Heroes of Khemer
After several relatively peaceful hours of rest, where the only worry is of Azgar threatening to throw Ian into the river for ‘takin’ more than ‘is bloody share!”, we move back to the dwarven ruins above us. The travel is long and arduous, as we are all battle weary, laden with the dragon’s glittering horde and more than a little anxious to get out of the depths of this damnable mountain. Several trips, it takes, to haul our gains to the level above and we are exhausted by the end. We take a respite in the library, much to the elation of Hedrid, who seemingly looses his nearing collapsed composure to pass on much needed rest to continue the perusal of the tomes within.
Once better refreshed we move back the way we entered, taking care to avoid many of the pitfalls and other natural dangers of the caverns we discovered, to eventual l return to the yawning cavern, Durgeddin‘s people called the Glitterhame. While breathtaking yet, we are unable to take in the splendor as several of us hear sounds of movement from the northern caves. We proceed with caution only to discover that we have been followed by several of the dwarves who are in force to reclaim their fallen fortress. Ti’s good to see them so inspired, and they are more gracious in their thanks for clearing the way. With them having secured most of the fortress, we move with ease to the entrance and put the Khundrukar quickly behind us as we move to Edward’s encampment. Once there, he is with Geradil and Courana, and a few dwarven guards who stayed to offer protection until our return. It seems that while their intent was noble, it was also unnecessary, as they state that Edward had felled several orcs as they passed through the area, fleeing from us, no less. I am proud to see the once meek boy show great fortitude and apply his training so quickly to overcome adversity.
We quickly make for Blasingdell, and see a town much different than the one we left less nearly a tenday ago. There is hope, and it clearly shows on the people and in the town itself. Our return is celebrated and we are lauded like heroes in the eyes of the people. We quickly find ourselves meeting with the young Lord Baron Rhys Althon, the liege of the land, and Harsk, the grandson of Shooma and ancestor of Dugeddin, and rightful lord of the Khundrukar, who has a feast in hour honor. In such time, he inquires if we are planning on attending the tournament, and is surprised when none of us know to what he speaks of. Their is a large tournament featuring many games and challenges celebrating the upcoming marriage of Lord Callen Blackwell and Dutchess Esabelle Mullen in two weeks time in Brindinford, and he request we attend it under his banner. This would be an ideal opportunity for us to show our merit, and revel in friendly competition, so we agree. Lord Baron Althon bestows upon us more gifts, those of fine steeds, and Harsk, makes Azgar a lord of the Glitterhame, who’s name will be respected for all he has done for the Clan. Lord Baron Althon asks for my allegiance, but respects my humbled decline, as I am pledged to Tyr and not of yet, know my cause.
Having been impressed with the works of the dwarves, I beseech Harsk to forge me a cuirass. It seems fitting, and he ups the offer by stating he can craft the breast plate out of Mithril, a highly sought-after metal, renown for it’s light weight and high durability. This item would be a great boon to me and he offers me a great deal, but it exceeds my heavy coin purse, even after the dragon’s horde, so I feel I have no choice but to decline. However, my allies quickly come to my aid, and offer to pay the difference. Again, I am humbled, and offer thanks for such good comrades. He puts his men to work on it immediately, and claimed it will be completed before we leave for the tourney. Later that evening, Geradil approaches me and asks to my travel plans, and offered to assist as an aide, as his role as a merchant seems dried up, and his skills could be put to use to manage many of the responsibilities of my status. His idea holds merit, and I need not want to embarrass my name or that of the Kindred with my ignorance, so I agree to keep him and Corouna in my employ.
Once the cuirass is complete, we make leave to Brindinford. Along the way, I am reminded of why I stand against those who prey on others. A band of travelers, has been brutally waylaid along the road, from the standard, it appears to be another knight traveling to the tourney. Mithon picks up a trail, and we part with Lord Baron Althon and his retinue to pursue the ambushers. While I do not wish to miss the tourney, I will not let the fiends who did this, fall upon another soul. We follow the road, until Mithon and Ian, who were scouting ahead, run into trouble. We quickly enter the fray, and set upon a band of gnolls, who quickly pay for their transgression against man. Upon the body of one, a bloodied letter is found, implying that they were hired to ensure the upcoming wedding did not go through. We are concerned that, while these dogs will not cause anyone harm, who ever wants the wedding stopped could have more pieces on the table, and the wedding could still be in danger. We make haste to Brindinford.
