Fear for a Friend: Part II
Urgency driving them forward, Cillean and his comrades leave the body of Tavros, the wizard’s apprentice, at the pit. They realized that they’d followed the wrong tracks, and Fiona’s life remains in grave danger.
Luckily, once Cillean finds the correct trail, he discovers the brutes have left a clear path to follow. In fact, the sounds of lumber work can be heard ahead, so the boy Jacob is sent to determine the source of the noise. Unfortunately, the brutes were alert, despite their efforts felling trees and clearing debris for a new roadway to their lair. Next thing they know, the boy is sprinting back to the group, blaring a warning on the signal whistle he carried for just such an occasion.
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With brutes fast on Jacob’s heels, our heroes have little time to prepare for the battle to come. The goblins strike swiftly, commanded by their hulking brute taskmaster, but between Tavis’ useful magic and Nicola’s prowess as a swordswoman, the brutes left alive are routed. A summoned eagle, and a swift arrow, take down one of the two goblins, but the other escapes to warn his master of an impending assault by powerful humans.
The first significant battle reveals several important secrets. First, that Jacob is in fact not a boy, but a lass named Hyacinth who finds it easier to pose as a boy than face the advances and scorn of lusty men. It is also discovered, and they are all thankful for the knowledge despite any skepticism, that Cillean has the power of healing magic. A decision is made to press on, and to try to determine the source of the menace ahead, and of course to rescue the damsel from the clutches of evil.
Unfortunately, this choice proves disastrous, and nearly fatal for the heroes.
The brutes had indeed been clearing a cart path, and following it leads the group to a broken tower, well guarded by alerted enemies. Dividing their forces around the rubble of the upper stories of the fallen tower proves troublesome. Foul undead, grotesque souls, one of whom were once a kinsman of Cillean, and another wearing the red cross of the inquisition, crawl out of the ruins and lash out with murderous and mindless rage. At the very same instant, goblins charge down the roadway around the other side of the tower, as orcish archers rain fury from high above, crouching behind the edge of a broken tower wall.
Too late, the group realizes they are outmatched and overpowered. Their newest ally, Brother Calumbais falls to a dread spell, as does Tavis even as he summons a great steed to speed him away from the slaughter. Nicola saves the holy brother, carrying him to the spectral steed. Tavis shakes off the wicked sorcery just in time to carry off the injured brother. Meanwhile, Cillean succumbs to an evil spell and flees for his life.
Night falls as the party regroups in Calumbias’ camp at Shepherd’s Rest, and is joined some time later by the clever Cael who deduces that they must have retreated to the burned out village. A decision is made that night. Upon first light, they will gather up the fallen apprentice and retreat to Buckhorn Hold, whose lord presides over this region. They do not wish to leave Fiona in the hands of such an evil necromancer, but they all agree that her fate would not be served should they die in the attempt to rescue her. So, to Buckhorn they hasten, to return the dead Tavros to his master, and beg a boon of aid from the Lord of this region.
Once at Buckhorn, the horses are stabled, the apprentices body taken to the church and abby, and Tavis alerts the wizard Sham Rivers to the fact of his tutor’s demise. The staff at the wizard’s low tower will not admit Tavis, nor will they serve him any courtesy whatsoever. This is a stingy and snide wizard, Tavis decides. The best he can get is an appointment the following day, to discuss the return of Tavros’ spell book, as is the customary and lawful thing to be done.
The Inn of the Rose is a highly recommended place to stay, and rooms are booked in short order. The group prepares themselves next for an audience with the high lord of the town, donning clean and proper clothes for such a meeting. The approach to the lord’s manor is a daunting climb, and hopes are high that they shall not be so ill treated by Lord Sir Buck than they had been by his wizard. After a brief wait, escorted by a seasoned guard into the great wooden building known as Buckhorn Hall, the party is greeted by the Seneschal of the manor, Mistress Adrienne Cleverdon.
