invested another hour to prayer and also tried scrying on the queen's son, but the pool remained empty.

~~~~

It was the very next morning, the last day of the second tenday of Uktar. Solisar had been the first to rise, as was typical, since his magic ring required even less rest than a typical elf. He spent the early morning studying an assortment of new scrolls he had purchased and deciding in which order he might add them to his spell book. Then he decided to head downstairs for breakfast to see if anyone else was awake.

   The dining area was mostly empty, except for a few of the older children sweeping and a single figure sitting at one of the tables. He was a burly giant of a man, broad-shouldered and taller than Solisar while sitting. His bare arms were almost bursting with muscles. He looked middle-aged, but his hair was completely gray. It was swept back and wavy and hung to just above his shoulders. He had a full beard of medium thickness. A large, bronze medallion with a knotted design was hanging from his thick neck and a heavy, warm cloak hung over his shoulders.

   The man was looking directly at Solisar as he approached, from head to toe. He seemed to spot Solisar's magic boots, and commented to himself, "Ah, Boots of the Winterlands! That explains why I never saw the tracks of a gold elf among them."

   "I am Solisar Keryth," said the elf. "Is it correct to assume that you are Tavis Burdun? Well met."

   "Alae," said the firbolg. "Indeed, I am! Equally well met. I suspect that we have much about which to talk."

   "I agree," said Solisar, "but I think it may be best that I be joined by my companions first."

   "Make sure to call in the wild-looking one who is sleeping in the stable with the desert mounts — strange prints those beasts leave!"

   "I shall do so," said Solisar, and he turned to go back up the stairs to the rooms.

   "There is no rush," said Tavis, standing up to his full height and banging his head on the ceiling, which he simply ignored. "Let them wake to the smell of breakfast! I miss the mornings when I fried eggs here in the kitchen for the children. Would you and your friends want venison with your eggs?"

   "That sounds delightful," said the sun elf, "but one of us does not eat meat."

   "That is his loss then!" said Tavis.

   "Tavis!" squealed a little orphan girl with glee, having just come down the stairs.

   "Ami!" said Tavis.

   She ran over to him and jumped onto his forearm, which was thick enough and strong enough to support her tiny frame. He lifted her into the air as one might raise a parrot or falcon, and he rubbed noses with her affectionately.

   As the smells of breakfast spread through the inn, more and more of the children — and the adventurers too — entered the main room and greeted the firbolg. He was soon surrounded by the children and took care to greet and to speak with each one. So it was that the adventurers were not able to ask him any questions until an hour later, after a hearty breakfast and jolly discussion about happenings in Stagwick with all of the children, young and old.

   Finally, Tavis politely dismissed the orphans, with the exception of Livia, who cleared their plates. "I have heard of you adventurers from my wife," he said, as the last little feet ran up the stairs. "I shall be honest and tell you that she has no trust of you, but she is quicker to make judgments than I. I have come to find that covers do not always reveal what is within a book. (Take Basil, for example!) She is, understandably, nervous about matters related to our son. I, however, cannot deny the strange manner of his birth, and while I know that Annam had no part in Lanaxis' schemes, this does not mean that Annam has no plans at all for the boy.

   "Before I continue, though, I want to hear your tale with my own ears. Why should we trust your story? I caution you that, though I cannot lie myself, it does not mean that I cannot recognize lies in others!"

   So the party told Tavis the story of how they had been exiled by a powerful magic user and how, in their quest to get back to their homes, had fallen into service with a powerful genie from ancient Jhothûn. They kept no secrets from him in regards to the genie's quest, but they did not explicitly tell him the location of the portal in the High Ice. (Had any of them tried, Leokas would not have allowed it, being still bound by the power of the genie's magic to protect it.)

   "There is a magic throne in the main citadel," said Hakam. "It recognizes only the rightful heir of Ottar Annamson. All we ask is for the queen or her son to sit upon it. Indeed, we are asking a great commitment of you, but certainly, the power and riches that could await your son — is it not worth it to try? Please pardon any offense, but your country is isolated and poor, compared to the countries of the south. With also a genie at his command, think what Hartsvale could become."

