BOOK ONE -- GOBOLYN SIGN
At The City Gates
A lone figure walks into town from the east carrying a small travel sack. He's wearing the clothes of a peasant, except for the simple padded armor that looks as if it's seen a few scuffles in its day. He makes his way toward the middle of town, looking for a bite to eat and hopefully a job...
You traveled north from Starhaven with a small company of merchants and other less reputable types who were either too poor, too desperate or too greedy to wait until the roads are cleared from the winter storms before they begin a new season's trading. Others, like you, are simply eager to get out of town. With the exception of a swarthy hrtryn merchant named Baruk, who goes on and o n about all the "big deals" he's done traveli ng up and down the Ourobrech, most are not eager to talk about their business.
The journey to the way station, some 15 or so miles north of Starhaven is largely uneventful. You have some trouble crossing one of the Ourobrech's tributaries as the bridge appears to have been hacked to pieces. You manage to ford it and make your way to the way station by the early afternoon. There you debate whether you should press on and attempt to make Neebo's Landing before the gates close at dusk, or stay the night. You and most of the merchants dec ide to stay the night. Baruk, another merchant and a couple of freeblades (who may or may not be acting as guards) decide to press on, gambling that they won't have to spend the night camping in a gobolyn-infested wilderness.
It is the custom among human settlements (particularly in the wilds) to offer at least one night's room and board to any passing human traveler. It is also the custom for said travelers to offer their host a gift of either food or, at least, money. As you have very little of either, you honor another human custom and work for your meal. The commander of the watch directs you to a captain Lavarr who puts you to work cutting down dead trees and sawing them in to lumber. You've a strong back and don't much mind the work. And as you work, he mentions that gobos had chopped up the bridge for firewood. He says no gobos had been seen this season, but he for one wouldn't be caught out in the wilds at night.
You start the next day fed, rested and grateful for the high stone walls. Your group arrives at Neebo's Landing around noon. A pair of guards, questioning everyone entering, stops you at the gate. You get the idea it is pretty routine, but they are certainly looking everyone over carefully so you nervously adjust your cloak and hope your blade doesn't show. A third man, dressed in a mage's robe is lurking nearby. You get the impression he is actually sniffi ng at your fellow travelers but you don't think he is checking their smell.
After a moment the captain turns to you. He is a broad-shouldered t'howmin in his late twenties or early thirties. He is wearing chain armor and has a long sword strapped to his side. On his tunic is a badge of a white hawk displayed in profile.
"Alright, you now," he says. "Where do you come from, where are you going and what is your business in Neebo's Landing?"
(Phase over exaggerates his lack of intelligence) Looking puzzled, he pauses as if he's trying to formulate some words then finally says "I been workin' for Captain Lavarr and got some errands to do". He squints his eyes and lets them wander up to the sky like he's completely forgotten about the guard.
The captain squints at you severely as if he doesn't quite believe you, then finally shakes his head and mutters, "The recruits they're taking these days." Then to you, "What kind of errand are you supposed to be on?" As he waits for your reply, you can see his gaze drift away and sense that he's already lost interest in this conversation.
As Phase ponders his reply, Miasma jumps in:
d'Cur, flashing his charming smile, replies "Just passing through neighbor. I'm a tourist you see. I've never been to Neebo's Landing, so I thought I'd pop by and have a little look-see." He hopes that his friendliness will put the guard at ease.
"A 'tourist'? Your not one of those wandering boojo men who go about selling useless amulets and other mage trinkets are you?" The captain holds his hand up, cutting of d'Cur's reply. "I don't care if you're a Faeyn queen as long as you're a freeman, and judging by the cut of your clothes, you're not an escaped peasant. You may pass, just stay out of trouble or I'll float you back down river to Starhaven without a boat."
The captain turns a hard stare up towards Jerrico, the only traveler on the road with a horse. "So, you've come back have you, Jerrico?"
"I'm here to find a job," Jerrico says. "I need a job, got any?" He does nothing to hide his apathy.
"I expect there'll be work enough before the season is out, even for a freeblade such as yourself. They've found signs of gobo unrest along the river." The captain glances at the mage who gives him a nod. "Alright, you may pass. You can check with the steward, but I think the only jobs he has open now is third watch guard duty." The captain gestures to the other soldier who raises his spear and allows everyone to pass. "Course w hy he would pay you anything is beyond me," he mutters under his breath as everyone enters Neebo's Landing, "any man who wears a mask has got more than his face to hide, says I."
"Because I'm better than any solider you've got.... Good Day." Jerrico heads for the guardhouse to sign up for the watch.
Phase recognizes his good fortune and slips in with the rest of the group that been allowed to pass.
"Well met captain, and thank you." Miasma, only somewhat offended at the reference to him being a boojo man, enters the city. d'Cur addresses Jerrico, "You seem like a man who's been here before. I wonder if you couldn't point me in the direction of a good tavern?"
