Friday, May 29, 2020

NPC - Huntmaster - Leader Howling Night Flinds - Spinecastle

NPC - Huntmaster - Leader Howling Night Flinds - Spinecastle

Two hundred flinds. Anywhere but Spinecastle that might be a number to strike horror into the hearts of their enemies, but Spinecastle is a  nexus of horror, a metropolis of evil, and the heart of a growing kingdom of humanoids not seen since the days of the Suel Imperium.

That these flinds should be the driving hand behind a force of over a thousand gnolls should come as no surprise. To most outsiders, human, demi-huuman, or humanoid these flinds   are lost among the Black Moon gnolls, though to other gnolls flinds stand out larger, stronger, statelier, with a commanding bearing.

Huntmaster is larger and stronger than most flinds, instantly vicious with a consuming rage only his titanic will can keep in check. He is unfortunately not the smartest of flinds, and many of his tribe think he has been among the gnolls too long, or worse, that he is a throwback to their gnollish heritage.

While he is not blamed for the gnolls loss of power after the famine of 576cy, that flind was deposed and eaten after the council of chiefs awarded leadership of Spinecastle back to the orcs, Huntmaster is near to losing control of the Howling Night. Under his leadership the gnolls have seen a faction of rebels appear in their ranks, the Young Blood gnolls, and they truly have only a small fraction of the aging warriors of the original Black Moon pack as loyal followers.

The grandiose and impractical plans to seize power from Bloody Eye orcs become more untenable every moon while the day approaches when either Huntmaster's fellow flinds will depose him or the Young Blood pack, with a growing network of allies, will seize control and devour Howling Night and Black Moon alike.

Monday, May 25, 2020

NPC - Oldbone - Chief Weeping Dark Goblins - Spinecastle

NPC - Oldbone - Chief Weeping Dark Goblins - Spinecastle

The 300 or so goblins of the Weeping Dark are a small fraction of the thousands used as sword-fodder during the taking of the city. Since that time many have left the city and many have been eaten by their larger and stronger monstrous allies.

Now they lair in the sewer system of the High Ward and act as servants to the Bloody Eye orcs. Oldbone was a goblin warrior when the city fell and now he is the oldest survivor of the vast clan of goblins who swarmed over the walls during the siege. His resentment of the gnolls and orcs knows no bounds and he is a willing ally of the hobgoblins who ruled the city during the first few years after its fall.

He is aware of the many factions within the city, including the Young Blood gnolls but unknown to any he is in touch with several large goblin clans who dwell beneath the Rakers and seeks to raise another vast goblin army to betray all his masters and allies.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

NPC - Hoghead - Butcher -- Spinecastle

NPC - Hoghead - Butcher -- Spinecastle

Even more active than The Pit where the gladiatorial games are run is The Slaughterhouse where the food is divided among the humanoid tribes of the city. 

All of the tribes in Spinecastle except the ogre's Thundering Club maintain groups of hunters who scour the surrounding land for food. After sixteen years these hunters go far afield and the food brought into the city by merchants has become critical.

Food and hunger, it is an underlying force within Spinecastle. Almost it has forced an abandonment of the city when the tribes grew greater than could be fed. Certainly it caused much strife and a change of power from the flinds and gnolls whose over population nearly stripped the city bare three winter's past. Now the orcs run the city and through The Slaughterhouse keep a tight leash around the belly of the gnolls and other humanoids (except the ogres who are kept well-fed and happy or they just start eating anyone within reach).

An old flind, Quer'enz, manages The Slaughterhouse, but Hoghead is the chief of butchers and handles the actually slaughtering, butchering and dividing of the meat. He is a vicious old orc from an ancient tribe said to have sailed to the Flanaess from some eastern island and plagued the coastal lands. 

Hoghead has plans to add Quer'enz to the stewpot one day and if approached with an offer to rid him of the old flind he is very amenable.

Friday, May 22, 2020

NPC - Vassliss Priestess of Iuz - Spinecastle

NPC - Vassliss Priestess of Iuz - Spinecastle

During the Siege of Spinecastle a secret cabal worked against the cities defenders. Unbeknownst to the great and good within the city a cult of Iuz worshipers festered amid their ranks. What their ultimate plans had been none can say. Deep in the sub-basement of a manor in the High Ward the cult had its shrine and when the High Ward fell at last the manor had been destroyed and all within slain.

Years later Vassliss, secret priestess of Iuz, entered Spinecastle with a powerful retinue disguised as merchants supplying the always voracious inhabitants with meat and slaves. Few of the Iuzian cultists had survived and those few were slaves to the Bloody Eye orcs. Vassliss purchased those she could and slew all those she could not to silence tongues possibly loosened in their bestial servitude.

In the intervening years she has found the hidden shrine, reconsecrated in the service of her master, and reformed the cult. She has not found out who betrayed the cult, but she suspects the hand of another evil at odds with her own.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

An Unsung Death In Geoff Part 2

An Unsung Death In Geoff Part 2

The sun was setting as the small group, just three men on horseback, arrived at the Oytriver bridge. The evening was cold and a misty fog had settled down over the river and the surrounding land. 

The bridge, it was old, very old. Large and ancient stone blocks formed the arches which spanned the wide river. Mace, pick and monstrous talons had clawed these stones, scarred them, but only the surface. The heart of the stone, the strength of the bridge, survived. 

Ragnar gave a chuckle when he saw the bridge. This was Geoff, he thought, this worn and defaced stone bridge. Its conquerors had used it, tried to destroy it, but the heart remained, the strength, and what had been destroyed would be rebuilt. He saw it in Hochoch. 

Human-kind was returning to the Duchy, rebuilding, and repairing. These giants and the monsters which followed beside them, they destroyed and ravaged the land. That was their great weakness, this mindless destruction. At least in their homelands the giants built; halls of wood, caverns of ice and stone. When they couldn't get slaves to work for them they would work for themselves. But here in these conquered lands they had slaves aplenty. Here they did not work, hunted only for sport, became lazy and cruel even by the standards of their own kind. The giants belonged in the hills and the mountains, not these lowlands. 

"What?" Emiel asked, riding near on Ragnar's righthand side.

"Nothing," Ragnar replied, "Just thinking. That is quite some bridge."

"That old pile of stone?" asked Ted riding on his left. "I'm always surprised to see it's survived the spring floods."

"Halt!" a voice commanded from out of the growing mist. 

The fog had truly descended and they could see no more than a score of feet around them. Ragnar brushed his hand against the grip of a hand-axe balanced for throwing which he kept along his saddle, but, before he could even choose to act or stay his hand, Emiel called out.

"No one is here," he spoke in a strong voice.

"It's too dark to see," the voice replied.

There was the sense of a presence, and watchful eyes, staring from within the surrounding fog, that followed them as they crossed from the roadway to the bridge.

The iron-shod hooves of their horses echoed strangely from within the tunnel of mist and fog which they rode through. Ted coughed, his throat tickled by the mist, and the sound was like that of some accursed hound barking from the depths of a distant hell. 

