Saturday, December 20, 2014

The White Queen's Resting Place

Several days after the undead attack, Wolfgang returned to Gold Hill one morning, hoping to meet the formidable stranger.  He went to the tavern, sat with his friend Gerilynn the Prophet and ordered breakfast.  Soon they were joined by Lareth.  Lareth had heard about Wolfgang's adventures at the White Queen's palace and asked about the books and maps they'd found.  These Wolfgang was happy to share.

Wolfgang's breakfast was interrupted by a pair of deputies.  The Head Constable had his money.  Wolfgang, despite his lingering concern was eager to become rich and went with them to the Constables office.  Gerilynn and Chickie the Stick came along.  The Seargent on duty waved them by the front counter and into the Constable's shadowy council room.  The Constable himself wasn't there, but several other men were.  Wolfgang lost his nerve and announced that he'd overvalued the necklace.  "I meant to say it was worth more like two hundred gold pieces."  Was he sure?  An older men pressed him, asking why he had said the larger amount.  Without explaining, Wolfgang insisted he'd been joking about the extravagant sum.  Now all he wanted to do was leave.

"Sounds like you learned your lesson," came a voice in Wolfgang's ear-- and along with a punch in the back of the neck that sent him sprawling onto the table.  It was the Constable.  "Be off then, and consider that a warning."

Wolfgang hesitated and Gerilynn began to whisper a chant under her breath.  "What's that?" the Constable demanded, drawing his sword.  Gerilynn fell silent.

The Constable asked Wolfgang, "You sure you don't want your money?"  He was wearing the necklace and held it so Wolfgang could see it,  "Are you saying it's a present?  I've got the money waiting for you down in the treasury."

Wolfgang was torn, but Gerilynn pressed on him and at last he stalked out of the Constable's offices, muttering insults as he went.

Lareth was waiting for them at the inn.  He had a sympathetic ear for Wolfgang's misfortune and a chuckle for the young druid's insults about the Constable.  "Don't worry," Lareth said.  "He'll get his come-uppance when the White Queen returns."

Lareth explained that a powerful Queen had ruled that area long before the Constable, long before the gold vein had been discovered and played out, even before the village of Whitkey had been founded and fallen into ruin.  And she, the White Queen was coming back. The Constable, his deputies, all of Gold Hill would either submit to her or be destroyed.

"Was she good or evil?" Gerilynn wanted to know.

Lareth waved this question away. "She could be your enemy-- or he could be the enemy of your enemy-- what more do you need to know?"

From a practical perspective, they needed to know where to find the White Queen's resting place- so that they might be ready to greet her when she returned.  There was a map and they began to study it together.

Wolfgang recognized the symbol of the rising sun in the right corner of the map, it's rays shining on three distinct places.  The Midsummer ray shone on a cross surrounded by a ring of trees.  The Midwinter ray shone on cave at the top of a mountain.  An intermediate ray shone on a spot at the base of the mountain.  A piece of parchment from the White Queen's Palace referred to a key of binding and loosing and of its hiding place.  Wolfgang told Gerilynn and Lareth  about his exploration of Whitkey with Sir Henry and Sir Henry's discovery of a powerful sword.  This sword, the group decided, was the cross marked on the map by the Midsummer dawn.  The next day, the group travelled to Whitkey and Wolfgang brought the others to the grove and the white stone from which Sir Henry had claimed the sword.  Gerilynn surmised that in the right conditions, the morning sun would illuminate the white rock, especially in the days before the grove had been planted and the church built around it.  It seemed unnecessary to puzzle over the full meaning of the map-- it plainly showed the cave (tomb?) lay directly north of the where the sword had been hidden.

But now, for the first time, Gerrilynn and Wolfgang appreciated the implied scale of the map.  While the immediate area was low-lying with some grassy hills, the ground rose to the north.  Gold  Hill, itself was noticeably colder than Whitkey.  But the real mountains-- like those shown on the map, lay beyond any of the roads or trails on which they'd travelled.  The jagged horizon cut by those mountains might be several days away.

