Episode 29a
The Road the Chendl

The Biscuits Gimar - Fighter 8th Level (PC)
Jaron - Paladin 4th Level (PC)
Rheaphlyndar - Thief 7th Level (PC)
Nicola - Cleric 4th Level (PC)
Wed - Mage 4th Level (NPC)
Little John - Fighter 4th Level (NPC)
Thrommel/Avras - Paladin (NPC)
Locale Ryemend, and then the road to Chendl
Date 24th of Fireseek, 585 CY (Common Year)
Time Again, Moments later

The dust settles. The demons bodies on this plane are destroyed, their spirits sent back to hell. The surviving villagers emerge and begin to count the bodies and the cost. Fires burn, buildings are consumed by flames set by those spawn of hell. They cope with their wounds and struggle to save what they can.

Nicola moves amongst those hurt, doing what she can to minimize their wounds. Her skill with people might not be in great measure, but the herbs she uses are well appreciated. With the battle over, the village wise women emerge with their poltices and liniments and help as well. They gratefully replace what herbs Nicola has used, as best they can.

When the demons fear spell ends, Gimar returns and helps to put out fires with his decanter, and save what buildings and belongings are not yet consumed. The toll is high for both. The villagers are thankful for the help. Perhaps some wonder why such a doughty warrior ran with such uncommon speed, perhaps they do not wonder at all, but none say anything.

Wed and Avras are thanked repeatedly for their death-blows against the demons. Avras killed both the Vrock, while Wed finished largest one. The others are thanked as well, but these two were seen to deal the blows that finished the evil ones. Both are gracious heros, pointing out what damage was done by others. Avras almost hides from the attention, throwing himself in to helping the villagers. His face becomes coated with ash and grime, he says little and works hard. Where he can, he diverts attention to others. He does not want to be recognized as the heir.

With the setting of the sun, the villagers fearfully retire to the remaining homes. The dark is silent, but ears strain to hear the slightest danger. The smell of ash hangs heavy over the village.

In the morning, the funerals begin. When the Biscuits make ready to depart, they are met with many entreaties to remain for a few days. "What if more demons return?" the villagers cry. "Who will save us then?" But Avras is determined to be gone. He is quiet, but unswayed. And before the sun has risen high, the Biscuits are on the road to Chendl.

The Biscuits follow the river road to Stalmaer, another village to the north and east. Five days later, the Biscuits are waving across the river to summon the ferry to take them across to the village. Almost all are eager to buy some supplies, hear some news, and see a few new faces, but Avras will not wait. Before the sun sets, the Biscuits are again on the trail.

Rhavelle Holdings
Their path takes them on the large road past the Holdings. Avras is glad to hear the Countess is not at her country retreat. He would certainly be recognized. He is still very cautious, he had been here years ago on occasional visits. He does not want some servant to spot him. That night, the Biscuits can hear him muttering in his sleep. He does not sleep well, and the word "Crimson..." is noted by all.

They are only on the road for a day and a half, before they change to little roads and trails. They aim for the bridge across the Att River, beyond which is the provincial capital of Littleberg. They pass occasional farms and noble plantations, trading distant waves with farmers out working the fields. There are wild dogs here. They have escaped from the farms and noble's kennels, and now run feral in the empty places.

Late one night, while Avras keeps a grim and restless watch, the Biscuits are roused from sleep by Avras' loud cries and wild waving of a burning torch. He says the dogs had quietly come close to the camp. He spends some time walking the edge of the camp, muttering, holding his torch like a broadsword. He bids the Biscuits return to their slumber. He will keep watch over them.

Avras tries to lead the Biscuits around small hamlets and settlements, but is bothered by how much the land has changed in the last 12 years while he lay comatose, disguised as a foul life-drinker. There are more people here, more country estates of minor nobles. More chances someone might know him. It is hard to enjoy the travel, the sun or chirping of birds along the trails. Avras is gloomy under his black cloud.

