Abridged History of the 10th Age

6th hording
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3rd Hording
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??? Furrow?
"...and when the blood was cleared from our steel we had only to journey into their camp to find the stolen treasures of the dwarven crypt..."

From the Journals of Patrius atte Loitre, late of Summerdown in the Blackwood Forrest…

Being the continuance of Part One…

Into the depths we crept, further down, and then up through the strange and cold corridors of dwarven make. Guided by the undying light of the lantern Aldous found in a previous chamber, we made our way into a room perched high on the mountainside, with notched windows like one would find in a castle; but hewn directly from the living rock.

A strange chill betook us then, a cold and unnatural wind: and before my eyes a sight unlike any before took hold.

Out of thin air appeared the visage of two elders of the dwarves. They were kingly beings, rendered in light and shadow as if flesh and blood- but their steps made no sound, their voices carried no warmth, and they were of no substance at all.

At first terror struck us all still- no one moved, and we minced words, as the specters spouted off in strange and foreign sounding tongues. For a moment, they came at us, making perhaps to inflict some strange and mysterious curse…

...but quickly, Ingrid, Askelor and I started picking out pieces of Orthr. I suppose that dwarves from such long ago ages must have spoken with tongues not unlike today, but still quite different. AT any rate, both parties soon adjusted themselves until a natural dialogue could be had.

It was as I thought- they were kings of dwarves, long dead, set upon this place to protect or hold vigil over it’s precious relics. They knew of the intrusion that had sent us here, and also of our honest intentions- it was with their blessing that we made camp in that airy room, and they told us of a mechanical device that could disarm the traps that awaited us in the depths of the crypt.

The next morning we headed back to town, restocked our supplies, and prayed. Without waste, we made for the crypt’s devilish bowels, and the journey was a terrifying one at that!

Specters and winds, strange prints. We came upon screams, and horrible wormish things that had skin like leather. Before we knew it, we were in a terse battle betwixt them and the vicious wolves that prowled the cavernous basement.

But our might prevailed, and we sook out the source of the screaming…

...it seems the grave-robbers that defiled this place were even more heartless than we could have imagined- they left their comrade to be eaten by those worm-like thing we battled with in the adjoining room. He was a horrible sight-they had chewed away his face and left it a gaping gruesome wound. But our magic was strong, and revived him, though I dare say he is a horrible sight at any rate.

Acting as our guide, the revengeful wizard Theylon led us to the camp of his co-conspirators, and we waged a quick and decisive fight: in a few moments Askelor and I had slain their leader and Aldous was wrestling with an armored foe. But Theylon’s clever deception and a well placed spell had drawn them out confused and unawares- we made quick work of them all, and when the blood was cleared from our steel we had only to journey into their camp to find the stolen treasures of the dwarven crypt.

I wish I could say that we returned to Bracstone Height with some little fanfare and excitement- after all, we had lost a keen and honorable ally in Rowan. But when the four remaining members of Sword &Sorcery returned, sweating, with that precious cart of riches and relics, we found the town seemingly deserted…

...a quiet, disturbing stillness has wrought the once bustling atmosphere of Bracstone Height to a halt.

Could we be returning riches to a town of ghosts?

I for one has seen enough specters this week. Let us hope things are not as they seem…

Patrius atte Loitre, Unknown, X501

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??? Furrow?
"...As we marched towards the looming ribbon that is Bracstone, I went with no unrest or unease, and yet no warmth and joy either."

From the Journals of Patrius atte Loitre, late of Summerdown in the Blackwood Forrest…

It has been too many days since my last log- I fear we’ve all lost track of time. It is, perhaps, the 20th Furrow, but it could be some days more than that- the last week has been a strange, tumbling journey. All I know- besides fatigue and discomfort- is that something is amiss in the town of Bracstone Height.

We arrived in town a few days ago, with spirits somehow both wary and high. The chance stroke of fate had found the party of Sword and Sorcery- Rowan, our joyous little halfling; Ingrid, the fierce dwarf; Aldous, the inscrutable one; Askelor, the noble elf; and myself- traveling companions with a wave of dwarves headed back to Bracstone Height. The night before, I’d had a chance to speak with a leader of gnomes, and changes in opinion had found the dwarves agreeing tentatively to joining a unified fight for the Vales.

It seemed on that morning that some progress had been made in this funny idea Aldous, Rowan and I had been nibbling at- which was, of course, quite simple: fight as one to repel the violent Dorlish invasion and cruel Weylic reprisals and strong-arming. Naturally by now this concept had taken root in our hearts and seemed as logical and natural as up-and-down; but the many peoples and races of the Vales even one town and the next! had not all seen our particular light.

As we marched towards the looming ribbon that is Bracstone, I went with no unrest or unease, and yet no warmth and joy either.

Arriving days later, we found no solace or peace- the dwarves were on high alert, as their sacred crypt had been assailed and robbed. While the leaders of her militia forces railed and argued, we toured the town of Bracstone Height and made fast our cart and wares. Clothes were ordered, food was had, and a moments passing found us neither laboring, fighting, or marching. Such a gift!

Soon the issue became clear- someone had to enter the crypt (full of infernal traps), assess the situation (of which we had no idea), seek out the intruders (if they remain), make fast work of them (if they can be felled), and retrieve the stolen holy items (if they can be found). Needless to say, there’s also a giant lurking in the crypt’s bowels.

And might I add that I do not appreciate the idea of a dwarven crypt! The dwarves are a respectable and noble race, certainly the equal of man or elf- but the thought of some dank stone tomb…it sits in the stomach like bad meat. All I’ve known is tree and wood- the few larger cities of the Blackwood were choked and full enough: But a crypt; a cold rocky hole filled with the deadly magic of ancient dwarves? Give me a bear with a taste for blood Vaela, it can’t be worse than this!

Sword and Sorcery, always willing to help, offered to venture into the crypt, and while I do not relish the idea of it, I cannot disagree with the choice. After all, if we are to cultivate real partnership with the dwarves, we must prove our willingness to join forces for honest goals.

