The slayers were up at dawn with the idea in their heads that the wizard must have had a secret way to get into the nearby dragon’s lair from the tower. After breakfast they found themselves in the storeroom and began their search. They found the front door completely destroyed and so irreparable. The wellhead then caught their attentions for some reason and Vorwulf and Kyr took turns inspecting it being lowered in and pulled up via Vor’s rope. Vorwulf got dowsed when he kicked at some loose stones in the oozing well-wall through the gaps of which foul waters were seeping. The wall had burst and a gush of dragon-tainted waters had inundated him.
Vorwulf (covered in slime and stinking of dragon): “Well, the waters are definitely flowing from Sawback’s lair.”
He could see no way from the well into the lair and so after a few hours they gave that idea up and lounged around the rest of the day determined to leave for the city of Merdna at sunrise.
During the night on second watch Bers had caught sight of the flames of battle in a clearing south of the tower. She saw Hill-Lander mercenaries retreating to the west and lots of large bodies and many more smaller troops moving slow and weird among them. Later on third watch Vorwulf was determined to keep an eye on the field from which now they could see no active fires as before. He took out his spyglass and scoped over the clearing. He saw several undead stumbling about and a decidedly human mage dressed in crimson with a red-hood over his face occasionally stopping and stooping over the bodies that lay in the field. While he was sweeping over the field Vorwulf met eyes with a fighter lich which was floating lazily and aimlessly about. He recognized it as the same fighter-lich that they had bested at the mouth of Sawback’s lair and which now haunted their dreams. If it had had lips he could’ve sworn it was smiling at him. The mage and lich were busy animating the war-dead. Just before dawn the battle field lay empty.
They packed their gear that morning after breakfast. The shaman commanded the chests to walk down from the top floor but found that they were too slow to take on the road with him and so decided to command them into the oubliette into which they obediently thudded. After exiting the tower they predictably found that their mounts which they had left tied at the bottom of the steps several days ago were missing. So they continued on foot.
Grom the shaman: “Crap! I just realized I don’t know how I’m gonna get those chests back out of there!”
They walked at a speedy pace headed directly east running into a farm immediately after breaking the tree-line of Nor-forest. They approached a farmer, who emerged from the farm compound to meet them armed with a round-shield and axe. He told them troops had moved west towards Ekit’s Watch last evening but there was no other news besides that. The girls whom the slayers had rescued ran into the farm compound and the farmer that the group was speaking to seemed to recognize them as they swept past him. He turned towards the slayers with a hardened expression and eyes filled with suspicion so they moved on.
They quickly made the road and a couple of hours later they ran into a large group of refugees fleeing the fertum. They were all in various stages of the fever which Grom had cured in Merdna (see the Dragonslayers II: Part 3 – The Hopping Rat). The adventurers also noted with some melancholy that they had no children with them. When questioned, the refugees told them that most of the warriors and the lord of the fertum, Lord Vorahd, were still alive but sick. The druidic marshal of Hirok-Nor, named Bullom the Rock-Puncher (he was introduced the first time the slayers were in Merdna in the game but as they never interacted with him then, I left him out of the blog which would have been in the Dragonslayers: Part 28 – The Blackened Cathedral), was there as well and so far as they knew the only person not touched by the plague. They were fleeing the fertum where they had been trapped for some time due to a sudden siege by the forces of Trollguard. The siege was lifted as quickly and mysteriously as it had begun just last night. Grom took mercy on three dying women among the sick curing them and as soon as he did the rest began to surround him desperately pleading for his services. In a panic for he had no more of the cure left on him, he tossed up a couple of handfuls of his herbs shouting, “Eat these” and as the crowd grappled for them the slayers ran away. By early evening they arrived at the fertum.
The banners with the white ram hung in shreds on both sides of the battered gate. They announced themselves upon approach but were concerned as the place appeared to be deserted. The gate creaked open slowly and they could see a half-giant with a wild mane of hair pulling it open. He was rippling with muscle and was at least 7 feet in height wearing nothing more than a tattered jerkin, a thick leather belt and a loincloth. His heavy, solid iron ale-mug was hanging from a thong off his belt. Vor and Bers recognized him as the druidic marshal Bullon Rock-Puncher.
Rock-Puncher: “Ha-ha! YOU [pointing at the shaman] yes you! You’re the shaman we’ve heard about from Merdna. Right!?”
