Session One Hundred and Fifty-Nine - March 14, 2020

Wherein the ongoing story of the FtF campaign may be found ...

Session One Hundred and Fifty-Nine - March 14, 2020

Postby Matt » Sat Nov 28, 2020 4:25 pm

Nolus 20, 733

The moon shone down on an imposing line of men and horses as they marched out of the gates of Olokand and crossed the bridge two by two. In this company rode Lord Ewen, his squire Goreg, and his steadfast companions Sir Baris and Lord Prehil. With these worthies rode Sirs Kelek, Edrick, Rald, Paquin, Ronal, Camber, Edrel, Morak, Elen, Daxton, Caldea, Welcris, Pierra, Elbren, and Jartil. With them were Captain Thorpe's light horse, and fifteen squires. In total there were about fifty men. None saw the men but the owls flying above, and they were unimpressed.

Once across the bridge, the line of men turned north. Much of the time after the battle at Olokand had been spent in an urgent war council. After much discussion, Lord Ewen had finally decided on a dawn raid of Halperin, the village on the Eastern side of the Kald across from Setrew. “We shall go through the village like the hand of Larani!” Lord Prehil had said.

A little over half past midnight the group forded a small stream. They encountered Sir Cardiel, who joined the procession and trotted up to Lord Ewen. The knight informed the Baron that Dyselon had been raided and burned.

Soon the procession came upon that poor manor. In the moonlight, they saw the burned fields had been trampled, and unburied bodies, men and animal alike, littered the ground. The stench of the bloated bodies wafted on the air, mixed with the ash of the once proud manor house, now a blackened ruin. The Vikings had also put the Temple of Peoni to the torch, along with many humble homes of the peasantry. Along the river was the remains of a small mill. All that was left standing were a handful of peasant cottages located on the eastern outskirts of the village.

An hour after leaving Dyselon behind the knights arrived at the outskirts of Halperin. It was a little before four in the morning, and they saw the glimmer of sunlight beginning to rise in the eastern sky. To the west, a hill rose up to a manor house. To the east lay the village, and to the north was a mill. Between the fort and the mill was the pontoon bridge made up of Viking longships.

Ewen, Baris, and Prehil conferred, and shortly afterward, Baris led a number of riders toward the pontoon bridge. With him were Sirs Calek, Paquin, Branal, Edrel, and the two Ethasiel's, along with their squires. Lord Prehil followed close behind, leading the light horse. “We will fire the pontoon bridge to delay the reinforcements, and then the mill and the village,” Baris said. There was the click and clack of flint striking tinder, a spark, and soon after the torches were lit.

The riders trotted up the road and sped up to a canter as they approached their target. The silvery light of the moon revealed sentries on the warboats. The knights spread out and headed toward the boats. Suddenly shouts rang out across the water. In the dim light, Baris saw a figure on the Setrew side of the bridge run toward the castle, and Vikings rushed from the boats toward the knights.

Baris tried to give orders but his voice was drowned out by the crashing of hooves as the knights charged. Prehil lowered his lance. “By Sarajin's Frosty Farts!” There was a scream, and a Viking hung from Prehil's lance, impaled through his eye. Baris's horse was a few steps behind and took a Viking full in the chest. Incredibly the man staggered back and kept his feet and began to raise his axe when he was run down by the knight behind Baris.

Baris raised his fist for a halt. “Torches!” Five torches arced through the night onto the closest boat and flames sprang up. Vikings on the farther boat rushed to put out the fires.

Baris pointed with his sword to the rope holding the boat to shore. “Sir Branel, cut the line!” He pointed at a group of five men. “You, fire the mill! Prehil, take your men south around the village, the rest are with me!”

With a kick, Baris spurred his horse north. He glanced south and saw Ewen's force moving toward the road to the manor.

Baris tried to light his own torch but fumbled it between holding his shield and lance. He and his men awkwardly stood outside the hut for a few moments before the knight finally succeeded and tossed the torch. The thatch lit up like a candle and a few moments later several Vikings rushed out of the building in various states of undress, weapons held high.

Baris pointed to the next building. “You men, that way!” Several light horsemen charged off to the next home. Baris drew his sword and charged the Vikings.

The lead man pounded his bare chest, spread his arms wide and raised his axe to strike the charging knight. As he thundered by Baris slashed and the hand, still gripping the axe, sailed into the night trailing blood.

