The Chronicles of Etinerra

Battle of Upland Keep
Balto's Journal

I found Beladur easily enough, breaking his fast with a few companions. I joined him for a second breakfast to be sociable, and told him the message from Godfrey. Godfrey was calling in the favor Beladur owed him, the price of his being brought back to life.

I offered to join him in the trip back to Old Fawn, and he gladly accepted, saying he’d feared I’d fallen overboard or some other nautical nonsense. We ended up with a good group of adventurers – Grel, Sally, Itsy, Mazlor, Fergus, Pyrea, Belaldur, Ceresei and of course Willie and Josef I knew. Another mage, Taron, was also heading back to Old Fawn and traveled with us. Grel had hired a trainer, Yasir, who likewise came with.

On our second day, we met a man named Almund. He had a 3-legged dog and carried a raven on his shoulder, leaned on a staff and had a cloak of many shifting colors. We greeted him, and several of us felt moved to give him some coin, which he accepted gravely and for which he thanked us. He was pleased to see a follower of Tangadorin and a priest of the Light traveling together. Grel was awestruck, and I was stirred to remember a tale of an old sage named Almund, who had protected the littlelings when we first came into these lands. Fergus, too, seemed amazed. When we were done talking, Almund leapt high in the air and sailed on in the direction of Yew.

That night, we all shared a dream. Grel was standing on a plain, the rest of us behind him. He faced an iron door and he hammered on it, asked his god for help, pushed and pulled at it with assistance from Taron. Then Ceresei slapped him and we all woke, without the door opening.

In Old Fawn, Godfrey told us of a plot to kill the Duke in or around Enonia and blame the followers of the old gods. Belaldur was charged to protect the Duke. We all thought to help him in this, for our own reasons, but as the Duke had not yet left for Enonia, decided to first try to get Anastasia out of Upland Keep. Belaldur and Grel, joined by Fergus and Mazlor, pay a visit to two sage sisters known to Belaldur, and get intelligence on the chaos tower, the Natass family, and Upland Keep.

We headed to Upland Keep by way of Yew. Near the village of Arwith, we picked up a tail of thugs intent on talking to Pyria and Taron, and recruiting them to the Virridviola Guild.

We reach Yew to find Reynault has already left with his men for Pencurth. We hurry after him, as we have ambitions of sneaking into Upland Keep and opening it up for him. On the way, we run into Ivan Nattus, who does not seem to like us. The next day we rendezvous with Reynault and make our plans.

We set out for Upland Keep, slipping in through the cliff and caves. There is a bit of a fright with an undead creature, but we make it past and we all climb up the well. We quietly make our way to the main building, fight our way through the audience chamber, then upstairs. We kill the leaders, then take the gate towers and open the gates – just as Reynault’s men appear in the dawn light. We harry from inside the tower as Reynault’s men make short work of the massed forces outside the castle. After a parley, the Black Riders of Upland Keep surrender, and relinquish their treasures, in exchange for a promise of a fair hearing before the Marshal.

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Spring in Carbaugh's Keep
Balto's Journal

I slipped away from Yew to Carbaugh’s Keep and there I tarried the whole spring, reacquainting myself with the ways of my people. Or something like them, anyhow.

I had vague memories of riding out as a young child to meet the clans. My father’s farm and inn were right by a main caravan route, so we stayed in touch. After the Doom, and after we moved in with my uncle, though, there was little contact with my culture. Our foods, our ciders and wines, our stories mother and Da shared with me and my sibs as best they could. Still, we were a small collection of littlelings living among the big people. Once Da died, and mother joined with Uncle Sisko and Aunt Kiyra, there were fewer tales of heroes and wise men, more instruction in running a shop.

So I was glad to find a group of littlelings keeping traditions alive. Only, they were somewhat off from the ways of the clans that I remembered. And even a bit off from the way mother kept house and farm and inn, too. More regimented than the clans, a touch more attuned to nature and balance than my family had practiced, and then this devotion to Orlando and his secret writings.

Fun folk to spend time with, and I will treasure this season and the lessons learned – but I never quite bonded. Unless I joined their order, I could not know the teachings of Orlando – and unless I knew the teachings, I was not willing to join! At an impasse, I was relieved to receive a message from Old Fawn, summoning Belaldur to the priest who had raised him from the dead. I made my goodbyes and rode for Yew.

