Order of the Spear

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...but respect must be earned

En route to Eryksberg to meet the Sword, the team came upon a traveler in an unusual and defensible ring of trees. A runestone clutched in each hand, but pale with death. Other than a puncture wound in his right side, he bore bluish, pustules scattered about his body.

His only belongings were a broken longsword on his chest, a marked (the king’s sigil) dispatch satchel, a small silver stone, chain shirt, an empty wineskin, and a few hard biscuits.

Within the satchel was a sealed bone case which contained two sheets of parchment. The first was a poorly sketched map of the area and the other a sealed missive. The dispatch was written in a bugbear dialect.

It read:

Dread Lord Alabaster,
Greetings to you, my liege lord. Your plan is proceeding according to design. Soon we will be rid of the old guard and the new will rise to its proper place within the kingdom. Our strength grows and soon there will be enough distractions. The time has come, my lord, to initiate operation falling stars.
May the blessings of the goddess be upon you, my lord.
Until we meet again as societal opposites, my will is your own.
Nethyrwight

Just down the road the team came across two groups of commoners arguing over ownership of an unusually fine horse. One says he found it fair and square, but the other declared it was within his Hunt Claim. With some slight of hand by Tannis, a royal dispatch satchel was discovered within the saddlebags and therefore was now the property of the army. The men were given a chain shirt and another horse in compensation and all left happy.

The horse had a magical saddlebag with a secret compartment of holding.
After much hit and miss with Cohen’s tenuous lifeline to the god, Allyxann, he was able to divine the magical properties of the following items (sorry, no magic on the coins):
bag of coins (20 commons, 45 nobles, 12 luckies with the face of an unknown queen)
potion of lessor restoration (2 doses)
wand of entanglement (5 charges)
long sword of lesser life stealing (minor intelligence: named “Shadowmyst”), dark blue light drifts from the blade like smoke, hit = 1d6 hp drain, crit = 1d6 & temp hps to wielder
rod of summoning (possibly flawed and unstable – unable to determine creature summoned

The team arrived at Eryksberg to witness an eclipse, another magnetic pull, and the Sword skirmishing with several companies of unknown horsemen upon the Steppes of Allsland. Their initial meeting with Sword Captain Mandrake wasn’t quite as warm as Linfors would have liked, but the team was entrusted with an assignment to investigate the rumors of orc sightings within the nearby mountains.

Several days out, the heroes came upon a staircase in the side of a granite ridge. It led to a ledge above a 60’ drop and opened into a large cavern. Within were ornate carvings of all sorts of dragons in all their terrible glory.

As Cohen cast light upon his hammer, a chorus of yells came from the dark of the back of the cavern. An ettin of ferocious strength charged into their midst swinging a tree in one hand and a great stone axe in the other. Ettin jack of ironsThe team went to work right away. Cutting into the giant wasn’t easy, but taking him down was another matter entirely. The raging, two-headed monster swept into the soldiers with ease, knocking several off their feet and attempting to push them toward the ledge. Linfors gave into the temptations of the intelligent sword and began hacking at the monster with the magical blade. In and out, the team harried the massive giantkin. Osweald took off a finger, getting covered in blood in the process. Through the diligence of the soldiers, it finally fell forward onto the ledge and Cohen healed the team once again. Denn noticed Linfors locked in trance, quite obviously struggling with the sentient blade for control. Reacting quickly, Denn immediately charged, taking him down before he could lose the fight. The sword skittered across the cave floor and Linfors blinked as if waking from a dream. Some things may not be worth the risk…

Then the team headed for the back of the cavern where they had spied a large pile of what appeared to be the ettin’s horde covered in blankets and cloaks.

Comments

“How long must we endure this… This… Waste of time?” Complains Cohen. “Being passed from one company to another, for what? ‘Go out and do some good, and keep out of my hair’ he tries to imitate the captain of the sword. Their structure isn’t even set up correctly. And where is at least the portable alters to the Gods? Not even the war God! No wonder they turned their backs to us. Not on of the lives I saved would bat an eye lash at the Glory that is Allyxann, the OverFather.
Maybe it is time this Kingdom fell to those Vultures. Then, after they turn on themselves, a new country could be built.” Cohen is rambling on to no one in particular. “I bet the Wyglens would be good stewards of the nation. A lot of wisdom from your father Linfors. This country has lost its soul.
How long until our commissions are complete? I love this land. I love the people in it. Those who ‘rule’ are in it for themselves. Not the people. Maybe we should step away from the military. Tend to the people, and when the time is right, resurface as its saviors. Like the vampric Elf.”
Cohen continues to mutter to himself, half baked ideas of how to bring the light back to to land.

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After being subdued by his friends, Linfors knows in full that the intelligent sword is evil and must be destroyed, and in the meantime at least kept away from him.

“How can we destroy this thing, or at least put it somewhere so distant and hidden that it won’t be found?” he asks to the group.