Five days from Stalmaer, the Biscuits find themselves on a major road. This is the great causeway between Libernen and Littleberg, two provincial capitals. Merchant caravans ply this route in heavy numbers, and nobles move between country estates and city duties. Avras is deep in gloom and his cloak. He does not return traveler's greetings or the comments of his companions.

Traffic moves slowly over the bridge. There are many wagons, many minor nobles exerting claims of right of way, and the mass of oxen and horses do their best to achieve their masters bidding. Everyone is close together, Avras is rigid. And still deep in his cloak. The Biscuits talk with others and with each other, easily drawing attention away from their companion. Gimar is ready with a story or two to ease the wait. Jaron, paladin that he is, helps direct traffic. His sense of order strives to prevail over the chaos. His leadership (and charisma) show, and the Biscuits path is made easier. Rheaphlyndar makes conversation with those close to him in the press of bodies. His hands help him talk, and the eyes of those he converses with naturally follow his hand as it flourishes during a particularly nice anecdote. What his other hand might be doing none seem to notice... He seems to greet the frustration of the press of traffic with a ready smile.

As the party cross the bridge, they see city before them. Seven thousands of people live and work here. The river wharfs are busy, traffic and goods move up and down the river, over the bridge, and in and out the other roads extending from the city.

There is shopping to be done, possible magic items to be purchased, new taverns to sample, news to be heard and the dust of days on the road to wash off. But the eagerness of his companions is doused by Avras. He is very afraid of being spotted. He was known here. While the eyes of his companions take in the new sights, his seek out shadows. Everything red worries him. Even over the busy sounds of the city, the Biscuits can tell he is muttering again. Soon they are out of the city, and on the road that will take them to Worlende, and then to Chendl.

The Caronis/Worlende Road
Five days from Littleberg, the Biscuits reached the junction with the Caronis/Worlende road. This is not a major road, most merchants prefer to use the river, and the nobles find themselves more comfortable on passenger barges than eating the dust of the road. Small groups move from one tiny hamlet to the next; tinkers, small traders, and the like. Avras warns the Biscuits of the Gravel Wagons that travel from Castle Greylode to Worlende. The gravel is mined by prisoners convicted of dire crimes. They are watched by grim militiamen sent to the Castle. Such bleak duty is the reward of being in disfavor. The guards do not permit contact with the prisoners, and are not welcoming of travelers met along the road.

The nights are more ever more grim. Avras is deeper in gloom. His sleep is torn by evil dreams of his kidnapping and ensorcelment. Often he wakes drawing his sword and leaping to his feet while still dreaming. The demons lurking in his mind cannot be killed so easily as those that burned Ryemend. None of the Biscuits sleep well. The aches of the road are not eased by poor sleep. All find themselves nodding off in the saddle, jerking themselves awake.

The Biscuits make camp in an empty kraal. The road has been empty, the day bleak. The high brush walls of the kraal circle them, with an opening leading out to the trail. This is a camp provided for travelers, with a well in the middle. More wild dogs live out here, and they are more fierce. The brush makes a useful and inexpensive barrier.

The party settles in, Rheaph, Wed and Nicola wander out scavenging for firewood, Jaron sees to the horses, getting them water and a brushing them. Gimar and Little John try to keep Avras company, but he is walking the inside of the kraal, looking for weaknesses and perhaps something else. His muttering is quiet, but his eyes are not.

Everyone is glad that Chendl is just four more days away. Two more days gets them to the ferry to Worlende, and Chendl is just two days on a major road beyond that. Avras is clearly bothered to be returning to where he was taken by unknown enemies, but he is the heir. His duty is clear.

Nicola is returning with an armload of small branches and twigs, she is complaining about the scarcity of good wood when she lets out a loud "EEP!" and the wood scatters from her arms. Nerves are tense from the lack of sleep, at her yell Avras draws his sword and bellows a challenge to the skies, Gimar has axe in hand, Little John and Jaron have grabbed weapons.

