Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters. For me, it lets me do a little creative writing between more serious projects. Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this one. Enjoy!
The Splattering… Ritual of Kurasak…left my soul and body weary but joyful. I had delivered true holy retribution by turning over Captain Wildsong to Prince Wheaton as his slave. My faith calls for maintaining a balance under the eyes of God. Giving up the Captain was a more honorable justice than I wanted to give that scoundrel.
Images of the fireball that had consumed brave Galinndan were seared into my closed eyelids as I prayed for him. He fought well, he fought gallantly, and it cost him his life. Worst yet, his death had come at the hands of one of our own.
I wiped the sweat from my brow and Althalus spoke up, shattering my peace, “We did a lot of good things this day. We have lifted their hunt for Blackshear.”
“I will get you for this!” Wildsong managed to yell as the Minotaur’s bound him.
I opened my eyes and look at him. As we locked gazes, I blew him a kiss and smiled.
The remaining royal guards stared at us in shock and amazement. Althalus stood before them. “You men have a choice. Stay here, or come with us to the Gash.”
One of the men, a skinny fighter with a blackened beard stepped forward. “I will fulfill the last set of orders we had to go onto the Gash.” Most of the others were stunned still. “We have known Wildsong for years…and you sold him into slavery.”
“I didn’t sell him. And, for the record, he we going to kill my friends and me.”
All but one of the dozen men seemed to begrudgingly agree. They had all witnessed what had taken place and none were willing to risk out blade and ire to test us. They were, in that one moment, wise. The one defiant one glared at us. “I will not be a party to this betrayal. I will go back to Karn and tell them what I witnessed here this day.” I know my comrades wanted to kill him but my piety held my hand. “Let him go.”
“It is dangerous to let him leave,” Althalus muttered.
“You are not going to kill him.”
Wheaton heard our debate and seemed to understand. “We will take him with us for a few days.”
“Allow me to offer you 25 silver coins for the trouble your highness.”
He waved his hand. “I would not think of taking money from members of my tribe who have fought so bravely.”
I gave him a nod, acknowledgement between warriors. We began to march off and saw the Minotaurs bow their heads to us, one by one. Wheaton came forward a few steps with a small wooden box. “One more thing. I offer these tokens to you to honor your fight today and the friend you have lost.”
They were small polished silver rings. One of his men stepped forward with a piercing iron. They tugged at my armor and exposed my nipple. The iron stung like being hit by an arrow. When I looked down I saw one of the small silver rings hanging there, dripping with my blood. They were just like those that the other Minotaurs wore. One by one each of us endured the painful ritual, none making a sound at the piercing.
We headed north along the road for two hours before finding a place suitable for camping. When we awoke, we discovered that another of our troop had fled during his watch in the night. A coward that could not hold to his word. We trudged on, my arms and back aching from the battle still.
By the shadowless hour we saw the border and a tower there. This one was under construction. Stone blocks had been hoisted by tackle up to the top and a rickety wooden scaffolding surrounded the structure. They saw us approaching and waved from the tall half-completed battlements.
One of the guards there approached and called, “Hail!” We responded with far less enthusiasm.
“Who is in command here?”
“I am,” Althalus responded confidently.
“Where is Captain Wildsong?”
The warlock seemed to revel with the question. “Captain Wildsong was lost the Minotaurs that were roaming in the area. We have lost two other men since we encountered them.”
“Oh. They must still be on their quest to look for Blackshear then,” the guard said, shaking his head.
“I suppose,” Althalus said. “But I get the feeling that their quest may be winding down.” He smirked. I saw it, I’m sure of it.
“That can only be good for the realm,” the guard replied.
“We are undertaking the mission that the Captain started,” the warlock replied.
“And that is?”
“Going to the Gash to reinforce the troops there.”
The guardsman seemed nonplussed at the task. “It is two days ride north of here, you cannot miss it. You’re welcome to stay here for the night. We’ll provide you food and shelter before you get on your way. We donna’ have much room but you are welcome to what space we do have. We were going to have rabbit stew tonight. Not much, but a hot meal.”
“We greatly appreciate your hospitality,” Althalus replied.
We began to walk towards the small stone barracks adjacent to the tower. “So how did, of all people, Wildsong become lost to the Minotaurs?”
I was fully prepared to lay out the case as to how the Captain had betrayed us at the orders of the Vizir, but our warlock cut me off. “They were on a quest for revenge for Blackshear killing their former ruler. Their prince, Wheaton, was with them. He decided to exact his revenge on the Captain.” The twisting of the truth out of my friend’s mouth was a sin that I would never get him to confess to.
“Yet you survived?”
“Not all of us made it out unscathed,” the warlock continued.
The Guard seemed to understand. “Well, my father fought with Blackshear. He’s a big man, quite brave. It is too bad about the Captain. Was he killed in battle?”
