Rise of the Thrall Lord
Knights of the Couch - Part III - Giant Season
The party arrived back at Restenford late in the evening after an uneventful journey from the Orc caves. They decided to rest up and report to Gelpas first thing in the morning. Brundon took the mounts back to the stable while everyone else adjourned to the Dying Minotaur. They got Elvisda a room and they called it an evening.
Early the next morning Aksel, Glorfindle, Seth and Lloyd went to report to Gelpas. They brought Elvisda along with them. After they relayed their story to the Captain, he had them wait in the castle hall. A few minutes later another guard came to get them. It was their old friend Francis.
“Well if it isn’t the heroes of Bone Hill!” Francis exclaimed. “I hear now that you defeated a whole clan of orcs that were terrorizing the countryside up in the Bendenwood Forest. I knew you guys were destined for great things. And to think, I was the first guard to show you around the castle.”
“Ahem,” Aksel cleared his throat, “thanks Francis. We’re just sitting here waiting for Captain Gelpas to return.”
“Oh, right!” Francis exclaimed. “Yes, um, I was sent by the Captain to come get you. He and the Baron are waiting for you in one of the side rooms off the throne room. Follow me.”
The group of adventurers stood up and followed Francis into the throne room. He led them to the last door on the right and opened it. They entered a room which was almost completely filled by a large meeting table. The Baron sat at the head of the table and the Lady Fairwind sat at his left. Captain Gelpas sat at the Baron’s right and the Lady Andrella sat in a chair along one wall off to the side.
The Baron turned and saw the group and said, “Here they are Gelpas. Come in. Please join us at the table. Gelpas was just telling us of your adventure. It sounded quite eventful.”
“It was your Lordship,” Aksel replied. “There is much to tell, and to that end we have brought a caravan survivor with us. He became a great asset to us during the course of this quest. May I introduce the bard Elvisda.”
“At your service you Lordship and Ladyship,” Elvisda said bowing deeply and with a flourish of his cloak.
“We are quite sorry for any hardship these orc bandits had put you through,” the Lady Fairwind replied graciously.
“And we are most grateful for your help in putting an end to these cutthroats and vagabonds,” the Baron added.
“It was nothing, your Graces,” Elvisda replied, “I am glad that I could help this fine group of adventurers. They are the heroes here. If it were not for them, I would still be stuck in the forest or worse.”
“Well spoken Elvisda,” the Baron applauded. “Now, to business. Please sit down gentlemen.”
They all grabbed seats at the table. Lloyd sat the farthest away, close to the other end. After he sat down, the Lady Andrella stood up and moved over to the table, taking the seat opposite the head of the table, right next to the big warblade. Lloyd looked over and nodded at the girl smiling shyly. She smiled back and then they both looked quickly away from each other.
Baron Grellus began asking questions about the quest, wanting details about various aspects of the journey. Aksel, Glorfindle and Elvisda took turns filling him in on the specifics. When they got to the part about the Drow however, Grellus became very interested.
Glorfindle expressed his theories of how the Drow might have been sponsoring the orcs in the first place. That he believed that the orcs were sent to the caves for some other purpose to benefit the drow and that the caravan raids were just a side endeavor they took on for themselves.
“That would not surprise me at all,” Grellus said. “As you may or may not know, I was an adventurer much like yourselves not so long ago. During that time, I had my fair share of run-ins with the Drow. They were always behind any number of schemes designed to gain them power in this land. My fellow adventurers and I were able to put a stop to many of their plans. But the Drow never give up. They always have some some new plot in the works. The real question is what were they looking for in those caverns. They were most likely using the orcs to keep people out of those caves, and to help them search for the thing that they seek.”
“Well the orcs are all gone now your Lordship,” Aksel pointed out.
“And you shall be amply rewarded for that,” Grellus replied. “I am also grateful, however, that you came back to report this to us. Now we know that the Drow have some plot going once again. And, better yet, they don’t know that we are on to them.”
The Baron looked down the table at the big warblade. “Lloyd, it must have been especially tough for you to walk away as you did. Let me assure you though that you did the right thing.”
Lloyd looked over at Grellus with a pained look on his face. “It wasn’t easy your Lordship. I am a fighter. It is not in my nature to run.”
Grellus smiled broadly. “When I was younger Lloyd, I was very much like you. I would never have run from a fight. But as I got older, I learned that you cannot take on every enemy blindly. You must learn to study your opponents first and ascertain their strengths and weakness before engaging them fully. Sometimes that means retreating if you have not had a chance to completely access their capabilities. But that is not cowardice my boy. That is strategy.”