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Songs of the Bard, 15th Day of Summer, 59th Year After Doom

Exciting times in the lands of the Midlands of the Duchy of Irecia! The Duke himself, Duke Archanis Reynald, is visiting the town of Enonia to hold a war council with Marshal Roehm, Marshal Kevlin and Marshal Ynivax. Several other nobles will be attending, and some of the higher priests of the area will be joining them. It is said that the Duke’s advance retinue are already in Enonia, busy with planning for the visit. The Duke’s personal secretary, Collin Vilcin, has been seen staying in the Mug & Pot Inn.

Mercenary companies are already returning to the lands around Enonia, eager to be a part of any war plans developed in this council.

The Eagle’s Alehouse has opened again and is back in business. Following the untimely death of Avael Guntin in the Winter, the inn had been closed, but it has opened recently under new management – a gentleman named Divos Senos-son. He is reputed to cook quite well and attracts many craftsmen and merchants, unlike the previous management that had a more shady clientele.

Rumors are thick that one of the Heroes of the Duchy, Canon Mazlor, might be elevated to High Canon and become the Priest of the temple in Yew! His reputation throughout the Midlands is well known, most recently participating in the Battle of Upland Hold which broke the back of the Black Brotherhood to the north.

A pagan festival is slated to take place on the 20th day of Summer! Encouraged, perhaps, by the tolerance of the Marshal and Temple, two pagan priests by name of Kjeld and Turgon have proposed a festival to take place – a procession to the Marketplace and special booths and craftsmen who are members of these cults. It is not known if Jorann of the Tangadorin cult will take part, but considering the prominence of herself, along with the cult protector Grel, it’s not likely they’ll miss this celebration. This announcement is not without controversy, as the bills posted around town about the festival have been defaced or torn down.

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Good news and Grave danger
Letter to Jorann

Jorann,

I have a great deal to tell you, our latest mission was a complete success! With the aid of Sir Reynald, we successfully took Upland hold, and freed Anastasia!
We were about to leave to meet with Sir Reynald to plan the assault on the keep, when Balto received word from Godfrey that he was calling in the favor that he had extracted from us to raise Beladur from the dead. Though we wanted to go straight to Upland hold, a promise must be kept. So, we went to Old Fawn to meet with Godfrey and repay the debt.
On the way, we met a God! It was the same God that Joffrey dreamed about. The man with the three legged dog and the raven, who said “ You walk with my brother, but you also walk with me.” His name is Almonde, he spoke with us at some length questioning what I get from serving Tangadorin and what Tangadorin gets from my service. When he took his leave from us, he leapt away and was soon lost to sight! Then his raven told me that, the enemy of your enemy is not your friend, do not open the door lest you release something that is best left alone. This is not an exact quote, but was in reference to the chaos tower which I had admitted was much on my mind and that I did burn to reveal the secrets within.
That night, our entire party shared a dream where I stood before one of the doors from the chaos tower and I was trying to open it. I was pushing with all my might and it was starting to give. I saw a glimpse of a green tower within, but then Cerasaii woke me up.
I must admit, that I had more than a few reservations in promising to pay an unknown favor, but the payment is something that I would have been compelled to do even without the debt. He told us that he had heard word of a plot against the Duke, and our Temple as well! He told us that he had heard whisperings that the Dame had instigated a plot to endanger the Duke and cast the suspicion upon our Temple in order to get a royal edict to empower and legitimize the Lightbringers.
Obviously, this would result in the you, me and Torak all being publicly executed. Weather the Duke will be harmed or just threatened is unclear, but in order to implicate our temple, it must occur in or near Enonia. Godfrey told us that the Duke is planning to come to Enonia in the near future, and that this is almost certainly when the attack will occur.
I suggest that you have Torak report to the Temple immediately! We must be prepared.
We decided that since the Duke had not yet begun travelling, we had enough time to assault the keep and still get back to Enonia before the Duke. That night, Beladur took us to meet two sisters who he felt might be able to shed light on this Almonde and the strange dream our group had after we met him.
They told us that Alfred and Gerald are obviously doing rituals with demons. They also told us of a green tower held by the Nvond family a bit east of the chaos tower. There must be some link.
They told us that Almonde is a God of travelers, and that Tangadorin gains power from our revealing secrets and shedding light on lost knowledge.
We asked them to research into the magical chamber in Upland hold, this could be important information.
Then we headed back to Yew. Reynald had already left to Pencurth, so we hurried on our way there. We found him and decided upon our plan. We would sneak in and take out the leaders and Reynald would assault the front.
We snuck in with no problems, climbed up the well and snuck right over to the building where we knew the leaders were. Everything went remarkably well. We took out the military leader Lon and took him prisoner. Then we made it up to the second floor before the first alarm was sounded. We took out the guards and freed a few prisoners who told us where the mage was. We found her withought much problem, and with a successful silence spell, she only got off a single spell before Pyria killed her. Anastasia was freed from the enchantment, and we were ready to make our escape.
We took Lon, and went to the first gate tower, wher we took out the guards and released the weights, then to the second tower. We spiked the door, killed the gaurds and opened the gate. Then we signaled Reynald to attack.
Reynald’s forces killed 60 men without taking a single casualty and the rest broke and ran. Meanwhile the castle forces were pouring out while we shot arrows and spells at them. We threw Philopote’s dead body down and told them that there leaders were vanquished. They surrendered and we were able to take the keep.
We are all on our way to Enonia now to protect the Duke. We are bringing Anastasia to reunite her with Marshal Raimes. Reynald is also on his way as I felt I had to inform him of the danger to his brother. He is clearly a man of honor and loyalty and I always have problems not talking, so…..
We shall be with you soon, put everyone on the alert. We will certainly need to inform the Marshal of the possible threat. Be careful not to make any accusations as we have no proof of anything yet. As of right now, it is a possible threat, that I believe, but that is all we know.

