Ninth Session Summary:
GAME CALENDAR/DATES — 18 days have passed (03 JAN 1301); Start 03 JAN 1301
Session Introduction: The party was preparing for the Baron’s End of Midwinter Banquet and Grand Ball. It was the barony’s high social event for the winter, marking the point right before the coldest and hardest part of winter was about to embrace the lands and its people.
SEE SPECIAL DM’S NOTE AT END OF THIS POSTING !
Session Summary: The men in the party, Iorveth and Micha, were escourted to one room in the hallway where they were given clean clothing and warm water for a much needed bath. They were told to keep their armor and excess weaponry in the room, but as per the custom in this border and frontier barony, they were allowed to be armed with one sword, dirk, or dagger of their choice. Micha chose a more appropriate dagger, but Iorveth was not to be parted with his scimitar, no matter how much the bulk and “overcompensating” he was told it would appear.
The women (Constance, Martha, and Saleigh) were shown to a room just across the hallway where they had six gowns and matching ornamental daggers waiting for them in the hands of the keep’s staff. The waiting ladies explained much of the same as the men heard from their helpers, but Martha’s eyes were drawn to one gown in particular — the one that had a dagger that looked to be an exact replica of the one she lost in the ambush with the kobolds months ago. Upon inspection, and knowing that that dagger was a one-of-a-kind weapon, it was quite easy to say which one Martha chose.
Connie’s glee at getting to rejoin high society and influential people perked her mood and expectations of the evening to the same degree that Saleigh was withdrawing and becoming more apprehensive and moody as the evening’s festivities drew closer.
No sooner had everyone been dressed than Gunther Atur, the Captain of the Guard, knocked and said that it was time for them to see the baron and they were led to the baron’s chambers.
The chambers, upon entering, did not seem to be an audience room, but those of a bedroom. Lying upon his large bed, the true Baron of Harland,Elwin Gabriel Harland (father of Merrick) motioned for the party to come forward and render their report in as regal a voice as a half-paralyzed, stroke victim could utter. As the party neared, another handsome but older woman was holding the baron’s hands. Her dress and manner indicated that she was none other than Lady Laurel Kolleen Harland, the baron’s wife these many years.
As the party briefly recanted their tales of the past few months, the baron interrupted them and was drifting in and out of sleep until the point at which Connie was introduced. With this, his eyes opened and a crooked smile appeared on his contorted face and he motioned Connie to come forward. It was at this moment that Merrick Paxton Harland, the baron’s son and acting regent, entered the room.
The elder baron was overjoyed to introduce Connie as the woman who saved him those many years ago and was just as pleased to see she still wore the pendant he gave her as a token of his appreciation. While the Lady Harland was not happy with this exchange and still displeased with such a stately gift given to a woodland she-hermit, the elder baron told her to not be jealous because nothing ever happened with this woman (despite ugly rumors and unfounded stories to the contrary), but instead be happy such a friend of the barony could attend this evening. With this, he also instructed Merrick that “…this woman is to always hold a special place among the citizens of Harland Barony…” as he doubled-over in a spasm of pain clutching his wife’s hand so hard it made her wince.
The Lady Harland looked down at her husband and her son and said to all present, “This audience is over…the baron and I will now retire for the evening.” And with that, the younger baron looked to his father who nodded feebly in approval as he drifted into unconsciousness.
Merrick said then, after placing a hand on his father’s forehead and kissing his mother’s cheek, turned to the party and said, “We have things to discuss elsewhere. Gunter, we will go to my study now.”
Merrick took everyone to the place where he obviously “ran” the barony. Bookshelves, books, scrolls, dispatches, a large desk piled with papers, candles, torches, and maps were on every wall of the room. In the center, however, were three stuffed and very comfortable looking velvet upholstered couches in a “U” shape topped with a single chair obviously for the young baron.
It was at this point that Merrick noticed the party’s composition had changed — while the numbers were the same, he asked why the outspoken (irreverent?) Callie was not present. Saleigh informed him of her death, a death while unwanted, did save the party as they fought and killed the war party of kobolds that razed Boisen Springs.
He then looked over the party and thanked Constance for her help first to his father, then to his other new friends here…and as he finally was able to let his guard down for a moment, he recognized that this was the first time he had seen all his friends in this environment — and he was taken aback when his eyes fell upon a well-groomed, well-dressed, and well-fed Martha (who was wearing her family’s signet ring that matched the ceremonial dagger at her side).
Questions and information flew freely. Mentionings of troops massing on the kingdom’s western border with a different banner but speaking in the tongues of Mastingdor (and he showed a picture of the banner in an old, beaten sketchbook), the news of kobolds and gnolls massing on the northern frontier border, the sudden arrival of an emissary from Mastingdor at the castle with no mention of her messages, and the word from the court’s physicians that his father would likely not see spring.
Some answers also came. Martha instantly recognized the banner as that of the usurper king, her cousin Cadagaen as well as her lost sketchbook. Merrick noticed her looking at the sketchbook and flipped back and forth until he found a sketch of the signet ring Martha was wearing in the book and then asked her about the pictures in the book. It was at this time that a servant knocked and interrupted the exchange stating that it was time for dinner to begin.
