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Company of the Bere

Invitations to Court

By the end of Latewinter, 1000 AE, a couple of months after the “Harmin/portal incident” at the Capital, Ser Kenrick has received the following messages at the Stagwood House in the Capital:

Ser Kenrick has sought out advice from those he deems in-the-know about such things, including meeting with Grand Master Válaris at the Heroes’ Guild, and correspondence with his uncle, Duc Rikard, among others. The invitation letters did not give any specifics as to the intentions of his potential patrons, but there are a few well-understood reasons known for such an invitation, and he is reminded that he will have to swear the oath of fealty to that lord that grants him land, so he must choose wisely.

Arl Gudrik Bredwelle of Northelderland is known to be an upright, resolute, reasonable ruler, struggling under a heavy burden. He is not considered to be particularly powerful, and certainly not wealthy (for now). His lands on the coast of the Imperial Sea—a long-standing hub of foreign trade—are experiencing hard times, but are on the way to recovering their former prosperity. His direct liege is Duc Jakeb, who mostly stays out of his business. His enemies are mostly “internal,” robbers and bandits of various power-levels, and the occasional pissed-off nobleman, against whom he has been prevailing, little by little. Ser Kenrick has worked directly for him in the past, and could expect to be put to work fighting banditry and recruiting/training with the meagre levy, with plenty of room for advancement. Prosecution of corruption has led to some lands being lost to the Arl, who will be looking to hand those titles out to trustworthy servants.

Arl Thurston Highhorse III of Banner Hall is known for his wealth and prestige, though this may be the result of a good political advisor(s). He is a laid-back ruler—perhaps a bit of a pushover at times, but certainly no fool. He is loyal to his people and his house, down to the lowliest servants (see the Pirate Ransom Job). He is considered to be reasonably powerful, with some famous knights in his retinue. His lands are rich in history, the center of Generic chivalry and horse-breeding (home of the Valemont breed, of whom Ser Magnus is descended), but are regularly under threat of Antagonese chevauchée. His direct liege is the King, as Duc of the Crownlands, who stays far too busy with affairs of the kingdom to be a bother. He has many political rivalries amongst the other Houses, some more devious/depraved than others, and is always on the lookout for an opportunity to improve his station. Ser Kenrick has done work for him—the rescue of his spymaster, Garak Highhorse—and can expect a position of some prominence in his court, with rich reward for his efforts. It has also been noted that, in the recent past, a prominent knight died, leaving a rather grand estate to his only daughter, who is, as yet, young and unmarried.

Markis Egowe Maguttin of Westmark has a reputation for shrewd politics and intrigue—some even call him a “vile gangster”—but he’s also known for keeping his word, and paying his (considerable) debts. As chancellor to the Duc of the Highlands, his direct liege, he lives at Crowningstone and spends most of his time at the Duc’s business, leaving the management of local affairs to his appointed councillors. His lands are neither prosperous nor destitute, and not known for anything in particular (except wool trade, and a local breed of hardy sheep). He has plenty of rivals and enemies, including Antagonese rulers and nobles across the border—he is a villain to some, and to others he isn’t villainous enough. Ser Kenrick has no direct experience working for him, though he has visited his court once (during the Guffin Hall Job), and can likely expect to do some “dirty jobs” from time to time; his half-sister, Rayna certainly doesn’t have a high opinion of him. That said, the Westmark is home to the Starkweathers, and would place him in proximity to Rayna, and allow him the opportunity to learn more about his roots. Also, Ser Kenrick would undoubtedly be a beacon to those seeking justice in the Mark. It has also been noted that a prominent barony within Westmark has recently gone into escheat back to the Markis, and he may be looking to pass that on to a trustworthy individual, though there will inevitably be some manner of “strings attached.”

