“When kings the sword of justice first lay down,
They are no kings, though they possess the crown.
Titles are shadows, crowns are empty things,
The good of subjects is the end of kings.”
Synopsis : A tale in which our adventurers take part in the latest court moot in Thornkeep, only to discover that Baron Tervin Blackshield’s secrets are darker and his soul tainted far more than many suspected. They fight a gang of werewolves, calling themselves the Stonewalkers, and the adventurers begin to jostle themselves into position to broker power in the coming days, as all the Blades in the community start sharpening their knives.
28th of Uktar, TR 1049 : Having a couple days to spend before the evening moot on the 30th, the group begins to make preparations. They gather for a morning feast in the hall, and then take a quick journey to Thornkeep to pursue various personal tasks.
“Ricochet” took Vesina shopping for clothes, and rounded the day with a visit to Mistress Idara. “Shiv” spent the day discussing furnishings for his room in the Fallen Tower Vaults. “Scales” visited with Master Farakin Thumbwhistle, and purchased the pair of “treasure maps” he had reputedly stashed away; one was for a place in the far north-east known as “The Temple of the Stag”, the other was known simply as “The Ruins of the Black Fens”. According to his notes, the former was a forgotten temple to the Lady of the Forest, and the latter was an ancient fey ruin that was host to a large number of spiders. The problem with the latter location, was its presence in the Marta’Tauri. “Sprout” visited the Goldenfire Order, to speak with the apprentice Timber, and finding it rather quiet, spent a little time buying potions and equipment from Brishtargera Greenbottle. After their full day, the group met back at the Green Forest Inn, and after a great feast, returned back to their farm to sleep.
29th of Uktar : The adventurers spent the day conducting personal repairs on equipment and clothing, doing some work on their training, and just laying about for a day. Mikmek and his companions began “advanced training” regarding goblin-hunting.
30th of Uktar : The adventurers gathered and after some preparations left early to gather for the moot. The two-hour trip into town was quiet. The group made their rounds among the Thornkeep shops they had previously visited, picking-up various goods, and then leaving their horses at the Green Forest Inn, made their way up to Caer Dragonscorn and the moot.
Quickly passing through the guards into the great hall, they found the council arrayed along the east wall, and a variety of local milling about the center, while they were organized by the lead clerk. Baron Tervin Blackshield was lounging in the center throne-like chair, while his daughter Lady Neria Blackshield and wife Lady Ivis Blackshield sat on either side. A handful of guards were present, scattered about the hall, and one of the sergeants stood near the stairway leading into the upper levels. Most of the adventurers made their way to the empty benches along the west wall, while Ricochet took Vesina to meet with the few farmers and craftsmen present for the moot.
Eventually the Baron growled the moot to order, and one of his sergeants began bringing forward claimants requiring various forms of recompense and judgement. The scribe would call out the registered names, and each would step forward. Without the Bailiff to lead the proceedings, the good Lady Ivis Blackshield would adjudicate the matter, often seeking the lowest fine or easiest amercement, with the Baron scowling and agreeing. It became apparent of the relative destitution of the local farmers, as they were all effectively serfs; unfree tenants who did not hold the land and owed all they had to the Baron for a share of their crops and pastures. Rare in the Forest Kingdom, everyone noted how lives for these people were waged in a few coppers here and a silver there.
At one point, the Baron’s personal man-servant, Yeoman Karse Blackstone, appeared from one of the doors behind the ruling family, swiftly stepped up to the Baron, and whispered something in his ear. The Baron sat upright and immediately gave an evil stare at the adventurers clustered against the west wall, almost snarling at them. He said something back to the Yeoman, and the servant slipped out of the great hall, avoiding looking at the adventurers as he left through the main door.
The adventurers grew tense, readying themselves, and expecting Blackmaw herself to appear at a moment’s notice. Sprout sent his familiar Callum to follow along behind the yeoman. It soon began to send images of slavering wolves and the constant feeling of fear, as it retreated back, sending images of slavering wolves or wild dogs. Sensing the problem, Ricochet immediately stuffed Vesina under the closest table, warning her to stay down.