Ragnar remained silent. Fog was a bane of his people. It ate the stars which guided their longships, shrouded the mountains, stranding those who dared such peaks and pathways till it chose to depart, and, according to the skalds, could steal a man's soul and hide it among the echoes of his voice. He had no fear of an honorable death but he had plans for his soul earning a place among the silver-roofed halls of the afterlife, not caught for eternity among the cloudy depths of the fog.

It was with a great relief that the three riders passed from the bridge and back onto solid ground. 

* * * 

It was full dark and the misty fog obscured what little light the moons and stars provided. With the onset of the dark, the three riders had to dismount and lead their horses, crawling across the monster-infested land when they most desired to be galloping to their destination. 

Emiel led the way, though all three kept fairly close together. He unerringly picked a path through the overgrown and disused track of a road. Only the wandering patrols of orcs and goblins came this way. 

Geoff, under its giant masters, had become only a series of isolated villages, manors or farms. The larger towns lay in ruins, the capital a burned-out husk, unable to support a population not directly tied to the land. The few slave farms which produced food sent all they produced into the bottomless stomachs of the giants. Smaller towns became the dwellings of one giant clan or another; Their indolent masters letting the survivors of the invasion live as slaves to support them.

There was little interaction between town and town. The old roadways became disused. The more destructive of the giant's servants burned and looted what their masters had not claimed or had left unprotected. The small freeholder, the backbone of the duchy, those who had not fled, they faced not the overlordship of the giants but the mindless brutality of the ogres, orcs and goblins who infested the conquered land. 

It was to one of these small, abandoned freeholds that Emiel led them. The family, which had for generations farmed this land, had fled before the oncoming terror. The sturdy house and some of the out-buildings had survived with only a casual amount of vandalism and malicious damage, done almost without thought by the orcs and goblins who routinely swept through this area. These patrols, in fact, often used this very manor to lair in when passing, especially on bright sunny days when the light of the sun brought a queasiness to the stomach, a weakness to the limbs and pain to the eyes. 

The road leading to the freehold had vanished long ago. The three walked slowly across a field overgrown with wild grain now lying unharvested, broken-stalked and rotting on the cold ground. It crunched underfoot and pulped at its base leaking a stinking ooze. 

Ragnar had lost all sense of time. The fog made him uneasy. The mist was no doubt leaving a layer of rust among the steel rings of his mail shirt where the oil had rubbed off, and he was catching a cold. 

"How much longer?" he asked Emiel quietly. 

"Shhh..."Emiel hissed back. Then inching his way back to where Ragnar and Ted had stopped he said very quietly, "Soon. We are near. This field is near the main house." 

"Are we going right up to the house?" asked Ragnar.

"Of course not," Emiel answered, "but I need to see the house to get my bearings." 

Ragnar shrugged. He had raided and ambushed in his past, but tonight all he wanted was a warm fire or a good fight, and it looked unlikely that he'd get either. 

Emiel was an amazing guide. 

When Talberth introduced them in Hochoch, he would never have believed that the small, neatly dressed dandy would be so at home finding his way in wild country in the middle of a cold foggy night. 

They'd walked only another ten or so minutes when Emiel froze in his tracks ahead. Ragnar saw Emiel stop before he smelled the smoke for himself. Not just wood, but meat. Meat roasting over an open fire. 

Ted came up beside him. "Something ahead," he stated.

"Looks like we have company," Ragnar said and slid his axe from the carry strap over his shoulder. 

* * *

"I think that 'we' will be the surprise guests," Emiel said, having led his horse back with the others. "Ted and I will scout out the manor. Ragnar, stay here and guard the horses." 

Ragnar gave a snort. "Like Hell!" he laughed. "I'll need to see for myself what we are up against, and I'm no horse-holder." 

"This is our land," Ted spoke up. 

"And I'm not one of your people," Ragnar tapped the steel topspike of his axe on Emiel's chest. "And I'm supposed to be keeping you safe." 

"Well I'm not watching the damn horses," said Ted petulantly. 

* * * 

The three dropped to hands and knees as they neared the once abandoned freehold. They lowered themselves to their stomachs as they passed the timbers of the flattened rail fence which had surrounded the yard, encircling the house and barn. 

From where they lay, the front and side of the house were visible. A stone chimney ran up the side of the house, firelight winked from between mortarless stones as well as from splits in the shutter of a nearby window. The fog had begun to lift and the light appeared as through a dim haze and made the details of the house indistinct. 

They would have to move closer. 

Halfway to the house the collapsed and rotting boards of a wagon, overturned during the hasty flight of the freeholders, provided questionable cover from any watching eyes, but the three of them settled themselves behind it as best they could and kept a watch of their own. The smoke of the fire appeared as a thicker haze among the thinning fog, rising from the darker blot of the chimney. The smell of the roasting meat was overpowering. It rose and spread not only from the chimney, but from between the loose boards of the house itself. Ragnar involuntarily licked his lips and his stomach growled in answer.

"Shhh!" Emiel hissed from beside him. 

The sudden scream from the house made all three of them flinch. 

The sound was a long, drawn-out wail of pain and despair which went on and on, then ended abruptly. Then came a barking laugh from several voices. Then silence. 

"They do not sound friendly," Ted spoke in a whisper. 

"Well," asked Ragnar, "are we going to lie out here all night?" 

"Shh!" Emiel hissed again and gestured for them to remain quiet then looking at the pair he turned his head away from the house and snapped, "We wait."

Ragnar would have liked to protest. He could not stand inaction though he recognized the need for patience before battle, waiting for the right time to attack. 

He did not have to wait long. 

The house remained quiet only a short while, then a literal roar of anger exploded from inside. There was a loudly barked reply then another roar and a chorus of highly pitched screeching. 

The wall of the house gave a shudder, something large and heavy had slammed against it from the inside. Then a cacophony of screams, roars of anger and pain, the crunch of wood being splintered, the sharp clank of metal on metal and the ring of weapons clashing. 

The howl of some enraged beast escaped the house and the front door was flung open. The light of the fire outlined the doorway, an orangish square along the black oblong of the house. Then a sack-like bundle flew through the door and landed on the stairs leading up to the porch. It rolled, and as it did so outflung limbs flailed about but could not stop its course. When the body came to rest it lay in a motionless heap, once again a dark featureless sack but of bones and flesh.

The screams, clashes and shouts had not abated, but two tall and lanky figures blocked the light from the door as they rushed outside. There was a brief tangle as both attempted to push through the doorway first, but one used a long arm to shove the other back then stumbled out onto the porch. The unobstructed light from the doorway illuminated the stumbling figure. Tall, painfully thin, covered in spikey matted fur, standing on its feet like a man but with the muzzle and fanged mouth of some feral canine. 

"Gnolls!" Ragnar said as he would say a curse. Clutching his axe he began to rise from his crouch but Emiel put a surprisingly strong hand on his shoulder. The wave of red anger which had clouded his eyes had passed and he kept himself still, holding the berserk rage back while watching what transpired. 

The first gnoll had steadied itself and was jumping from the porch to the ground disdaining the stairs. The second gnoll had regained its feet and was out the door when a thick line of darkness came across the opening from inside and connected with the back of its head. There was a sound like a melon being dropped from a wagon and the gnoll's body somersaulted forward. It landed on its back, its padded and hairy feet pointing toward the three watchers, its body convulsing. 

