The harbingers of a ruined dress
The party strode towards Baum Shire, its simple thatch-roofed housing and ever-present plumes of smoke a welcome relief from the gloomy gothic ruins of the Church of Doors. To the front of the party led Faehana and Kalwala with the 5 freed captives walking steadily in the middle with Ugaburk bringing the rear. As they continued to approach the shire, Kalwala slowly turned to the robed sage “So… we’ve got four peasants more than we were signed on to pick up” Kalwala began as they continued to approach the shire, Faehana rolled his eyes as he answered the unspoken question.
“And let me guess? You’re trying to figure out how to get a cut from the shire for their rescue?” Faehana inquired bitterly. Kalwala’s face contorted into a snarl of insult, her tail whipping in agreeance.
“No! I was going to ask if it would be easier to return them to the shire at the town square, so we didn’t have to chase down their individual families!” she replied, her insult clear across her face. To this Faehana’s jawline twisted in confusion, he was about to speak when Kalwala rapidly added.
“Then we should pressure the alderman to pay us for the extra four” at this Faehana released a sigh.
“There it is…” he mumbled in seeming disappointment. At that Kalwala recoiled again in shock.
“What were you expecting? I may be kind but I’m not altruistic, a girls gotta get by somehow” she said with a tone of facetious snootiness. The rest of the trip into the shire went on unspoken. As they entered the shire, they spotted Ailwin’s Blacksmith Apprentice crossing the street “You!” called out Kalwala, her hand rising to point as she did, the apprentice didn’t notice so she called out again “Blacksmiths Apprentice!” at this he spun on his heels and locked eyes with Kalwala before his gaze loosened and he saw the stumbling man behind her, with a grin of excitement he rushed over “Miss Hunter youse found Master Ailwin!” he exclaimed.
“Where’s Mistress Sabelina? Is she back at the forge?” Kalwala inquired.
“A, a, nos Miss Hunter, goodwife Sabelina’s in’s the markets” the apprentice stutter over more words “Nears the town squares y’knows?” he added pointing tentatively towards the centre of the small shire “Is hard to finds somtimes I knows,” he said with renewed confidence.
“Then go get her!” Kalwala remarked with a snap to her voice “He’s in no condition to walk here and back and we want to make sure he gets home!” she barked. Startled by the snap the Apprentice stared for a moment before stumbling over a series of incoherent words and rushing off to get Sabelina. Moments later he came rushing back, Sabelina’s cry echoed out followed by her calfskin shoes clattering across the stone roadway, her kirtles skirt tucked in her hands as she ran, tears streaming down her face as she saw her gaunt husband. She rushed past Faehana and Kalwala and gently embraced Ailwin, his skin still cold to the touch. After a moment she turned,
“Thank the gods you found Ailwin!” she proclaimed, clasping each of the party’s hands as she spoke. In each palm she left them a bag of 5 Gold Dragons before guiding her husband into their house, the Blacksmiths Apprentice following behind.
“Well that went well” mused Kalwala before turning towards the town square “Right, let’s get the rest of them to the town square and the Alderman” she began. At that Faehana began to shake his head.
“No, I don’t think so. At least I won’t be joining you, I have to get these materials mailed off to Waterdeep immediately” Faehana explained with an air of urgency in his voice. Kalwala merely gave a mental shake of her head at the notion that old papers would be urgent. Kalwala paused for a moment turning to face the tower Half-Orc behind her.
“So, what’s your plan? Does the Sage need you to protect him from papercuts?” She asked dryly.
“Red Knight give me strength I’m not his butler. I need a meal and ale to clean the palate” he said directly. With a subtle scowl, the pair departed in opposite directions. Of the three of them, only Ugaburk had successfully gotten what they’d wanted. Kalwala, with the talk of food, had herself become restless, the thought of a cold, blood-soaked meal tantalising to the soul. To make matters worse the Alderman was smarter than she’d anticipated and while he’d appreciated her efforts, he wasn’t paying her a single piece of coin because no official bounty had been issued and some of the survivors weren’t even from Baum Shire. As for the Sage, he had started a long drawn out argument with the master of the post on the finer points of academic tax exemptions that ended also in futility at the request of an Academy Ring to prove his claimed academic background. Being, a recent graduate only now beginning his Masters of Philological Evocation meant that he had no such ring and as such was out of luck. Coupled with this, the shire lacked any armed convoys to safely escort the material as such the best the wizard could afford to do was sent a report to Waterdeep informing them of his situation and its delicate cargo. With grumbling and frustration, he tossed the coins to the master of the post and stormed out of the office. Officially agitated and starving the party met up in Baum Shires tavern.
Orange light shimmered across the tavern’s deep mahogany as if dancing to the soft melodious rhythms of Farren’s Lute as Faehana and Kalwala finally returned to the table. Three large tankards sat at the centre of the table as Ugaburk rested his back against the wooden back wall an indifferent amusement hanging over him as the Sage constantly clenched his fists in fury and the Rogue bared her fangs and narrowed her eyes in rage as they sat with their meals.