Peeking from around the opening is a small face with a long nose. The little Gnome's eyes go wide and then wider. He slowly backs away, his hands gently waving in front of him. "Ah... sorry. Didn't mean to intrude. I'll just go on down the road a bit, a long bit...."

Gimar quickly speaks out polite greetings in Gnomish (he may not speak the language, but he has learned a few polite phrases). The Gnome let's out a yell of his own when he finds Rheaph and Wed behind him, their having come running at Avras' yell. Gimar quickly makes peace, and the Gnome asks if his party can share the camp. He is polite and in his subtle phrasings he makes clear he is well ready to keep traveling. While Avras glowers silently, Gimar ignores him, inviting the Gnome and his friends to share the camp.

"I am a friend to Gnomes, and would love to exchange stories. I admire the skills of your folk and have made friends among your people in the area of the city of Greyhawk. They and we have helped each other on several occasions."

"Friendship is a great thing", replies the Gnome. "I am named Englebert, after a human bard my mother was fond of. I am glad to have met such welcoming people". Gimar quickly introduces himself, and the rest of the Biscuits do as well (except for Avras, who seems to be too busy glowering to make conversation). "Please tell your friends they are welcome here".

Englebert waves towards the trail and eight other Gnomes emerge from the brush at the trailside and walk up to the camp. Introductions are exchanged, and the usual discussions of two groups of travelers begin. The Gnomes tell how they are also traveling to Chendl. They are representatives from the miners of Claw Gorge to the King. The situation at the mines has become even worse. They need help if the mine is to be kept active at any level of extraction. More monsters and evil creatures have moved into the deeper levels, and now have begun to move up. Lives have been lost and families moved back. The situation is grave.

The Biscuits are concerned, Gimar especially worried. He likes Gnomes particularly. Talk about fighting tactics is exchanged, with many tips given and suggestions made. Avras, does not take part. He is a mighty paladin, he knows the area, but he sits with his back to the others. Nicola is sitting where she can see him, though. And his eyes are in pain. Whatever demons he fights each night, he is the heir to the throne. These are his people suffering. Several times, he opens his mouth, as if to speak. Each time, closing it, his face twisted in pain. The Gnomes talk of previous trips to the King, each time told that no help can be sent. The war to the north is costly, and no knights or paladins can be spared. Avras' head sinks.

When the Gnomes hear the suggestions and take better measure of their new-met friends, they begin to ask for help. "Surely," Englebert says, "you can spare some time to help us. The mines are just a few days away, in less than a week you could be back on the road and have helped us beyond measure. From the quality of your suggestions you are powerful and skilled. We are in dire need of such help."

Gimar met his eyes, but sadly. "I am deeply sorry, my new friend. We are bound by honor to Chendl. We have a task we must finish."

"Gimar.... please. I... If it is money, the mines do not make what they did, but what coin we can give you we gladly will." Englebert looked into Gimar's eyes. "I fear we will find no help from the King. We cannot fight these monsters. In you, there is hope." The Gnomes all looked to Gimar, the other Biscuits all watched their friend, knowing how much he hurt to refuse the little people. Only Nicola could see the look on the face of Thrommel, Paladin knight of the Hart and Heir to the throne of Furyondy as he listened to his people beg wandering adventures for help they could not get from their King. She saw him close his cloak around his face and saw his head sink into his hands. Because of their promise and the need to return him in safety to his father's court, and because they could not speak of this promise or his identity, the Gnomes would never know why these people refused them.

After a time, after some further attempts at conversation, the two groups began to prepare dinner. Avras/Thrommel sat alone, quiet and not eating. The Biscuits did not talk much either. No one in that camp was much given to conversation.

As the dusk grew thicker, faint sounds peirced the silence. Englebert quickly and quietly moved to the edge of the gap in the brush walls. He whispered to Gimar who joined him there that bandits were more common in the area, and they should have care who approched at night. But the sounds of heavy wagons slowly moving through the dusk became clear. From out of the twilight emerged a convoy of wagons, they came down the trail and turned up to the kraal. Around the wagons marched militiamen in their chain armor and livery of the Baron Jemian. At the head rode their captain. Behind the wagons were chains of convicts. A gravel convoy returning from Worlende to the gravel mines had arrived.