The arrival there is stunning – There are hundreds of tents erected around the city, all knights or others to participate and or witness the wedlock, but we, instead make to the city proper. Once there, I head to the temple to speak with Bishop Octagnius. I tell him of our accomplishments and that my pilgrimage has been completed. He looks at me and tells me that he can see this and welcomes me to the fold. I tell him of the note we found on the gnolls and my concern of sinister works still at play. He agrees, but warns me of letting too many people know of this, as that could make the conspirators aware of our knowledge. Perhaps we could integrate ourselves within the tourney and see if we can uncover anything without making our enemies aware. His logic is sound, and I explain this to my allies, who agree. Each of us can enroll in different contests, allowing us the opportunity to watch for danger Strangely, Mithon seems reluctant to want to enter the tournaments, but agrees to do so. There is something troubling him, something that I’d like to understand, but that is for another time. In the mean time, I set Geradil to prepare for my jousting, something I have not engaged in since my time training with Sir Tren.
After meeting with Guy Enteran, the Duke’s steward and entering ourselves into the tournament, he tells us of the day-to-day itinerary of tourneys and events. We have all signed up for different tournaments – myself with the joust, Azgar with one of the melee battles, Ian with the knife and axe throwing and Mithon with the archery. Today is the shield presentation and tonight is the welcome banquet. All knights and nobles are expected to attend, and any participants are welcome. This should provide good opportunity for us to see who is in attendance. I have no speaker for my shield presentation, and my closest comrades shift uncomfortably and seem reluctant to meet my eyes, when I ask if one of them would do so. Strange that these same men will step in front of a thrust spear for each other, but cannot face a crowd. Thankfully, Geradil offers to present me. As expected, the crowd cheers strongly for the local and famous knights, and seem indifferent to the rest, myself included. I try to spot Lady Esabelle in the stands, but I an unable to do so.
A few hours later, we are all dressed in our finery and arrive at the feast. It is arranged according to position, so I am with the knights and nobility with Azgar while Mithon and Ian are seated much farther back. Upon our arrival, Mithon pointed out one of the Elves as the head of House Erranon. The slain emissary we found who had tried to reach an agreement with Ulfe was from that house. With the note found with the gnolls only days ago speaking on stopping this wedding, we wonder if this can simply be a coincidence. With a purposeful stride, Azgar takes the seat next to the elf, much to the dismay of the noble who appeared to be planning to sit there himself. I apologetically offer him the seat near me, and the young man accepts. Conversation is polite but not much forthcoming from those near me – Bishop Octagnous, Sir Merik Althon and the dwarven-displaced son of Duke Blackwell do manage to point out several notable people who I did not know. I glance to Azgar, who is animatedly engaging conversation with the elf, who is doing all in his power to try to ignore him – not something easy to do. The atmosphere suddenly turns tragic when, a man seated next to Lady Esabelle begins violently choking. I rush up to help, but by the time I make it through the throng of onlookers, he is no more. He appears to have choked on a mushroom, given to him by his cousin, Lady Esabelle, who has been pulled away by her retinue. I move to relay this information to Guy Entrean, who appears to be attempting to regain some control of this place, only to be brushed aside by Bishop Octagnius, who relays the unfortunate news to the steward himself.
With our knowledge of a potential conspiracy at place, we wonder if there was foul play, and ask around. It appears that the mushrooms were ordered by Lady Eabelle, as a gift to her favorite cousin, the departed Count Ethan Hogue, as this is one of his preferred delicacies. The mushrooms were prepared by one of the many cooks, with a spice that in a certain volume can be toxic, but the order was delivered to the kitchen by an known lady at the banquet. Troubled, we head back to the pavilion, except Mithon who volunteers to stake out House Erranon’s tent. Several hours later he returns stating that the lord met with two people, one man and woman, but he could not hear what was spoke. He described the lady and identified the standard of the lord at the pavilion. Asking around, it sounded like Lady Lysa Vreen and Sir Richard Flanders, both of this realm. Talk late into the night offered many possibilities, including suggestions that perhaps it was Lady Esabelle herself who ordered them to poison her very cousin to somehow get out of her arranged marriage. With no more answers forthcoming, we agree to continue to investigate this tomorrow.
