The City of Ruin

Ald Calta

Faltus

The Knight of the Crossing

Across the Dagger Sea, the party arrived in the Provinces, but not before the half-breed Deathstroke managed to offend the captain and crew. On the voyage across the sailors first filled his ears with tales of shipwrecks and treasures beneath the waves. Consumed by the lust for this fantastical booty, he begged and cajoled the captain to set anchor so that he might ply the depths. Instead, he was dragged behind the ship for miles and roundly mocked. Once back aboard, he offended and threatened many to the point that they bound and gagged him and left him with his companions on a stretch of sandy shore without even benefit of a port.

Walking inland, the party came across the Old Shore Road and began making their way south toward the Provincial Alds. Over the course of many weeks they had minor adventures but moved ever Southward toward Shamsel

Outside of Ald Giancolis, the party fought giant centipedes which emerged to eat them in the night. They also encountered several strangers along the road, some of which felt imperiled and intimidated by the savage Deathstroke.

In Shamsel, one of the ramshackle new cities at the southern end of the Provinces, the party sought rest and comfort in the local public house. There they entertained an invitation by a man who claimed to have a map of a nearby ruin and a great treasure hidden therein.

The treasure he said, was a helm, sword and breastplate belonging to a great warrior of a bygone age. The man had previously hired ten adventurers who had been gone ten days, though the ruins were but a day and half off. Given the time he feared them lost. As the party appeared to the man to be of stouter stuff, he offered to hire them, instead. He said he would pay 2 Westrun crowns a day, plus a full share of any treasure found (excepting the aforementioned sword, helm and breastplate).

As the ruined city was supposed to be on their way back to Eastrun, the party agreed to work for the man and left after a few days provisioning.

The first encounter was to be waylaid at a common bridge by a Hedge Knight calling himself Roger of the Crossing. No one would pass, Sir Roger said, unless he were offered a monetary gift for each traveler and each horse upon his bridge. The river he claimed, was too treacherous for passage.

Brumbar the Paladin rode into the river and espied the caltrops buried there, before making the opposite shore and then returning to challenge the Knight of the Crossing. The two men had just agreed to a fight to the death when the impetuous half-breed voiced an uncommon objection. His feelings were seconded by Hannah the Sacred Sister and the terms were reset. If Brumbar were to lose the combat, the party would pay and Brumbar would surrender his armor to the hedge knight. But if Sir Roger were to lose, he would quit the crossing and seek a new source of income.

Brumbar was victorious, but Roger was smote too grievously to be abandoned by the side of the road. Instead, the party waited by his side for him to recover. Once he was on his feet, they bid him farewell and left for the Ruined City.

The Province of Haller and Hallerhall

By the pronouncement of the King of Bolden, Sir Brumbar, was elevated to the status of a noble and appointed the Baron of Haller and given the keys to Hallerhall itself. In the court of the king, this pronouncement was met with no little stirring among the assembled nobles. Here and there snorts of laughter could be heard along with the clearing of throats.

To help Brumbar administer his new holding, the king turned over to him one of his most trusted administrators, a learned man named Skeeve.

Later, in private, Skeeve mused to Brumbar that the two of them were equally hated by the king as Haller was well known to be a cursed land which had put to death the last six lords which had investiture there.

In addition to this ominous news came a meeting with an Eastrun Noble and attendant of the King's court named Kires. Lord Kires warned that not only was the land of Haller in ruin and cursed, but Hallerhall itself was haunted by a malevolence which had grown more powerful by swallowing the last six lords and their retinues, no doubt adding their powers to its own. Nevertheless, Lord Kires said that he was greatly impressed with Brumbars actions on behalf of the late Lady Geldorf and would agree to help clear the land and conquer the castle if that was something Brumbar wished to do.

Brumbar thanked him, but said that taming the province of Haller would have to wait until his return from Eastrun and his goal of finding and defeating Vecna. That same day, the party departed by hired ship from the port of Bolden across the Dagger Sea to the Provinces.