The man in the mask turns to you. His ice-cold gray eyes take a measure of you. A moment passes before he then comments "Try the River Rat." He turns and leaves without another word. Jerrico's main focus is to establish him self as a warrior, not a mercenary, or a soldier. He holds respect for the soldier rather than the knight. Upon entering Neebo his first action is to find a place on any party out to find the gobo's, Any thing to kill off any of the dark races. He is quiet to all, offering the briefest answer to their questions.
d'Cur replies, "Thank you sir. You are indeed very kind." He then makes his was to the River Rat, hoping to get a drink and perhaps a little 'friendly' company.
Jerrico heads for the guardhouse to sign up for the watch.
d'Cur follows you a ways, since the River Rat and Whitehawk's keep in are in the same direction, but you successfully ignore him. Because of your father's service to Whitehawk in the past, you are confident that a place will be found for you. You see Kiztek, the steward who assigns you a billet in the keep's guardhouse and tells you to report to the north gate for third watch (he has no great love for you). Since third watch is from midnight to 3 a.m. (and it is just past noon) you have some time before you have to report. So you first see to the stabling of your horse in the keep.
Jerrico stables his horse and tips the stable boy for a bit of preferred care. He heads for the River Rat to see what trouble he has caused. He knows that he needs his sleep but is just too keyed up to get sleep right now. He keeps his eyes out for any information to the rumors of Gobo activity, maybe they will lead to info on ogre attacks.
The stable boy is somewhat cowed by your dark, masked presence as you give him the reins. "Thank you sir!" the lad cries as you put the coin in his hand. "I'll take care of your horse as if he were my own. I'll give him the best grain and the freshest water and brush his hair every day! If you need anything else, you just ask for Verne the stablehand!" You leave the excited boy and head into town.
Jerrico heads for the River Rat. He wants to find all that he can on actions of the GOBO. And maybe a little action to get his blood going, but he will not start anything (just keep it going).
You arrive at the River Rat in the late afternoon. You've been snacking on travel rations all day and are getting pretty hungry. As you enter you see a table with a half dozen locals (mostly fisherman types) and another table with travelers from out of town. At the bar are a couple of old men drinking beer and arguing over who had caught the biggest fish and d'Cur whom you recognize from the trip up from Starhaven. d'Cur is curr ently talking to Captain Powers.
Jerrico recognizes Blackhawk's men but chooses to stay silent for the moment and drinks a watered-down ale under his scarf. At the first mention of Gobo hunts he will speak up but for now he thinks that silence is the better thing to do.
As you wait, the twilight deepens to early evening. The local fishermen begin to trickle out since they will be up before dawn plying their trade. However the number of patrons actually increases as more merchants and travelers arrive for a pint and a smoke and a bit of something to eat. The noise also increases as groups of men engage in various bar games and sing alongs. There are a few of Whitehawk's men, but they are mostly commoners--part time warriors doing their monthly shield service. As you watch, however, you see an obvious veteran (Felix) walk in through the door.
Jerrico will continue to sit at the "rat". He orders a light meal (bringing the food up under the loosened part of his mask, he prefers to keep his scars hidden). He will continue to keep an ear to the room for any rumors about the gobos. He will "tag" those in the bar that are "dangerous" and those who are "harmless" in case any trouble breaks out. He will not try to start any trouble, and most likely try to sto p it (but the chance that he might lose control and start to fight is highly likely, but not until he has been pushed around a little). Any who approach him will be met with grunts and one-word answers.
Phase Gets A Job
Once inside the city, Phase goes toward the wharf looking for work, knowing that someone can usually use some muscle without to many questions. He's hoping to get paid today so that he can upgrade his clothing and look a little less obvious.
You wander along behind d'Cur and Jerrico and eventually make your way down to the wharf. Your patron lord must be smiling upon you, for nearly at the moment you arrive the first load of lumber of the season arrives from Millers Point up river. As the lumberer and his sons eye the large load, they see you standing there and ask if you're looking for work. Since the day is half over, they offer you a half-silver (1 silver trochee is the usual pay for one day's work by a laborer) and you agree. You have a strong back and you work hard without complaining. The lumberer's sons notice and begin to slack off a bit. By sunset, all of the lumber is moved and neatly stacked in the lumberyard. They pay you an extra quarter silver out of gratitude, and though they don't offer you another job, they do ask where you are staying and for how long you'll be there.
"I haven't secured lodging yet, perhaps I'll come by tomorrow and see if you need any more help." Phase thanks the lumberer and walks into town to find a clothier's shop. Hopefully before they close.
Deciding that Market Ave. must be the main business center, you hurry down the street until you see a business with a sign over the door of a needle and a spool of thread. The shutters are closed, but the door is open so you step inside. You see two men therein. One is a well-dressed man of indeterminate race. He is fairly tall, has an average build, light complexion, dark hair and looks as if he is at least partially rahidyn. He clothes are fine linen and he is wearing a nic e velvet jerkin that is ripped in the side exposing metal strips (brigandine armor). You see the handle of a long sword poking over one shoulder and a six-string rebec on a strap hanging from the other.
"It was the churlish fellow what gave me this tear. Do you think you can mend it?"
The tailor, who is bent over examining the tear closely nods and mumbles something through a mouthful of pins.
