Monthly Archives: August 2008

SOW Chapter1: First blood

First blood

The Battle of Brindol!

 

The days leading up to the harvest festival are a busy exciting time in Brindol. The River people show up on their barges filled with wondrous food and wares they have collected from throughout the land to barter with in the market square of Brindol. It is a time when family visits and new friends are met with their stories of the world beyond of the walls of Brindol and indeed beyond even the Elsir Vale!

This too is why Bairdyn Barleycorn has returned to Brindol, just last year he had promised to teach the boy, Jimmy and his Dwarven friend, Bhenedict, how to play Three-Dragon Ante. Jimmy was an Acolyte at the Shine of Bahamut and his friend Bhenedict, a sturdy looking Dwarf, was a chef’s apprentice at the Brindol Gentleman’s Club. Well, this past year they were both going to work hard to collect a hoard of 50 gold platters so they could be taught to play a gambit of true gamesmen rather than a peasant’s game of copper and Brairdyn worked especially hard saving every piece of gold so he would be ready; and he could hardy wait after the fiasco of last year.

 

I: Benedict ‘Rhymer’ Stormcastle

 

Filled with excitement Bairdyn carefully stacked and counted his gold while he waiting for his friends to arrive at the Antler and Thistle. 

“One, two, three,” and then there they were, both wearing fancy scale mail and armed, the Dwarf, Rhymer, with a large, powerful looking hammer and the young acolyte, Jimmy, with a ceremonial halberd he must of borrowed from the shrine.

“Well met, friends, I feared you might have forgotten our plans; it has been a long eventful year and look at you Jimmy, twice as tall as I remember!”

Taking the table nearest to the door Bhenedict shouts, “Penny, hurry your arse lass, you’ve thirsty patrons here; and I’ve a parched throat that only your finest ale can cure.”

“If you kept your trap shut more often Rhymer, it would not be such a problem!”, shouted back, Ol’ Tsago, from behind the bar.

“Well, boys, ante up, let me take a look at your hoards; I can’t wait to get started; those men in the corner there have already tossed a full gambit while I’ve waited.”

In a miserly way, Bhenedict first glancing about in an exaggerated show of caution reaches in his pouch and pulls out a smallish bag carefully emptying its contents on the table, 20 gold platters. Following suit Jimmy reaches in to his pocket and retrieves 4 gold platters.

“What’s this? This cannot be your hoards! Do you not know the first thing about Three-Dragon Ante? We play until the first player loses his hoard … and that means you have to at least start with one.”

“One, I’ve got 20 gold; and feel the weight of it, this is Dwarven gold and easily worth twice as much as any of yours!”

Jimmy speaks up, “It’s been a tough year for us Bairdyn; donations have been few and far between. I am the only one caring for the Shrine of Bahamut, there are no permanent clergy and few offerings. This is all the gold I have gathered through odd jobs and then Benny lost his job.”

“What?”

“It’s true lad, too true. I am near ruined, since a very young age I’ve been apprenticed to the Chef de Cuisine Hollandaise due to my superior sense of taste.  I’d been working my way up through the kitchen, due to talent I was the youngest Commis Chef.  After fours years of work I became sous-chef de cuisine.  As Chef de Cuisine Hollandaise’s direct assistant I enjoyed his trust and his secrets and in the end my greatest joy was also my undoing."

"Between me and you, I found out that the Chef de Cuisine Hollandaise, besides being an excellent chef is a notorious womanizer.  Call it an affair too far, but 6 months past a cuckolded husband claimed that Hollandaise had tried to poison him in an attempt to gain his wife and estate.  This false accusation, coupled with the indisputable evidence of the indiscretion was enough to convict Hollandaise.  The trial was quick and the execution of sentence even quicker. As his direct assistant his dishonor became my dishonor.  Due to his shame, which was now mine, I was forced to leave the kitchen and now my plans are to make penance by finding my glory on the field of battle. I have purchased this scale-mail armor and a good Dwarven hammer to find my fortune as I have been forbidden to cook within these city walls. One way or another I will bring pride to the good name, Stormcastle, and I will find a way to leave my mark upon this world. Until then I will be known as Rhymer to my friends."

"Just like in the kitchen, I believe that we, Jimmy and I can work together to make something that is greater then our sums.”

“Why Rhymer?” asks Bairdyn.

Jimmy answers, “He is always reading and scribbling in a book of poems that he carries.”

 

II: Bar Fight   

 

“It is simple to see that there will be no Three-Dragon Ante at this table, follow me boys and you will see a pro at work; mayhap I can jump in the game with the folks in the corner.”

In their path across the tavern,  two groups of minstrels started throwing down in a challenge match sure to bring down the rafters- the Rogues (a renowned halfling trio) and The Wicked Tinkers, a group of strange looking newcomers, a group made up of a Dwarf, a Halfling, a Half-elf and a Human . The judge of this challenge, a sauced Dwarf named, Tordek, is soon joined by Bhenedict as Bairdyn and Jimmy continue working their way to the corner game even as the Wicked Tinker’s Dwarf pulls out a set of horns looking something like a pregnant bloated spider that squealing as if the beast was hungry.

“Fellas, do you have room for an amateur at your table?”

“You have a bit of a scurrilous nature about you boy, aren’t you that halfling involved with that trouble last year?”

“That’s right, but my granpa always say not to judge a story by the first chapter, and I assure you I was more the victim than villain if the truth be told.”

Jimmy speaks up, “Besides which, I will vouch for him.”

“Well”, says another at the table, “If he is good enough for Jimmy, he is good enough for me, if he has gold let him play, I say.”

