Terror Before the Storm Part 1

Sgt Slickster reported to the group that the meeting hall was prepared with food and a lit fire.

On the way to the meeting hall, one of Sgt Slickster’s corporal introduced a plain look man in white and yellow robes to the group. He was introduced as a priest of Parleon, and had the logo of a winged lion upon his chest. He told the group that his order was interested in providing protection and good fortune to any in need at the fort, and hoped that their helping of any unfortunates during these times of upcoming war would have their approval.

The group gathered around the table to discuss their plans for the upcoming days. Around the edges of the room, Lt Gentry and some of the mercenaries were eating dinner, glad to see that everyone had made it back safely from escorting the princess home. The hide of the cerberus hung above the mantle in all its gruesome glory.

Nitram was grateful for additional protection and good fortune, but neither the priest nor his emblem brought to mind any specific memories. He would have to think on who Parleon was and what he stood for before granting any approval.

Nitram couldn’t recall ever hearing about Parleon before.

Shylent had agreed to accompany Nitram on the scouting mission. Cragthor of course went along with Blend. Frederick had shown up in the morning eager to tour the lands.

Nitram and Shylent had worked out a tentative itinerary. Going south along the hills and then NW to Pike would be the 1st day. Pike to Capone the 2nd day. Capone to Castrel via Beltandeux the 3rd day. And back to Farhills on the 4th day. Barring any unexpected events, this would put them back at Farhills the evening of the 13th.

Assuming they would travel to Aerie City on the 15th and 16th, this left them a day to spare.

The first day of travel was cold and windy. The scrub brush and little hills made seeing very far into the distance difficult, although the occasional hilltop provided enough view to keep them on course.

Having done this before, Nitram and Shylent knew what to expect. There was a lot of back tracking and going in circles to recon the “best” and most “efficient” route for the proposed trail. There was no way to tell how this affected Blend and Cragthor, as they were mainly speechless. Frederick was probably slightly confused, but that was a tale for him to tell.

Mid-afternoon it began to rain. And it was still cold and windy. The group found the trail from Lodelog to Pike and followed it northwest. As evening began to fall and the light began to dim, they saw the wooden stockade of Pike below them in a little valley. The lumber trade was a bulky endeavor, and piles of lumber and logs lay about the outskirts of the village, with muddy trails leading to and around the piles. Facing them was the southern gate, and from their position on a hillside, they could see many small buildings, what looked like a lumberyard/mill, and several large buildings within the stockade.

The ranger gestured to the village, “Shall we go warm up and dry off. I’m sure Shylent would love a nice steak.” Nitram led the assorted group members to the gate, hailing whoever was available to let them in and point them to the nearest inn with a decent and warm meal. I wonder how they’ll treat Serre, he thought as he approached the gate, unsure of how often griffons frequented these parts and if they were welcomed. He had never seen them before meeting Serre and his tortured mother, but he had at least heard of them, mostly due to the Riders in the northeast.

Frederick looked forward to a warm meal, glad that the day’s monotony might be at an end.

There was a reason that, in most tales, the hero’s trek was shortened to “journeyed.” No one particularly wanted to hear the tales of Davorak the Destroyer eating a sandwich, or realizing that he had gotten north and west confused.

He was also fascinated by Nitram’s griffin. Frederick had read/heard tales of them, but had yet to come across one in person.

Blend eyed the griffon and then gave Nitram an expectant look. “I think it would be best to leave the griffon outside city limits.”

Curious, Frederick asked Blend, “Do people often give you trouble for having such a creature with you?”

“This isn’t Aerie City. Do you see any animals other than horses, cats and dogs around here? Do you want a warm bed and hot meal tonight? People are afraid of what they don’t know or understand, that includes people, not to mention magical beasts. Nor do they share your lust for knowledge. Of course, I could be wrong. Perhaps we should take our chances.” Blend did not look like he meant the last part.

Nitram recalled the events of just under six months ago. When he first started investigating reports of ogres and massacres. He had traveled to Pike after investigating a slaughter at a small farm house near it, and seen his first ogre ritual site.

Shaking off the graphic memories, Nitram thought about his impressions of Pike from his previous visit. Squalor was the first word that came to mind. A low income, barely making ends meet, rough and tumble logging town was his second thought. Most of the people Nitram had met were insular and wary of people they didn’t know. And fights, he remembered there were a lot of fights in the evenings. Probably a few nice hard working folks in town, problem was finding them midst the ill-tempered roughnecks.

Nitram looked a little surprised at the merchant’s tone and admonishment. “Honestly, Frederick, Serre has only been in Farhills and Septcygne since we found him. He hasn’t had any small town experiences, so this may be interesting. And while I may agree with Merchant Blend, I know – as does he – that Serre goes where he wants. I don’t own him, he is a friend; a companion. I doubt he’ll want to go in the town, but the walls and gate aren’t going to stop him.”

The ranger moved close to his winged friend, “Serre, it might not be the best idea for you to go into this village. I’m not sure how open-minded and welcoming the residents will be and I don’t want anything bad to happen to you. If you want to stay out here, I’ll speak to the mayor and the lumber boss and then meet you back out here. If you want to come in, we can delay until the others are already set up somewhere before making our way into town. It’s up to you.”

Serre stared at Nitram blankly long enough for the ranger to wonder if any of his message had gotten through.

Then Serre turned and climbed back up the hill, found a dry spot under a large tree, and settled in.