At the tournament, the next day, Ian preformed admirably in the knife throwing competition, but I suspect he did not take his competition seriously, as I warned him to. He neared victory, but was bested by another in the finals, much to his dismay. Azgar easily bested his foe, in what was likely an embarrassing moment for the young lord who’s boisterous comments only moments ago to his peers, were quickly quieted as they had to drag him off the field.
Once the joust began, my card was matched against none other than Sir Marcus Nazgul, an almost legendary knight from Seaside. A most worthy foe, and one who I have followed the exploits of. My image of him changed as he belittled me as an unworthy opponent. It appears I am less than worthy to Sir Marcus in his eyes. Perhaps it was that inspiration that calmed my shaking nerves and bolstered my desire to win. A most worthy opponent he was to me, as we passed each other twice, both striking true, but unable to gain advantage on each other. In the final pass, he again, struck true, but a subtle shift in his posture gave me the edge, and with much surprise it was to see him fall from the saddle. All cheering stopped as the crowd looked upon us astonished, as did Sir Marcus himself. His look to me was different than that at the beginning. I suspect mine was as well. I held up my broken lance and nodded to him – a sign I hope he understood as respect, not arrogance. With a smirk, he returned the nod, respect returned. If only all battles could be made in this fashion.
During the joust, near the end, a strange event transpired. The Captain of the Guard, Sir Edward Rothschilde was in a heated debate with Guy Entrean. It was not clear what had the Captain so angry but it was clear that some offense was made to his family and interference with his position had him shouting at Guy before the enraged Captain stormed off. Perhaps the death of the Count has had a more dire affect on the tournament than people would like to admit.
The next day I faced against another hedge knight. Much to my surprise, a notably louder cheer from the crowd rose at my announcement. Perhaps my first match against the esteemed Sir Marcus has had a rewarding effect on me, for poor Sir Winston Hollingsford fell upon the first pass. Azgar again, was provided little challenge as he effortlessness defeated another knight. Ian, perhaps, learning from his ways, took the next contest seriously, and merged victorious. I was happy to see the pride he showed with a job well done, and an earned reward for his efforts. That evening, we went into town and tracked down Hedrid, who was immersed in research. He wished us well on our challenges, but seemed genuinely uninterested in those ‘barbaric’ games. He desired to remain busy in the various libraries, as they were now much less occupied with the events outside of the city. Again, Mithon left to stake out the would-be conspirators. Early in the evening, I managed to encounter Lady Esabelle and her entourage walking on the grounds. After we spoke about the mysterious first encounter we had weeks ago, I offer her my apologies on her cousin’s death, but do not mention our concerns that her life may be in danger. A few awkward moments pass, where I feel that I should say something to her. It feels like an eternity, and she eventually breaks the moment when one of her ladies-in-waiting informs her that they must move on. She bids me farewell, and luck in the rest of the tournament.
Later, I see Sir Richard Flanders and took a moment to engage him in conversation. If he is involved in a conspiracy, I would like learn what I can about him. He seems jovial enough when I congratulate him on his victory, and is casually dismissive of his opponent earlier today, just a hedge knight, evidently. With an air of arrogance, he looks to me with the same dismissive attitude, and takes a moment to point out that I am also, just a hedge knight and perhaps some day, I may elevate my status. I choose not to react to the insult, and move on. Once back at the pavilion, Mithon returns stating that he followed Lady Vreen who had met with another woman, and she was concerned with the dangers of something she was involved in. The other woman, urges her to get out of it, and threatens to take matters into her own hands. This mysterious other woman, sounds like Sir Edward Rothschilde’s cousin, Lady Amanda, who is a good friend of the Duke, According to some, she may be more than just a friend. It is also rumored that her closeness with the Duke is what got her cousin, Sir Edward his position as Captain of the Guard several months ago. With Sir Edward’s strange outburst yesterday, and these ladies meeting under the cover of darkness to discuss secretive plans, it is hard to doubt that something nefarious is in the works.