The lie got thicker. “He seemed gravely wounded it and seemed we would not be able to save him,” Althalus said casting me a glance that sternly told me to not speak up at this moment. “If he is not dead, I don’t see him coming out this way anytime soon.” It bothered me that he was enjoying weaving this story to the innocent man…but not enough to stop him.
“Well, he always was a bit of an ass I always felt but I bear him no ill-will. Make sure you get fodder for your horses. You know it is a holy order that guards the Gash, so you will need to mind what is said and done there. They can be prickly.”
I was not concerned. Fellow paladins would be a nice relief from my comrades. We dined with the small guard contingent, exchanged pleasantries, and bedded down. Bor asked me as he lay on his straw, “What should we do to commemorate Galinndan?”
I reflected for a moment. “We will get a plaque made in his honor…and tell Blackshear what he did.”
Althalus spoke in a low tone. “We should carve on it, ‘He died for the love of Blackshear’s daughter.’” I winced slightly at the warlock’s twisted sense of humor, yet oddly, I think the thief would have liked that. He had rambled on about the girl for miles during our journey.
The next day a light rain fell and we saddled up for the final leg of our journey. We moved north along the muddy road and spoke little, our wounds from the ritual still mending. The next day we came up a low rise and below us in the distance was the Gash. At the end of the vast crack in the earth stood a castle – and jutting out from that some 50 yards was a half-arch of stone with a dais at the end of it, hovering over the vast emptiness of the Great Gash.
I had heard of this place only in stories…of how during the last great war, the Banner of Gold drove the armies of the Black Banner and the evil Serhath Dorn out onto the long flat plains there. The fighting in the Gellesian Fields drove the enemies of the world to this spot. Then the last king of men, Ansil Albinson the Swift summoned the greatest wizards – the Elder Council of Magics and the Lord Victar to a rocky prominence and they unleashed a powerful incantation. The ground opened beneath the armies of darkness, devouring them as the great chasm was formed. It was said that the crack plunged into the soul of the world, but I did not know that. The fortress had been built there to stand guard over the evil dead – dubbed the Fangs of Kraylor. Their Legion of paladins were sword to protect the world from anything that might have survived the plunge into the eternal black of the Gash. Now here I was, looking at this place of legend and wished my father had lived to see such a place. The stories you told me were true father. In my mind I can almost see King Albinson there, standing at that dais.
As we approached the fortress, we were hailed from the battlements. We told them we had been sent to reinforce the Gash…that we had heard there was something that had come out of the Gash and they were in need of assistance. They opened the massive ironbound oak-stone doors.
Two knights approached us. One was old, with thinning gray hair and beard, and a look of consternation and pure anger painted his face. The other was walking three steps apace behind the angry knight. The elder man stood before us. “Who is in charge here?”
“I am – my name is Althalus,” the warlock responded. He made quick introductions of us as well.
“I am Sir Karrick of the Order of the Silver Blade, Acting First Shield and Commander of this Order.”
Althalus explained how a Gray Rider had come to our village and how we had undertaken the journey to complete his ride. He told him, in very vague terms, how we had recovered the message that had called for aid, and how Lord Sklaver had sent us to honor that request.
“I sent for no Gray Rider…no message for aid was sent,” Karrick replied sternly.
The second knight stepped forward. “Commander. I called the Gray Rider and sent the message.” There was a hint of penance in his voice.
Karrick reeled on him. “Ferrin, why would you do this? Our order has always dealt with these matters on our own – it is our charge to do so.”
“We had to do something commander. We needed reinforcements,” the shorter knight named Ferrin replied.
Althalus interceded in their debate. “I have no idea what is going on here but it is serious enough for someone to have intercepted your message to prevent it from being delivered. Someone was willing to risk slaying a Gray Rider.”
Sir Karrick glared at the warlock and said nothing for a moment, then ordered the gates closed. “Very well, come into my office. We have much to speak of.”
Althalus ordered the other guards to find quarters. Our original party followed Sir Karrick into the inner keep. The inside of the Fangs of Kraylor were pristine, with magnificent green grass and the Sept of the Silver Blade, the church of the order, was of ancient design, with vines creeping up along its sides. White marble pavers marked the walkways. It was as if the interior of the fortress was a world of its own, a contrast to the black rip in the soul of the world it protected.
Inside his Spartan office he invited us in and closed the door. “Ferrin, what have you done?”
“While you were in the north searching, I did what I thought was best. Lord Sklaver was the closest place for us to get reinforcements. We are alone here against the night.”
Karrick shook his bowed head in thought, then turned to us. “Forgive me, these are trying times for us.”
“Lord Sklaver was unwilling to send an army until he confirmed your need,” Althalus replied. “Since the rider had been ambushed and he never got the message directly from the rider’s pouch, he didn’t entirely trust it.”