It occurred to Frederick that most folk in Falconaire should be tolerant of griffons, if perhaps slightly afraid of them, due to the good reputation that the griffon riders had in the area. Of course a lot of that was up north, and east.

The Ballad of Joachima, would probably put griffons in a good light, as it told the story of the loyal griffon that went behind bruteman enemy lines when his rider was captured, successfully rescuing her.

The group approached the southern gate, and after a few formalities were granted entry into the town. It was still raining, and the mud trail under their feet squished and sloshed.

There was only one inn in town, with a large dining room that faced the main “street”. Across the street was another slightly smaller building that appeared to be a bar. The inn had a sign depicting a pine tree with a bed under it, while the bar had a large red rooster on its sign.

Everybody in town was curious, staring and watching as the group travelled the street from the gate area. There were more than a few suspicious looks directed at Cragthor, but nobody raised any ruckus, yet.

11 Jannissary (Winter) 509 PE (Year of the Ravens)

6am, Waterday
The night at the Pike inn, aptly and cleverly named the “Pine Inn” was quiet and uneventful. Once the innkeeper spread the word about who Nitram and the group were, and what they were doing in the area, those inclined to start trouble just left and drank in the bar.

It was not the most comfortable inn, and there were only two rooms available. The party divided into two groups and spent the night semi-restfully.
The next morning the gruel was warm and filling, the innkeeper spicing it up a bit with the last bit of cinnamon he had been saving that he had acquired from a trader. Krell thanked Nitram as he served breakfast, and wished him well on his journey.

Two hours later, the group reached the small stream that marked the boundary of Falconaire, and the site where Beltandeaux was being constructed.

A wooden palisade surrounded the fledgling village, and the stream ran along the western side. The rain had stopped, and the sun was bright and shiny at their backs as the group approached. A large sign on the eastern side of the village had been raised over the gate and it said “Welcome to Beldow!”

Nitram grumbled under his breath, “Did they run out of coin for letters? Maybe they just need a bigger sign.” Nitram hailed the gate in his usual calm manner, mindlessly stroking Serre’s shoulder. “Given its location between two kingdoms, they should be more open and understanding. If not, they will learn to be.”

Once inside, Nitram sought out whoever was in charge to discuss the trade route, the town, the patrols, and the poor spelling of the village’s name.

Nitram soon determined that a minor member of the Frezerik family of Falconaire had been appointed mayor of the village.

Caldwell Frezerick was supervising the construction of a well near the center of the village when Nitram and the group caught up with him.

Frederick, while the group talked with the mayor of the village, gathered a small group of villagers and was telling the tale of his encounter with the land sharks. In addition to entertaining his audience, Frederick sought to gain any knowledge of these beasts that were not supposed to exist.

Aeron was impressed at the wisdom displayed by Initiate Rumil establishing a chapel to Corellon Larerhian in Fort Farhills. Aeron wanted to assist in this endeavor, as it provided critical support to the growing elven contingent at the outpost, as well as, providing a growing faith community that expanded into the other races of the tower arcane. Aeron took advantage of the twilight hours between construction of the Oathbows and administrative duties to walk with Initiate Rumil amongst the learned staff of Belcadiz Tower encouraging them to take time from their busy schedules to participate in the new Corellon Larethian chapel services. “We stand as a sentinel against the incursions to Falconaire and Aelvinwode from the East. Not only must our steel be sharp, but also our resolve unwavering. This is a battle of wills that not only challenges our intellect, but also our faith. Initiate Rumil has begun worship services to the god of magic, Corelon Larethian every Thundersday. I highly recommend you make it part of your weekly activities.” Aeron took advantage of these visits with the lowliest of his staff to search for bloodmagic corruption (Detect Corruption). Casting out those that succumbed to its powerful influence.

A crowd gathered around Frederick as he told his tale. The majority of the crowd was enraptured with the story, especially the little children. (Perform 17, Enjoyable performance) Some in the crowd looked puzzled at the choice of creature in the story, but generally assumed it was artistic license. A little boy started chasing his sister exclaiming “Rawr! I’m a landshark” until his mother told him to stop such nonsense.

Afterwards, when Frederick was discussing the attributes of the landshark, most of the townsfolk chuckled and told him it was a good story, but would have been better if he had used a creature that actually existed. “LANDsharks” muttered an old timer. “No such thing”

Aeron found no traces of corruption among the staff and populace of the tower. Even Album seemed to have recovered from his ordeal with the corrupted bloodstone fragment, although Aeron knew that corruption was a tricky thing.

While Aeron assisted Rumil with the chapel, he managed to complete an assessment of the manning for the tower and the fort. Perhaps “Lord” Nitram could use the census when he returned.

Nitram approached the construction, “Mayor Frezerick. I am pleased to finally visit this village and meet you. My name is Nitram Tam.” The ranger paused only briefly, hoping to see the mayor acknowledge his name at least, before continuing. Gesturing to the others, he said, “These are my companions: Blend, Serre, Shylent, Cragthor, and ….” He stopped, looking about for the bard. Pointing at the group of people gathered in the middle of the street, Nitram continued “And Frederick. I was hoping to speak to you about the town and trade route before we continue on to Capone. Is there a place we can talk?” Nitram began looking around for any official buildings…or a nice inn.