After a short rest, we set out to the crypt’s mouth, and made our way down into the depths…

I was less aghast than I thought I would be. “By the hands of a dwarf” indeed; the cut and fit of the place, it’s size- truly amazing. For a moment, I dare say we were all awed by it…

Almost immediately, the party began to suffer. We were not prepared or equipped, and the strangeness of the place turned me all around- I could make out strange tracks in the aged dust, but I know nothing of disarming arcane traps! First we were all terribly burned by a statue that spit hot rivulets of flame. Mercifully we escaped that room, and a second, without further suffering. But then, as we explored deeper…

Rowan. It caught her unawares, I think. The cruel genius of the dwarven traps was swift- in a moment, she was cast from this plane, reduced to mere…ash.

Rowan, who had been at our sides when a town revolted, when we’d come face-to-face with death at the hands of elven rangers, horrid creatures, and crooked Bluecloaks- reduced to mere ash.

Unnecessary.

Deeper we trod, into the strange heights, bored deep into mountain rock. By now, we had devised a methodology to avoid traps, but still we decided to split up and cover more ground. It was then that Askelor, Ingrid, and I ran into the terrifying golems we had heard about in town.

Those who have never faced a stone golem- those who have not felt the sweat trickle down their temple, as the sound of their allies’ blades clanging and bouncing harmlessly fills the room, as a plodding, murderous statue scrapes and grinds towards you patiently, methodically, interminably- those of you who have not experienced this can sleep a bit more soundly, I wager.

Part Two coming soon…

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14th-17th Furrow

On the road again. Well, sort of. There’s no real road to speak of in the wood we’re meaning to push through. Which is why we’re on horseback. We’ll be slow enough in reaching The Bracstone Height, and that’s without my old, slow – but reliable! – mule slowing us down. I much’d rather my sturdy old steed than this one here, but I suppose sacrifices have got to be made, don’t they. I imagine Thistle’ll be well taken care of in my absence. That’s some good at least! There’s a bit of confusion here about where we’re going exactly. Not one of us really knows where to find these elves Symen sent us to locate. Patrius suggests we chop down a tree. I really hope he’s kidding. Symen did mention that a batch of men were hacked up good and dead for doing just that. Aldous just seems impatient about this more than anything. Eventually we seem to settle on traversing the Teralian road for a while up until we’re about halfway to Ketelstun. From there we’ll just deviate from the road and cut through the Smalwood. We have made camp out by the road, but the very next morning, here we are, up and at it once again. Our progress, as we thought it’d be, is sluggish off the road.

It’s around noontide that something interrupts our outing. Growling. Distressed growling. None of us take our chances, though, and we’re readying our weapons, half expecting some manner of gnarly beast to charge us. What comes barreling out of the undergrowth catches me by surprise. To be fair, the creature is a beast. And it is gnarly. But it’s a bear. Not quite what we were expecting. By the look of it, there are two of them. Save the first is horrific. The thing’s sopping in blood, completely covered in arrows! It’s immediately clear to me that we’re to help this animal. Patrius is on the same page as me, I think, because he soon is meaning to feed the bear. Aldous, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to be too concerned – which is occuring to me as his usual regard for anyone or anything excluding himself. As the bear feeds, I take this chance to relieve it of the arrows stippled on its pelt. In turn, Patrius keeps the animal calm enough for me to accomplish this. We make a decent enough team with our combined efforts.

I don’t at first notice Aldous slipping away in the direction of the bears’ entrance, but after Patrius calls for him, Aldous summons us. He claims to have found the hunter. That was quick! Joining him, we discover a gruesome sight. The grove is battered and spattered with blood. And there’s a rather mangled looking person on the ground in the midst of it all, her throat and face mutilated. Gross. The sight is enough to make my stomach reel! Patrius says there are four others, and that apparently they retreated in the direction we’re heading. Lucky for us! As Patrius goes about robbing this corpse – looting, what have you, the rest of us resign ourselves to simply leveling disapproving looks on him. Nonetheless, we decide to continue on with our journey. Naturally, we should return to our horses to find that the pair of bears we’d just gone out of our way to tend are going out of theirs to continue being tended to. Just what we need! They’ve nicked a good deal of our rations, but I imagine we returned before any real damage could have been done – to our staples and our mounts alike. Leaving the bears to their final parting gift, we resume our trek to Bracstone.

For the second time during the course of our trip, around sundown, we’re startled with noisy clamoring. Save this one is not comprised of any injured bear howls. These sounds are that of combat! What in the world have we wandered into this time. As we assume a position that allows for us to take in an adequate view of the activity, we can see that this brawl is between elves and humans. And what a bloody affair this is!

These surely are the elves we were meant to find. But I wish we could have encountered them on more agreeable terms.

As he is wont to do, the bullheaded Patrius is the first to charge into this battle. Without asking questions, he plows into the nearest human he can find. I am at a loss for words! At once he is stuck with arrows. He really had this coming to him. As we have chosen our side in this fight that hardly concerns us, Aldous and I too engage these men in combat. I sure do hope they are bandits or something because we really don’t know who or what we’re meddling with. The fight wages. Aldous manages to hilt a throwing dagger into the throat of some poor wretch. And, as a reward to Patrius’ attempt at rescuing the stranded elf caught between the men and the origin of the arrow onslaught, the elf attempts to deal him a blow from his scimitar – only to lose his weapon to Patrius’ horse. Once this happens, the elf doesn’t have a chance. The human men rush him and chop him down like one of the trees his kind or so bent on protecting.

In just a few more moments, things begin winding down. The volley of arrows find home in the remaining men. All fall except one. And this one takes my sickle to the thigh, before being skewered in the throat by an arrow. Even though the men are all dispatched, the arrows still seem to keep coming. Apparently, we are seen as the foe here. Fantastic. Three eleven archers finally reveal themselves to us, and, as they mistake us for poachers, we narrowly avoid the same fate as these humans they’d just slaughtered. A combined effort on our part, we manage to talk down the elves – to convince them, at least, that we’re not their enemy and that we have come to relay unto them a message. They agree to take us to their leader. Their Warden. Their… elf king, I take it? They don’t trust us still – so says the arrows they keep fixed on us, but they haven’t killed us just yet. This ia good! Our message must be of some consequence to them.

