Scene 1 – Ft. Kront
“Sir,” Thud salutes, “before we head back would you mind of some of your smiths fix up me hamma’s Sir?” He returns to an at-ease stance.
“You’ll have to bang out the dents yerself,” Ruk comments. “We don’t have enuff men for to have a full-time smith.” He points you across the main plaza of the fort and down some stairs to where the forge is maintained. The smithy is cluttered, dark and covered in a light layer of soot.
“Thank you Sir.” Thud heads down to the smith and starts to fill in small chips and cracks and clean his weapons and armor
Shamgar sat in the barracks of the common room, idly sharpening the blade of his axe with various grades of whestones. The ancient weapon never seemed to need any sharpening, but the process calmed him and allowed his thoughts to wander. “You know,” he began, speaking to whoever cared to pay attention to him, “Clearing out those old rotters reminds me of the last time I fought undead. I was working with the Band of the Hawk at the time, back when they were first starting out, and we got asked to go and scout out this little mining town near Hyloneme.”
The rasp of stone on blade continued for a moment as he gathered his thoughts, then continued, “The Band was just starting out at the time, there was only about seven of us, so we took any paying job we could get to put our name out there. The captain at the time- half elven boy named Nelson, hell of a leader -comes down to let us know that we’re to check out this town way out in the sticks. Says Hyloneme hasn’t seen hide nor hair of them in over a week, and there’s normally a load of gems coming in every three days.”
Putting his whestones away, he tested the edge of his blade before laying it across the table and continuing, “Anyways, we get there and find that the whole place has gone to the abyss and back. Bloodstains everywhere, brains and bits of organs splattered everywhere, but we couldn’t find a blasted corpse anywhere. So we set up for the night at the mayor’s place, really nice old mansion- nothing fancy but everything well made. I’m on watch with this kid we called Spots, not sure how he got the nickname. Really young but he could do things with a mace that could make an archdemon cry. He’s telling me about his girl back home when all of a sudden we see all these people outside the window! We raise the alarm and Spots rushes to secure the front doors but he gets there two late. Five wights come bustin’ in through the door and tear him to shreds. Didn’t take much brains to figure out what happened to the townsfolk, so we split into groups of three and went through the town and killed everything that moved. Lost two more men before the job was done, but damned if we weren’t all but given medals for that. I ended up leaving the band a few months later, started getting a bit too crowded for my tastes, but I still see them around here and there. Doin’ real well now, I understand.”
“Thats a pretty hellish story there mate,” says Thud doing his best to sympathize with Shamgar. He wipes some soot off his face and clothes. “Good to see a man like you survive that and its too bad you lost any men.” Thud gives Shamgar a hearty hand on his back.
Ruk also chimes in, speaking in the sort of cold steel tone that only a war commander would use for grief counseling. “Be glad you’ve seen ‘em alive, wizard. Seein’ ‘em agin dead is far worse. One o’ them zombie mashers out there was from my own clan. Got hisself killed by a she-bear. How ‘e ended up in that legion o’ the damned is beyond me.”
Blaine stands nearby leaning against the wall and absent-mindedly doodling in the dust of the barracks floor with the tip of his bow. Upon hearing Ruk’s interjection, he stops and looks up, scowling in worry and confusion. He addresses Ruk. “Have these disturbances been happening more frequently lately? It seems like you have had a bit of a run-in with them yourself, good man.”
“Once in a while,” Ruk replies. “They’re not well organized and never bear the same banner twice. Also usually not this big a number.” Ruk muses over this point much like the pugilist looks at the unconscious body of his opponent – more impressed with himself than concerned. “Mostly bags o’ flesh and walking bones. Stuff that can break and bleed. Nothing wispy like ghasts, thank… whoever.” Ruk avoids making comments that could construe him as being a devotee. “I heard say that there may be someone massing an army of these things in Haumea somewhere, but it’s just a rumor. Doesn’t matter anyway! Nuthin’ my men and I can’t handle.”
