A Debt of Honor

The Heirloom

The last couple of days have not been the easiest. Word spread quickly through Harken about the events at the Greenlode mine. People gather around the stables at night to see Brandymane transform from what appears to be a normal pony during the day into a half-demon steed in the blanket of night. The horse has been acting odd since returning to Harken. Sleeping during the day and braying and kicking during the evening hours.

“I can’t even ride him now. He’s CURSED! I should just kill him and put him out of his misery.” Binwin threatens every night, but every morning the pony seems fine and gives Binwin new hope that maybe this “illness” is only temporary.

Most of you are eager to move on, but your debt to the dwarf has kept you in Harken, awaiting a chance to repay him or some indication that Brandymane’s condition might improve. Then, early saturday morning comes a welcome break in the tension looming over your heads.

You are all awakened to the hurried noise of Binwin, Omin and Jim gathering their gear and packing their horses just outside the Inn. Frantic footfalls and Omin’s commanding voice barking out orders both to his companions and the Inn staff send you all inquisitively down into the common room.

“We have to go. We’ve been summoned to Fallcrest by one of our previous employers. You mangy lot aren’t the only ones with debts and you don’t keep Teldorthan Ironhews waiting.”

Aylwyn and Threefeet shoot each other knowing glances. The name is quite familiar to them both. Teldorthan Ironhews is Fallcrest’s weaponsmith and armorer but it is well known in certain circles that he was also a man of ill repute and ran a lot of Fallcrest’s organized crime.

“We’ll be back in three days, but while I’m gone I have a task for ye.” He looks over his shoulder, waiting for Omin to leave the Inn to inspect the small caravan of horses outside. Once clear of earshot, Binwin continues.

“While we were down in that god forsaken mine, I lost something important. And I want you to get it back for me. See, we entered this one room that SEEMED empty. But I managed to step where I shouldn’t have and set off a trap. The doors slammed shut behind us and the room started to fill with dirt and silt, threatening to bury us alive.”

“Jim managed to spot an open slot up on the wall with gears inside of it. The bastard grabbed my throwing hammer from my belt and jammed it into the slot. A gear crunched down on it and the trap stopped.”

“Now, Jim was able to disable the trap and get us out of there, but muh hammer was still stuck in the works. I tried to get it out with all my strength but the damned thing wouldn’t budge. Omin made me leave it behind. That hammer belonged to my mother, it’s an heirloom. And I want it back.”

“Now look. An easier task I cannoh give yah. We’ve cleared the mine of goblins and disabled all the traps. Alll ye have to do is figure a way to free my hammer. Yeh have THREE DAYS. Do yah think you can manage?”

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Game recap - June 28th, 2010

Having overheard Binwin and Omin’s conversation, the group understood that this was their chance to earn some well needed money. Protect the horses (most importantly, Binwin’s prize war pony Brandymane) from goblin raiders hungry for horse meat while Acquisitions Inc emptied the Greenlode Mine north of Harken.

Aylwyn was the first to approach the dwarf and inquire about the job. Successfully rolling a bluff skill check, he convinced Binwin that he was an expert on horses and perfect for the job despite his lack of build. Threefeet was a bonus since he looked like he could do well in a fight.

Auroara was refused work for fear her catlike form would spook the horses, but Magnus was so imposing that Binwin hired him on the spot.

Baharel rolled a successful diplomacy check and convinced Omin that he possessed the leadership abilities to reign in this rag-tag group of new hires into a cohesive team, despite Binwin’s fear that the Dragonborn would spook his pony.

The group was instructed to go to sleep, and be out front at noon sharp.

Threefeet immediately challenged Baharel to a drinking game and a series of endurance checks between the two were rolled to determine who could out drink the other. Threefeet was on his back shortly after and a final failed endurance check indicated he was indeed late showing up for work the next day. He was docked 5gp pay for his tardiness.

Upon reaching the campsite and watching Binwin and Co. disappear into the mine, the group started walking the perimeter of the small clearing and performing perception checks. Signs of previous struggles and some old goblin tracks were all that were found.

Calling out from the treeline to the northeast, a goblin heckler initiated the first encounter by using his heckle power to pull Mangus three squares away from the horses. Two hidden goblin archers struck the party from the trees.

During the beginning of the encounter all of the party save Aylwyn engaged the goblins, using in combat skill checks to locate the archers. Auroara rushed the heckler falling into a hidden pit where she became a sitting duck. Goblin Blackblades popped out from the treeline in an attempt to flank the party.