   "The boy is not even four years old!" said Tavis, "but I admit that I am both fascinated and satisfied by your words. Basil knows far more about the history of the giant races than do I, but it is hard to deny that the Celestial Children of Annam are at work in this. Take another swig of your elderberry wine. What I am about to tell you may be hard to believe — I am baffled by it myself — but I am sure you have heard how hard it is for a firbolg to lie."

   "Yes, you yourself told us so, a minute ago," said Belvin.

   "Ignore him," said Hakam. "His people skills are somewhat lacking."

   Tavis did not seem phased by the interruption. "By some miracle, Kaedlaw, my son, has two fathers." He let the statement hang in the air for a moment before continuing. "You have spoken to Basil, I know. I expect that he was happy to share the story of our victory over the Twilight Spirit but reluctant to speak of the birth of the boy, or else he sneakily avoided the topic altogether and talked of other things. My wife rarely speaks of it, for she feels guilt in the matter, but she was a victim and is without fault in my eyes.

   "After Basil, Avner, and I first retrieved Brianna — mind you, it was she who decapitated Goboka, not we — we returned together and deposed King Camden. Brianna was now queen, and custom demanded that she take a husband from among the noble humans of the land. We were in love, but a queen sometimes must choose honor over love, or so we believed. As painful as this was to both of us, I understood that I could never marry her. She had accepted that she would take a political marriage without love for the good of the kingdom.

   "So she did not waste time in beginning to see suitors, some from among the nobles of our own land, and some from foreign lands. An attractive man arrived, Prince Arlien. I do not even remember from where he claimed to hail. I had accepted that Brianna would have to marry another, but I also believed that she would not love him. To my horror, she began to show obvious signs of attraction to this man, and it quickly appeared that she would choose him as her husband and consort.

   "In reality, Arlien was Arno and Julien, the two beings in one body of the first ettin, a direct son of Annam and the youngest of his terrestrial children besides Hartkiller. The Twilight Spirit had not given up; having failed at breeding Brianna the first time, he now tried a more subtle approach. He used his magical arts to disguise the ettin, and beyond this, Arlien drugged Brianna and took her to bed.

   "I was too late to discover the treachery and stop it. Brianna, having been freed of the spell, and I did together slay each head of the giant, but the deed was done.

   "Brianna decided then that 'tradition be damned;' she was queen and she would 'marry whomever the Hells she wanted to.' We were married before a tenday had passed. Because our marriage was consummated so quickly after she was raped, I did not know who the father was when she announced a month later that she was pregnant. She, however, had convinced herself that I was the father and would hear nothing to the contrary.

   "It was not long before the seer of the Meadowhome clan of firbolgs, Galgadayle, arrived with his portent that Brianna would bear twins, one fair and one ugly, and that the ugly one would bring the downfall of the races of the valley. Brianna immediately sought the High Priest of Stronmaus, Simon, who assured her by his prayers and magic that only one child was in her womb. Again, she believed Simon, but I was hesitant. First, Galgadayle had never been wrong before, and second, I trusted a firbolg's word over that of a human's, especially one as arrogant as Simon.

   "Firbolg pregnancies are much longer than human ones, so I was not surprised when Brianna remained with child for first one and then two years, but as each month of the third year passed, my anxiety grew stronger. No, firbolg or human child grew for so long in the womb, and never have a seen so large a belly on a human woman. Brianna could barely walk lest she fall over!

   "In the Year of the Gauntlet, the queen was at one of Earl Wynn's new mines in the Gorge of the Silver Wyrm to dedicate and bless it, when fire giants attacked us. We were separated in the fighting, and while my wife was hiding within one of the mines, Avner, who was like a son to us, helped her deliver the child. So big he was, that Avner had to cut him out of her belly. (Thankfully, my wife is also a priest of a goddess of healing!) As she nursed her son, she saw a handsome, although enormous, boy that looked like me, and she even named him 'Handsome' in the firbolg tongue. But Avner saw a hideous monster of a child, deformed, ugly,... and ettin-like, like Arno, the uglier of the ettin's two heads.