As the minstrels play Bairdyn happily joins the game, “Ha, the brass dragon, 2 strength means you pay me 5 gold, unless you want to pass me a stronger good dragon and with the thief I’ve made back my ante plus 2!” The hubbub in the Antler and Thistle drowns in mugs of fine ale when the good cheer is shattered by the crack of the front doors of the tavern flying off their hinges and landing upon the very table where the friends had initially sat, as from the doorway four furious hobgoblins charge into the bar, swords outstretched to skewer whatever in their path, a pair slashing at Bhenedict while the third grabs Penny and the fourth harries the old bartender Tsago.

Harassed by the hobgoblins, Benny swings his mighty hammer narrowing missing while the hobgoblins strike back drawing blood from the brave Dwarf. Quickly Bairdyn collects his gold and move towards the fight while three more hobgoblins and a goblin join the fray at the entrance of the tavern. The goblin quickly eyeing the scene tosses a lit torch in the direction of Tsago and the high-proof spirits in the bottles at the bar. Jimmy raises his halberd high attacking the nearest hobgoblin only to be blocked by the second hobgoblin, but giving the Dwarf an opening to take a second swing in time to drop the two hobgoblins with a single blow as the bar burst into flames sending Old Tsago crawling out to safety.

The battle expands as fresh hobgoblins keep entering the bar. Rhymer frees Penny time and again as the goblinoids seem intent on taking prisoners. Bairdyn working his way under the tables makes his way behind the remaining foes and starts taking out the hobgoblins one-by-one from behind while Jimmy and Rhymer battle from the front even as the Wicked Tinkers play on inspiring the friends heroic efforts to save the patrons of the tavern from the hobgoblin raiders.

The battle is over in seconds that stretched as only they can when lives are on the line but in the end there lay ten dead hobgoblins and a pair of goblins. Penny was safe and only the fire remained to be dealt with. Only one of the patrons had fallen, and he had been brought down by the Halfling ‘Rogues’ as they apparently stole the gold off the corner table in the midst of the confusion! In the end,  a bucket brigade is quickly organized to quell the flames as a clearly wounded city watch patrol arrives quickly making sense of what has happened.

 

III: The Ogre Bombardier

 

As they speak to the guards, shouts of fear and battle ring out a various points throughout the city as smoke rises. But now these shouts are suddenly  a lot closer, and a throng of townsfolk come running around the street from the corner of the Antler and Thistle to the north.

They’re fleeing a curious sight–a full-grown ogre pulling a wagon by a yoke around its waist. The ogre holds a smoldering cask in one meaty fist and a massive club in the other. Riding atop the wagon are two hobgoblins with bows!

Standing 15 feet beyond the entrance of the tavern, Bhenedict, shocked at the spectacle, is frozen in his boots while the nimble Bairdyn grasps a sling bullet and casts at the ogre without a second thought, succeeding only in getting the ogres attention. The ogre turns heaving the cask at the Halfling but Bairdyn smiles realizing that the ogres aim is off until the cask smashes into Benny in an explosion of black smoke and fire! Hearing the commotion Jimmy rushes of the bar only to be targeted and injured by the hobgoblins, while Benny leaping from the fire charges the ogre only to be smashed by the ogre’s massive club. Again the hobgoblins pull their bows and again they find their mark this time hitting Bairdyn as he rails them with sling shots but surely getting the worst end of the bargain; even while fighting the hobgoblins Bairdyn cautiously crosses the road seeking to help his friend Benny while avoiding the ogre’s deadly club. Taking a defensive stance Bhenedict catches his breath cursing the stupidity of his attack while looking for any possible retreat when he feels the sudden healing magic of Jimmy’s prayers come upon him renewing his spirit as he hurls a mighty swing at the ogre scoring a telling blow.

“Aghaa!, I smassh you, crush your BONES dwarf!”, growles the ogre as he lands another thundering blow upon Bhenedict.  

The battle rages Dwarf verses Ogre, priest verses hobgoblins each giving their all even while clearly the Dwarf and priest fighting a losing battle when suddenly Bairdyn slashes the ogre from beneath the wagon. Again and again the bloody halfling strikes, cutting at the ogre’s ankles, “My granpa always says you chop a tree from the ground up.” As the ogre turns to strike at his attacker he is trapped by the yoke which prevents him from spinning but the action trips the hobgoblin as the ogre struggles with the yoke and provides another opening for both Bhenedict and Jimmy. Benny wallops the ogre’s knee while Jimmy fire a brilliant ray of light searing the hobgoblins is a golden radiance leaving a sparking trail of light lingering about their foes encouraging his friend’s attacks. Turning once more upon the dwarf the ogre again exposes his back to the halfling and Bairdyn stabs knowing this may well be his last chance to save his friends, and he strikes true, a gushing font of blood erupts from the fresh wound and the ogre finally falls at the feet of the dwarf. 

After the ogre falls, as one, the friends rise against the hobgoblins who even now keep firing at the scattered city guards dropping two more defender as they themselves fall to the attack of Bairdyn, Bhenedict and Jimmy.

“Success is OURS!”, they scream as they clasp hands atop the wagon. “Hahza!”

“It was never in doubt, my friends!” shouts Benny as a crowd gathers at the fallen ogre. Minutes later the city guard shows and asks the friends for their help defending the bridges at the gates of Dwarf-town but by the time they reach the bridge, Sinruth’s band of hobgoblins has already retreated across the bridges and with the other residents of Brindol, Benny and Bairdyn spend the rest of the night putting out the fires that the goblinoids have set throughout the city while Jimmy tends to the wounded and keeps a nervous watch from the ramparts of the city.

 

IV: The Summons

 

As the morning sun casts its glow upon the western horizon, the friends gather once again at the Antler and Thistle; it is there that the private guards of Councilmember Troyas find them.