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Report To Jorann
Grel’s report to Jorann at the Temple

Greetings High Priestess,

I hope this message finds you well, and that all is well in Enonia.

Allow me to fill you in on our latest adventure. Our group spent most of the spring hunting the Black Riders. Taran, Fergus, Beladur, Pyria, Mazlor, Sally, Itsy, Josef, Vilheim and I decided to scout Upland Hold to find out what was going on. We were granted ten men to accompany us by Marshal Yinnivax. We decided to try to get word out that we were a heavily provisioned group on our way towards the mountains. We stopped in pentacurth and pretended to be waiting out the storm. A few went to Ironham to let out word of our plans, then returned with one of the traitors.We waited a few days, and finally ten Black Riders came and demanded our provisions. We killed some and captured the rest.
We continued on our way, and were soon attacked by 20 Black Riders. We took out most of them and captured the rest. We then returned to Marshal Yinnivax with the prisoners and news tha we had seriously depleted the forces in Upland Hold.
Hopefully, we can soon mount a true assault on the Keep!

Incidently, I hope you can recruit a couple young priest to come to Old Fawn to start spreading word of Tangadorin. The Marshal has already agreed to allow it.

I wish you well, and will report again if there is news.

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Message to Jorann
Grel’s report to Jorann at the Temple

High Priestess,

A strange adventure occurred that I must inform you of. Malor, Sally, Itsy, Beladur, Taron and I set out once again to rescue Anastasia. We had little difficulty reaching Upland Hold and made our way into the secret entrance. This is where things became odd. After we entered, there was a ledge 10 feet up and Beladur decided to climb it. Suddenly, he was caught by something and was being pulled up. I grabbed his legs to pull him back, but it was too strong. I won’t go into too much detail, suffice it to say it was a bit hairy, but we defeated the cave fisher and continued exploring. While exploring, we passed a stairway which Beladur decided to look into. This seemed to disturb the undead Licht?/Wight? Creature that was standing guard. We beat a strategic retreat, but it followed. Eventually Mazlor was able to turn it. Allowing us to raid it’s chamber and take a chest full of gold. We continued on, and Beladur was attacked by Rock men. I used Tangadorin’s gift of comprehension to talk to them and convinced them we meant no harm. They called themselves the lost, since they had been ensorcelled into these creatures and could not leave or remember their lives.
We continued on and found a pool with columns and a hole in the ceiling. It turned out that this was the bottom of a well in the keep. We continued and found the entrance into a storeroom below the keep. There was a trap door which led to a room with a door. Outside that door was a barracks with sleeping soldiers. We decided not to continue further at that time. While investigating the storeroom, we found a passage to a chamber of extremely powerful magic! Could you please check with the sages in Enonia and find out if there is some hidden magical history of this keep? This was clearly a level of magic far beyond anything I have ever seen. This definitely needs to be investigated by people who know what they are doing. I fear to touch anything in that chamber. On our way back, Beladur climbed the well and looked around, Then Mazlor tried to Dispel the magic on one of the rock men. It worked! He then tried it again on the other 6, 2 did not survive, but the other four were freed. We took the 5 survivors to Pentacurst and left themwith Girault.
Please get back to me with anything you can fnd on the history of Upland Hold.