"He it was who lacked all humor--except of the foulest kind. I could forgive the offense of trying to rob me, even laughing at my songs or snarling at my jokes, but when he dared to attempt to harm dear euphonia," here he pats the neck of his instrument, "well I was forced at last to take action! He turned out to be a clumsy workman, as I knew he must, so I let him live and merely confiscated the tool of his trade." Here the finely dressed man lifts a long sword from where it rested nearby. That's one highwayman, at least, who has been defanged." He looks at the sword briefly, then looks down at the tailor pinning his jerkin. "You don't think Armand would have a use for this?"
The tailor pulls his last pin out and sticks it in the jerkin, shaking his head. "Nay, the only tools he is interested in be those useful for making armor, not for breaking it."
The customer sighs, then turns toward you as you walk through the door. "Ho! Who have we here? I am Arglossa." Then, looking at the sword he holds in his hand, he holds it out to you. "Think you would have any use for a long sword?"
"Ah kind sir, you are most gracious. For I had recently become the victim of most cowardly thieves who stole everything I own as I slept off a night of merriment and drink. They took my money, my clothes and fine leather armor and left me with only these wretched peasants garb and pitiful excuse for armor. The even stole my sword, and along with it, my lively hood. I sir, am in your debt for you have provided me with the instrument of my profession." Phase gra bs the sword before he has a chance to reconsider.
You try to snatch the sword, but Arglossa holds onto it for a second and his grip is so strong you can't pull it away. You look up from the sword and his catches your eyes in his own piercing gaze. "I only have one request," he smiles, "that you agree to wield this sword for me in any one cause that I should name at some future date. Are we agreed?"
"There's always a rub, isn't there?" Phase stops trying to take the sword, but doesn't let go of it either. "My guess is that this 'one cause' is worth far more than the sword you offer.
Arglossa just smiles and lets go of the sword.
Perhaps you could also direct me to where I may use it to earn some coin?"
"When the caravans begin moving, in a few weeks, you can usually get a guard job. Sometimes even Whitehawk's men hire freeblades when the gobolyns act up or doing road duty. Hold a moment, a think Barroman, Rutan's steward, needs a night guard. Why don't you find a place to stay, then you can ask him tomorrow."
Phase makes a mental note to check at Whitehawk's keep and then Rutan's. "Thank you for your kindness," Phase says wryly, "I'm sure I'll see you again." Phase looks at the sword as if to decide whether it's worth the trouble it will surely cause. He then turns his attention to the tailor.
He then turns to the tailor, "I was able to earn a little silver today ... perhaps you can help me rid myself of these dreadful rags".
While you spoke, the tailor had laid out a set of clothes. "I had a merchant order some clothes last fall who never pick them up. I think I can adjust these to your size."
"That will do nicely."
He has you try them on. He looks out the door at the fading light as if trying to decide whether he should alter them now or have you come back. He finally pulls out a needle and thread, which fly over the seams of your clothes. He takes them in at the waist and lets them out in the sleeves and legs. In moments, the clothes fit as if they had originally been made for you. "There!" he says, rolling up his measuring tape, "That sh ould do it. Normally I'd charge you two trochees for a new set of clothes, but since you are helping me be rid of these, I'll only charge you half."
"Sir, you are an artist," Phase pays the man and thanks him, then hits the street looking for a place to sleep.
For no apparent reason you wander back to the Rat. You happen to see d'Cur and perch on a stool nearby.
Phase orders an ale and quickly becomes lost in the goings on at the River Rat as only a simple mind can.
Inside the River Rat
Liam looks up from the dregs of foam at the bottom of his mug, peering through the haze of smoke that blanketed the River Rat and its inhabitants. The room is dark and silent. Spying the Captain behind the bar, Liam raises his maimed hand into a shaft of light that crosses the table, making a gesture that speaks volumes to the experienced bartender. The Captain nods, grabs another flask from the behind the ba r, and begins filling it with ale. Slowly, he wa lks toward the corner where Liam sits, hunched in the shadows of his black cloak.
"Slow today, eh?" the Captain says, obviously trying to strike up a conversation as he places the new flask on the table and collects the empties.
Liam grunts as he takes up the new mug. He takes a full swig then places it roughly back on the table, regarding the Captain carefully. The man has been good enough to respect Liam's privacy for the last week, serving up the ale on time and keeping his distance, but Liam can sense that the Captain is ready to start asking questions, and that makes him nervous. "Still early," he speaks in a cold voice. "There'll be more later. There always are."
Captain Powers smiles and moves on, taking the hint. Liam smirks, but thinks deeply about the encounter. Neebo's Landing is small. Sooner or later, someone will notice him skulking about the dark corners of the taverns; he can't remain anonymous forever. His money is running low, and he doesn't feel like running any more.
Sighing heavily, he finishes the drink and settles back into the corner, thinking deeply about his next move.
Drakon: A short, little stumpy man of only about three feet walks into the tavern of the River Rat. He is dressed in simple, but yet elegant leather armor and a simple farmer's robe. He goes up to the bar and asks for a nice Neeboian tea. Once, he gets it, he turns and heads to a table that is empty.
