Session One Hundred and Fifty-Eight - February 8, 2020

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

Session One Hundred and Fifty-Eight - February 8, 2020

Postby Matt » Sun Mar 08, 2020 5:40 pm

Nolus 18, 733

While a midday meal is being held in the great hall of Olokand Castle, a bespattered messenger from Baseta Keep arrives, requesting an audience with Lord Ewen, Baron of Ternua and Sheriff of Meselyneshire.

“Have him step forward. What news do you bring?”

The young knight steps up and executes a hasty bow. “My lord, I am Sir Turphet Haurnal. I come from the constable of Baseta. We beseech your lordship for help.”

“What can you tell me of viking activities east of the Kald? How stands it?”

“I can tell you, my lord, they have raided many if not all of the manors north of Baseta, and are beginning to raid southward. We have not the troops to withstand it.”

“What number of men has the constable at this time?”

“But two companies of men at arms, a handful bowmen, and me.”

“I perceive his predicament. How many warbands are raiding north of Baseta?”

“I cannot tell for certain, but I can tell you of the roughly fifteen manors north of the castle. Some half have been raided and plundered, including my own manor of Nebrem, which I have only just inherited.”

“A painful loss.”

“The vikings killed my great grandfather. One hundred years old.”

The Sheriff nods gravely. “May he enjoy his reward in Dolithor.”

“I thank you. The manors not raided are mostly east and away from the river. South of the castle they have taken Halperin and, just as I was passing on the road, Dyeselon. I ducked back into the forest, but not before I saw the Beast, the warlord who carries a staff with severed hands on it.”

The Sheriff considers the dismal news. “Some days ago I sent a knight, Sir Hannix, with instructions for the constable to do as we have done here, and evacuate manors ahead of the raiding to deprive the vikings of plunder and prisoners. Was this heeded?”

The knight blinks and shakes his head. “Sir Hannix did not arrive, my lord ... Many refugees and livestock have taken refuge in Baseta. There is no room in the castle, they are huddled in the town and, when the vikings arrive, it will be a slaughter.”

“Have you seen any longboats in the vicinity of Baseta?”

“From time to time they have passed along the river, sometimes upriver and sometimes down, mainly staying out of bowshot of the castle.” Sir Turphet dilates on his own participation in a battle at Eichel Manor on the 8th, where several knights sallied forth to meet the invaders, four being killed, one wounded and one captured for their trouble. Only he and Sir Hannix escaped the field. After that, Baseta had no option but to hunker down and await a siege. When asked about war bands, Sir Turphet only really knows of the Beast, but assumes there may be another band.

The Sheriff renders his decision to Sir Turphet. “I was charged by the Queen to take charge of the defense of this shire, and to hold Her Grace’s castle of Olokand until she can lead the army north to relieve us. So I must be here when the Vikings move on Olokand. But it seems to me that several swift strikes in force against their warbands east of the river may serve to relieve the threat to Baseta, perhaps causing them to consolidate and move prematurely on Olokand, or to push back their timetable as they deal with our force in Allence. Either way works to my advantage. So deliver word that Baseta can expect help. But when the vikings march in force to invest Olokand, I must be here. In the meantime, we will do what we can.”

The Sheriff orders Goreg and Arva to take the timberwright Gordy of Flaren as a guide and scout the unknown force located west of Mount Nyhtloc. The two find a mount for Gordy and make plans to set off to the west.


“Ha, goodman Gordy, good day to you!”

Gordy of Flaren squints at the loquacious squire. “I remember you.”

“I am a squire, Lord Ewen’s squire, and this is Arva, of Lord Ewen’s retinue. You remember Lord Ewen, who spared your life.”

The timberwright appears mildly surprised to hear things put in this fashion, but prudently holds his tongue.

“We are planning to investigate the woods to the west of Mount Nyhtloc.”

“I know Mount Nyhtloc.”

“There are strange things going on there.”