After a short trip, we reach a valley, marked by a large, decorated beech tree. The thing must be important to them, and while I wouldn’t mind a chance to properly examine the tree, we’re not exactly honored guests here. There’s a small elf fellow, dressed in robes fashioned from leaves, knelt at the base of the tree we’re being escorted to. Praying, I reckon. Unless he just likes speaking to trees. Which wouldn’t surprise me. From what I have observed of these radically nature-nurturing people, it seems perfectly within the realm of normalcy for them to openly interact with wildlife. He and our chaperons partake in a small exchange, and then the old bearded fellow is both examining and addressing us. Somehow he can tell that we helped the bears. Creepy, yes, but so long as he knows we’re on his side! Nonetheless, we get to carrying out our orders from Symen. Or rather, attempting to. After a job of fruitlessly trying to convince the old elf to consent to aiding the effort against the Weylic, he finally seems to relent a bit. We manage to get him to agree to let us prove ourselves to him. He tells us of three other poachers that are giving him and his elves some problems. We agree to deal with them to when their favor. Though I do suggest a different route to handling the men – one that doesn’t include killing them, the Warden and Patrius both seem intent on same final outcome. Finally, I agree to it.

It’s just three men, after all. And if we can get the elves to side with Woodsedge at the cost of three of its villager’s lives, then it’s a price well paid. In the end. I think Symen would understand. Maybe.

In any event, we are to stay the night with an elf named Jocari and go about this feat tomorrow morning. Before bed, Aldous and Patrius both trade their looted daggers for some analgesics. They are convinced analgesics are the most humane way to deal with the poachers, and I agree. Once the trading’s all said and done, we all tuck in for the night inside of the cramped, noisy tent only to wake the next morning to find that a storm’s passed. As we discuss the task at hand, Jocari forbids us to take our horses, and kindly informs us what consequence an attempt at fleeing would bring us. Lovely. At any rate, he deals with the elf called Alvomin as we get our things together. All of us our are uneasy about having to kill these men. But it does seem that we are going to go through with it. Not that there are any other options. None immediately available to us, anyway.

The trip is relatively swift and efficient, thanks to Jocari’s knowledge of the land, and eventually we reach the edge of the Smalwood. At least, I assume we do, because Jocari halts us and points us at some drilled trees. So much anger over a few trees. The elf is against all of us going inside their home without him – he suspects we will betray him. Which, to be honest, considering how on the fence about this we all are… might easily be the case if he leaves us to our own devices.

Even if, really, he IS just one elf. There’s three of us… Well. I suppose, once again, we’ve got to look at the bigger picture! Earn the elves’ trust, and we’re in with them. It is decided, anyway, that it’ll be Aldous that does the deed – that poisons the men. He leaves.

The wait seems long. But in actuality, it can’t have been more than fifteen or twenty minutes. When Aldous returns, he brings news that the hunters are not dead – just sluggish and thoroughly intoxicated. Now it’s Patrius who wants to have a go at soloing the woodsmen. Alright then. If he desires to be their executioners, by all means. Sure enough, we drag behind him anyway to keep an eye on him. The drunk men are sat at the table, there, doing drunk men things. When one of them sets his eyes on Jocari, he springs up – surprisingly agile for a poisoned man! – and begins hurtling at us. Patrius attempts to deal him one but the glassy-eyed man is too quick. Patrius continues on to the next one and takes care of him. Things start getting heated up. Jocari avoids a blow as the woodsman engages him, so I take the opportunity to try and shield-bash the man. And what a failed attempt that ends up being. He pushes me back without too much effort and I stumble. The last two men are swiftly delt their deaths. Jocari seems confused why the men were little affected by the poison – and I am, too, really. Aldous, though, seems to think the analgesic was just slow to work. Ah, well. It’s done now.

Jocari takes Patrius and me back to the dell. For us, our work with the elves isn’t finished. Though obviously we cannot say the same for Aldous. Aldous opted to brave the way back to the Teralian road for whatever reason. Risky thing to do! But I hope he gets there okay on his own regardless. When we return to the Warden, things don’t exactly go the way we had planned. It turns out, that even after all of this, he has no real intention of allying with the Vales. If nothing else, Patrius manages to convince the old elf to lend us some of his men. The Warden grudgingly offers ten of them. And even then, he refuses to send them to Woodsedge. Hey says he will send his small troop north to Redhorne. Though honestly. What good will ten do when the place is entirely under seige. But help is help, I suppose… Even if it hardly excuses us from our crime. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we have been cheated. We killed the poachers, for yes, for ‘the bigger picture’. But, contrary to the petty crimes the elves convict them of, the woodsmen were innocent. Really, what sort of bigger picture can there possibly be when all our efforts were done in vain? Now we don’t have anything to justify our actions. It was murder, through and through. Cold-blooded murder.

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18th Furrow
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It is now the 18th of Furrow

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17th Furrow
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14th Furrow
...Running with all the force my still injured body could deliver, I leaped upon the saddle of a fallen Bluecloak's steed, sword drawn...

From the Journals of Patrius atte Loitre, late of Summerdown in the Blackwood Forrest…

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt an urge to add to my journal.

A few months ago- it feels like years, now – it seemed a useful tactic. Having spent my whole life in the Blackwood, I’m well educated in flora and fauna, trapping and hunting; the ways of survival, and life. But deep in the forest the mind can wander, and that’s when things become dangerous. Tracking a stag sates only the basest of desires, leaving the imagination and the soul wanting.

Years ago when I was running the caravans between Northmount and Bonevale, a wily old coachmen told me that he wrote his daily thoughts down in a little folio he kept on him. “Son,” he rasped, “yer’ eyes aint worth spit if your head’s busy ponderin’. That’s why I get it out of my system in this,” he told me, holding up the worn, leather-bound tome. The advice seemed odd, at first, as almost any piece of good advice sounds to a boy of 17. As the years have passed, and my time in towns has waned, along with my time around other people, I have come to find the old driver’s words are a truth too big to ignore, and too simple to argue with.

