Search for a Sword: Part II
Any Tor in a Storm
It was nearly sundown by the time the party crossed the Stone Way over the Ash Flow. The rain pelted them after they left the shelter of the South Tower, stinging their skin. The horses were skittish and did not like being out in this weather. It had been raining for hours, but they could see the worst of the storm was ahead of them. Lightning flashed in the distance, crackling over the dark wood through which they would soon traverse.
Not knowing whether Virsast had taken the main road south, or the lesser path that ran parallel to the Lower Ash River, inquiries were made with the gate guards, on the off chance that any had witnessed the necromancer’s passage. None specifically recalled Virsast by description, but one of the off-duty guardsmen who frequented The Groggy Stop relayed his witness of a man who appeared to have summoned a horse from nowhere, and rode it along the eastern track. “The fellow rode off into the woodlands with reckless pace,” he said and the heroes knew they’d found which way Virsast had flown with the sword.
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The Ash Wood was foreboding, the track muddy from the rain. At least the heavy canopy above sheltered the heroes from the worst of the downpour. The wood was dark and cold and wet, and the party forged onward as long as they could without causing injury to their mounts. Once they’d finally decided to rest, daybreak was but a few short hours away, and they were all exhausted. The thunderstorm grew severe, as Cillean had predicted, and they were thankful for the shelter of the tent and tarpaulin to keep them relatively dry.
Unfortunately, their rest was brief, for just before dawn, a terrible earthquake rocked the countryside, toppling trees and frightening the horses, as well as the heroes. The trembling of the earth lasted minutes, and they were certain it was felt for tens of leagues in all directions. A discussion ensued, pondering whether the event was naturally occurring, or if some supernatural forces were at work. None had any sure answer, and they decided they may never learn the true nature of the earthquake.
An hour later, a group of hunters passed by, nearby along the trail. They were the Baron’s huntsmen, and had been spooked by the tremors, choosing to break their own camp and make haste for Fallowdown. The passed by the party, who were hiding in the nearby thickets, never knowing the party had observed them. Taking the cue, the party broke camp and returned to their pursuit, continuing on in the pre-dawn hours, hoping to catch up to the wicked necromancer.
Midday found the party soaked to the bone and weary as the road they traveled upon opened into a valley devoid of trees, cleared in ancient times. At the center of the clearing they find a great Tor, rising on a man-made hillock. The storm showed no sign of retreat, in fact the lightning strikes were more severe than ever, and it was decided that the group needed to find shelter or risk being target of such a strike. They discovered a dark cavernous overhang near the base of the tor, and made hast for the cover it provides. This outcropping was found to be an entrance inside the tor, the great stones blocking egress recently displaced, apparently by the previous night’s earthquake.
Upon entering the tor, they saw a lone figure huddling in a far corner of a very large room inside the structure, surrounded in the glow of magical light. Upon seeing the party enter the chamber, Virsast shouted “Storm Peace!” But after a brief conversation with him, the fugitive necromancer seemed to suspect that the group had been following him, and he extinguished his light and subsequently launched an attack on the party, breaking the very Storm-Peace he not minutes earlier invoked.
The combat was brief but deadly. Deadly for the necromancer. It was by sheer luck and heroics that none in the party were slain by Virsast’s terrible necromancy. In the end, the villain was slain and the royal sword recovered. Tav took possession of the necromancer’s vile spellbook, and discovered that Virsast was part of an evil cult, the Whispering Way, a group bent on furthering the study and creation of undead in the world. A fanaticism akin to worship.
Another tremor shook through the chambers beneath the Tor, and several of the doors leading out of the chamber the party had defeated Virsast crumbled to ruin. Giant rats billowed out of one of the chambers, frantically attacking those both dead and alive. A group of hobgoblins rushed out of another passageway, intent on the destruction of the heroes. All were dealt with, but Nicola’s heirloom sword was damaged in the battle, and injuries were sustained. Injuries that would prove infectious to Hyacinth and Nicola – festering Filth Fever borne by the disgusting rats.
