The Prince’s predictions prove true, the sentries have a very boring watch and when the sun finally rises late over the snow-capped mountains Rinvolin’s personal army is soon ready to move. The weather is quite fair with just the right amount of cloud to block out the sun from time to time and the relaxed march south for a few hours is a relatively pleasant one with quite a few people taking the time to wander freely among the other mercenary groups and shop around for better ones to join.
Several members of the party talked about the battle and other things, Rukh asking Shanba for advice on how to improve his technique when she wasn’t trying to sneak up and attack him (they had had a practice duel earlier in the morning).
You must be entering the rough and rocky – though ruggedly beautiful – lands of Gardnelle. His is a large but poor duchy; though he does make some money from silver mines in the nearest of the mountains it is not nearly as much as comes from Ikrir to his south. The farms here are scattered and struggling ones, but they make enough to get by and their duke ensures they save enough in good years to last them through bad ones. Though normally his lands are full of the soldiers he spends much of his time training, now they are quite empty. Evidently the duke and his army are further west, in the territory of Duke Grenfeld, so you set out in that direction and before noon are spotted by some Pegasus scouts from the League of Akaldin. Seeing your banners, they turn and return to the main group.
p. With Johannes to his left and the mystery man from before on his right, Prince Rinvolin rides out to greet the approaching entourage. Although you cannot hear what words are exchanged, these latter to a man dismount and kneel before their lord. As if to make the rumormongers look even more foolish, Prince Rinvolin and Duke Gardnelle ride back side by side in evidently friendly conversation, the others trailing behind. Although the professional soldiers treat some of you mercenaries with coolness, your group is generally welcomed into the army’s celebrations and with half a day left before the meeting you’ve been invited to, you have plenty of time to mingle and do as you please.
Many members of the Red Claws including Tsaba, Roslyr Giltonwyrd, Rukh, and so on joined the festivities and celebrations. Meanwhile Vendrik and the other mage talked about their mutual interest in magic, Shanba stalked Rukh for more swordfighting practice, Iaeis talked with Kiga (Kigathudia) Giltonwyrd, and so forth. Eventually Tsaba, Vendrik, Sygfryd, and Rukh show up at the prince’s meeting.
The prince’s pavilion is like the Yeorian flag in color and is very fine and expensive, however it is evidently old and has perhaps seen one or two campaigns too many. Inside it are at least two sections, the first of which is floorless and has a long, busy table set up with a few chairs left chairs waiting for you. The second presumably includes the prince’s private quarters. In the first area the table is being cleared by a few servants, dinner having apparently just been finished. At the left end of the table is Prince Rinvolin and near him are Duke Gardnelle, the mystery man (still hooded), Johannes, Ikrin Nirin, Sir Ellidan, Dame Andrine, others of the Ospreys, and a few more you guess to be fellow mercenaries. Duke Grenfeld is slumped in a chair between two of the Ospreys, being watched carefully as he picks aimlessly at his emptied platter. As you enter, Prince Rinvolin stands to greet you.
Prince Rinvolin: Welcome, Tsaba. There are some here who do not know you and your companions; once you’ve introduced yourselves we shall begin this council.
All introduced themselves.
With all of you introduced and seated with the other mercenary leaders, the prince begins the meeting.
Prince Rinvolin: War is confusing at the best of times, I suspect none of us here have a clear picture of all that has happened in even the last few days. Tollidarius, please enlighten any of us who don’t know about the beginning of our struggle. When he finishes, Tsaba’s company can tell of their doings, and then the honored Duke Gardnelle will describe how he led the army up till this meeting.
The brown-robed man nods and stands to give his story.
Mystery Man: Now not all of you know me and some of you may have been wondering for some time who I am.
At this he winks at Tsaba and his men. Then he draws back the hood from his face and as he does his robes turn from simple brown cloth to splendid red silk embroidered all over with the white osprey and stars of Yeoria.
Tollidarius: As his majesty gave away a moment too soon, I am Tollidarius XIII, called by some the Duke of Ivla.
At this Duke Gardnelle narrows his eyes inscrutably for a moment.
Famously one of the former king’s closest confidantes and most trusted advisers, Tollidarius is also known as a scholar of the magic arts and of countless other disciplines as well, heard of by a very few even as far as the Koran Free Cities for his breadth of knowledge. Save for being nearly bald with iron-grey hair he does not look his age, his eyes are bright and mirthful and he moves with a youthful vigor. You realize now also that he was staying carefully hunched over before too, for he is prodigiously tall though skinny as a rail.