Player Response

Ser Kenrick accepts the Highhorse invitation and prepares to visit Banner Hall. Presuming the expectations that Arl Thurston has for him are not mad – “You need to marry my 80-year old grand-aunt who is senile and lustful. Also, I need you to eat this baby.” – then he will swear fealty to him and regretfully decline (politely!) the invitations from the other two, sending the money back to the Markis (to ensure no expectations of “I sent you this money so you need to do this one thing for me”) and advising Arl Gudrik that he hopes they can remain allies at the very least.

The thinking behind this decision is wide-ranging. He flat-out distrusts Markis Maguttin and, despite knowing that accepting his offer could likely lead to a promotion to baron, suspects that the Markis would use him in a way that offended his moral stances. On the flip side, he rather liked Arl Bredwelle and would have been quite happy to accept him as lord if Highhorse was not an option because Bredwelle struck him as an honorable and upright man. Ultimately, he chose Highhorse because that region is considered the original of chivalry and very horse-centric; further, I (Rigil) expect that Kenrick will totally be a “fish out of water” around the more established nobles so I’m expecting him to get caught up in ‘the game of houses’ and be forced to find a way to navigate them without losing sight of who he is.

Kenrick will likely head to Banner Hall as soon as spring arrives. Luckily, he owns the pack horse so he can load all of his personal belongings upon it (how sad!) and head out. If there happens to be a convenient caravan heading in that direction, say with Barlowe or one of his associates, he’ll link up with it. And if any of the other PCs want to go with, he’ll gladly bring them along and spend the trip telling them the dos and do-nots about interacting with the Highhorses.

Notes:

  • This is the basic “setup” for the “Diversion” PbP stuff, where Ser Kenrick will be given lands by his choice of liege.

Dramatis Personæ

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Wherein the company battles a djinn…

  • At the Cave of Winds, the djinn-lord Atah Keth, now possessing the body of Sheik Rashid, commands the nearby Fa’iel to stand and defend him from the Company. Ismir succumbs to the djinn’s magic and does as bidden, attacking the others.
  • Meanwhile, a group of Atah Keth’s centaur soldiers attack the remaining refugees as they continue to crowd through the portal. Haruki and the free cat-people defend Finn and the refugees. Haruki is wounded, but fells two of the centaurs on his own.
  • At the cave, the Company fights through the mind-controlled Fa’iel warriors to attack the djinn-possessed-sheik, who, after Brum manages to finally land a blow, turns Aramis to stone, followed by Brum. Desperate, Thorondil uses Smil-Blam (Gestlin’s unpredictable Rod of Wonder artifact) to banish the djinn, who immediately flees, taking Rashid’s body with him.
  • With the fight done and all arrived through the portal, Finn creates another portal direct to Castle Defiant, home at last. As they all begin to cross over, they see that the banner of the “rightful heir” to Defiant, as well as that of the King of Caithness, indicating they are in residence.

Dramatis Personæ

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Wherein the company flees the destruction of their patron…

  • The Company, including the 43 locals from the otherworld, arrives on the other side of the portal to find Zat Al-Dawahi being torn apart by the other djinn lords, while their forces battle each other throughout the Citadel of Ten Thousand Pearls. The Company flees the palace into the streets, fighting their way out of the city.
    • Finn Sardock remains unconscious from the effort at creating the portal, and is carried along
    • Haruki uses his tetsubo to bar a gate, leaving it behind.
    • Ismir finds his former wife and her new husband dead, and takes up their two-year-old son (also named Ismir)
    • Aramis is seen “casting spells,” and at one point, Thorondil hears him speak with the voice of Arn Rainaldson
    • Zyanra and her felinoid kin flee with the group, now free of their mistress
  • The city is destroyed just as the Company gets clear of the border of (formerly) ZAD’s domain
  • Other survivors are gathered while Finn recovers
  • Finn creates a portal to the Cave of Winds, where the Company is meant to rejoin Sheik Rashid and the other Fa’iel, taking the hundred-or-so survivors with them; Haruki stays behind to guard Finn who is to cross over last
  • As the group is still crossing over, Ismir leads the company into the cave to find Sheik Rashid being held aloft by the neck by a much-weakened and damaged Atah Keth, completing possession of his body…