While the party goes through the Ettin’s belongings, Linfors half-listens to Cohen’s grumbling, wondering if he’s listening to a friend or talking to himself, as the words and sentiments would be the same either way. Their eyes meet on a few occasions, and Linfors nods, as if to say ‘we are of one mind on this…perhaps we should do something about it.’

Meta
I completely forgot about the vampiric elf – whatever happened to her? She used to show up frequently.

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“We didn’t ask to be apart of the army. No. Our time was for the watch. Protecting the people from beyond the wall. Not fight in this war. A war no one knows anything about! "Continues Cohen in his tirade. "I have work to do. Not to be shuffled off to this corner of the world. Be put into archery class.
The Woleneck is upon us! There are passages in my book that need to be examined. How best to survive this new age. At the very least, I should be advising the captain of how best to take care of his men. Even Gundrick knows of me, and my faith. Who is advising him to keep me away. Does he fear the Gods? Does he so wish the status quo of passing to an heir? Are there manipulations from the prince? There are 3 of us known to ave a divine connection. And one
is just a warrior in the war gods church. Not even Simon truly believes. He just wanted playmates.
And we have Ozzie with us. A completely new race that has devoted his time and life to this nation. Turned his back on his people.
We rediscovered the Gods, We set up the alliance with the Dwarves, We brought news of the coming invasion. This, go out and look for ‘orcs’ is an absolute waste of time. Even Father Wyglenn said something about placing resources correctly.
Even our new comers are starting to listen. Both Tannis, and Denn listen to what is going on. The woleneck has begun, and here I am out here in the wild away from the people. Even other soldiers are able to learn.

He finishes his Rambling and turns to Linfors. “We have to go back. We met part of an objective. No offs, but we dispatched a two headed giant. It will be more than a week since the Woleneck has begun. I HAVE to get back. The barriers between life and death are dissolving. I know some rituals to help alleviate some of the symptoms. This is Allyxanns time. Death and rebirth at the same time. A rebirth of an age. Please Linfors, we must get back.”

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Linfors considers Cohen’s raving as the party searches the Ettin’s heap of possessions, taking care to keep the +4 vorpal flaming longsword for himself.

Once they’ve searched the cavern and heap, he addresses the group.

“I think we have some decisions to make, gents,” he states, making eye contact with each of the others and taking on a calm, yet serious tone.

“I don’t understand what’s being done with us. We started in the Watch, and there had purpose. We lost one of our original teammates, Jacen, when Ralspur was attacked earlier this year. I had thought we would investigate there, and yet no. I had thought that we might go back to Manzolorre and work there, but no. We worked to clean up Hanlowell, as the Count’s personal guard, and then we’re assigned elsewhere – given back to Sir Brendan. I can’t keep these last few months straight, to be honest – we just keep bouncing from place to place, finding things, seeing things, doing things…with no point to it all!” he ends with almost a shout, his anger coming to the surface. Taking a moment to calm himself, he continues.

“I am losing faith in our leadership. And not this latest fool for whom we’ve worked, Mandrake. I’m losing faith in this system. Cohen,” he states as he turns to his friend.

“…while I may not immediately believe everything you say about the gods, I trust that you believe it all and that something much bigger than you, me, or all of us is happening,” he declares, waving his arms around in emphasis.

“…maybe even bigger than this world. I know that sounds crazy, but look at what we’ve seen!..something big and dangerous is in the offing, and those men charged with protecting the people are vacant in their posts. We’re hunting orcs when the dead are about to rise! We’re on a ridiculous errand on the heals of whole armies being stuck to the ground by forces unseen, and our army’s leaders seem unfazed by the event! Think of it! This is crazy! Hundreds of men stuck to the ground and their commander shrugs it off like an itch under the collar??” Linfors finds himself pacing back and forth in the cavern, gesticulating, punching a fist into his other palm, and shouting by the time he’s finished.

“Dammit! This is absurd! We can’t just be the errand boys for these fools!” he shouts, looking to the others for any kind of reaction or ideas.


Meta
He’s so worked up that he’s not really seeing straight, and rolled only a 12 for Sense Motive to gauge the others’ reactions. I did, however, get a 20 for Diplomacy for the rant.

Linfors is on the edge, folks. He’s not lost faith in his values or what he’s been taught all his life are the purpose and priorities of leadership. His trust, however, in the government and leaders under whom he’s assigned is collapsing swiftly and perhaps completely. I know that Sean and Ryan are new to the story, but in these characters’ terms of service they’ve protected and saved towns full of people they got to know, lost comrades they respected, worked for and were trained by soldiers that deserved respect, and were recognized for their heroic deeds. Maybe that’d go to the head of a teenager with potential. And now they’re being led by morons, while watching the land they swore to protect steadily fall to bandits, monsters, crooked nobles and threats that nobody understands. He’s definitely on the edge.

Consider, as players, that we were sent into the mountains for no more than three weeks, after which we’d be declared AWOL. We’ve been at it for about a week, I think. That gives us two more weeks to flex before there might be trouble.

