Order of the Spear

Reassigned
or, how Osweald manages to piss off everyone, eventually

The team’s identity and story checked out with Command Sgt. Balthazar. Although fantastical, they had enough evidence to go with their good names that their account of the last year was accepted, and they were welcomed back to Ralspur and the Watch with open arms. After a few days of rest, and getting to know the newly-enlarged Ralspur, with its new residents and buildings, the team was informed that they’d been reassigned, to Hanlowell, to serve as the recently-crowned Count Symon’s personal guard.

Reluctantly, they departed for the regional seat and arrived several days later, after an uneventful trip. Promoted to Sergeant, then installed as the ‘Fist’ of the county, and given new uniforms and insignia, the team settled in as Symon’s guard, keeping his household secure, accompanying him on trips and in his daily business, and getting to know the city. The Market section was a pit of crime and filth, and it was the team’s desire to clean it up. The Count said he’d consider it. Otherwise, things were calm and uneventful until an obviously-annoyed Count informed them that they’d been ordered back to Ralspur for some errand. Although it was not a permanent change, it irritated the young Count, who obviously wanted them to stay with him. Despite his irritation, his excellency did give the team a choice to follow the request – that’s more how he framed it – or not.

Osweald took it upon himself to clear up the air by trying to stare down the young Count, and informing him that they – not just him, but certainly the entire team since he clearly knows their hearts and minds better than they do – never wanted this lame job in the first place and that they were forced to come here.

Linfors attempted to frame the dwarf’s stinging, totally unsolicited rebuke in more positive terms, and fell flat on his face, rhetorically, so stunned by Osweald’s sudden change of demeanor that he was.

The Count, to his credit, did not explode immediately; rather, he stormed off to his personal quarters, likely insulted and, possibly, hurt, by those in whom he had invested so much esteem. It was suggested that the team leave, immediately, in order that things could calm down before they sought to repair the vast damage done by their foolish, gruff companion’s comments.

Linfors, stunned to silence, quickly penned a letter to the Count as an apology, and made ready to depart with the others. He was deeply torn by his sense of allegiance: Balthazar and Ralspur were his first real leader and home. And yet the Count had truly demonstrated such trust and esteem, and had provided them with an incredible opportunity to make a difference and move up. There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of an opportunity you’ve worked for, father always said.

And so with a heavy heart, Linfors unpacked his travel bag and made sure his uniform was in order. He burned his first letter in the fireplace of the team’s common room, and penned another, consisting of only the following:

To my esteemed Count,
I have no words to cover for those of my squad mate. All I can say is that, with utter certainty, they do not represent my view of my work here, and for you. I have decided to stay here, as your personal guard, in keeping with my orders and your needs. I will leave only if ordered to do so. I speak only for myself, and humbly ask that I be considered as an individual, based on my work and words, and not those of others.

With that, Linfors bid farewell, good luck, and a swift return to Jacen and Cohen. He could not bring himself to even face the dwarf, so disgusted was he with the betrayal of his words.

He watched from the steps of the keep as the other(s) rode off, and to turned to resume to his post.

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A Heroes' Welcome!!
...at least locally.

The return trip to Ralspur was arduous and tiring, especially since it turned into more than a two week journey without the horses to slog through the mud and rain and mud and rain…

Passing through the outer wall of Ralspur barely raised an eyebrow from the pimpled face above a pristine, new Watchcloak. His meticulously maintained equipment and watchful eye spoke volumes to the young heroes of Bloodvein Pass. A mental sigh of “aahhh, home at last!” was shared by the four lone survivors of the 4th Squad. Charlie’s eyes were as round as saucers, “This city is huge- is this where the king lives?”

At first, the patrons of the SeaNymph were stunned to silence as the road-weary Sentinels passed the portal and into the welcoming warmth of the twin hearths. After Holly determined that the quartet were real and not ghosts, she hugged and kissed all of them. Balthazar limped over to stand in front of them – which put all four at attention. He narrowed his eyes and asked simply, but firmly: “Do you remember when we cornered that runaway cave giant and he broke my hip with his massive hammer?”

And their response was…

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And you thought it was a dump before!
or, Manzallore takes a turn for the worse

The team heard the screams – more like screeches and yelps – on the night breeze. They were coming from Manzallore. There was no time to waste, so they broke camp and hustled the two miles to the town. What they found was not what they’d hoped, and probably worse than they’d feared: a gate wide open, pools of gore mixed with mud on the ground, and seemingly nothing left alive. The Watch barracks held the only clue: the Logbook, open, and with a ashen rune still smoldering on its pages. Linfors, dashed it to the wind with the fae rod, much to Cohen’s protest – if the would-be cleric wanted to study fell runes, he’d have to work on memorizing what they looked like faster. Linfors’ father always said that if you keep something nasty around, things get nastier.