“Council Troyas requests the pleasure of your company immediately, do you accept?”

“Bairdyn answers, we have not slept or  more importantly eaten, will there be food at the Councilor’s chambers?”

“Yes, I’m sure that can be arranged but time is of the essence.”

“Then we accept, lead on good man.”

Arriving at the Councilor’s manor house the party is greeted at the door solemnly, by the Councilmember, as he carefully makes eye contact with each of them, Bairdyn, Jimmy and Bhenedict in turn.

Eoffram Troyas“I am Eoffram Troyas, I have heard tale of your heroic exploits this night past and I am considering a daring plan, and I wished to speak to you about it in person – and in private.”

 

As all enter the manor, the Councilmember dismisses his personal guard and continues, “This assault is yet a new outrage, but I must be sure that I am talking to the right men for this endeavor. Courage, fortitude and daring are just the beginnings of what you will need to succeed.”

 

“Do you think maybe you could have the guards fetch us some breakfast, ‘you always think better when you’re not hungry;’ that’s what my Granpa always says.”

Snapping back a sharp glare, “The road is a hungry place friend and I would be certain of your motivations before we go on.”

“Speak clearly, we’ve had a difficult night and clearly we need work!” answers Benedict.

“Well, I don’t doubt your competence if even half I’ve heard is true about your fight with the ogre.”

Bairdyn replies, “Well, I hope it is not our character that is in question for I assure you I have never witnessed greater bravery than that shown by Benny and Jimmy in that battles of last night. And I assure you that both myself and from what I hear, Benny have both previously been falsely accused of wrongdoings. Besides which Jimmy whose character is unquestioned will certainly vouch for both of us, as is his habit.”

“Is this true?”

“It is sir,” says Jimmy.

“Know you all that I lost my family to the attacks of the Red Hand, ten years past and I fear this new group styles themselves after the atrocities of the past.”

“If not us who else are you going to find?” asks Bhenedict sternly. 

“Fear not dwarf, there are others I could find, the Far-striders for one or the Fast-riders for another!”

Jimmy softly answers, “That won’t be necessary sir, we all lost people in that time, some people like me were only children then, I had seen less than six summers and I have only the vaguest memories of those I lost.”

“I am sorry Jimmy, I am sure that is true, you have grown-up a ward to the Temple of Bahamut have you not? I too feel this is right, and that is why I have invited you here. I wish to hire you to track down these villains, to track them to the hole they are hiding in. Their attacks last night were not random. They took prisoners and treasures which must be retrieved and quickly!”

“Is this a paying mission?” asks Bhenedict.

“Of course, I wouldn’t see you risk your lives for nothing, but I will have to speak to the council to determine the amount of any reward. In the meanwhile we did take a prisoner of our own last night, perhaps you would do well to question him.”

 

V: Interrogating Morrik

 

After a quick meal, at the insistence of Bairdyn the guards lead the friends to the city stocks where a lone hobgoblin is shackled. His wounds from last night’s battle have been bandaged, but a number of tomatoes on the ground near him and on the surface of the stocks indicate that his treatment hasn’t been completely kind.

He takes one look at the trio of adventurers and says, “I ain’t saying nothin’ unless you people let me go.”

Bhenedict shouts, “You don’t have to say nothing we can kill you right here and now!” Bring a quick rebuke from the guards – “We need him to be healthy and well treated for the trial”, one says. “And the last thing this town needs in mob violence right now.” The other guard adds, “Goblins are coward at heart, and if you start breaking fingers or whatever, they’ll say anything to make you stop. You’ll just get a bunch of lies”, he says.

Bairdyn speaks to the hobgoblin, “You know we might be able to let you go if you just speak up about what we need to know.”

A guard replies, “He isn’t going anywhere!”

“I am a HOBGOBLIN, and I am not afraid of soft-skinned dogs that smell of ASS and FIRE!”

Jimmy looking over the hobgoblin notices something is wrong, on the Goblin’s tunic is the image of the ‘Red Hand’ only in his case it is spun upside down, "Mister Goblin,  may I get your name at least?”

“Morrik!”

“Morrik, did you know that the symbol on your chest is wrong? … It is upside down, that will not be very pleasing to your gods.”

“Sinruth made the marks, not Morrik.”

“Well maybe Sinruth has made more mistakes. You know we may not be able to free you right away but we can make you more comfortable. Why not tell us something so we can help you.”

“No!”

Bhenedict, back turned on Morrik winks at the guard why still arguing, “You know I can rip the arms off this hobgoblin and shove them up his arse and the priest here can still heal him and I can do it all over again!”

“I won’t say anything, but I can give you a map. I hid it before I was captured.”

True to his work Morrik led the party to a hidden map:

hidden map 

And even better, he tell them that Sinruth, the leader of the Hobgoblins, is staying beneath the ruins of the Castle Rivenroar and that he means to sell the prisoners as bounty to the undead he has found lurking there.

Late that afternoon, they again meet once again with Councilmember Troyas.

“I have met with the council. I have convinced them to offer you 200 gold pieces for the safe return of the prisoners. We have identified seven:

  • Jalissa – an acolyte of Ishtar, she is trained in arcane arts
  • Sertanian – who is the Castellan of the Hall of Great Valor and he was a soldier during the great ‘Red Hand’ invasion
  • Mirtala – who is a cook at the Craven Raven
  • Zerriksa – a Witch who works for Red Magic and Sundries
  • Adronsius – the famed Dwarven Alchemist
  • Kartenix – the Guard’s Captain from the dwaven gate
  • And tragically, Thurann – who is Kartenix’s eight-year old son

Further, we have identified several treasures stolen from the ‘Hall of Great Valor”.