   "When I found them again, I too saw an impressively ugly face. It soon became apparent that the child appeared at first as one expected him to look. To the firbolgs he appeared as a monster; only to Brianna and Avner did the boy appear handsome — and for Avner only after he tried hard to see him that way.

   "Basil suspected that Galgadayle's prophecy was in one sense true — as an ettin was two beings in one body, so Brianna's son was two beings in one body, my son and the ettin's son.

   "Lanaxis' arrival spared us deciding how to respond to this. Instead, we found ourselves in pursuit of the great titan. Surely, Basil shared this part of the story with you?

   "Basil talked me into trying to obtain the Sky Cleaver, and his brilliant scholarship led us to it. I did not expect how heavy a burden the axe would be to carry. It drained me of my moratlity while at the same time granting me invulnerability, yet I see no other way that we could have bested Lanaxis.

   "Best him we did, and when I at last was reunited with my wife and the child, I had to decide what to do. The Sky Cleaver, we had been discovering, could cleave more than just physical things. It could 'cut to the heart' of any matter. I thus used its power to 'cleave' Kaedlaw's enchantment. There, in Brianna's arms, was now a boy neither overly handsome nor exceptionally ugly, just rather normal-looking, with clear features both from me and from the ettin. Basil saw this as a sign that his destiny would depend on how he was raised.

   "So that is my strange tale. As hard as it is to fathom, Basil and I believe that Kaedlaw carries the blood of Annam through Hartkiller and Brianna and through the ettin and carries the blood of Othea through the same and through me, a firbolg. After so many millennia of rejection from the All-Father, I wonder if this supernatural conception is a sign of his adoption, as it were, of the giant-kin races. Is it a show of forgiveness to his now-dead spouse?"

   "What can you tell us of your own lineage?" one of them asked him.

   "I was an orphan," said Tavis, "born under a red moon, as my people say, which is to mean that my mother died giving me birth. My people are very sensitive to omens and signs, and to be born under a red moon is to be cursed. I was expelled from my clan and raised among humans by the kindest woman I have ever met, Isa Wirr, here at this very orphanage. She was a mother to me, and she passed this place onto me at her death. I do not even know my father or my mother's names."

   Then Solisar spoke up. "Having heard your story, I am now convinced that your child will be able to sit on the throne of Jhothûn. Yet we are not the ones in need of convincing. Is there anything else that we can do to prove ourselves and our purpose to the queen, your wife?"

   "Let me return to the castle and try to reason with her," said Tavis. "Wait here until I return again. Brianna wants our son to grow up as a normal boy, but even after he was freed of his 'condition', he cannot be called 'normal'. At three-years-old, Kaedlaw is almost as tall as some of you! If Annam has chosen him, if Stronmaus has led you here, why should we fight against their will? If Kaedlaw is to go with you, I would accompany you. While I trust you more than does my wife, I still care about my son's safety. He is my boy too, after all! How far is this throne?"

   "We would travel there by a hidden portal," said Solisar.

   "We cannot tell you its location," said Leokas, "but I estimate that the portal is 300 or 400 miles from here, as the crow flies."

   "Yet we are not crows," said Tavis, "and winter is here...."

   "You said that the Sky Cleaver can cleave non-physical things," said Belvin. "Can it cleave distances, make our journey shorter?"

   "I suspect that it could," said Tavis, "but I no longer have it. I gave it back."

   "Gave it back?" asked Cassiera. "To whom?"

   "To Annam," said Tavis. "The blade was never meant for mortals. Look what it did to Basil, who only held it for a few minutes.

   I was able to wield the blade for a time, yes; however, Lanaxis had more of a right to the axe than I, being a direct son of the All-Father, and he tried to recite the words of binding to take it from me by the strength of his will and rage. Knowing that I had no hope to resist his power, I took a chance that the power of mercy might outweigh the power of hate. With my final swing before he completed the ritual words to draw the weapon from my hands, I used Sky Cleaver to reveal the truth to Lanaxis rather than strike him down. Instantly, we were both transported — whether in our bodies or just within a vision, I do not know — to Annam's presence. Lanaxis pleaded with his father, but the god expelled him a last time from his presence, claiming that Lanaxis' plans were never a part of a his will, that the voices in the titan's head were those of madness, not of divine guidance. Lanaxis was cursed to be a mortal, and the last I saw of him, he flew far to the west in his shadow roc form. I then offered the axe back to Annam, who took it from me. The next thing I know, I woke up on the ground with Basil, Brianna, and Galgadayle around me. When I had finally faced Lanaxis, I had looked worse off than Basil does now — nearly transparent I was — but after I gave the axe back to Annam, he restored my flesh. Only my gray hair still shows sign that I once carried the weapon."