Weirdsci heeeezzz

Before Cohen could protest too much, they all heard the shuffling, gurgling, and moaning from the barracks room. Osweald, never one to wait, consider, or look before leaping, smashed through the already-broken door and, illuminated by the light of the glowing fae Linfors had provided, found….it.

It was made up of the pieces and parts of several of the false Watch members, and some folks from the town. Osweald thought he saw part of a cat, too. It had four arms, several leg-like appendages, was covered in putrescent ooze and boils, the latter of which occasionally spit out semi-coagulated gore. And it was angry, too, rushing the dwarf once it got its wits about it.

Gug720


Osweald charged; Linfors made ready with his sword; Cohen looked in from the other room and moved forward; and Jacen spewed the last 12 hours of food all over himself, and the floor in front of him. The team made quick work of the disgusting beast, spilling the rest of its innards across the floor. The realization set in before the ringing of steel faded: it was time to leave this place.

Their escape was interrupted by the call of one Charlie, sometime comic relief and adventure foil, who was hiding under the inn. Two more of the beasts appeared near the gate, blocking the easiest way out. Osweald ran toward the boy while Cohen tied a rope in order to facilitate escape over the palisade. Linfors and Jacen moved forward to shield their friends, and take on the monsters.

Although fierce and faster than they looked, the beasts were taken down by the combined effort of the team, and they, along with the obviously, inexplicably older boy, ran through the open gate, then closed and locked it, before making their way south along the main road, in search of a defensible place to spend the night, at least several miles from the stricken town.

Charlie shared what little he understood of what had happened – the transformation of the town – just a few weeks ago. And he shared that, to his knowledge, it seemed the team had been gone for about a year. So a year had passed in the real world, while they’d spent only days in the city. They’d not aged, and yet a season had passed. What would they discover in Ralspur? How would they be received? How could they prove what they’d seen to be real and true? They carried evidence, and they had a witness in Charlie…those would have to be enough.

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Taking the hard right over the easy wrong
...and how four teenagers collapsed an entire city

Linfors snapped out of the trance. Jacen & Osweald were still captivated, and their judgment guided by the princess – at least that’s what they decided she was. No one could be moved; everything seemed frozen in time, although the diners moved on their own, in a slow, trance-like state. Their only response was a threatening one when Jacen decided that ‘helping’ the princess was by driving a knife through her breast.

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And so the team spent a night in the great hall, pondering what to do. Cohen found runes, and copied them, and then read them. These provided clues. Frozen in time she was, in order to save her from the effects of some fell attack – of unknown origin. The king, it seemed, was unable to let his daughter go – let her die – and so he insisted that his sages and mages keep her suspended in time, even though the magics that kept her in that state began to effect the city, and all its inhabitants, in ways that could not be reversed. Everyone, and everything, was slowly drawn into this state of null time, neither moving, nor aging nor changing. Trapped…in deference to a king’s broken heart.

The runes provided the only useful clue to the reasons behind all this, and possibly a way out. The princess was the key; the magics centered on her, and the fae she absorbed, were what kept the city and all its people trapped. There was no way to save them…no way to restore them…it seemed there was only a way to release them.

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Jacen was by far the most…fixated…on the well-being of the princess, and unknowingly provided Cohen with the key to the operation of the assassin’s sword. Linfors, thinking that an incremental approach might be best – and, as usual, desiring to demonstrate his power over the fae – blasted the kneeling king with ice, virtually freezing him solid, and inviting a mighty backlash of fae that left him collapsed and his right arm laced in black faeburn lines.

During the confusion, Cohen moved, poisoning the princess, hopefully doing the right thing. The diners suddenly animated, and attacked. Osweald and Linfors stood to defend Jacen & Cohen as they worked near the altar. The princess became sallow, then quickly mortified, and turned to dust. The attackers, once struck soundly, burst into dust, so ancient were they. The king, the only one left, shook off the ice and thanked the team for doing what he had not had the courage to do so long ago, and imparted on them a means of escape, as the whole city was suddenly exposed to the countless millennia that had passed, and began falling to rubble.