The light from the doorway was suddenly obscured completely as if the fire had been extinguished like a candleflame between finger and thumb. Something moved through the door, contorting to force its bulk through the human-sized gap. As it edged its way forward, the gnoll jumped to the ground and landed, but badly. 

The ground had frozen with the setting of the sun, but it was a wet and misty night. Padded feet met the slick, hard ground and found no purchase. The gnoll fell painfully on its side. It tried to push itself from the ground, but one arm seemed not to work. 

As the brutish shape separated itself from the doorway and walked out onto the porch, its head reaching the roof, but no neck and a huge barrel of a body, the gnoll whined in fear but managed to rise. 

The steps of the porch collapsed beneath the ponderous weight of the ogre, but the creature seemed unphased. The gnoll simply stood there watching, its one arm dangling uselessly. It whined like an injured hound struck by a passing wagon, awaiting the coming of death. 

The ogre laughed, an ugly bark of a laugh. It stood within arm's reach of the whining gnoll and pointed with a huge club, the end wrapped in thick bands of iron forming a crude mace. Touching the head of the mace to the gnoll's chest the ogre gave a slight push and the gnoll swayed on its feet. The whine had ceased but the gnoll's body shook with uncontrolled fear.

Once again there came that ugly laugh then the ogre brought the mace up above his shoulder and prepared to strike the gnoll like a farmer driving a rail into the ground with a hammer. 

It was then that the rage took control of Ragnar. 

"Yaarrrggghhh!" he roared and in a single smooth movement sprang to his feet and launched himself toward the ogre. 

"Ragnar!" Emiel cried out. 

"You idiot!" Ted joined in. 

* * *

Ragnar had no love for gnolls, but he hated wanton cruelty, and he hated ogres most of all. Crawling and cowering on his belly did not sit well with him either. The sight of the ogre and the wails of pain from the gnolls brought back bad memories from his youth. 

The Northlands were beautiful, but they were also home to more than their fair share of dangers. Ragnar's clan, the Hellsons, were spread from the mountains to the frozen shoreline. From his earliest memories the images of the funeral fires for kin lost to the monsters and beasts of the land came to him clear and crisp like morning light on ice covered snow. 

As Ragnar grew to be a warrior he saw more and more of both the beauty and horror that the north possessed. The savagery of gnolls, the cruelty of ogres and the horror of giants. He remembered the day he carried his first spear into a battle. It had been a blood hunt, Votan's own vengeance brought down upon the enemies of their clan. 

It was years and years ago. A sudden winter storm had come down from the mountains and swept across the hills. Small steadings and the northernmost halls had been cut off. It was a month before word trickled out. A few ragged survivors half-frozen and numbed with cold and horror. A tribe of ogres had descended upon the area. They came with the storm, they fought with desperation. The specter of starvation was among them. The battle cost them dear, many ogres set upon the defenders with tooth and nail, disdaining weapons. Their hunger was so great that when a warrior fell to them they stopped to feed before pressing the attack. The screams of the wounded were terrible but nothing compared to the horror of the weeks of captivity many endured. The survivors were merely cattle to the ogres and they had developed a taste for human flesh. 

They'd found no survivors among the ruined halls, Ragnar and his kin, only the ogres. The clan avenged itself upon the tribe. Their massive heads were set in ice that the skalds had spelled never to melt. They placed the blocks upon dolmen stones spread out along the northern hills. Ragnar would never forget or forgive what he saw upon that first blood hunt. Now his own blood began to boil at the mere thought that it was being enacted again upon this southern realm. 

Emiel gripped his shoulder with a painful strength. Ragnar was surprised, the little fellow did not look to be that strong. It calmed him for a moment, but as he watched the cruel mirth of the brutish ogre, his calm was washed away in a tide of red. A fire burned inside him. It called to a spark set deep in his soul. He was upon his feet before he could tell himself to move, and the rage took hold. 

Ragnar screamed, a throat rending curse of anger and glee. 

Ahead, the ogre appeared to freeze in place, bet then began his swing as if to spike the gnoll into the ground with the heavy mace. 

The calm returned to Ragnar, but splashed with crimson at the edges. Behind, there was a cry, he heard his name, but heeded it not. 

The ogre's arm came down slow as a leaf falling from a tree or so it appeared through Ragnar's red-rimmed eyes. Before it had descended upon the helpless gnoll Ragnar had closed the distance between the ogre and himself by half. He could not save the gnoll, though he flew across the ground, surefooted and as fast as a hare. 

As the mace came down with horrendous force the sound of the impact seemed hollow and far-away to Ragnar. The gnoll was driven to its knees, its head, an explosion of flesh and bone, was simply gone. 

* * * 

The axe was weightless in his hand. Ragnar almost forgot he was holding it in his rush across the open yard. Ahead of him the body of the gnoll was just hitting the ground, the spray of blood from its neck painting a macabre picture across the ogre's legs. 

With a disdainful glance the ogre eyed his onrushing foe. No mere man, armed, armored or mounted, could cause it to fear. It had spent many years now lording it over these weak and puny humans. Some in their desperation had fought back. The ogre had brushed them aside and broken them like a child might break fresh green stalks with a wooden stick. 

The warm splash of blood on the cold night was a distraction. Pulling back its huge and grotesque foot it kicked the body of the gnoll, striking it squarely and launching the corpse several feet through the air. 

Ragnar passed through a shower of blood. The gnoll's body barely missed him as he charged toward the ogre. He was upon it before its outstretched leg was firmly settled back upon the solid ground. Hurtling forward Ragnar collided with it like a catapult stone against the wall of a castle. The wall gave way. 

The ogre, still off-balance from its kick, fell backward. It landed on its broad and padded ass with a thud and a look of shock. 

The force of the collision made Ragnar stumble back a few feet. Something inside him had given way with a dull crack at the contact. Broken ribs he had no doubt, but he felt no pain, not yet. He remembered the axe unused in his right hand. 

Sitting, the ogre was still a head taller than Ragnar. In its own right hand it held the iron headed club that had slain the gnoll. The momentary shock of falling was replaced by a sense of wrongness, no man could do this! The world was upside down. 

Both attacked, the ogre sitting, Ragnar leaping forward. Both swung. Axe met club, the sharp edge of the blade caught a corner of the iron bands, clipping them with a clang and spark. The blade bit deep into the club and stuck firm. Ragnar's blow directed the club's course down. The strength of the ogre tore the axe from Ragnar's fingers and spun him halfway round. 

Club and axe gouged the oerth. The half-severed shaft of the ogre's weapon split with a crack, shearing away the metal wrapped head. The axe, freed from the wooden grasp, bounced once, twice, then slid several feet, well out of reach. 

Ragnar howled then, with arms outstretched, threw himself upon the ogre. His hands gripped its throat. His fingers dug into the thick hide. With manic strength he still could not strangle the beast. Blood ran down his fingers from the gouges he'd cut in the monster's flesh, but the ogre only growled in pain and surprise. Then using only a single arm it flung Ragnar aside. 

