Shards of Trastenfen

Chapter Five: Dangerous Roads

From the Green Tome, as written by Waldrick Maestrum

A bright, beautiful Peerday greeted us the morning after we finished exploring the guard house. We took time to discuss the townsfolk we had met during a light breakfast. Peerday worship at the Abbey of Straben was a highly ritualized affair. I did not observe it up close, but had quite a long discussion about it with Ralpheo days later. The service begins with a 20 minute initiation ceremony, followed by a parishioner participation section called The Phases. One of these Phases is called the Ordeal, where parishioners meet face-face with Straben officials to discuss what they have done to honor Straben. Ralpheo took part in the Ordeal and met three townsfolk: Dirrill, a farmer who was happy with the Abbey; Gomid a fisherman lamenting the poor quality of the catch, and Verely, a wealthy merchant who owns two warehouses, one of which he says the fishermen use as a drydock.

Ashvact took the morning to investigate the warehouses across he lake from Fishtown. Ashvact managed to talk with a guard. He found out that guard patrols are infrequent, that what few guards there are are paid by the Baron, and that militia membership includes all males of at least 13 years of age. Barick went to Garesh that day and received a fine axe, which he named Brok Balor.

I spent Peerday attempting to determine the magical properties of the items we picked up in the Guardhouse. The brooch seemed to have had a magical spell cast on it at some point. The silver ring, however, emits an overpowering aura. I determined to keep the ring close and study its effect on me very closely. The ring so perplexed me that I began walking absent-mindedly through town, ending up on the north road out of town. Just past the guardhouse I found a young man along the road. He was dead. I did a quick search of the body and found a note from someone named Gren, addressed to the Baron’s mage Peltar. I hid the note and immediately reported the murder to the guards. To my shock, the guards asked if I needed help getting rid of the body. The interaction forever changed my opinion of the town guard in Trastenfen. The note, which was in some strange Elvish script, told of a power being drawn from the ground. He mentioned a companion named Weel, asked Straben and Eord to protect them, and ended with the cryptic: “If we do not return, you know what to do.” I spoke to Fliban about the note and he indicated that the ruins were near Pale Hill, many miles from Trastenfen.

Falco’s was surprisingly busy Peerday evening. Amid the bustle came a caravan from Pinewald. The members of the team seemed to be a hardy bunch, but they were surprisingly skittish that night. They spoke of trouble along the North Road towards Pinewald—more raids. We also heard news that there have been goblin raids on the thorp of Pinewald itself. The teamsters said attempts were being made to rebuild Pinewald’s keep, despite rumors that it is rumored to be haunted. A man came to see me that evening claiming to be a representative of one Bradbert Crandel, owner of Crandel’s Den, an invitation-only gambling establishment. I told the man I could not accept just then, but that I would certainly entertain the offer. Ralpheo received a letter that evening. Ralpheo was immediately tranfixed by the letter, neglecting to tip the messenger. The letter was from a man named Almon, an official at the Abbey, and advised Ralpheo to use silver when combating the undead.

Garesh stopped in to see Barick that evening. He told a story of friend of his whose daughter was ill. He told us of an abandoned temple to Cunefir near the High Glade. He said there was a well there with water that could cure the girl.

Ralpheo went to a gathering in Fishtown that evening. He heard more tales of the North Road—this time a man whose friends were taken into the Hollow Forest two weeks ago. He also heard rumors of an abandoned manor four miles from town between the Kelman Woods and the Great Cliff. Just before he left, an old fisherman warned him against going to Goat Hill. The ugly, hairy beasts there continue to attack herders.

A myriad of options lay before us. We adjourned to our room that night and a heated discussion ensued. Barick, naturally, wanted to help Garesh, one of the few humans in Trastenfen who he has taken a liking to. I kept reflecting back to the note, about the strange power that the Baron’s mage seems to be trying to draw from the ground. I was convinced a trip to Pale Hill would shed light on the undead we encountered in the guard house. Ashvact and Ralpheo seemed ready to proceed with that plan until I suggested we borrow some horses from the caravan for the long trip. Ralpheo put up a strong protest and, thinking that a child might be in trouble, I agreed to go to the temple. Ralpheo paid a visit to the Almon at the Abby afterwards, evidently a kind man that helped restore Ralpheo’s faith in the Abbey. He could not stop praising the man during our trip the next day. Ashvact picked up a bow and some arrows he had ordered from Perk and Pello the following morning.

We left for High Glade early in the morning. After an hour or so we left the road. Travel became grueling as the ground began to grow rocky and slope upward. My companions proved to be a hardy lot, never once allow a complaint to pass their lips. Other than a few grumbles from Barick as Ralpheo talked on and on of Almon the Curate, it was a pleasant enough journey. We camped near one of the Fourtop Hills and took turns keeping watch.

My mind drifted during my watch. I was still trying to perfect my sleep spell, as it was proving to be quite useful when facing the horrors of the world. I meditated on the spell as I stood watch, remembering the lessons of my wise mentor Hector—keeping a calm mind, recitation of the spell in my mind, and remembering how the correctly cast spell felt when emanating from the air around me. I fell asleep as Ralpheo began his watch, the spell lingering in my mind.

A short time later I awoke to the deathly snarls of a seven-foot-tall hairy beasts with the face of a hyena. We were being attacked by four gnolls. I could think of no weakness and knew they did not take prisoners. I had the chilling sensation that this might indeed have been our end. Before I could react, I felt cold steel plunge into my abdomen. As he raised to strike again, I saw a flurry of steel from the corner of my eye. The gnoll turned to face my companions. I am certain it was the flurry of Ralpheo and Barick’s attack that saved my life. I could feel the life draining from my body. I tried to cripple my attacker by cutting his at the ankle, but that had no effect. Ashvact went down and begane desperately trying to crawl away, a trail of elven blood following him. Ralpheo and Barick felled two of the gnolls, but Ralpheo went to the ground shortly after.

Suddenly, I the sleep spell began to take shape in my mind. I focused it and reached out my hand, drawing on all of my reserves to strike the beasts down. I remained concious long enough to watch one of them drop to the ground. Ashvact wasted no time. I saw him crawling towards the gnoll, dagger in hand, just before darkness overtook me.

I awoke to find Ralpheo hovering over me, hastily praying over me and applying some sort of salve to my wounds. His eyes were frightened as he looked all around him in the early morning sunlight. I looked to my left and saw Ashvact proped against a boulder, bow in hand, a grim look on his face. Barick stood nearby, ace in hand, the grimmest of looks on his face. Ralpheo smiled at me, which reassured me at everyone was okay. I asked him what happened. He told me a story of Barick facing the final gnoll, his body weakened from the attacks of the beasts. He said he drew Brok Balor over his head and called up the name of the Grimhammer Clanfather who saved his people years and years ago. Ralpheo’s eyes widened as he told me that a fantastic clash of thunder shook the air and lightning arced through the air, enveloping both Barick and Brok Balor. The axe came down onto the gnolls head, nearly splitting his entirely in two. I doubted Ralpheo’s account, knowing that he is prone to a wide-eyed view of the world. I asked Barick about it, but he would not speak of the matter any further. We were alive, and however we managed to survive the attack, I was thankful to be alive that morning. Thankful and even more cautious than ever. The Foothold is no place for the weak-willed.

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