It is about noon in the River Rat. A barge captain is talking to a pair of merchants over trenchers of fried fish and chips. There is only one other customer in the tavern, a solitary man in a well worn and weather-stained mage's robe. He is the only one drinking and, by the number of bottles on the table, seems to be taking both his drinking and his solitude seriously.
Drakon not finding anyone of interest except for three merchants, a mage-like traveler, a couple of fishermen, and a solitary old man. Wait, isn't that a captain or general with the Mage? He thinks that it is. Oh well... Better make some friends... He stands and strolls over to the merchants.
"So, what has been the news around town?" He asks, holding out his hand to them.
As you walk up to the table, the merchants glances at you, then back at the barge captain, then begin to rise as if they are leaving. The captain raises his hand, urging them to stay, then turns to you. "Greetings stranger, I see you are new to our village. How may I be of service to you?"
"Yes, you may. I am looking for work. Or knowledge on the town. You help me out?" Drakon answers, politely, "I am Drakon Aveayn. Who you be?" He knows that he seems simple and stupid to the captain and his men, but what else can he do. "I am a ward of a group of stewards." He blurts out as the man is about to answer.
"Kyrhar?" Drakon looks out at the busy street. "Drakyr's Kyrhar is fine. Can you point me there, sir...?" He looks back and forth from the street to the captain. He is not sure about what is to come, but he will do his best.
"Oh, aye, it be just down at the end of Market Ave. You'll find it on the right at the corner of Caravan Drive. You can't miss it, look for the symbol of The Dragon's Eye over the door." He gestures in the general direction of the kyrhar and at that moment d'Cur steps through the door.
d'Cur arrives at a tavern which, though not actually run down, has obviously seen better days. The sign over the door is of a raftsman steering a raft down the river, however it appears that an amateurish hand has attempted to turn the raftsman into a rat. As you enter you see a man behind a bar tamping and lighting a pipe, a travel-worn mage type sits in the corner drinking himself into oblivion and a thraeyn warrior is talking to a raftsman and two mercha nts.
d'Cur slowly saunters up to the bar and orders an ale. He turns to regard the man in the corner and, more out of curiosity than caring, asks the bar keep what that man's problem is.
Captain Powers takes a puff on his pipe, then points the stem in Liam's direction. "Ah, he be your dark and dour type. A mage I think, or at least a practitioner. He seems intent to find out which holds more, his purse or my cellar. 'Tis a bet he cannot win. I wouldna' give strong drink to a mage by custom, but he seems to hold his drink--if not much else. Mark you his hand and it's missing digits? I think he's been ill-used. Th ose marks are the least of his s cars I'm sure."
"Well, it looks like he's going to give you a run for your money with that one!" says d'Cur. Wishing he had more coin in his purse, asks Captain Powers, "You wouldn't happen to know where a chap like me can find some work do you? It couldn't hurt to have a heavier purse, if you know what I mean."
Captain Powers eyes you shrewdly "Well, that depends on your line of work don't it? It seems to me you're too well dressed for dock work, or heavy labor, though you can often pick up a spare coin there or in the fields. You also aren't armed like a soldier, though I suspect you can handle yourself in a fight. You can sometimes pick up a guard job for one of the members of the Guild Merchant, or with a caravan passing through tow n. But, in truth, there won't be much call for t hat kind of work until the roads clear and traffic picks up."
d'Cur decides to finish his drink, and try to come up with a course of action. None of the jobs in town seem suited for him. . .but, I man's got to eat. "Captain, I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of a sword-smith."
"Oh, aye. Sid Deros is on River Road, just head south. He's about halfway to the end, right next to the armorer.
d'Cur finishes up his drink and makes his way to the door. "Thank you Captain, for your hospitality and help." He pays for his drink and heads out to see the smith Sid Deros.
You notice as you travel River Road that most of the shops have already closed up. You hear the clatter of steel tools as you get to Sid Deros' place. Sid is apparently putting things away. The dying coals have faded to a dark red.
Upon seeing that Sid Deros has already begun closing down for the evening, d'Cur decides it would probably be better to wait until morning. With that thought in mind , d'Cur strolls back to the River Rat maybe for another drink, and to look for a room for the night.
A tall, dark-haired man wearing black leather armor and carrying a staff arrives in Neebo's landing by boat from Starhaven. His name is Felix and he is a scout in the service of lord Whitehawk and he has come here because of the reports of gobo activity. He makes his way to Whitehawk's keep and reports to Kiztek the steward.
Kiztek is a dark haired t'howmyn with a receding hairline. He appears in his early thirties, he has a fairly slight build, and his head looks a little too large for his body. He rises as you enter and extends a hand. "Ah, Felix, it is good to see you. I'm glad you could come. How was the trip up river? I'm sorry the roads are not cleared, and at this point I can't tell you when they will be. Harcor is having a fit. Would you lik e a drink?" Kiztek pours himself a glass and wav es you to a nearby chair.
"I supposed you've heard the reports of the gobo body we found? There've been other reports, mostly of sightings along the roads and at the edge of the fields. No reports of violence or damage yet though. But we do fear the worst. Only a matter of time. Whitehawk fears a full outbreak by summer, if not sooner. He plans to organize some hunting expeditions soon. Hoping to drive them off before they get too numerous. He wants you to lead them, but he's reques ted you wait until the end of the fortnight to s ee if he can join you. If he can't, you are to go ahead without him. Scouting only, no major engagements. He wants to see if they are gathering anywhere."