Shamgar grunted at the offers of condolences, a sound that could be taken as a thanks… of sorts. Things hadn’t ended well between him and the Band of the Hawk. A few of the new recruits that Nelson had brought in were amatuer cleric-hunters, and once he caught them giving him odd looks from time to time… looks he knew quite well, there was no doubt about whether or not to part ways very soon. He hadn’t gotten out soon enough, and he was pretty sure Nelson wasn’t pleased with waking up one morning to find that one of his sargeants had deserted in the middle of the night, and five men (all of whom had earned reputations as cleric hunters) all dead from melee combat.
He listened to Ruk talk about undead with a detached air, toying with several squares of fine cloth about the size of a handkerchief laid out on the table next to his whetstones, stretching them taut across stripped and smoothed branches and waving the construction idly back and forth. Obviously displeased with the results, he grunted and began making adjustments, changing the angles ever so slightly and attempting it again. Giving the contraption another wave he gave a slight grunt of satisfaction, very slight, before dismantling it and slipping it into his pack. He’d been working on it occasionally for almost a month now, and he was nearing perfection. Feeling a pressure on his lap, he looked down to see that Wolfgar had awoken from his nap and was in need of attention. A smile of genuine affection crossed the normally cold face as he grinned and scratched the tiny cub behind its enormous ears.
Blaine, curious, crosses the room quickly, creeping up behind the distracted Shamgar very carefully so as to not wake the animal snoozing happily on his lap. He leans in close behind him and snakes his hand about, careful to avoid the napping cub. Stopping a few inches from the cloth-and-stick contraption. He hisses quietly in his ear “What, pray tell, is that?”
Wolfgar sat up and yawned for a moment before settling down and returning to slumber. Shamgar seemed somewhat upset that his pup’s sleep had been nearly disturbed, but his attitude hid it quite well. “It’s a miniature version of something I’ve had an idea to make,” he replied hesitantly. “It’s going to be attached to a length of string which can be held or anchored. The cloth-bound end will catch wind and stay borne aloft.” Feeling as if this needed some explanation, he added, “I got the idea from watching eagles riding… what are they called?” he snapped his fingers repeatedly in irritation as he tried to recall a word, “Has to do with heat… hot air… Thermals! Eagles riding thermals.”
Scene 2 – Final Report
The party reports back to HQ cold and weary but ultimately not too much worse for the wear. Captain Masaki provides them warm drink and food upon your arrival. After giving them a little time to shake off the bitter chill, he requests the report on the sites visited as well as any recommendation as to where the settlement should be centered.
The door to the chamber opens, Hoerig enters, walking in backwards while trying to hold the door open with disheveled heaps of rolled up maps and mismatched sheaves of parchment bearhugged in both his arms. “I think, I think I’ve got everything you’ve asked for. Some of these maps aren’t that recent, but they’re pretty detailed fo…” He finally turns around, seeing the assembled group, and turns to the contact. “Oh, sorry, I can come back later if this is a bad time.”
“No, please, enter.” Captain Masaki stands and relieves you of a few of your parchments. “We were just discussing the ramifications of your success—assuming you came back of course.” A chair is placed at the table for you and mugs are moved to allow for your visual aids. “We are all very interested to hear what you have to tell us.”
“Well there was some nomads but they wern’t much trouble.” Thud interjects this statement nonchalantly.
“It appears you have done quite a bit of work with these maps. Impressive. Can you give us more detail on each location – whether it is suitable for a settlement or not? And what of Sgt. Ruk? Still alive and grumpy I assume?”
Blaine steps forward to assist the newcomer with some of his documents. He snorts and nods. “Correct on both accounts. As for the locations, well…” He gazes around at his comrades, looking at each of them in turn and frowning. He then lets out a heavy sigh.
“I would reccomend Gwe… Gwa…” Shamgar replied, becoming visibly irritated with his inability to pronounce the name. “Gwe… ca… mar.” He coughed with frustration and quickly glared about, daring anyone to comment, “The remains of an old town are still there. A lot of the buildings are in poor shape, but even the ones that would just need rebuilding still have their foundations laid.” After a moment to pause and let the information sink in before continuing, “We couldn’t find a ready source of water, though, so it might be best to send some people with some experience in digging wells..”