So here I am, again, scribbling. I am Patrius atte Loitre. I am the son of a smith, a motherless son who still winces at the scars that twist along his arms- the ugly tattoos of a youth spent working iron on his father’s anvil. I am 23, and without wife or child. Would it be cliche to say that I am married to the forest? Or perhaps to the Vales. Or maybe the Blackwood. I think so. Suffice to say I am without home beyond my country and the people that live in it- and it is about to be torn apart.

I arrived in Woodsedge a day ago, along with my traveling companion Rowan. She is a strange woman, a halfling, with shocking hair and even worse manners. But I have come to trust and respect her- she worries over her home in Seabotl with a passion equaling my own concern for the Vales. We met along the road to Woodsege, having discovered that we both wished to find the same group: Sword and Sorcery.

But Woodsedge was and is a tiny version of the rest of the Vales- a town torn apart, split between folk terrified of occupation, of Bluecloaks serving the whims of a Weylic king, and a lingering threat from all sides of Dorlish invasion. I was taken into a sort of custody almost immediately on my arrival, but Rowan and I, along with a few good Bluecloaks, defeated the plans of a heartless Bluecloak Captain under the employ of something called “The Three Crowns”. I was badly injured during the engagement, and nearly fell during battle. But it was our luck, Vaela be praised, that the inn we fought in held a member of the Sword and Sorcery group- a queer fellow by the name Aldous. He gave me a healing dram and I fell nearly instantly into a deep slumber…

...The morning next, we all awoke. I’d recovered some from my injuries, though the day is long in coming when I will be fully restored. For a short while, I felt- I assumed- we had woken to peace. Or some form of peace.

Food was served by Nobol, the inn keeper. The town was a bustle with Bluecloaks, preparing their march for Seabotl. Aldous found it in his odd heart to finally give us his name, and it seemed like Rowan and I would soon have contracts with the venerable group of adventurers- providing we proved to Aldous that we had the right skills.

The request was an annoying one. Rowan and I had traveled long hard miles, and though I can’t speak for her, my own abilities are in no need of proving. But as we began our morning, Aldous and I spied a young lad spreading whispers among the townsfolk.

Intercepting him, Aldous and I discovered that he was spreading a rumor about a murdered wizard named Orvius Kavalson- supposedly killed by a group of dwarves near Seabotl. We reconvened with Rowan, who wanted some privacy to discuss her mission with Aldous. Before we left, Nobol hurried over and delivered a note he found in the insidious Bluecloak Captain’s room.

The three of us took a short walk north, until we came upon a faded statue of Vaela. I took my time to honor a promise and prayed to her honor, that venerable goddess of travelers and pilgrims, while Aldous and Rowan talked. I admit that I overheard them, and at the mention of the murdered wizard, Rowan became quite upset. I chose then to reveal my note to them- a message to the Captain, letting him know that everything was going to plan, and that “the dwarves” would be “blamed”. It seemed obvious that this was in reference to the supposed assassination of Orvius by dwarves, as part of some larger attempt to disrupt the trust of Valelanders..and who knows what else.

We rushed back to town, with Rowan determined to get a message to Seabotl- about both the murder of Orvius, and the coming arrival of the Bluecloaks. She managed to employ one of Nobol’s kitchen boys for the task- requiring another donation of coin from my rapidly shrinking coffers- and we continued on. But before any of us knew what was happening, the remaining Bluecloaks began falling like flies. The boy Aldous and I caught had been spreading more than rumors, it seemed- and the folk of Woodsedge had decided to fight back against the Bluecloak’s occupation!

Symen, a woodsman, seemed to lead the attack, and he and his men corralled a handful of scared Bluecloaks in the center of town. There they stood, fate uncertain, sweating under their armor and cloth, while Nobol and Symen fought with words over the logic of the attack. I stepped forward and argued with Symen, but he was wild with anger, and would not listen. Making to execute the terrified huddle of mercenaries, I struck him with a fist- foolish, maybe, but it was all I could do to stop him. Taking this as a sign of opportunity, the Bluecloaks tried to take up arms and fight back…

Blood spilled fast. I tried my best to prevent it, but a slaughter they wanted, and a slaughter they got. For a moment…I was lost. What to do? I had made kind with many Bluecloaks in my days with the caravan, and though they were not always the keenest group, they were at least honorable. Now, here I was, caught between a desire to see the Dorls pushed out, and a hope that the Vales will remain independent and free of occupation. To me, at first, it seemed that Weyland was a lesser evil, but the people of Woodsedge- and they are not alone- see things a bit more black and white than I do. And so after a moments hesitation, I made my choice. Running with all the force my still injured body could deliver, I leaped upon the saddle of a fallen Bluecloak’s steed, sword drawn, and charged after a fleeing Bluecloak. He fel under my mount and was quickly trampled.

By the time I recovered from my ill-begotten reverie, the damage was done. The streets ran red with blood, the interwoven streams of Bluecloak and townsmen alike. Worse than that, selfish as the thought might be, is the state of my heart- Have I shamed Vaela? Was turning on the Bluecloaks- once friends, once traveling companions- the right choice? Is there no better way to keep the Vales free? I once thought there was. But now? I’m not so sure.

Rowan, Aldous, and I convened again, and I had words with Symen. My temper was at it’s breaking point, but he offered to send a group to stop the Bluecloaks from reaching Seabotl, and Rowan was overjoyed. Aldous, as usual, stood looking disinterested and bored. Without my input, Rowan struck a deal with Symen, and Aldous, hungry to see us “in action”, went along with the idea.

So in exchange for the safety of Rowan’s town, we are set to venture to Bracstone Heights, realm of wood elves, in a vain attempt to convince them to fight for Symen, the Vales, and the Smallwood. I admit that the idea of having the Elves on “our” side is a nice one, but this journey is fraught with danger, not the least of which from the notoriously daring and vicious elves themselves.

Wishing not to spend another minute in the crimson lined streets, I quickly set to organizing my companions; lending money to Rowan to fix us with provisions, and finding three more horses to serve as our mounts and pack animals. Sadly, I was able to take advantage of a stable full of horses, saddles, feed, and harnesses…goods and beasts the Bluecloaks of Woodsedge will never again need.