The awful storm did not lessen significantly until the following morning, giving Tavis time to examine the heretical writings contained within Virsast’s spellbook. He took it into his head to learn some of the more innocuous spells written within, but the taint of evil was so tangible within the writings, that even a spell that merely called forth the power of magical missiles made only of destructive force energy manifested themselves in the form of tiny corrupt skulls. Needless to say, once Tavis and his friends had safely returned to Fallowdown, the book was swiftly handed over to the Spellblade, Valexia Barrows, Tavis’ boss.
The party’s return to Fallowdown was met with sad news. Tamara Finkle, proprietor of The Groggy Stop, relayed the tragedy that Fletcher had been slain by members of the Red Cloaks, on that stormy night, as he negotiated and set them up for Captain Rowellyn’s ambush. This came as a terrible blow to our heroes, and many tears and bawdy stories told during the wake that night at the Stop. Fletch would be remembered, and sorely missed.
As Hyacinth and Nicola’s wounds were starting to show signs of deep infection, and as Nicola wished to have her father look at her sword to see if it wasn’t beyond repair, the party decided to travel the short distance to Ferrett Hold, 5 leagues north-east of Fallowdown. There they were greeted warmly, and Nicola’s family tended to the injured, while the others were put up in other homesteads. During the four days of recovery and repair of Dayblade, the party celebrated Mother’s Day at the Day home, a satisfying treat for Nicola, to be close to her mother on the festival day. The following day, the blade repaired, the party left the sleepy little village and by nightfall found themselves at the sturdy inn in Blathe Thorpe.
Hearing of the party’s arrival, as such news travels quickly in such a small hamlet, Lady Edna summoned Nicola to be presented with her new bearskin cloak, now finished. Lady Edna apologized for not inviting Nicola’s comrades to dine once more at the Manor, but that due to the threat upon the life of her husband, strangers were cautiously watched and none would be permitted into the presence of Sir Osbert.
Morning brought a new month and the heroes set out once more with Calumbias’ sword, intent to return the blade to the curious monk. Along the road, a stranger shouted insults at the party, and proved to be terribly annoying. Annoying, that was, until the old man’s gait transformed into that of a much younger, and familiar person’s. The old man was in fact, Fletcher, in disguise. Fletch related his tale, and that he had faked his death and gone into hiding so as to avoid any further repercussions from the vengeful Red Cloaks for his part in their arrest. Fletch said he knew the party would be seeking to return the sword, and would be traveling along the road, so he simply took to foot, knowing they would eventually pass him. Together, the party reunited, they continued northward with intention to return the recovered sword.
The inn at Gerrett’s Rest proved adequate for their rest, and an early start towards Shepherd’s Rest. Unfortunately, Brother Calumbias was not to be found in the dilapidated and ruined village, so the group pressed on, seeking Bekus’ Pit, the rendezvous location agreed upon before their departure from Brother Cal two weeks earlier. On the way to the pit, traveling in the thick of the Goblin Woods, the party was confronted by the Boonwood Clan of pixies, led by a formidable and fierce leader who named himself as Flit the Warrior. Flit warned the party about the evil that was within the pit, and urged them to flee, or at least beware. Taking the warning, they approached the pit with great caution.
Once they arrived, they found tracks that indicated Brother Calumbias and his dog, Titan had indeed entered the pit. There was a fresh rope and clear sign of entry. Inside was a frightening and disturbing sight. The lower level of the pit contained the long-dead (and animated and re-slain) corpse of a dwarf, and the faithful Titan whining over a strange, rune-covered cylindrical plinth. A spray of blood marked the floor and wall of this small cavern, but was singularly missing where it should have splattered across the mystical stone. Titan became agitated upon the arrival of the group into this lower level, and he paced between them and the stone, letting out a resounding bark of insistence.
To be continued…
A Distant Tomb.
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