Tollidarius: And by the grace of him and his forefathers, my family have been able to serve them and this glorious country in some small ways over the nigh on two centuries since it was founded in the days of my great-great-great grandfather Tollidarius VIII. Fortunately for those not of a historical bent, I don’t plan to start all the way back there in the days of yore, though in some respects this little war’s origins reach back that far.
In essence the nobility of this country has been allowed a great deal of autonomy and power over the years both to help with effective administration and keep them content and willing to be part of our marvelous state. Some, such as Duke Grenfeld here, wanted more however and were willing to commit high treason to get it seems. So they began forming a secret alliance with certain unpleasant elements among the barbarians to our north to either dissolve the country entirely, put one of their own on the throne, or just extort further concessions from the king. As you might suspect from this uncertainty of goal, it was a poorly planned and ill-conceived affair, this being due to no small extent to the bumbling and poor leadership of my –ah- rotund colleague over there. Although they now like to claim that this little rebellion of theirs is little older than the illness of our dear, departed King Treferdin who died of a wasting disease not more than a few months ago, in fact my sources tell me it was in the makings far before that.
In any case, they used various techniques of subterfuge and bureaucratic delay to prevent the Akt, our council of nobility, from simply approving Prince Rinvolin as our king even though he is not only the rightful heir but also one of the most gifted youths it has been my pleasure to teach. Although I had had my suspicions for some time, only when these rebel dukes declared that they supported Duke Grenfeld over there for the new king and the barbarians of the north invaded did the plot become clear.
The treachery and suddenness of the attack, the buildup to which had been concealed by these selfsame plotters, caught us somewhat offguard. It didn’t help that Prince Rinvolin was not yet allowed to command the army because he has not been made king. This might have left us prone before our enemies, but fortunately my honored colleague, Duke Gardnelle, is a very competent military man and was able to whip the armies of the loyal peers into shape quite quickly. Prince Rinvolin also acted swiftly by hiring many of you to make a personal army technically allowed by our laws so as to end the fight as quickly as possible. We had a many-fronted war to fight with some of our enemies still unknown, but Duke Gardnelle quickly overcame Duke Grenfeld’s rather poorly trained and pathetic forces and plowed straight on toward the advancing armies of the north.
This is where our stories diverged. My intelligence told me that the cowardly duke had fled north to his allies in Miffin, so the prince developed a very daring plan that you are doubtless all intimately familiar with to smash straight through the lines of the Northern Principalities and take Miffin before you could be properly pursued while Gardnelle kept up the main fight. I was fairly familiar with Miffin’s geography and on good terms with some of the local churches, so I gave the prince some suggestions as to how to ensure the cowardly little devil was captured when he fled again.
Now the story passes to Tsaba’s men and they can detail their own exploits while Prince Rinvolin expertly led the rout of Miffin’s forces.
Tsaba and his men give a very poor and stumbling version of their story, Sir Ellidan Whitestar of Yeor steps in and explains it better. However, this leaves out much that he didn’t see regarding the monster in the church. Duke Gardnelle now relays his own experiences.
Duke Gardnelle is not a large or a particularly strong looking man. Middle-aged, he is balding save for a blonde mustache and his face is laced with many ugly scars and frozen in a perpetual scowl. He wears the armor and uniform of a common Yeorian soldier, not the finery of a proper noble, and he speaks very softly and hoarsely. An air of confidence and pride follows him everywhere he goes though and his extremely pale blue eyes have a very dangerous look in them when he gazes on any but the prince and Johannes. As he speaks he stands and slowly walks around the table to loom over Duke Grenfeld, who cowers in his chair and seems to be trying to slide under the table.
Duke Gardnelle: My deeds of late are not half so impressive as my lord, Prince Rinvolin’s have been but our soldiers have made me a very proud man. Though disorganized by the circumstances, softened by the years of peace, often led by incompetent civilians, and disheartened by the revelation that some they called countrymen are worthless traitors who do not deserve to breathe our bracing air, they fought with skill and courage. Our northern adversaries are indeed worthy opponents, for their bravery is great and they retreat only that they may fight someone else. They are, in fact, more truly like the people of Yeoria than the cowardly dogs who whimper and beg at the feet of the likes of Grenfeld. However, they lacked our discipline and with that and the valor of fighting for our homeland, we took the field from them within a few days and sent them home to war with one another once again.