“Hey, nice to meet you Master Tam, quite the pleasure.” Frezerick replied. “Ever dug a well before? Me neither…Bob take over will you?” Frezerik looked around until he found a rag or some cloth and wiped the minuscule traces of dirt off his hands.

“Trade route ehh, yeah my uncle mentioned that. This town is going to be the staging area before heading overland to Capone. Plenty of opportunity here. So what’s your story? Looking to hire a wagon? Hire on as a guard perhaps?” Caldwell stated cheerfully. “We could talk over in the town meeting hall, it’s mostly finished, kinda spartan if you ask me. But there are tables and chairs. Or perhaps you should talk to Joe, Joe is in charge of marshalling caravans in and out of Beldow, he could find you work if you need it.”

Caldwell Frezerik, a lively and energetic young man with golden hair and blue eyes, started walking nonchalantly towards the town hall, assuming Nitram and the others would follow.

“Yes. It’s probably a good idea for us to speak with Joe about the caravans.” Nitram looked at Blend momentarily, hoping he agreed enough to then began walking after Caldwell. “My story? Well, it’s fairly long, but not very alluring to someone of your experiences, I’m sure.” The ranger paused, hoping he fluffed the mayor’s feathers a little. Aristocrats… he thought. He continued, “The only part you may find the least bit interesting is that I work for Lord duBlade. He appointed me to set up this trade route between Capone and Castrel, so I’m just doing my due diligence to ensure it’s running as expected. It looks as though the town is ready to bed down caravans. I agree that there is a lot of potential for this small village, but I have a few questions for Lord duBlade’s peace of mind. Are you having any problems with preparing the village? Are there any other issues with supporting the merchants? Have the patrols been steady and reliable from both Toreador and Falconaire? What kind of law do you have in town? If Lord duBlade were standing here, is there anything you would ask of him?” Nitram was slightly winded after all his queries. “Oh, I almost forgot. I was told the town’s name was Beltandeux. What happened there?” Nitram hoped that he did not seem more concerned with the last question than those before it.

After telling his story for a second time (at request), and finding the experience enjoyable if not enlightening, Frederick made his way back over to the group.
Frezerick paused. “Appointed by Lord DuBlade ehh? Well I wouldn’t say the trade route was ready. Patrols from here back to Castrel are fine. Haven’t heard about any patrols to and from Capone. A few stragglers have moved though, itinerant tradesmen and such, but nothing substantial. Takes time, these merchant matters you know.”

Caldwell led the way into the town hall and pulled up a chair at one of the tables. “Well we currently don’t have any law in town, other than me being mayor and such. No need for it, everyone wants to be here and build up the place. I guess I would ask his lordship to listen to my uncle and start sending lumber and grain towards Capone, they seem to need a lot of it. Course grain will have to wait until spring/summer. Ore might work though…”

My uncle is sending the resources for more buildings, such as an inn, various shops, and such. Beltandeux? I shortened the name a bit, was kinda unwieldy. Why?"

“Wood, grain, and maybe ore to Capone. I’ll have to ask about that in Aerie City,” Nitram committed Caldwell’s suggestions to memory. “I will check with Capone to see why they have not sent any patrols. About the name…,” Nitram replied, his thoughts returning to the issue close to his heart. So, do I make a personal appeal since he’s friendly or try to name drop to influence him…? Decisions, decisions. “To be honest, Lord duBlade generously granted me the honor of naming the settlement. I chose to name it after Beltane, my hometown in Land’s End. It was…” Cadwell could see the emotion on Nitram’s usually calm face and hear it in his wavering voice. “Overrun by ogres when I was a younger. The name was a small way for me to pay respect to that town – and to my family – while keeping their memory alive. It’s a second chance, a new beginning. And I will do whatever it takes to prevent a similar fate. I don’t have the power or energy to ensure the name stays as it was intended. But, you do…as mayor and as a Frezerick. I would really appreciate it if you would change it back and ensure it stay that way. I would be grateful.” Nitram visibly composed himself.

“Good gods man, I had no idea. Tom? TOM! Change our town’s name back to Beltandeux on the sign will you?”

Caldwell thought somberly for a moment, “No worries, I’ll just choose a name for the inn when we get it built. Glad to be of service.”

Nitram and the others made small talk for a while, and then it was time to press on to Capone. Shylent figured they would probably get there around 130 or 2 in the afternoon, depending on how long “fancy” boy kept talking.

Nitram bowed his head in thanks, “Thank you.”

Nitram wondered why there were no patrols on this side of the trade route. He kept up his normally watchful gaze and cautious demeanor in case it was due to banditry…again. He did find his mind wandering to Serre, wondering if he were big enough to support the half-elf’s weight in flight and how magnificent it would be to soar through the air on the griffon’s back – much more exciting than their flying ship, which was incredibly exciting.

Nitram considered the patrol issue as the group departed Beltandeaux, and the Falconaire border. He recalled that there was to be patrols from both sides (Beltandeaux to Capone, and Capone to Beltandeaux).

The crisp morning/afternoon air was cold, but not unbearable as the group made their way towards Capone. The Mist Grove was eyed warily as they went past it in the distance, just prior to entering the hills surrounding Capone to the east.

Around 1pm they reached the hill line above Capone, and began working their way down towards the eastern gate entrance.

Capone.jpg

Frederick smiled as they approached Capone.

Ah, Capone! Lovely city, nearly robbed there, but it still has a certain charm. Mind you, any place that doesn’t have giant, carnivorous beasties attempting to devour me has a certain charm."