The group returned to the Inn at Gold Hill to sleep.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Wolfgang and the Bad Dream

That night, Wolfgang began to regret putting the Head Constable under a charm. The silver necklace, he considered was obviously worth much less than 5,000 gold pieces. If the HC was gathering sacks of gold to pay for silver, his advisors might realize he was under some kind of spell. Brooding over these faults, Wolfgang wandered out of the inn to breather fresh air, consult the stars, and try to eavesdrop on the drowsy deputies who were on night watch. He was the first to see it—a column of gleaming white figures marching up the path that led into Gold Hill Center. They were animated human skeletons, brandishing rusty swords, and trailed by lumbering zombies. Raising the alarm, Wolfgang made a dash for the woods and the nearby hollow where his animal companions lay hidden. As he reached the trees, he heard the deputies beating the alarm gong. He heard, rising above the general panic, a powerful voice announcing, “I know what to do.” By the time Wolfgang returned with Wolfie and Bruno, most of the skeletons had been destroyed by a a single man, the stranger in black robes named Lareth. He stood in the middle of the marketplace, wielding his Warhammer, surrounded by bones and shattered skulls. About a dozen deputies, crouching behind boulders and tree stumps, took opportunity shots at the advancing zombies. Residents crowded around the entrance to the inn, their panic, gradually overtaken by curiosity and admiration as Lareth destroyed the last of the undead foes. Bruin took down a straggling zombie, but no one noticed. Wolfgang decided not to return to the inn at all that night, but returned to the woods with his animals.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The White Queen's Palace

The Constable wanted to clear more of his land for grazing and planting, but the crumbling ruins of an ancient palace, overgrown and infested with vermin impeded his plans.  For the promise of ten gold pieces each, he assembled a sizeable company of adventurers:

Wolfgang, itinerant druid, and after three months in Gold Hill, nearly a long-term resident
Chronos, druid adept, charged by his leaders to go and check on what that Wolfgang is up to
Thoric, recently appointed Sergeant Constable who had led the successful expedition to the Harpy’s tower
Mark the Magician, who had also established his reputation at the Harpy’s tower
Sir Henry, self-styled knight and bearer of the long-lost Sword of Whitkey
McDowell, good-natured rogue from the mountains
Abner (" Bruiser"), a burly, headstrong warrior
"Thief", An honest, upstanding citizen
Elirond, Servant of the Church of Alyan
Circe, Mysterious Mage with an unknown backstory

The group of adventurers made their way to the ruins, rumored to have been a palace or fortress of the last monarch—a queen— of a long-gone kingdom.  The two-story building was shaped like an X and still generally intact, though overgrown with moss and overshadowed by towering oaks.  At Thoric’s suggestion, they began by circling the structure.

In making their reconnaissance, “Thief” stumbled upon the body of a hobgoblin, killed it seemed, by several puncture wounds.  While puzzling over what had killed the fiend, a hairy, bird-like creature dropped from the trees onto Elirond’s back, and stabbed its long, needle-like beak into his back.  “Get it off me, get it off me!”  Sir Henry drew his sword and neatly cut the bird-thing in two, making the withdraw of the beak a simple matter.  Elirond healed himself and they completed their circuit of the structure.

As there were no other easy entry points, Abner (the Bruiser) shouldered his way in through the front door.  The entire first floor of the structure seemed to be a single large room, dominated by the white marble statue of a beautiful woman.  In exploring the room, McDowell stumbled upon more dead hobgoblins.  Mark spotted the likely killers—giant spiders that patrolled the ceiling right above their heads.  Mark killed one of the spiders while his companions loosed their arrows.

When the spiders were dead, the party looked behind a curtain and found stairs leading both up and down.  They chose to climb up to the top floor of the tower.  In surveying the upper floors, some mebers of the party lingered to rifle through the extensive library, gathering up the most interesting looking maps, scrolls, and books, and Sir Henry found a shield.   In a desk, Wolfgang found a silver necklace.

Wolfgang also found a room that opened onto a balcony filled with nasty blood-sucking bird things.  Chronos called on the overhanging tree branch to assist him and it did—sending out green branches that ensnared the nasty vermin.  Circe lit a torch.  The green branches did not burn until they were doused with oil.  The bird-things burned more quickly, as did the rotten floor boards, the interior walls, and the dry books and scrolls.

The adventurers returned to Gold Hill to claim their rewards.  The Head Constable paid them and also offered them a free night at the inn.  Wolfgang offered the Head Constable first opportunity to buy the silver necklace, using his magic to make the suggestion that 5,000 pieces of gold would be a fair price.  The Head Constable heartily agreed.  Accepting the necklace, he asked Wolfgang to come to his office the next morning to claim his money.