What I am left with, however, is a burden. A great burden. A weight that weighs on me so much that the sight of mounds of feed and bags of foodstuffs seems to me as feathers on the wind…a burdensome feeling that Symen was right. A sensation that some change has come about…or came about, the moment I chose to trample that Bluecloak. Is this what must be done to free my beloved Vales? Is it truly Vaela; if it is, please, give me a sign. Because if it is…

...I will do it. A thousand times if necessary.

Vaela help me.

Patrius atte Loitre, 14th Furrow, X501

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13th Furrow

Five days. I’ve been riding five days. All feeling in my bottom is gone, I think. But it’s been enjoyable, if nothing else, to see all this countryside. I don’t often leave Seabotl, and while this isn’t exactly a vacation, it’ll be nice to get out there. Finally I reach the crossroads. I can see a traveler – alone from what I can tell. A harmless enough looking human. Having been weaned off talk for the last several days, I am admittedly a little eager to attempt some interaction with this long-legged individual. My North Varan’s good. Assuming that’s what he speaks, I heartily try and coax this bashful-looking man into some casual conversation after catching his eye. He calls himself ‘Patrius Atte Loitre’, and he’s heading for Smalwood, too. Soon, after some more prompting on my part, he tells me that he too is seeking out Sword and Sorcery – just like me. From what he says, the Sword and Sorcery group have been roughing up the Dorls – and the Dorls are roughing up his town. Where ever that is! He does seem reluctant to give me anything more than that, though I wont test him. We are strangers. For all he knows, I could be the enemy. But then, for all I know, he could be just the same.

After a bit more chatting, I learn Patrius encountered what he calls ‘Baldanno foot soldiers’ four days ago. I’ve never heard of them. I end up informing him of my duties, and before long, considering our identical tasks at hand, we’ve seemed to have buddied up and arranged a partnership – however brief. In due time, I can see Smalwood – finally, a gratifying sight after so days on the road. For want of a good, well-needed leg stretch, I dismount my mule and walk off the saddle soreness for the remainder of our walk into Woodsedge. As we approach town, I can see an inn settled in the middle of a mass of buildings. Upon closer inspection, we both notice there’s a pair of men dawdling at the entrance – both clad in odd blue cloaks. Patrius labels them ‘Bluecloaks’. Go figure! He seems to recognise them. Myself? No wordly clue. I sure don’t like the looks of ‘em, that’s for sure – even if Patrius seems to have deemed them nonthreatening. They’re mercenaries, he says, who offer the caravans here protection for goods. Apparently, they don’t like the Order of the Sword Militant. Probably I’ll have to make it a point to keep quiet about my intention to go seek their help then.

The closer we draw to the inn, the more crowded it appears to be. Once we are there good and proper, we see that the place is absolutely swimming in blue. And I don’t mean water. Bluecloaks, at least a hundred of them, everywhere. They seem neutral enough to our being here, though. And my new companion seems real bent on the idea of seeking food and quarters! I admit, the idea is real tempting – even if these mercenaries strike me as fishy. And not in the good way. Patrius says the inn is called “Nobol’s”. To ask me to make heads from tails of the squiggly North Varan nonsense scrawled on the inn sign is asking a lot. I never learned to read or write – though I have always been interested. Maybe one day after all this war rubbish is all done with, I can get someone to teach me. At any rate, I do suppose we‘ll be staying here. The Patrius fellow loans me a gold coin to hand off Thistle to a stable boy. Good man! He’s won my favor already, I think! As I go about making sure my old mule’s good for safely staying the night, I can hear Patrius making nice with the suspicious looking Bluecloaks. The boy is chock-full of gall. If he keeps putting off such a high profile, he may make short both our journeys.

From what I can hear passing between Patrius and the mercenaries posted out front of the inn, the Bluecloaks have been hired by the king to defend the Vales. A relief! They are on our side then! They have secured Hilstadt and Woodsedge already. They seem to be ready to drive out Weylic troops once they reach the Western Vales. Patrius is from a place called Summerdown – more than he let on to me earlier. And apparently the band of Baldanno footsoldiers he’d encountered some days ago were trying to assist in a severing of the Weylic supply line. This last detail seems to have struck the Bluecloak as news – he seems interested in informing the king, and a ‘Captain Hektor’.

I rejoin Patrius just as the Bluecloak is excusing himself and heading back inside. After I return Patrius his change, I have a feeling he is poking fun at my weight. He makes a cheeky remark about how I’ll soon be getting back the money I just returned to him. Though just as well! I suppose I am a bit… full-figured. Made of thicker stuff, you know. Who am I kidding? Leesha’s treated me well these past years. Clearly, if he and I’d met on more agreeable circumstances, I’d eat this poor fellow out of house and home!

As soon as we enter the inn, we catch mumbling inside. And the Bluecloak – the one that was just now prattling with Patrius – points right at him. Before we know it, the captain – and I say captain because he’s dressed a bit more pretentiously than his fellows, is accosting us. And we haven’t even been served yet! He seems to have it out for poor Patrius at once. I can’t imagine why! I suppose my companion’s kind have a real knack for being ‘squirmy’. Patrius seems real intent on bargaining with this grumpy man – seems real intent on convincing the captain that we’re on the same side. The captain has other ideas. He wants to hold us here. Hm, well. Us? No, not ‘us’ – I don’t really think the captain has noticed me yet. Backing away in this case. I’ve no hard feelings for Patrius, but I don’t rightly feel like throwing my life away for a debt of a stranger’s two silver coins – I’ve got a town to save. And I like to think I’m worth more, at that!

The Bluecloaks are quibbling now – the lowerdown from the front of the door protesting the captain’s harsh ruling. Martyn, the captain calls him. Martyn, the Weylic… Valelander sympathiser. After Martyn reminds him that ‘Saeda’ ordered them to remain benevolent with the people of the Vales, Captain Hektor’s ordering the poor guy – the single poor guy who is siding with us – quiet. Just our bloody luck.

I don’t think Patrius understands the seriousness of the situation. I wonder if humans mature later than they appear to. Who knows. Everything about this rangy race is pretty backwards if you ask me. And, ugh! Will you get a load of him. He keeps backtalking! Oh, we’ll be killed, we’ll be killed! Shut up, shut up! Aw, BALLOCKS. That Patrius’s giving me money now – continually drawing attention to my existence. That’s it, he’s done me in! I’m finished. These vicious, war-loving creatures will tear me to shreds because of his insolence – and there goes the neighborhood. My neighborhood. Every neighborhood.