Kiztek sips his glass and frowns. Unfortunately, we cannot divert too many men from the town's defenses. If Whitehawk does not arrive with more, you may have to gather some of the local freeblades. May the Seven help you if it comes to that."
Felix nods gravely. "Well, hopefully it won't come to that. But we have to be prepared for the worst." Makes a mental note to start checking out the local talent. "Is there some where I can find quarters in the meantime?"
Most men find quarters in town, so we have quite a few bunks empty in the barracks. I just assigned one to Jerrico Silver, do you know the man?"
"No can't say that I do." Felix thinks for a moment. "Name sounds familiar though... wasn't there a Silver that served Whitehawk a long time ago... this man any relation?"
"Aye, he was Jerrico's father. A good man and a fine soldier. He served Whitehawk quite a few years. About the time Whitehawk made me his steward, Jerrico's father had found a pretty girl, settled down and became something of a carpenter. Then, just a few years ago, the Anghorim attacked, burned down their farm and slew Jerrico's family. That's how he got those scars."
Kiztek pauses then slowly, thoughtfully, shakes his head. "There are things that can scar and twist a man worse than blades or fire. Jerrico was much changed after that--obsessed with killing the Anghorim. When he fights, something like madness takes him. None of our men will train with him. Last year he nearly killed a man, they were practicing with rebated swords--no edges. The man was even wearing chain and Jerrico goes off in one of his rages and nearly be ats the man to death. I had him standing righ t where you are, bawled him out and he didn't say a word. Didn't even blink. When I finally made him talk, all he would say was that he hoped the soldier would now learn to be a better fighter."
He's a good fighter, one of the best I've ever seen. But he'll never make a good soldier. Too dangerous. Be careful of him.
Felix accepts the offer of a bunk in the guardhouse and thanks the Steward for his time. After leaving the keep he heads down to the wharf district in search of a tavern for a drink and to get an idea of what's going on in town.
You stow your things and (naturally) head for the River Rat. (You'll arrive a little after Jerrico himself).
Felix arrives at the River rat and has a look around.
You find d'Cur talking to Captain Powers. He looks as if he is getting ready to leave. Jerrico is sitting and drinking by himself, keeping a careful eye on everyone in the bar.
Having made his way to the bar Felix orders an ale.
Drakon Gets Lost & Finds Trouble
After the captain points out the direction to Drakyr Khrhar, Drakon thanks him and heads out. "Let's see did he say to go this way? Or that way? hhhmmmmm...." The little man looks both ways for several long moments. "Oh well, I'll go this way." he ends up taking the right way to the Kharyr. He watches everything and everyone going about their daily business. He gets so absorbed in this that he doesn't really p ay attention to where he's going.
You find yourself at the town well in the intersection of Market and Caravan. You know the Kyrhar is around here, but you've gotten turned around and don't know which corner is the "right" one. Craning your neck, you begin circling the well, looking for the sign of the dragon's eye over a door. You step on someone's boot and turn just as you bump into a tall well-dressed fellow. The man falls to the ground, cursing. His foot las hes out, but fails to make conta ct, even though you are just standing there in a moment of surprise.
"Accursed peasant!" As he leaps to his feet, you notice how tall and strong he is despite his youth. He wears a fine linen tunic under a black velvet jerkin with a basket-hilt sword at his hip. "A tree-humping elf! Do your eyes not work? Are you blind? Are you so ravaged by a sheep-borne venereal disease that you cannot see? " At that moment a cloud seems to pass over the sun, but you quickly realize it is his four equally tall friends towering over you in a c ircle. "If you would come in from the wilds t o ape the ways of civilized men, you must mind your betters!"
"uhhhh....... I.I.I.I.I.I am sorry, kind sir. I was just looking for the Kyrhar that is supposed to be around..." Drakon jabbers as he looks to the ground for anything dropped by the man. "I am new in Neebo. Puh-lease, don't hurt this simple steward's farmhand." (If the man had dropped anything, Drakon picks it up and tries to give it back to the man, saying, "I am so so very very sorry!!!")
As you scramble around in the dust, you find a bent half-copper. You hold it up in a shaking hand and mumble something about his having dropped it.
"What is this? Have you picked my pocket as well? You filthy little elf!" The gang's leader snatches the half-copper piece from your hand and yelps. Having snagged his thumb on the coin's sharp corner, he holds his thumb and squeezes it until a small drop of blood comes out.
"I bleed! Mark you how he has cut me!" he cries to his fellows. They loom even closer over you. He face grows dark and seems to curl up like a fist. "Now, runt, you're going to pay. I'm going to teach you a lesson you'll never forget." He reaches for his sword.
"Enough!" The commanding voice freezes everyone and a hand clamps down on the leader's shoulder. He spins and everyone sees, standing behind him, a six-foot tall man of average build, wearing a strange sleeveless leather robe with a wide leather belt. It looks like a steward's robe except that instead of the glyph embroidered, multi-colored patches that stewards wear, this leather garment is actually covered with glyph-engraved bronze plates. You remember h avi ng heard that the robes stewards wear were de scended from pre-iron age armor. Now, at last, you can believe it.