A Favor for Thomas

In the uneasy calm following the Guild War, the city watch was arresting those who carried weapons in the streets. Brumbar and Snow took shelter and succor from Fr. Thomas. For her part, the rescued Lady Geldorf refused to return to the castle under which she was imprisoned. Instead, she also took shelter while contemplating what courses of action were open to her -- a disgraced woman of good breeding.

Fr. Thomas runs the Beggar's Banquet, a charity enterprise in the city of Bolden. As his guests, Brumbar and Snow were met with the Paladin Apollo and that holy knight's runaway half-breed companion -- an impulsive and violent creature calling himself Deathstroke. As long as the party was staying with Fr. Thomas, the priest begged them to investigate strange thumpings coming from the cellar beneath his building. Bolden is well known for its extensive catacombs and having some experience there, the party agreed to help.

The cellar boasted an old door and a hidden stairwell which when smashed open revealed the bedraggled form of a man who claimed to have been wandering in the dark for weeks. He said that the stairwell led down to a series of chambers and hallways which contain many dangers but most of all, two giant-sized rubies which he greatly desired.

The party descended into the darkness following the impetuous nature of the half-breed warrior. After encountering and surviving numerous dangers, they came at last into contact with a party of dwarves who had already cleared most of the complex. The dwarves agreed to trade coins for the found rubies and the party departed the complex. Once out, they decided to wall up the old door in the basement of the Beggar's Banquet.

They then learned that Lady Geldorf had decided to enter life as a Sacred Sister and leave her Lord husband to his new intended bride. But first she desired to have her honor redeemed, for many rumors abounded about her infidelity and the supposed abandonment of her marriage vows. Brumbar agreed to champion her cause and went to court hoping to provoke an insult he might use to fight for the Lady's honor.

Meanwhile, Snow discovered the whereabouts of Thalwyn and the hidden identity of the head of the Baker's Crime Syndicate. It turned out that Thalwyn has been rendered a stone statue decorating the treasury of the King. The head of the Bakers was none other than the King's chancellor of the Treasury.

Back at court, the desired insult was lodged and Brumbar used that pretext to accuse the Prince of lying and bigamy. When the King of Bolden took notice of the furor in his court, a duel was held between Brumbar and the Prince's own champion, Sir Arak the Savage. When the Paladin proved victorious against his foe, the Lady Geldorf was vindicated and her husband the Prince was sent away to Peakshadow to stay with relatives.

Thalwyn was released to the custody of his friends. The King of Bolden sought to spare himself the embarrassment of his son's actions and rewarded Brumbar with a lordship in the Northern Marches of his Kingdom. The Lady Geldorf was granted her divorce to enter clerical life as a Sacred Sister. After taking her vows, she pledged herself to Brumbar as his chaplain and companion. She was ever after known as Hannah.

A Tale of Two Guilds

Upon arriving in Bolden, Brumbar checked in with the church while Snow sought what information he could from more seedy sources. Information about Thalwyn was hard to come by, however. All Brumbar learned about was the local scandal of the Prince seeking a second marriage to a part-elven mistress. While, Snow learned that the men of Bolden do not part with information easily. He was forced to take work as a hired sword -- the better to learn the city and its environs.

At the time, for a swordsman in Bolden there were only two guilds to join -- either the Villains or the Bastards. The tattooed mercenaries known as the Villains extended him a conditional invitation to join. In order to be accepted in their number he was tasked with stealing the banner of the King's Watch from under their noses and then returning it the very next day. He managed to achieve both in record time.

As a "Villain" he was able to hire on collecting and guarding cash deposits from various businesses throughout the city. When his collection crew was ambushed by curiously powerful brigands, Brumbar swept in to help. Together they defeated the brigands soundly. It was then that they discovered their opponents to be no normal thieves. Rather this band were wererats in tight competition with a local criminal organization nicknamed "The Bakers". Hearing of this success against the wererats, The Bakers hired the two adventurers to root out the remaining competition.