Dramatis Personæ

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Wherein the company helps Finn Sardock return to Yrth…

  • Finn Sardock gates in to meet the Company as they arrive in this strange world, and explains his situation—he has been hiding here for (probably) seven years—before gating them back to his adopted home, an otherwise-abandoned, walled town, on a hard-to-reach hill.
    • Ammerah is at the town, with their two young children.
    • With them in the town are forty-or-so refugees, total-pacifists who will not touch weapons at all.
  • Finn cloaks the beacon to suppress its magical signature, lest it draw too much hostile attention. Later he uncloaks it to study it, to discover how to use it to guide him in creating a portal back to Yrth, knowing that the local enemies, “Nightmares” and their “beast-man” army, will notice it and attack.
  • In the night, an eyeless “Nightmare,” armored and bearing a strange sword, appears in the courtyard and attacks Finn, but is repelled by Thorondil and Ismir, as the rest arrive to see it disappear into the shadows.
  • The next day, the Company looks to shore up the town’s defenses against the inevitable assault, supervised by Brumrumli, while Finn’s family and the refugees prepare to evacuate.
  • The beast-man army attacks the town gates and breaks through, just as the Company, Finn, and the rest of the town’s occupants flee through Finn’s portal.

Dramatis Personæ

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Wherein the company battles ghouls and snatches an artifact…

  • At Iram dhāt al-ʿimād, the Company finds itself surrounded by ghouls, and fights them back-to-back, until they finally break.
    • Brumrumli wields “Klang” for the first time.
    • Haruki is cut a time or two but shrugs it off.
    • Ismir’s arm is severely crippled.
    • Thorondil wields “Grimslaughter” for the first time.
    • The fight is joined by some sort of “carnivorous mist” that devours the surviving ghouls as they run away.
  • They quickly grab the altar and flee the ruined city, staying just out of reach of the mist.
  • After some days, they return to the Citadel of Ten Thousand Pearls, and present the altar to Zat Al-Dawahi. She needs a few days to prepare for the next task.
  • After preparing, ZAD summons the Company. She presents them with an “anchor” to take through a portal to the world where Finn Sardock is lost. There he can use it as a guide to create his own portal to return.
  • ZAD creates the portal, and the Company enters, arriving in another world. They are met by a years-older Finn Sardock, who asks, “What took you so long?…”

Dramatis Personæ

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Wherein the company journeys to the City of Ten Thousand Pillars…

  • Rewind: The Company spends some of their off-time gearing up for the next mission.
    • Aramis finds a strange ring
    • Ismir hires a local sage to identify the magical properties of the ornate bowl he found hidden in Farouk Ibn Said’s palace, and the strange “pendant” he found in the dragon’s hoard.
  • The Company sets out for Iram dhāt al-ʿimād.
  • A couple of days on, they encounter the scene of a massacre of a colony of Dragon-Sworn who had occupied an abandoned city.
  • Entering the Great Desert, they encounter a nearly-dead man in the desert, apparently fleeing Iram dhāt al-ʿimād. As the Company carries him with them in a cart, he dies, and is later buried when the Company makes camp.
  • A week on, the Company arrives at the lost city of Iram dhāt al-ʿimād.
  • As they reach their objective, the altar Zat Al-Dawahi had sent them to retrieve, they are confronted by a band of ghouls, led by a spellcaster, who orders them to attack…

Dramatis Personæ

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Wherein the company returns to the Citadel of Ten Thousand Pearls…