"You have had your fun, Masok, now let him go."
"We weren't going to do nothing," complains one of Masok's gang.
The robed man ignores the speaker. His gray eyes stay locked on Masok. "If you harm him you will have to answer to his master."
Masok releases his hold on his sword's hilt, then shrugs off the robed man's hand and snarls, "Just because you serve that big--"
"--We ALL serve the Overlord of the Seven Spheres..." the steward interrupts, "...unless you've found another master."
The other's in the gang take an involuntary step back at the mere suggestion that Masok might be in league with the N'kroi. The word is too horrible to even speak aloud.
The man bends and helps you to your feet. "Come with me little wavehopper." He guides you to the kyrhar, which was only a few feet away. You step through the door under the dragon's eye and into a small antechamber. He parts a veil within and gestures you through to the main chamber "I apologize for that ugly spectacle out there."
He leads you through the main chamber. It is a large round room, and in the center, is an altar in the shape of a truncated pyramid baring the symbol of the Overlord. Around the wall of the room are seven alcoves, each with a wooden shield baring the symbols of the Seven Servants. Sometimes, fixed to the wall next to these, are smaller badges with symbols of lords who serve the seven. As he leads you to a veiled stair entrance, you pass a wooden badge of th e " dragon's eye". It is the symbol for the Draky r or Dragon Lord who serves Phylax.
The steward leads you up stairs to a small room and shows you to a see and offers you a drink. "My name is Ashmoreth. I am the steward of the Dragon Lord's house in Neebo's Landing. I see you are a guardian of sorts, what is your name and which lord do you serve?"
"Thank you, kind Ashmoreth. I am Drakon Aveayn. My lord's are you and the other stewards. A farmer by blood, but a spell-user by luck. I have come here..." Nods and grins as he accepts the drink, "through my last steward. He has told me to seek out Neebo's landing and whatever there is to know. What's the drink?" He sniffs at the drink and samples a little bit of it. He thinks of the magnificence of this steward's home.
"It is my own personal blend of fruit juices. I sensed you were trained in the use of Xaris. I know many mages these days drink their juice mixed with wine, but I'm not one to be careless where Xaris is concerned."
"We serve all the High Lords in this Kyrhar--except Rutan who has his own house down the street. But, as you can see from the 'eye' on my tunic," here he touches a silver medallion with a very stylized eye design, "that I am oath sworn to serve the Drakyr. Does the idea that I serve a dragon worry you?"
"A dragon? Just a bit. Dragons are mean. I am trust Drakyr. He may do much with me, except harm." Finishes the drink. It does taste weird without the wine.
"I would very much appreciate a room for the next few days.
"You may stay as long as you wish," Ashmoreth says.
I saw several other travelers or adventurers at that "Rat" tavern. Do you know anything about them? I wish to meet with them, but am afraid of what they may say."
Ashmoreth shrugs. "The River Rat is the tavern of choice for those traveling the river. Usually you will find merchant traders there, though sometimes more adventurous types will stop for a pint of something. I don't think Faeyn's or any others would find too much trouble there. However, if you run into trouble there, Captain Powers was a sailor and he still runs a fairly type ship. Still, be careful around Castle or Wall street s.
He looks at Ashmoreth, quite indulgently, "Of course. Common tongue spoke by everyone. Don't know cultural tongue. I would very much to learn of both the Dragon and the Elemental wars."
"When you say 'common tongue' most northerners mean hrtric, but this close to the coast, many people think of t'homic (or the trade tongue)as the common tongue. If the stewards actually taught you to read any of these languages, then I approve. So many kyrhars neglect their duty to teach." Ashmoreth sighs and stares off thoughtfully before rousing himself. "We have many of the ancient scrolls. Most of them are hrtric, but we hav e a few t'homic ones. Which did you say you coul d read?" He looks about the study. "We may actually have a magic reader here somewhere..."
"Ok, thanks. Would you mind travelling out with me? Since I am quite new around here. I would appreciate some help and a tour of the town. Who is the local royalty around here?" He asks before answering the original question..."Oh, Hrtric.."
Ashmoreth looks a little taken aback at the torrent of words. "Very well my enthusiastic friend. I suppose an evening stroll might do me some good. But we will have to be quick as it is getting late and we don't want to be out too far past dark--even in the walls of Neebo's Landing."
He leads you out to Caravan Drive and then Down Market Ave, telling you about the customs and patterns of life in Neebo's Landing. He talks briefly about Lord Whitehawk and how he spends most of his time on the coast in Starhaven (and how his lady, who has only visited Neebo's Landing once, is reported to have sworn that she will never live here). Whitehawk himself, only comes to Neebo's Landing a couple of times a year, to hold court and to open the annual fa ir. If he ever appears more frequently, he is only passing through on a gobolyn hunt....