As he stares into the distance thinking of the battle his scowl slowly melts and is replaced by an odd sort of half-smirk, though that fades away again as soon as he stops speaking and returns to his seat.
Prince Rinvolin: Are there any questions?
There are none.
Prince Rinvolin: Now we must consider the future and then our moves for the present. Duke Gardnelle, what do you scouts report?
This time the soft-spoken general does not stand, and he shows little enthusiasm for what follows.
Duke Gardnelle: Though we must tread carefully, victory is within our grasp. The northerners fall back before our strength of arms and as word arrives that Miffin has been conquered, this obese toad of a civilian captured, and some of the northern princes turned upon the others I predict their rout will turn into surrender.
The traitors are led by fat and slovenly cowards. We shall ride over their men like cobblestones and pike their mutinous skulls on our proud flags. However, they are spread among us so that we must fight on many fronts even as we continue to unearth the true scope of the conspiracy.
Further, my liege, I also have a report on the status of our armies. With your permission I will give that now as well.
Prince Rinvolin nods of course.
Duke Gardnelle: The true soldiers of Yeoria are the best in the world. In us alone are combined the fierce courage of the north and the discipline of the east.
However, the army suffers from the leadership of men not fit to shine your boots. We are a disordered patchwork without clear organization and chain of command because certain dukes insist on commanding with no experience or knowledge. Their so-called men are scarcely true soldiers and often do not even have the proud uniform of our country. Worse, there are doubtless spies and traitors among us.
Finally, while morale is soaring after our resounding victory it will not be for much longer as we are forced to fight those we once thought countrymen and brothers. The confusion and disorder which extend even to our supply lines will have a detrimental effect as well.
In short, I fear for the army’s viability if the fighting stretches on into sieges. All is not lost however, what is needed is properly rigid discipline for the men and commanders who lack it. With your permission to do what is needed, I will hammer this into a fighting force truly worthy of your majesty and your country.
Prince Rinvolin shakes his head.
Prince Rinvolin: You are a fine soldier, Duke Gardnelle, and I do well to rely on you. If all our men and women were like you there would be no force of this age that could best the army of Yeoria. But as I have said before, I cannot have you punishing your fellow dukes! It would tear the fabric of Yeorian society and spread great resentment among their people.
Duke Gardnelle: As you say, my lord.
Prince Rinvolin: Tollidarius, what do your sources say?
Tollidarius: I regret to inform you that not all my news is the good either. Let me save that for later however. First I am indeed in agreement with Duke Gardnelle about the state of our troops and that the remainder of this war will be fairly easy. There is already an attempt afoot among some of the northern princes to try to organize a second attack, but I believe they will desist when they find the leader of their allies has been captured. Furthermore, a few of them it turns out did not send the majority of their forces to war and have struck those who did while the latters’ men were away. Yet another bloody war betwixt them is brewing rapidly and this is fine news for us.
As you know however, just a few days ago we received a letter from King Rejrar of Snorivia, our ally, pledging that his men will be ready to support us “Come any threat.” As you may recall, I noted that it was unsettling at the time that the note was not in any sort of code and was in fact not even sealed. This now brings me to the less pleasant side of my report and some information I learned just recently. I shall start with my conclusion: Peruvia is preparing for war. It may be with us or it may be with the Snorivians, but they have relocated a noticeable number of their forces in our direction. We would do well to prepare for the worst.
That jolts everyone and a brief silence follows.
Prince Rinvolin: No, I do not think they mean to attack us. I met Satran Sadakar the Silent and found him a most friendly and reasonable man almost two years ago now. He would not invade our lands without cause. On the other hand, the Peruvian grudge against the Snorivians is ancient and well-known. Still, I thought they had had their revenge centuries ago in the Third Peruvian-Snorivian War and I see no reason they would attack again this year in particular.
Tollidarius: I never met their ruler myself, though it is true he is very old and has never to the best of my knowledge made an aggressive move against a neighbor. Perhaps you are right. And now we have a dilemma. If he means war we must be prepared, but if he does not we must not provoke him into one by making what might look like an aggressive move ourselves. There is a third course which I know you will not accept however.
Duke Gardnelle: No, we’ve no need of your cowardice here, Tollidarius. There is another possibility which perhaps we should consider, however. You say that the Satran does not wish war, very well, maybe that is true. But Peruvia is a country run by its military and though they are no doubt rarer than foolish or treacherous or insubordinate civilians it is true that there are occasionally such people among even generals. I have heard that the Peruvians have somewhere found a new general who the peasantry romantically call the Red-Ribbon Knight as if his identity were unknown. Mayhap this man intends war without his superior’s consent. In either case we must be prepared.
