A Game of Hands

North Passes, The Day Northpass Burned
Session Log 002

North Passes, The Day Northpass Burned
as told by Rejard al’Thiar

Gather around, all, so you may hear the lament of a town whose life was cut short. Listen to me and pay your respects to the fallen citizens of Northpass. This is a tale with no true end yet, only a beginning. But beginnings bring hope, yes? And this beginning, while beginning with tragedy, has the hope of having an ending that ends in heroism and justice.

It began like any other day. A day like this, in fact, since today is, indeed, like any other day. My companions and I were sitting around a table in the Westerly Rest, talking, much like we are now. I was telling a story, much like I am now. 

The discussion was lively, as all discussions should be between friends: Emeric, who dreams of seas and ships and shores; Rasa, who reads of far off places and long lost lessons; Souri, who scampers with the trees and herbs and flowers; Silas, who uses those same things to boil remedies and ailments alike; and Karim, strongest fist to ever punch…well, probably everyone’s been punched by Karim at least once. And, of course, me. You all know me, so I will not bore you with a description.

Our conversation had turned towards the philosophical when a jarring jolt shook us from our high-minded meanderings. A man had burst into the Westerly Rest—Sammal, I believe was his name—to tell us to “Come outside, quick! You have to see this!”

His voice held fear and despair, not excitement and mirth. So it was that we all stood and ran outside to see. And what we saw filled us, too, with fear and despair. Northpass, long sister village to Westfork, and the northern most village of the Four Forks, was burning. The day was clear, and the horizon held few secrets.

To this day I still wish it would have kept that one to itself…

My friends and I quickly gathered horses from Karim’s farm and rode to Northpass as swiftly as the hooves allowed. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, the fires were dwindling and the buildings were lying down to their final rest.

We explored the village, wanting to find evidence of anything that could have started the fire. At first nothing was apparent, but upon closer inspection we learned that the villagers had been killed before the fire. Sword and dagger wounds marked most. Arrows protruded from a few on the outside of town. It became clear to us that Northpass had been attacked before it had been burned.

Well, perhaps I should say that it became clear to my companions. Because it was at this time that I was rudely knocked unconscious and dumped into a nearby basement.

They eventually found me, of course, and they informed me of what they discovered. Indeed, I came to at just the right time as well, for my brave friends courageously rooted out and surrounded my attacker—a red-clad man named Markham.

Of course, this would have been much more heroic had Markham actually been a villain. But we learned that he was investigating the town as well. Apparently, he was hunting orcs, and it was orcs who had attacked Northpass. 

Why did he attack me? Well, my dear listeners, let us just say that he did not appreciate my ‘bardic qualities.’

In other words, I was being loud…

After apologies were passed around, Markham joined us, and we prepared the dead for burial. Night soon fell, and Markham told us of his knowledge of these orcs, about how they were actually from the asylum-city of Tranquility, deep in the heart of Candlehaunt. He told us that Tranquility had hired the nearby orc tribe to keep watch over the most violent of its patients, and the orcs seemed to appreciate a steady set of meals, income, and an outlet for their aggression. He was, certainly, baffled that they would suddenly leave their employ and randomly ransack a wayward village hundreds of miles away.

When our duties within Northpass’s ruins were completed, we rode carefully back to Westfork and prepared for a long journey to Tranquility the next day.

I would like to tell you that I can end the story with us acquiring a room at the Westerly Rest for Markham and retiring to our own beds, but I cannot. For the orcs who had attacked Northpass followed us to Westfork in the darkness. It was by pure luck that Karim had noticed their movements just outside the stables.

We all, save Markham, who had retired for a much needed bath, ran outside to defend our village. Afterall, it was our village, yes? Yes.

The battle was swift and bloody. The orcs were savage and gruesome, screaming at the top of their primal lungs and lunging at us with a mixture of forged and hacked together weaponry. They had no strategy—no goal. They sought only destruction and blood.