Session: 85th Game Session - Thursday, Feb 02 2017 from 1:00 AM to 4:00 AM
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Darren
Posted by the GM
Strange Aeons
Not So Very Nice Folks
Returning back into town from the Chapel of Pharasma, the group heard, and felt, an eerie wail over the sound of rain and wind. The sound sent a chill up the spine of each of you. Maury was able to discern that it wasn't just a wail, but rather, the same three syllables being repeated.

After some triangulation, the group finally determined the direction that the sound was coming from, and headed off to investigate. As they drew closer, it became apparent to all that it was the name "Zaquari" being repeated, which from documents obtained in the asylum you knew was The Lion's pre-amnesia name. In addition, the source of the shriek began interspersing the word "murderer" as well. They finally caught sight of the creature, a deteriorating and twisted corpse, which was identified as a revenant, which began moving with supernatural speed in pursuit of its prey, The Lion.

The group quickly formulated a plan for defeating the creature, which involved The Lion dragging the creature (which seemed to have no interest in the rest of the party) around the woods, letting his compatriots take their shots until it was downed.

During the one strike on the revenant that The Lion took, a memory flashback was granted of The Lion attacking this man while he was still alive, losing control to his rage, and killing the man unjustly. This memory was reinforced after defeating the thing, and having a moment to examine its lifeless body. The Lion remembered that the man was named Klyn Murik (you seem to remember Cesadia Wrentz mentioning him as well), and that The Lion was sent to 'deal with' this man for some small crime he had committed, but for which a death sentence was definitely overkill. Murderer indeed.

Heading back into town, the group encountered the doomsayer, Elgrior Nasmith, who warned of an impending second vanishing (the details of the first vanishing having been gleaned during your Asylum Library research), and the return of the Briarstone Witch. Diplomatic attempts to persuade Nasmith to quiet down and/or leave and stop bothering the citizens of Thrushmoor were only met with his steeled conviction and ever more wild theories. Finally it fell to Voyki to put fear into the man and drive him off. But as he shambled off into the night, you heard his meek exhortations that he would return.

You decided to finish off the night by paying a visit to The Stain, the other local watering hole. While Raevik attempted to gather information and swing the attitudes of the locals to his favor, Voyki worked the other side of the room trying to make friends in her own way; by turning them further against Raevik and improving her own standing in the process. Raevik's reputation as a cruel, sadistic, and megalomaniac individual was enforced here, with all of the locals openly hostile and initially unwilling to listen to anything he said. Voyki, likewise, carried with her a similar reputation for manipulating townsfolk for her own amusement, a crime for which she was apparently jailed at one point.

However, both of them were able to sooth the townfolk and get them to open up and reluctantly part with a few additional pieces of information.

Voyki turned the conversation to Maury and much to her dismay, found out that before being locked away in the asylum, Maury and the current mistress of Iris Hill, Melisenn Kororo, had been lovers and were frequently seen around town in each others' company.

[the following paragraph is a slight ret-con which I meant to reveal but forgot to]

Raevik on the other hand heard a local folk-tale/rumor about a haunting in Thrushmoor: the spirit of an elderly woman. This spirit has been seen occasionally over the years haunting the streets of the town, although there have been no sightings recently. These hauntings have been occurring over the span of the last twenty years. The locals had several competing theories about who the spirit was before she died: The Briarstone Witch, one of the workers slain during the aborted construction of Fort Briarstone, and the dead wife of Count Lowls III (mother of the current Count), being the most popular theories.

After The Stain, the party retired to the Sleepless Building for the night.

In the morning, Voyki arose bright and early to head to the market to reclaim the finely wrought viol she had sold there only two days prior. After, the group headed east out of town to investigate the cave that Cesadia Wrentz had told them about, and that Elgrior Nasmith had used as evidence of the Briarstone Witch's return.