Even Prince Rinvolin seems concerned about the prospect of war with Peruvia. He and his confidantes confer in whispers for a moment.
Duke Gardnelle: My prince, I ask that we send away certain suspect persons before speaking of any more sensitive matters.
Prince Rinvolin: You don’t trust someone here?
Duke Gardnelle: While your trusting nature is indeed admirable, I am concerned that too many people here are foreigners or others whose patriotism is… unproven.
Tollidarius: You mean civilians such as myself of course. I will make no argument in my own defense, but I would point out that your devoted follower Johannes who you trust above all others is counted a foreigner by our laws and that these others are mercenaries. Few could be trusted more not to care a whit about our politics than them.
Prince Rinvolin: Enough. Surely, Gardnelle, you don’t mean to make me choose between you and Tollidarius. I’ve known and trusted you both since I could scarcely walk and my father before me had great faith in you each as well. There are good men in the world who are not also military men like you and I.
Prince Rinvolin: Very well then, to continue, I believe you had a suggestion, Tollidarius.
Tollidarius: Indeed I do. First consider the following: we must root out the rebels among us so that you can be crowned king with all haste regardless of whether Peruvia means war. Utterly trustworthy, intelligent, and well-meaning though Duke Grenfeld is, we haven’t the time to make sure everything he tells us is true before we act. Therefore we must get our information another way. I’ve never known a man so careless with the truth that he lied to himself in his personal records.
Prince Rinvolin: Ah, so seek the truth in writing rather than speech. But Duke Grenfeld burned all his papers before we could seize any so far as I’m aware.
Tollidarius: Correct, I suggest someone else: Duke Deruvr
Prince Rinvolin: Deruvr?!
Duke Gardnelle: Watch your forked tongue, civilian. The Duke of Deruvr is a noble man and a model for all his peers, do not impugn his honor.
Tollidarius: I did not want to believe it myself but just today one of my informants told me of a letter sent by the duke of Ikrir to him which we intercepted. Its contents leave no doubt. He draws a broken-sealed envelope from his robe and casts it upon the table. Duke Gardnelle plucks it up and begins reading suspiciously.
Tollidarius: His betrayal pains and puzzles me greatly as well. But perhaps he will do this land of ours on last service, for he was ever a clever and methodical man and will no doubt have learned the exact strength of the traitors before he decided to join them. I suspect he will keep such records among other useful information in his castle, which he erroneously regards as impregnable after all his additions. If we strike at him quickly and seize his information for ourselves en route to the south we will probably learn all we need quickly and defeat one of our more potentially troublesome foes at the same stroke. What say you?
It is apparent immediately that such a plan is to Johannes, Duke Gardnelle, and Prince Rinvolin’s liking, though the news that Deruvr is a traitor is almost as much a shock as the threat of Peruvian aggression.
Duke Gardnelle: I am surprised to hear such boldness from a wily one like you, Tollidarius. Have I misjudged you all these years or is there something yet you have not mentioned?
Tollidarius smiles charmingly
Tollidarius: You are quite right about me of course, I have no intention of being there when the castle is stormed. I owe Deruvr money afterall and it would be awkward if he asked for it. No, I must go swiftly to call together the Akt] to affirm Prince Rinvolin as our king with all haste. Besides, if they are all gathered when the news of who the secret traitors are arrives it will be easy to immediately capture the treacherous ones. Furthermore, I need to reconnect with some of my sources as fast as possible to get the latest and most trustworthy news of Peruvia and beyond.
Prince Rinvolin steps in quickly to prevent any cutting remarks from the duke.
Prince Rinvolin: Very well then, I think our course is settled. We leave 500-1000 here in Grenfeld’s lands along the border. They needn’t be our best but they must be absolutely trustworthy. Duke Gardnelle, you will of course retain control of the rest of the army and should march them south to defend our border with all haste. The Ospreys and such of my mercenaries as have proven themselves useful and are willing will go with me to castle Deruvr and take it by storm if need be before we follow you, sending our finds to Tollidarius as well to hopefully catch up to him soon after he reaches Yeor. Now I am sure you would rather participate in this first attack with me, but the country’s interests must take precedence. We need you at the fore of our army to lead it and keep it working in these difficult times. There is no one else who can do that in your stead while you fight by my side in the lands of Deruvr. Therefore, Duke Gardnelle, I hereby order you to take full command of Yeoria’s military until such a time as I can legally captain it myself. While I have no doubt we will win at Deruvr, who knows what ill fortunes of war may separate me from the throne if Peruvia invades? Do what you must to keep Yeoria safe and glorious.