  • An ornate, gilded dragoncrest helm
  • A ceremonial platinum longsword
  • A set of three shields with the Red Hand insignia
  • A set of iron gauntlets with extensive filigree
  • A heraldic battle standard depicting two hands clasped in a handshake

Return these items and they will pay an additional 200 gold pieces.”

“I speak for us all accepting this mission, and I thank you for confidence you are showing in us,” says Bairdyn.

“Those goblins won’t even know what hit them!” throws in Bhenedict.

And under his breath Jimmy adds, “With this much gold I think I know a friend who might join us.”

 

EXPERIENCE:

545 Each for Bairdyn, Bhenedict and Jimmy

 

PLAYERS:  Bairdyn, Bhenedict & Jimmy

 

 

BairdynBhenedict Jimmy

 

 

CAMEO: Councilmember  Eoffram Troyas           Musicians: The Wicked Tinkers

Eoffram Troyas                                           Wicket Tinkers

 


SOW Chapter1: Friends Embark

Friends Embark

Seasons change with the scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry
Won’t you stop and remember me

Friends Embark

"Jeroen Boch?" Sharan called out in something between a shout and a whisper.

The dawn had just broken and the fields were covered in a haze left over from the attack of the night before. We had all been resting comfortably in our beds when the dogs started barking. Within moments the farm was clearly under assault. We could see that there was a small army of goblinoids heading towards Brindol and some of them were intent on burning any farms that seemed to come in their way, ours being one of them. Sharan and Morn quickly headed for the storm cellar where they hoped they would be safe. I went to the barn to lose the animals so that they might escape.

When I descended the steps to the storm cellar Sharan almost jumped out of his skin, "Jeroen, what took you so long? I heard yelling and what sounded like a battle and I thought perhaps you were lost to the goblins."

I stared at him with eyes that were the color of the depths of space. Sharan later described it as if looking into an endless void. With a voice that was not my voice I replied, "No reason to get excited. The greenskins who approached have entered the shadowy realm. This is not our fate."

He replied, "What of the fires, can we put them out?"

"Yes, the farm is burning, but it would not be prudent to attempt to put out the fires at this juncture." That said, I apparently passed out and fell to the floor.

But now we had left the security of the cellar and were surveying the damage that the creatures had caused. The barn was completely destroyed, but there was no sign of any of the animals so apparently I had succeeded in freeing them or else the goblinoids had taken them. In the ashes it appeared that there were the bodies of three of the goblinoids who had apparently gotten got in the fire.

We shifted threw the ashes of the house. It had fared no better, though one of the walls had fallen in and some of our belongings had survived the fire under its protection. Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl. Looking up we saw two riders were approaching. As they got closer the wind began to howl and Bairdyn, one of the two riders who I could now see were Jimmy and Bairdyn, yelled out, "Friends, Jeroen, um, oh yes, Sharan, thank the gods you both appear to be well. The town was attacked. Mirtala was taken. One of the council members has organized a posse to retrieve the townsfolk who were taken last night."

"That is horrible, what can we do to help?"

Jimmy jumped in, "You can join us! We need all the hands we can round up. Well, actually the councilman only wanted people who he felt could make a difference…though I’m not sure exactly…it seemed as if he was looking for some adventurous people who were willing to take risks for the defense of the town. When I heard Mirtala was taken I immedately thought of you."

I looked around at the devestation of the farm, "Minister Jimmy, Friend Bairdyn, I’d like to help you, but Sharan, Morn and I need to try to salvage what we can of the farm."

Bairdyn added, "Well, there is a reward involved so you could probably just buy a new farm if you help."

I was about to again indicate that I wouldn’t be able to help when I heard myself speak in the voice that was not my voice, "Time is a valuable thing. It all comes back to me. We will join your quest."

I turned to Sharan and Morn my voice was returned to me, "I will return as quickly as I can to help with the rebuilding of the farm."

Sharan and Morn looked confused, though perhaps not as confused as I felt having heard myself utter the words I had, they indicated that they would stay to rebuilt what they could find and see if they could fine the livestock.

I swung up into the saddle in front of Bairdyn and we headed off to meet the others. As we rode I felt as if I entered some kind of trance and was jolted out of it when Bairdyn exclaimed, "Shades of my grandfather, now where did you get that from?"

I looked down to see a sword in my hand that was not there moments ago. The fragment of metal that I had carried so long was gone, replaced by this sword. "I know as much as you do friend Bairdyn, I know as much as you…" We continued on in silence until we reached the others.

 

 


SOW Chapter1: First time in Brindol

First time in Brindol

Bairdyn


 


“You’ll see things you’ve never seen…..do things you’ve never done!”


 


Bairdyn Barleycorn loved his grandpa a great deal, as would be natural for any Halfling lad.  However, Bairdyn was particularly blessed in that his grandpa was near to legendary in the Halfling community.  All the other boys and girls seemed to gather around old Basil to hear his stories, and no one knew if even half of them were true.  Still, no one dared say such a thing to the old-timer, for he treated all the Halfling children with kindness, and often kept them occupied when their parents were required to attend to the business of life on the river.  Bairdyn often asked his father, Beaumont, if his grandfather’s stories really were true, but he wasn’t sure if Beaumont’s answers were very much help at all.  “Well, son, for those stories to be true, you grandfather would have to be just about the luckiest hobbit alive!  But when you stop and consider just how wonderful his wife, Belinda, was, and what an amazing son he has in me…..well, he just might be that lucky!  So I reckon most of those stories have at least a few grains of truth in them…. . “


 


The trip to Brindol had been in the works for quite some time now, with crops harvested, and other trade goods gathered, so Bairdyn had been trying to squeeze stories of Brindol out of Grandpa Basil for near to weeks on end.  The thing that Bairdyn liked best about his grandpa’s stories was that people always seemed to get what was coming to them.  It seemed that all the rude and obnoxious sorts usually ended up getting embarrassed or humiliated, and if it took Basil himself doing something sneaky or underhanded to make it happen, then that was all the better.  This is not to say that Basil was by any means a knight in shining armor in the stories……just that he always seemed to make a point of sticking it to people that really seemed to deserve it!  This was just one more reason for Bairdyn to adore his grandfather.