Horrified by all Patrius’ cheek, I find myself speaking up finally to defend Patrius and his horrendous plight. Just the same, the captain shuts me up without much difficulty. I’m not used to this kind of savagery. I bite my tongue. The captain is eager to drill it into Patrius’ thick skill whose got the power here. He threatens that if Patrius attempts to leave, his knees will be broken. Finally, after Patrius tells Captain Hektor that he will inform the king of his unnecessary cruelty, the old brute backs off. Though Patrius still isn’t allowed to leave. But, really? The implied safety here is enough for this hobbit! After the Bluecloaks back off, we’re finally free to get along with our quest to wrangle in a few refreshments. The place is swarming, so we’re lucky to find a few vacant seats at the bar. Ere long, a giant moustache is greeting us. The gnome behind it seems happy enough to see us – which is a welcome enough sight in its own! First jolly person we’ve encountered, this Nobol fellow. I’m beginning to think violence and aggression is a human thing. You don’t often see this in Smallfolk! Using the silver Patrius earlier handed me, I pay for the drinks. Ferling Cream. Now this next-to stranger Patrius is offering to cover my stay at the inn. I’ve a tent and am very comfortable outdoors – this coddling isn’t really necessary. But the gesture’s nice.

So what’s that now? One gold, two silvers, five coppers. Already I am racking up quite the hefty debt! A shame I didn’t think to grab money off my mother before I left home – not that I thought I’d need much, if any.

As we enjoy our drinks, Martyn joins us to apologise for ratting us out. I’m wary, but for the most part, Patrius and I don’t harbor any hard feelings – I think it’s understood here that one has their obligations. The two men talk. I imagine most of this doesn’t really concern Halflings, so I am content to keep my nose exactly where it is and butt out of the conversation. Especially since Martyn explains that at Hilstadt and Hockton both, the Bluecoats delt with the resistance with violence. Hmph. I admit, all this war-talk isn’t a most favorited subject of mine. I’d rather something a bit less bloodshed-oriented, myself. Blood. Terrible stuff. Makes me sick to my stomach.

Abruptly I am startled by Martyn’s mentioning of Seabotl – his mentioning of how the Bluecloaks are headed there, I can’t help but inquire. And what an awful answer! They’re looking to take us over to establish a strong port. They want to conquer us in the name of strategy! I don’t believe that Seabotl is caught in the middle of this. Weylic, the Dorlish, and now these chest-beating Bluecloaks are all heading for my town? Does Fycan know about this? The Weylics and the Dorls, absolutely. They are weeks away at least. But these mercenaries? Five days! Only five days!

The thought does occur to me that Seabotl doesn’t have to be invaded. At the very least, not by these Bluecloaks. If I headed back now, I could reach Seabotl long before these mercenaries do – by several hours at least. With Fycan in the know, he can make preparations for the mercenaries. Surely he wouldn’t be happy about it. But if there’s a way around the fighting, I imagine he’d strive for it. This doesn’t really need to end badly. And I tell Martyn as much. He says the Bluecloaks would eventually turn south, but the reassurance doesn’t occur to me as comforting as I think he meant for it to be.

And now Martyn says that it’s quite possible that the captain might not even send for the king. That ‘The Three Crowns’, whoever they are, are pulling his strings. I don’t know much about these people, but this has a foul smell of corruption about it. On top of that, Patrius has been ordered not to leave because of Captain Hektor’s request that he be proof for the king’s messenger. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. Either way, this wont end very well. Patrius hints that I work as his messenger to the king. But I shoot that down at once. While I owe the guy more than my fair share, I do have my priorities. There’s got to be a different way to get him out of here that doesn’t include a risk – no, a guarantee of instant knee-busting. Martyn, on top of my decline, even says that it’s unlikely I’ll even be allowed to leave anyway. Fantastic! Just fantastic. Martyn seems highly skeptical that, unless we escape this place, the king will hear anything…The Bluecloaks are supposed to already be at Seabotl. We learn that the king is in Hilstadt – though, really, I’ve no desire to encounter the king. It’s Patrius who seems involved. Really, I only wanted to keep my head low until I sniffed out the Sword and Sorcery. Now look where I am. Held captive! I wont stay here for long, regardless of anybody‘s orders. They can smash my knees, my elbows, my whatever. I’ll be hardpressed to do much of anything with no workable joints, but I’ll be damned if I dillydally while the captain thinks up a way to do us in and cover it up. If that – considering the king wont hear of us regardless.

Oh, finally a drop of good news. Martyn’s pretty confidant that – if, hypothetically speaking, we should find something that proves the captain has soured – he and his men would, hypothetically speaking, have our back. While this is good news, the knowledge doesn’t seem immediately useful to us. That is, until Martyn speaks of a man, a Damyn, fella whose been slumming it with Hektor of late. The tender Nobol details the man as foul – both by smell and appearance. Helpful, I think. We know now to look for a putrid, unsightly man at least. And, upon informing Patrius of this Damyn character’s quarters, we finally can get to working on our escape plan! It’s exciting. Mostly of the nerve-racking variety, but exciting nonetheless!

Martyn elects to be the one to speak with Damyn, and so it’s Martyn and I who take it upon ourselves to distract the old grouch holed up in his room. I knock on the door a little gingerly. I’m surprised with how smoothly things go. It’s working like a charm! Though, as expected, Hektor is one spark short of breathing fire, he does let us in! Success! Martyn and I distract him. I can’t be sure what all is being said and done as far as Patrius and Damyn go, though I hope he executes this leg of the plan successfully. He’s talked us into this awful situation. He can talk us out. And, by Leesha, if he does it – I mean, if he actually pulls it… Woah! Oh no. Knocking. Loud, angry knocking. This cannot be good. He didn’t. He didn’t pull it off. Oh, that’s it for us! The jig’s up! They’ll for sure kill us now! I wonder if I can get a prayer in before…

Well, huh! There’s Damyn. Never seen the man before in my life. But I know foul when I see foul. The gnarly he-beast is thundering in, blade drawn, bellowing at Hektor. Who else has he told this? Who else has he told what? Now the captain is calling us traitors. Plotting to kill the king. Whaaaat? We didn’t! He’ll rot his teeth out with all these lies! Oh, we have to now. There doesn’t seem to be another option. If ever we were going to found a revolt before, now it’s clear we’ll have to take a more direct approach. I move in front of Martyn; we’ll need him as a witness.