They were completely insane. And I use that description as literally as I am able.

We fought hard. Rasa’s magical attacks struck true. Silas’s improvised explosives devastated our foes. Emeric’s finesse confused and dazzled the fiends. And Karim’s brute force put a few to shame. It was an envigorating experience, unlike any festival competition.

But it ended as quickly as it had started, and the orcs who attacked Northpass … were dead.

I would say that this is the end of the story, and it is … of a sorts. But it is not THE end of the story, for this story is just beginning, yes? 

Yes, indeed.

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Stand or Sit, A Tale of the Mighty Brought Low
Session Log 001

Stand or Sit, A Tale of the Mighty Brought Low
as told by Rejard al’Thiar
chronicled by the many people he paid to take his story away from tiny Westfork

Few in the town of Westfork have not heard of the mighty Standor, hero of great standing! Fewer still have not heard of his fall from grace at the hands of a group of “meddling children.” Was he truly a great hero? Did he stand as tall as legends say? Were we truly meddling? Were we truly children? Come and sit with me for a span and hear this story from one who was there! And then you can become one of the knowing … and judge for yourself.

It began like any other evening. I was in the taproom of the Westerly Rest, our lovely local inn, telling stories of great heroes and great adventure. It is, afterall, what I do. My friends were about in town. Some, like Karim, were sitting at tables in the inn, rolling their eyes at my stories. Others, like Emeric, Rasa, Silas, and Souri, were not to be seen. Arminas was standing outside, I’m certain. In other words, it began like any other evening.

It continued unlike any other evening, however, when Standor the Mighty strode through the Westerly’s doors, blinding everyone within with his stature and polish. And I mean polish quite literally—his armor shone brighter than the high noon sun on a clear summer’s day. Were I in need of a mirror, I could have simply just looked into his breastplate. So when a man such as this steps into the Westerly Rest, you take notice.

The inn, you see, is a bit worn from years of use by the locals of Westfork. We get a few travelers, usually heading out to the west or heading in from the west, but the common patronage of the Westerly Rest has been made up of Westfork locals for the greater part of two decades. So a traveler such as Standor was no surprise to many of us. But a traveler such as Standor was a surprise to every one of us.

I immediately greeted The Mighty himself as he stepped into the taproom, introducing myself as one of his many unpaid minstrels. Up to this point, you see, the stories I told were mostly of Standor. So I was not lying. At least, not greatly.

“Would you stand with us, great hero, and hear me tell of your deeds?” I asked him. We were all standing by this point, many trying to get a better look at the legend before us. “Or sit, if you would like better. The Westerly Rest has many comfortable seats.”

Standor greeted me warmly and gifted me with one of his radiant smiles. I must say, his teeth were whiter than all of my finest coats, and his hair was more golden than the few pieces of gold that hide in my coin purse. “Of course, my boy! But perhaps I should be the one telling?” Standor raised a shining eyebrow at me. “I was the one who performed those deeds, you know.” He smiled again.

After a bit of persuading, I allowed him to take over the storytelling and told my audience to treat the hero as warmly as they did me. Standor proceeded to regale us with further tales of his heroism and mightiness. He even started to tell us a tale that I had not yet heard, when a scream from outside rudely interrupted him.

“Goblins!” the woman had shouted, her voice panicked. I recognized her as Emily, a farmer’s wife. “Goblins raided our farm! They took everything!”

Standor shot to his feet like a lightning bolt racing into the sky—even though that’s not quite what they do. In fact, I’m sure that if they did, they would have looked to Standor that night for inspiration.

“Fear not, woman!” he boasted loudly, his voice like rolling thunder. “I will find these goblins and return your things!” The inn burst into an applause like none other. I must say, I may have been a slight bit jealous were I not also applauding.

Standor strode outside into our street like some ancient god stepping out of legend and … into our street. He called for his horse and mounted it swiftly before turning back to the crowd that was gathering around him.