   


“Now, as I was saying, boy…..a town like Brindol is chock FULL of wonders!  Singing, dancing, gambling and DON’T forget the drinking of course….heh heh….when I was your age, I found my way into NO END of trouble.  Of course, I ALWAYS found my way out!  I’ll be expecting to hear just the same sorts of stories from you when you return, Bairdyn.  These old joints may not be quite up to that sort of trip anymore, so you’ll just have to carry on the family tradition.  And be SURE to find yourself a few good games of three-dragon ante.  I’ve taught you everything I can about that game…..the rest you’ll just have learn in some tavern!  Although I swear you’re darn near as good as me now, and much better than I was at your age.  Ah well, no doubt you can come back a rich young man and have all the lasses swooning over you…..heh heh heh….”


     So there was Bairdyn Barleycorn, young Halfling lad on the cusp of adulthood, making his first trip into Brindol.  His father Basil had no end of business to attend to, what with the sale of grain to various bakers and brewers, and the restocking of supplies for continued travel down the river.  Bairdyn would just have to fend for himself, which was of course EXACTLY what he was intending to do.


 


“Ah, Brindol”, Bairdyn thought to himself.  “What a sight to behold!  Who knows what sort of excitement I can stumble my way into?!?!”  No doubt Bairdyn’s thoughts were plastered all over his face, for Bairdyn’s father Beaumont soon spoke up with a word of caution.


    


“Now son, please DON’T try to re-live ALL your grandfather’s stories on your FIRST trip into the city!  I know you’re inspired by all his tales of grand adventure and daring deeds, but I’d like to think that no more than HALF of them are true!  And the other half are probably exaggerated or just slightly mis-remembered anyway!  Have fun out there, and make a few friends, which should be NO trouble at all for a boy as personable as you, but please don’t get into TOO much trouble.  If you need any help, I’ll be working the merchants at the market square, and of course we’ve got a room reserved over at the Owl’s Talon.  And one more thing, take it easy on any strangers you meet if you’re going to be playing cards.  I KNOW how good you are, and taking too much money from human strangers might be more trouble than it’s worth!”


    


Mustering his very best straight-face, Bairdyn replied, “Gosh, dad, I’d be surprised if I even BOTHERED to play any cards.  After all, I can play all the three-dragon ante I like with Grandpa, or our folk while we travel the river.  Besides, even if I did somehow stumble my way into a game and win a few coins, no doubt I could slip out of there between a few of those lumbering buffoons before they even noticed I was gone!!”


 


“Fair enough, son, fair enough.  Well, I’d best get busy, given that I’ve got family and clan to support.  Have a good time, and be sure to come back this evening to tell me what you’ve seen, ok?”


    


“Sure dad, no worries.  Although I suppose if you don’t see me this evening, it just means I’m out having a good time with new friends.  So don’t panic, ok?”


    


“No, I won’t panic……I’ll just worry a little.  And given that there’s virtually no way I’ll be seeing you by the time I call it a night, just be SURE you’re back before morning, or I’ll have every halfling in the clan combing the streets for you!!!”


    


“Yes dad, I PROMISE I’ll be back at a PERFECTLY reasonable hour.  In the meantime, good luck working a few good deals!”


    


With that, Bairdyn set off to see what thrills the town of Brindol had to offer.  It wasn’t more than an hour before Bairdyn found himself embroiled in quite an exciting card game.


    


“It’s like my Grandpa Basil ALWAYS says,” Bairdyn offered as he raked in his latest winnings.  “ALWAYS lead with your strongest card….it makes no sense whatsoever to show weakness!”  Bairdyn was pleased to note that he was getting a few laughs from onlookers as well as cash from his fellow players.  And of course, he was sure to change up his strategy periodically, just to keep the competitors off balance.


    


“Oooh, its bad luck to play that dragon queen, she’s a mean one for certain!”


    


“Hey, it’s just like grandpa Basil says…..sometimes you’ve gotta lead with that low card!”


    


“Ah, the thief……well, you know, it’s OK to play the thief, as long as you’re JUST playing cards….wink wink, nudge nudge….”


 


As the evening rolled on and Bairdyn padded his pockets, he noticed an increase in volume at a neighboring table.  Tempers seemed to be flaring, and Bairdyn just hated the idea of such a fun evening being ruined by unseemly behavior.  As the latest gambit at his table ended, Bairdyn used the timely opportunity to excuse himself, collect his coins, and see just what might be causing such a commotion.  Bairdyn strolled up to the table in question just in time to see a middle-aged man of stout build and ruddy complexion throw his cards down on the table and start shouting in rage at his opponent across the table.  On second thought, perhaps that ruddy complexion was more a result of fury than skin tone, Bairdyn thought to himself.


    


Hoping to calm everyone down and avoid any further trouble, Bairdyn piped up “It’s just like my grandpa always says….there’s no reason to get mad playing three-card ante, it’s just a game, after all!  Besides, that temper REALLY throws you off your game!”