Gordy scratches his pate. “If there were, I would think the Taelda would deal with them. They have armed bands.”

“Ah, they are formidable warriors!”

“They have to be, there are gargun in that area.”

“We need to investigate an armed band in that area. We would not be cutting any trees, mind you, we need a guide.”

“Awfully dangerous, the Taelda don’t like trespassers. We would have to go off the Fur Road. They are okay with us on the Fur Road, but not so much off of it.”

“Do I understand that you speak the language of the Taelda?”

“No.”

“Do they understand our speech?”

“Some do.”

“We are setting out today, and will take as long as it takes to get there and back.”

Gordy takes that as a question. “Four days, round trip.”

Goreg considers. “We’ll pay you a shilling for the whole trip.”

The timberwright studies the sky for a moment. “Fine, but after two days I leave you if you are still out there.”

“Done.”


Later that evening Ewen rapports Rahel in the evening via the small mirror. Through the connection they greet each other and Ewen apprises his sister of the events at Loban and the apparent doings of Sir Kelwyn and Releyne of Lerik. Rahel congratulates him, pleased on a personal level by his victory in the late battle, but admits she doesn’t know that much about what Sir Kelwyn is up to, aside from knowing that he is in the area. She confirms that Releyne of Lerik related her messages in Tashal and did return to Olokand via portal, and agrees that she likely reattached to Sir Kelwyn. She concurs with Ewen’s opinion that a duel arcane is unlikely to have set off the hilltop conflagration; she never heard of Power doing that, and in any event during a duel arcane the principals usually select open ground and set wards to delineate the area of combat. She agrees with Ewen’s supposition that a puissant Shek Pvar was likely involved, adds that a Peleahn uses fire, and admits that this alarms her if true and she will pass the information on. On the other hand, she is unclear about the force west of Mount Nyhtloc, but is reasonably certain it is not Thardan. Rahel states that Kaldoric troops answering the Queen’s summons have begun to trickle into Tashal, encamping on the common. Lord Firith has not yet returned from fighting the Pagaelin and securing the Genin Trail, however, needing to lock down the south of the kingdom and leave his forces with a deputy prior to coming north. The first troops to arrive in the capital belonged to Balim. The court had received word in the last day or so of Setrew having been sacked, but it is not known that the keep had been taken. Writs of summons had been sent to the peers, but no response has arrived from Neph or from Vemion.


Nolus 19, 733

Sir Turphet takes his leave at dawn to report back at Baseta. By then, Goreg and Arva have already departed with Gordy of Flaren, the squire wading through a morass of pig shit in the bailey to retrieve the horses. Gordy appears with a billhook and hand axe, but Goreg enjoins him to leave the polearm behind at the guildhall so as not to offend the Taelda. Goreg eyes the hand axe.

“Have you ever put that in a man?”

“Not yet.” Gordy looks dubiously at the implement.

The day waxes hot after the early morning fog burns off. They travel up the Fur Road, quickly passing through a number of evacuated manors, arriving at Loban two hours in. Every single building has been burned, including the manor house, where the charred remains of the stone tower stand dolefully amid the ruin. Prominent ash piles suggest heaped kindling had been placed around the periphery of the manor house to fuel the conflagration. Unburied viking bodies remain on the battleground, noisome under the summer sun. They pause uneasily to water their horses in the Ambarn.


Later that afternoon the riders find themselves ascending wooded terrain cut by the Fur Road. Arva calls a halt, frowning, her delicate nose wrinkling. “Do you smell that?”

Goreg does not, but Gordy does. “Shit, orcs!”

Goreg swallows. “Ahead or behind?”

“Ahead, on the road.”

Based upon the growing stench, they are either right around the next curve of the trail, or there are a lot of them. They exchange a brief, unanimous nod, wheel on their horses, and flee back down the trail. Wasting little time, they return to Olokand and pay Gordy his shilling in a spirit of fairness.