Rubble

In addition to a safe means of egress, the king had also provided the team – Cohen, especially – to a tome of history and religion, detailing the many gods and the entire faith, it seemed. So much lost, forgotten knowledge…so much lost truth…was now in Cohen’s hands. He would reignite the faith; he would shape a work of believers…he would lead a rebirth…a new age of man would dawn…he would lead it…

Cohen’s dreams aside, the team made good their escape through the forest portal, with enough time to watch the entire cityscape implode, and the portal itself fade, and finally disappear. The spell broken, the hidden realm ceased to exist. It was time to rest – time to absently consider the obvious passage of time in the outside world, given the only occasional patches of snow and hints of spring growth here and again. Time first to recover a bit before heading back to Manzallore to see just how much time had passed…and to deal with whatever issues were waiting for them there.

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Great Discoveries
and greater problems

So the ‘Watch’ troops in Manzallore are imposters, we’ve got a hidden, enchanted city in the forest, and we’ve discovered the names and images of the Lost Gods. Linfors thought that these all paled when compared against her beauty.

Greekhouses

Yes, the imposters were obviously up to no good – why impersonate the Watch, live off the town’s good will for months, give back nothing in return, without some plan for what they’d gain over the long-term? There must be something more to them than simply the desire to mooch. This is important, but clearly not as noteworthy as the city.

The city was hidden from view, accessible only through a portal exposed when a large boulder was moved, exposing a hole in reality, it seemed, from the snowy-covered forest into a cityscape that clearly was not in the same space…different terrain, different weather, different sky. The statues, collapsed buildings, and the fae-infused fountain, along with its weapon-stealing water, gave up only some secrets as to their purpose and message. This small amount of information learned through runes, inscriptions, and the presence of the fae gave the team the name of the Overfather, and his image. It showed that the fae could inhabit other materials and objects, like water and steel. It would rock the foundations of scholarly knowledge, if they could return with proof of it.

And yet there was something hostile about the land, too: the fountain, the vampiric vines, and the open question as to why the woman was there, frozen in time and yet breathing. Something had not only happened here, but was still happening – and although they were in it, they could not comprehend it.

Greekhouses4

The fae, and its perpetual flow deeper into the city, guided them. It guided them past more, and larger buildings, along deserted avenues, and past a group of dancers, caught somewhere in time, dancing with themselves, wrapping fabric around a statue. What was going on in this place?

The fae guided them – or, they’d like to think, they followed it – to a massive central temple. After dealing with and then disarming a few traps, they found their way into a ceremonial room, complete with statues, a giant dining table, guests, and a seemingly retro-fit altar dais. That’s where the fae flowed, that’s where the maiden lay, frozen in a trance.

Linfors didn’t care about his wounds, or how tired and bruised he felt – really, he wasn’t injured so much as beaten up by the day’s work. He didn’t care that he couldn’t move. Well, he could, but he chose not to at the moment. She was just too beautiful for him to look away. Jacen and Osweald thought so, too. So did the old man. Cohen would, too, if he just gave her another glance.

Greektemple

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No Watch in Manzallore, eh?
it's clobberin' time!

That’s all Linfors is thinking while they deliver the boy back to the town.

‘Once we collect Cohen we’ll have to fill him in on things, and see if he knows anything, and make a plan of action’ thought Linfors as he walked, distracted and only half-listening to his two friends.

He was not in the mood to play the fool to anyone, and his sense of duty, and that of propriety, dictated that he do something about these…imposters? ‘We wear this chain, and fulfill this duty. We’ve bled for this chain, and our fellows. Scum who would impersonate those of us who have earned the title cannot be tolerated…not by me, at least.’

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Merry Christmas!
From one adventuring party to another...

2011 holiday card

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Pieces of the Puzzle
In plain sight...

Something that little Charlie mentioned as he headed off to fulfill his “mission” for the Watch seemed to click and line up thoughts in your heads as our heroes made their way through the portal. Thoughts of perspective buzzing through their young minds as they view a city that can only be seen from one obscure angle.
Charlie’s comment of Sgt. Bil kicking at him whenever he gets the chance and invoking dark curses upon the lad accompanied by “that boy is agonna be the gnat in our ointment—mark my words!” brought to mind a few other comments which, in light of Charlie’s statement, prompts the 4th squad to share…

For Linfors: While talking to the adventurers in the “The Dark” tavern, one of the comments the human made was about someone in the Watch named Slern who knew a way over the Wall.
There is no Slern on the Manzallor Watch.

For Osweald: (since the Dwarf is usually somewhat random) Now that there is something to question beyond being slack in duties, he recalls that with his “undersight” there was breath to be seen by 5 members of the Watch and not 6 while they slept snuggly in their bunks.