    


“I’ve had enough of this no-good scoundrel, and I’m just about to have enough of YOU,” the angry player yelled as he threw the first punch, unfortunately right at Bairdyn.  Fortunately, Bairdyn was quicker on his feet than just about any halfling around, let alone any human, and so he deftly ducked beneath the blow and proceeded to roll out of harm’s way under the table where the fight seemed to be starting.  Soon enough, friends of both parties entered the fray, and the entire tavern soon joined the fracas.


    


“This is NOT the card game I’m looking for”, thought Bairdyn, as he scuttled quickly between various entangled foes and slipped out into the street.  “I can’t imagine why that fellow was so upset over his card game.  What a bad loser!”  Just then, the young man who had originally aroused the wrath of his ruddy-faced opponent ran out of the inn with 3 compatriots and a wry grin plastered across his face.  Upon spying Bairdyn, he waved to beckon him over as he jogged around a corner.


    


“Nice speech there, stranger!” he offered with a laugh.  “Unfortunately all it earned you was the punch he would have sooner thrown at me!  And I dare say I might not have ducked it, either!  My name’s Andreg, by the way, what’s yours?


    


“Well, I’m Bairdyn, and it’s a pleasure to meet you.  Like my grandpa always says, you never know where you might make a new friend.  I certainly didn’t expect to do so starting a fight!”


    


“No worries, little fellow, no worries.  Trust me on this, you didn’t start that fight.  Old Skortnur was about to blow, whether you arrived or not.  And he sure did ruin what could have been a great night of fun!  I for one was on a winning streak you would not believe!  What say we teach him a lesson and get a little payback?”


    


“Well, what do you have in mind?”, asked Bairdyn.  “I promised my dad I’d stay out of trouble, but I’d say this Skortnur fellow deserves a little!”


    


“Here’s the situation…..I know where he lives, just a mile or two away, and no doubt he’ll be sulking about his bad card playing.  What say we sneak over to his place later this evening, steal a little beer from his cellar, and maybe even leave a little something behind in the beer we don’t take, just to turn his stomach a little sour!”


    


“I’ve gotta be honest…..that sounds like fun!  I’m in!”, Bairdyn replied.


    


A few hours of roaming the streets and carousing brought Bairdyn and his new friends to the home of Skortnur, an hour or two after midnight.  The street seemed deserted, so the 4 of them snuck over to the cellar entrance.


    


“These guys are making a REMARKABLE amount of noise for people who are supposed to be sneaking”, Bairdyn thought to himself.  “I probably ought to teach them a thing or two about moving quietly, but I suppose that would just add to the noise at this point!”  In any case, the four of them soon discovered a reasonably well-secured cellar door which Andreg tried to jimmy open, but the door held fast as Andreg began cursing under his breath in frustration.


    


“Here, let me try”, Bairdyn whispered.  “It’s like my granpa always says….it’s not locked, it’s just stuck.  Doors are meant to open after all, aren’t they?”  Bairdyn smiled as he cleverly slipped his dagger through the crack between the door and wall and slid the lever barring it loose.  “Let’s see what’s inside!”


    


Less than a minute later, Bairdyn and his new compatriots readied themselves to hoist a barrel of beer out of the cellar and make their way down a few side streets before tapping it to celebrate their good fortune. While he had barely been able to suppress his laughter over the sight of one of the young men relieving himself into a jug of liquor they left behind,   Bairdyn also happened to notice Andreg slipping a small packet of powder into another barrel of beer before resealing the tap. Just as Bairdyn was about to ask what sort of trick Andreg might be playing, footsteps could be heard upstairs in the house, and suddenly a female voice spoke out in frustration. 


    


“Argh, it’s those damned rats again!  I’ll beat you to death with the broom this time, instead of just sweeping you up the steps and out into the street!”


    


“Hurry, grab the barrel and tip-toe out, I’ll take care of this!  You guys know where we’ll meet!”, Andreg whispered, and so Bairdyn and the three young men did just that.  Bairdyn of course had no idea where in the city he was headed at this point, but soon enough the four of them came upon a small shack in a particularly dark and dingy part of the city, where three men immediately set out to tap the keg and celebrate.


    


“Shouldn’t we be waiting for Andreg?”, Bairdyn piped up.  “This was all his idea, after all.  He should be in on the fun!” 


    


“Trust me, he’s probably having more fun than we are, right now….”, laughed one of Andreg’s friends.  “Let’s drink our share of the beer and enjoy a little of his too!”  Not one to argue with a chance to enjoy a drink with new friends, Bairdyn soon found himself drinking more beer in one evening than he had in any previous evening in his life thus far.  Andreg did not return for hours, and Bairdyn soon found he had drunk all the beer he could handle, and perhaps a bit more.  That being the case, he apologized for his need to call it a night so early, saying “Look fellas, I promised my dad I’d be back before dawn, so I think I’d better hit the road.  But it was great fun meeting you, let’s do it again sometime!”  The three young men lifted another toast to Bairdyn to send him on his way, at which point Bairdyn somehow managed to remember the name of the inn where he and his father were supposed to be staying, and managed to find his way back and stumble into bed without waking his father up.


    


It was mid-afternoon before Bairdyn awakened, and of course his pounding headache made him wish he hadn’t.  “Wow, what a wild and crazy night!”  Bairdyn thought to himself.  “And think of all that gold I won, too!”  A quick perusal of his money pouch led to a surprising revelation, however.  It seemed that Bairdyn now had less than HALF of the money he had won the night before at three-dragon ante.  “Damn, I must have dropped some coins somewhere, or maybe some of those strangers I asked for directions back here last night extracted a little payment for their help!”, he thought to himself.  “Ah, well, lesson learned……I’ll just have to stay sober the next time I strike it rich!”