The resulting adventure brought them into contact with a wizard expelled from the College of Serten and a retired member of "The Bakers" guild known as Uncle Cris. Together this party descended into the vast underground catacombs of Bolden. While beneath the streets of Bolden they accidented upon the imprisoned Lady Geldorf, whose husband was seeking a new wife.

After stumbling through the dark and making short work of whatever rats and wererats they could find, the party eventually came into contact with the monstrous deity of those foul creatures, and slew it. Killing their deity had the unintended consequences of cleansing the city of the remaining rat population. The party emerged from the catacombs battle weary only to discover they had inadvertently triggered a war between the Villains and the Bastards.

The battle was long and hard fought. Street to street the two private armies fought until their numbers were greatly depleted and the cobblestones of main street were awash in blood. Finally, a company of the Kings men swept in and put the remaining combatants to the sword. The Battle of Two Guilds was over.

The Hand and the Knife

A Letter from Jym to his Betrothed

Dearest Emi,

I know your anger will be burning bright when you take this letter to Father Henstre and have it read. I hope that when the terrible heat of it has died, though, you will find a way to turn it to the warmth of lasting love.

I have left this morning to go with Sir Brumbar and his companions. I am to be his page and perhaps one day, his squire. From there he has promised to make me a gentleman and a knight in my own right. I will return to your side as Sir Jym!

I know you say that a mason's trade is a good one, but as a serf bound to our baron's land there is no hope for our children. I abscond in the middle of the night to find a better life for me, for you, and for the many children I hope to give you.

Keep this strand of flowers I have woven. Were I a man of means I would have something more substantial to give you my pledge. Nevertheless, I will replace it with a crown of gold when I return.

All my love,


Jym

An Uncommon Wedding

Armed with the salve of the Magister Sylvanus and certain knowledge of where to begin looking for Thalwyn, the party sets out North and East for Bolden. On the way they stop over in Heltorun. The city is all abuzz with news that a local nobleman's son will wed a common serf.

The party lays over for a two days to gain rest from the journey and becomes embroiled in the marriage festivities. While watching the local custom, Father Brendan is approached by the bride-to-be who hastily whispers in his ear.

"Tell me true, can a woman be forced to marry?"

Brendan advises her that the church has forbidden such arrangements for more than a century, but the rest of the wedding party bears her away before more can be learned. Over the next twenty-four hours, the party learns all that they can of the pending nuptials and after sorting fact from fancy determine the story whole.

Not quite six months before their arrival, the noble boy was out hawking and espied the serf girl bathing in the Wuyde River. Beholden to her beauty, he observed from afar until she spotted him. Fleeing in terror, the girl slipped in the stream and hurt herself sufficiently to bleed.

Arriving home, bereft of clothing and bloody, her father and his fellow serfs took off in pursuit of what they assumed was a rapist. Laying hands on the noble son they treated him roughly and extracted a promise that the daughter's honor would not remain sullied.

To everyone's surprise, when the lord father of the boy was informed, he was not at all wroth, but determined that the wedding should happen sooner rather than later. Much to the relief of the girl's father, but great to the disappointment of the girl and her intended groom. The girl, was in love with a peasant boy of the same village. The noble son thought he was destined for greater things. Nevertheless, at the urgings of their fathers' the wedding was set to occur.

More was afoot than it seemed. In years past, the nobleman's sire had become indebted to the serf girl's grandsire. Both elders had gone off to fight in the perennial conflicts between the Saks and Ratheen. It was the young serf who pulled his noble wounded lord from the field of battle and saved his life. In return for which the nobleman granted his man a special form of tenancy on his land which, while less than ownership, permitted the serf to have right of survivorship that passed to his children.

The current lord, wanted the land to revert to his full control. Underneath that small insignificant farming plot it was believed the some great treasure was hid. By marrying his noble son to the girl, he hoped to obtain that which had been concealed from him by his father.

Father Brendan et al negotiated a new deal between the serf tenant and his noble lord, while freeing the noble son and the serf girl from their obligation to marry. Sir Brumbar agreed to take Jym, the girl's beloved farmboy as a page.