Tollidarius: Ah my prince, while you are doubtless trying very hard to be prudent and doing an admirable job of it, you might wish to rethink your word-
Prince Rinvolin: Enough! Let there be no more strife between us! My father relied on you both to work together and I expect the same. I need you to do the same. You are each skilled, trusted, and admirable men in your way so put our country first and your differences second!
Tollidarius: My apologies, lord, for troubling you at a time like this.
Duke Gardnelle: I live to serve. Ah, what of all the prisoners?
Prince Rinvolin: Oh yes, well I suppose you’d best take them since you’ve got the army. Maybe some of the northerners will even fight with us against the Peruvians if it comes to that.
The Duke nods, betraying perhaps the slightest of smirks at the corner of his mouth
Duke Gardnelle: You two there, drag him out and keep Grenfeld with the others. Don’t let his blubbery carcass out of sight for an instant.
Duke Grenfeld it seems has fainted, but the guards manage to carry him out.
Duke Gardnelle: Very well then. If you’ve no further need of me, my prince, perhaps I had best go and get the troops ready to move out by dawn. We’ve no time to waste afterall.
Prince Rinvolin nods and then turns again to the rest of you as Duke Gardnelle marches out.
Prince Rinvolin: Well what say you and your men to all this, Tsaba? And the rest of you? Will you serve me yet again? It will be dangerous work but I can pay well for good soldiering on your parts.
The Red Claws present all agree to continue with him.
The other mercenary leaders, as a body, decline and opt instead to join the ranks of the conventional army if they can. A higher pay to personal danger ratio afterall.
p. Thus the next morning sees you departing tired and unkempt before the sun first begins to peek over the peaks of the Minalins. Many of them now with hangovers, the army is somewhat less festive than it was the night before. They make good time though for Duke Gardnelle made ertain they could pack up quickly the night before. The Red Claws ride along now in the Prince’s entourage at the fore of most of the columns. It will be most of three days from here to castle Deruvr and it is decided to stay by the main army and with them brush aside most of the resistance to the attack on the castle, but to stop half a day and reconnoiter before your attack and search of the castle. It is odd how military life affords you sometimes so much free time and yet never leaves you a moment to do anything.
p. The lands of Deruvr are like most of central Yeoria, a gradually sloping plain down to the distant sea. Here however are kept a number of forests for timber that the duke maintains assiduously from here to year as his main source of long-term income. Much of it goes to buy himself new books of magical lore by all accounts, but at least a little is saved for buying grain from abroad in years of crop blights or maintaining his roads and for this the peasants are grateful. These selfsame roads now make it easy for you and the thousands with you to quickly travel his lands, having resupplied with food while traveling through Grenfeld’s former lands. You meet little resistance, those of his men who cannot get out of the way quickly throw down their weapons rather than face hundred to one odds, to Gardnelle’s disappointment. Many others are actually eager to join you rather than fight for a traitor. Those loyal to their duke retreat further and further toward his castle. That may make for a tough fight. Though not up to Gardnelle’s standards by any means, Duke Deruvr was known to train some of the better soldiers in the realm. Not that Prince Rinvolin would have used it deliberately, but any chance at surprise is now lost as well of course. On the other hand, there’s probably a lot of information about the castle to be gained from the new prisoners and recruits.
Shanba and Rukh each independently interrogate and learn a great deal from several prisoners and deserters, sharing their findings later.
Somewhat after noon on the third day you reach a crossroads along a road between the trees and the sprawling farm fields and here you must part ways. Under Duke Gardnelle the army continues marching south at double time, waiting a day or probably more to take a strategically irrelevant castle could be the disastrous difference between being on the border to reinforce it and being twenty miles away. Tollidarius will turn westward to take the more consistently good roads along the sea to Yeor, while the rest of you move briefly east to take the castle. Before leaving, Tollidarius calls a meeting with the rest of you.