Hoerig rolls one of the larger maps out, faded in some spots but mostly legible. “Sorry bout that” he mutters as the ends roll over a parchment someone was scribbling on. He fishes through the pouches about his person for a moment, looking for something and seeming upset when a short, narrow tube scribed with runes is procured.
He leans away from the object as he utters a command word, “Montblanc” with fingers placed on specific runes. Everything seeming to be normal, he begins to update the map with the arcane pen, ink magically flowing out from the nib.
The assembled council nods, some whispering things to one another, others taking notes of their own. “We shall take your recommendation into consideration,” another one nods.
The meeting finished, the maps updated for the HQ’s records, Hoerig grips the pen again and utters another arcane command word, “Le Boeuf”. He arches one eyebrow, aware that something is wrong, and jerks the nib of the pen away from the map, towards his clothes. “Le Boeuf!” he utters again, not before a tiny torrent of ink cascades out of the pen onto his tunic. “It’s a nice tool, when I can get it to work…” he says to the onlookers, acting as if this happens all the time.
“Very well. This is what we have decided to do,” Captain Masaki states after some deliberation. “We will be dispatching two groups within the next 72 hours, as we wish to waste no time with either task. One group will be returning to Guecumar to begin building the settlement. Its mission will be to protect the builders from any harm while construction begins and assist in the build itself while you are there. A larger, permanent garrison will follow shortly. The second group is to report to Sgt. Ruk at Ft. Kront and follow up on the undead attacks. Since there are currently only 5 of you, we have brought in additional support.” Within a moment, four additional adventurers enter the room.
Walt Treestep enters.
Darnis enters the room using a greatspear as an impromptu walking stick. The spear has an innate glow that illuminates the large scar across his left cheek. After giving a quick nod to Captain Masaki, he finds a spot to wait for further instruction. While leaning on his spear, arcane energies seem to flow into the weapon from his outstretched hands.
Umalli the Mad emits a snort. His hair fettered with baubles and fetishes, the half-orc curls his upper lip and scans the room of recruits. “Anyone who wants to follow me will find a friend in Kord himself, I reckon.” Impressed with himself, Umalli leans against a wall, resuming his arcane babblings.
“Bloodhound” Grafton Hubert (David) is a older human (you think) dressed in an assortment of hides and furs and armed with a pointy stick. He stalks into the room and seems to be sizing up the other new arrivals.
“We have suggested groupings for you as well. You are not required to follow these groupings exactly if the other task seems more to your taste, but we must have at least three of you going to each location.”
Hoerig smiles at the council. “Guecumar it is.” He nods to those who’d be his companions.
Thud smiles at his assignment. “Good! maybe I’ll be able to find out why the 17th Calvary was stationed at Guecumar.”
Grafton nods in agreement. “Never been there. But been close. Know the terrain.” He pauses for a moment, waiting for someone – anyone- to talk. “We’re to help with the building and protect the settlers?”
Scene 3 – After the Meeting
As Shamgar leaves the meeting, he is approached by one of the councilmen. “I noticed that among your findings, you have acquired the Tome of Twilight Boughs? I have more than a passing intellectual interest in the book. A sort of personal side benefit of suggesting the Guecumar site. The tome indeed holds some power – power that you may find useful… If however you have no use of it, I will gladly take it off your hands for you.”
Shamgar met the man’s offer to take the tome with a threatening glare, his razor-sharp teeth seeming to become unusually prominent in his maw as he replied, “None shall take this book as long as I am its keeper.”
He is clearly taken aback at Shamgar’s ferocity but remains undeterred for the moment. “Think carefully, friend. Certainly your appearance makes things difficult for you.. and your choice of.. profession, shall we say? Not everyone is as easily convinced by your ‘wizard’ story. Having a book like this can greatly help your cause and I can help you master this book.” He meets your gaze. “I will not force my case anymore right now. You will seek my help soon enough.” With a flourish of his hand, he wraps his coat around himself and leaves.