Two foes blocked Baris's path. An axe struck his hip, but Baris barely felt the blow through his armor. The knight and Vikings traded blows. An axe struck the knight across the chest, denting his armor but doing little else. Unfortunately for him, the Viking was not so lucky and Baris's blade opened his unprotected belly, spilling his intestines.

Baris pulled on his reins and continued after his men, leaving two Vikings behind him swearing at him in their own language. He stole a glance south and saw Prehil and his men were having more luck, and several cottages were on fire. Looking north, Baris saw that the mill was ablaze as well. He looked back toward the pontoon bridge and saw Branel on the ground being set upon by half a dozen Vikings. His horse lay dead behind him.

Baris charged toward the river, but before he could get there, Branel was taken aboard the ship. It looked like the fires had been put out. Cursing, Baris sheathed his sword and galloped to the north of the village to catch up with his men. He saw the force that had set fire to the mill heading south.

Smoke filled the air, Vikings were screaming, and Baris heard the thunder of hooves. In the hazy morning light he saw a Viking emerge from a burning building. The knight couched his lance and charged. The poor fellow fell to the ground, and Baris did not know what happened to him after that because he continued north.

Finally, the knight rejoined his fellows. “Let us go find Lord Prehil!” They continued around the northern edge of the village and found Prehil at the crossroads. Half a dozen Viking bodies littered the ground, but a squire, whose Baris did not know, shared the dirt with them.

***

Meanwhile, the Baron had cut off the road from the manor, holding off reinforcements. A body of Vikings in some disarray came out of the gate. Their eyes were on the fires to the north. “Cekiya, I believe it may be time to retire soon. Please fetch Sir Baris.”

Lord Ewen drew his sword and pointed up the hill.

Led by the Baron, a force of nearly thirty horsemen, made up of fifteen knights and ten squires, charged the mustering Viking forces. Ewen was nearly upon them before they even noticed the approaching force. A belated cry of “shield wall!” went up, but it was too late.

Ewen skewered a Viking on his lance; his hastily donned hauberk providing little protection.

For his part, Goreg tested the edge of his Khuzan blade, “Foul's End.” A muscular arm flew through the air as the squire charged by.

Swords rose and fell letting blood fly; hooves stamped down and bones snapped. By the end of the charge, twenty Vikings lay dead or dying.

Ewen clapped Goreg on the shoulder. “You fought well.”

“Yes milord, it was amazing!”

***

A little while later, Cekiya, along with Baris, Prehil, and their men, joined Ewen's forces. Behind them, the village was ablaze and scattered here and there lay dead Vikings. Sadly, two more young squires littered the ground.

Prehil pointed his lance to the carnage left in the wake of Ewen's charge. “By Sarajin's frostbitten pecker! We missed a party here!”

Baris chuckled. “I believe Sarajin would agree.”

***

Late that afternoon Lord Ewen sat in his study. His men, sans one knight and four squires, had returned to Olokand early in the morning. The ride had been much easier in the morning light, and there had been no pursuit.

Ewen inspected the item he had taken from the Shek-Pvar dwarf. It was nondescript, a finely tempered steel rod about two feet long with no markings of any kind. The only adornment was three bands. “Kaelyn would have been fascinated by this.”

For his part, the Baron's magical talents lay in a different realm of arcana, that of the Deryni. He put the rod aside and sat in his chair to meditate. He stretched his mind's eye out into the ether, seeking Sir Dregald Semos, a companion of Meden Curo. The Baron was hoping that by targeting Dregald he could avoid the magical interference those meddling Shek-Pvar had created that prevented him from spying on much of the Kaldoric nobility.

Success! Looking through Dregald's eyes, Ewen saw a long hall, well furnished. He recognized the hall; it was in Neph House in Tashal. Semos was sparring with someone Ewen did not recognize.

“Why is he in Tashal if Neph isn't there yet?” Ewen mused.

***

“I think my new Dalkeshi friend is rather attractive, what do you think?”

“I think she must have come as a great surprise,” said Rahel.

At the appointed hour of ten o'clock in the evening, Ewen had contacted Rahel using the magic mirrors both possessed.

“To me she did, and to Sir Kelwyn she did not appear to,” Ewen said.

“You know, she could be a Navite. She is an unlikely person to be with the Harbaalese, I wonder if they captured her. Of course, if she is a Navite, she could have been placed.” Rahel smiled. I'm sure you know how that goes.”

“I've known it to happen.”

“You remember the old story,” she began.

“To which story do you refer dear sister?”