We’re fighting. Damyn starts hacking at Patrius. Hektor casts a spell on himself. Since Martyn seems safe enough, I go for Hektor now. Before long, Martyn also is assisting us. Hektor casts another spell. Patrius again takes a nasty hit. Tonight is not his night. On the wounded Patrius’ instruction, Martyn calls for help. It’s my turn to cast a spell – save mine is an attempt to heal my incredibly injured companion. A terrible attempt. It barely did a thing. I bet Fycan’d spit in my eye if he saw me now. I’m amazed to see the battered Patrius smash his weapon into Damyn, unseaming the ugly man the very next instant. The sight of guts slapping the floor might have otherwise made me nauseous, though I am far too hyped up on adrenaline to remember how to be squeamish. Nobol will never get that stain out.

Hektor’s the last one left. He’s trying to leave. To run away. Interesting. The captain seems prepared to loose another spell on us. I don’t blame Patrius for stepping behind me. I’m prepared to fight him, but I don’t think it necessary. If the Bluecloak coward wants to flee, I’ve no particular desire to get my weapon dirty. We have our witness. And he’s fetching help. I’m letting Hektor go. Too bad Martyn isn‘t inclined to. The poor captain never sees it coming. Martyn, back, and with company, knocks him out cold with a hilt blow to the head. For the first time since I left Seabotl, I am happy to see all this blue. At least, at first. Even after all this, Martyn still intends to march the Bluecloaks to Seabotl. I want to warn Fycan. I try and reason with Martyn – with Patrius, too, now as he’s siding against me – but when threatened with imprisonment, I don’t say another word. What good would I be doing tied up. After the pair of them discuss their religion, the Bluecloaks leave us. Good riddance. I imagine for a hobbit I am beginning to look like a surly old dwarf. Patrius is trying to what – to talk me down? He does bring up some good points, I suppose.

Nobol’s giant moustache is appearing in the doorway before long – fussing about the mess. Somewhere inside the gnome’s rant, and paying for damages, Patrius and I catch something about the Sword and Sorcery, and our attentions sync up instantly. A man in the taproom spewing noise about Sword and Sorcery? Almost sounds too good to be true! My mood turns upside down in that instant, and at once Patrius and I are making a beeline for the taproom. Soon as we get there, we see him. It’s not real hard to, really. The man is a real nut. Going on about independent men and an Olin Griswald. So much for us keeping a low profile. I don’t imagine this… vendor? even knows what that is. Patrius decides to be the one to break the daft, weirdly clean man’s sale’s pitch – because that’s undoubtedly what this was. A sale’s pitch. I don’t think the people in the inn mind our interrupting the noisy, showy rant for some questioning. One of them just farted. He approves. Nevermind that though; this fella’s it! A mite bonkers. But who are we to complain? He’s with Sword and Sorcery.

Hm. So he’s looking to recruit us. We’re in. Though I’ll only do it temporarily, I imagine. And only if this famed group agrees, at the very least, to see me to the Order and back. The nut speaks of a contract. Marvelous! I’ll get to ask Patrius to read it to me. Though likely not at this second – he looks fit to collapse at the moment. I ask the nut if knows where medical aid can be acquired. And I can almost swear it, the nut is going to kill poor Patrius with all that manhandling as sure as I am standing here on my two feet. He does claim to have a ‘healing draught’ on his horse though. But for all his talk, it sounds like the potion is more likely to kill him. Though Patrius is in no position to be choosy – likely he’d die anyway if left to just sit there and… ooze. Ah, well, he’s survive the administering of the potion – thus far. Suppose the only thing to do now is wait. The bizarre man still hasn’t introduced himself, and he wont. I can’t say it’s doing anything in the way of making him not appear sketchy. Though if this potion ends up working, I suppose we’ll have to invest at least a bit of trust in him. With Patrius drugged up, we’re tucking in for the evening. Better Patrius find a bed to be unconscious on than the middle of the taproom, I wager. I’m a little iffy about leaving him in the captain’s old room with that stranger – helpless as he is, but he seems well off. Enough. I’ll check on him in the morning, just the same. I opt for sleeping in Damyn’s room, though I surely wish I didn’t. It smells horrific. I think I’d be better off sleeping in the stables with Thistle for an extra two silver, rather than the gold it costs to have my nose rotted off in this hole.

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13th Furrow

I just left home a short while ago. I don’t expect to be waiting for good old Fycan Jasperroot for very long. Actually, just as I am reaching Seaworthy Hill’s tunnels, I can already hear his voice! I hope he hasn’t been waiting for me. While I can hear him speaking, obviously, he’s not talking to me. I only just arrived, for one, and two, he’s taking up tones like I’ve heard him do when he’s entertaining a crowd. Now that I’m closer, I can hear that he’s telling a tale about Graywort the Slayer. I remember this one from when I was small…er. Smaller. The head priest doesn’t often make it a point to request an audience of me, so forgoing a fishing trip to the sea today in order to meet with him is the very least I can do. I know my mother understands; he wont have a problem getting at least one of my siblings to pick up my load for the day. She and I both know whatever Fycan has to say must be important.

Reaching the end of the tunnel, I arrive into the sunroom. Fycan’s not too hard to spot, what with his great big red tuft of hair looming over his head like an angry flame – but he seems to be in the middle of it with an audience of little halfling children. Poor Fycan. Being the eldest of nine, and the one skewered with the brunt of the home-oriented responsibilities, I never liked children. They’re almost like leeches. I tolerate them well, obviously. But they do grate at the nerves. For this reason, and for the want of not being rude, I hang back to allow the head priest a few moments to notice me – or at the very least, to finish up with his leeches. Er. Children.