The Search for the Magic Lyre

After meeting Magister Sylvanus in the Mistwood, Sir Brumbar, and Snow work out a deal to obtain a rare item in exchange for the wizards knowledge. While Father Brendan remains behind in the Mistwood to learn what he can of Elven body art.

Their destination is the Village of Farthingwell and a mysterious yard that lays beyond it. The yard is comprised of ancient stones situated by a race of people long forgotten. Overgrown and neglected, the people of Farthingwell view them superstitiously and know to take the long way around. The ominous monoliths are credited with all manner of happenings both foul and perplexing. Unfortunately, Magister Sylvanus is convinced that the item he seeks is hidden in a labyrinth beneath the yard and bids the party to enter.

The adventure is short and bloody and good fortune leads the party to the item in question. Once recovered and presented to Sylvanus, he gives them the bad news. His scrying has revealed that Thalwyn is a prisoner in stone in the City of Bolden. They know only that he is kept in a richly appointed study and surrounded by books. Sylvanus also gives them a special oil to spread on Thalwyn, claiming it will causes him to become flesh again, so long as he remains out of moonlight.

Old Things Ought Not Be Disturbed

Rejoined in Peakshadow, Brumbar and Snow made fast re-acquaintance with Father Brendan. Their common cause was to find Erenth's only honest thief -- Thalwyn the Lawful. As their quarry is also a wizard, the three agreed to journey into the Mistwood to seek out the elven warlock rumored to reside within. It was hoped that he would be able to point them in the right direction.

For their own safety, the party accompanied a trade caravan for Menea and split off a few days North of that city to go cross-country toward their goal.

Before long, they happened upon a gently used road through a baron's holdings. While camping under the stars, they made contact with a gnome artificer who appeared to be handy with a sharpening stone. He had a ferret as an animal companion, who unbeknownst to him turned out to be capable of shapeshifting and working great mischief. As a result of that mischief, the party was accosted by the shire reeve and his men and were forced to buy their way out of further trouble.

The road ended at the village of Farthingwell. As it turned out the gnome and his mischief-making companion had already worked their mischief there. Brumbar used the gift of his God to heal an old man who was growing increasing blind and deaf. He immediately gained the welcome of the villagers who invited the party into the public house.

While enjoying their warm ale, the pub received more visitors -- three elves from the Mistwood who announced that they had come into human habitations to enjoy their last drink before decamping for their Winter home. The party inquired of the warlock of the wood -- Magister Sylvanus -- and the elves assured them that they could be ushered directly to him.

Once in Sylvanus' presence they found him to be a particularly sadistic man. He knew of Thalwyn and claims to have been his tutor, but doesn't seem to show any sympathy for his student. He is finally persuaded to advise them of Thalwyn's precarious whereabouts, but only if they agreed to do him a service. They were to retrieve a certain item from a nearby dungeon.

Ashore At Last

Excerpted from the diary of Jack Presser, Captain of all the Ocean's Deep.

We have put ashore expecting to find habitation and civilization and found neither. This land is full of goblins! There is one building distant. It appears to have a strange red hue which is most visible when the sun is behind us. We make for it tomorrow.

****

Some miles separated our ship from what turned out to be a ziggurat raised in the midst of this forbidden landscape. Heedless of the obvious danger of such an inhospitable place, my companions insisted that we enter and demand hospitality. Now hours later, we make with all due haste to return to the ship and safety. There are men there who fancy themselves scholars but are little more than brigands. Not all of us escaped. The man Snow did not accompany us and my questions to Brumbar went unanswered.

****

A day later, we are safely afloat, where my skills are unmatched by any who ply the oceans. I think on the events of the last day and suppress a chill. Never have I seen a knight so savage as this Brumbar. He has seen to our safety and taken a hostage for good measure, but I can't help but think we might have been able to resolve our differences without so much spilt blood. We were pursued, as well, by a gaunt man who I swear appeared more dead than alive. By some magic his voice came to us on the wind as we retreated from the shore -- all sails aloft and all oars in the water. I shudder to think of his promise of vengeance.

