“The Roots of Brigands’ Rest”
9 Imbolc, 2020au
Halbmonde of Salazar
/ Halbmonde of Delarius
Following a long respite that found both Arthur Hawkmoor and Togo better off than the night before, the Morgans, Arenth and Galen, bid the Bordermen good eve. Having procured the heads of their bounties, they set off for Mareston to collect, leaving Arthur, Byron Fletcher, and Edmund Stewart, and their compatriots, Laylah Fortune and Hakmet ibn Damar, to plot their own next course of action.
A heated debate ensued. While Arthur urged for the company to press hard for First Lodge, Edmund urged that they should first explore Brigand’s Rest more thoroughly. It was finally decided to do a furtive exploration before saddling up for the long road east, to warn their Bordermen superiors of the impending Whitemane excursion to eliminate the sacred Treskeggmal tree housed there.
The Treskeggmal are willow trees, gnarled, with deep roots said to interconnect with others of their kind spread out of over hundreds upon hundreds of miles. Every Treskeggmal is decorated with skulls representing each of their kind, and through magic, one is able to communicate over vast distances, from one skull to another, using the dead man’s voice.
Whitemane’s current obsession with the Mythraos faith had brought forth a number of dangerous political edicts contrary to the passionate religious theosophy of many of the common folk and the regents that governed furthest from the epicenter of the kingdom. Something was bound to break and break soon…
Gearing up, Laylah and Togo were left guard the horses as the company plunged once more into the depths of the Rest. They found two sentries, armed with ranged weapons, guarding the position that had been held by the sleeping bandit. The crossbowman called out, asking their business, which began a dialogue. The company bartered for passage into the crypt beyond. Byron offered two quivers of arrows he’d crafted, while Edmund and Hakmet sweetened the pot with quality daggers.
Surprisingly, the sentries were eager to let them pass, explaining that the Fancy Boot Gang had reached some sort of impasse within, and the company’s assistance might be welcomed.
The Bordermen were led in to meet the bandit leader, a large hulking brute named Corbin Sloane. After introductions, in which the Bordermen were forthcoming with their House ties, Sloane and the formerly sleeping sentry they’d dealt with the night before, explained how they’d discovered the crypt hidden behind the cave but a week before, and that so far it had not given up any secrets.
This had become even more difficult since their map had disappeared along with the Catskilt Brothers. Little did Sloane know that the company had slain those brigands and possessed the map.
Sloane urged the Bordermen to aid them, that each man needed to uncover something more valuable than their ransom would generate. Using the knowledge of the map, Arthur and Byron led them to a secret door, but were unable to disable the trap that guarded it.
Sloane triggered the trap allowing entry. Byron proceeded inside, but without a torch. When he called back from the darkness asking for one, suddenly candles came to life, lighting what appeared to be a monk’s chamber filled with twelve tables, each with a unique illuminated manuscript displayed beneath cobwebs and dust.
Most of the writing was illegible, being in ancient tongues, but one in Old Common revealed the Bordermen Oath and a history of the Order. Unfortunately, the pages were brittle and much damage was done to several of the volumes.
Beneath the tome, carved into the desktop was the symbol of the World Tree. Beneath another were Crossed Swords, an ancient symbol for Somerfort bannermen.
As they continued to search, an errant word revealed another secret chamber wherein they uncovered an ornate hot spring bath that Arthur discovered had medicinal powers.
With another word, a great rumbling occurred, along with cries from the brigands in the great crypt. Rushing to see what had happened, a secret door had opened, revealing a large room surrounded by more crypts. A small shaft overhead allowed light to filter in, giving sustenance to a tree growing up in the center of the chamber.
The tree was a Treskeggmal, growing in this secret location, unknown, certainly to most, if not all of the royal houses of Darach-Tor.
It loomed before them, majestically… and they approached with reverence.
With Byron and Arthur’s assistance, Edmund used the tree’s magic to contact First Lodge, House Hawkmoor, and House Stewart to warn them of the events at the Winds of Thor, Whitemane’s siege of Iolaire College, their advance on First Lodge to raze the Treskeggmal there, and their plan to ride on Hawkmoor itself, under the auspices of the Duke’s mare giving birth, but more nefarious plans were surely afoot.
The Hawkmoor Duchess thanked them for their service and the information they delivered, while First Lodge charged them to guard and defend this hitherto unknown sacred tree.
Fearing they would have to turn on the brigands, as they confronted them they found the lot of them kneeling before them. The band, upon hearing of the dangers besetting their kingdom, swore fealty to the Bordermen.
Edmund smiled. He finally was getting his very own War Band.
Then, a crash drew their attention to a skull, fallen from the branches of the sacred tree. Iolaire had fallen…
As this new band of compatriots returned to the cave, making plans to fortify their position, the Bordermen were each weighted down with heavy thoughts. Was the kingdom on the verge of civil war? What of the College at Oak Hill? It was then they realized that during their communication through the Treskeggmal they had received no word from House Stewart at Highmoor’s Seat.
to be continued