Shamgar watched the man leave, anger bubbling in the back of his mind. He fought the urge to reach out and snap the man’s neck with one hand as he stormed off in the opposite direction, heading for the barracks. This was no easy dilemma, for certain. He would certainly not relenquish this book, not by any means whatsoever, but was destroying it the wisest choice? If the artifact was as powerful as the elf leader and the councilman made it seem, it would be an invaluable aid towards the pursuit of his goals, but if the power it held was as dark as the elves had told him, then it would certainly need to be destroyed. He decided to leave the building altogether and walk the streets, seeking out a secluded area where he could pray to the Battle Lord for guidance.
Hoerig watched the exchange from afar, hearing only the few heated words. Seeing the councilman walk off one way and the dragonborn another, the half-elf ran off in the scaly wizard’s direction, papers and maps sticking out every which way.
“Hey, wait up!” A metre or three behind him, Hoerig called out, shifting as much as he could to his left hand, arm, shoulder, and chest. “Magistrates like that tend to go a bit soft over time, I’d just as ignore him.” He held out his right hand. “Name’s Hoerig, you in the group going out to Guecumar again?”
Thud grabs Hoerig by the back of his neck “Trust me lil’ guy you don’t wanna get on his bad side.” He smirks a bit. “And I’ll be da one who shall be accompanying you to Guecumar,” he continues, letting go of Hoerig. “Shamgar over there is heading back to the fort though i wish he’d come with us; the council seems to see it fit he goes there instead.”
Grafton moves up quietly behind the pair, watching and judging the two Masaki said would be joining him on the journey to Guecumar. He silently eyed-up the two, evaluating their strength and dominace. So far, Thud seemed the clear alpha of the pack.
Hoerig chuckles. “Well, good to know, you’re right though, a man like him,” he points at Shamgar “seems like he’d be a huge asset to one’s team.” The half-elf grins, “Though I wager we’re more than able to handle what ever gets thrown at us. So, you’ve been up there before, anything specific we need to take or be prepared for? I wager you left out a few of the drier details when talking to them,” he jerks a thumb back to where the council had met, “and I’d rather be over prepared than caught unaware.”
While this is going on, Billywig approches Shamgar as he is about to leave. “Mr. Shamgar, Sir.” Billywig says, nervously. “I just wanted to say Thanks. You saved my life when we had that run-in with those Elves and I owe you for that. Just let me know if there is anything I can do to repay you.”
“Think nothing of it,” Shamgar rumbled nonchalantly in reply, “I’d never stand by and watch while a soldier gets killed if there’s something I can do about it- And it’s not like you didn’t do the same for me against that undead warlord.” He gave the halfling a quick nod before stepping out of the council’s building and walking into the winter streets, laden with drifts of snow.
Hoerig and Thud had made themselves known, so Grafton continued to keep an eye out for their fourth member: Blaine. He was unsure what to make of the comraderie between Billywig and Shamgar. But Shamgar was clearly the dominant figure, after his reaction to the councilman.
“Ok heres the gist of it mate.” Thud begins explaining the necessary preparations. “We’re gonna need to bring plenty of water and digging tools. We also should bring some lumber. There is an old barracks there thats mostly intact so we can rebuild that up.”
Shamgar made his way into the local park, currently seeming to be apparently devoid of inhabitants. The poor weather and the setting sun were probably the cause of that, he assumed. Tightening his cloak around himself he ventured deep into the park, intending to take himself out of the view of any civilian. That councilman had been a fool, thinking he could blackmail a battle cleric of Tempus. The last man that had attempted to blackmail him had wound up split down the middle.
He’d gained no honor from killing such a spineless worm, but he hadn’t had any choice. Kill or be killed, that was the law for divine casters these days. Feeling sufficiently secluded, Shamgar knelt amongst a stand of trees and drew his knife. It was no weapon, but it was sharp as the nine hells. Pulling off his left gauntlet, he quickly cut a gash across the back of his hand. The blood dropped onto the snow, melting it and staining it red. The spilled blood would attract the attention to the God of Battle more powerfully to his prayers. Planting the haft of his Namefather’s axe firmly in the ground, he knelt before the holy relic and began to sing a brief hymn to Tempus, quietly enough that the trees drank nearly all the sound, before praying to the Battle Lord to grant him wisdom in the matter of how to deal with the ancient tome.
