7 Imbolc, 2020au
Corran of Salazar
/ Corran of Delarius
Making camp along some roadside ruins, the Bordermen and their newfound companions were eager to get some much needed rest, however, a few scant hours into their respite found them roused by two creatures right out of myth harrowing their mounts.
The wyverns, seemingly taking flight straight from the bedtime tales they’d heard from their wet-nurses, screeched and lashed out with their wicked talons at the party, but a well aimed arrow from Byron’s bow passed straight through the creature. Edmund tested this, striking out with his spear at another. These savage and dangerous assailants were as solid as smoke. Hakmet quickly brewed a potion that gifted the Bordermen with true sight, allowing them to see through magical glamours. As they drank down the potion, the wyverns disappeared as if they were never there to begin with.
They discussed the possibilities — that perhaps they’d been poisoned, or that the mysterious monks who had marked their door at the Inn had somehow cursed them, but when their companion, Vera Brand joined them from her tent, they noticed something passingly strange: her appearance had changed. While Vera had been comely enough, the woman now before them, in Vera’s clothing, was stunning in appearance.
Curious, but not wanting to tip their hand, Fletcher took her back to their tent and bedded down with her while the others talked, convinced she was behind the illusory creatures and that her own glamour was a ruse. But to what end? They decided to sleep on it, with Edmund and Hakmet splitting shifts to allow Arthur to get the rest he needed as he was still slowly recovering from the wounds he received earlier in the evening.
Shortly after dawn, Edmund kept careful watch when he spied a rider, a herald astride a white horse and flying the colors of House Whitemane. Further up the road, he saw seven more riders, all clad in full plate, and a compliment of Forrest archers fanning out along the roadside. Stewart roused his compatriots and they quickly gathered their gear. It was decided that Stewart would meet the entourage alone; that Byron and “Vera” would hide in the west wood, while Arthur and Hakmet would hide in the south wood.
The herald conversed with what appeared to be the unit’s commander, a priest in a red cassock, then rode up to the awaiting Edmund Stewart. He inquired after the campsite, that the retinue was in need of rest and Edmund agreed to vacate the site for them, sensing it was not really a request. The herald asked if any Bordermen had been seen on the road, or if he had witnessed any signs of witchcraft in his travels, to which Edmund replied negatively. The herald then reported that they were on the road to the First Lodge to carry out the King’s edict that all Treskeggmal Trees were to be razed.
Edmund gathered up his belongings and walked his mount west to the stream for water, nervous as the riders began to set up camp in the ruin, his companions trapped in the woods surrounding. As he made his way forward, he was stopped by a knight who lightened him of his purse, nineteen gold pieces worth, claiming it as tax for using the King’s road. The Knight added that, after cutting down the “witch tree” at First Lodge, they were proceeding on to Hawkmoor Keep to do the same to the sacred tree of the “Copper Knight”. He also bragged that Iolaire College was under siege by the Crown, intent on destroying the Treskeggmal there on the fortified campus. The monks were resisting.
Meanwhile, unaware that Byron could see through her glamour, “Vera” revealed her true self to him, explaining that she was a monk from Iolaire and traveling to Hawkmoor Keep to let the Duke know of their plight.
The King’s priests had poisoned the Treskeggmal and thus the monks were unable to send word through the trees.
She explained that she’d been cursed by those same priests of Mythraos, causing illusory dragonkin to attack her. She feared that these illusions might plague her newfound friends as well. Byron comforted her and asked her true name. She replied “Laylah. Laylah Fortune.” Fletcher knew “Fortune” to be a commoners name in Whitemane lands.
Turning their attention to the problem at hand, namely slipping past the Whitemane contingent, Laylah had the idea to conjure a mist to mask their escape. Fletcher sent Togo, his wolf companion, to fetch Hawkmoor and ibn Damar from their hiding place, then Laylah cast her spell.
Stewart seeing this, took to the road, headed east, but as he passed the knights’ campsite he saw the priest doing some conjuring of his own — calling forth a gust of wind to remove the effluvium.
Still, the mist was enough to give the Bordermen and friends an ample lead should the Whitemanes choose to give chase. Pressing on till midday, they finally took respite by a pond, sitting in the midst of an early spring-kissed meadow. As they ate rations and discussed their predicament, and the grim tidings they learned from the knights and Laylah own experiences, they heard a voice call out…
Four riders approached from a nearby copse of woods. Clad in leather armor, they bid the party good day and offered to lighten their heavy burden, eyeing the wares on the pack mule and camel.
Sensing them to be bandits, Arthur Hawkmoor took action, using the cover of the others, he took up his crossbow and fired, striking the bandit leader in the throat and sending him pirouetting off the back of his horse, dead before he hit the ground.
Both the companions and the bandits were stunned, but no less spurred to combat. It was a fast and furious melee, but when the dust settled, all four bandits were dead, two of their horses apprehended, and their bodies looted. A clear victory for the companions, save for Arthur, who had fallen in the conflict and lay bleeding out in the coarse grassland. Laylah stabilized him, but he remained unconscious.
As Byron examined a map he had found on one of the bodies, Hakmet recounted a nearby cave he had spied while rounding up one of the bandit horses. They gathered their gear, mounts, the dead, and their wounded compatriot, and made for the safety of the cave. Fletcher took note that the cave seemed to match the map he’d found.
The companions set up camp as Stewart stood sentry above the cave mouth. Since taking their Bordermen Oath, Edmund, Byron, and Arthur had flirted with death almost without pause, and now, one of them hovered between the worlds… They had been plagued by grim tidings, and now with a foreign ally and a witch from Iolaire in their company, these friends felt the harsh reality of it all sink in.
to be continued