Meanwhile, Sir Cardiel and Sir Daxton have been sent out to scout, one to either side of the river and each with a mounted squire. Sir Daxton comes back within an hour, reporting that hundreds of Vikings are marching south, about an hour and a half march up the Setrew road. Orders are sent to the townsfolk to evacuate Olokand to south of the Caliprast and into Nelafayn Hundred. The Sheriff orders the gates to be secured and the walls manned in preparation for a siege. A messenger is dispatched to Tashal, and a couple of local squires are sent posthaste to Baseta to give word that their keep is evidently being spared in favor of an investment of Caer Olokand, and to tell Sir Cardiel to come back.

An hour and a half passes without event. The Baron and his retinue man the walls, scanning the terrain to the north. Less than an hour later the lead elements of the viking throng appear and gather on the north common, growing gradually to a host as more warriors file in from the ravaged countryside.

A small group extrudes itself from the throng and comes forward, approaching the walls of the keep. One is Kroden Blacktooth. He is accompanied by a younger, taller, high status viking, as well as several others, including a strikingly beautiful raven-haired woman. It is she who speaks, her mellifluous voice carrying in the afternoon breeze.

“I would address the lord of Olokand Castle.”

Lord Ewen replies, his voice pitched to reach the emissaries as well as the viking host beyond. “I am Ewen, Baron of Ternua, Sheriff of Meselyneshire. Lord of this castle.”

“Then greetings to you, my lord, in the name of Prince Dula Elendy of the Kingdom of Harbaal. You may call me Sahmnara, but I shall speak mainly as Prince Dula instructs. I shall interpret. He bids me to congratulate you on your pyrrhic victory, as related by an eyewitness at what I was once told was called Loban manor. Also related were certain fantastical occurrences ...”

A nimbus of light flares about her.

The Baron considers this from atop the crenellations as murmurs from the knights and lords to either side of him become audible. The woman is obviously a Deryni like himself. He stills the murmuring with a slight movement of his right hand. His voice is firm and urbane in response.

“Well met, Sahmnara. I regret that circumstances do not allow me to offer hospitality to Prince Dula and to yourself. However, pray convey my greetings to Prince Dula.” And the Deryni nobleman atop Caer Olokand manifests an aura of his own.

Below, Sahmnara smiles. “A gracious response,” she calls upward. There follows an exchange of words with Prince Dula. “Prince Dula would be happy to accept your invitation, under certain circumstances. He offers you and yours the honors of war. You may all depart in safety with your weapons and personal belongings, and then he will feast with you in the halls of Olokand Castle.”

Lord Ewen smiles thinly. “Prince Dula is generous. As it so happens, I have been charged by my Queen to hold this castle, and so my duty dictates that I shall have to do just that.”

The Prince laughs when he hears this translated, and says something to her. Sahmnara’s response seems to be her own, however. “Monarchs do have their need to control things, don’t they.”

Lord Ewen weighs the possible meaning of those words, spoken by a fellow Deryni. His response, however, is to the point.

“This castle is the Queen’s very own. I believe she intends to keep it. Tell Prince Dula we held this fortification last year against his brother, and we shall undoubtedly do so again.”

After a moment, she says, “Then perhaps we have to feast separately for a time. One other thing. We have a few guests with us. We have been trying to decide what to do with them.”

To the side of the Baron, Goreg is heard to mutter, “I wonder if one of them is Sir Kelwyn.”

Behind Goreg, Sir Kelwyn says to the startled squire, “No, I’m not.”

Lord Ewen says, “We have been similarly hosting several of Prince Dula’s captains as well. Torvald Ironhand is my particular honored guest. Does Prince Dula suggest an exchange?”

She does not translate that, just speaks in direct response. “I don’t think Prince Dula particularly likes Torvald Ironhead.” She says something to the viking leader and he just crosses his arms.