Your Friend and Faithful Servant,
Grel

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Missive to Jorann
Grel’s report

High Priestess Jorann,

I am bursting with excitement to tell you of my recent doings. The most important (to me) is that I have pleased Tangadorin enough that he has granted me my Paladin’s Warhorse, and a more fantastic steed has never graced a warrior. It is no ordinary steed! It is a magical entity. It looks like a winged horse, but it is not wholly (but it clearly is Holy) visible. It seems to be formed of the clouds. When I mount it, I feel closer to Tangadorin than I have ever felt when not in His actual presence. Tangadorin has told me that it has incredible speed, although I have not put that to the test yet. But most amazing of all is that it flies! You can’t imagine the joy in flying on the back of the corporeal proof of your God’s love! It is a truly amazing feeling.
But I fear I have digressed from my report. Forgive me for that, but I am still awed by this incredible gift. Much has been going on up here to the north. As you no doubt have heard, Sir Yinnivax has been named Marshal. We went to see him to congratulate him. Also, we figured we would see what he knew of the apparent turning of Anastasia, Marshal Raimse’s daughter.
He was pleased to see us, and told us that he had three main problems and he would appreciate our help in any of them. First, there was Notchland keep to the East, Second, the Goblins to the South and Third, the Black riders to the North in Upland hold. From our earlier scouting, we had found that Anastasia was in Upland hold. We also found evidence that she was in the company of a Black rider female mage. We think there is a possibility that she has been charmed.
I spoke to the Marshal about Tangadorin. He has agreed that Tangadorin’s preist are free to come to Yew and tell people of Tangadorin’s way. This would of course mean they would have to help out in any way they could, but I am sure that they would wish to help anyway. He has not yet agreed to a Temple, but I feel sure that in time, he will allow it. You will need to see if Tangadorin can provide some priests for the new posting.
We decided to head there with the hope of rescuing Anastasia, and gaining intel for Marshal Yinnivax.
Mazlor (with Sally and Itsy), Fergus (with Josef and Vilheim), Pyria, a new adventurous mage named Tanner, and myself set off. Mazlor decided to see if a priest named Girault wanted to come as we were planning to scout out Pentacurst, the town he had just been forced to evacuate on our way. He was very willing and brought along two veterans who had told us of a secret entrance into Upland hold.
Our journey was uneventful, until we were about a day’s ride from Pentacurst. That’s when we encountered 4 humans running away from 20 goblins. I charged in with my fellow adventurers close behind and we were able to rescue the humans and defeat the goblins. I should point out that the new mage accounted himself quite well. He put a half dozen to sleep with a single spell. Vilheim was a bit put off as he went under too, but he seemed quite impressed with the results.
Pyria managed to tie one up for questioning. This is where I am deeply troubled. For not only did Pyria deceive the unfortunate goblin that she would let him go. But then when we had finished questioning it, she did release it, but only to kill him as he ran away. I am deeply troubled by this and am not sure how Tangadorin would wish me to respond. I can’t very well attack her as she is a friend and companion, nor do I feel I can refuse to heal her if she is in mortal danger. However, I feel that this action was wrong. Do you think a stern talking to would be sufficient response? Your guidance would be appreciated.
We spoke to the four humans who were from a small hamlet called Ironhill, not too far away. We agreed to accompany them home. On the way, one of them told us of a strange habitation nearby. Five stone buildings where two elder gentlemen lived. We were a bit curious, so we decided to check it out. AS I got close to the buildings, my senses told me that the center building reeked of Chaos, and magic. It was very disturbing. I knocked on one of the buildings, but the occupant would not come out. Mazlor knocked on the other building and had more success. The older man agreed to allow us to spend the night, but asked that we not bring fire into the circle of buildings, and to stay away from the center building. The sense of chaos was too troubling for me to remain, so I camped away from the structure. The rest of the party remained. A few hours later I heard an explosion and a blast of light. When I went to investigate, I found Fergus unconscious and fried, along with two sheepish looking magic users. Apparently, they had convinced Fergus to attempt to jimmy the lock on one of the doors of the center building. A metal Demonic face which was the keyhole had bitten clean through his dagger and then hit him with a lightning bolt. He came within an inch of total death. We all decided that it would be a good time to leave.
I am also troubled about this. As a servant of Law and Order, I am naturally opposed to Chaos. However, these old men did not challenge us and were in fact quite reasonable. I felt that I should have done something about this Chaos, but I couldn’t very well go and break down their door and demand answers. That would not be Lawful. How should I have handled this? On further reflection, I wonder if I had announced that I am a servant of Law, and that I require answers as to this Chaos magic, do you think that would have been wise?
We continued on to Ironhill, where Fergus needed to rest for a week to recover. While there, I converted 6 new followers to Tangadorin’s light. Shortly thereafter was when I prayed to Tangadorin to beseech him for my steed. What with the new converts, and the pathway to acceptance in Yew, Tangadorin was very pleased. There was a great deal of awe when the people saw Aethir, my steed. I am sure it will be a story told for many years! We continued on to Pentacurst, which had been abandoned. Girault decided to stay, but allowed one of his men to continue with us to Upland hold to show us the secret entrance. It was a small entrance high up on the cliff of the back of the keep. I scouted it a bit on Aethir, but was not able to gain much information. I also flew over the keep to get an idea of the internal layout. I was surprised to see how similar it was to the keeps surrounding Irecia. There were only a few guards. Nonetheless, we decided that we had enough information for now, and needed to return to civilization.