Grom acknowledged this and after a brief conversation agreed to be taken to Lord Vorahd and to begin working to cure the fertum of the plague. He was led by the marshal to a high room in the manor house on the grounds. He was guided to the chamber whereat Lord Vorahd sat in a heavy wooden chair. The man was old with a woolly grey beard streaked with black that reached to the center of his wide chest. His long peppered hair was draped over his shoulders which were high and powerful, the results of a lifetime of wielding the weight of a bearded ax. His deep green eyes were set deep within his face and focused with the hardened air of Westlander nobility. He was gathered into a blanket which he held tightly to himself. When he spoke it was haltingly and with great effort. Grom found that the seasoned lord had been badly wounded in a night battle when they had first tried to break the siege lines but was able after a few hours to bring him back from the brink of death and close the large wound on his side.
The slayers decided to stay in the fertum as it would take until the morning after the next for Grom to brew enough of the cure for all 76 of the troops within even with the help of the Haldred (advisor office held by druids or mages that have little or nothing to do with the Orthodox Druidic Church of the Westlands). In the meantime Bers, Vor and Kyr occupied themselves dousing the piles of rotting, diseased corpses crowding the main street with lamp oil and setting them ablaze with their torches. They were the only ones left in the place able to do so.
After two days the sick were cured and the place was up and running. The Haldred passed along a writ of hospitality to the shaman which would allow him access to most noble houses to be treated with royal hospitality as if he were a housecarl/knight. The Haldred was determined to make his rounds around Hirok-Nor providing the cure using Grom’s formula and was leaving that morning by himself. On the same note Lord Vorahd was determined to rally his troops and lead an army against the trolls clearing them from the land once and for all.
Cris (Vorwulf’s Player): “Yeah, he has to do that. Guess we’ll join him?”
The rest of the players agreed and so their characters volunteered to join Vorahd’s army. He accepted and assigned them as the forward scout unit. They left around noon with the army which numbered 38 (the fertum warriors and their jarl) in addition to the marshal. The army was marching to Merdna where they would recruit more troops. By nightfall they were within the city palisades. The slayers retreated directly to their tavern the Hopping Rat.
They were heading to the back room in order to split up the loot they had snagged from Ekit’s Watch when Stranez the Beautiful, the bard’s multi-racial nomad wife, stepped into their path. Without ceremony Kyr told her that the bard was dead (see the Dragonslayers II: Part 4 – The Day the Music Died) and she, more angry and annoyed than upset, demanded that they pay her the insurance for his life as he was hired under the guild.
Stranez: “He can no longer earn for his family! What am I to do now! You owe me!”
Vor tossed her 2 gold talons and 3 high quality garnets which she happily accepted.
A few minutes later as they divvied up the loot the shaman found out that Bers, Vor and Kyr had lost the totems he had made for and given them way back in Chago and was mildly offended. Just as they finished splitting up the booty they could hear a commotion break out in the tap-room. When they emerged from the backroom they saw a group of armed men waiting for them.
All of the intruders were wearing quilted gambesons, three of them with a crimson escutcheon with a needle threaded with white thread on their chests and crimson cloaks. The crests on the other three were dark green squares with a crossed axe and log as the central charge and dark green cloaks. Four of the men were armed with two-handed wooden mauls. An unarmed pair each with in one of the two aforementioned costumes approached the adventurers introducing themselves as the spokesmen of the clothworkers’ and the woodcutters’ guilds respectively. The adventurers would need to file some paperwork to be officially recognized by the other guilds, by the clothworkers and woodcutters in particular, and be allowed to operate in the city of Merdna and the territory of Hirok-Nor. They would also have to pledge to the defense of the town either through warriors pledged by their guild or by helping to fund it. Vorwulf began negotiating ultimately signing a document along with Bers making them the top representatives of the Black Wings Dragon-Slayers’ Guild of Hirok-Nor. They would decide the structure of the organization later as they would have to ship out in the morning with Lord Vorahd’s army. As negotiations ended and the guildsmen and the slayers were about to lift some ale the Coiled Serpent berserkers burst in lead by Gafar (see the Dragonslayers II: Part 3 – The Hopping Rat) in his full Holy Berserk regalia his tattooed chest heaving.
The glistening snake-mask on his face shone with scales painted with crushed emeralds as he roared from underneath it; the enamel-red mouth was open wide baring two-long mother of pearl fangs.
“I am the Holy Berserk presiding over all of Hirok-Nor! There has been an injustice among the warriors of this city which must be drowned in BLOOD!”
Andracor, the young berserk whom Kyr had beaten in a barehanded alley brawl (see the Dragonslayers II: Part 3), stepped from behind him his eyes locked on the Ferenoi. The Holy Berserk pointed at Kyrahma.
Gafar (the holy berserk): “There has been a complaint of dishonorable combat amongst you! Kyrahma of the Black Wings has been accused of an unfair duel by Andracor of the Coiled Serpents! My judgment is …
To Be Continued…