Upon reaching the eastern gate, Blend excused himself. “I have some business to take care of. I assume you’ll arrange lodging at the usual inn,” he mentioned to Nitram. “I’ll meet you there later. Don’t wait up.” With that, Blend slipped through the gate and disappeared into the usual throng of human masses, destination known only to him.

“Sure, I can do that,” the ranger thought. “Which inn was it again? Oh yeah, I remember, now.”

Before approaching the gate, he queried his magical companion, “Do you want to sleep in the city or back out in the hills? I can get us a roof over our head if you want to stay." The young griffon, curious about the strange happenings in this incredibly large human nest with tall walls, was still a little anxious of all the people. Even outside the gate, a small crowd was beginning to form, mostly comprised of older children with a few younger ones hiding behind the legs of larger siblings. However, a few adults – some not looking exactly like family-types – who stopped and stared. He could hear the whispers get louder due to the sheer numbers of them. As he looked from his friend to the town again, he noticed there was another two nervous-looking guards carrying spears at the gate and a few more holding crossbows on the walls near the gate. The perceptive creature sensed the tension of the situation, but was more attuned to the worry of his half-elf friend. The griffon bent low and rubbed the top of its head against Nitram’s arm. Reflexively, the ranger stroked the animal’s head. Unexpectedly, Serre leaped into the air, taking flight with a loud screech before making a couple of circles high overhead then flying south. “Be careful,” the half-elf urged, heading toward the guard’s headquarters.

Nitram led the shrinking group to the Jovial Peryton. Several of the kids from the gate followed the strange group, but none were able to muster up the courage to ask about the griffon. It was most likely due to the presence of Cragthor, who elicited a few points and whispers of his own on their journey to the inn. After and quickly procuring several rooms, the ranger addressed the small band, “I’m going to talk to Gracier to see what’s going on with the patrols. Anyone is welcome to join me. Or, feel free to stay and enjoy the steak or take a walk around. We’ll meet back up here tonight around dinner – or later for some – and head to Castrel in the morning. Frederick, try not to upstage Florid Delgodis – at least not bad enough to get us kicked out. If anyone needs weapons or armor, Dogtree’s is good; and Metronious at the Old Faith temple can enchant items, should you need to make a donation.” Before leaving, Nitram stopped by the innkeeper for a quick chat. “My name is Nitram Tam. I have regular business in this city and have been frequenting your fine establishment. However, I have a friend that I would like to be able to accompany me in the city, but I’m not sure if you have accommodations for him or even if he would be a welcome guest in Capone. You see, my friend is a griffon. I would like to be able to fly him right to your inn when we come to town. Would this be possible?”

Florid Delgodis was singing again at the Jovial Peryton, this time a comedy ballad called Cold Rain and Snow, appropriate for the weather that was starting to blow in. After a few lines of the song, most of the men in the tavern started singing along.
Well I married me a wife, she’s been trouble all my life

Run me out in the cold rain and snow

Rain and snow…, run me out in the cold rain and snow

Well she’s coming down the stairs, combing back her yellow hair

And her cheeks were as red as a rose

As a rose…, and her cheeks were as red as a rose

Well she went up to her room, where she sang a fateful tune

Saying I can’t get along with you

With you…, saying I can’t get along with you

Well I ain’t got no use for your red apple juice

And I ain’t gonna be treated this way

This way…, And I ain’t gonna be treated this way

I see you sitting in the shade counting every dime I made

And I’m broke and so hungry too

Hungry too…, and I’m broke and so hungry too

Well I married me a wife, she’s been trouble all my life

Well I’m going where those chilly winds don’t blow

Winds don’t blow…, I’m going where those chilly winds don’t blow

Oh, run me out in the cold rain and snow

Run me out in the cold rain and snow

Run me out in the cold rain and snow

The innkeeper replied directly and forthrightly to Nitram. He indicated that a griffon would probably just stir up the populace and the town guard. One time they had one of those big lizards that the dwarves like to ride stay here and half the common folk thought it was a hell dragon or something. He also mentioned something about griffons liking to eat horses.

Nitram thanked him for his candor and his time and left to find Gracier. He headed to the guards’ headquarters building first, glancing to the sky occasionally.

Nitram’s meeting with Gracier was very productive. It appeared that the lack of patrols from the Capone side was due to the simple fact that nobody had told them to start. She had a schedule and sufficient manning, and as long as the patrols from Beltandeux were also ready, Capone (Toreador) was ready to meet its obligations in regards to joint patrolling.

She did mention that it wasn’t joint in the sense that there were reps from either side riding along together, but more like each patrolled regularly back and forth from its home base.

12 Jannissary (Winter) 509 PE (Year of the Ravens)

6pm, Thunderday

Having straightened out the patrol issues and ensuring all else was in order, Nitram met everyone else back at the Jovial Peryton for dinner and rest.

The next morning the dire weather portended by Florid Delgodis had well and truly set in. It rained all the way back to Beltandeux (where it appeared the newly painted sign was running slightly) and even through the evening as the group reached the fortifications of Castrel, which loomed over the small village that lay at the bottom of the hill upon which the walled castle sat.

Nitram nodded in agreement with what Gracier was saying, understanding that “joint” was not a universal term. He assured her the patrols were running on the Falconaire side. He also quickly updated her that he had heard and found no signs of Johan, asking if she had made any progress along that front. He reiterated that he would continue looking. As his duties required more travel of him, he was hopeful that he would find a trail somewhere.