"Ah here we go, The River Rat. It's not such a bad place as the name suggests. You should have little trouble here. Being a Faeyn, however, I suggest you be cautious around Castle or Wall streets. The types you ran into earlier tend to frequent those areas." Ashmoreth holds the door open for you to enter.
"Ok, good to know. We should be heading back for the night though and sleep till tomorrow." He takes a quick look around and then back up to Ashmoreth.
Ashmoreth and Drakon step into the River Rat for A little bit. They find a clean table that is close to the door.
You are greeted with a blast of noise and smoke as you open the door. The crowd has swelled a bit since you last visited. And every table seems full of men drinking and singing and drinking and playing games, but mostly drinking. You look around for a table and see a lone man in the back dressed in black and wearing a black mask. Although all the tables are filled, everyone seems to be giving him a wide berth. You are about to s tart over there, when Ashmoreth guides you to a table near the door. You share it with a pair of men playing an intense game of Unity with a half dozen lookers on.
Drakon keeps an eye on the door to see if anyone interesting comes in. He, also, glances around the room at the fellow villagers. "So, what now?" He asks in a soft tone.
Ashmoreth shrugs. "I suppose a pint of ale might be ok. But not too much. Alcohol and magic don't mix." Ashmoreth signals an awkward teenage lad who is carrying a large tray of mugs. He takes two and tosses the boy a bit of silver.
As you sit and drink your ale you survey the crowd and Ashmoreth tells you about the people in the room. There are a few farmers and fishermen, but most are a mix of local merchants and regular traders passing through on the river.
"Who's He?" you ask Ashmoreth, while looking at the man in black. He's a free blade. Sometimes works for Whitehawk, though mostly he looks for any opportunity to kill members of the dark race--especially the anghorin. He's a smoldering volcano of anger and hate just waiting to explode and destroy himself and everyone around him. It's a sad story, really. The only thing that saves him is the cast iron will with which he focuses that energy into killing the d ark races.
As you talk d'Cur walks through the door. "Who's that fellow," you ask?"
"Don't know. Haven't seen him before today." Ashmoreth stares off a moment then shakes his head.
"What?" you ask.
"I don't know. I get the feeling that he's looking for something. He's like an uprooted plant. Perhaps he's only looking for a place to belong." d'Cur goes up to the bar, and after a moment, talks to Captain Powers. Almost right on his heals, Phase walks in and wanders his way to a stool near d'Cur.
"What about him?" you ask.
Ashmoreth stares after him a moment, then shrugs. "He's a closed book. He doesn't look very smart, but I sense that is a learned defense. I think there is more depth to him, but he's about as clear as a rock."
You watch Captain Powers talking to the men at the bar when Felix walks in. He spots Jerrico immediately and acknowledges him with small nod, but continues straight for the bar.
"That one's a piece of work." Ashmoreth mutters. He's another freeblade, and something of a hired killer as well. Rumor has it that an entire anghorim village disappeared because of him, *angor by angor*--one at a time. I don't know if that's true or not, but Whitehawk often hires him to scout out the land ahead of his hunting expeditions to flush out anghorim and gobos or whatever....
"Well, thanks for the descriptions. I want to talk with them." He stands and walks over to the bar and Jerrico, d'Cur and the others. "Hey, I am new around here."
To any one who approaches Jerrico, his response to any unsolicited or useless information is "Yeah, and?" In response to Cptn Powers he returns a nod and remains at his seat. The reputation of powers proceeds him, but unless Jerrico knows that he has been hired for a Dark Race hunt of any kind he will not approach him.
Approaching Jerrico, Drakon looks down and with a pitiful frown on his face. Turning his toe in the ground, he says, in a hushed voice, "I just wanted ta make some friends and meet new people." He looks up, quickly with a new idea, "Greetings, Capt. Powers."
Preparing For The Hunt
Felix drinks his ale and watches the events unfolding in the River Rat. The tavern is quietly busy and the few freeblades he sees seem to be handling themselves well. At least they're not tearing the place up seeking an outlet for their homicidal urges. Perhaps they might be useful. Past experience tells him that the local freeblades are likely too comfortable with their guard jobs, night watchman and militia reserve duties to r isk their necks for a trochee. A coin they can a lready earn safely within the city walls. His best bet is the three or four newcomers he sees now. If only he had a mage.
Felix looks around the room. That dark-cloaked fellow seems to have disappeared. They're going to need at least one good mage. That could be a problem.
d'Cur asks Captain Powers about a sword smith then leaves. He returns after only a few minutes. Felix can't see that he's either bought or sold any blades. But, as he's wearing mostly knives, that might not mean anything.
Felix decides he's waited long enough. He looks at the nearest mercenary. A large, peasant-ish fellow with new clothes and a nice sword hanging scabbardless from his belt. The sword could, of course, simply be stolen, or it could have been won from some enemy he chased off but who didn't have the courtesy to leave his scabbard behind.
Felix decides to try the direct approach. He catches the fellow's attention, then indicates the sword with a glance. "Know how to use that thing?"
Phase slowly looks him up and down. Felix can see a cautious look in Phase's eye. After a moment of slow deliberation, the peasant shrugs. "I guess if I didn't, I wouldn't have kept it very long."