****

As captain of this ship I have determined to prove that Erenth is no cylinder. My next enterprise will be to circumnavigate this world (I insist it is a globe) from North to South. I expect it will go as well as our traverse from West to East. I expect some cooler weather ahead. Brumbar is resistant.

69 Days

Excerpts from the diary of Jack Presser, Captain of all the Oceans Deep.

Mad Jack they called me. Because I dared to say that a sea route might be found from Eastrun to Westrun by sailing toward the rising sun. First the kings of Westrun and their learned fools cast me from their courts. Then the princes of the Free Provinces laughed in my face. Finally, the emperors of Eastrun threatened to jail me. Finally, destitute and nearly hopeless, I found myself in the court of the baroness Mai Fung Lee of Shu, begging for ships and a chance to prove my theories.

She has the last outpost of that empire on the shores of the Seas of Certain Death. Her reputation is well earned as a mistress of ships, but even in the court of her misfit traders and merchantmen I found no hearing. Until Brumbar, a knight errant with a rare gift for violence, begged her leave to return to the land of his birth. As it turned out, she also had pressing matters that needed attending to, so she sent him forth with one of her minions and allowed him to pursue whatever route he chose.

In their company was a woman of uncommon beauty – I think I have found my wife!

*****
Brumbar took little convincing. With utmost confidence in me, he helped to sway the minion. The minion was so distracted that he scarcely noticed our point of sail. We were two days East of Shu with both ships before the question even came up.

“Why East?” the minion protested.

“We’re adventurers!” Brumbar reminded him.

*****
The winds favor and we are making excellent time. To stoke their imaginations and to keep them watchful, I offered 500 Westrun gold to whomever spotted land first. To temper their expectations, I also determined to fake my log entries to misrepresent our travel at only 75% of actual distance.

*****
We fought a giant crustacean today. My love, she who was too shy to ever express her true feelings for me perished in the attack. I had the crew sew her body into a sail and Brumbar made a gift of an ornate box (contents unknown). We committed her to the deep.

I shall never love again.

*****
We have discovered a vast island, hundreds of miles square and covered in a lush and steamy jungle. Upon it are fantastical creatures too large to be natural. They are like stories beasts from an ancient time. We re-provisioned and left with all due haste. It is customary to name such a place. As its discoverer, I will call it Mai’s Bush Island.

*****
We have found the Mother of Storms! She is a great whirlpool in the midst of the deep. All things for scores of miles come rushing into her great and toothy maw until her hunger is satiated.

We too found there was not enough wind to arrest our headlong rush. Thinking quickly, Brumbar and the minion sent evacuated the Dhow and set it aflame, allowing that one ship to crash into the mouth. We barely escaped.

*****
We ran aground on a coral atoll. Then swarmed and attacked by 50 sea devils. Our armed parties repelled them handily. We also managed to cut the ropes to which they had latched several sea anchors. The battle was only six or seven minutes long, but it was harrowing. We escaped with our lives.

The Governors Twenty

From the Diary of Myla called Halfelven.

Well, they did it.

I am not sure how with all the odds against them, but there is no doubt they succeeded. My ward, Toland, tells me that they are off the island, the Southrun assassins were stymied and the girl and her brother are safely out of the governor's clutches. That is success by anyone's standards.

So it seems I have misapprehended their abilities. If I ever see them again I will be sure to tell them that they impressed me today. Free City is a dangerous place. I know that well. I have lived three lifetimes here, it seems, and I am never sure I will have tomorrow. So how these mainlanders always muddle through is beyond me.

Let me begin at the beginning. I have the whole story now from everyone involved. I know the details even the heroes don't.

The story begins with a girl of Westrun, anxious to run from her petty existence on the streets of the city of Balduren. She goes to the wharf of that town, like any child seeking adventure might, and runs into the arms of the first person she meets with a wink and a smile and the promise of a better life. Unfortunately for her, those arms belong to Ergin the Whip, a slaver of some reputation. She is quickly trundled off into the hold of a ship and taken to Free City, ironically the city of greatest bondage for young women in all Erenth.