Your servant,
Grel

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Letter to Joffrey and Nidia, dated 40 fall 58AD

Greetings Joffrey and Nidia, I hope that this letter reaches you and that you are doing well.

I am pleased with your choice of direction, trust that Tangadorin will guide you where He wills you to go.

I am very interested in your dream, I have never heard of this being. Perhaps it is one of Tangadorin’s brother Gods? I will meditate and perhaps Tangadorin will reveal the truth to me.

The questions that you ask are ones that I myself have been asking for some time. I have been studying the WORDS OF TANGADORIN much lately, trying to find how I can serve Him better, and what he wants. What I have found is that the darkness has a few connotations. Obviously the All Seeing, All Hearing, All Knowing Tangadorin hates the concealing darkness and those who dwell in it. However, there is more to it than that. The darkness is also secrets and forgotten or hidden knowledge. Our god is one who wants knowledge to be shared and freely given. He abhors lies and concealment. We must strive to be open books, seek out lost or hidden knowledge and share what you learn. He does love sages and scholars and wizards, but he abhors secrets which unfortunately some of them

The worship of Tangadorin is worshipping of enlightenment, for He is the Lightbringer in more ways than one. His true gift is enlightenment, the revelation of knowledge and secrets. Anyone who wishes not to have the truth hidden from them should gladly swell our ranks. We are the seekers of Truth and Knowledge. This is what you must tell people.

I pray to Tangadorin to keep you safe and to guide you in your journey. If you need anything, you have but to ask.

Be safe in His Light,
Your Friend,
Jorann

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Songs of the Bards - Winter 58, 59th Year AD

Despite the weather outside which continues to be frightful, the bards in the Inns and taverns have quite a tale to tell! Crowds have been gathering to hear of an amazing story that has come from beleaguered Duchy of Dawn!

The Duchy’s remaining two cities, Reach and Ancturin, knew that the Orcs would come ravening at their doorsteps, and in the Summer of 58AD, that is exactly what happened. As the remaining armies of the Duchy fled to the harbor city of Reach, the orcs pursued them relentlessly. Faced with the prospect of a long siege against a huge orc invasion, without hope of help, the City Council reached an astonishing decision – evacuate the ENTIRE city!

The population of Reach fled up the road towards Ancturin for nearly thirty days as the remaining armies followed behind to protect them. Couriers were sent to Ancturin to warn of them of what was coming. Every available ship was sent to the Bay of Ancturin, as those who would want to flee the Duchy would take the sea merchant’s route down the coast to the Duchy of Pisces and safety. A small force was left in Reach to serve as a rear guard and keep the Orcs delayed.

The plan worked! The small human contingent managed to keep the Orcs off-balance with bravery and luck, while the remainder of the forces and population made it to the Bay of Ancturin. Faced with a similar decision, the leaders of Ancturin, which is one of the original cities of humanity, made a similar decision. Evacuate! There were enough ships to hold the vast majority of both populations. Every available sea-worth vessel was used, from large merchant carrocks, to military ships, to small fishing vessels. The armies of Reach, Ancturin and the Ducal forces set up to fight to the last man to allow the common folks to escape.