The baron told him to begin serving the outer tables and he would be along shortly. After the door closed, Merrick asked Martha if she knew what the pictures in the book meant and Martha explained it was her sketchbook and it explained truth of how Cadagaen came to power and how the rightful ruling family was deposed and forced to flee the capital of Cadessa and live in exile and poverty.
With that, the second knock came from the servant and Merrick excused himself and asked Gunter to take the party to their table in the banquet — a table that was near enough to the baron for the party to come to his assistance if needed, an answer that put Io in some measure of relief.
Merrick opened the banquet and later made the formal introductions of the royal guests before the ball began. It was during this time that the emissary from Mastingdor was introduced as the Lady Justina Svyndari, the daughter of the Duke of Cadessa, Lord Avastraer Svyndari. It wasn’t her elegance, demeanor, and courtly charm that helped Martha and Io recognize her. It was more how she carried herself in earlier meeting that recognized this budding “war flower” from Mastingdor as Justina the Swift, a thief, spy, and assassin. Despite all the distractions and odd social situations, including Merrick asking Martha for the first dance of the evening, the night went without incident…but if eyes could have been daggers, the ballroom floor would have been inches deep in blood.
The day after the ball, the adventuring party was again brought to Merrick’s study as the rest of the castle staff was occupied with cleaning-up and preparing for the rest of winter. The young baron was having a difficult time trying to connect the happenings in the west with those of the north, but knew in the end, it was very possible that he would be forced to defend the barony on two fronts as once.
It was also in this meeting that Marcus Dagfin reported that the white-grey body with the clear hair must have been a doppleganger, a shape-shifter, known in ancient times to be masters of change and deceit, but it was unclear as to who he (or she) was working for at this time. Martha also remembered at this time that there was a message in the coin purse she lifted off the body the day of the shape-shifter’s death. She pulled-out the message and handed it to “mom” Connie who’s jaw dropped when she saw it and after gaining her composure, read the simple message aloud that said: “Kill the elf-like witch.”
Merrick asked the party if they would help deal with matters in the north and asked what they could do for them.
Saleigh asked for the equivalent of a line of open credit to help the party cope with supply and assistance issues, but Merrick could not (in good faith) issue one as it was one of the pillars of reform he instituted in order to help reign-in the barony’s skyrocketing debt burdens he inherited from his father. (Also, unbeknownst to the rest of the party, Saleigh had concocted a special draught for Merrick to give his father to help ease his suffering and also sent a message of warning to the Lady Harland about Constance.)
Micha was helped with an older book from the archives that Marcus Dagfin had found years earlier.
Io was taken to the armory by Gunter where he found an exquisitely made falchion that was given to him as a gift and mark of his association with the baron’s own personal guard.
Constance was given a scroll and a formal and legal title, that of “Lady of Boisen Springs” as well as a deed to the land in and around the area and a small sum to help begin rebuilding the monastery and restoring the monastic order.
Martha was offered political asylum and protection in the baron’s own keep in Aspenwood as well as a stipend to keep her in the custom she should be afforded due her station. While a very generous offer, Martha instead only asked to keep the ceremonial (and heirloom) dagger she wore the evening before, her sketchbook, and the right to accompany her friends back to Boisen Springs.
The party left Merrick and Aspenwood and on the horses provided by him, made it to Alduin in three days where they saw the beginnings of refugees flocking to the town for protection as well as the signs of militia men marshaling for a coming fight.
The baron had arranged for a change of fresh horses and the party was able to make it back to Trindam’s Pass in four days as the snow began to again fall in thick, heavy snowflakes. Almost immediately upon arrival, the sheriff and now the town’s militia captain (by virtue of his dual-hatted position as sheriff and magistrate), Peter Lawson, told the party quickly of the skirmishes north of town.
Dale Falls had been captured last week and only a small number of survior refugees had been able to bring the information back to Trindam’s Pass. Skirmishers and scouts had been making contact with organized bands of kobolds supported by gnolls — the same creatures the party warned the town about weeks earlier.
Enemy skirmishers were expected to attack Trindam’s Pass last night, but the most recent reports indicated that the enemy was massing and would attack the town either from the new wooden bridge that crossed the river north of town or through the newer section of town (and the more sturdy stone bridge) to the town’s south near the sheriff/magistrate’s office building which was designed to be a mini fortification for just such a purpose.
Mike Luit was also in attendance and stated that his building, the [[The Mountain Goat Tavern & Inn | Mountain Goat Tavern & Inn]], would serve as a secondary barracks and reinforcing strong point.
It was then that a dispatch rider brought word that the enemy was approaching the north bridge and Sheriff Lawson ordered Sergeant Iorveth and his team to stop the enemy’s advance on that side of town and the Battle for Trindam’s Pass began as the snow started to fall more heavily….
End of Session XP gained per party member: 900
Each party member now has 13050 XP
and starts Session 10 at Level 8