“Prayers for the Fallen”
Evening of Dasad the 14th, 1331 Avard.
The next day dawned clear and crisp. The remains of the undead army lay scattered about, and Sir Tyrne had all of the bones that could be found gathered up and sent to the miller. Two oxen at the mill turned the millstone and ground the bones to powder. The few hunting dogs in River Crown were put to work finding bones and skeletons in the white, powdery snow.
Liam overheard something at the smithy that got him curious, after Sir Tucker voiced his aggravations about a man named Galthin of Hodrax. The dwarven smithy thought Galthin was trying to sell him stolen goods, and wanted no part of that. The goods in question was a long knife, almost a short sword, of good quality and with oil still in the scabbard. Liam asked Galthin to examine the blade himself, and managed to talk the man into letting him hold onto it. River Crown was, after all, a small town – and when Galthin wanted the blade back, he would know where to find Liam.
Liam, though, went to Maleah to see if she recognized the smith's marking on the blade. Liam had seen quite a few in his apprenticeship, and Sir Tucker a hundred times as many, but neither knew who had made the blade. The smith's stamp on the base of the blade would, Liam hoped, clue him in to the original owner. Maleah scowled – for the blade had belonged to Liam's grandfather Caerne. The bandit that had wrecked some of the farm hold was either Galthin, or someone known to him.
Caerne's namesake Liam Caerne went directly to Sir Tyrne, Lord of River Crown. Sir Tyrne recognized the blade immediately, and listend intently to Liam's story. Then he summoned all of his men at arms with an icy tone.
Lucard, standing watch at the time, saw one of the men at arms go into the miller's and retrieve the rest. Telamon, sauced on ale, followed the men at arms.
Liam and Sir Tucker also went to the small town square before Sir Tyrne's manor. At a glance from Sir Tyrne, Sir Tucker – a long time friend and ally – moved surreptiuously behind Galthin. Sir Tyrne spoke to all of them in a deadly calm tone, telling them that to steal from any of them in such lean times was to steal from all of them, and that theft would not be tolerated. Only the dukes were allowed the right to order executions, but the lesser lords such as Sir Tyrne had other options at their disposal for thieves.
Sir Tucker quickly subdued Galthin, and then the other men at arms were sent into Galthin's room in the nearby barracks. They found a small purse with jewelry from Caerne's family, as well as Caerne's dark blue-green armor and other blades. Galthin was a thief. Sir Tyrne let it be known that Galthin of Hodrax was outcast, and would be placed in chains should he ever return to River Crown. He was stripped of his arms and armor, and would be turned out onto the Janis Plains. In the dead of winter, it was as close to a death sentance as any lord could give.
Galthin's horse, armor, and arms were turned over to Liam. The jewelry was given over to Maleah, who recognized it all, save a golden ring with an unfamiliar crest recessed into it.
Telamon, having sobered up tremendously during the impromptu trial, returned to the inn to tell his cousins what had happened. Maleah and Liam met with them, then, helping fill in any gaps in Telamon's story. Aelar proudly accepted the leather armor of Caerne, and it fit him quite well. Telamon took the longsword, and each of the other children took one of the long daggers that all matched.
They had never really known just what Caerne had done for Sir Tyrne, but it was apparent that their grandfather had been an important fighter for Lord River Crown. Maleah half suspected that Caerne had been the killer that protected Sir Tyrne the healer in combat.
The dwarven messenger stomped into the miller's determined to drink as much as he might. He even bought another tun of ale to set outside so that the spirits would be more concentrated as the rest of the 'piss water' froze in the tun. Unlike everyone else in the lands of River Crown, the messenger was a local, and eager to get back to the capital with messages for the king. The pass was too dangerous for one, though, and Sir Tyrne was unwilling to spare anyone with the threat of an undead attack still to come.
The Children of Caerne had another idea. Lucard felt that if they could get over the pass and purchase more food, it would help River Crown immensely, especially with many stores lost to the undead attacks. Liam felt something must be done to the pass to stop the dead there from rising, so he asked Maleah her thought. Maleah and the temple priest could prepare a totem to consecrate the pass, and perhaps cut down on the number of undead that could come from that direction. And the Children of Caerne would be able to earn valuable gold towards both ends, as well as aid the local king's messenger.
Sir Tyrne agreed, and agreed too to give Liam more monies to help in the purchase of supplies for River Crown.
Telamon, knowing that they would leave the next day for lands unknown to him, regailed one of Gull's daughters with his imminent possible death. Tammie Kaeldom Gullsdottr said that if he truly were to die the next day or afterwards on his journey for aid and help against the hordes of undead, then he needed to marry her that night. Telamon, confounded by the marriage proposal, mulled it over for a moment – and then accepted.