The first ships have made it safely to Amfrey’s Point with this news (which came by way of merchant ships from that harbor town to Orleans and then through the Southron Duchy to Enonia.) so none know yet if all of the populations were evacuated… and who survived of the brave armies that faced to Bestial hordes.

The story is so popular that several songs have been sung over and over about it, but there is more news from closer to home…


  • The village of Penkurth has fallen, with the remaining survivors making their way to Yew. A large force of the Black Brotherhood raided the village and managed to destroy or drive out the defenders. Priest Girout, the leader of the village, survived the attack, but was wounded. Astonishingly, some of the survivors claim that Marshal Roehm’s daughter, Anastasia, was seen with the raiders!
  • Sir Reynald has been injured! As part of the feasting days during Winter, he and his company were performing a winter’s joust, and he was severely injured in a fall from his horse. Sir Reynald will recover and should be back in the saddle by Spring time.
  • In a surprise announcement and visit, Marshal Roehm has visited Yew with wonderful news – Sir Yinivax has been exalted to the highest rank and honor that the Duke can bestow and made him the Marshal of the lands around Yew! Marshal Ynivax will need to free Notchland Keep from the orcs in order to assume the traditional seat of the Marshal of Yew, but in the meantime, he continues to oversee the rebuilding of Yew and protection of its citizens.
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Swine Trek, or Hogs and Kisses
Balto's Journal

What a wonderful birthday that was! Belaldur and I parted company early on – he has a thing for human females, while I had gathered to me a few of Carbaugh’s folk. We littlelings stuck to the good wine, while Beladur hoarded his coin and drank whatever pigswill they brought him – more swine than wine, honestly.

I suppose it was good enough, though, as he soon got tipsy and began squealing out sea shanties. Wreathed in pipeweed smoke, capering across the stage, he quite annoyed the bards and the bar staff, and he was pitched out of the Lusty Maiden. He must have picked himself up and gone on to another tavern, but I and Wynn and Oblan and Noro went back to my room at Harriet’s Rest, Noro giggling over the somewhat racy new lyrics to “This Little Piggy.”

The next day, I had a slight hangover, but the two lads and one lass from Carbaugh’s Keep were pert, cheerful, and attentive, and they soon took my mind off the headache. We had a fine breakfast of peppered bacon and spice cake, and I took some to Belaldur’s room, along with a universal hangover cure sold at the same stall. He’d not returned from his night out, and I wondered if he’d finally found a woman willing to overlook his pointed ears. I rooted around in his stuff, but saw no clues. Not trusting the locks in this inn, I secured his pouch of gold, then sought out the innkeeper. He confirmed that he had not seen Belaldur return, that no one was sleeping in the bar, and that Belaldur had remarkably low charisma for an elf. I was a bit worried – Belaldur was a good companion, never squealed on me nor I on him. I hoped he had finally gotten lucky, or passed out somewhere safe.

I alerted the others in my party – Fergus, Willie, and Josef were emerging from a round of wrestling practice, shiny as greased pigs; Ceresei was coming back from a morning stroll with some hog-hazels; Pyrea was at the blacksmith’s, watching her take a delivery of pig iron. Mazlor was occupied at a nearby piggery, blessing the shoats and dealing with an outbreak of swine flu, and was thus unavailable to help us find Belaldur.

My friends and I headed back to nearest bar, a rough spot named the Black Stabbard, where Grel was earnestly explaining a tale of Tangadorin to a table in the corner. When they saw we needed Grel, those three militiamen quickly excused themselves and let us have the paladin to ourselves. I didn’t mind, they’d left behind their bowls of pork and leek soup, and breakfast had been a good couple hours ago.

Grel quickly leapt into action, buying a round of drinks and ingratiating himself with Tyree, who owned the place. As he rubbed the stump where his left hand had been, Tyree remembered Belaldur had been staggering around complaining that the place stank like a pigsty, but then trotted off with a beautiful woman – probably a prostitute, from the way she was dressed. (Personally, I doubted this – Belaldur would not have had such a long dry spell if he’d been the type to pay for company.)