Gracier replied to Nitram that she had seen neither hide nor hair of Johan and you can bet Anshar’s black ass that Johan would be hanging from a gibbet with the ravens if she had.

12 Jannissary (Winter) 509 PE (Year of the Ravens)

9am, Fireday

Dinner and conversation with Lord duBlade was enjoyed that evening, and much conversation and planning occurred. A keg of beer may have been opened.

The next morning, plans to meet again at the war council were formalized, the last details of any conversations were worked out, and the group started back on the road to Farhills, planning on reaching it by sunset that evening. (5-6pm)

Frederick, during the rest times, reenacted the harrowing tale of the Man of Pac and the Spectres of Many Colours.

It was very well received.

Blend, Cragthor, Frederick, Nitram, and Shylent, along with Serre, had returned to the fort at Farhills the evening of the 13th of Jannissary.

They spent the night resting, meeting together the following day to resolve their plans prior to the war council in Aerie City. Aeron informed them of his decision to join up with them after the completion of his current project, a set of oathbows. Rumil had to decide whether he was going to accompany the rest of the group to the war council or travel with Aeron after the project was complete.

Preparations continued the entire day of the 14th, with plans to leave the next morning, as it would take about two days to reach Aerie City, putting them there the afternoon/evening prior to the war council.

Cragthor made a point to ensure that Blend knew he was going to be accompanied.

Frederick wasn’t certain what use he could be in/to a war council, but he supposed that, if nothing else, it would further contribute to his growing list of new tales and songs.

Additionally, he was eager to visit whatever passed for a library in Aerie City, as well as ply his craft.

Rumil was happy to see the group back together again. Even Frederick appeared in good spirits, which was good after all he had been through – at least according to his tales.

After listening to the group discuss plans, Rumil decided it was probably best to accompany the group to Aerie City. He was not new to the concept of a war council, but he certainly had never attended one before. That business was left to the elders, which Rumil quickly reminded himself, as far as most of these short lived races were concerned, he was an elder. He informed Nitram of his intentions to travel along, and set out to gather his belongings for the journey, while securing his extra gear in his newly acquired chest. He also refreshed the small shrine to Corellon.

After his preparations, he headed to the two religious leaders, hoping tonight was as good as any other night to sup together, else he would have to put it off until he returned from this journey.

As the night drew to a close, he pondered his role in this council, this fort, and with these people. He knew he had to learn and grow before he could be useful to his own People, but he certainly was not wise enough to understand why this group did the things that it did — or why they stuck together in the first place. Some things only the gods could explain.

While finally back in the Fort, Nitram concentrated nearly all of his time working forms with Kael Swordhand.

14 Jannissary (Winter) 509 PE (Year of the Ravens)

5pm, Starday

Rumil discovered that the evening before their departure would be an excellent time for dinner with the two priests. Scholar Sohei was hosting the dinner in a sitting room near one of the corner towers of the keep, and said he would mention it to cleric of Parleon, whom Rumil had determined was named Shepherd Helios.

Sohei welcomed his two guests and the three sat down to a plain but well cooked dinner of stewed potatoes, and beef. Sohei mentioned that the time of the year and the location led to a slight shortage of fresh vegetables, but he hoped that the honey bread would make up for it.

Sohei started the small talk during dinner by discussing some of the tenets and philosophies of the Pantheon, and of the seven plateaus of understanding/illumination. Sometime later Sohei turned towards Rumil and asked how he had managed to settle in Farhills.

Rumil was glad to dine with Sohei and Shepherd Helios. While he was not one chosen by Corellon as one of his religious servants, Rumil and most of his kind viewed themselves as protectors of their faiths. Many deities had clerics and paladins, but few deities, and even fewer elven deities, had channelers – those whose bloodline had touched the avatars of the deities at some point and enjoyed the ties to the supreme power, even if not direct communication.

One thing Rumil understood and enjoyed learning more than anything else during his schooling was religion. Listening to Sohei’s tenets and philosophies – and the concept of the plateaus made the night go by far faster than Rumil would have liked. While he hardly ate a thing, it was not because the food was not prepared well – just that elves had a palette far different from most other creatures. He did make a good effort to eat most of what was served to him.

“Thank you for asking Sohei. I was initially very hesitant to embark on this part of my training, but knew it was time for me to see the world if I am to become a full-fledged member of the elven defenders. I can say, however, that I am now very happy that I was “pushed” to join this group, as I have seen and learned more in the past few days than I have in the past 100 years – especially about things outside of the elven sphere of influence. I am glad that you two have chosen to come to this fort, as it will allow those who call this place home a place to refresh their inner strength." With that, Rumil engaged Helios about this success at establishing a place of worship and wished both much success. While Rumil would have loved to believe that most followed Corellon, he knew that his great Hero was not to everyone’s liking – even amongst elves. He mentioned at the end that he would be leaving tomorrow to accompany the group to a council and had setup a little shrine to Corellon – asking that one of the two occasionally look in to ensure it wasn’t suffering for lack of attention. He wasn’t sure they would be willing, but he knew he’d do the same, if asked, so it couldn’t hurt. After they ate and finished, Rumil asked if either required anything from the city, as he would be happy to bring it back – time permitting. He then excused himself, as he needed to finish his preparations and get some sleep before the journey.