Once in Free City she becomes one of the Governors Twenty, a bevy of hand-picked women assigned to his exclusive brothel, catering to his personal desires and those of his richest customers. She might have been lost to that life forever, where it not for the pluck of a younger brother. He comes across that handful of adventurers who are motivated enough by a sad tale and promise of riches to actually try to emancipate her from her assigned fate.

Unfortunately for her would be rescuers, they are pursued by assassins of Southrun, the so-called Crimson Scimitars, who mean to kill them for one sleight or another. They sought my help of course, but ran afoul of my darling protector, Toland -- who I admit is overly suspicious for my sake.

Nevertheless, without my help, they managed to secret the girl and her brother away from the Governors compound. They did so even after learning that the brother had none of the riches he claimed to and finding that he and his sister were common cast offs in that city. These they paid to have returned to Balduren, and put them in the hands of the Protectors, who operate an orphanage thereabouts.

By some manner of luck they escaped both the Crimson Scimitars and the Hue and Cry of every headhunter, mercenary, and ne'erdowell on the salty streets of Free. I don't expect them to return, but if they ever do, I mean to buy them a drink.

Briefly: Wanted Dead or Alive

A Notice to All Sell Swords and Bounty Hunters and the Decent Peoples of Bolden,
Be you warned that our streets are plagued by vile and uncivilized foreigners,
who are both thieves and murderers of honest tradesmen, and eaters of horses.

Upon this Thewsday last, in the very middle of the day,
a day which shall live on in infamy,
with wanton cruelty and brazen intent, and in the eyes of several witnesses,
the crown jewels of His Grace,
King Halinard,
a prize of the common people of the Kingdom of Bolden and the source of all their pride,
obtained for their benefit and with their love and labors, did while they were under the faithful stewardship of,
Wallace the Just,
fall victim to common thievery with multiple murders attending that crime.

These same eyewitnesses name three savage Eastrun Bandits, a man and his two vile consorts. One of which matches the description of an infamous kidnapper known to lure unspoilt maids into a life of ill repute.
This vile deed, undertaken when said jewels were being sent out for cleaning, occured in the full sight of young children and woman and ladies of some bearing. Additionally, these cutthroats were heard uttering imprecations to their strange gods and dedicating this task into those unholy names. Moreover they were heard to say that they were not respecters of Westrun society, nor had they any regard for the several guilds including most especially the Food Rationers and Storesmans Guild.
In light of these acts, be it known by all that the Kingdom of Bolden authorizes the sum of 10,000 Crowns for the live capture or dead rendition of the male ringleader, and 4,000 Crowns for each of his molls. All three subjects are known to dress in finer clothes. Both females dress scantily over armor and one is described as unbathed.

Briefly: One Satyrday in Bolden

Hendy entered the study and cleared his throat.

The boss decided not to look up, but from the corner of his eye he could see the idiot bouncing on his heels. The damn fool had something to say and would stammer like an idiot for ten minutes before getting his thoughts and/or courage up. The boss decided he didn't feel like waiting to put him out of his misery.

"What is it?"

The simpleton said, "Sir, Gaenor is dead."

"Who?" The boss barely remembered his employees names. Most of them, like this one, were a pain.

"The baker, sir."

The boss looked up and saw that Hendy had turned pale. My, but he was really scared. Good. The boss prided himself on running a tight operation. It was important for his people to know fear. Fear of consequences. Fear of him.

Still not looking up. "I see."

He leaned back in his chair. He'd just given the baker a great business opportunity -- one of his most important. In a typical display of ineptitude, the baker up and dies. The boss was beginning to question the wisdom of insulating himself from day to day operations. He liked clean hands, but they came at a certain expense. He needed quality people to stay that clean, apparently. Quality people were in short supply.

He looked at Hendy now. "Fine, give it to the tailor."