We moved on to the Lusty Maiden. Calloweigh, the owner of the tavern, was in an expansive mood, glad that his gamble of bringing in bards to boost his custom had been so successful. He even chuckled and told me he regretted there was no more hard cider, but we littlelings had drunk his last hogshead the night before. He remembered telling Belaldur that if he couldn’t hold his pipeweed, stop hamming it up and leave, but Belaldur just glared pig-eyed at him and kept singing over the bards. So Calloweigh had his staff pitch Belaldur out on the street, where he wallowed in the muck for a bit before finding his feet and trotting off.

We all went to the next bar, the Charging Bull. The bartender, refilling the jars of pickled pig’s feet, eggs, and onions, told us that Chaz, the owner, was busy with a priest of the Light. But he remembered Belaldur – the bar had been nearly empty when Belaldur came in with the woman. Belaldur bought them each a drink, then leaned forward to ask if there was a party room. The bartender gladly rented the room to them for the night – and they seemed to enjoy it, judging from the grunts and squeals and “Who’s a bad little piggy?” that he heard late in the night. The next day, when he went into the room to wake them and clean up, he found a couple chairs overturned, a pile of clothes and an empty purse on the floor, and the back door gaping open. He showed us. There’d been snow the last several days, so we could see the footprints headed off east, in the opposite direction as Harriet’s Rest. We searched the clothes, found a hidden pocket sewn in them with a letter from Belaldur giving us instructions to claim a treasure should he die. There was no blood, no magic used. Willie examined the tracks and insisted that they were of a woman and some kind of animal. But none of us were able to tell what sort of animal it was.

We followed the tracks as best as we could – the snow was unrelenting – out to the road and past the East Gate. We continued on to the watchtower just beyond, where we shared out food and drink among the guards. Grel chatted them up, learned that a woman taking her pig for a trot had gone down the road to the East – but only one guard, Leon, had seen it, and everyone else told him the hooch had him seeing hogs and fogs, as the saying goes.

But I suspected our wild night out had farrowed a litter of troubles on Belaldur – more and more, I was sure he had been changed into a pig, and I hoped he’d not yet been barrowed. I’m not sure even Mazlor’s ability to heal extended as far as un-castrating!

We went back into town, seeking out a tracker to help us. While even a blind pig can find an acorn once in a while, the snow kept falling, and we’d need an expert. At the Lusty Maiden, we were pointed to a man holding forth at a corner table. I heard Grel mutter a quick plea to Tangadorin: “Please, let it not be Galub!” But it was, and as we approached, we realized he was hogging the credit for our recent successes against the Damned and the Black Riders. But pig in a poke that he’d turned out to be, he still knew his business. We hired him on for a month. The next day, we provisioned up and headed out, and I tossed a wineskin to Leon as we rode by the watchtower. Leon squealed in delight: “Hope you find that porker, then!”

And of course, now that we’d brought Galub back into the company, the snow stopped. As we followed the trail, Galub noted that the snow around the woman’s feet had melted back: “A hot lady, indeed,” he chortled. “But she knows the road, never leaves it.” The pig had floundered through the snow, so the path was fairly clear up to Rock Run.

We came upon the village – or what was left of it – in the late afternoon. Not a building was whole, no chimney smoke or candlelight greeted us, and there were wrecked and rotting siege towers looming in the fields nearby. As we explored, we found many unburied bodies – skeletons, or just really piles of bones. Around many of these piles, the snow had melted away – and by one of the piles rooted, not melted, out of the snow, we found some of the bones had been dragged to point to the South. Heartened that our friend, even in porcine form, seemed to have retained his wits, I created fire and we made our camp in the lee of a wall. Looking about for something to supplement our dinner, I found some truffles that had been turned up, no doubt by Belaldur. The next day, Winter 27, we rode on nearly to the northern edge of the Dark Woods. Galub led us up into grove, wherein stood a higgledy-piggledly but stoutly built wood palisade encircling a large tent-like stucture, made of branches and hide and bark. Ash and embers swirled out its smokehole, and we could hear a pig snorting inside. There was a gate in the palisade, but it was clearly trapped and Pyrea warned us it was also ensorcelled.

Ceresie warped wood, opening a gap in the palisade, and one by one we crept in. Grel shouted at the tent, “Release our friend!” The door opened a crack and a spell flashed out to hold Fergus. Grel made an incredible shot with his bow, and the woman at the door shrieked and slammed shut the door. We heard the pig inside, running about, and the sorceress swore at it, then shouted to us “Leave me be or your friend will die in torment!” Grel yelled back, “In a pig’s eye!”, and we began hacking at the door and hides.