For Jacen: while putting his “ladies man” moves on the barwench with small talk, she mentioned that Walther “talked” to her quite a bit when they first arrived and he had lots of questions about the local Watch. One time Sgt. Bil wanted a “cuddle” and he glanced at Walther and acted like he’d changed his mind.

For Cohen: While enroute to Manzallor after quietly attempting to heal Sir Brendan’s genital rash at Conner Keep, he came across a pile of mostly frozen naked male bodies. They had likely been discovered by a pack of scavengers. While he said a prayer for them, he noticed that they had callouses on their hands that would fit with weapons use and not plows. They also had specific scars that are typical of specific types of armor…mass produced armor for militias.

These thoughts, and the thought that Cohen should be arriving sometime today, prompts a further thought that 4 is a bigger number than 3…especially if the 4th number can heal…

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Manzalorre
...what a dump...

The journey to Manzalorre was cold and quiet until the last day when the three Sentinels happened upon a melee between an elf, his – for lack of a better term – dragon, and a group of fully black goblins. The elf and his mount were clearly on the losing end, and nearing their ends, when they were found. Jacen’s somewhat accurate arrows held the goblins’ attention for a moment while Osweald and Linfors flanked the group on horseback. Linfors trampled one of the foul critters, and cut another down with his blade, while Osweald shattered another with his falchion.

The elf collapsed, his guts in his hands, and the dragon followed him, and soon thereafter the team had killed all of the remaining goblins who were not naturally black, but rather either tattooed or somehow dyed. The elf muttered some last words in an unrecognized language, then expired, after which the beast seemed to give up hope, put its head down, and died shortly afterward. Nothing on either of them was familiar: not the silver coins, nor the two large, empty ledgers, nor the symbol on the elf’s seemingly enchanted warming scarf. His leather armor, once cleaned, would fit Jacen well enough, and his warming overcoat fit Linfors. Taking what artifacts, equipment, and samples as they could, the team respectfully built a rock cairn for the elf, and left the beast where it was, as it was too heavy to move.

As for the goblins, they piled up the bodies and defiled them with piss & crap, as is appropriate behavior for three heavily-armed, battle-hardened 14 year-old boys lacking adult supervision. And then on toward Manzalorre they continued.

As illust shanty town


Upon arriving at the small town, it was immediately obvious that that 4 (later a total of 6) members of the Watch, including their leader, Sergeant Bil, were of the lowest caliber conceivable, and an utter affront to all members of the Watch, past and present, who took any care for themselves, their jobs, and their duty. A total lack of records, slopping uniforms, behavior, and accommodations, as well as a blatant disregard for Watch protocols and SOP defined this group of complete and utter wankers.

Jacen did get defiled by the bar wench old enough to be his mother, however, so he probably likes this little ’burg well enough.

Ugly woman


While Jacen was getting acquainted with the sordid side of small town taverns, Osweald and Linfors were talking with some of the locals and visitors in order to gather information about the town and its surroundings. Nothing was learned about foreign currency, however, aside from what young Charlie, a local orphan, told them about in relation to a supposed magical hidden city in the trees. Maybe this would be a good place to start, but that was for another day.

The team, now again with Jacen in tow, spent some time walking what passed for a wall that night, hearing distant screams and echoes – not uncommon at night, and especially not when there was so much fae built up around the town.

The next morning brought no surprise when they found the local Watch drunk & asleep; but a surprise they did find at the front gate to the town: a still-living upper torso of a man, that had apparently dragged itself some 30 yards to the gate. Lacking a pulse and not lacking a desire to bite Jacen’s hand, Osweald decided it made most sense to toss the thing onto a bonfire for disposal. A search of the area outside the town yielded no legs or other parts, and no equipment or clothing – only a collection of footprints that very clearly stopped, as if their owners had suddenly disappeared.

Charlie was kind enough, for trade of a silver coin, to show the team the entrance to his ‘city,’ which turned out to be a well-hidden one-way portal, enclosed on all side by trees and large rocks, that did indeed lead into some kind of pocket in the forest, seemingly outside of the space taken up by the forest, and much larger, too.

The team decided to escort the boy back to town and set him on the job of spying on the Watch there, and to wait for the caravan due in today, which would – hopefully – deliver Cohen, who’d been called away to the south from Ralspur to cure the “burning drip” of a certain nobleman before his lady returned from her travels.

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Osweald Plans for the Future
...dreams of glory...

Ale and whore

Hide the women! Or at least the ones too slow to get away from Short Legs! Wait…I’ll pay!

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