Two rounds later a 2nd group of Goblin cutters appeared opposite the stream to the south of the campsite. They rushed the ponies and Aylwyn. While a couple cutters engaged Aylwyn, the others threw a bag over Brandymane’s head and started leading him south into the forest.

The party spread out and turned the tide of battle against the goblins. Magnus double-moved to block the escaping horse thieves, took an action point and thunder-clapped them to a fine red mist with a nice AOE. But the sound spooked a now drugged Brandymane and sent him running wildly blind into the woods.

The party killed all but one goblin cutter, whom Baharel intimidated into surrendering. Aylwyn successfully bluffed the goblin into believing that he himself was also a goblin and pumped him for information. Upon revealing that he was lying and NOT a goblin the cutter failed an endurance check and died from shock.

Auroara performed successful nature checks to track the pony into the treeline where she discovered it had been picked up by more goblins and lead into a charred vale. Krayt performed a stealth skill challenge to give the party a chance to sneak to the treeline, see what was going on and get a surprise round.

The goblins had the pony in a circle. A goblin hexxer was performing some horrible ritual on the possibly now dead pony, whipping it with abandon and causing glowing green wounds. Aylwyn’s arcana check revealed the charred vale was once a sight of some horrible magical incident and the hexer was drawing on that power to perform a poly-morph spell on Binwin’s pony.

With the element of surprise and blowing pretty much everyone’s daily power the group went through the 2nd group like water. Some trouble from the hexxer and his toxic cloud slowed them a bit, but they quickly circumvented the obstacle and struck him down.

Baharel performed a few heals on Brandymane and he seemed fine and restored to health until they reached the dark cover of the forest. In the dark Brandywine’s eyes were glowing a deep red and he was belching green sulfur.

Binwin was not pleased to find his pony half poly-morphed into who knows what. He insists that he now owns the party’s life until they can pay him for another war pony as great as Brandywine.

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The Job

Aunt Nonnie’s Inn sits comfortably on the edge of Harken Village where it eagerly welcomes new travelers into it’s warm bosom from the cold. While Nonnie Farwhere’s clientelle normally consists of halflings, humans and dwarves, she’s seen her share of unique faces in recent months. The Harkenwold recently has been bristling with all sorts of nefarious beings. Warring Kobold tribes, Goblin raids on caravans and now even reports of strange cultists have drawn adventure seekers from the larger neighboring townships.

While all parties involved ended up in this place under very unique circumstances, tonight you all share a common goal: looking for work.

Aurora and Magnus have lived off the hospitality of Aunt Nonnie since being rescued from the storm. But Magnus has healed and the two are about to outstay their welcome. They’ve never needed the currency of man, having lived so long in nature. If they are to continue living among people, they’ll need means to pay their way.

Aylwyn and Threefeet were forced to hand the last of their money to a baron traveling along the King’s road into Fallcrest (a town the two had just fled from). Threefeet was caught flirting with the baron’s daughter and a bribe was required to appease all parties over the misunderstanding.

Krayt and Baharel have plenty of money, the problem is nobody in the six villages will take it. Dragonborn are uncommon here and trust is not easily earned. Baharel is convinced that taking on a few jobs, and performing well will go a long way to improving their poor reputation.

The quiet still of Aunt Nonnie’s common room was disturbed at approximately nine thirty in the evening…

With a loud clomp of steel against rotting wood, the front door swung open and slammed so hard against the wall with such force that it rattled the entire inn. Binwin Bronzebottom pushed his horned helm to the back of his head and wiped the sweat matted red hair from his brow.

“Nonnie, three ales! And something for my friends.” He walked towards the bar and upon finding a patron in his favorite seat, proceeded to kick it out from under him sending him hurling towards the floor. Without so much as a glance at his victim, the dwarf climbed up and leaned on to the counter.

“Ahl not go back up ta that mine. We’ve lost two sets of horses already and ahl never risk Brandymane. He’s too fine ah pony.”

Omin Dran dropped his pack at the threshold. “We’re going back, Binwin. We already spent too much on the deed for that mine. If we don’t clear it out, the whole thing will be a loss.”

“You go down then. Ahl stay and watch the horses.” Binwin insisted between chokes of his second ale.

“We’re all going down. We can hire someone to watch the horses…if it makes you feel better.”

Binwin snorted, sending foam sputtering onto the bar. “Ye’ll approve that expense?!”

“If it ensures you’ll be able to do your job in that mine tomorrow, without being distracted, it’ll be worth the price.”

Binwin let out a sharp laugh, threw back his third ale in one gulp and slammed his flagon hard onto the bar. “Agreed!”