Tollidarius: I know time is important right now and I know you won’t want to wait, but please take some time to scout out the situation of the castle. Duke Deruvr is clever and a skilled magician, fighting on his terms will not go well no matter that you are the more valorous. I also learned some interesting things from some of his men over drinks, though I confess it may not all be accurate. First off, his castle has an outer curtain about the keep as you probably know. Getting through that will be the first obstacle. There’s only one gate and it’s both well-guarded and enchanted to heal its defenders or something like that. Now it gets worse though, the towers on that side of the keep apparently have ballistae on their roofs. So do the outer curtain ones according to one man. No one I talked to even knows what kind of defenses he has inside the keep and I don’t think you want to find out. But the duke himself is a skilled user of Dark Magic, we corresponded a lot and he mentioned working on a spell that will let him strike at great range. The duke’s not a total coward like Grenfeld, he won’t take a stupid risk, but he probably will use all the magical means at his disposal to tilt the odds in his men’s favor. You may be able to surprise him if he leaves the keep to do so. Oh one more thing, I’ve hired a local mercenary mage-
Earliorinl: Freelancer! I’m a freelancing mage! I can do much more than just fight you know. You should consider hiring me on, I’m good for clerical work, diplomatic meetings, household repairs, message delivery, and darn near everything else-
Tollidarius: A mercenary. One of some skill I’m told, and considerable expense. I paid out of pocket since I can’t be certain of his usefulness, but he’s contracted to use up one tome of considerably long-ranged magic as you direct. After that he’s free to go. Hmm, nothing else I can think of to add.
Shanba and Rukh at this point reveal what they learned, which doesn’t change the overall plan.
Tollidarius: Then farewell my lord. If I had to entrust this task to anyone it would be you. May fortune smile upon the lot of you.
Prince Rinvolin: And also on you. May your feet be guided along the Shining Path. Until we meet again.
For lack of a proper hill, castle Deruvr has instead been situated on a spring to help it outlast a siege. A steep, sturdy wall with a new walkway some 20 feet high runs about the very edge of it in a large square or rhombus. This wall is crowned with 6 towers, counting two small but sturdy gatehouses. Inside can be glimpsed the taller and grander keep, its slanting, blue-shingled roof actually taller than its own walls and towers in the middle and employing a complex system of gutters to pour the snowmelt over them. Near the crown of the complex is a small Pegasus stable and it is further defended by a number of well-placed and craftily engineered ballistae on many of the towers. Although it is night, there will be a full moon to see by and there is not a cloud in the bleak and starry sky.
Characters Allowed: 8 + 2 allies
Characters Participating (MVP in Bold): Earliorinl, Faeviss, Iaeis, Ilyana, Johannes, Kiga (Kigathudia) Giltonwyrd, Prince Rinvolin of Yeoria, Roslyr Giltonwyrd, Rukh Astroa of Peruvia, Sygfryd
Characters Slain: None
Victory Conditions: Kill Duke Deruvr.
Loss Conditions: Prince Rinvolin dies or Duke Deruvr escapes.
Belligerents: Prince Rinvolin’s Personal Forces (Red Claws roughly level 4, Ospreys roughly level 7, Prince Rinvolin roughly level 7) vs. Duke Deruvr’s Personal Forces (Guards level 5, Duke Deruvr leel 9)
Outcome: Duke Deruvr was slain, his surviving men surrendered, and Prince Rinvolin thereby took the castle and the important documents therein. However, the revelation that Duke Deruvr was not merely a traitor but a practitioner of Profane Magic shocked Prince Rinvolin.
Treasure Acquired: 500 Silver North-Ring (payment from Rinvolin for accomplishing the mission, halved for having killed a surrendered enemy), Eclipse (dropped by Duke Deruvr).
Treasure Missed: Devil Axe (Dropped by a fighter)
Location: Castle Deruvr. Red Marker east of the Deruvr marker
Battle Summary: The Red Claws decide to avoid the dangerous gate and focus only on the right part of the outer wall. Using Johannes and Iaeis to quickly ferry men onto the wall they took it with ease and blocked the trapdoors through which reinforcements could have come.
This strategy allowed them to bypass most of the enemy forces, however they were not able to prevent enemy reinforcements from securing the inner tower. Having seized the bottom right ballista, Ilyana used it to slay a surrendered troubadour.
About this time, Duke Deruvr emerged from the bottom LEFT inner tower and re-animated the slain mage to continue invulnerably casting meteor at the party. He made his way toward the battle with his dangerous eclipse tome as well.