Lloyd looked gratefully at the Baron. “That sounds like one of my father’s lessons sir. He was always telling me I was too quick to run into battle. But he said I would learn with time and experience.”
“Your father is a very wise man,” Grellus replied. “And one of the best tacticians I have ever known. His knowledge of battle tactics is the main reason Penwick stands free today and not under the thumb of the Pirate Eboneye.”
“Ahem,” Fairwind interjected. “Grellus, don’t you think that is enough talk for now? These fine young adventurers have just returned from an arduous mission. They probably need to attend to a number of things since they have been out of town for the last few days.”
“Well spoken Fairwind,” Grellus replied. “Gelpas, please escort our guests to the local merchants so they can collect their reward.”
“And Cleric Aksel, Wizard Glorfindle, Lloyd and the rest of your company, please return here once you have completed your business and rested up. There are a number of other matters in the surrounding countryside that need attending to. You have proven yourselves quite reliable and capable and I would like you to ask you to handle these problems for us when you are ready.”
“Thank you your Lordship,” Aksel replied.
They got up to leave the meeting room. As Lloyd got up he looked over and smiled again at the Lady Andrella. She smiled back once again and turned away blushing.
The Lady Fairwind turned to the Baron, leaned over and whispered “I think we may have a prospect for Andrella.”
The Baron whispered back, “He comes from a fine and noble Penwick family. He might be alittle rough around the edges, but with some polish he would make a fine suitor for Andrella.”
“You were rough around the edges once,” Fairwind whispered back. “It didn’t stop me.”
The Baron laughed and grabbed her hand. Then they leaned in and kissed.
Gelpas accompanied the party out of the castle to see the merchant Pheldman. Pheldman quickly gathered the other merchants together. They were delighted with the news that the orcs bandits were no longer a threat. All of the businessmen seemed happy except for one fellow who stood off to the side with a sour look on his face.
“Who’s that over there?” Elvisda asked Pheldman.
“Oh, that’s Haltan. He owns the rare items shop,” Pheldman replied.
“Is he always that happy looking?” the bard asked.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him smile once in the twenty years since he arrived here,” Pheldman told the bard.
After the merchants finished thanking the party, and paid them their 5000 gold for disposing of the bandits, the five adventurers took their leave. As Fairwind had surmised, they did have a lot to do. There were items that needed repairing, supplies that needed replacing and there was the question of what to do with the hammer.
Also, the group had gained quite a bit of experience from this last quest. That experience combined with some research, studying and training would result in the party members being able to handle more arcane and divine power as well as learn new fighting techniques. So they devoted the next day to achieving that objective.
Glorfindle reported in to Peltar and continued his apprenticeship with him. When he was done, the elf wizard had increased his arcane casting abilities.
Aksel went to the temple to meditate and increase his divine powers. He spent a number of days in front of the little altar in the one alcove dedicated to Garglittergold. When he was finished, he too had enhanced his divine spell power.
Elvisda even looked into improving his skills so that he might help the group that he had now become a part of. Somewhere in his travels, the bard had acquired a set of books on bard spells and spell songs. He cracked them open and proceeded to study until he had also learned some new spells.
Seth also had some books on spells that ninjas could learn. Strangely, these were very similar to Elvisda’s. The halfling mastered some spells and also did some physical training.
Lloyd resumed his training as well. He continued to try and master some of the more difficult maneuvers that his father had taught him as a warblade. When he was done, he had perfected a new technique.
Once the five adventurers were done with their studies and training, they gathered once again at the Dying Minotaur. Aksel, Glorfindle, Lloyd, Seth and now Elvisda were seated in what was becoming their regular booth along the wall of the common room next to the fireplace.
“So has anyone been able to find out anything about the hammer?” Aksel asked.
“I could not identify it nor could I find any reference to it in Peltar’s library,” Glorfindle responded. “Peltar was very busy, so I could not ask him either.”
“There is nothing about it in bardic lore,” Elvisda replied.
“Don’t look at me,” Seth said. “I never heard of it before and I wasn’t going to just go ask around town.”
Lloyd remained silent.
“Ok, so does anyone have any ideas on what we should do with it?” Aksel said.
“We could take it to that guy Haltan. The one that runs the rare items shop. He might have some idea what it is,” Elvisda offered.
“Ok,” Aksel said, “Then let’s go pay a visit to Hatlan’s.”
