Mirror Images (14th August 2013)
The Dragon Warriors
Aethelfrith – Thane
Sir Erich of Barton – Knight
Hillson – Warlock
Nazir al Khalid – Barbarian (NPC)
Solaran – Elementalist
Karban Telos – Sorcerer (NPC)
More Rumours (Day 66 (146) - evening)
After settling in their horses, the companions made their way to the common room of the Drunken Heron. The cry of the town guard went up that they were locking the gates for the night, and the last few merchants hurried through them and made their way to the inn.
The inn was quiet during the evening session but the party were able to question the merchants about their journeys to Eastmarch. Rumours abounded that the Heron Knight had returned and that it was the returning son of the old king who was running the bandit raids from the marshes. Others said that the Heron Knight was the Black Knight blocking the main road to Albion to all passers-by. Either way, they were both used as figureheads to stir up trouble in the environs of Eastmarch.
The only other patron of the inn was a well-dressed, wandering minstrel plying his trade to the delight of the few merchants in the tap room. Sir Erich thought his accent was unusual for a Cornumbrian or Albionan native – he had hints of Traw Breton; the same as the inn’s patron – Alain, who seemed rather preoccupied all night even though he was not that busy.
The Heron Knight (Day 67 (147))
The following morning the adventurers decided that they would try to track down this Heron/Black Knight to see who he/they was. They headed in the direction proposed by the merchants the night before, and after only about three miles were stopped in their tracks by the sight of a black armoured knight with a heron sculpted helm blocking transit along the road to Gorndorm. A long sword was thrust, point downwards into the earth ten yards ahead of him. The armoured warrior seemed to not possess a body inside the suit, but how the party knew that none of them could answer.
The elementalist and warlock cast a few spells to try to find out what was happening – the whole area was rife with magic. The elementalist spoke to a few of the plants and flowers nearby and they said that the knight had been there for about thirty years; which tied in with the dates that the nuns had given them but did not seem possible as he had only appeared to passers-by in the last week or two.
Hillson decided that he would like to find out what the knight was, so cast an Enhancement spell upon himself, strode past the sword stuck in the ground, and made his way towards the black armoured knight. As soon as he passed the sword, the knight boomed out, “None shall pass! Choose your weapon.”
Hillson decided to pluck the sword from the ground and joined combat with the Black Knight. The combat wore on for a couple of minutes, with each combatant missing more strikes than hitting, but the superior strength and agility of the Black Knight proved too much for Hillson as his wounds slowly built up, so he yielded and laid the sword at the knight’s feet. The knight congratulated him on his valour and the sword magically reappeared at the same spot from which Hillson had plucked it.
Sir Erich realised that maybe it needed a similarly ranked combatant to take on the knight, and thus he stepped forward next. He too was greeted with the same challenge, but he decided to keep his magical battle-axe rather than use the sword proffered. The two combatants slowly circled each other and made feinting moves, occasionally hitting and putting small dents into each other’s armour, but this was all a ruse on the part of Sir Erich as he quickly wound up a strike with his battle-axe that laid the Black Knight low. The Black Knight surrendered and struck up a concorde with his vanquisher.
The Black Knight introduced himself as the Heron Knight, the son of the true king and heir to the throne who had been missing for thirty years. The “Heron Knight” traipsing around in the swamps was an imposter, but was stirring up trouble enough to keep the Albion overlords on their toes; which was welcomed. He asked Sir Erich where he hailed from, but the response that he was from Albion meant that he could not be the new champion and ruler of Cornumbria. Aethelfrith was curious about this and asked if the new ruler would be told where to find the crown and treasure that went missing in the marshes, but was only given directions to the bandit camp for his troubles.
As Sir Erich had defeated the Heron Knight he was told that he could pass freely along the road with his companions, but others would still be challenged as he still had to find his champion. He then strode off into the murkiness of the swamp.
The party gathered up their belongings and mounted their steeds, but as they passed the spot where the Heron Knight last stood, he was nowhere to be seen. They kicked their heels into their horses mounts and headed on towards Gorndorm, the village they had been told about previously by the inhabitants of the shanty town that surrounded Eastmarch.
The party arrived at the small town around dusk and promptly booked into an inn. The inn was full of merchants that had been challenged by the Heron Knight but had decided that discretion was the better part of valour and had retreated to the safety of the town’s walls.
Sir Erich, now that he was close to home, decided that he would try to find out what had happened in his home fief whilst he had been away the six years he had been a statue and on his adventures through Glissom. He wanted to get back to his old life. He hired a courier to make his way to Barton to find out what had gone on over the last few years, who was now in charge, and what had happened to the rest of his family.
The other members of the party questioned the merchants and, other than the Heron Knight blocking the road story, they also found out that the merchants were not happy with the levels of taxation imposed by the new lords of Eastmarch and that rebellion was brewing – each story was from a different perspective depending upon whether the merchant was Cornumbrian or Abionan.