Stopping only to be healed briefly and egged on by several of the Red Claws, Johannes picked up Rinvolin and rushed the inner keep alongside Iaeis carrying Ilyana. With some skillful maneuvering, they turned the tables on the craft duke and slew him.
p. (Beginning) Once you’ve gathered but before you make your move, Prince Rinvolin suddenly canters Artax forward and rides up nearly to the enemy’s gates. A guard answers him through a small opening in the gate.
Prince Rinvolin: We call upon you to surrender! I’m am prepared to forgive all of you and even the Duke his treachery, for he is a friend of my dear friend and the Shining Path bays me be merciful!
Guard: A kind offer my lord Prince, but my master would decline It, for you would not forgive all if you knew all. As for us, we are men of Yeoria and of Deruvr’s guard, and we will not surrender!
Prince Rinvolin: You are my countryman, and the one you gave your oath to has broken his to me. You are bound to him no more and it is not meet that we fight.
Guard: True enough, he has betrayed his oaths and turned from the truth of Fundin. He brings dishonor on these lands and on all of us. But we cannot make this a world without oathbreakers by casting aside ours with the first justification that presents itself. I have sworn to serve Duke Deruvr till one of us dies, and I will not break my vow, nor will the others here.
Prince Rinvolin: It is a dark day indeed in the history of a country when a prince must slay his own people to save them. Very well, at least let us fight with honor!
Guard: With pride, my prince!
(Deruvr arrives)As you battle by the light of the moon among the crenellations of Castle Deruvr, a robed mage emerges from one of the towers of the inner keep. A chill and an unsettling, butterfly in stomach feeling seems to spread over the battlefield from him.
Duke Deruvr: I knew this day would come when first I touched that forbidden book.
I’ve lived for my learning,
And to myself been true.
Come, wrath storm and battle,
Now I’ll die for it too.
He gives a mirthless chuckle
Duke Deruvr: And so will some of you. There’s none more dangerous than a true scholar. Are you out there Prince Rinvolin?
Prince Rinvolin: I’m here, duke! Do you wish to surrender? Please, let us end this terrible slaughter.
Duke Deruvr: Chuckle No, I just wanted to know where to aim. I’ve heard you’re no dunce, but you’re a fool nonetheless. What gives people like you the right to tell me what I am or am not allowed to know? You self-righteous ignoramuses turn your backs on the truth and on the common good in the name of old and moldy traditions while we true sorcerers are the virtuous ones!
Prince Rinvolin: Do you mean to tell me you’ve delved into profane magic? That is forbidden!
Duke Deruvr: Why?
Prince Rinvolin: It is heresy, evil, dangerous to body and spirit! You tear up the flowers on the graves of those to whom we owe everything for the vanity of knowing things for its own sake. I could forgive you betraying me, but to betray Sekeriah and his brethren I cannot.
Duke Deruvr: Then one of us dies tonight. Hopefully you, simpleton. My learning has given me power beyond the courageless excuses for mages you have with you.
As he speaks he raises his hand, and from it snap out strings or whips hundreds of feet long and red like blood. Latching onto the corpse of one of his fallen men, they yank it to its feet and jerk it about like a puppet, weapon still in hand.
With the vile duke slain, his fell magic ceases and his loyal guard, though still very numerous, surrender. Another battle is won. Prince Rinvolin however is distraught.
Prince Rinvolin: And to think that such blasphemy went on all these years in my father’s own realm! Is there any foulness to which these dukes will not sink? Is Yeoria rotted to the core?
As the injured are being taken from the field, Prince Rinvolin and Ilyana have an altercation about the fleeing woman she killed. Prince Rinvolin decides to refer the matter to the captain of Deruvr’s guard and to talk to Tsaba about it as well.
TYou pass the night in the old castle, in which the reek of profane magic still lingers like the dangerous scent of ozone after a lightning bolt. Sometimes the shadows in the extensive library seem to move of their own accord. Prince Rinvolin however fears no spook and stays up far into the morning by flickering candlelight among the books and scrolls laid out all around.
Without him, dinner with men and women you had just prior been fighting to the death is rather awkward, but the guards and servants of the duke seem almost relieved for his sake that he is dead and are eager not to offend you after you showed them mercy.
No one is sure when the prince went to sleep; but he wakes again at dawn, tired and haggard, to confront the treachery of his subjects, some of whom he had trusted. To judge by the filthy fireplace he has burned a great many texts, and his strong hands are blackened and stained by the ink with which he has penned copious notes.
