Gramercy: 800XP for each hero.
The Crown of the Dale also bestows each a purse of small diamonds worth 1001 gold pieces.
Prisoners of Shadow
How long they been locked in this accursed Prism of Shadows
some greater mind only knew. Some of came of their own free will, a deal made with a dragon to pursue the nemesis that has alluded them for so long, Sondra the Witch
, the Winter Fox, she who cursed the line of Daha. Others seemed to remember only a dream, or a dark closet at night, or a strange door in the cellar heretofore unseen. Whatever the case may be, this dream of shadows had become one of nightmares and confusion. Wandering lost, accompanied by strange companions, and strangers still, the very Head of Sondra
herself, carried at the belt of the rude warrior Baldrick
, who spoke clearly, warning of the dangers, and desiring only to escape this purgatory that seems to have been built to house some long lost lover of demons. The corridors of nightmare had been variously filled with bones and defended by two headed giants, watery, and home to lizardmen, or frozen and still, sometimes even like the inner flesh of some immense beast, or sometimes even arboreal like a garden of forking paths in the night. Long had they wandered, lost, forgetful even of battles yet fought and mindful of those yet to come, and now another chamber appeared. The companions had changed somewhat, and yet still they were familiar. What gods madness brought them to this place? And how to escape?
Two monoliths carved of ancient tree trunks were arranged around this large chamber. Great plumes of energy streamed out of the monoliths and formed a central wall of arcane force. The room was noticeably warm. Within the area sealed off by the monoliths, and in the squares just outside it, the ground was covered in dry brown grass that crinkles when trod upon. The energy emitted by the monoliths themselves felt like the heat of the blazing summer sun. In the center of the room lay the nearly perfect form of a sylvan Princess, whose beauty – even in death – was marred a bushy tail and an absent head. Sondra gasped at the scene.
“My physical form is trapped within this arcane prison,” The Head of the Witch
said. “Free my body, and together we can escape this horrid place.”
The Heroes of Platonic Solitude paused. The Finch narrowd his eyes. “You say o’ mouth of the Fox that this suspended corpse of yours will give you the power to break us free of this prison, but how are we to trust you, our nemesis of these long months, you who have kept a vow of vengeance nigh 100 years?”
“Oh men of Dale, know that though your enmity with me has lasted the winter months, I have felt the passing of centuries within this prison, my head has been severed from my body with no gift of oblivion. Now I desire only that oblivion, and I swear upon my eternal soul as the former Queen of Summer, the Witch of Winter, the Fox of the Dale, the enemy of men and their kings, that I will use what means I may have to free us all of this prison of deviltry, for to do otherwise would lead to some eventual encounter with the Lord Prisoner of this place, the old general of Danzig, Karavakos, whose ministrations will not be kindly for all their scattered attentions.” So saying, the fragment beseech-ed the heroes to free her headless corpse from the purgatory in which it dwelt.
the young forester came forward to carefully inspect these ancient trunks which seemed to focus the heat between them, searching for some sign perhaps of Rhiannon’s presence. Yet Rhiannon felt far away in this place, and the strange decorations formed on these wooden monoliths sparked to recognition in the youth. But his sharp woodsman’s eye did see the brittle cracking that latticed old dessicated wood, and he be-thought to draw his sword and perhaps strike this monument a buffet.
So mighty was this buffet dealt through the radiant shining blade Honor Among Thieves that the great trunk made loud CRACK and tumbled to the ground in chunks. The wall of pulsating heat winked out and the headless corpse fell to the brown sward. Baldrick stepped forward, urged by the Foxy lady at his belt, but even as he did, the Head of stripped from his possession by an invisible force that sent the Head of the Winter Fox hurtling towards the corpse, shrieking in terror. Indeed the head gruesomely buried itself in the torso of this strange form and suddenly jerked upright like a marionette pulled by some sadistic god of theatre. “HELP ME!” shrieked the captive skull, whose face was just visible amongst the folds silks that clad this corpse. Replacing the sweltering heat, a wicked wind whipped up from out of nowhere to surround the Headless Corpse, and stinging ice tore a the face of Baldrick and his companions.
What followed was a vicious fight that carried itself about the room, as the Headless Corpse unleashed the fury of Winter, blasts of swelting sirocco winds that knocked all from their feet and sucked the moisture from their bodies, and even resorted to it fists to pummel the heroes. All the while, the Head of Sondra the Fox screamed in desperation and occasional anger when a stray arrow or eyebite struck her by accident.