Hendy looked like he was in pain and clutched his stomach. The boss could practically hear it turning from across the room. The fool was a bundle of nerves. Hendy was not quality. Quality was people who could keep calm with things erupted around them.

"What is it?" he dmaneded, impatient.

"S-s-s-sir," Hendy stammered, "you gave Gaenor the job already. He... uh... already made the deal. He took delivery of the items... and he... uh... made the loan."

The boss rolled his eyes. He hated sentimentality from those beneath him. It was such a waste of time and it stopped them from being able to think clearly. Who cared if the baker was dead? What difference did it make. No lord would default on pawned crown jewels. When he spoke again, he spoke slowly so Hendy could keep up.

"Send a boy to His Royal Perfumery, and explain that whats his name..."

"Gaenor," the idiot interrupted.

"That Gaenor has met with an accident. Tell him that his jewels are in capable hands and that payments can be made as previously arranged, but now they will be made to the tailor."

Now the boss really did hear Hendy's stomach.  The pale idiot actually covered his mouth as if to keep from vomiting. Watching the man still squirming and searching for things to say made the boss felt a little uneasy himself.

"What is it, you damned simpering fool?"

"Sir, the items are g-g-gone."

The boss stood up suddenly and involuntarily. His heart began thudding in his ears.

"Gone where?" he roared.

"Uh... that is... no one knows, sir."

The boss felt himself shaking in anger. The fury was boiling through his veins and threatened to explode in a massive surge of profanity and violence. This deal was less than a few hours old and it had gone to gong already.

"Somebody knows, you idiot, bring his crew here and lets get to the bottom of this. We can't have those things in the wind."

"His... the crew was... they were all killed, too," Hendy sobbed.

The mewling sound only added to the fury the boss felt.

"Killed?!?!" The boss picked up the table nearest him and turned it over with a loud splintering crash. He pulled a book off the shelf nearest him and lobbed it at Hendy who was took weak or blind to duck. It careened off his skull with a deep thud. That was joined by a second and a third. A cut opened above the sobbing man's eye.

The boss roared, "You didn't say he had been killed. You said he was dead."

Hendy sank to his knees, blood streaming from his torn scalp and mixing with the tears and snot from his eyes and nose. By the smell, the lesser man had soiled himself. No matter. The boss pulled the bookshelf down next to the desk with another splintering crash, then turned and crossed the room to stare out the window and think.

If the baker and his whole crew were gone, that meant a hit. It meant that another one of the Arches was moving on him. The common people were too smart to make a move against a member of the Guild. No napper would be stupid enough to hit an Uncle in his own place. It had to be one of the Arches making a move... or else....

The boss thought for a moment and willed his thoughts to move slowly. Then he said them aloud.

"Or else the Prince himself is hanging us out to dry."

At that, Hendy sobbed again from behind him on the rug.

The boss knew what he wanted to do, but he had to take a breath and think it through. His tendency was toward immediate retribution. Extreme violence, perpetrated quickly against every available target. Crush everyone and everything... Now! But, he hadn't gotten this far loosing control and soiling himself like the idiot on his rug behind him. No, the first thing he needed was information. Good information. Complete information. He turned back to his idiot employee, still sobbing with his drawers full of shite.

"Tell me, again. This time don't leave out any details."

The boss sat down to listen, but his thoughts were still racing and Hendy would be forced to tell it again and again.

This was 10 gold bar deal. His biggest deal. That meant that his appraiser found the items valued much, much higher. That's how the business worked. If a noble defaulted on the loan extended, they knew the guild could turn the pawned collateral into cash in a hurry. That's why they only pawned things at half, it made the turnover that much easier. So there was a lot of incentive to keep up on the payments.

It worked both ways. These nobles, especially royalty, knew their things were safe. No one nossed with the Guild. No one and not even the Guild would rip off the crown. They too, had to keep their end of the bargain. And if the Guild couldn't keep those things that were pawned, safe?