Shepherd Helios replied to Rumil that he had not been given permission to establish a church in the keep, and that he was currently established outside the fort in the village. Considering that was where most of the common folk resided day to day, he was fine with that.

Neither religious leader needed anything from the city.

The next morning everyone prepared for the trip to Aerie City

According to Jharron, the weather was not going to be very cooperative, as it would be a mix of rain and sleet all the way. “And cold, but at least not unnaturally cold” he mentioned.

The group departed, familiar with the route as they had traveled it before, after leaving the ship in Aerie City. They spent the night at Tennyson’s Tower, planning on pushing through Dodge’s Fall and on to Aerie City the next day.

The next day the rain turned to sleet, much as Jharron had predicted. Hopefully he was comfortable next to the fire.

Halfway through the day, they passed the small dirt/gravel trail that led to the Carbide Mines. If it hadn’t been for the bad weather, the group may almost have been able to see one of the griffon rider towers.
Pushing through at a steady pace in order to reach Aerie City before dark, the group managed to get there just as the sun was beginning to set. Some of the clouds had lifted, and the rain was scattered, but still quite cold.

The party entered through the south side of town, and after the guards heard who they were, a herald from the king was sent to escort them to the palace. The party had the option to stay in modest but comfortable rooms furnished for them by the king, or they could stay at one of the nearby inns, The Baccalaureate was a 4-star inn, and a little farther way, but on the same street was the Bronze Wyvern, a 3-star inn.

16 Jannissary (Winter) 509 PE (Year of the Ravens)

5pm, Moonday

“I have some business to take care of. Don’t worry about procuring me a room at the palace or an inn. I’ll see everyone in the morning.” Blend pulled his cloak over his head and headed down unlit side street and disappeared from view.

“I think I’d be more surprised if he remained with us when we enter a city,” Nitram replied to where Blend disappeared into the crowds. “Where does everyone want to stay?”

Is it safe to assume that any of the three options you mentioned can suitably sleep a griffon?

“It would not be safe to assume. However, I rolled a memory check for you and you recall that the other griffons have to be stabled somewhere in the city when they come here. Maybe there is a specific building they post guard from, train, and rest?”

Shylent considered Nitram’s question, and thoughtfully replied “Wyvern make good steak?”

The ranger replied, “I can’t imaging they’d still be in business if they didn’t. It sounds as good a place as any. Plus, it gives us a chance to hear any rumors that the people are talking about.” He looked at the bard as he finished, wondering if he would be able to learn anything useful in the city. Nitram turned to the herald and asked where the griffon riders kept their mounts and if there was space for Serre. “I’ll meet you at the Wyvern after I find a bed for Serre.”

Frederick cracked his neck a bit, then stretched out of the tension he’d collected from riding. If anyone needs me, I’ll be attempting to contact my brethren. I was instructed to report to them on my progress in discovering the Book of Kells. I will return after this and a quick perusal of the city’s houses of literature." He chuckled slightly, a shade of a grin on his face. One can learn so many things about a city from its tomes and scrolls.

With that, he flipped the hood of his weather-beaten, and now monotone, cloak and strode away.

Aerie City Map

The herald Nitram addressed replied quickly “Yes milord, the Griffon Keep of course. It’s across the river from the palace, on the north bank. It’s the large gray brick building with its foundation sticking right out into the river. Lovely creatures, griffons. I sometimes take me lunch to the shore and watches them trainin.”

Nitram made his way along with Serre to Griffon Keep. It appeared to be at least a two story building with several towers and a large open courtyard in the center.

The gatekeeper spoke as the duo approached “Ello mate, dis here tower is for the Griffon Guard, are dey expectin yah?”

Nitram replied dryly, “No, I do not think King Kashue let Lord Paladane Hurst know that would be coming. He is a very busy man, after all. Would you be so kind as to let Lord Hurst know that Nitram Tam and Serre are here? I’m sure he would be interested to see how much Serre has grown since he last saw him. Thank you. We can wait right here.” The ranger began brushing the griffon’s feathers.

“Nay milord, come on in. Yoose can wait here under the eaves of the overhang, rights here” the gatekeeper said as he motioned Nitram into the courtyard.

Nitram noticed that although he apparently had entered the keep by just name dropping, that there were several lancers nearby keeping an eye on the entire situation. And after the gatekeeper send a messenger boy for the lord, a few more showed up nonchalantly.

Once Lord Hurst arrived and began shaking Nitram’s hand, the “casual” guards wandered off. “Good lord man, he’s twice the size he should be by now.” Hurst exclaimed.

Frederick made his way to the local postal express. They looked remarkably the same from town to town. Considering that he was in the capital city of the local kingdom, there should be relatively no problems posting a letter to the Varencic Scholars, c/o any individual he decided to name.

Nitram looked at his companion with both pride and concern, “Yes, Lord Hurst, he is growing quickly. In my novice opinion, he’s an excellent flyer as well – quite strong and fierce in combat also.” The ranger paused and literally fluffed the griffon’s feathers. “I am in town to meet with King Kashue and Lord DuBlade and I was hoping we – or at least Serre – could sleep here, if there’s room. Is there any training that he would benefit from while we’re here? I currently don’t a reason to rush back to Farhills. Do you think he can carry my weight while flying yet?”

After the herald had escorted them to the palace and explained the procedures for staying there, or utilizing any of the inns they choose, she reminded them that her name was Latana, and that she could be reached by merely asking for her at the palace, either at the gate or the heralds’ quarters. She then left them to tidy up after their journey or do as they saw fit.