The rage was upon the northman then in full. When he landed, he rolled, and regained his feet in one smooth motion. The ogre pushed itself to its feet angrily and prepared to crush its foe. The hilt of a dagger appeared in its chest. It glanced down with a start. The blade had sprung up as if by magic. 

Emiel was running towards them, a short double edged sword in his left hand and another, almost hiltless throwing knife, in his right. 

* * *

Halftooth shoved away his smaller kin as he pushed toward the door. "Those dogmen," he shook his head in disgust, "they need to be taught their place, even if it means breaken' their furry heads."

It had been good fun watching them dice and slice that putrid human bag of flesh they'd caught, but the dogmen'd let the fun get out of hand. Now the dough-fleshed human was dead and the Squire was teaching them a lesson. Their boss, His Most Worshipful Knees as the goblins called the giant, might not want them taught so permanently, thought Halftooth, but that would be the Squire's business. 

He eyed the one dogman lying in a heap in the corner. The Squire'd snapped its spine, breaking it over his knee, before throwing it against the wall. The others had fled. Only Halftooth's companions, a pair of orc's from his own tribe, and a half-dozen goblins remained inside the house. He kicked one of the small, green-skinned vermin in its back as he made his way to the door.

"Outta the way, worm," he laughed then reached out and grabbed another of the little mites by a notched ear, lifted it up in a torrent of squeals and flung it out of his way as well. 

Splittoe and Threefinger were ahead of him, already standing in the door. There was a crash from outside, the Squire getting a little rough with the dogmen no doubt. 

"Make room," Halftooth said good-naturedly giving Splittoe a hard punch in the shoulder. 

"Squire's in form," Splittoe said and moved aside to let Halftooth step forward. 

"Look'at the dog twitch," Threefinger pointed at the body of the gnoll convulsing on the porch. 

Halftooth gave a laugh then glanced over to the Squire. The ogre had smashed the porch stairs and stepped over to where the other dogman was standing. It was whining away, true to its nature, frozen in place.

"Dog ain't got no sense," Splittoe said. "I'd run."

"You always run," Threefinger laughed. 

All three of the orc halfbreeds stepped out onto the porch of the abandoned manorhouse to watch the Squire finish off the last mangy gnoll.

* * * 

The Squire's chest heaved sending a stream of blood from around the razor-edges of the knife blade buried in its chest. The club, its ironbound head sheared away by Ragnar's axe, was in its hand. For a moment the ogre stared at the useless weapon then with a growl of disgust threw it aside. It would tear apart this strange man with its bare hands. 

* * * 

The night air was cold and the misty fog was turning to frost. Halftooth's breath steamed out in front him like a dragon's exhalation. He was enjoying the spectacle and by the sound of the Squire's laugh he was not alone.

There was a shout. The sound pulled Halftooth's eye away from the Squire as he taunted the helpless dogman. As he turned to see what had made the noise, his jaw fell open in surprise. From out of the fog-shrouded yard a man was running toward them, covering the intervening space in great leaping strides. 

The Squire had crushed the dogman's skull, smashing it like overripe fruit under a smith's hammer. The man was still coming on, closing the distance with alarming speed. Halftooth reached for his sword and cursing he realized it was not at his belt. Like an untried pup he had walked away from his weapon. He was unarmed, even his knife was not at hand but planted in a haunch of meat by the fire. He turned, even as the Squire launched the gnoll's body toward the onrushing man, and squeezed back into the house. 

* * * 

A roar escaped from the ogre. It sprang at Ragnar, arms outstretched, ready to rend him with its jagged nails. Ragnar sprang as well. He passed between the spread arms of the ogre and grabbed for the dagger hilt sticking from its chest. 

The leather wrappings felt tacky in his hand, coated with the blood from the ogre's wound. With all his strength he drew the blade aside, cutting into the thick hairy flesh like a butcher carving a side of beef. Sunk deep between the broad, sturdy ribs in the ogre's chest, the knife had pierced its thick hide and pricked the lung beneath. A bloody froth foamed from the slash and a red stream poured out. This was a wound the ogre felt, not like the desperate scratches from the human's fingers. 

The ogre roared again, but now it was a cry filled with anger, outrage and pain. With trunk-like arms it sought to squeeze the life from this man, but Ragnar was having none of it.

As the ogre's grasp tightened about him, Ragnar stabbed the knife into the fleshy belly of the beast. The ogre's own strength forced the blade deep. Ragnar pulled up until the blade reached the breastbone, pushed it in till his hand was in the ogre's chest up to his wrist. 

The beast could take no more. Its voice was filled with blood and it gave a wet, strangled cry. Instead of pulling the man toward him to crush out his life, now it sought to tear the cursed human from its wounded body. The burning pain inside the monster's chest sapped its strength away like ice on a warm, spring day. The weight of its limbs seemed to drag it down, muscles turning to lead as its life began to fade. In desperation it clawed and clutched, bunching the steel rings of Ragnar's mail shirt into tight clumps. Drawing on its anger, which flared stronger than any pain, the ogre peeled Ragnar aside and flung him away, as far as it could manage. Ragnar slashed at its chest and arms and then, as he was tossed aside, the air.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Spinecastle Encounters

Spinecastle Encounters

12 Encounters for the streets of Spinecastle

1. A pack of gnolls is 'patrolling' the street, but mainly looking for trouble. Before they get close a group of goblins comes around a corner right in front of them. Both parties pause only for a moment before a pitched battle to the death ensues. The losers will immediately be looted and devoured on the street by the winning side.

2. Five ogres are demolishing a ramshakle house. Suddenly the ghost of a small human child steps from the ruin. She is crying and reaches out her hands to the nearest ogre. The monster laughs and aims a kick at the translucent figure. The ghost lets loose a bonechilling scream, becomes the size of a giant with rotting skin and visible bones sticking through the unreal flesh and reaches again for the ogre. This time all five ogres recoil in terror and run down the street in panic. Mayhem ensues.

3.  A merchant wagon loaded with barrels hits a deep rut and with a loud crack an axle breaks. The wagon lurches to one side, a rope snaps and a barrel smashes to the street. Inside is a disheveled human, stunned. The driver and assistant look wildly around to see if anyone has noticed.

4. A half-orc thief cuts a large pouch from an orcs belt but it comes open in his hands as he attempts to make off with it. Dozens of severed gnoll ears spill onto the street.

5. A long line of slaves bound for The Pits is being led down the street by red-cloaked orcs. One of the chained slaves looks familiar.

6. Two hill giants, Wlhelm and Tomas, are sitting in the street with a huge barrel of ale. TheyAQ keep dipping drinking horns into it and make passerbys drink before they can move beyond their reach.

7. A cadaverous human in a red-robe stands in front of a collapsed building. His hands are raised and he is shouting some chant in ancient Eastern Flan. A feeling like lightning is in the air and the taste of copper. The skeletons of those long dead pull themselves from the rubble.

8. A group of red-cloaked orcs is moving down the street collecting an impromptu tax on anyone nearby.

9. Twelve wagons roll down the street. Each holds a large cage. Inside each cage is a different kind of dangerous beast or monster. One cage holds perhaps the biggest owl bear ever seen. A red-cloaked orc pokes at it with a spear as it passes him and is pulled against the bars and has his forearm snipped off by a massive beak. He collapses streaming blood and much laughter and merriment is had by his companions. Orc Humor.