Day four of the tournaments brings many victories and losses. Mithon easily wins the archery tournament. With the casual disposition during his victory, he strikes me as of the same stock as the Elven emissaries he has been avoiding. Instead of reveling in his victory, he quickly moves away from the crowds. Azgar was soundly defeated by Sir Robert Marlson, a powerful and vaunted knight, from Allonvale, who not only stood up to the mighty blows from Azgar but felled him with his own powerful strikes. I was unable to determine if Azgar was genuinely indifferent to his loss or if wounded pride silenced him instead. My card today, was none other than Sir Richard Flanders, the knight who took joy in his superior stature the night before. His strikes were true, and unlike Sir Marcus, who’s were honorably constrained, they did not seem to be in sport. I suspect he may be seeking to put me in my place. I weathered the storm and strike true on my own, and after the third heat, the lord is looking up at me from the ground. Whereas Sir Marcus seemed to grant me respect for besting him, I see nothing but contempt from Sir Richard.
After my joust, Azgar and I are met with the Duke’s steward, Guy Entrean, outside the pavilion, who tells us that the Duke had become impressed with our victories at the tourney as well as our local exploits in the lands, and would like to formally invite us to their hawking and hunting party this evening. While he is curt and proper, he makes no attempt to hide his own contempt with us, going as far as to accuse us of manipulating our way into the royal families’ favor. We graciously accept the invite , but Azgar’s flippant remarks do nothing to smooth over his disdain for us, as he leaves likely thinking less of us than only moments before.
Continuing our research into the conspiracy surrounding us, Mithon managed to convince the enigmatic Lady Vreen to meet with us to privately at our pavilion, to discuss what was behind her cryptic conversation with Lady Rothschilde the night prior. She seems very reluctant to speak openly, worried that, even with our good intentions, we would be unable to help her in whatever she is involved in, only divulging that she is involved in something regrettable and unable to get out of it for fear of someone powerful. Finally, she seems about to tell us her secrets when we are suddenly interrupted by Bishop Octagnius, who arrives to inform us that his influence has managed to secure us the invite to this evening’s festivities, and remind to us of how important it is that we continue to impress. The Bishop’s untimely interruption allowed Lady Vreen to duck out of the tent, leaving us with none of our questions answered.
We travel with the Duke, and his entourage, including his son, Callen, his bride-to-be, Duchess Esabelle, several knights and ladies and a score of guards out into the nearby forest, only to be approached by the Duke himself. He personally thanks us for our efforts in trying to protect his family and uncover the conspiracy aligned against them, not only for his personal connection in this, but the positive effect the union of their lands could be for the region. He asks we stay vigilant, as they are only days from the wedding, and is concerned of what those desiring to stop this may yet attempt.
Shortly after our talk with the Duke, the lightened mood turns dark as screams from some of the nobles alerts us to the nearby tree line. Several guards rush into the deeper forest beyond, only to be knocked back into the clearing. Emerging from the forest is a massive ogre, who points to Lord Callen and Duchess Esabelle and orders a horde of hobgoblins now swarming from the forest to kill the Dutchess. Immediately, Azgar rushes to the couple, and slams his shield into the ground and the very earth pulls up in between them and the oncoming hobgoblins, forming a makeshift wall. Mithon also quickly moves to them, valuing off his horse, and taking position upon the wall. His orders for the couple to take his horse and leave is followed, as they meet with the quickly departing nobles, knights, ladies and Lord Blackwell, leaving a contingent of guards to defend their exit. Suddenly, a hole is blasted into the wall, as a hobgoblin sorcerer emerges from behind the ogre, with a tabard emblazoned with a bright red hand. Seeing a clear line to the approaching ogre, I charge through the opening running into the beast, lance abreast. My attack must have been anticipated, as his sidestep turns away most of the blow, and his counter attack sends me reeling. I move back to the wall to clear my head and set for another charge, when suddenly I am thrown from Tehnavaer as hear a clap of thunder. Staggered, I try to regain my senses and get up, when pain lances my chest and I am embraced in darkness. I awake, assumably only moments later, as the battle is still being fought. Tehnavaer lies at my side, clearly wounded, but breathing and trying to protect me. Azgar is standing nearby, engaged with the ogre, who is threatening whom I can only assume to be Ian. I rise to his blind side, and thrust Cyfiawnder deep into the ogre’s side. Assuredly, a fatal blow, as he drops to a knee. Azgar takes the opportunity to leap up and crush the beast’s skull with his hammer.