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Osweald thinks on what Linfors has said with deep consideration, and offers up a measured tone “The Ranger who raised me seemed to be going through this when I was just a small Duergar. I do not recall everything, but I do remember him taking me to a Temple in towns and telling me to behave, and to help that he was being called by his leader to go to fight. At first it hurt and I did not understand, but it became fairly frequent. One time he was gone for almost a year, and I had thought that maybe he’d been sent on to the next life. But no, he showed up, and had some great stories to tell.” Osweald stops and looks around at his companions with his pupiless eyes, and half smiles. “I asked him about it, how he was always leaving me to go to fight. He said he took an oath that started with the Watch, and that oath did not change when his charge became the Trident, the Sword, or the Bow. His squad needed him, the people of the kingdom needed him. If he did not do his duty, then more might not fulfill their duty and then there would be nothing to stand between the evil that threatened the kingdom. He did not always understand why, in fact there were times he took on a furrowed brow when trying to understand why. But he would say the people leading must be the type to deserve trust, and if they did not then they may need to be told they weren’t trustworthy. He explained how after fulfilling a series of orders for a commander, he told him that his orders were counter-productive and debasing to the men, he would not follow them any longer. He turned and walked out of the command tent, and rode to the capital to see Gundrick. He pled his case, and Gundrick had the man broken of rank and put back into a unit. While the Ranger was sent back with a new commander, and the thanks for being honest.” Osweald takes a deep breath and shakes his head, and thinks for a moment.

“I do not know what the future holds for us, for the Fist, for the Fourth squads, for you my Brothers. But,” he points to the Ettin “that is now dead by our hands, and we put down a dragon made of fay together. I believe we are made of stronger mettle, and there is a purpose to our steps. I believe we are helping the overall, even though we may not be seeing it. Mandrake is being an ass, the others said so as well. But Blister wasn’t all warm and fuzzy with us when we first met him. He was prickly like my light-skinned cousins can be. We’re on a mission, and we need to complete the mission before we go back. Otherwise, we’re not fulfilling our duties and oaths.”

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“Blister may have been hard on us – but did you every doubt his competence or devotion to our real duty? Mandrake is only the latest in a string of fools cut from the same cloth.”

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“I give them this: the intent of my oath. To date I have followed the words and the intent. From here forward, if I am forced to choose between the two, I choose the intent,” Linfors offers up, letting it hang in the air for a moment before continuing.

“If you,” he motions to the four others, “can’t live with that, I suggest we try to break up the squad once we return to camp. No hard feelings, right? I simply will not be a plaything any longer.”

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“…our lead role in a cage.” Tannis mutters. “How can we win when fools can be kings? I suggest we do not abandon our posts, but use what we can to get the things we want. Scout for the information, steal letters of passage, forge documents and run our own campaign against this evil. I think there are reasons for being where we are right now and here is our chance to act, not retreat. Now what should we do with the 2 weeks left us before reporting back? I’m out of skooma and this is a sausage fest.”

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What can we do in the wilds of the country? We are in the beginnings of the Woleneck!!!! It can last a couple days, or months. Thank the Gods it has been light where we are, but other places where the dead rise, and the fallen don’t fall. It will soon get out of control. With the God being absent for so long, there are very few people who know what use going on, bun one of the foremost experts has been banished out here because he knows more than the Captain.
I’m getting tired of being the militarys errand boy. We need a special detachment commission, like we were under Count Simon. We could go where we needed for the good of the kingdom. We NEVER overstepped our bounds. Never took what was not ours. Were not entitled to anything more than what we received.
You don’t put your best cards on the table before the rest of the hand is dealt. You don’t put your best asset on ORC PATROL!!! How many people will die because we are out here? What will we do with the dispatch we intercepted?

I have an idea… Using the royal dispatch pouch, perhaps we can send a message to the king?

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After bloating several hours, the ettin farts mightily.

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They putrefy that quickly?

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Hopefully his stash doesn’t disappear.

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The ettin had really bad gas. That’s why he didn’t have a tribe – he was exiled. :p
META
I have to sit down and log all he had stashed under the tarps, but I will post that in the next one.

In the mean time, I really like the dialogue transpiring between the team. Chew on it awhile and talk it out. This kind of stuff would be happening in this situation. Not to guide your course too much, but at the moment, there isn’t much that can be done about Mandrake’s temperament, nor does going AWOL have much merit. Dishonoring families and attempting to survive outside the wall could prove fatal at this level.

Patience…the winds of change are blowing…or is that a storm?

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MORE META
Be prepared to “roll play” at the very outset of next week so use this time to “role play” the discussion on loyalty, god, kingdom, leadership, etc. Perhaps a sermon is in order? Cohen did make the connection with the name of ‘the Steppes of Allsland’. Hmmm…

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META: I don’t think those are winds of change blowing, more like it is the Ettin.

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Sir_anton

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