Lord Ewen laughs. “I will be sure to convey that to Torvald Ironhead. I must have a care for the number of mouths we have to feed here. I shall give further thought to our mutual problem of playing host and making war at the same time.”

“Until tomorrow then.” She bows slightly.

They retire to conference in the small meeting chamber, Sir Kelwyn tagging along with a slight limp. Lord Ewen orders Sir Daxton and other knights to see to the preparations, leaving the Sheriff with his retinue and Sir Kelwyn.

Once in the chamber, he turns to the Deryni knight. Ewen has grown accustomed enough to the ways of his folk not to react to the sudden appearance of Sir Kelwyn. “This Sahmnara, do you know her?”

“No, my lord, I do not, I am as much surprised as you are. The Harbaalese are not known for consorting with Deryni, and frankly tend to be rather suspicious of us, although they are the most cosmopolitan of the peoples of the viking realms.”

Sir Kelwyn is asked about his role in the hilltop conflagration and explains that he engaged there in a battle with a Peleahn Shek Pvar who destroyed a temporary Deryni portal he had established upon the hilltop.

“We had been observing from top of Mount Nyhtloc. Destroying the portal was the last thing he did.”

“Catastrophic magic,” Squire Goreg says, fascinated.

“The magic was successful, but a catastrophic mistake, for I killed him. Unfortunately his man at arms managed to get a blow on me while I was distracted.” He ruefully indicates his leg. “But I am also distracted by the question of what a Peleahn Shek Pvar was doing up there in the first place. I don’t know that, and now I can’t ask him. Of course I had to kill the guard too. It was then that I saw the gargun, hundreds of them. Maybe even a thousand.”

“Are gargun known to swarm in this region?”

“I don’t believe that activity this close to settlements is common. I would say it is almost as if they were summoned.”

Lord Ewen ponders this for a moment, his eyes locked upon Sir Kelwyn. “I was vituperated once by an old woman who had an affinity for gargun. Perhaps she is behind it.”

Sir Kelwyn almost, but not quite, contains a look of genuine surprise. “No, not likely, I think ... I do not know if that Peleahn was alone. If he was, the gargun would not now be marching down the Fur Road. I must conclude he had a confederate. My lord, I say true to you, I do not know how this bodes for us, or the vikings. And one more thing my lord: Sahmnara. Dalkeshi.”

Lord Ewen nods, digesting that. “What of your Peleahn friend? Was he Kaldoric by his manner of speech?”

“He almost certainly studied in Shostim. He may have been from the west. Certainly his speech said to me Rethem.”


Later, Lord Ewen is striding the battlements, surveying the preparations being made by the Harbaalese, when gargun begin pouring down the Fur Road, taking the industrious vikings by surprise. For a moment the foulspawn stop as one, crane their necks toward the castle, then look at the vikings, then look again at the castle. Then they charge the vikings.

“We are wearing more stone than they are,” Goreg offers drolly.

Among the seething mass of gargun, Lord Ewen discerns a lone Khuzan who has climbed over the wall of the inn at the northern fork of the Fur Road. The dwarf’s movements draw the sheriff’s eye, as he seems to float over the wall and up to the roof of the inn, where he remains perched while appearing to gesture and guide the gargun.

Meanwhile, the vikings are quick to muster and the battle is joined. Sahmnara’s involvement, although she is out of view, is evident from the occasional explosion of one of the gargun. Lord Ewen calls for the walls to be manned by the castle’s full muster, and the Kaldoric forces watch in grim fascination as the awful carnage plays itself out below. Vikings appear to be outnumbered by the foulspawn two to one, but are nonetheless doing quite well. Huscarls implacably cut their way through gargun, bowmen among the vikings stand off and methodically pick off their targets. Some seek to take down the dwarf as well, but none of their shots even graze him. After several more gargun explode, the dwarf pulls out a short staff, holds it out straight in front of him, and a lightning bolt sizzles through the air into the viking ranks.

Lord Ewen turns calmly to Sir Kelwyn, a faint smile upon his lips. “Are you getting all this?”