Lord Sir Buck graciously invites the group to sup with him that evening, and they discuss many topics. The lord is quite genial and entertaining, and offers the aid of one of the sisters of the town’s abby for assistance in their rescue mission. Lord Buck also orders his wizard Shan attend them in the great hall, and takes the wizard to task regarding his mistreatment of those who’d returned the remains of his apprentice. A reward had been offered – for knowledge of young Tavros’ whereabouts and his disappearance – and thus a reward was ordered to be given to Cillean and his friends for safeguarding the returned remains of the witless young wizard. Wizard Rivers is no friend to our heroes, they fear.
The young wizardling’s book of spells is retuned to his master’s grumbling gnomish servant. Alas, the party needs be off to finish the rescue of Cillean’s love/cousin, and Tavis is unable to complete the full course of study needed to learn the spells written within. But the morning proves bright and after a swift ride and return to pick up Calumbais, the party assaults the squat, broken tower once more. Sister Mercy of the Broken Staff has joined the heroes, a lovely holy woman who is eager to aid Cillean to save his captive friend.
This time, they have much better success. Firstly, the creatures within are no longer on high alert, having routed the heroes two days hence. Secondly, as most brutes are want to do, they are caught sleeping, with only a token guard present. Thirdly, and most importantly, their master, the necromancer, has fled two days previously, and poses no danger to our heroes. Of course, he’d left a few of his undead to protect the tower. Thankfully, Sister Mercy’s holy might, granted her by the pantheon, smote down the terrible abominations. The ensuing battle was tense, but the heroes proved victorious, slaying the each and every brute therein.
Below the tower, a rickety iron stair, the tower’s spine, the party finds Fiona and three other prisoners. They are trussed, bruised and beaten, but otherwise unharmed. Cillean cannot fathom why, with so many others dead and brought back into undeath, that these few women were spared. Furthermore, their maidenhood had not been fouled, which is unheard of with brutes. Fiona has the answers, which she gladly tells after she and her fellow prisoners are extracted from the dank and foul underbelly of the tower. She understands the brutish tongue, and is also a keen listener.
It seems the master is a Waelishman, and has been sent here to this tower, one he calls lord and master. This villainous henchman gathered up nearby brutes by force, and have enslaved them, promising freedom, wealth and power once his mission has been completed. This stronghold, Fiona overheard, was to be the first holdfast of many, built with the intent of invasion from some unknown force hailing from Walelund.
The women are being kept for a forthcoming ritual sacrifice, to be performed on the night of the full moon, just five or six days hence. Along with Fiona are two farmwives and a female member of the staff of the inquisition. It was the purpose of gaining sacrificial maidens that instigated the attack on the inquisitors after the raid on Swamp Hollow. Whatever ends the necromancer had for the sacrifice, he had not confided in his brutish commander. Fiona also discovered the villain needed a fifth victim, and had made plans for another raid on an outlying farm.
It was evident to Fiona, as she recounts her days of captivity, that the necromancer had discovered something of significance just after the attack on his stronghold two days ago. Whatever he had found was the impetus to leave in the late afternoon on a horse Fiona deduced that he’d summoned. They kept no horses at the tower, but she’d heard the incantation, and then a horse was ridden away. The master has not returned since that evening, hence his discovery is of importance.
A sweep of the tower reveals a blocked off section, of which Fiona says the master and orcs feared to traverse. Clearing the warrens, he’d told his minions, would have to wait for a later day. Additionally, the heroes find a cache of weapons, the master’s strongbox, and the orcish leader’s coin purse. Adding this to the wizard’s reward money and a purse of coins Lord Sir Buck slipped into Cillean’s gear, there is a goodly payoff for a hard week’s work.
Upon the journey back to Shepherd’s Rest, Cillean and the others thank Brother Calumbias for his efforts, and state they are ready to help him build his holy sanctuary. The goodly monk declines their offer, instead insisting he needs their assistance to recover his lost sword. It was, he tells them, no ordinary sword, but the birthright heirloom of the rightful king of the land, Prince Mark. He implores them to aid him on this mission, for the very fate of the kingdom lies in the importance of that weapon. He also warns them of the danger involved, especially if the usurper Hugo Finsdale discovers its existence.
As heroes will, the party eagerly accepts the task to recover the princely sword, with eager hopes of destroying an evil and villainous necromancer while they are at it.
Hyacinth’s Journal Entry
Tavis’ Journal Entry
Fletcher’s Journal Entry
Cillean’s Journal Entry