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Any Port In A Storm

“Quickly, child! The window in the upstairs den is still open!”

Aunt Nonnie frantically bolted the shutters pushing back the cold pelting rain that was desperately trying to gain entrance to her inn uninvited.

“Where did this storm come from? It was clear just moments ago.” She puffed under her breath, angry at no one in particular.

“Aunt Nonnie!” Scarlet yelled down the old wooden staircase. “The bolt is stuck!”

Nonnie lifted her dress above her ankles as she started up the steps. She pushed past her young assistant with a scowl. “Useless!” Enough rain had come into the room to form an unsightly puddle underneath the window. The Shutters clattered against the wall. She slammed the right shutter closed, holding her palm firmly against it keep it in place. Suddenly the sky cracked and a streak of lightning illuminated the small clearning outside the inn. In the flash, Nonnie saw something. An animal. A big animal.

She held her left hand over her eyes and squinted, straining to see through the rain and darkness. Another crack and three flashes of lightning. The clearing was empty. There was nothing there. She snorted as she slammed the left shutter closed and snapped the bolt tight. The shutters rattled against the wind.

“I’m getting old, Scarlet. My legs creak and my eyes are shot, but I’m still stronger than you.”

“Yes, mum.” Scarlet said to his feet.

Auroara’s shouders twitched as she pressed her stomach against the wet ground. Her eyes could see through the darkness quite well and the Inn before her was a bright beacon shining through the cover of night. She was halfway to the front door when the old woman appeared in the window. It had startled her back into the brush at the end of the clearing. Her heart was beating out of her chest.

“I’ll go back. I’ll tell him I could find no help.” She started to back deeper into the brush and then stopped. Her mind flashed on how he looked when she left him. Crumpled under a hanging rock, steam rising from the charred patch of flesh where the sky had struck him.

“You must go, Aurora.” He told her. “Find help. Bring them to me. You can lead them back. Go now.”

She shifted her weight to her back legs and sprang forward. She dashed across the clearning and behind a log pile that stood against the Inn. Slowly she crept forward towards the front steps.

Aurora did not like taking a humanoid form. She was a leopard and preferred being on four legs. But Magnus had warned her that the people of Harken would fear her animal form and be untrusting or dangerous. And so she sat, and reaching into the back of her mind found the strength to let go. She stood carefully and took a moment to get her bearing before stepping onto the steps.

The wood creaked and startled her. She was not used to having such a heavy step. She reached the door and started at it, unsure how to alert the people inside that she was there. She raised her arm and slammed her hand, flat palmed against the door. “Deg! Kom!” She screamed, alarmed by the shrill sound of her own voice. She spoke only to Magnus and never above a whisper.

She struck the door twice more and the noise of the bolt unlatching interrupted the third. Aunt Nonnie’s eyes widened as they laid upon Aurora’s form. She let out an gasp and stepped behind the door. “Wha-Who are you? What do you want.”

Auroara stooped and moved one foot back. She could be back in the brush before the woman could make it to the end of the porch and down the steps. “Ples. Kom hep. Ples now. Deg Kom.”

Nonnie stepped from behind the door. She knew fear when she saw it. “Dearie, oh my. Oh my goodness. What is it? What did you say? It’s okay. Aunt Nonnie won’t hurt you.

Auroara shook her head. She only spoke the words of giants to Magnus. The words of man were still new to her. Magnus told her what to say but she was having trouble remembering.

“My friend. He is near the mountain. The sky bit him. You must kom.” She walked towards the clearning, pointing through the woods towards the base of the mountain.

Nonnie called back into the Inn. “Scarlet!”

“Mum?!” Scarlet had been peering through the door jamb.

“Run and get old Kellar. Tell him to bring his boys, and lanterns. Someone’s been hurt.”

“Yes, Mum.” he answered, eyes fixated on Auroara’s uneasy form.

“NOW boy!” She slapped him across his ginger head, sending him up the stairs to rouse the sleeping men.

Magnus winced as another bolt of pain radiated down his back and into his leg. He pushed off his arm, twisting his body further under the rock face. He had been struck once by lightning tonight and he wasn’t sure even his body could sustain another hit. The pain was excrutating and as he clenched his teeth through another wave he questioned his actions this evening.

His curse kept him well undercover in times of even an impending storm, but Magnus purposely strayed out into the worst of it willingly this evening. He had run out of options. Auroara refused to venture within one hundred yars of civilization and nothing Magnus said could convince her that what she needed most was to be around other people.