The knight inhales. “I’m seeing it, my lord. I’m not sure what I am supposed to believe, however.”

The lightning bolt has landed in the midst of the viking line, causing several to collapse with smoking wounds. Meanwhile, on the other side, gargun keep blowing up.

After about twenty minutes the vikings are being pressed steadily backward, although casualties remain high among the gargun. From somewhere behind the Harbaalese line a dragon ship emerges, hovering off the ground, colorful shields lining its gunnels. The phantasmagorical ship emits a slight bluish glow, its bow bristling with spears which strike the gargun as the ship plows at a stately pace through them, aimed inexorably toward the dwarf atop the inn. The Khuzan in turn raises his hand, holding the staff aloft, attempting a counterspell. A visible palpation of the air causes the gargun to quail.

Arva turns to Sir Jartil Meleken. “If I wrote this into a play it would not be believed and thought too fantastical.”

The ship bucks as if hit by a severe crosswave but continues on and bores straight into the upper floor of the inn. The structure of the building splinters out in a great crunching eruption of timbers and wattle, the top floor wrecked, as the dwarf disappears in the blast.

“Someone get eyes on the witch!” Ewen calls, scanning for her beyond the viking lines. But she is nowhere to be seen.

The ship dissipates, the dwarf has disappeared, and the gargun fall back in disarray. Emboldened again, the vikings surge forward with a collective bellow and slaughter the gargun indiscriminately. In the aftermath, those manning the walls will count over one hundred viking dead amid innumerable gargun corpses. In eerie silence as the sun sets, the vikings pack up and begin to leave at dark.

Sir Kelwyn indicates that he must depart and carry news to others. “Releyne of Lerik must leave.”

“Your counsel has, Sir Kelwyn, as always, been welcome. May you travel safely; there are many threats about the land.”

“There are indeed, my lord. Our paths will cross again, I’m sure about that.”

“I will look forward to it.”

The knight’s smile, as he departs, seems genuine.


Arva stays on the battlements while Lord Ewen, Goreg, Cekiya and Sir Baris endeavor to reconnoiter the remains of the Kald and Castle Inn. They cautiously sally forth through the bailey gate into the town, finding it eerie and deserted. They pass silently by the location where, one year ago, the old crone had masked Lord Ewen magically from last year’s vikings. To the north they can see the rear guard of the current army retreating. Bodies are strewn everywhere.

The inn is not quite as destroyed as had appeared from atop the walls, a great gash in the second floor of the building having left the ground floor partially intact. Whatever power was used to breach the structure, some of the damage was evidently illusory. They cautiously enter the inn, find the large common room undamaged, and scan the bar along the back wall, note the door to the kitchen, and eye the stair to right of the bar leading upstairs. They recall that the tunnel leading to the crypt beneath the Caer is in the root cellar off the kitchen. They attempt to climb the stair, Cekiya first, then Goreg, followed by Lord Ewen and Sir Baris.

At the landing, a corridor runs straight down the building to the right. To the left is a big open space carved from the shell of the building, the night sky visible and twinkling beyond. Cekiya turns and whispers, gestures to the left, and spreads her hands to connote an open hole, then to the right gestures a closed motion. Goreg looks horrified and shrugs, points to her eyes and his.

Cekiya says “Stay.” Goreg turns and hisses at Lord Ewen, “She said to stay.”

Cekiya enters the space beyond the opening wall on left hand side, finding the wound to the structure of the inn not singed or burned, just everything gone in an oddly jagged shape vaguely resembling the cross-section of a ship. She doesn’t think the damage from a real ship would look like this at all. As she climbs into the eviscerated room beyond, her search takes little time. She finds no sign of the dwarf, but his short staff lies like an afterthought upon the bed. Lord Ewen takes possession of the item, and they all return to the castle.

The siege of Olokand Castle has, if only for the briefest of reprieves, been lifted.
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