It was the next day after the attack on Merdna by the forces of Blackbrow. The Civil Authority had decided to prepare for a siege demanding a written inventory to be submitted by all shops and guild-houses. The North and South gates had also seen battle but sporadically and with small forces using hit & run tactics probably as a diversion pinning down the defenders so they couldn’t redistribute to where they were needed. Runners had been sent out to all nearby settlements as soon as possible after the attack and had since returned. The news they had brought back was burning through the city igniting rumors and melting the general anxiety of the shaken populous into black fear. Lord Vorahd and his warriors were determined to stay in the Fertum where they believed they would have strategic advantage so they could not be counted on to help defend the city. Asternor to the south was still cut off by a siege conducted by the greater forces of Blackbrow. Those forces were in much greater number than those of the force that had assaulted Merdna. Sirti to the West had taken occasional raids and so refused to help in favor of their preparations against what they perceived as an imminent oncoming siege. There had been no word from any of the towns along the western half of the Nirix River. Runners sent in that direction had returned with the information that the roads are being patrolled and guarded by the Black Soldiery of Blackbrow (see Dragonslayers II Pt.6: Raven’s Eyrie).
Our heroes, the Blackwings, the slayers, were nearly fully recovered by the time they had risen at dawn with the pale winter sun. The inventory that they had just finished was more than a little pathetic, it was blank. The cupboards and store of the Hopping Rat Tavern were bare and all of the barrels empty. Vorwulf ordered the guild apprentices (consisting of his and Grom’s protégés; Zrasknor and Og respectively) to use his Bottle of Endless water to fill an empty hogshead, two barrels and a cask with water and store them in the rear storeroom of the Rat later putting the hogshead on top of the trapdoor that lead to the cellar “for security reasons”. Vor still wasn’t sure how the thieves that stole the money from the chests had gotten in. Grom was inspecting the chests in the “secret vault” in the cellar and cast Clairvoyance to try to get a better handle the identity of the thieves. He discerned it was indeed the ratlings, the Tat-Eyes, Merdna’s newest and currently dominant criminal gang. Vorwulf also checked around the cellar but was unable to find out how they got in and presumably out without anyone noticing. After spending about an hour of doing that Vorwulf gave up and went outside to retrieve his master’s bones and Bers’ corpse. Just after high noon they had a simple funeral and burned the remains of the pair in the courtyard of the Rat depositing the ashes in a couple of empty wine bottles and setting them on the shelf behind the bar. Magiia spent that time admiring her new armor. She was impatient for some “real” dragon-slaying to happen.
Jenn: “I dunno who those two people were.”
At the conclusion of the cremation ceremony Vorwulf went back to the gate to make sure everything was in order. After that he needed to find the armorer as his armor was torn to shreds (at about half its hit point total). The shaman left to see the apothecary. After they left Magiia decided to go to the Artist/Herald to order a portrait of herself that she could hang in the tavern/guild-house. She was sent by the Blackwings in Chago as a Guild Seeker, an officer meant to ensure service/product quality of guild members, but found herself hired on as a Clerk for the Merdna house. She was halfway there when she realized she had no money and thus caught up to the shaman, they were both heading the same general direction anyway, bluffing him out of 50 platinum pieces. She told him she had found “a guy selling alchemist’s fires”. With that she ran off putting in the order and having the artist do some very good sketches which painted her unfortunate visage in a favorable and somewhat unrealistic light. Grom walked into the apothecary shop and wound up with a crate of herbs that he needed to produce 30 doses of healing salve after slamming down a silver talon on the counter. He returned to the tavern first and began to grind and boil down the herbs processing them into healing salve.
Vorwulf had walked into a commotion at the gates, the guards were hallooing and very, very tense at a group that come along the Sirti Road to the West Gate. The ranger/dragon-slayer peeked through a fist-hole in the gate. He recognized the leader of the group as the druid from Fertum Vorahd that Grom had worked with for the plague cure (see The Dragonslayers II Pt.9: Rock Puncher). Vorwulf got up onto the battlements and shouted down the rowdy men seizing command he ordered them to open the gates. Once inside the druid leader introduced himself as Haldred Vezik. Vezik was Lord Vorahd’s Haldred with whom Grom had worked with to produce the plague cure (see Dragonslayers II Pt.9: Rock Puncher) for the Fertum, unfortunately the shaman never bothered to get his name. Vezik was currently acting as an agent of the Druidic Council as they were having a crisis in personnel since Siamnecca’s rebellion in the west against Chago had lured too many of their number away to the coast. With him also wrapped in green cloaks were 3 rangers acting as Druidic Marshals, an Arborean Healer named Olf (see The Dragonslayers I Pt.14: Winter at Veringer’s Field) and a familiar face Canohk the faunic Hill-Lander bard. The news that they brought was not particularly encouraging.
The undead have conquered Fort Ebernel in the Falmark but not the Fertum there and the town of Falton has strangely been spared the plague that has preceded the invasions of Blackbrow everywhere else.
Cris (Vorwulf’s player): “Oh yeah, it’s that witch there. The haunter of the swamp or something like that.” (See The Dragonslayers I Pt. 22: Into the Great Wide Open; the witch’s moniker is actually the Haunter of Witch’s Wood but it didn’t come up in game)
Jenn (Magiia’s player): “She wanted to kill everybody right?”
Gil (Grom’s player): “Yeah, why would she save everybody?”
Cris: “Her territory, they’re her people to kill.”
In the Cleft-Rills region to the far east, Vorwulf’s homeland, Caer Dreyhawk has fallen and Lord Dreyhawk is feared dead meanwhile the ruins of Blackbrow were “inactive” at last word but those who have since been sent to scout it have not returned. There is a Draco-Lich dominating the crown of the hill above the Caer (a small Motte & Bailey). There was hope there still however, as there was a small resistance being led by one known only as “The Blue Hand” (see The Dragonslayers I Pt.7: Part the Seventh & Pt. 19: Black Wings). “The Black Moon is key to the undead Lord’s strategy” said Vezik. He told Vorwulf that the Druidic Council of Hirok-Nor believes that the black moon which follows the winter sun will cause an eclipse in a fortnight (2-weeks) and which will last around just under a fortnight. The black moon empowers the forces of darkness and death by its mere presence but during an eclipse they will be doubly powerful and may be reinforced by freshly “born” undead animated by the hateful powers of the Black Moon!
To Be Continued…