As Shamgar kneels within the grove and completes the song, a gust of wind sprints through the trees. The Namefather’s axe falls backward on the flat edge of the metal, blade pointed straight up.
Thud hears a soft whisper in his head “I must take leave, Hoerig.” He pats the warlord on the back knocking him over as he heartily laughs. “I must resupply my special stocks.” He hastilly leaves the chamber and heads to the parks following Shamgars foot steps but try to make sure to stay hidden from notice. Finally catching up to him he sees Shamgar praying and watches calmly as the axe falls “Whoa – I guess Tempus still got some followers after the war.” He slowly walks up to Shamgar and kneels next to him “I guess I’m not the only mate who still prays; I couldve sworn you were just a war mage but I guess that means my old hunting skills are getting a bit rusty.” he chuckles a little “Would you mind if I joined you granted that I may have had more than a large part in purging the lands of religion.” He takes a deep breath. “I have found peace through that which I helped destroy.” He takes out a small symbol of The Raven Queen. “You know she led me here… to you that is,” ans Thud begins praying.
Shamgar lifted his axe from the ground and examined the blade in awe. A true sign from his god… the axe fell, and rather than hiding the blade- the destructive end- from sight as it should have done, it fell backwards and showed him the side of violence. The answer was clear; the tome must be destroyed. “I had a feeling about you… never would’ve guessed a follower of the Raven Queen… how portentious, though. I pray for guidance from Tempus for what to do with this book and my axe falls blade-up- something not normally possible- and a devotee of the goddess of death reveals himself to me. The book clearly must be destroyed.”
Pulling the tome from his pack, he throws it to the ground and swings his axe overhead, biting its blade deep again and again. Once the book had been reduced to shreds, shreds which he was careful to keep from fluttering away, he knelt by it and used his flint and steel to light it, then slowly fanned the sparks into life. As the flames consume the book, it screams. Not with sound sensitive to the ears, but with a magical resonance to those without formal training in Arcana. It is the scream of animal instinct, of power escaping a container not enlightened sentience, but a scream nonetheless.
In response to the horrible scream, Shamgar feels a chill run down his spine, the proverbial wall he had built up around himself and his emotions penetrated by it and instilling him with a brief sense of dread. Instinctively he clutched at the scale chestpiece of his armor. A number of the scales were almost unnoticably reddened, and if one were to take the time and examine it they would recognize that it formed an upside-down t. It was the closest thing to a holy symbol that Shamgar dared carry, bearing only a minor resemblance to the symbol go his god.( normally represented by an upward-pointed sword surrounded with flame). The touch of those scales brought him comfort and endurance, and he continued about his grim task.
He carefully nursed the flames until the book had been completely consumed, and once the ashes had cooled he scooped them into an empty pouch. I will spread a pinch of these ashes throughout my travels, never twice in the same spot. That way nobody will be able to ever recover enough of the book’s remains for anything but the most powerful of spells to restore it. He sang a hymn of thanks to Tempus for his divine guidance, then stood and stashed his axe.
Once Thud had finished his prayers, Shamgar extended a hand to help him up. “So how long have you been a follower of the Raven Queen?” he asked as he helped the man to his feet.
“I have followed her ever since a cleric of hers saved my life.” He points to his mask “This mask allows me to breath and The Raven Queen sent it to me in the hands of the ghost of a cleric that I had slayed not too long before.” He takes a deep breath. “She spared me from a slow painful death of suffucation and in return I devoted myself to her.”
Blaine exits the meeting hall, yawns mightily, stretches his arms, and gazes about curiously, surveying the scene. After observing the trio gathered in the courtyard for a bit, he begins ambling toward Thud, Grafton, Shamgar and Hoerig. He stands silently, arms crossed in front of his body waiting to be noticed, and softly clears his throat. When they turn to look at him he silently regards them, frowning, making eye contact with each of them in turn for a few seconds. Then he grunts, a sly smirk creeping its way across his lips. He simply states, “You’ll do.”
Thud looks at Blaine quizically, “What do you mean we’ll do?!” He breaks out into a large bellowing laugh. “I’mm interested in seeing how you and these green skins do!”