A dark cry was suddenly heard on the wind, like a chorus of wolves, as the yeoman returned, to stand by the doors. He gave a knowing nod to the Baron, and everyone in the hall went suddenly silent as the Baron stood, throwing back his chair, exclaiming;
“Enough with this charade. RISE UP MY SCIONS of the STONEWALKERS! RISE UP,…”_, and he suddenly underwent a hideous change as his form devolved into a half-man, half-wolf hybrid, still in his armor and wielding his longsword. Furry and immensely strong, the beast finished its statement from a surprisingly capable mouth, despite its fangs and the muzzle on its maw that sprouted whiskers and fur as it said, “… RISE UP, and slay them all…”.
The Baron was a werewolf.
Scales immediately slipped up to Lady Neria sitting on the Baron’s right, and grabbed her, dragging here away and stuffing her under the western tables out of danger, despite her half-hearted protestations. Sprout stepped back behind the table, readying his spells, while Sweet grappled Lady Ivis, and stuffed her behind herself, away from the Baron. As the Baron finally finished his transformation into a werewolf, he directed the guards presnt to “KIll all of them. ALL OF THEM!”. The guards began to reluctantly comply. Shiv and Ricochet leaped to the main door, and engaged the Yeoman, who was transforming into werewolf as well.
The sergeant standing next to the one serf pleading his case was stuck down in a savage series of claws and bites. The council members and surviving peasants retreated in horror into the far corner of the room, staying out of the fight.
Sprout transformed himself into a gnoll shape he’d previously done, and then menaced the closest guard. in the corner. Sweet attacked the closest guard, but also menaced the Baron, brandishing her silvered short sword. The Baron responded with a flurry of sword, claw and bite, managing to claw her fairly deeply. Shiv got in a solid strike on the werewolf/Yeoman at the door, and was also struck by two powerful Eldritch Blasts from Kahli, and finally Ricochet got in a savage series of strikes, felling the werewolf, and then sealed the doors on the great hall as a pack of wolves accompanied by another werewolf approached the hall. They were sealed outside with a great flurry of howls.
Lady Ivis fired a deep black bolt of shadow magic (which Scales identified as a variant Magic Missile spell) at the closest werewolf that was battering at Sweet. Scales downed the guard in the far corner with a Magic Missile, freeing Sprout and Shiv to grab one of the closest benches and drag it over to the main hall door, bracing the thing to the best of their ability. Kahli double-blasted the closest werewolf with a pair of Eldritch Blasts, while Lady Ivis ran across the hall to begin trying to coax Lady Neria out from under the table. To everyone’s horror, a pair of well-dressed werewolves came running out of the stairwell leading from the upper level, stopping at the base of the stairs to menace the room and take in the situation.
Scales Fire Bolts the two new werewolves, critically wounding one, and Kahli, in a stroke of bravado, pulled out Scorbane with a flourish, charging and intercepting the two new werewolves to buy the adventurers some time. Starting to bear the wounds of dealing with three enemies at once, Sweet chose to simply Dodge and managed to defend herself quite well, the magic of Breastplate of Shades and Rushes once more proving its worth. Shiv quickly crossed the hall leaping the fire and stuck the werewolf guarding the Baron with the Imperial Blade. It turned and in a flurry of blows, bit Shiv solidly, but it seemed to have little effect. The other werewolves flurried several bites and claws against Kahli, but other than the usual damage, seemed to have no other effect.
Lady Ivis dropped a veil of darkness covering only the two werewolves by the stairs, which aided Kahli who could see through it unaffected, while the two werewolves were troubled by the spell effect. She finally coaxed her daughter from under the table, and thrust her behind her to protect her better, starting to push her back down the aisle behind the table on the west wall.
Scales lobbed a pair of Chromatic Orbs at the corner werewolves, but one splashed off its armor without effect. The wounded one, however took a savage critical blow from Kahli’s blade Scorbane, and she savagely focused her eldritch might into the strike, and it was torn in two by the blow, dying.
The Baron, having grown weary of the inability get past Sweet’s defenses, uttered a few arcane words, and channeled a massive lightning bolt strike into her, with the rest of it exploding into the wall behind her. She staggered under the attack, nearly dead. Shiv slipped in behind the Baron, leaping onto the table and stabbed him with a deadly blow, then retreated away again.