Taking stock of the situation, I am able to heal Tehnavaer, who quickly rises and snorts with aggravation. The Lord’s rear guard has been killed, but none of the hobgoblins stand. Only the sorcerer fled when the battle turned against them. Enraged Mithon and Azgar want to pursue him, and there is value to that – he wears the red hand, the same standard as found on the letters to the gnolls we encountered before arriving in Blaisingdell as well as Ulfe, who’s tyranny ended in the Glitterhame. However, our duty is to protect the Duke and his family, and them leaving to an uncertain fate when they fled the ambush cannot be easily dismissed. I trust my allies abilities, so I encourage them to pursue the sorcerer to perhaps shed some light on the source of this attack, while I mount Tehnavaer and with Ian in tow, move to ensure the safety of our charges.
We meet up with them a few minutes later and escort them back to the safety of the town, and then I make to the temple. My chest is aching from the battle, and I am fining breathing laborious. The clergy tends to me, and says a rib had punctured a lung, and that would take time to heal. In the mean time, Bishop Octagnius quickly arrives and questions me to the attack. He is relieved that we fouled the ambush and that the Duke, Lord Callen and the Duchess have returned safe, but is concerned to the brazen nature of the attack. I tell him that we know nothing of how they knew where and when to attack, but that we will be looking into it. He agrees that that is of great importance. I arrive back at the tent, shortly before Azgar and Mithon return. They cornered the sorcerer, who, unfortunately, chose to take his on life instead of capture. Sadly, it seems that his secrets died with him in the forest.
The next morning arrives far too quickly, and my chest is still getting the better of me. A still bleeding wound on my right side will certainly affect my skill with a lance, but I have not the time or skills to tend to it, so I have it securely bandaged and hope for the best. My opponent this morning is Sir ]]Connor Winsoar] from Allendale, a well-liked knight. Tyr’s favor is at my side, as I strike accurately thrice to his two. Against great odds, I have made it to tomorrow’s final joust. As has Sir Merik Althon a most reputed knight. The uncle of Baron Rhys Athon, his success at tournaments is is only over shadowed by his reputation as a honorable knight. A most worthy foe, indeed.
We prepare for the costume ball still concerned that we have not uncovered enough of the conspiracy to properly take action. Our hope is that we will be able to uncover more at the festivities tonight to shed some light on this dark secret. I spot Lady Vreen amongst the party goers, as she is notably unconformable here. With all eyes present, resuming our conversation could be dangerous, so I ask her to dance, and hope that we I can discover what secrets she holds under the guise of small talk. She confides that she is part of a group of people who have been involved in jaded and decadent pleasures for a while now, and is too scared of it’s leader to do anything but comply. When I ask who she is afraid of, she looks over my shoulder and says ‘him.’ When we turn, I see only one man that she could be referring to. While garbed in a costume as we all are, his red and gold regalia clearly and instantly identify him as only one man – Bishop Octagnius.