When destroyed, the Headless Corpse melted into formlessness, releasing the battered skull. Even as the companions, lay about, giving what succor they could to their fallen comrades (for Baldrick and Gerard the Soldier of the Sun had received grievous blows), the walls of the Prism of Shadows melted about them and they found them sitting not on dried dead grass but upon a lush spring meadow beside a bickering stream and a pleasant deer trail. Suddenly all were bathed in sunshine and birds were singing. As the eyes of the Platonic Brotherhood adjusted from the long gloom they beheld a procession wonderful and fair approaching along the path. Colorful pennants fluttered in the breeze, proud chargers high-stepped and snorted, as their riders sat tall and regal, garbed in shining armor with cloaks of softest silks. Their banners and heraldry proclaimed symbols of ships and dragons rampant and script of a flowing uncommon vocabulary. Behind the knights could be seen a train of pack animals and not least a silken palanquin born feather-like upon the air.
“Hail!” came greeting most courteous from the foremost among them, a helmed knight whose armor veritable glowed with scintillating facets of ingenious design. “I am Sir Shiloh Shaalesti
, Herald and Knight of Duke D’Amon
, 5th Seat to the Dragon Throne of Asgulan. We journey to the Delver’s Dale
for the Tourney of Coronation. Which way do you travel?”
stepped forward at this and courteously led the southern knights of the high elven aristocracy of Asgulan
to understand that indeed they spoke to one of royal blood as well, and the Brotherhood of Platonic Solitude no less. At this the elven knights were overjoyed for all their reserved manners, and gave them food and drink, and the duke himself came forward to greet them and hear of their adventures, which they gladly related.
asked, “Why are you all traveling on this game trail? This is not the fastest way from Asgulan, and this path is too small for such a procession, and how to do you expect as you say, to arrive at the Dale by nightfall, for I see by our proximity to the Scarp
that we are some thirty miles distant through uncleared land.”
At this this elves chuckled in their way and answered him that indeed they had not taken the fastest route but for that they would indeed arrive when the did desire and not before nor later. As consolation they offered that they had been to visit the Lady of the Lake
And so it was that the procession came to Delver’s Dale exactly when they meant to, though Cedric wondered at the paths they took. All were received with great celebration for both the arrival of long absent kin (The Duchess Helen was the sister of the sad Queen Vivian, who was seen to smile for the first time in spring upon greeting her.) and for the return of heroes feared lost in the hungry shadows of legend.
Return to the Dale
The day of the tournament
approached! For weeks caravans had been arriving. Merchants and peddlars laden with their wares had been setting up stalls and tents. Herds of goats and pigs had been brought to slaughter in preparation for the feasting to come. Men-at-arms had come as well, from Dun Eamon and the Vale beyond the Stonehearts, from Asgulan and the southern climes, drawn by the offers of great prizes for the competitions of strength and martial skill. Even a circus has arrived! A great temporary city of tents had grown up in the fields along the banks of the Diamond Lake. The king’s men were hard at work as well, carpenters were busily building a wooden keep to house the lords and ladies in attendance while they enjoyed the festivities. In front of the keep were the Lists for the jousting to come, and beyond were the field of valor where archers will demonstrate their skill and swordsmen will test their mettle. Behind the keep and mountain of rubble and refuse had grown up, constantly scoured by the common folk for useful material. All were invited to compete, noble and common man alike, a rare leveling of the field that attracted ambitious men from far and wide.
At the Fair
That evening, some time was spent wandering amongst these stalls and speaking to merchants and travelers they met.
Gerard received a Blessing of the Peacemaker from Ahleena, an acolyte of Demeter.
Baldrick and Iorweth browsed the shops and spoke with the peddlers Lamdamon and Zappora, who sold Iorweth some instructional manuals for the making of obscure magics.
Cedric reunited with his family and many other brotherhoods and freemen with whom he was associated. The local folk were generally excited and pleased to see him, but worried that the great unkindnesses of ravens that swooped about in great numbers and seemed to be joined daily by buzzards as well.
The Finch prepared for the coronation by reporting to his father Caradoc, and by insinuating himself into the life of court as if he had never left. He was enthusiastic in his proselytism of Rhiannon. He learned that the Duke of Asgulan planned to stay in Delver’s Dale with his wife and retinue for some time after the coronation. There are some whispers that D’Amon has his own intentions toward the crown, and that this is a first maneuver toward that goal. Other whispers say they are glad for the friendship between the Dale and the Grey Citadel, for the dwarves of the Dale and the Arbuckle clan have an affectionate rivalry, and King Caradoc studied with King Arbuckle’s chief advisor, the Enchantress Belinda, and they are said to be good friends.