10. The sky grows dark overhead then shot with red streaks. Everyone begins to run for shelter. The sky pours down with blood till the walls of buildings are red and the street thick with it. It begins to pool in the middle of the street drawing from the roofs and walls till it is a circular pool leaving no other traces behind. If anything is put in the pool of blood it is drawn in like quicksand. The pool disappears after ten minutes.

11. Same as 10 but the blood becomes a column 12 feet tall and five feet wide. After a few minutes it turns into a naked human formed of blood. This blood form rampages for a  time killing any humanoid monster it comes across.

12. A patrol of humans on horseback turns the corner. They are dressed in the colors of the old Spinecastle guard if anyone recognizes it. As they get closer the flesh drops from horses and guardsmen before they crumble into dust in the street.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

NPC - Miklos Feltch of Tenh - Merchant - Spinecastle

NPC - Miklos Feltch of Tenh - Merchant - Spinecastle

Miklos is a beast in human form. He buys and sells anything . His deity is coin and he is a devoted worshiper. He has been driven from Tenh and has settled in Spinecastle and has found the city very much to his liking.

He is a prominent member of the Viridian guild and his shop is always bustling with trade. Next to his shop is a large pen for animals and slaves, Miklos does not differentiate between the two. A pen full of pigs can be found next to an overfull cage of halflings.

Almost anything can be found in his shop or in the large warehouse around the back. Finer quality items are found on the second floor which is open only by invitation to select buyers.

Miklos prefers to have half-orc guards who are connected to the Bloody Eye orcs and maintains about a dozen. He has many hirelings who clean and do work around the place, all human, but he keeps no slave servants for himself as he does not trust them.

Goods and treasure brought to him will be haggled down in price but he is competitive with the other merchants and sellers can usual get a reasonable price. Buyers can find bargains as Miklos prefers to keep his goods in motion and not gather dust.

Monday, May 18, 2020

An Unsung Death In Geoff Part 1

An Unsung Death In Geoff  

Ragnar Hellson drew the honing stone slowly back across the edge of his axeblade. There was a dull rasp as he worked out the notch a metal helm had put in the steel. Back and forth, back and forth, he worked the stone with care. He had the time to put a keen edge back on the blade.

"Time enough," he said aloud to himself.

Behind him, down the overgrown road, lay the body of his horse, the bodies of his two companions, and the carcasses of a score of orcs. Among the slain were two large ogres, their bodies hacked, slashed, and partially dismembered. They had taken quite a bit of killing. The orcs had been little more than blood to bathe his axe in. It was the ogre pair that had slain his companions, his horse and nearly himself.

Somewhere, a little ways down this track, a very angry giant would be hearing about all this, he thought to himself. At least a handful of the verminous little goblins had escaped and they would no doubt tell their master.

The giant would probably just step on them for their trouble. "May their bones pierce its hairy feet," Ragnar cursed.

He paused and looked at the blade. The notch was not deep and the stone had taken the rough edge off leaving only a small semi-circle bite from the sharpened steel. He stood then and hefted the axe, letting it swing once or twice, catching the light from the late morning sun. Ragnar 'hrumphed' in satisfaction with the feel and balance of the weapon and the fresh edge to the blade.

Turning away from the bright sunlight, always so much harsher in winter, he let his gaze wander.

This land, it was like the lowlands of his home. The Corrusk Mountains rose tall and deadly around the land of his childhood, like these Barrier Peaks and Crystalmists here. This Geoff, its forests, fields and hills, hugged by the arms of those mountains, it was as beautiful as the northeastern lands.

And now the beasts of the mountains, the giant-kind, held the lowlands in their arms and under their fists.

"Giants!" Ragnar spat out the name like a curse. How he loathed the creatures. Humanlike, but not human. Not just big humans at all, but part of the hills, of fire, of ice. They were of the oerth, sky and the elements themselves, formed in the shape of man. He hated them all. This giant he had come to hunt in secret and in stealth, it would be the death of him.

"No one will sing of this battle," he mused aloud. It wouldn't matter. "These southern lands," he shook his head, "most deaths go unsung."

* * *
Two Days earlier....

"Hey! Ragnar!" a young voice shouted across the muddy market street of Hochoch.

It was midmorning and the frozen ground had thawed, turning the rutted oerthen roadway into a slippery mire. Wooden planks had been placed along the sides of the road as a walkway, but crossing the street required entering a treacherous no-man's land of ankle-deep mud.

The early rising merchants, tradesmen, and travellers had churned the mud into a viscous goo that both gripped feet in mid stride with an adhesive suction and formed a tractionless layer beneath the surface. Those who braved the crossing of Hochoch's market street found themselves in a losing struggle for balance.

The results were many and spectacular, much to the enjoyment of the merchants in their stalls and those travellers lucky enough to have avoided such a fate, as well as the unlucky but glad to see someone else share the misfortune. Misery might, or might not love company, but everyone watching enjoyed seeing someone else fall in the mud.

At the sound of his name, Ragnar turned from the leatherworker's table where he had been haggling over the price of a finely tooled sheath for his axe-blade and carry strap to sling the axe over his back. The merchant, taking advantage of Ragnar's momentary distraction, plucked the three large silver coins from his startled grasp.

He loudly exclaimed "Deal!" and slapped the sheath and strap into Ragnar's now empty hand.

"What!" Ragnar bellowed at the merchant, but the man merely smiled and began haggling with another customer.

"Ragnar!" The voice called again urgently.

"Belsimioth!" Ragnar turned to face the opposite side of the street and yelled back. "Votan's frozen beard!"

"The Master's sent word for you!" Belsimioth the page shouted, breaking into a screech.

"All right, all right," Ragnar replied, his voice lowered to a mutter. He glanced quickly back at the merchant, who ignored him, then without a second thought stepped off the wooden plank and into the sea of mud that was Hochoch's Market Street.

* * *

Kerim Tannner watched the large barbarian step into the muddy street with a smile of amusement. He patted his coin pouch, feeling the shape of the three newly minted silver eagles, and thanked Istus for putting them in his hands. The two other customers at his table had both turned away to watch the barbarian as well. Travellers on the street had become wary and it had been some little time since anyone had ventured across and chanced their footing against the mud.

With surprising grace, Ragnar slid more than walked across the width of the street. He kept his balance admirably well. No sudden stops, no flailing of limbs, a great disappointment to spectators.

"Belsimioth!" Ragnar said with exasperation as he reached the planking on the far side. He reached out and steadied himself on the boy's shoulder and stepped from the slick, pulling mud and onto the wooden planking. "You've cost me some silver lad. Now what's so urgent that Master Talberth sent you out to find me?"

"I know not, Ragnar, sir," the boy said. "Master said find you quick, said you'd be here," and with a sidelong glance finished quietly. "Must have cast a spell."

"Or talked with Emiel and found out I had business with Tanner," Ragnar shook his head. "Talberth saves his magic for paying customers. Well... Come then," he gave Belsimioth's shoulder a pull. "If it's really urgent," and started down the street, the page in tow behind him.