The convoy rolled and marched into the side of the camp opposite the Biscuits and the Gnomes. Avras was on the edge of being in the way. The convoy's captain dismounted and walked up behind him. "Move on the Baron's orders, scum. And the rest of you- if you cannot give good account of yourselves we will order you from this place. We guard these prisoners closely, you would find it best to be elsewhere this night. And you, whore-son, I said MOVE!"

Thrommel's head rose. The Biscuits could see his face from where they stood. In his eyes was anger, in his hand the hilt of his sword. He had suffered much, and this captain was about to suffer for all the pains that Thrommel endured.

Gimar and Jaron quickly moved over. "Forgive our friend, he is tired from the trail", Gimar gently 'encouraged' Thrommel towards the fire the Biscuits had made. Gimar's magically enhanced strength made him particularly persuasive. Jaron turned on the charm, of which he had lots. "Forgiveness is a great quality, and one we should all keep formost in our thoughts right now. Let us not fight tonight, it's dark, and our blankets call us". With Jaron's approach the captain could make out Jaron's armor and emblems. "Ah... Paladin," the captain growled out, "I am sure your friend did not mean offense." Perhaps Thrommel muttered something, but Gimar, Rheaph and Nicola were chatting and nothing could be clearly heard. Jaron met the captain's gaze. "My friends, which includes our comrades the Gnomes, are tired from our journey. We are bound to Chendl and the King's court. I am sure we can tell him of your stringent care of the prisoners and your charity in sharing the camp."

The captain stood quietly looking into Jaron's eyes. "I am sure you and your worthy friends are of good character, I am sure my men and I will not trouble you. If you have any needs please let my lieutenant know and he will strive to help". And with that the captain turned and began to quietly order his men around; the convicts being chained to stakes set into the ground, and the wagons, filled with food and pay for the prison garrison on this return trip, were pulled to one side. The teamsters saw to the oxen and the convoy camp came messily to some little order.

Jaron returned to his friends. Englebert came over and said quietly "Thank you. I am sure he would have evicted us. And while I do not prize his company, I prefer it to possible meetings with dogs or bandits." Jaron gazed down at him. "Against the needs of your people, this little effort of mine is nothing. But I am glad of any help I can provide." Englebert returned the look. "Your good character shows, whatever puzzlement I might have of your actions."

Soon, the three camps were settled down. The Biscuits were tired after the long trip and the nights of poor sleep. The Gnomes were quiet in their camp, and the convoy quiet in theirs. Each had watchers awake. This was not easy country. Among the Gnomes, two kept awake, softly talking in their own tongue. Four of the militiamen patrolled their side of the enclosure, while two others were stationed at the opening, peering out into the dark. Of the Biscuits, it was Rheaphlyndar and Wed's turn to first stay awake. But Thrommel just sat awake staring into the dying fire. This night he was quiet. But the light from the fire chased itself around his face, from which you can draw what meaning you will.

All became quiet, even the oxen seemed exhausted or sensing the bleak moods of all there. The Biscuits were tired and worn, the Gnomes despaired of any hope, the convicts had long since let hope go, and the militiamen were returning to their exile of garrison duty. Hope and joy visited others this night.

Thrommel stared into the fires. As the watches changed, they ignored the silent, cloaked figure as he ignored them. The night wore on. Then, Thrommel stood, flung back his cloak and his sword flashed into the night. "Awake!" his low, commanding voice rolled across the camp. Everyone jumped groggily to their feet, grabbing weapons and armor. Nicola, not one to ever be entirely calm of temper, finally lost it. "Avras! Sit down, shut up and sleep! You have kept us up night after night and I'm tired of it! I'm going to thump you into sleep if I have to..." Thrommel stepped over to her and gave her a rude shove. "That is IT!" she roared! Then her eyes grew large as a flaming arrow fell to earth just where she had been standing. The camp was under attack.

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