The Coronation was a grand affair. Dressed in the most gaudy finery, the entire court of Delvers Dale began its procession early in the day, making a long and stately walk down the winding road to the central square, for the King to be, in his munificence had decreed that he would be crowned before the statue of Mirana, Flower of the Dale, in full view of the people. The Platonic Solids were given places of honor in this, and were garbed magnificently. Cedric felt awkward in this finery but held his head high for his mother he knew was proud. Dyffyd Kinewatcher walked in the train of Mother Patria, and indeed had been entrusted to bear the Crown to the coronation. His hands shook with the honor. Twill Bell marched with the retinue of Sir Trousdale of Lorchester, alongside Aphra Behn Herald of Trousdale, Marquis D’Annunzio and Iorweth Wolfsblood, who stood out amongst the procession with his white tunic already soiled with dirt. Young Finch marched before them all, in a place of honor amongst the family, bearing the train of the widowed Queen Vivian, the Dawn of Dale.
The ceremony itself was swift. Mother Patria invoked the ancient prayers and Caradoc knelt before her. The crown was placed upon his head and the crowd went wild. People crammed into every ally and street, atop every roof and hanging from every gutter shouted their joy at the crowning of a new king. This was a momentous occasion!
Finally the cheering faded as Caradoc stood tall on the base of the fountain. He raised his hand for silence and spoke with a thunderous authority. “I am your King, and I shall protect this Dale with every last drop of my blood. But now, in honor of my fallen brother, I would say these verses.”
“WOULD it were anything but merely voice!’ The No King cried who after that was King, Because he had not heard of anything That balanced with a word is more than noise; Yet Old Romance being kind, let him prevail Somewhere or somehow that I have forgot; Whereas we that had thought To have lit upon as clean and sweet a tale Have been defeated by that pledge you gave in momentary anger long ago; And I that have not your faith, how shall I know That in the blinding light beyond the grave? We’ll find so good a thing as that we have lost? The hourly kindness, the day’s common speech. The habitual content of each with each Men neither soul nor body has been crossed. Now your king has returned, in full flower of spring.”
A somber silence followed, but then the King spoke again, with a broad smile across his face, “Now, let us celebrate!”
Party with Birdmen
Suddenly jugglers and acrobats appeared amongst the crowd and a great whoop is heard as dwarven fireworks exploded across the sky. Slowly the royal procession made its way back to the castle where a grand feast was waiting.
The some of the Brotherhood of Platitudes stayed behind to revel with the crowds, and there by the fountain encountered a sad knight who wept. Baldrick promised to help him with his love life, but the knight responded that he would only accept that help if he were defeated in the joust. Baldrick happily agreed.
Then Cedric spied feathers dropping from the motley garb of a pair of stilt walkers. “KENKU!” A crowded melee ensued as the brotherhood attempted to apprehend the birdman ruffians. One was slain, but the other escaped.
Feasting and Challenges
The feast did not actually happen until late in the day. First came the Procession of Heraldry. The King stood upon the ramparts as every man with a banner or any sort of heraldry marched before him and declared his loyalty. This the King received gravely. There went Sir Bors, Sir Mordeln, Sir Gaz of Mithras, Erskine the Hoster, Novgorod Stone Splitter, Jory Cobblestone, the Dale Guardsmen, the merchants of the town, and even Sir Trousdale who seems to have decided to stay in the Dale. All were solemn and enthusiastic in their pledge. Then came the kings and knights and nobility of foreign lands: King Angus Arb of Dun Eamon with his companion, the Enchantress Belinda, Duke D’Amon of Asgulan and his wife, the Dale’s own Princess Helen, daughter of Vivian, and all the various knights and well known merchants who had come from Dun Eamon, and from Asgulan, far to the south. These notables honored the king as well.
Finally, the feasting began. What a feast it was! Geese stuffed with apples, golden breads of the Eamonvale, river eel caviar from Dun Eamon, fennel and almond cakes iced with each noble’s coat of arms, and wines brought from the fertile vineyards of the Angleheath where the Halfling of Heath spend all their days smoking pipes and tending their vines. Finally, there was a special drought of ale brought from the contested holy brewery of Balean Nakt, a single keg, most delicious.
Then came the Parade of Prizes: Aphra Behn called out, “See now the Wealth of the Dale, and rewards of Valor and Prowess. Before you comes the Prize of the Joust!”
Then came a squire leading a spirited horse, pure white and champing at the bit. “Now see the best weapons in the world, those of the Dwarves of Dale!” More squires entered carrying scabbarded swords gilt with gold and jewels, fine silver pointed lances, and a bow gifted by the Lady of the Lake, of a wood not known in this mortal world. “And the Final prize, beyond all earthly reward, Glory!!” And great black banner is brought forth, the banner of the Battle Standard of the Black Eagle. All in attendance are much impressed by these prizes and the young knights in attendance immediately fall to betting and challenges, and arranging their schedules with Steward Mordeln.
The Feast continued with Bardic recitals, and courtly dances. On the morrow would be the joust.