“The old story that tells of an encounter between a Navehan envoy and a noble who attempted to stamp out the church in his jurisdiction. The envoy said his message was only to be delivered in private. After dismissing the courtiers, the lord had the envoy searched. The envoy said the message was for lord alone. The lord dismissed all but four guards and demanded to hear the message, and said the remaining guards would stay as he trusted them as his own sons. The messenger turned to the guards and asked 'Were I to order you to slay this lord, would you?' The four drew daggers. 'Command us as you wish,' they said. The envoy, having delivered his message, left the lord the four guards coming along. The lord rethought his plans. I'm not saying that's what’s going on here, but ...” Rahel let her voice trail off.

“A most apropos parable, sister. I wonder what her next move will be, with Prince Dula at her side. It seems as if this little war between our Shek-Pvar friends and we Deryni is becoming more and more martial in its nature. This Khuzan leading a cadre of Gargun seems to take things to a different level.”

“Maybe not. There is another story, one about a member of the Parkhurst dynasty in the city of Azadmere. She spoke to the king, the same king you met, and warned him of a dwarven mage at his court who would overthrow him. The king wasted no time, and banished the dwarf on these words.” Rahel paused. “I hear he went renegade.”

“He does appear to be freelancing, that's for sure. If this is the same Khuzan who has gone renegade, the question remains what prompted his intervention yesterday – some territorial infringement?” Ewen wondered.

“It's simple, he's been attempting to thwart anything that this branch of the family tries to do ever since.”

“So he bears a grudge against the Parkhursts.”

“Yes,” Rahel agreed. “Here's the real problem. At the time of his banishment, he was just another Shek-Pvar, presumably a master. Now he may be a gray mage. Very powerful, very dangerous.”

“And I've got his rod! What is his name, by the way?”

“Malbere,” Rahel replied.

Ewen yawned. “I must rest.” He sighed. “It is too bad we cannot wrap up these meetings on the mirror the same way we do in person.” His sister's answering smile faded into mist as Ewen broke the magical connection.

Nolus 21, 733

“You snore.”

Ewen startled and opened his eyes to see Qorsad on his perch, the morning light reflecting off his scales to create strange patterns on the castle walls as he peered intently at the Baron, his forked tongue flicking in and out of his mouth.

“I do, forsooth, the Baron admitted. “What can you tell me of our neighbors?” Ewen had sent the amphithere on a scouting mission the night before.

“I flew as far as the bridge of boats, and then back,” the little dragon said.

“You have truly earned you monicker 'the swift.'”

“Halfway up the river road I saw a large army encamped.”

“Near the gathering of houses?” Ewen asked.

“Yes.”

“They must be at Watanish,” Ewen said, speaking to himself.

“When I flew up, they were encamped,” Qorsad continued. “When I flew back, they were on the move, headed north.” The amphithere paused. “I have eaten as many rats in the castle as I think I should. I want a cat.”

Ewen turned to his squire. “Go find a cat.”

***

A short time later the squire was wandering the village looking for a dog, having been unable to acquire a cat. The streets were littered with bodies, of Gargun and Viking alike. No one had given an order regarding what to do about them, and so they remained where they fell.

Locating a dog was accomplished with little difficulty; there were many scavengers about. Foxes, badgers, Gekrish crows, ravens, and other carrion eaters, including dogs, were having a feast. By this time the bodies had begun to bloat, but the gluttons paid it no mind. They did notice the squire, however, and scattered as he approached.

Goreg tried a new tack and approached a small dog rooting around in some refuse at the head of an alleyway, a strap of raw meat in hand. As the squire got closer the dog turned around, and it had the hand of a gargun in its jaws. It looked at the meat in Goreg's hands and turned away, unimpressed, and chopped down on the thumb.

The squire sighed. Soon he returned to the little pup, holding a stick. By now, the hand was nothing more than bones. Goreg tossed the stick and the pup ran off like a shot. It returned to Goreg, who gathered it up, but it wriggled out of his arms.

Again the stick went flying, followed shortly by the dog. When it returned, stick in its jaws, the squire was ready and grabbed it by the hind legs. The mutt bit his arm, but its teeth could not penetrate his mighty armor.

The amphithere was pleased with his sacrifice; it was quite tasty.

***

“Oh, Baris, I hope it wasn't too terrible on the raid,” Erani said. Baris and Erani lay in bed, she in his arms as the morning light crept through the window.

“We inflicted a mighty blow upon the foe,” the knight said. “Although some squires lost their lives in glorious battle.”