The crowded walkway found room for the barbarian as he made his way down its length. Ragnar seemed oblivious to the muffled cries of protest as startled shoppers had to lean into merchant's tables or step off the planking into the mire.

Belsimioth grimaced at the looks being sent their way, but he could barely keep pace, let alone restrain Ragnar from simply barreling through. He was thankful that the corner was not far and his master's dwelling only a short way down the side street.

They turned the corner, leaving Market street and entering Arcane Way, home to the few sages, soothsayers and hedge wizards that Hochoch could boast. Master Talberth was part of a new breed, coming to the town which was becoming a city, following the retinue of the Duke and the occupying force of Gran March. Many had come to the retaken town and taken up residence during the rebuilding, but none so mighty as Belsimioth's master.

Poor Hochoch. Little except foundation stones were kept of the old town. It had been a prosperous city on the eastern border of the Duchy, but the giants and their minions had burnt, broken or fouled every inch of it.

When the Knights of the Watch and the soldiers of Gran March finally broke its defenses, surprisingly sturdy and laced with traps which many felt beyond the ken of giants, they were sickened by what they found.

No human town, no Hochoch of distant memory, but a warren of filthy dens. Only the Mayor's House and the City Hall bore any resemblance to what they had once been. These the giants had taken for themselves. They'd torn out the upper floors, creating a long hall, making them as close to their mountain steadings as possible. The cellars had been packed with debris so the floors could bear their weight, but the outer shells remained whole.

It was at the City Hall that Lassar the hill giant chief and his warriors fell. They defended the hall to the last, and before they died a great fire sprang up around them. Matholwch, a Knight of the Watch, son of a Geoff noble, wounded the chief, but he in turn was beaten to the ground by a tree-sized club and pulled from the fight by a Gran March soldier. The men-at-arms from Gran March were resolute but suffered terribly beneath the fists and clubs of the giants. Two score lay dead inside the hall, one blow, one flung stone from a giant that a siege engine might have thrown, where they struck, they killed.

Lassar had pulled himself up and cursed at the soldiers surrounding him. He towered over those who faced him, surrounded by a wall of dead. Giant, ogre, orc and man. Blood poured from a wound which laid his face open to the bone and two hill giants stood beside him.

"Little ones!" he called. "You wish to play!" and he laughed. It shook the very walls, and then beyond his laughter there came a rumble, then a roar. From the back of the hall, which still bore doors and rooms of human size, a flame appeared. It spread across the walls and up over the roof. It played across the bodies of the dead and around Lassar. It swept toward the knights and soldiers, and they fled. As they ran from the hall they could hear Lassar's mocking laughter following them.

The building shook, and then with a crash it fell in on itself. The ground trembled and the burning rubble sank a man's length into the ground, as if some open place beneath the oerth had swallowed it.

City Hall became a pyre for all the monstrous dead. The fire burned for days, fed by the bodies of orcs and goblin-kind, carcasses of ogres, and pieces of trolls still wriggling on the end of swords and spears. The once well-crafted and cared for buildings of Hochoch were added. The monsters had fouled them beyond re-use. Not even the walls around the town were spared, though they had been built higher and stronger than before the coming of the giants.

The dead of the Watch and of Gran March were placed in a great barrow outside the town. It formed a hill, so high was the oerth piled.

Then began the great rebuilding. Once the town had been scoured and every trace of the monstrous occupation erased, then came the builders, then tradesmen, tavern keepers and whores, priests and clerics of most faiths, Geoffites returning to a small fraction of their homeland. The Duke came and a residence was built where the mayor's home once stood. The town filled out and began to grow. A call went out from the Duke, a call to arms for the future of Geoff and it brought patriots, mercenaries, adventurers and fools. It brought Ragnar, and it brought others, like Master Talberth who came for his own reasons. He built a great house alongside the humbler dwellings of Arcane Way.

All this went through Belsimioth's head as he ran after Ragnar down the street to his master's dwelling.


Talberth's page and would-be apprentice, Belsimioth, was a dreamer. As his mind wandered, as was often the case, his feet were left to find their own way. An incautious and careless habit paying no heed to the ground they tread upon.

Master Talberth's dwelling sat in splendor between rows of rough and quick-built shops and homes. While wood plank suited his inauspicious brethren stone slabs lead to and from his door and lined the way in front. Belsimioth, lost in thought, his feet obeying their own commands, missed the transmutation of wood planking to stone paving. He was moved through time, from the recent glorious past, and space, flying forward like one enchanted by his master's spells.

Ragnar heard the sharp startled cry and dull thud. Looking back he rolled his eyes, muttered something under his breath so intelligible that even he didn't know what he'd said, then reached down and hauled the dozy page up by the scruff of his neck.

"Belsimioth," he said disapprovingly, "until you can float like your master, keep your head from the clouds and your eyes on where you're going, lad."

"Yes sir," Belsimioth said apologeticly but without much conviction.

* * *

Talberth, Master of Magic Arts, Sage of Ancient Tomes, Doctor of Thaumaturgy, HM.SoM.CoG., tapped the end of his quill pen against the side of his nose as he studied the report he would be sending the duke. He occasionally glanced over at Emiel, a small, neat man, finely dressed with agile hands and nervous eyes.

Emiel would catch these glances, pretend not to notice, but would then look towards Thaddeus, Ted to everyone else who knew him.

Ted, a tow-haired, plain-looking fellow in common garb; could be a workman, a tradesman, or a farmer if you put him in rough homespun. Ted was just watching the door and thinking, "Ragnar, you big idiot". He'd let that thought come and go a hundred times. He almost jumped when, outside the door, down the hall, and at the entrance, a resounding boom rang out.

"If he breaks that knocker again it's coming out of his pay," Talberth said, rising from his seat.

Emiel gave an insincere laugh, treating the pronouncement like a joke, but he knew Talberth meant it.

Ted just grimaced.

There was the sound of scurrying feet, someone running awkwardly down the hall outside the door. The booming continued then stopped abruptly.

A loud voice could be heard, Ragnar's, then that awkward running. The door opened suddenly and a small, deformed, ancient-looking man appeared. He wore long robes which brushed the floor and concealed his feet. His body appeared hunched, misshapen, and his grizzly white-haired head seemed disproportionate somehow. One eye was missing; a black strip of silk concealed it, wrapped around the head and covered one ear, though no sign of that ear appeared beneath the cloth.

"Caliban!" Talberth called to him.

The old man smiled, his teeth surprisingly straight and strong.

"Caliban, I take it that Ragnar," and Talberth's voice took on a tone of amusement when he spoke the barbarian's name, "I take it that he has arrived?"

"He has," Caliban answered in a deep and pleasant voice. "He waits outside"

"Hrmph!" Ted could not stop the wordless exclamation from escaping his lips. Ragnar, wait? Not likely.

"Good," said Talberth. "Let him stay for a moment," then looking directly at Caliban, said, "No, Caliban, let him wait a good ten moments then bring him here."
Caliban merely grinned and shut the door behind him. His movements were shuffling yet quick and slightly unpleasant to watch. 