After some searching of the lakeshore, the cave entrance was located. The vines covering the entrace hid an Assassin Vine which attacked The Lion, and entangled Maury, but it was swiftly dispatched.

Deeper in the cave, the group was set upon by a wild woman and two strange looking wolves that exuded yellowish clouds which poisoned some members of the party. As they were trying to deal with those three, an invisible fungal creature snuck up from behind and began attacking as well. The pitched battle ended with the Phantom Fungus slain, the wild woman subdued, and the wolves, obeying their mistress, growling but otherwise passive at her side. Upon closer examination of the wolves you were able to ascertain that these wolves are not flesh and blood at all, but rather, are composed entirely of animated plant matter bearing the uncanny likeness of warm-blooded creatures.
Session: Game Session #12 - Monday, Mar 13 2017 from 1:45 AM to 4:45 AM
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Tags: Background , Recap
Epic!
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Lhynard
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De Exilio
Chapter 4 — Basil of Lyndusfarne
~ eighth-day, 18th of Uktar, The Year of Wild Magic, evening
Castle Hartwick


Solisar sat in the library of Castle Hartwick, waiting for the chief librarian, Basil to arrive. As he waited, he was perusing some tomes on magic, hoping to find any more information on kiira, but the the books were heavily focused on runecasting. He had given up on finding anything and was now looking through A Full History of the Dobbins of Stagwick, by Neville Dobbin, 35th Earl of Stagwick.

   A very tall, hunchbacked figure entered the room. "Solisar, I presume," said a cheerful voice.

   Solisar looked up to see a hideous giant of a man. He should have been about nine feet tall, but his hunch brought him down to seven feet. His features were shriveled and deformed, and his skin was almost transparent; one could see all his blood vessels and bones.

   The elf stood up from his chair. "Yes, I am Solisar Keryth of Evermeet, Island of the Elves, a scholar of Jotunbrud history. You must be Basil? Am du paart."

   "Am du paart. Yes, I am Basil. Basil of Lyndusfarne, runecaster and chief librarian. Strange it is that an elf would take interest in the history of the sons of Othea."

   "My people saw a great threat rising far to the northeast," said Solisar, "a powerful hierophant of the human goddess of winter. We learned that she was seeking ancient giant relics buried under the ice. I have dedicated many years to learning her plans, and it has taken me deep within what records we had of your people. Granted, our records are not as complete as I would have liked."

   "If you want to know the true history of giants," said Basil, "you have come to the right verbeeg!"

   "Pardon my asking it, but are verbeegs known for their runecasting?"

   "If you mean to ask, 'Are not verbeegs known as rogues and thieves?' I would answer yes, but are not elves known for thinking their histories the only ones worth studying?" These questions were asked with a smirk on his shriveled, ugly face. "I suppose you also want to ask me why I look more like a grotesque fomorian than a handsome verbeeg?"

   "I admit that the question has crossed my mind."

   "It was the Sky Cleaver that did it to me," said Basil.

   "The Sky Cleaver? Is that not the name of Annam's fabled axe?"

   "So you are well-read in our stories. It is no fable, young elf! Tavis and I each held it, on the day that we defeated the Twilight Spirit."

   "That is precisely about which I wished to ask you more. I know that the Twilight Spirit was defeated and that the queen and her child were rescued — we have spoken with the storm giants of Mount Woe — yet I do not know the details of how."

   "Oh, what a story it is to tell!" said Basil. "I shall sit down for it." The verbeeg took a large-sized chair. "Where to begin? Where to begin?"

   "Actually, could you begin with how the queen first came to power? I have read a book here of the War of the Twins, but I do not understand why it was that King Camden was deposed. That history seems too recent to have been recorded in the books to which I had access."

   "Because he sold his first-born daughter to the ogres!" Basil exclaimed. "The ogres in these parts are far more clever than the ones you may be used to. When the War of the Twins began, Camden could not defeat his brother on his own. He stooped so low as to make an alliance with the ogres of a certain tribe, unaware that their chieftain, Goboka, was working for the Twilight Spirit. The ogres agreed to fight for Camden, and in payment, they demanded his first-born daughter when she came of age.