    


Bairdyn rolled down to the common room of the Owl’s Talon to enjoy some sort of combination of breakfast and dinner, given the late hour, only to discover that the place was abuzz with conversation.


    


“Did you hear about what happened to Ol’ Skortnur, the retired city-guard, last night?!?!  He was found dead in his own home!”


    


“Yeah, and not only that, but his daughter who first alerted the watch looked beaten and bloodied too!  The way I hear it, she was screaming about her dad trying to defend her, and how he wasn’t fit to fight any longer, after that injury that cost him his job!”


    


“I’ll bet it was that young bastard Andreg, if that’s even his REAL name!  I’ve seen him take Skortnur’s money more than once at the gaming table, and I’d swear he’s a cheat!  The way I hear it, the reason he kept taking Skortnur’s money was because Skortnur’s daughter wouldn’t give him the time of day!” 


    


“Oh no!”, Bairdyn thought to himself.  “These people CANNOT be serious!  How could I be such an IDIOT?!?!?!  I’d bet my remaining gold I now know EXACTLY who lightened my purse too, while I was drinking with them!”  Bairdyn quietly finished his meal and quietly ambled back up to his room.  Upon returning from the market that evening, Beaumont piped up “Why Bairdyn, you must have had quite the night out on the town, given how wiped out you looked this morning.  Care to tell me about your adventures?”


    


“Well, dad, it’s like grandpa always says……some stories just aren’t fit for the telling!”



SOW Chapter1: Awake

Awake

Awake the fields ripe
Memory fragments intrude
My God calls to me

Prolog: Awake

"Jeroen Boch"

I woke with a start and stumbled into the common room, "Yes, Sharan, you called?"

Sharan rubbed the sleep from his eyes, "No, Jeroen, I didn’t call you. You probably just had a dream. Go back to bed, we’ve got a lot of work for the harvest tomorrow."

I nodded and shuffled back to bed sure that I had heard someone call my name.

"Jeroen Boch."

I had just fallen back to sleep when I heard the call again. Going to Sharan I asked, "Sharan, what do you want?"

"Nothing, Jeroen, I just want some sleep, " he paused before continuing, "Perhaps…perhaps you are being visited by the gods. Next time if it calls to you answer it and say, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’"

Again I nodded and plodded back to my cot thinking that it was probably just a dream as Sharan had suggested, but stranger things had happened so I resolved to answer the voice should it call again.

It wasn’t until I had fallen asleep again that it called to me, "Jeroen Boch, awake."

I replied, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

I saw no creature, but the voice continued, "You’re leave is over. You must come home; your place is at the front. Prepare yourself; trouble is coming; you must leave soon. You must regain your strength; remember your purpose."

It said nothing more and I didn’t completely understand it’s message. I understood the words, but the command, while somehow familiar, did not seem to apply to me. The voice had addressed me as if I were a soldier. But I had eschewed any service in the Battle of Brindol nor any other battles that I knew of. However in my dreams, nightmares rather, I was often a soldier in some far off war. Was this just a dream as well? I went back to sleep, sure that this problem would resolve itself somehow and knowing that Sharan would not care if I hadn’t gotten a good night’s sleep, but would expect my assistance in bringing in the harvest regardless.

I woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head. There was a feeling that something had changed, the air had a charge to it that wasn’t normal for this time of year–a freshness as before a spring rain. Beside my bed was the fragment of steel that had lain there for all the years that I had been in Brindol. It was in my pocket when I arrived and seemed more important to me than its appearance would suggest so I had kept it. I picked it up feeling its cool smoothness as I did every morning. It felt familiar today. It feel as if it were a part of me that I was missing.

"Jeroen Boch, are you going to sleep the day away or are you going to earn that bed you sleep in?" called Sharan in a friendly banter. Instead of putting the fragment back on the table I put it into my pocket as I went out to begin the chores; the sun was just starting to peek over the Giantshield Mountains. I looked around, the leaves are brown and the sky is a hazy shade of winter; the grass is high and the fields are ripe. The day was long, back breaking work. I welcomed the hard work but also the end of the day and my chance to head into Brindol to relax at the Antler and Thistle tavern.

As I walked down the alleys I spotted one of the boys who had been part of the group of boys who had teased Walpat. He caught my eye and quickly scurried into the shadows. Entering the tavern I didn’t immediately see any of my friends and so found my way upstairs and had a smoke, somebody spoke and I went into a dream.

 

I had seen Walpat’s father earlier in the day trying to communicate with his son and almost strike him in frustration.Walpat had been trying to ask his father to teach him how to defend himself from the bullies that accosted him when he went into town. Now Walpat was backed into a corner and four boys of his age or slightly older were teasing him for his inability to speak.

"Walpat, Walpat, gonna turn out real fat. What’s that I can’t hear you? Did you say something? Speak up!" The boys began to mimic Walpat’s attempts to form words and then one of them started pushing him and grabbing at his pockets.

"Did your daddy give you some money to buy him some drink with? I think I’ll take that…unless you don’t want me to of course, you only have to say so," he laughed at the joke he thought he had made.

Something in me snapped and I spoke with a voice that wasn’t my voice, "Leave the boy alone!" I reached out my hand and the boy that had been accosting Walpat flew into my grip and then fell at my feet unconscious. The other boys saw what I had done and ran like rats exposed to the light. As soon as it had begun it ended and I found myself myself again. Walpat approached with thanks and trepidation and easily communicated his appreciation for me stepping in to save him. I realized however, that I had only made things worse. Now the boys would want to get revenge on Walpat as he had been the cause of them suffering embarassment. I told Walpat to meet me after his chores and the end of the next few days and I would teach him the basics of self defense.