Stunned, the song ends, and we exit the dance floor and I lose track of Lady Vreen in the throng of people. I find Mithon, Ian and Azgar I tell them what I was told. While I don’t want to believe it, my allies, seem to take this revelation in stride, as if that suddenly makes sense. Azgar notes that it seem that we have been set up as a scapegoat if the assassination plans follow through, as the Duke’s Steward seems to believe we are all behind it. I take a moment to walk away from them, as I am still unable to believe that this man of the cloth would be leading such a decadent and corrupted double life combined with us being so easily duped into our role. I return to see that Azgar has moved on to talk to the steward and it does not seem well, as the steward storms off, away from Azgar. I move to talk to Guy and hopefully smooth out this trouble. It seems that his loyalty is genuine, and we really need someone close to the Duke to know what we have discovered, only to be stopped by Sir Rothschilde, warning me to stay away from the Steward, as we have obviously angered him. By now, may allies are at my side, and Mithon has Lady Vreen with him. He believes that House Eranon is involved, but Sir Rothschilde states that they left today. Mithon continues. Stating that it was upon the Bishop’s request that the mushrooms that killed poor count Houge, were prepared, and the final conclusive piece of evidence has been presented. We tell Sir Rothschilde what we have uncovered, and he is quite taken aback. While evidence clearly seems to point to the Bishop, we have nothing by a word of a minor noble who’s credibility may be in question based on her own inadvertent involvement in this. Suddenly, all eyes turn toward the front table and we see the Duke, Lord Callen and Duchess Esabelle preparing to take a toast from the Bishop himself. With a gasp, Lady Vreen states that the Bishop keeps a vial of poison in his pinky ring. We all rush to the table, and with deft hands, and assistance by Ian, Mithon dives through the guards and deftly pulls the Duchess’ drink from her hands. Azgar and I manage to get the attention of the duke and his son, stopping them from drinking a potentially fatal toast. Guards surround us at the table, and Lord Blackwell demands to know what is going on. Bravely, Azgar steps forward, taking the Duchess’ drink from Mithon and trusting his Dwarven fortitude and his allies, accuses the bishop of poisoning her drink and downs the wine in one gulp.
Seconds pass as we wait to see what happens, and to both regret and relief nothing seems to happen to Azgar. By now, the blasphemer has started to work his silver tongue again, twisting events to put us to blame for events that have been orchestrated. While, we may have saved them at the moment, our actions have ousted us from the favor of the Blackwells and likely shattered any hope of us to help them in he future. We have been outplayed, and still lack any proof to validate our claims. While still pinned to the floor by the guards, Ian mouths ‘Lady Rothchilde,’ and suddenly a light of hope sparks. Lady Rothchilde is close enough to the Duke that he implicitly trusts her, and she knows enough aboutLady Vreen’s involvement to validate our suspicions. I call up Lady Rothchilde and we tell them all that we have uncovered – the decadent group, the conspiracies, the manipulating of us and the duke, and a hush falls over the crowd as we all await the Duke‘s response. He looks hard at all of us, and them turns to the blasphemer, and tells him to drink the remaining glasses. With a glare, he takes the Duke’s glass and drinks it, but seems to hesitate with Lord Callen‘s. With a curse, he throws the goblet and turns to flee only to quickly stopped by several guards and Cyfiawnder’s cold touch. With a malevolent glare at us, he is ordered away by the Duke, and we breathe a collective sigh of relief, as not only are our live spared, but those of the royal family and the future of the region.
The party tries to continue on, but the revelations of tonight has left everyone feeling somber. Many people are thanking and congratulating us, but I barely hear them, I am still unable to comprehend all of what has transpired. I look for Lady Vreen, but she is no where to be found. I quickly make leave of the party, and return to my pavilion, for a restless night. The next morning, we are publicly thanked by the Duke and receive much accolade from the crowd I am much lauded at the final joust, and Mithon makes a heart-felt presentation. My final opponent, is Sir Merik Althon, a legendary knight that I have much respect for, and I hope that I can earn my place in his eyes as well as the Duke’s. We pass twice, and while I strike, I am unsuccessful in shattering my lance, and not earning points, while his strike are true. My only chance on victory hings on if I can unhorse him now, and based on his skills shown thus far in the tournament, seems very unlikely. With deep resolve, I set to do my best in the final tilt, when Sir Althon surprisingly raises his lance, withdrawing from competition. He is clearly the better knight, and is almost assured victory. I meet him on the middle of the field, and raises his visor and tips his head to me, and says, ’The day is yours, good Sir Atreus – until next we meet.” With that he rode off the field and left me standing there, the apparent victor of the tourney.
That evening, we attended the wedding. All was immaculate in every detail, and it suffered no complications. The couple were wed, much to the elation of the crowd – the region strengthened. While happy for the region, I guiltily felt a small twinge of sorrow for reason I cannot explain.