And so he stepped out into the storm and gave purchase to his waiting curse. He let the sky lash him across his back with fire. He fell into the mud and felt the silt enter his lungs. And he found the strength to instruct Auroara on where to go to find help before he passed out.

And when he strained to look through the pain, and glanced the first beads of lanternlight coming up the hill towards him, he knew he had made the right choice.

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Opening Tempo

A chill gust followed briskly in behind the stranger as he entered the door of the Blue Moon Alehouse. The sun had set hours ago and strong winds blowing over the banks of the Moonswash Stream could cut through a man. But the warmth radiating from the tavern hearth stood as a guard against the invading cold, stopping it before it could march very far beyond the threshold.

The cloaked stranger stood out against the halfling traders whose boats tie up along the lower quay of Fallcrest. Two tiefling families make their home inside Fallcrest’s walls. Amara Azaer who runs a small trading company not far from the Blue Moon occasionally imports fine ales for the Blue Moon. Despite this many took notice when the stranger let the hood of his cloak fall to his shoulders, revealing two horns framed by raven black hair.

Earnest Threefoot had never seen a tiefling up close. Having earned himself a bit of a reputation among the merchants of lower city, he wasn’t exactly….welcome in the House Azaer. This particular tiefling looked very well connected, smartly dressed and sophisticated.

“Now who do you think HE is?” Threefeet said leaning forward in a vain attempt at a better look.

“Trouble, with a capital T.” Aylwyn Summerstorm stopped plucking at his lute, reaching out with it and pushing Threefeet back back into his chair with its neck.

“Yeeeaaah.” Threefeet said in an excited tone. Having never learned how to read, Threefeet had no idea what a “t” was, let alone a capital one. He feigned a greater understanding. “Exactly.”

Aylwyn signed deeply. “Do me a favor would you? Try to make it through one evening without getting me into trouble. We’ve overspent what little goodwill we’ve earned here. We’re operating at a deficit.”

Threefeet crossed his arms. “You worry too much. Kemara would never dismiss you. You’re the best minstrel in Lowtown.” He paused, looking at his friend out of the corner of his eye, “Second best in hightown.”

This stopped Aylwyn’s plucking and shot him to his feet. “That man…is a HACK!” The half-elf retorted proudly and strode with confidence towards the front of the Alehouse. Threefeet smiled. He loved it when Aylwyn got “in character.” When the bard reached the fireplace he stopped, dropped his head and placed one hand on the mantle. He took in a deep, cleansing breath and spun quickly sending his cloak into an arc that unfurled over the heads of the patrons closest to him.

Deftly his fingers plucked at the strings of his lute and before the first verse of his poem had slipped of the edge of his tongue he had the drunken halfling onlookers enthralled.

“I hate this one.” Threefeet mumbled to himself. Aylwyn was a magnificent performer, but Threefeet preferred his quieter moments, after closing time, when his friend cared less about performing and more about pouring an ale into his stomach and his soul onto the floor. It was in those quieter hours spent in the fading candlelight when Aylwyn’s guard dropped and, having plied himself with Kemara’s finest, couldn’t help but reveal torn corners from the pages of his past.

His companion occupied, Threefeet’s gaze returned to the teifling who had taken a seat close to the performance. His horned head cocked to one side then another. The Strangers eyes seemed to be searching for some deeper truth. So…despite his friends instructions to the contrary, Earnest Threefeet took one last gulp to empty his flagon, pushed himself away from the table and walked towards the stranger.

When Aylwyn caught sight of Threefeet pulling a stool up beside the tiefling he asked himself if this friendship was worth the obvious trouble it brought with it. When Threefeet slapped the stranger on the back and threw his arm around his shoulder by way of introduction it caused him to snap a string on his lute.

There was an audible gasp, followed by surprised laughter from the crowd. Aylwyn used the diversion to his advantage. “Forgive me, brothers and sisters.” he bowed, stretching his hands outward, presenting the disabled instrument to them as an offering “You see the tools I’m forced to work with.”

The crowd applauded and laughed, some pointing towards Par Winomer, the Blue Moon’s owner. “Give him a new lute, you skinflint!”

In one movement Aylwyn slung the lute over his shoulder, and as he walked past Threefeet deep in conversation, placed one hand on his shoulder. “We should go now.” He said.

“Aylwyn!” Threefeet said, ignoring his companion’s obvious dissaproval. “This is Serim. He’s the third son of a southern noble.”

The tiefling locked eyes with the bard. “We’ve met.”

“Have we?” Aylwyn retorted quickly.

“I’m sure we have. This is the second time I’ve seen you perform. The first was in the House of Finsdale.”