As he scurried off, I nearly jumped out of my skin as a small voice spoke up behind me, "That was mighty impressive! I was about to lend my hand to this young boy’s assistance when I heard your thundering voice call out."

I turned to see a young Halfling, one of the river folk, holding out his hand in greeting. I shook it and replied, "I’m not entirely sure what just happened there. I am a simple farmer."

"As my Grandpa alway says, ‘Sometimes the simple things are simple and sometimes they are not’ and I think you my friend must be ‘not’. I’m Bairdyn and I think that this boy in particular, " he gestured to the one still unconcious at our feet, "got what was coming to him. What’s your name friend?"

"Boch, Jeroen Boch," I replied.

"Well, Heroen, you being a farmer, albiet perhaps not so simple, might be interested in meeting my father, Beaumont Barleycorn, and I’d be happy to introduce you to him. He’s currently making deals in the market square which is where I was heading if you’d care to come along."

I considered, "I was on my way back to the farm, but mayhap I’d relish a chance to do something to get my mind off of this strange circumstance. Lead on friend Bairdyn."

As we walked I mused on this new revelation that I had some combat training after all. I had thought myself not trained in the arts of war. During the Battle of Brindol I had been asked to assist with the militia defense, but every time a weapon was placed in my hands I began to shake so badly that I could not effectively wield a weapon and seemed more likely to injure myself. I had assisted with some of the relief efforts and helpe with the rebuilding by had largely avoided the battle and anything resembling combat since I had arrived in Brindol 30 years ago. I didn’t have much time to muse on this new information between listening to Bairdyn talk about his Grandpa and the adventures that he had had. The meeting with Beaumont turned out to be profitable for both of us and most of the incident had faded from my mind.

However, the last year had shown me that I did have some basic training and the next time the bullies had accosted Walpat he landed a solid blow on the one that came for him first and they left off for easier pickings.

 

I roused from my reverie when someone next to me mumbled, "…somewhere I should be, long time…" and I slipped into another memory.

 

I awoke with a start, the dream had been so vivid. A battle, a war. Fighting faceless, formless things. Surrounded by huge men, giants incased in armor with weapons of flame and steel. Worms eating at my mind. Falling from the sky. A golden coin that reflects the sun. A lonely place; a place in the stars. The world was set on fire and everywhere I ran there wasn’t any water. The tides of madness swell. Chaos.

The images quickly faded as dreams often do, but the feeling I had when I awoke was strong and would not leave me and the only way I could purge it was to write it in posey:

Just stuck, hollow and alone, and the fault is my own.
what it meant to me

will eventually be

a memory

I want to heal

I want to feel

what I thought was never real

like I’m close to something real

somewhere I belong

I was confused and let it all out

to find that I’m not the only person with these things in mind

inside of me

people cling to light

I do not trust my ears,
I don’t believe my eyes,

things aren’t the way they were before

Nothing to lose, nothing to gain
Erase all the things that are gone
I tried so hard and got so far,

but in the end it doesn’t even matter;

the jungle is alive

I will never know my self until I do this on my own
I designed this rime to remind myself how I tried so hard

time is a valuable thing

I had to fall to loose it all
I will never be anything until I break away from me

you wouldn’t even recognize me any more;

not that you knew me back then

I put my trust in you

I want to find something

I’ve wanted all along,
to find somewhere

I belong

 

I shook my head to clear it from the fog of the smoke and saw Mirtala bringing someone a full pipe. Through the haze of the smoke she almost looked like she had when I had first met her.

 

"Herr Boch, I understand that you are residing with Herr Sharan and Frau Lyna."

She was not plain, but other girls were more attractive. She was nearly 30, childless and recently widowed, her husband had apparently died in a fishing accident. She wore a simple dress and had wrapped a shawl around her to keep off the morning chill. She still had the paleness of youth in her skin as yet only slightly blemished by the rigors of sun and season. Her long black hair stirred gently in the slight breeze. Her eyes were a steel-blue that mirrored my own, though her’s still had life whereas mine were empty orbs.

When this began, I had nothing to say and I’d get lost in the nothingness inside of me. I had only recently come to Brindol and was staying with a young freeman farmer and his new bride who had an extra room and needed an extra hand with the farm work.

"Yes, that is correct." I was on my way to help Uran, a cottar, Lyna’s cousin, repair his fence which had fallen the night before during the thunderstorm, but paused to reply.

"The storm last night was very loud and awoke me."

I nodded, not sure where the girl was going with her words, "Yes, yes, it was; as loud as a pack of injured Barlgura or the aharmonious shieks of a pair of Banshee if I’m not mistaken. I don’t believe that I woke to it."

"What a strange way to say it," She paused and I thought that perhaps she was finished talking, but then she continued, "I noticed that you did not stay for the dance after the barn raising."

"No, I appreciate the generocity of Sharan and Lyna, but I would not impose on them on that evening and so took myself to sleep under the stars that evening. I left early to make my camp such as it was. Were you there?"

She dipped her head and nodded. Again there was a brief silence when suddenly Kadane of Savane, a chandler from Brindol, called out, "Mirtala! Come here; we must return home."

She curtsied and scurried off.

We talked many times after that and soon began courting. We would have married.

 

"Herr Boch? Your friends are here downstairs," Mirtala, the years had not been kind to her, returned to another customer and I found my way downstairs and drank a cup of java to clear the fog from my head.

Jimmy, Bhenedict and I had a few drinks and played some darts before I had to leave to get some rest for the continuing harvest tomorrow. Tomorrow would be more exciting as they planned to meet with Bairdyn who was finally coming back to town.