  • Continued from last session
  • Farouk Ibn Said is cast down to the arena floor, where Zyanra is allowed to end him finally to her satisfaction with Ismir’s meteoric knife.
  • Thorondil, Haruki, and Ismir go to the palace to join Zat Al-Dawahi’s triumphant forces in the looting. Ismir finds a secret stash containing an item of great value in the palace.
  • The company joins ZAT’s forces as they return to the Citadel of Ten Thousand Pearls, sped along by ZAT’s magic.
  • At the Citadel:
    • Aramis rests, to recover from his injuries.
    • Brumrumli is summoned to a meeting with the visiting merchant, Thráin Ironfist, who attempts to extort him into aiding his business.
    • Haruki interacts with a gaggle of oprhans/urchins, to their great amusement.
    • Thorondil meets Zyanra’s litter-mates.
    • Ismir encounters his former wife, whom he thought dead, finding her happily married to another, with a young son.
  • Waiting for five days:
    • Brum is magically transported to another plane, where he lives a lifetime, is married, widowed, and lives as an airship captain, before returning suddenly, mere seconds after he had gone.
    • Haruki encounters a slave ring and destroys it utterly, during which his lack of restraint causes him some concern.
    • Thorondil encounters a pair of dragons (he did not know at the time were Primus and Secundus) and releases them.
    • Ismir, depressed about his wife, asks ZAT for a mission; she sends him to kill a dragon, and he returns with a unique item from its hoard.
  • The company is briefed on their next task, to go to the “lost” City of Ten Thousand Pillars to retrieve a golden altar.

Dramatis Personæ

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Wherein the company fights in a pit while the city around them burns…

  • Continued from last session
  • Brumrumli, Haruki, and Thorondil meet in the middle of the arena and fight back-to-back. Haruki is saved from certain death from behind when Brum throws himself into the path of a mighty blow that cripples his arm through his shield.
  • Ismir cripples a spearman and leaves him to aid Aramis, but the spearman, from the ground, hurls his spear and strikes Ismir in the back, wounding him grievously.
  • Aramis duels an Elven swordsman, equally matched, until Aramis finally makes a mistake his foe can take for an advantage and is struck, passing out just as the others of the company arrive to his rescue.
  • Meanwhile, overhead, the giant, translucent figures of Zat Al-Dawahi and Farouk Ibn Said hurl spells at each other until Farouk is defeated, falling to the arena floor, while ZAD’s invaders defeat the city’s defenders, and spread throughout the city, looting and burning everything in their path.

Dramatis Personæ

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Wherein the company delivers a message to the Half-Djinn…

  • The company spends a day at the oasis to allow the injured time to recover. Thorondil casts Minor Healing for the first time. Evidence suggesting the Yuan-Ti vampire is still “alive” is found in the vicinity.
  • The journey to the City of Ten Thousand Delights is resumed, taking another five days.
  • Zyanra waits outside the city, holding Ismir’s meteoric dagger, while the rest are taken to the palace for an audience with Farouk Ibn Said to deliver Zat Al-Dawahi’s message (under the name, Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad).
  • Farouk’s vizier opens the scroll on his behalf, revealing the image of ZAD, who “explains” in a language the company did not understand. In his anger, Farouk teleports the company to a fighting pit, to fight a selection of foes uniquely suited to their abilities.
  • Some moments after the fight begins, a freak lightning storm erupts, depositing the forces of ZAD, and herself, ready to attack…

Dramatis Personæ

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Wherein the company is set upon by gnolls…

  • On the way to the City of Ten Thousand Delights, as the Company camps for the night, they are ambushed, caught unarmored, by a band of gnolls led by Heroc, the minotaur Zistral fought at the Kelmarane Battle-Market, bent on revenge. Battle ensues, and the gnolls are no pushovers.
  • Again, a one-eyed eyeless Yuan-Ti (now pale, and stinking of death) sprang out of ambush to attack Aramis. Again, Aramis spit the creature’s skull on his sword. The creature dissipated into mist and floated away with the wind.
  • Ismir caught an unlucky blow and was greatly wounded, though he managed to spear his attacker before he could execute a coup de grace.
  • Zyanra fought off two gnolls on her own, but was wounded before Thorondil could come to her rescue.
  • Haruki took a blow from the minotaur’s axe that would have killed a lesser man, before smashing its skull with his testubo.
  • The loss of their leader broke the gnolls’ spirit, and a few managed to flee.