“Follow me not, brave citizens. Danger lurks behind every tree out there! Death lurks beneath every rock!” He drew a shimmering sword that caught the silvery moonlight. “I, Standor the Mighty, will put an end to these wretched creatures!” And then he rode away into the darkness.

Now, I will say this: the citizens of Westfork are a brave bunch, but they know truth when they hear it. And Standor’s warning not to follow fell on the obedient ears of the responsible adults.

My friends and I? We are most definitely not responsible.

We gathered together, Karim, Arminas, and I, and found both Silas and Souri. Before long we were striding into the forest just like Standor the Mighty himself … just without as much brightness and confidence. It was our town, afterall. We felt it our duty to protect it.

Before long we came across Standor battling a group of goblins. They appeared to have surprised him in the woods. We, too, appeared to have surprised him, because he looked none too pleased to see us burst into the clearing to his aide. The distraction of our entrance must have been too great, for Standor the Mighty was clubbed over the head and dragged even deeper into the Southwood.

I would tell you of how the goblins attempted to use dark magics to misdirect us, but then I would have to tell you how having Karim simply climb a tree was enough to dispell it. I would tell you how we got lost in the woods in pursuit, but that would be lying. And I would tell you how we bickered about what to do next, but that would make us seem less heroic. And none of us wants that, right?

So I will tell you that we pursued Standor and his goblin captors to a cave deeper in the south. I will also tell you that what we found there was a surprise to all of us.

By now you know the title of this tale, so you can guess that what we found was Standor, perfectly conscious, chumming it up with the goblins. Near him was what appeared to be a goblin illusionist—the source of our earlier misdirection. A few more of the vile beasts scuttled about the cave entrance looking over the loot they had taken from the farm that very night.

We were enraged, and we quickly formed a plan to defeat the goblins, capture Standor ourselves, and return the goods. I will not bore you with the exacting details of our tactics, for I cannot remember them myself. If you have ever been in a battle, you will know that it becomes little more than a blur in your memory—muddied with the fear for your life, your friends, and the persistent thought of ‘how did I get myself into this?’ If you ever hear a tale with specific details of a battle beyond basic strategy, then know that such details are embellishments at best, outright lies at worst.

We defeated the goblins, including the illusionist who had, unbeknownst to us before this time, been keeping Standor enshrouded in a glamour that made his armor appear as pristine as it did. His true armor was … much less impressive, to say the least. We did not kill Standor, but we did ensure his cooperation. Having an alchemist such as Silas, with his skill in poisons, was a benefit we had not quite understood before now. That did not mean any of us liked him any more than we did, but his skills were useful in securing Standor’s fear-fuelled obedience.

He told us all about his schemes, then—told us how he was in business with the goblins. They would raid a town or a farm, and Standor would make a show of going out to reclaim what had been taken. He would then be hailed as a hero when he brought back a fraction of the loot and a few illusionary goblin heads as proof of his victory. The town would then reward him, and he would seek out another village in which he could repeat this venture. All the time he would build his reputation so that his reward would be greater after each success.

Of course, he had not accounted for a band of irresponsible ‘children’ following him into the woods and discovering the truth of his duplicity. He also did not account for us killing his goblin allies so easily. Hey, no one ever said goblins were skilled tacticians.

We brought him back to the town, where we stumbled into a caravan of royal guards. Apparently, Standor’s deeds had been known to the king for some time, and they had been tracking him across the countryside. After a bit of a tale, I convinced the guards that we had, in fact, been the ones who subdued the great Standor the Mighty and his entire roaming army of dire orcs along with their powerful shaman allies. In addition to a wealth of raised eyebrows and cocked expressions, we were rewarded with a few more gold coins and the offer of service to the king.

Except for Arminas, who had always wanted a more disciplined lifestyle, we politely refused the offer. Westfork was, afterall, our town. We felt it our duty to protect it.

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