The Rare Items shop was down the street from the Dying Minotaur just past Peltar’s home. The adventurers walked into the shop and found Haltan standing behind the counter. He still wore the same sour look on his face that he had at the merchant victory gathering a few days ago.
“What can I do for you?” Haltan said as the group entered the store.
“I’ve got this,” Elvisda whispered. Then he replied to the merchant, “No, my friend, the question is what can I do for you?”
Haltan’s face took on an even more pained expression. “Please. I’ve heard it all. I’ve been in business here for twenty years. So don’t expect to pull anything over on me.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” the bard replied. “We just happened to have a potentially rare item we were hoping you might be able to identify and possibly put a price on.”
“Well,” Haltan said not very enthusiastically, “Let’s see what it is.”
“Lloyd, if you please,” Elvisda said.
The big warblade pulled the hammer out of his backpack and placed it on the counter with a resounding thud.
Elvisda watched the shop owner closely. Haltan faked disinterest, but Elvisda had caught the momentary flash of excitement in the shop owner’s eyes.
“So you have a war hammer,” Haltan said. “I have at least a dozen of them between here and my warehouse. What use would I have for another one?”
“Ah,” Elvisda said, “but look closely my friend. Look at the ornate handle, at the etched lighting on the sides and the strange writing on the head. This hammer is anything but ordinary. I dare say there is not another like it in the world.”
“Hmmm,” Haltan said as he took a closer look at the weapon. “There are some unique qualities to this particular hammer, but that does not necessarily make it worth very much.”
“So you have no idea what this hammer is, nor its value?” Elvisda pressed.
Haltan took one more look at the item. Then looked up and said, “No, not really.”
Seth whispered to Elvisda, “He’s lying.”
“I know,” Elvisda whispered back.
“But,” Haltan suddenly continued, “I might be able to do something with this item. I occasionally get customers in here that like to collect unique weapons, even if they are really not worth all that much. I tell you what, I’ll trade you something in my shop for this item, something not too expensive that is.”
Elvisda replied, “What do you have in mind?”
Haltan began pulling out items that he was willing to trade for the hammer. And Elvisda kept on shooting each one down. They had gone through about six or seven items when the bard had had enough. He turned to Lloyd and said, “Pick up the hammer. We are done here.”
“Wait!” Haltan cried, “Fine. Perhaps you would be interested in another weapon in trade for this one. I do have this very fine sword made of star metal.” The shop keeper pulled out a bastard sword with a jet black gleaming blade. Lloyd’s eyes immediately lit up when he saw it.
“I can see your big friend there finds this blade interesting. And well he should. It is made of a metal that has fallen from the stars. It will cut through almost anything. Of course I could not trade something this valuable evenly for this near worthless hammer. I would need at least 10000 gold from you to make it an even trade.”
“Well my friend, that’s a shame,” Elvisda replied. The bard had taken out his lute and was strumming the strings.
Haltan began to object, “Stop that….” Then he fell silent and became wrapped in the music.
When Elvisda was done, he put away his lute.
“Now what were you saying about a fair trade?” Elvisda asked.
“Oh,” Haltan said, “A fair trade? Yes, a fair trade. The lighting strike hammer of yours for this star sword. That would be an even trade.”
“Lightning strike hammer?” Aksel asked.
“Yes, yes,” Haltan replied. “That is what it says on the side here. Marteau Foudre. Hammer of Lightning Strike.”
“You don’t happen to know its origins, do you?” Glorfindle asked.
“No, I don’t. It’s a mystery,” Haltan replied.
“Well then,” Elvisda said, “Then do we have a deal? The hammer for the sword?’
“Done!” Haltan cried.
Elvisda took the sword and handed it to Lloyd.
“Nice doing business with you,” the bard said to Haltan. “We should leave now,” Elvisda told the others.
They walked out of the store and back down the street a ways. When they were out of ear shot of the shop Glorfindle said “A lightning strike hammer. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of one before. Has anyone else?” They all shook their heads.
Then Lloyd spoke up. “What was that song you played back there to make that shop owner so agreeable?”
“Oh that?” Elvisda replied nonchalantly, “That was merely a spell of fascination.”
“He‘s not going to be very happy when he snaps out of it and realizes what you did,” Seth noted.
“Probably not,” Elvisda said, “but by now it’s too late. And his proposed deal was totally outrageous. Maybe he’ll think twice from now on before he tries to swindle a bard.”
They all chuckled as they reached the inn.