   "Now, it is important to note that there has never been a daughter born in the many centuries of the Hartkiller line. Camden made the promise, figuring that he would certainly have many sons to replace the daughter he would have to give up. This never happened. In fact, his first wife died shortly after Brianna was born, and despite taking many wives and mistresses, none bore him a boy.

   "At the time, however, he was quite content with the deal, because with the aid of Goboka's ogres, he soundly defeated his brother, who died childless.

   "Now we jump ahead some fifteen years or so. Brianna has grown into a woman, and her father is trying to marry her off to one of the earls. She happens to be in Stagwick at a play. I happen to be... visiting... with Earl Dobbin, and I meet the great Tavis Burdun. That is how I became a part of this story.

   "On the way back to the castle, Goboka's ogres ambush the princess and her firbolg bodyguard, taking their promised payment. I accompany Tavis as he tracks her — and the finest ranger he is! — and determines that she has been kidnapped by ogres, but when we report this to King Camden, he forbids us to pursue.

   "Naturally, we disobey his orders, and Tavis, the young orphan Avner, and I track the ogres back to their lair and free Brianna.

   "Brianna, as you might expect, was not too happy with her father, once she understood the situation. When she returned to Hartsvale, she orchestrated a coup and exposed and deposed the king. He was banished from Hartsvale forever and sent into exile."

   "Where is he now?" asked Solisar.

   "I have not a clue," said Basil, shrugging.

   "Have there been any conflicts with the ogres since?"

   "Nothing significant," replied Basil.

   "This is the second time I have heard of this Avner," said Solisar. "I have surmised that he has died. Who was he?"

   "A sad tale indeed! A devoted boy he was — and a good thief too! Apparently, he was even a good midwife; he cut the queen's baby from her belly with her knife, so large was the child! But, yes, he later died defending his queen against a horde of fomorians."

   "Did this occur at the siege of Castle Wynn, during the Second War of the Hart, when the queen was taken by the Twilight Spirit?"

   "You have studied Hartsvale's recent events well! But no, he survived that battle. In fact, he was with the queen in the tower when the Twilight Spirit ripped it from its roots and strode off with it."

   "What exactly happened at that siege? Please trust that I am not accusing you, but many humans to whom we spoke claim that they were betrayed either by the queen's own husband or by a 'verbeeg runecaster from Lyndusfarne.'"

   "There is much racism against the giant-kin in this country, especially among its leaders, excepting her majesty," said Basil, "but I will tell you the truth, verbeeg or no.

   "Yes, allied tribes of giant-kin did assemble against the humans. I had no part in that! They were gathered because of the prophecy of a firbolg seer who put too much trust in his own prophecies. Mind you, he is a good man at heart, even a friend now, but Galgadayle had some pride issues to work out. He had prophesied that the queen's new son would bring the downfall of all humans and giant-kin. The giant-kin armies thus wanted to take the child by force. Tavis and I were in the castle when the siege started and when the Twilight Spirit appeared in the form of a roc made of shadow, which then coalesced into the titan Lanaxis. Lanaxis was squishing humans with his fingers, and Tavis could not use his explosive arrows that I had enchanted for him without blowing away the keep along with Lanaxis, so he came up with another crazy plan. He indeed opened the gate to let the giant-kin in, but he did not do it to betray the queen! Absurd! Tavis loves that woman more than I have ever seen a man love a woman. He opened the gate knowing that the giant-kin would attack Lanaxis, because Lanaxis was the one who wanted to raise the child to become the emperor of ancient Ostoria, which would fulfill Galgadayle's prophecy. And that they did. Mind you, giant-kin are big, but they are not as tall as the so-called 'real' giants, to say nothing of comparing us to one of the first-born of Annam! The kin could do little to stop Lanaxis, but they at least made him bleed, and he took the queen and left without killing the whole lot of little humans."

   "...And the giant-kin armies pursued Lanaxis," said Solisar.