The remaining werewolf slipped out of the darkness covering the stairs, but failed to do more than cursory damage to Kahli. Ricochet and Sprout switched places, allowing the former to run across the hall, rallying Sweet and then pulled out his longbow, for a couple ranged shots with his magic arrows. on the Baron. Sprout began to feel many severe blows on the doors from the werewolf outside the great hall, while his minions howled and whimpered. Lady Ivis began retreating with her daughter down the length of the table.
Scales twinned his strikes again, but missed the Baron, though he struck the remaining werewolf. Kahli struck down that one with another savage blow from Scorbane, then charged the growing cluster around the Baron. The Baron, recognizing the changing tide of combat, and hearing his minions howling outside, retreated back through one of the doors behind the great hall, taking a passing blow from Kahli fueled by an arcane smite. He snapped a bite at Shiv, and managed to hit. The effect was immediate, as Shiv felt the burning venom of something settling into the wound. Ricochet slaughtered the remaining guard in the corner with several well-placed blows, including a critical strike. Lady Ivis dismissed the dark veil near the stairs.
Everyone begins to lay ranged fire into the Baron,and even Kahli follows him into the corridor, firing a savage smite-fueled blow into the Baron, while he replied with a savage claw and bite attack, though neither did anything worse. Ricochet returned to help hold the door, while Shiv fired a magic arrow at the Baron_, and -Scales missed his ranged spell. Severely wounded, Kahli disengaged and slipped back around the corner, out of the fight. Sprout healed Kahli from Elzid’s Ring.
The Baron clearly out-matched at this point, slipped around the corner into the room beyond, and with a bright flash of light seemed to magically transported himself from the room and the great hall. In the space beyond the main doors, the wolves and their master gave a series of howls and began attacking livestock from the commons yard, before retreating.
The hall went quiet.
The adventurers began healing themselves, exhausting all their spell reserves, and passing around healing potions. Amid discussions of pursuit, Ricochet brought over Vesina and placed her safety in the hands of Lady Ivis. Both Vesina and Lady Neria seemed to clutch at each other, whispering about the horrors they had just witnessed. The group examined the werewolves, finding them all having been the Baron’s own Yeomen; Yeoman “Black” Daer Barstone, Yeoman Darvin Blackstone, and Yeoman Karse Blackstone. The one werewolf slain near the Baron was one of his sergeants, Imlach. The other sergeant, Elba was soon found missing. The mercenary guards had never changed into werewolves, but had followed his directives. Opening the main hall doors, they could hear the wolves out in the village below the castle, and found several of the livestock slain and wounded, including Ricochet’s henchman Korman, still tied to the wall. Several guards by the main gate were also found dead.
The adventurers soon headed down into the village, tracking the wolf pack south into the forests leading out of town, though they had a good 30 minutes head start, and the wolves were faster. They discussed options, thinking they should return to the farm, as their own dependents were in some degree of danger now. They retrieve their horses from Green Forest Inn, and then head up to the castle to report to Lady Ivis regarding what the next steps were.
They returned to find the villagers dispersed, Lady Ivis speaking with the Town Council in a confused babble, and Lady Neria and Vesina close together seated to one side, whispering together conspiratorially. The group intervened, getting the Lady Ivis’ attention, and the Council stepped away, talking amongst themselves about the night’s events. The adventurers reminded Lady Ivis about their suspicions of Blackmaw’s corruption. She said she was aware that something was wrong with her husband, but no one; NO ONE had seen this coming. She admitted he had changed after his arrival in Thornkeep, but this was unexpected.
Sweet kept her eyes on the Council, and sharply noticed Master Daemon Tarrasque, of all the Council was quiet, thoughtful and introspective. She intuited that he, as the most powerful Blade in Thornkeep, was likely planning for his next move. There was no way he would allow this opportunity to pass without a response.
Suddenly, Ricochet dropped to one knee before Lady Ivis_, and pledged his fealty to the -Blackshield clan. He loudly proclaimed, “Your daughter has my… blade…”. Lady Ivis pulled her trembling daughter to her feet, and standing behind her, gently pushed her towards Ricochet. Lady Neria stumbled forward, and steeling her nerves, placed her hand on his head, and said with a trembling voice, that gained strength as she spoke, “I accept your blade, and your trust. I pledge blood for blood, oath for oath. You shall be my blade, and I shall be your honor. I name you Yeoman of Thornkeep.” Shiv quickly followed suit, and the pledge was repeated.