After everyone had decided on the Bronze Wyvern, Nitram went to find a place for Serre to stay, and Frederick strolled off to locate a message service. The rest of the party (Rumil and Shylent to be exact) headed off towards the inn.

As their guide had explained, the Baccalaureate was the inn closest to the palace, and the duo passed by it on their way to the Bronze Wyvern. The Baccalaureate was a three story inn with both an outer garden/plaza that could be seen past a low street facing wall, and a fancy inner garden with a fountain that was said to be lovely in the spring, according to Latana.

As the group proceeded down the street, the shops and the stores became slightly smaller, and a little less fancy. This was still the expensive part of town, but had become slightly more within reach of the general populace.

They soon approached the Bronze Wyvern, which was easily identified by the large, half-life size stature of a bronze wyvern on a pedestal outside the front of the building. The wooden planks interposed with the gray stone building material had been painted a faint woodsy bronze, giving the entire place a very distinguished look. The Wyvern was a two story building, and upon entering the duo could see that the large two story front room was encircled by a wide balcony, which also held tables and chairs.

A waiter approached Shylent and Rumil, and led them to a table, where Rumil was introduced to Shylent’s surprising expertise at eating steak.

Rumil sat quietly watching Shylent expertly carve and devour her steak. It was a bit unnerving and almost led to Rumil swearing off meat for a century or two. He did, however, ask one of the bar maids if there was any honey mead or wine and possibly some fresh bread. Rumil sat back, relaxed, and took in the sights of the establishment – keeping a watchful eye for anyone paying far too much attention to him or his carnivorous companion.

He had learned long ago that casting spells in mixed company was never a wise decision – and generally frowned upon. He did make a mental note to check his room after leaving the common area. It was never foolish to ensure the previous tenant completely checked out and didn’t leave any nasty surprises around.

Lord Hurst began to flail his hands about dramatically “Well I don’t know, size wise sure…maybe? But the stamina…I mean technically he is so young we wouldn’t want him injured before he builds up stamina…but he’s so big so fast…I’m not sure.”

Hurst began to lead Nitram and Serre towards the griffon lodgings. Griffons didn’t have pens, or stables, they had rooms and roosts of their own, from which they could move freely about. Of course most of the general populace was unaware of that, assuming that the Griffon Riders kept their mounts and beasts caged up when not riding them.

When the trio got close to the edge of the fort, on the side where the griffon perches were, several of the griffons turned and looked at Serre intensely. After a few moments, every griffon in sight (about six) was quietly standing and staring at Serre. Hurst paused and said “That’s odd, they’ve never done that before.”

Up close, Nitram could see how Serre’s coloration was different than the rest of the griffons, and he recalled what Hurst had told him previously…

Prior to the arrival of Aeron and the coming of winter, Lord Paladane Hurst arrived at Fort Hillsfar astride his partner, the griffon Heirot, and talked with Nitram, offering his advice and knowledge freely. Hurst was a large man, slightly stooped by age, but carrying himself with such authority that no one very mentioned any weakness.

Nitram learned several things from Hurst. It appeared that Serre was a throwback to the ancient gryphon clans, as indicated by his coloration. An individual such as Serre had not been seen in hundreds of years, and Hurst implied that they had slowly faded away. The ancient gryphon clans were rumored to be more intelligent than an average gryphon of today (no offense to Heirot, Hurst proclaimed) and more magically inclined. Fanciful legends stated that those griffons had even built cities and monuments amongst the mountains. Even though Hurst had never found any evidence, he was inclined to believe the legends.

And he stated that Serre was growing abnormally fast, and was at least twice as large as he should be at his age. Hopefully this had nothing to do with this “blood magic” of which Nitram had spoken.

The two largest griffons, the smaller of which was Heirot, Hurst’s partner, landed suddenly about 25 feet from Serre, and continued to stare in an ominous manner.

Serre could feel Nitram’s concern at the developments through their bond. The ranger turned to the Griffon Rider, “Do you have any idea what this is about? Your griffons seem like they are going to attack. Do they feel threatened by Serre or his clan? Maybe we should go…?” The ranger stopped. Serre stopped also, looking at the half-elf. Nitram asked him, “Serre, why are they staring at you like that? Are you a threat to them?” Nitram glanced at the other griffons, “I wonder if I can communicate with them?”

Heriot glanced at Nitram and then casually resumed staring at Serre. The larger griffon must be called Tarionz, which was the name that a female in leather riding gear was yelling as she ran across the courtyard.

Nitram’s sense of the wild and animal empathy led him to believe that Tarionz was considering attacking Serre, and Serre although nervous, didn’t appear to be backing down as the tension increased.

There was a slight hissing screech starting to come from Tarionz’s beak, a sound Nitram was all too familiar with. A warbling sound came from Heriot. Tarionz seemed to consider something, and suddenly the tension broke.

Tarionz, calm and peaceful looking strode up to Serre and nonchalantly head butted him in a friendly manner. Serre was unsure how to react, and decided to head but him back. Tarionz warbled and then leapt into the sky, flying off to his perch as his exasperated partner turned around and ran back towards the stairs with a sigh.

Nitram noticed that all of the other griffons had returned to their normal business.