   "Yes, and that is when Tavis and I joined them. We caught up with him far to the north, but he summoned six storm giants, and those noble, depressing monsters nearly killed us all, and the fomorian cowards fled the field. At the end of the battle, only Galgadayle and Tavis remained alive among the firbolgs, and there were about a dozen verbeeg left besides me.

   "Recognizing that we would obviously not defeat Lanaxis with the strength of our armies, I suggested another plan to Tavis and Galgadayle. If we were to defeat one of Annam's own children, we would need the power of Annam himself. Recently, in my studies, I was convinced that I had discovered the location of Annam's axe, the Sky Cleaver. The giant myths claimed that, when discovering his wife's infidelity, he cast his axe to the earth in anger, and it split a mountain in two. After studying the names of some mountains on a series of ancient map fragments, I found a place that could translate into Common as "Split Mountain". It was also in the same region as Othea Tor, the supposed place of Othea's final rest. Moreover, I found evidence in some old tales of ghost-like monsters of former giants being spotted in the area of the mountain, which was thus avoided by the frost giant tribes living in that area. I was sure that it must be the final resting place of that great axe.

   "I do not think Tavis fully believed my idea, but he did not have anything else to lose, so our small band set out on a minor detour on the way toward the Twilight Vale, and we took a quest to find Sky Cleaver.

   "Find it we did, deep within a cavern between the two halves of Split Mountain, guarded by a hill giant whose flesh was transparent from all of his years protecting the weapon, which he worshiped much like a god. Now I understood what it meant when the legends said that the axe would strip away the corporeality of mortals who bore it. Simply put, the weapon was never forged to be wielded by mortals.

   "Tavis took the chance, however, and claimed the axe as his own.

   "We arrived at the Twilight Vale, a mystical valley that only came into existence when in the shadow of Othea Tor, the same shadow that restored and sustained Lanaxis for so many centuries. We knew that Annam's axe was said to have the power to cleave anything created, and Tavis used its power to literally cleave Othea Tor in half — an amazing display of magic power, or I am not a runecaster! With that mountain demolished, the Twilight Vale was, in a sense, also destroyed, forcing the ancient palace of Voninheim back into the world of Toril again, and exposing Lanaxis to his curse of mortality.

   "Then, in the final showdown with Lanaxis, who had taken his shadowroc form one last time, Tavis defeated the ancient titan once and for all.

   "Brianna, having been rescued now a second time by Tavis, returned with her husband and son to her throne in Hartsvale."

   "What about Galgadayle?" asked Solisar. "Is he still alive?"

   "He is, though he has returned to his tribe, and I have not seen him since."

   Solisar paused and processed all the new information he had just learned.

   "Is there anything else you wish to know?" Basil asked.

   "When we spoke with the queen, she had mentioned you by name. She said that you confirmed the existence of Jhothûn?"

   "Yes, 'Iseheim' the other giants call it."

   "Do you have a book about it?"

   Basil did, but the only line of interest was simply a parenthetical:

...The kingdoms of Ostoria were eight in number, one for each of the sons of the All-Father, the Prime. The kingdoms were ruled from the great citadels of old. These included foremost Voninheim, the capital, the Bleak Palace. Vilmos ruled from Uvarheim, deep below the waves. Nicias reigned from Skyeheim, which sailed the heavens. Masud controlled the peaks of flame from Ildheim, while his rival, Ottar, held Iseheim atop the ice flows, (which some called Jhothûn.) Obadai claimed Nedeheim, in the deeps of the earth, and young Ruk was given Haugheim. Dunmore, the bastard, dwelt among the trees in Skogheim with the race some call the voadkyn....

   Solisar spent several more hours with the hospitable verbeeg, learning much about the art of runecasting, a form of divine magic, and some further knowledge about the giant-kin. For example, while he had heard that firbolgs could not lie, he now learned that they could, only that it would make them nauseous and insomniac for days at a time, so ingrained was the importance of truth and honor within their culture. He asked Basil about the town of Lyndusfarne and if he knew the Pulkdrivvers. (He did not.) Finally, he studied some divinatory spells, before joining with his companions for the night.
Session: 85th Game Session - Thursday, Feb 02 2017 from 1:00 AM to 4:00 AM
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