While Liam worked frantically on snowshoes for the party – an idea courtesy of Maleah's long history – the rest of the town set to work frantically on an impromptu wedding. Sir Tyrne declared the next day a holiday of sorts, so that there could be some sort of celebration after the fierce fighting against the undead. Maleah worked out a dowry such that Gull and his family – their barn turned near to glass by the undead and the fire – would restore Caerne's place and watch over it for them all.
The wedding rings were forged by Sir Tucker, made from three rings each of Galthin's mail shirt and then stamped with the over-arch of the sigil of River Crown. Galthin's old room was restored by Gull's family for the wedded couple to celebrate their nuptials. And before the groom knew what had happened, he was married and alone with his bride.
The next morning, Sir Tyrne gave Liam a purse of some 37 gold pieces, representing much of the wealth of River Crown. Sir Tyrne admitted that if the purse were lost, he would understand; he trusted Liam, a fellow paladin of Whalin, and apprentice to Sir Tucker. They also would take with them the consecration totem, and two men at arms to help them emplace it in the pass.
The messenger for the king, Orven Lightforger, was ecstatic to be on his way to the pass. Though neither he nor the men at arms had snow shoes of their own, Orven's dwarven endurance and good spirits as they set out easily let him keep up with the party, even helping to pull the consecration totem.
One of the party asked about all of the ogran bones that had made up the assault on River Crown. All of the skeletons had been of orcs and kobolds, and even some ogres and other beasts, but no men or dwarves. Orven explained that from a plateau-like ledge near the pass, the Wirebeard clan had held off an ogran army for several days before being forced to retreat. The messenger claimed that hundreds of thousands of ograns had fallen in the pass.
The party disbelieved him – until they began to hear the crunch of bones beneath the steps of the dwarf and the two men at arms. The consecreation totem made eerie sounds as it slid over the scree of the dead.
As they cleared an area of snow and ice and bone, and then began to work at the frozen ground with picks and mattocks, the sun slowly creeped over the tall mountains, plunging them into darkness. Digging the hole for the totem would take time, and they planned to stay the night in that worst of places. A bivuoac was prepared, and scouts posted.
Lucard and Aelar heard a distant, insane cackle from someone. Or something.
And then the ice itself attacked. Nearly a score of icy snow attacked, hurling icicles and wielding ice mattocks. They were not the undead, and they proved to be difficult foes. The worst was yet to come. A miniature blizzard of snow and ice descended on them from the pass, and at its core was a giant of ice encapsulating a man frozen in the rictus of terror.
The giant gave them no rest, scattering them again and again, forcing them to one another's aid even as a few bravely attacked. The two men at arms fled in terror, but Orven Lightforger waded into the fray with his axe at the ready.
Each time Lucard would strike the beast with Arpelos' light, or Will would blaze into the giant with a pulse of light, there would be an odd echo of the light. The light bringers became the targets of the mad, wild beast. Again their light would strike it, and again there would be an echo of something held in the hands of the dead man frozen in horror within the giant.
It took everything they had, but they brought the beast down, shattering it into a thousand pieces. The man frozen within the ice giant had held a large faceted gem in his hands, and Maleah knew that such gems could hold the essence of elementals and bend them to the will of the bearer. But if the bearer failed, the elementals could be freed to wreak their havoc. Liam and Maleah decided it best to destroy the gem – the area had enough to worry about at the moment from the undead – so Liam smashed the gem with his warhammer.
The man seemed somewhat familiar to Orven, though he could not place it.
Exhausted, beaten, bloodied, winded, and cold from the ice beast's onslaught, they huddled together for warmth in the bivuoac with little to burn for fuel, night still approaching, and the totem still not set.
Later afternoon of the 16th of Dasad, 1331 Avard.
Met at my place, again. David made a great salmon mac n'cheese that fed everyone and then some for about $10. I are impressed. Been feeling a bit under the weather, so my French accent with Sir Tyrne came off more Russiany, as it's hard to have a sinus accent when your sinuses are clogged up.
Almost handed the players their gravestones. Railroaded them with the final encounter of the night, and put 5 1st-level characters up against a 3rd-level solo brute. They managed to survive, but only barely – and yet I'm quite proud of them. There's more healing power in this group than I would've suspected, and they kept their spirits up despite the overwhelming odds.
My favorite scene from the session was Telamon rushing at the monster with both blades drawn, snow and ice swirling around him, determined either to kill the monster or die trying, so beaten and bloodied that he could barely see through swollen and frost-covered eyes.
Do or die, that's Telamon's motto.
* Fixed a couple mistypes and added a bit of detail to the recap
This session was awesome. At first it seemed we wouldn't fight anything because the role play was so thick (woot), but we definitely got our fill of combat! I wasn't expecting the ice elementals/giant after all the undead talk/fights we'd had so far. Awesome change of pace Joe.
I had a blast. In fact, the entire way home I was going back over the story so far and ended up staying on the computer until 12:30 starting Liam's Journal. This campaign is just what the doctor ordered to break my writer's block!