The boss shook his head. There would be a storm. The King would loose his men on Guild. A lot of good thieves would die and a lot more would rot in the dungeon. Lads, Uncles, Arches... hell the Prince himself would be hung or drawn. Oh, yes, business would suffer for that kind of retribution and the crown would feel it, too. Things would be bad in Bolden and across the whole kingdom, but a king would weather that and just tax his nobles for lost revenue. The nobles would tax the commoners and tighten their leashes on the serfs. In the end, it would be inconvenient for the crown, but no king ever lost his life fighting the Guild.

So what? That wouldn't happen to the Guild. That couldn't happen. The Prince wouldn't allow it. He'd pay off the perfumed pansy just to avoid the trouble and he wouldn't eat the expense, either. His next stop would be right here. He'd come looking to collect.

The boss knew he was on the hook for the items. More than 25 gold bars... maybe as much as 30. That was a lifetime of wages for him. All of his operations in hock. All of his plans down the drain. He would be left barely heaving. No, this would amount to what he liked to call... unacceptable losses.

The boss looked at Hendy, who was still droning on in painstaking detail as the load in his breeches filled the study with the unmistakable smell of a privy-in-the-raw. The boss still wasn't listening. His anger had turned into a seething iron. He was quiet and controlled, but still white hot. He decided, then and there, to kill Hendy when the idiot finished telling it all a third time. It would be good sport, he decided, and would take the edge off this whole mess. And after Hendy was dead and in the ground, the boss would figure out what to do next. He always did. He didn't get where he was today, by not thinking clearly.

The Hospitality of Duke Havenar pt. 2

After the slaying of the leprechaun; Lord Budokai, Lady Mai and Lu-Chen are joined by Sir Jarvis, lately come from Wanderhalt; and a Ranger arrived to investigate the rumors of the cat on behalf of the mysterious White Robes. The group has little time for discussing their mutual interests before they hear another pedestrian coming along on the wooded path.

The Hospitality of Duke Havenar pt. 1

Having donated his portion of the mystery ore to King Aleyn (less what would be needed for the fashioning of a few items) Budokai purposes to leave Collonia and return to Menea and his wife. Lu Chen and Mai agree to go with him, at least as far as the Pass at Oromir.

Cache a Fallen Star pt. 7


A rescued Dwarf by the name of Hafgar identifies himself as a master smith and agrees to work the mysterious ore for the party in exchange for mere room and board.

Catching Up: The Further Travels of Ziek pt. 3

Fleeing the burning barn, Ziek and Ward made good time before the sun rose. They ate the last of their rations on the road and put in a full day’s travel, and then some.

Cache a Fallen Star pt. 6

The Frost Giant Shaman is somewhere in the complex. The party stands having defeated most of the Jarl's forces in combat. Two Stone Giants are captive and scores of dwarves come spilling into the courtyard from some unseen warren. The party decides to move with haste. Leaving Beleg behind to treat with his fellow Dwarves, they disregard the door through which the Shaman was seen retreating, and head into the manor from the side entrance. They immediately surprise another Frost Giant who works in the kitchen and dispatch him before he can beg for quarter.

Backstory: Lita

Lita grew up in a small village called Winston, on the outskirts of the Mistwood Forest. She came from an ordinary home. Her parents had a small house and garden, where they grew enough food to survive. Her father, who was rumored to be a Ranger in his youth, was a great hunter. There was always meat on the table for dinner. His name was Leonard, and his wife was Isabella.

Men Stomp Where Elves Fear to Tred

Two sell-swords, Bronn and Assaad find themselves in a public house in Rath and unemployed. Their waitress brings their latest round of drinks along with a notice from a person unknown.

Men-at-Arms Wanted
for a task most dangerous.
Rewards commensurate.

Inquire of Mr. Hobbes, 
at Penn Oyal's Inn

The Brothers Unprepared

Dunsmyr and Dinsmyr, twin brothers and half breed elves of the Mistwood are summoned to the Tower of their Wizard, the Llormaster of the Mistwood. There they find that Magister Sylvanus has taken leave of the tower and left his primus, Tuorwyn in charge. Tuorwyn has an offer for the two half-elves.