Looting the corpses, the group found only a few gold and silver coins and their masterwork Yeoman’s knives, which were returned to the hands of lady Neria, save one which Ricochet kept for himself. The group asked to search the Baron’s quarters, but Lady Ivis refused, stating that he had long since moved into one of the guest chambers and lived a life of austerity over their time in Thonrkeep. Asking after her son, Halst, Lady Ivis stated he was safely at the Goldenfire Order’s tower taking lessons. Lady Ivis did, however, give leave to search the _Yeoman’s- own farms, describing them as being on the northern edge of town, near the ruins of Thornkeep Manor. She invited the adventurers to attend the next moot, to be held (as was traditional) at the next full moon on the evening of the 15th of Echos, where her daughter would be formally invested in the title as Baron of Thornkeep, and they quickly made their way out of the castle.
A swift search of the yeoman’s farms revealed a few pricey treasures, a usual collection of trinkets, coins and other basic goods (and a lot of meat!), and that each had a shrine dedicated to the Beastlord. Each lived alone and without any servants or family. The group then returned back to Green Dagger Farm, swiftly heading to sleep with the late hour, though they all waited in the hall on guard for the evening.
1st of Echos : Starting late in the morning, the group informed their farmers and henchmen of what had occurred the night before. Shiv had a growing concern over the deep bite marks in his arm from the werewolf Baron, which were bright red with infection and refused normal healing. Plus, he had been troubled by even more violent dreams, of him stalking the village of Thornkeep at night…
The adventurers gave Mourde Carter a silver longsword from their armory, to better defend the locals. He hinted that this wasn’t the first time he might have faced werewolves. Scales gave him one of their silver trade bars, and urged him to cut-forge as many silver “bullets” as possible for slings, to equip the farmers and huntsmen with simple and cheap silver weapons. The group discussed arranging for as many silver blades and arrows as possible, given their excess monies, from local craftsmen and ordering more from Mornhaven through Mistress Nessa Greenfoot, acknowledging that it would be at least a ten-day (or more!) before they might see the results. The group then readied their horses again, and headed into Thornkeep to do some research on werewolves and lycanthropy, and order their weapons.
The two-hour trip into town was uneventful, and while Kahli and Ricochet made their orders from the weaponsmith and provisioners, Sprout headed to the Goldenfire Order tower, and Shiv went to the castle to request access to their library for some research. Sprout found Master Starfire away on business again, apparently investigating a nearby ruin with some of her Order, but was given access to the library by Timber, who helped him find any materials he needed. They quickly found a lot of speculation, but there were some good references on the monsters, particularly regarding their nature, their vulnerabilities, and their powers. From what he read, this Stonewalker clan was a more civilized band of werewolves, that chose to live in the comfort of society (hence “Stonewalkers”, as they lived in buildings), rather than the chaotic abandon of pack life in the wilderness.
Shiv headed to the castle, and was quickly given access to the castle library, located on the upper level of the great tower, in the clan’s own apartments. He was also given the assistance of Lady Ivis’ own handmaiden, Maid Larista Farburrow to assist him. Shiv found the library to be small, but well-equipped with lore regarding History, Medicine and Nature. His research wasn’t as thorough as Sprout’s, but the records were more interested in how to cure the curse of lycanthropy, which hinted that one had to find such a cure before the first full moon , when the curse would be permanent with the infected’s first change and kill. He also discovered that Arianna Redfern and her Blue Basilisks had been hired to guard the great tower of the castle, while the regular mercenaries had been removed to defense of the walls and remainder of the castle, under the remaining sergeant Ragnar and the guard captain Ser Moireach Spearbearer.
Sweet visited with Sword Brother Eldrast, asking about the curse, and he admitted that lycanthropes weren’t his strong suit; he was more conversant in topics regarding undead. He did know, however, that there were powers that could be summoned, such as Remove Curse (3rd Level Abjuration), and based on Shiv’s recent knowledge, had to be cast before the next full moon. He demanded, however, that a suitable offering was required to summon these powers, and that he needed a day’s advance warning to prepare for the ceremony.
The group gathered again at the Green Forest Inn, to trade their information, and then travelled once more back to Green Dagger Farm, to spend a night in generally quiet contemplation of their situation by the warm fire…