“Life is so short – you could be snuffed out like a candle in an instant. Let us take a walk along the river, upwind.”

Baris, still lying in bed, shrugged. “Okay.”

A short time later the pair were walking along the river, heading north.

“Are there any Vikings about?” Erani wondered.

Baris put his arm around her protectively. “The nearest Viking is leagues away. But have no fear, if some straggler comes near, I will slay them.”

“Does that mean you can wield a sword sooner?”

Baris blinked. “Wait, what?”

Erani moved closer to him, and her lips brushed his. Now the knight knew what she meant, and he crushed her body against his.

A short time later, Erani, under Baris, said, “Wait a minute, stop!”

Baris ceased and looked at her quizzically “What's wrong?”

Erani nodded toward the river.

Baris looked confused and turned his gaze to the water There he saw two men in a boat, fishing. They waved.

The knight grinned and waved back.

The men yelled, “Up Sir Baris!”

***

Lord Prehil was of a mind that some celebration was needed, and went off in search of Sir Baris but found the lad's bedchamber empty. A passing servant told him that the knight had been seen heading toward the river with his wife.

“His wife?” Prehil said, aghast. “I raised that boy wrong. What's Ewen's squire doing?”

“He was just seen bringing a dog into the castle,” the servant said, eager to share the gossip.

“I thought Ewen was a cat person.” Prehil shrugged.

While looking for Goreg he passed a room while some servants were loudly discussing some sort of play Arva was writing. It was about the battle between the Gargun and the Vikings. Apparently she had dragooned a number of them to re-enact the battle along the battlements.

“You think that's bad?” one of the servants asked. “Yesterday that crazy one, the one they call the adder, she took two of the guards and was using 'em for target practice! Put apples on their heads and was makin' like to shoot the apples with that new crossbow of hers! By Larani's grace they were able to run when her back was turned, else they might have holes in their heads!”

As Goreg exited Ewen's chambers, Prehil was waiting for him. “Goreg! Baris is apparently off on some journey with his wife. Let's go drinking!” He showed his teeth. “Let's make it an adventure.”

I killed a warrior today, my lord,” Goreg said.

Prehil clapped him on the shoulder. “Good for you!”

“It was glorious.”

“A good excuse to celebrate. Not that we need one, but it's good to have one. There are two inns in town. One was damaged, but the other is intact.

“Do you think their kegs are good?”

Prehil grinned. “Yes, I'm sure they are laying there prostrate, their kegs intact.”

As the pair exited the castle gate they passed Arva, who was arguing with a strapping bearded man. “Milady, we must remove these bodies from the streets before the vapors make us ill!”

Arva shook her head. “NO! They are my muse!”

Prehil hurried away from the crazy woman.

Soon the pair found themselves in the Standing Bear Inn, and humble abode with the bar in the back and tables and chairs scattered about.

Prehil went behind the bar and pulled two kegs over to a table. The squire smashed one open while Prehil grabbed some tankards. He thrust two into the keg, filling them, and handed both to Goreg, before doing the same for himself.

He leaned back in the chair, put his legs up on the table, and clinked one of the tankard's in his hands against one of Goreg's. “To Sir Baris's loss!”

Several hours later Prehil was singing. He wasn't sure what he was singing, but he was doing it with gusto. Goreg sat contemplating the bottom of his mug and the pretty circles.

The door opened and the squire blinked and looked toward the door, which had somehow gotten fuzzy. His mind saw a female apparition in the doorway. 'That must be Lord Ewen,' he thought, and tried to give his lord some of the “milk of wheat,” but only succeeded in pouring the ale over Prehil. The door closed and Goreg fell asleep to the sounds of Prehil singing something about an elf, a dwarf, and anatomy lessons.

Nolus 22, 733

The morning of Nolus 22 found Ewen, Baris, Prehil, Goreg, and other knights in a war council.

“We have the Vikings potentially reeling!” Baris said. “The time to strike is now!” Baris suggested coordinating with Baseta on a two-pronged attack on Setrew. Lord Ewen was not keen on committing such a large force to the field; they would risk being cut off from Olokand.

The conversation went back in forth in this way for most of the morning.

It took Prehil to break the impasse. “You go to Baseta and try to save what is left of Allence hundred,” he said to Ewen. “Take some troops, but not all. I will stay here and defend Olokand. It seems like the Vikings will not attempt this again, here, but if they do, we will be ready. You can head them off at what they probably think of as the softer target of Baseta.”
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Matt
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