He asked for the message and I produced my copy for him to read. He put the paper on his desk after reading the words. Sir Ferrin glanced at it. “Those are my words commander, yet not my handwriting.”
The older knight seemed to know that already. “It is difficult to admit our need for aid, we have never called for it before. First Shield Sir Theris Bentblade had gone to the Wail, an observation post along the Gash. Something rose out of the Gash…a shadow…yet something more. The First Shield set out after this shadow with 400 paladins of the legion heading north to the Pass at Sever. There their trail disappeared. Our defenses have been stripped. We cannot let the foes of all that is good know that we are almost defenseless. There are many that would take advantage of our state.”
For a few moments we said nothing. Sir Karrick continued, “We accept your men as reinforcements. Our rules are simple. Only an ordained paladin may enter the Sept of the Silver Blade or step out onto the Pinnacle of Light.”
“We should send someone back to Lord Sklaver…to get more reinforcements,” Althalus offered and Karrick solemnly agreed.
Then Althalus said something that seemed to escalate the emotions in the room. “We have reason to believe that the Sisterhood of the Sword may be involved in this somehow.” He told him that we had encountered one of them, that she had intercepted the message. The mention of the Sisterhood made Karrick stand erect, taller than even Bor. His eyes fixed on the warlock. “Her name was Lexa Lyoncroft.”
Karrick turned to Ferrin, then back to us. “Lexa Lyoncroft. She is involved with this?”
“Yes,” I answered firmly. “She was the one that attacked the Gray Rider and took Ferrin’s call for aid. She has the original message. We obtained a copy of it from her.”
“This does not bode well. It is like a nightmare that has come back from my youth.”
“You know her?” I queried.
“Yes – I do. I fear I played a part in her plight. The Sisterhood of the Sword was at one time as powerful a military order as our own. Lexa was one of their most fearless sisters, a holy warrior beyond repute. Her skills with the blade were greater than any other. She burned with a holy passion that made her glow in the dark.
“She told me that she discovered a corruption in the church, a plague that devoured all that was good in the church. She and her mother superior were going to confront the Council of Cardinals about their misdeeds.
“The church turned on them. My order was one of three sent in to purge them. It is my fault that she lived. Our battle was one for the ages. I cornered her while her temple burned around her, but I could not bring myself to kill her. There was something about her, something that I cannot describe. I could not bring myself to take her life. It was wrong then…and wrong now.
“She fled, along with four others of the sisterhood. The church labeled them the Five Witches…done to prevent them from ever gaining help from locals. Over the years two of the five have been caught and have faced the church’s justice.
“Lexa wants revenge. I fear she may ally herself with something dark and soulless to extract that vengeance.”
Althalus spoke up. “She didn’t seem to be motivated by vengeance when we met her. She acted as if there was something else in play, some greater evil she wanted to stop.”
Sir Ferrin spoke up. “Commander, how would she have known what was in my message? How would she have known to intercept it? I wonder – is it possible that we have a spy in our midst?”
Sir Karrick’s face shifted from old remorse to a hint of anger. “This does not bode well for us if that is the case. Lexa Lyoncroft…she should have been dead a thousand times. I refused to let myself believe that she was somehow still alive. She will not have her revenge until the corruption in the church is purged.” It was almost as if the elder knight was speaking to himself, not to us.
Karrick gathered himself and turned to me. “We are facing other problems as well here. We keep a man up on the Pinnacle of Light to keep watch over the Gash. We have always done that. Just like sending men to the Wail, it is our duty to look over the evil imprisoned below. Of late, we have found we cannot keep men out there long. Several brother-knights have gone mad staring out into the darkness. They used to stand watch there for ten days as a time. Now it is no more than three days. There is something out there, something that is attacking them in their thoughts.
“We had purged the undead from the world except for places like the Gellesian Fields…now I fear that those that refuse to die may once more walk the world.
“That was where we found Lexa,” Althalus said.
“A perfect place for her to hide.”
I could see the pain in his soul every time that Lexa was mentioned. I came to appreciate that we had been lucky to survive our encounter with her. There was clearly more to her character than any of us appreciated. There was more to her story than we understood.
Sir Karrick gathered his emotions and stuffed them down deep into his massive frame. “What I could use from you is information. We lost the trail of the men under the First Shield’s command that headed north. While we await Lord Sklaver’s response, I suggest that you and your small party try and follow the trail north to the Pass at Sever and the Vale of White – the Vale of Bones. It is said that there an entrance to Tempora there, but no one has found it in years. We must know the fate of those holy warriors.”
“There is still the matter of the traitor…” I said. “But that is a matter that you are best suited to solve. It takes a week to summon a rider…so somehow she must have received word as to your intent.” I felt bad adding to the burden to Sir Karrick, but I could see that he was a man that could handle it.
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