Leofric and Rosamund (Day 68)
The following day, the party headed back towards the castle of Eastmarch. It took most of the daylight hours to pass the point where the Heron Knight was fought, and then they headed off the beaten track as the vision implanted into Aethelfrith’s head of the bandit lair became stronger and stronger. He guided the party through the marshes as if he had been born there and just as dusk was falling they approached a small stone burial chamber. There appeared to be a light inside and they could hear a couple of voices; one of which seemed to be female. The party discussed what this could represent, as it was very un-bandit-like. Whilst they discussed the ins and outs of the bandit lair, the light suddenly winked out and the voices from within the chamber stopped.
The party decided to enter the chamber with Aethelfrith taking point with shield raised and sword drawn. Solaran cast a simple light spell that lit their way, but when they entered the chamber they found it empty save for a small wooden casket. Aethelfrith pried it open only to find a Cornumbria man’s outfit and travelling hat. Hillson cast a spell to detect magic, but none could be found. Hillson and Aethelfrith then proceeded to probe the walls with staff and spear, tapping at it as they went. At one point they both thought that the wall sounded hollow so, with Sir Erich’s help, they pushed upon it to reveal a dark chamber beyond.
Within the dark room, crouched in fear, they saw who they assumed were the owners of the voices; a young man named Leofric, whose father was Cerdic the butcher from Eastmarch, and Rosamund whose father was a rich merchant from Albion.
Initially the two young lovers were afraid of the armed men, but after reassurance they relaxed and talked more freely. They had run away from their parents to find a new life in Albion, away from the marriages that had been arranged for them. They were truly in love and were desperate to be free.
They were afraid that the party was the Heron Knight and his followers, so had hidden in the cubby hole, which the bandits did not know about. They did, however, reveal that the Heron Knight, leader of the bandits was none other than Alain, the proprietor of the Drunken Heron Inn in Eastmarch.
The party camped the night in the chamber and promised that they would help the young lovers out the following day.
Doppelgangers (Days 69-71)
The next day, the party set out to escort Rosamund and Leofric to Gorndorm. They passed the point where they had encountered the Heron Knight but he was still not around. On a whim, Sir Erich called for the knight and he duly appeared. He offered his services as a benign ruler in place of the current heavy taxing lord already there. He would still be an Albionan in charge but with sympathies for the Cornumbrian people. The Heron knight was not happy with this as he wanted a Cornumbrian champion to lead his people against the oppressors from Albion. However, he said he would consider it and give an answer if they returned to this spot one week from then.
As the party entered Gorndorm, they bid their farewells to Rosamund and Lefric; Hillson gave them a small pouch of florins to help them on their way in their new life. They headed back to the inn they had stayed in a couple of nights previously and were very quickly approached by Sir Erich’s courier. There was no way the courier could have returned from his mission so quickly, so Sir Erich questioned him as to the meaning of this breach of the contract. The courier explained that the son of Sir Barton was headed towards the castle of Eastmarch with reinforcements for the Albion steward Sir Alec Brandwen and will arrive there in about three days; they will pass through Gorndorm in two days’ time.
Sir Erich decided that he would wait and see what the patrol would bring, so the party booked rooms at the inn for the next two nights in the hope that they can keep watch on the arrival of the Albion lord and his retinue.
During the next two days, the party lay low, but they did not really need to as the merchants that were thronging the common room of the inn decided to leave and find alternative markets for their wares as the Heron knight still would not let them pass through to Eastmarch.
At dusk on the second day back in town, a troop of men-at-arms approached the gates. They were led by two mounted warriors that looked familiar at a distance and the forty men-at-arms that accompanied them were armed with halberds and short swords and bore a shield on their hauberked backs. The party watched the approach of the knights intently; Sir Erich sought out the leader’s face eagerly. He was shocked to see that the son of Sir Barton wore his own visage; someone had indeed stolen his body all those years ago. Aethelfrith was also shocked to see that Sir Barton’s son’s right hand man wore his body too! The two fighters rapidly made their way back to the inn and out of sight but Hillson and Solaran watched the arrival of the troop of soldiers openly. The majority of the men-at-arms set up camp just outside the gates at the side of the road but the leaders made their way into the inn to book themselves rooms. They then returned to oversee their troops.
Whilst the men-at-arms set up their camp outside the gates, Hillson and Solaran approached them and began to question them but they were given short shrift and told they were not welcome. The two adventurers decided to leave the area just in case they stirred up any trouble that could not be handled by the four of them. They did however manage to get the information that the troops were headed to the castle at Eastmarch before they returned to the tap room at the inn and told their companions.
Half-an-hour later eight of the men-at-arms entered the inn and immediately sought out Solaran and Hillson. They informed the two adventurers that Sir Erich of Barton demanded Solaran’s presence at the camp outside the gates and that it was advisable that he accompanied them without causing a fuss. Solaran stood up to accompany them wondering whether there was somebody within the section of troops that had recognised him from his previous life due to the fact he too was an amulet holder.