Nitram looked around exasperatedly, “What in the name of Rillifane’s boot was that about!” Nitram looked at Hurst again, “I guess we can continue now.” “I really need to figure out how to communicate with these magical creatures. I wonder if there is anyone who can speak to them…” Nitram almost bumped into Lord Hurst as he stopped near an empty perch. “Lord Hurst, do you know of anyone who can speak griffon?”

Frederick composed his letter to the Library, and made his way to the local library/bookstore/pile of books. He sought any books referring to ancient tomes, magical creatures, and/or defensive spells.

Having found whatever he found, he made his way back to the inn (or palace).

Lord Hurst paused slightly, and glanced at Nitram. Then, in that utterly polite and entirely genteel way of speaking that only certain old school aristocrats can pull off and guarantee to never give offense, he replied to Nitram’s question.

“Why yes, lad, of course, you are 100% correct, I and the other griffon riders are more than averagely fluent in griffon. It’s not a language designed for scholarly debate, but we certainly can communicate with each other.”

“As far as what all that was about I am entirely not sure. It looked like the griffons were actually debating whether to allow Serre to remain in the tower. They’ve never done that before.”

Lord Hurst gestured to Serre and Nitram at the vacant perch small open room adjacent to it. “This perch hasn’t been used in years, Serre can use it any time he is in the area. Due to a lack of griffon riders, we have an abundance of extra rooms.”

Hurst mentioned that he had several duties to take care of today, and would be pleased to dine with Nitram if he had time after the war council tomorrow.

Rumil’s evening was uneventful. Shylent finished her steak and glared at anyone who appeared inclined to disturb her. Just before Rumil was planning on retiring for the night, Frederick appeared at the inn, and made his way to Rumil and Shylent’s table.

Well, you know. When he clicks his boot heels together, something magical happens. Rainbows and glitter or something like that.

Nitram thanked Lord Hurst before his business drew him away. Nitram ensured Serre was settled in the perch, “Serre, make this your own. I’m hopeful that we will spend a significant amount of time here…” Nitram looked out over the lit-up city, enjoying the view that the height of the perch provided. “Hopefully, we can start with some language lessons and quickly move on to flight training.” Nitram sat and pulled out some jerky from his pack, throwing several pieces to the young griffon. “I’m going to check on the others in the inn. I’ll bring you some food before I head to bed.” When the jerky was gone – which didn’t take long – the ranger left to find the inn and a warm meal.

Shortly after Frederick joined Shylent and Rumil at their table in the Bronze Wyvern, Nitram also arrived at the inn.

The evening was getting late, and the crowd that was just there for the drinks and socializing was starting to thin out. It was currently still raining outside, and there were quite a few folks hanging around for one more beer, before heading out.

16 Jannissary (Winter) 509 PE (Year of the Ravens)

10pm, Moonday

Nitram looked around as he approached the group, half expecting to see the elf wizard talking with them. He sat down and ordered some food. He looked at Rumil, wondering if he might help, “Rumil, I was hoping Aeron would make it in time for the meeting tomorrow, but I’m sure he is engrossed in his work. Do you know anything about the materials required to enchant weapons and armor? I need to bring some back to Farhills and was hoping to do some shopping before the meeting.” Nitram gave a start as if he was surprised by a thought insert joke here. Looking at the two newcomers, he pointed to the four-pointed star and wings on his mithril breastplate. Have either of you seen or heard anything of this symbol? I was told this breastplate was worn by a human belonging to a country that was absorbed by the Wensharian Empire. I’m more interested in a little more accurate backstory if either of you could provide one."

“I am under the impression that Aeron will be joining us as soon as he completes his work. I would not put it past him to make a grand entrance. He is a very strange elf that way – mages.” As Rumil said this he realized he found the elf interesting – even if he learned his art and manipulated it to meet his needs.

As for magical components, Rumil was no crafter, but knew magic a bit and was willing to advise Nitram where he could. “I am not skilled in creating magical items, but I can tell you…”

As Nitram pointed out his symbol, Rumil couldn’t help but notice the four pointed star’s resemblance to Lord Corellon’s holy symbol. The wings were not normal – but Rumil dug deep into his decades of training on religion, hoping to provide some background, even if not all the pieces of the puzzle.

Nitram suggested they meet for breakfast and then check out the city from there. He ordered a couple of whole chickens before heading back to the roost to check on Serre. On the way, his thoughts drifted to his shopping list. “I need to see if I can find a masterwork elven blade here and maybe a nice buckler that the mage can enhance for me. I should probably talk to Hurst about a saddle for Serre too. It won’t be long before he’ll be able to carry me. And of course, I need to bring back some enchanting materials. I’m pretty sure Aeron has used all we had for the oathbows. I can’t wait to try that out when I get back.”

Rumil was certain that by taking his time he would be able to assist Nitram in procuring various arcane and spellcrafting/inscribing components from the local guilds and shops. Rumil was astonished at the amount of material that Nitram was requesting, and considering the drain on the local market, it would probably be a season or two before that large of a hit was replenished.

The symbol however, was not known to Rumil at all. It occurred to him that perhaps the bard would be better suited to dispense with its provenance.

There wasn’t enough time this late at night to procure any of the other items Nitram was interested in. After discussing his list with the three at the table, he gradually realized that there was probably no likelihood of procuring an elven blade in this area.

Nitram makes a mental note to travel to Aelvinwode with Blend when he sets up the trade route.

Terror Before the Storm Part 1

Unconquered Kingdoms xLucix