Inside the tent, we heard another spell cast, and the roar of a fire. As we crashed through the door and wall, we saw a great bonfire, and a dead pig. I grieved Belaldur, but rationalized that he would make wonderful eating. But enough time to think of that later – for now, we had to pull our own bacon out of the fire – the sorceress had set a trap of burning oil that killed Inya and sorely injured Grel, Josef, and me. The sorceress leapt at me through the flames, dagger extended. Angry as I was, I smashed her square with my cudgel, and killed her. And I took her weapon.

As we looked about her lair, Fergus stirred and the pig awakened – she only had cast sleep upon it. Pyrea claimed all the magical ingredients we turned up. I found a small box containing a tiger’s eye, a piece of polished onyx, a large pearl, and a large aquamarine. Grel tried to take the pearl, but I put all the gems away with the five we found on our last adventure.

I summoned the power to talk with the pig and confirmed it is Belaldur. “Well, that was one of my rasher decisions, “ he said. “I thank all of you – I had thought the only way I would ride the sea again was as a ration of salt pork.” He remembered little of the night when he was enchanted, and he wanted to wash the taste of her slop out of his mouth, so I let him guzzle down my hard cider. And so we had a tipsy pig to take through the snow.

We quickly made a travois from the remnants of the tent, and set him in the middle of it, with Inya’s body, piling up her fur cloak and his to keep him warm. Grel suggested going to Enonia to have Jorann remove the enchantment, but Fergus pointed out we’d have to go through Old Fawn on the way. Why not have Godfrey call on the Light to fix this?

There was a bit of excitement along the way – a wagon on its side with four people standing around it turned out to be a small group of the Damned, and we had a quick tussle before dispatching them all. Ceresei looked askance at me for chanting “Kill! Kill!” – but I do fear these unnatural creatures, more than I do the undead. Willie had been bitten but I found no disease in him. There was only a little coin upon the bodies, and the food in the cart had spoiled. We pushed on for 4 more days through the snowstorms to reach Old Fawn.

Grell, though very articulate, felt his service to an old god would prejudice the Temple of the Light against his request for services. Instead, Ceresei led the grunter to the Temple, where Godfrey had just finished leading worship. He was skeptical, but we offered to pay – so he sent an acolyte to see if this were, in fact, a magic pig. The acolyte was first astonished, then amazed to find we spoke the truth, and led us behind the kitchen. Belaldur was nervous – this was, after all, as much a slaughtering spot as a kitchen garden. But soon Godfrey came up to take our money and brought Beladur into the shed with him for the ritual.

It was not a perfect success. The body changed back, but the shock was too much for Belaldur. In recognition of our services ridding the Duchy of a magic-user, and the promise that we would perform him a service, Godfrey promised to raise our friend from the dead the next day.

And he was as good as his word. Beladur was weak but before being taken to his bed, he whispered his thanks – and to me, said sardonically, “Worst birthday ever! Oh, my loins – We did the piggly-wiggly, you know, but she never let me pork her!”

Soon we heard the choirs and bards singing of Godfrey’s glory. Belaldur thanked Godfrey but shook off his invitation to join in the worship of the Light. We resupplied, took some smoked hams with us for the relief of the poor in Yew, and rode back along the windswept road. We made good time until the snows again closed in, and Belaldur welcomed the extra day of imposed rest. I used the time to contemplate the universe and to prepare a lovely dinner of stirred eggs, some tubers Ceresei dug up, and the oddly named but delicious Canadian bacon.

Thus fortified, we continued on our way, meeting a company of mercenaries on patrol for the Duke and Marshal. Another blizzard stranded us for a day, and we were out of meat – save the hams sent for Yew’s poor. Belaldur did not take kindly to the jokes about how if we’d cured him, we’d have bacon by now.

The next day, though, was clear and bright, and we rode into Yew. Ynnivax had moved his offices to the guard tower, and we reported to him. He encouraged us to think on rescuing Anastasia – “If,” he archly says, "this fine elf is done pursuing porcine pleasures?” – and the other prisoners. Perhaps, too, we could eliminate the threat from Upland Keep, so forces won’t have to be diverted from the big push the Duke and Marshal Roehm are planning for the Spring.

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