Once his tale seems to meet its end, I wave at Fycan, and kindly maneuver out of the oncoming paths of destruction of the scattering miniature hobbits. Soon as I spot a clear path, I am making my way over to him. He seems extraordinarily relieved to see me – which sure offers my ego a nice fluffing. Though he does seem to be a bit wrought-up. Quickly I find out why!

It’s the Weylic army that has the poor old Fycan on edge. They have crossed Dvergerdale’s borders it seems – sufficient reason for the head priest to be fretting, I should think! Following Fycan’s lead, I do my best to retain my composure so as to not excite the children departing. Fycan explains that – according to rumor – Weylic soldiers are going to invade us. Seabotl. Already they have crossed Dvergerdale. And the Dorlish! The Dorls have have crossed the March River, geared for Seabotl, too, I think. And they crossed a week ago, at that! With these last details, it’s a mite more difficult for me to reign in the shock, but I do handle myself handsomely. Fycan tells me that Rosyna will have us fight, if it comes down to it – though we are ill-equipped. We’ve nothing to protect us. No real defenses. Just when I think this news can’t get any worse, he also informs me that, on top of the oncoming invasion, the kobolds in the mountains have become riled thanks to all this activity. They are being spotted on the farther-off farms.

Though likely I will have simply offered my services, not wanting to be useless in the least, Fycan soon asks me to go and investigate. Though this is all very overwhelming, I agree to it whole-heartedly. He says that the kobolds require the most immediate attention; the nearest of the soldiers are yet a few weeks away at their fastest. Even if they are weeks away, I almost cannot even believe that this is happening. Just as I am wondering if there is a way for us to wiggle out of this, Fycan seems to read my mind. He offers a solution that at once ropes in my rampant thoughts and steers them at a more heartening plan. He says Seabotl needs to seek help from the Order of the Sword Militant.

Before I can even help myself, I am accepting this task as well. I really am in a bit over my head, I think. It doesn’t much help matters that Fycan advises that, should the event occur that the Weylic arrive before I do with help, that I not return until the war is finished. I don’t like to think that this will happen. Though it is frightening that he is even considering this, I interject some lighthearted jest into this conversation to reassure him. With this, he bids me leave, and, after fetching my trusty mule, Thistle, and the supplies I think I’ll need, I do.

As I head out of town, the serious reality of the situation gradually sinks in like I’m a bit of petrified sponge. It sure is hard to imagine that anybody – Weylic, Dorlish, or not – would want to invade us. What have we done? We’re not harming anybody here. The idea in and of itself makes me a bit indignant. But being surly never did anybody any good now did it? Though, when I do take a more practical approach to this, it sure does seem a heavy task for somebody like me. Fycan should have hired someone better equipped for this. I’m just Rowan Brinesworth, a mediocre Roseheart cleric at best. Even if I am a bit of a… what was the word? Kiss ass. But again! A hobbit never got anywhere by taking the I-Can’t route! And a cleric of Leesha Roseheart does have her duties.

Once I am long since clear of the town, towards the fringe of Seabotl, I do witness an odd sight, breaking the monotony of countryside. He is a fellow halfling – and a farmer, too, by the look of him. I am ready to offer him a word of greeting, but I stop short. Something’s not right with him. Unless it is a favorite past time of farmers to slump against stone walls like they are intoxicated. Just the same, it is well of me to make sure he is, in fact, as drunk as he so looks. As soon as I approach, the man face vaults – as many a drunkard does, I’m sure. But then, drunkards don’t mosey around with arrows lodged in their backs for good fun, now do they. I don’t exactly see any danger around, though still I jump off Thistle, and drag the farmer to my sturdy old mule for cover. He’s mumbling something now. It’s hard to make it out, though it sounds an awful lot like ‘letters?’ What does that mean? Perhaps I might have tried to prompt him a bit more – if it weren’t for the disturbance now sounding off in the field. Ah! Kobolds! I think? Just as I am thinking here, an arrow hisses passed me. Not waiting for the next one to find a home on my person – or this stranger’s, I manage to haul the unconscious farmer up onto my mule.

I hear shouting and a loud bang. And then discover a smell like burning flesh. It makes my stomach twist. Really, I’m not too keen on finding the source of this commotion. Hopping back on my mule, I begin to backtrack at once. The moment I do, I am seeing a man – a wizard? – with a staff and a big black beard approaching me. He doesn’t seem like he’s trying to harm me – he even claims as much. Though I am not taking my chances. I procure my sickle. Weapon in hand, I smile at him, though I am suspicious. He quickly relays to me that he has just finished off the last of the kobolds. Ah! So that explains things! His name is Orvius Kavalson, and, upon discovering that I am from Seabotl, Orvius informs me that he’s news for Fycan – urgent, war related news at that. Thoroughly convinced that he’s playing on the right team here, I tuck my sickle away – sure not desiring to put off any friend of Seabotl, for clearly that’s what he is. He seems to have news about the Order, and this adventuring group called Sword and Sorcery. I’ve heard of them. After introducing myself, I begin to lead him back to Seabotl. This back and forward is sure wearisome, but at least this kobold affair is all taken care of. It’s the least I can do to escort Orvius, considering the immense help he is being. And with the kobolds gone, it sure will allow for me to get right to seeking out the Order.

Alas! Seems Orvius has different plans for me yet. He tells me of the grave danger that the Sword and Sorcery adventurers will be in when they emerge from Smalwood, of how the Dorlish already have Redhorne surrounded, and of the siege that the Order will soon be under. I cannot say the last part will make my task any easier, but I didn’t much expect for this to be easy. I tell him I’ll warn the Sword and Sorcery group, since I am now heading for the Order – and Smalwood is on the way anyway. Who knows – perhaps these famed adventurers can help me to the Order safely. Maybe even lend a hand to Seabotl? If they are everything they are made out to be, I’m sure we could use the help. I ask the wizard that he inform Fycan that the kobolds are done and delt with, and that he also take see the farmer I’d picked up to Fycan. I don’t know what can be done for this poor fellow, but it is the least I can do, as a Roseheart Cleric, to try and get him some help. Fycan is his best bet, I think, if he can be helped. We go our separate ways now.

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