Threefeet’s gasped. “You were a minstrel of Finsdale?!” Aylwyn, tell me more!”

“Thou art mistaken, stranger…” Aylwyn’s tone deepened and when Threefeet saw his friend’s hand move slowly to the hilt of his sword he lost his smile ”...as I’ve never been to Finsdale.”

“Come.” The tiefling stood, casting the right side of his cloak over his shoulder and placing his hand on the hilt of a twisted dagger. “Let us speak more of this outside.”

Threefeet had never heard the Alehouse so silent, even when Per let them stay well beyond closing. What had he gotten them into? Nobody moved for what seemed to him like an eternity. The tension was too much, he could feel the back of his neck getting hot.

“Now look here!” Threefeet shot to his feet, striking his arm out stiff and planting the palm of his hand squarely on the tiefling’s chest. The young barbarian’s speed startled the stranger and he pulled the dagger from it’s hilt, striking out swiftly.

“No!” Aylwyn cried. Threefeet dodged to the right, grabbing the tieflings arm by the wrist and squeezing it so tight that he cried out and dropped the dagger. Threefeet lunged forward, cracking his skull against the reddish flat plane that sat between the tiefling’s horn. He crumpled like a pile of rags at their feet.

“HA!” Threefeet chuckled. “Their heads are soft!”

“Hrrrrrr….you IDIOT!” Aylwyn shook his head. “WHAT DID I SAY?!”

“What is your problem? He attacked US. It was self defense. Hell, everyone saw it.”

“And when the guards come they’ll ask questions I don’t have answers for, Earnest. DAMN your impetuousness.” He bent over reaching into the tieflings cloak. Feeling around his belt he found a coin purse and snapped it from it’s loop. “You were a good friend, kid. Try to stay out of trouble.” And with that he headed out the door into the night.

The air was still with frost. But the night was young and Aylwyn wondered how far he could get from Fallcrest before the sun rose.

“You’re leaving?!” Threefoot stormed outside, the gravel crunching under his boots. “After all we’ve been through, you’re just leaving?”

“Yes.” The bard replied, looking down the banks of the stream. “I’m leaving.”

“Well, fine.” Threefeet crossed his arms to block the cold air from his chest. “You’ll need protection, so…I’m coming with you.”

“That’s your choice.”

“Where are we going?”

Aylwyn Summerstorm placed his finger in his mouth, then quickly plucked it held it into the cold night air. He pointed.

“Which way is that?” He asked.

“Southeast.” Threefeet replied.

“Then we’re heading Southeast.” And as the chatter began to rise within the orange tinted walls of the Blue Moon Alehouse, the bard started walking toward the King’s gate.

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The Scales of War

“The Nentir Vale?!” Baharel Samash slammed his hands smartly, palms down, on the table in shock. “Why in Kord’s name would you want to go there?”

Krayt sat unmoving in the darkest corner of the great hall, his hood pulled over his head. He had not been home in years and what little comfort it once offered him was now replaced with an eerie unease.

“The order instructs it, brother. I need little other reason.”

“Bah! Nothing has happened there since the collapse of the Nerath Empire. It’s populated by farmers and woodcutters.” He shoved another forkful of meat into his mouth. “What could the order want there?”

“Answers.” Krayt snarled. “Word has made it to us that a Paladin Temple of Bahamut there has fallen to followers of Tiamat. There have been reports of dragons.”

“HA!” The Dragonborn let out a sharp laugh. “You should pay for more reliable informants. Trust me, if there were dragon’s in the Nentir Vale we would have heard about it. The time has come to stop this nonsense, Krayt. Stay with me, join the clan and ignite your brave dragonborn heart. You disgrace yourself slinking around with those cowards.”

“I can not stay, brother. I swore an oath and I will carry it out to my dying breath.”

“Enough!” Baharel sprung to his feet, sending his tin plate flying against the wall, scattering his dinner. “This is madness!! You never should have joined the order. They have stolen years of your life from you. And look at you now, a shadow of what once was. They are destroying you. Can you not see that?”

Krayt remained still. “I do what I must.”

Baharel’s shoulders loosened, as his head dropped he took in a deep breath. “I could always have you drafted.”

“You could try.” Krayt sneered “But Bahamut outranks anyone in your army.”

The siblings started at each other in silence, finding themselves once again at this same unending impasse.

“Well…I won’t go with you” Bahamel crossed his arms, putting his back to his older brother. “I won’t risk my commission.”

“Huh…” A smile cracked across Krayt’s face. If he knew one thing, it was which buttons to push to get what he wanted out of his younger brother. “NOW who’s the coward?”

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