"Now gentlemen," Talberth said leaning forward, his hands resting on the table in front of him. "I have a task for each of you, and our barbarian friend out there."

* * *

The look of shock on Ragnar's face almost made up for the unease that Belsimioth always felt when he was in Caliban's presence. Seeing the huge barbarian seized and lifted like a small child by the deformed old man was humorous, but also disquieting.

At first Ragnar did not struggle. When the old man stepped in front of him, blocking his way, he thought to gently move him aside. But it was Caliban who acted first and his grip was like iron. Ragnar's arms were pinned to his sides in an encircling hug and without visible effort he was lifted and carried across the hall.

Then Ragnar twisted and tried to break the viselike grip, but Caliban showed no reaction, no slackening. He paced slowly forward while Ragnar roared curses. Belsimioth covered his ears.

To the side of the front entrance, inside the hall, two alcoves flanked the door. Both were empty except for a granite square, a pedestal that some statue might sit upon. It was in one of these that Caliban placed Ragnar. Belsimioth thought he heard some twisted phrase snap from Caliban, but he caught the sound between Ragnar's damning shouts. And then there was nothing, Ragnar's voice was cut in mid-curse, the word sliced in two with a razor of silence.

Caliban turned away and walked his strange shuffling, disturbing walk down the hall. With slow hesitant steps Belsimioth inched toward the alcove. There stood Ragnar, this Belsimioth knew. But it couldn't be. The semblance of Ragnar, an artist's vision of Ragnar cut from rock and imbued with a palpable life, but not the living, breathing, shouting and cursing Ragnar. He reached out and gave a tap with his finger. The stone gave out a dull chu-chunk. Belsimioth snatched his hand away as if it had been burned. That stone was Ragnar!

"Master Talberth!" he yelled and ran down the hall.

* * *

"So then," said Emiel with a long breath, "we have no choice."

"It would seem so," said Talberth, gesturing with open hands. "I have made the alternatives plain, have I not?" He glanced toward Emiel. "Agreeing to this undertaking would seem the wise...."

"Master Talberth!" Belsimioth cried, slamming the door open with a bang and rushing across the room.

" Belsimioth!" Talberth snapped out angrily. "You know better than to..."

"Master! Master! Caliban has gone mad!" he blurted out in an explosion of words and breath.


"Master, but..." Belsimioth gasped

" Enough!" The wizard shouted. "You will sit and stay silent!"


"Not another word. Not another peep, or you'll be joining Ragnar in the hall." Talberth warned, and catching the shocked expression on his page's face, he saw also there the dawning of understanding. "Yes. Good. Caliban has not gone mad, and neither have I, not yet, not until you drive me there! So sit!"

Talberth shook his head and brushed his hands across his face and eyes as if to clear them of some obscuring dust settled down by ages of disuse. "Gentlemen," he said, "I wait your answer, yea or nay."

Emiel and Ted exchanged glances, looked at the silent page sitting dumbfounded in a chair near the door, then back at the wizard. "Yea," they said together.

"As you know it must be," Emiel added glumly.

"Good!" said Talberth. "Your enthusiasm heartens me. Now I believe ten moments have passed," he glanced at the door." Yes I believe that will be Caliban retrieving our gentled barbarian."

And they heard the odd footfalls of Caliban passing by, heading for the entrance and Ragnar.

* * *

It was like a grey cloud had settled in his head. Slowly it cleared away, and he began to be able to think again. Then his vision began to return, fuzzy at first, but he could make out shapes in the fog. A thought occurred, a memory, 'Talberth'. From far off he heard his own voice, cracking and strained, he began to cough, a little at first, then without control, great racking coughs. He realized he could feel, and he wished that he could not.

There was a burning, he had felt its like before when the warmth came back to frozen feet and hands, but this was worse. This burning began deep inside, it radiated out from his heart, from the marrow in his bones.

The clouds were gone and the fire was in his head, behind his eyes, and following the courses of blood through his body. Suddenly every nerve caught the blaze and it swept from toe to tooth. A shout formed in his mouth but before it could escape the wave passed and was gone.

Ragnar found himself sitting in a large and ornate chair and before him the thrice damned wizard standing behind a table of some dark smooth wood.

"Feeling better are we?" Talberth said with a smile. "Good. Now enough time has been wasted. You will find that there is little to spare."

"Wizard, you and your damned spells. Just what did you do to me!" Ragnar shouted angrily. He would have risen, he should have been enraged, berserk, but he felt slow, withdrawn. He was awake, his head was clear and focused, but he could not maintain his outrage or anger with the wizard.

"It is unimportant, trivial, and you do not have the time," Talberth looked from one to the other. "You have been complaining about inaction since I brought you here Ragnar. And you Emiel, Ted, you have been straining to return to your homeland, your people. Well now is the time."

"Tell us then!" Ragnar snapped, then calmed. "I have done nothing but sit and grow fat. You promised much, what is it that you needed from me?"

"I need your skills Ragnar. Yes, that axe of yours and your experience, but especially your judgment. I need you to protect these two as you will need them to help guide you, but beyond that I need you to kill a giant."

Ragnar smiled. "Yes wizard, that is worth what you have put me through. Tell me about this giant."

* * *

"The giants have taken the loss of Hochoch to heart," Talberth began. "This loss seems to have struck them a more grievous blow than being driven out of Sterich, if they were driven out at all. From what I saw there they withdrew, and in good order. I could not call it driven though that is what the bards are singing."

"Yes, yes," Ragnar said impatiently. "I was there myself. What of this Giant?"

"I will get to him shortly," Talberth said with a small touch of annoyance in his voice, "if I am not interrupted. Now then, hrummph..." he cleared his throat. "The giants have increased their presence inside of Geoff. They had been spread fairly thin, but most of those from Sterich survived and..."

"They should call the fight in Sterich, 'The Great Goblin Hunt.' It seems like that's all we did during the last few weeks..." Ragnar trailed off under the stern gaze of Talberth.

"Most of those giants survived and have come to Geoff," Talberth continued, "and more have come from the clans farther back in the hills and the mountains. So, now, instead of just roving patrols of goblins and their like, we are seeing larger monsters and even giants themselves. This has made my tasks much more difficult."

"Just what are your tasks?" Ragnar asked with a deep curiosity.

"None of your business!" Talberth replied. "Well, none of your business for the most part," he relented. "Getting into and out of the duchy, and killing a particular giant who is a large part of my problems are your concern. The giants had grown complacent before Sterich. Now Sterich and Hochoch are the bees' nests that we have disturbed and they are flitting around the duchy like mad. But one giant in particular is stirring things up along the border here. Hreidmar, a hill giant clan leader, fresh from the mountains."

"You want him dead?" Ted spoke for the first time.

"Exactly," Talberth nodded toward Ragnar. "With his help and your compatriots in the duchy it should be well within your abilities. This Hreidmar, he leads his fellows from the front. Takes out patrols himself, and has helped prod these overgrown potato sacks of giants into action. I have just received word that he has left Midwood and is leading a patrol to sweep the border around us."

"Why not send knights and soldiers?" interjected Emiel hopefully.