Felix nods. The man was either confident with a sword, or a cool-headed bluffer. Either one would do, though they would be useful in different ways. "Ever been on a gobo hunt?"
"Can't say as I've ever hunted gobos, but I've chased down other things on two legs." Phase takes a pull from his tankard.
"Whitehawk is planning a gobo hunt in about a week. He wants me to round up some freeblades to scout out some gobo nests for raiding. Interested?"
"How much?" This comes from d'Cur, who is leaning on the bar around Phase. He had obviously heard the conversation and moved closer to listen.
Felix looks at d'Cur. He's a big guy, though not armed with anything larger than a knife. "Can you fight? --beyond an alley, I mean."
d'Cur frowns. "I can hold my own. I can even do some scouting around for you, if the pay is right."
"Standard pay is one trochee a day, plus food and a tent when we're out in the field. I might be able to swing hazard duty if you're willing to take risks. The real money, though, is tips. If you steer gobos to Whitehawk's knights, they're likely to pay an award if a gobo ends up on the end of one of their lances."
"Tent? Is someone going camping? I like the outdoors myself, of course being a thraeyn, I suppose that would be obvious, still if anyone is going to be doing some traveling I would be happy to go along--especially if it's near trees. Hi, my name is Drakon Avaeyn of the WaveHopper Avaeyns on the coast."
Everyone looks at Drakon, momentarily at a loss for words. After a pause to gather his thoughts, Felix asks, "Have you ever killed a gobolyn, Drakon?"
"Killed? I wouldn't say killed. Not exactly killed. Not at all, really. But I don't exactly like them either."
"We're organizing a gobo hunt," Felix patiently explains. "We're going into the wilderness looking for gobo nests so we can drive them out of the wood into Whitehawk's hunting expedition. If that is something you think you can do, you are welcome to join us."
"Of course I can do it. Certainly. At least I think so. Actually I have to ask the steward, Ashmoreth, who is the steward for the Drakyr whom I'm serving right now. But he'll say it's fine, right? I mean gobos serve the N'k--uh--bad guys right?"
"You do that."
"When?" Phase asks as Drakon runs off.
"Whitehawk wants us here when he arrives in a sennight. We could do some preliminary scouting now, but he doesn't want us actually stirring anything up until he get here."
At this point everyone agrees to meet at the keep tomorrow morning. Drakon returns from his talk with Ashmoreth and agrees to join them tomorrow. As he leaves, Felix stops by Jerrico's table.
"I suppose you heard about the hunt?"
"Are you in?"
Jerrico nods again.
"Go ahead and do your watch duty tonight. I'll talk to Kiztek about getting you out of it tomorrow."
Jerrico slips his tankard under his mask and tips it back.
Felix heads back to the barracks wondering if this strange bunch of mercenaries will prove to be useful for anything more than a diversion....
"Well," Phase said to no one in particular. "Now if I could only find a room."
"I heard that," d'Cur agreed and drained his ale.
"Captain, you wouldn't know where we could find a couple of rooms cheap, would you?" Phase asked.
"Aye. My Sister's husband owns this building and happens to have a few rooms to let round back. I wouldn't mention it except I heard you'll be working with Whitehawk's men."
"How much is she asking for the rooms?" d'Cur asked.
"Only two silvers a sennight, but you are responsible for your own food. And, as her husband is an adventurer and hasn't been seen in seven years, I've been helping her out with the place so's you can pay me directly.
Phase pats his nearly empty purse. "A sennight, eh?" I don't suppose you have a room you can let out by the night?"
"No. But if you're a little short, you can pay me a bit for tonight and owe me the rest till you get back from you're hunting."
Phase and d'Cur pay the captain and his nephew shows them two their rooms. Their little more than small wood stalls with a window, a wooden trunk, a chamber pot and a bed which is little more than a wooden frame over which ropes have been stretched and a bedroll laid.
As he goes to sleep D'Cur thinks about gobolyns. He's heard that unless they're swarming, gobos are not too dangerous. Then tend to run when confronted, but if they outnumber you or have you cornered, they can be deadly dangerous. Felix made it sound like they'd just beat the bushes and drive the gobos towards the knights who would casually run them down. But he'd heard other stories of travelers and brigands who wandered too close to gobolyn woods a nd were never heard from again.
Phase slept like a rock and woke ready for whatever the new day might bring.
Drakon did not think too much about the hunt other than a vague feeling of unease that made him want to think of other things. He did, however, have strange dreams in which various forest animals were speaking to him, trying to warn him of something, but he couldn't quite make out the words.
It was nearly nine o'clock when Jerrico left the Rat. He strode quickly through the streets of Neebo's Landing since he had only a little over three hours to sleep before his shift came up. He tried not to think of anything as he walked. But in his mind, he heard the echoing ring and clash of steel, grunts of pain and groans of the dying. If he closed his eyes, he saw anghor shadows moving in the darkness and heard the remembered screams of his parents. Jerr co tried to concentrate only on the present worl d around him. He listened to the sound of his footfalls on the hard-packed streets and watched the shadows cast by the moons Maudra and Kini as they waxed towards full. His sword hand clenched as he walked and his only thought was, "at last!"