“You had enough yet?” Faehana remarked facetiously.
“Aye my palates cleansed of the death I wrought in the name of the Red Knight” Ugaburk replied straight-faced. At this Faehana gawked.
“And you call me the alcoholic” mumbled the Sage.
“Because you are, he’s a half-orc that’s equal to one drink for you” Kalwala interjected.
“And it’s the first step in my consecration ritual. Ale removes the taste of death from the spirit and honours the fallen” Ugaburk explained.
“He drinks to remember while you drink to forget” Kalwala chided. Faehana whirled on the rogue.
“Forget what?!” he hissed in frustration.
“Study? Reading? Academic things in general?” she queried with a wry smile.
“It’s not alcoholism if you’re the son of a Merchant Sailor. Then it’s cultural” he snapped with a sharp index finger, a low chuckle of laughter stumbling out between sips of Ale from Kalwala as Farren finished her melody and strode towards the table, her tiered braid swinging with intensity as she moved across the tavern space.
“Where did you go?!” she said in a flurry of words “I stopped to watch the sunset, I heard loud thumping noises then you were gone!” she continued, hands waving erratically. At this, the party’s eyes collectively darkened in nervous shame before Ugaburk finally spoke.
“These two got captured by Trolls and I forgot about you entirely as I tried to rescue them,” he said bluntly. Kalwala and Faehana both scowled at the Cleric.
“Actually, it was-” Faehana began to correct as Farrens eyes widened in shock.
“Sirens Aisled! Are you two okay?!” she inquired, her voice peaking in genuine distress. Faehana curled inward at this response as Kalwala sighed.
“Yes, we’re fine,” she said plainly.
“Also, it was actually an Ettin” Faehana continued ignoring the question entirely. Ugaburk shrugged.
“It was a giant with a club guarding a bridge. It’s straight from a children’s tale. It’s a Troll” he said non-committally.
“Like half-orcs have children’s stories” Faehana scoffed.
“Like sailors have culture” Kalwala wryly rebuked. As the conversation seemed to die and Farren settled into a seat Faehana finally spoke.
“Well since your contract is complete, I suppose you’re off, aren’t you?” Faehana mused as he looked at Kalwala. At this, the rogue’s eyes narrowed.
“What are you up to?”
“Nothing I’m just making an observation,” he said incredulously.
“You know something about that necromancer, don’t you?” Kalwala succinctly deduced. At this, the sage’s brow narrowed.
“Yes. But how-” he cut himself off “Why, would you care?” he inquired, genuinely confused.
“Because she’s ruining lives” she replied matter-of-factly, the Sage was taken aback.
“And why would you care? You’ve been paid. Your contract fulfilled” Faehana genuinely stated.
“Some of us don’t need oaths to do the right thing,” she said with dark clarity in her voice. A dark air of tension hung above the party as the rogue and sage locked gazes before the Cleric cut the tension.
“So, what’ve you found?” finally looking away from the rogue Faehana spoke.
“While I was around town, I noticed several people mention the disappearance of a Mistress of the House Dame Yeishil”
“Great Granddaughter of Dame Commander Baroness Lucienne?! The Siege-Mistress of the West?! Made Baronetess and Knighted by the Order of the Gauntlet after her miraculous efforts at the Siege of Naerytar?!” Ugaburk practically gushed.
“I guess? I’m a philologist, not a historian” replied Faehana with a shrug.
“Well this would be her hereditary Baronage if I’m remembering my siege-histories correctly,” he said, his gaze tracking around the low lit tavern.
“Why would you study their living history?” interjected Farren, equally perplexed at the Clerics knowledge.
“Because it provides context for what she did after the Siege of Naerytar” he replied with growing frustration if they let me explain I’d be able to answer all their questions “She would later become the Dame Commander of the Order of the Gauntlet after her subsequent successes and had dreams of queenhood in the West. Of course, the swords coast has weathered men with more ambition than her and her historical conquests quickly deteriorated into a small Feudal province, that’s still referred to as a Baronage”
“And why do you know this much?” Kalwala continued.
“My graduating class specialised in the topic of siege warfare; Dame Commander Lucienne practically wrote the book on siege warfare. She took her experience and training from the Armies of Mulhorand and forged the sword coast marauders into an efficient engine of war that grew with her conquests”
“And how do the Red Knights have that kind of information?” Faehana added to the whirlwind of questions.
“Because the Church of the Red Knight and the Order of the Gauntlet are allied. Apart from the strategic benefits of the alliance we also share troops and documentation” Ugaburk explained “Any more questions?” he quickly added. The party collectively shrugged. Ugaburk let out a sigh. “So, do we know where this Dame Yeishils lives?”
“Supposedly she has a Manor to the south of Baum Shire” Faehana explained.
“Very well then. Let’s get going” Kalwala remarked before rising, pivoting and striding off, Ugaburk doublechecked for his compass before soon following suit. Faehana balked at the Cleric before coming to his senses and following, the bard behind all of them, her face beaming as lute in hand, finger at string she began to sing, her steps moving to the tune.