"Because any show of force and he will simply retreat back to Midwood or summon reinforcements. The time is not right for such a confrontation. Besides, the giants have surprisingly up to date and accurate information regarding our forces, when and where and whatnot. No, this task is better accomplished by you and your people with Ragnar's assistance," Talberth said looking from Ted to Emiel.

Ted looked dubious at the suggestion. Ragnar would seem as no more than a child in comparison with the smallest of these giants.

"I have helped slay giants before," Ragnar said quietly in answer to Ted's wordless question.

"I would not have you undertake this mission if I did not believe that you could accomplish it," said Talberth. "But, be that as it may, though you have been kept in the dark regarding this, you have each agreed to serve me, and the duke, and your own interests," he gave a piercing look toward Emiel.

"Indeed wizard, I have no qualms, but a larger force will be needed, unless we can get this Hreidmar away from his followers," Ragnar said.

"Emiel will see to that. He will provide a small but hardy group of partisans. They have become skilled in ambush and stealth, but they need a warrior of some skill himself to face and kill Hreidmar," the wizard opened a drawer set in the table and withdrew a squared and folded map. It had seen much service but was clearly marked and finely drawn.

"This..." said Talberth pointing to the symbol of a small house, recently redrawn with a spire and a thick circle around it. "This is Hochoch. To the west is Midwood. Between them, though nearer to us, is the Oyt River. Hreidmar, from what my sources tell me, plans to cross the Oyt and come as close to Hochoch as possible, hoping no doubt to descend upon a patrol of our own. And there are outposts being built along the river which he might raid. It is a bold and dangerous move. I know of only three reliable crossings of the Oyt along our border. They are all watched, but the giants have a means of crossing when and where they will, and we know not how they do so."

"Emiel, finding out how they do this is of prime importance," Talberth said seriously. "As much as I would like to stop Hreidmar on the western side of the Oyt, that will not be our plan. You will leave today, I said time was short, and cross the Oyt. Word has already been sent and you will be met at a safe location within the giant-held lands. From there you can contact your people, Emiel, and make plans to waylay Hreidmar and his band as they return from across the Oyt. There is a slim chance that the giant will be stopped this side of the river, but no warning is being sent to our patrols. Any word given would pass directly to the giants. As I said they have very good sources of information."

"What about us?" asked Emiel. "Won't they know about us?"

"I honestly don't know. Every precaution has been taken, which is why you have sworn service to me and not the Duke. Can you trust your own people Emiel? I have told no one, and besides the four of us..." the wizard said discounting Belsimioth who sat quietly by the door, " one knows of these plans."

"My people would not betray me," Emiel said firmly.

"Good, I have prepared gear for you and a meal. You have time to eat and drink with some leisure and check your gear before you depart. Any questions?" asked the wizard.

"Where's the food?" asked Ragnar with enthusiasm. "I'm starving."

NPC - Vilmos - Viridian Guild - Spinecastle

NPC - Vilmos - Viridian Guild - Spinecastle

Vilmos was once a Wolf Nomad or the Setjare Fark as they call themselves, but he had to flee for his evil acts upon members of his own tribe. Like many of his ilk in the north he has gravitated to Spinecastle and has found a home.

Currently he is a member of the Viridian Guild and acts as an outrider and guard to the merchant wagons and caravans that bring an endless procession of goods, slaves and meat animals (the slaves are too often just another meal to the cities inhabitants) to the city.

When not guardian merchants Vilmos will be out with a group of hunters that capture wild and exotic animals for the Pits. Vilmos himself loves the gladiatorial games and has even competed several times showing off his amazing skill with the bow and lasso.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

NPC - Five Head Ogre Boss of the Thundering Club - Spinecastle

NPC - Five Head Ogre Boss of the Thundering Club - Spinecastle

The Ogres of Spinecastle keep busy breaking down things and hauling large and ponderous items from one place to another as well as keeping a crew handy to open and close the massive gates to Spinekeep. They keep themselves  amused by squashing anything smaller than themselves.  Every so often a group will take off for some fun and plunder or an individual or three will hire themselves out to a tribe or group or person of enough power to impress them just enough from eating them. The Ogres know they are on to a good thing in Spinecastle.

Thundering Club isnt a typical tribe and Ogres come and go within its ranks. death being the most common form of departure. Still the Ogre ranks  have been steadily growing though not enough to worry the Orcs who currently run things in Spinecastle.

Five Heads is the most recent leader due to his size, strength and, surprisingly, intelligence, although this last attribute he keeps well hidden.He is massive for an Ogre, the size of a Hill Giant with strength to match. He has had a suit of armor made equivalent to chainmail, and bears an enchanted two-handed sword that he wields with one hand. He keeps a bag of stones at his side which he will throw during combat and they have a punch like a small catapult.

Secretly Five Heads has been planning on over throwing the orcs through an alliance with the Young Blood gnolls and the necromancer (who he is secretly afraid of). He can summon a large force  of forty-fifty Ogres from outside Spinecastle and large group of Ogrillons from within the city. Five Heads has secretly promised the Ogrillons membership in Thundering Club if they prove themselves.

Minstrel Tales - Song of the Sea Princes

Minstrel Tales - Song of the Sea Princes

O young Sea Princes
You from the Holdings
From mainland and island
You that are sailing
The Azure waters
With eyes of wonder
Sail to adventure
Sail to the Sunrise
Sail to adventure
Who follow the waves

Sail safely in sunlight
Sail safely in moonlight
Sail safely in starlight
O young Sea Princes
Down to the holdings
Call your companions
Launch your vessel
And crowd your canvas
And ere the sunset
Over the margin
After it, Follow it
Follow the waves!

( Loosely altered from Tennyson's Merlin and the Gleam)

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Nation - Blackmoor Land of a Thousand Witches - Part 5

Nation - Blackmoor Land of a Thousand Witches - Part 5

Czylle commands the elements. Lightning dances at her willl. She would be a leader in any other land but the Nyma Urd have no leader. She goes gloved and cloaked in grey and her eyes burn with an inner fire. She looks far beyond this plane into worlds beyond and one day she will step beyond this Oerth and perhaps not return.

Next among the Nyma Urd is the Red Witch. She travels the borders of Blackmoor alone though she is protected by golems of her own creation and terrible para-elementals. She practices a form of magic unknown in the Flanaess but it is said to have links to the ancient Olman rites of their priest/magicians and some Hepmonaland shamans are said to have similar powers and rituals. The Red Witch practices Blood Magic, summons para-elementals of blood, constructs golems of blood. She can cause blood to boil or to become Blood Worms that eat their way out of the skin. Her magic is terrible and powerful. Her interests are in Blackmoor though she is said to welcome young women from anywhere who wish to learn her brand of witchcraft and become apprentices.

Last among the three of the Nyma Urd who are known is Tyyne, Daughter of the Moon. It is said that she has been to the City of the Gods and has brought the magic of Celene with her and her power is great. Something of the God Waymoinen is about her for she can craft marvelous things. She can surround herself with a cloud of butterflys formed of steel whose wings are razors. Woe betide any who would seek to harm her.

These are the three that are known of the Nyma Urd.

Among the rest of the Sisterhood all are equal in their ranks once they have begun the first mastery of their art till they take their last breath on this Oerth.