He shows no inclination to talk to anyone, only a great hurry to leave this place. Over a breakfast he only moves around his plate, Johannes counsels him simply.
Johannes: My lord, it vould be best to send lord Tollidarius your findings quickly vould it not? Zese messengers, zey cannot be trusted vith such zings. I suggest ve return north to ze lands of Duke Gardnelle and send ze message by Pegasus from zere. It vill be ze safest zing for such precious information. Zere ve may also find mounts for ze slower of zese mercenaries so zat ve make up for ze time ve lose.
The prince mulls it over silently a moment and then nods. Johannes conveys the order to you all.
Before leaving, Prince Rinvolin informs Ilyana that the captain of the guard has opted to spare her since the Red Claws showed the rest of them mercy. However, he gives Tsaba only half the pay for the mission he had planned and warns him to keep his men better disciplined.
_ By noon of the second day, having at last had time to sleep, Prince Rinvolin is back to his normal spirits. The weather has been excellent, warmer than usual for this time of year. You have made good time on the fading roads._
As the sun sets on the third day of your journey you are cutting through Duke Grenfeld’s former lands toward Duke Gardnelle’s nearby castle. Along the way Prince Rinvolin secured a relay of mounts so that you may make your journey hence with all haste in the morning.
The road you ride upon is of raised dirt and surrounded by desolate, stony fields too poor to farm for miles to each side. Indeed the only movement you realize are the tiny, wheeling shapes of crows in the sky. Then as twilight falls the wind begins from behind you to before. With it come tortured groans of the dying and a reek of blood that would put many battlefields to shame. As you look about at one another in revulsion and confusion the first of the bodies come into view.
The road ahead is strewn as far as you can see with horrible things. Hundreds or thousands of men and women dead or dying lie along the road, bound feet together and hands above their heads so that they cannot lift themselves. They have been mutilated awfully, backs torn open and lungs artfully pulled out to flap and flutter with tortured breaths and the breeze like grotesque wings. Many dozen crows feast upon them already and more are gathering. Driven by a terrible fear of what he will find, the prince spurs his snorting horse forward, Johannes following him closely. Those of you not turning away or being ill in the nearby ditch note that while most of the slain are peasants, many others bear the coat of arms of Duke Grenfeld or of one of the local militias.
Prince Rinvolin: DAMN IT ALL! WHY?!
The prince comes galloping back your way, Johannes straining his Pegasus to keep up on the ground.
Those of you with the stomach to move on eventually come to a grisly crossroads, along the other roads from which too the executed are laid out in lines. And there in the middle, the place of honor, lies what is left of Duke Grenfeld. He has been drawn and quartered and a vulture of unusual size sits and tears at his blubbery guts. He has somehow contrived to look even more terrified in death than any of the times you saw him cowering before.
The Red Claws and Sir Ellidan debate what this could mean and who could have perpetrated the massacre. Theories include the monster from the church, other rebel forces angry at Duke Grenfeld’s surrender, bandits, and others. Eventually they just follow Prince Rinvolin.
Johannes: Zere vas a reason.
The prince makes no reply, only shaking his head as you travel back the way you came.
B_efore another day passes you are met by two messengers of the League of Akaldin who spiral out of the sky to deliver important messages. The first is from Tollidarius who has nearly reached Yeor and says that the Akt is soon to meet and the list of traitors would be greatly appreciated. The second must be from Duke Gardnelle in the south._
League of Akaldin: Greetings, great lord. I bear tidings most dire. The bloodthirsty Peruvians declared war upon us not a day hence. I have ridden since then on many pegasi to reach you. Duke Gardnelle urgently requests your aid reinforcing Fort Kirin along the River Yoru. On my way here I was intercepted by a Rukh Rider sent by our ally, King Rejrar of Snorivia. He warned that while a vast force does indeed march at the river border even now, a second is sent in secret to cross the Minalin Mountains and so evade our defenses and drive into our lands unopposed. Though I am not sure I credit the rumor, they say this second force includes many of the Knights of the Rising Sun. They say further it is under the command of one called the Red-Ribbon Knight. It is not an easy choice you face, but please decide quickly so that I may bring advance tidings to Duke Gardnelle.
Prince Rinvolin, who had dealt with the prior messenger mechanically, now straightens in his saddle.
Prince Rinvolin: If the Peruvians too wish death on my people
Johannes continues with him
Both: Then they shall die on our lances!
Prince Rinvolin: Tsaba, your men are not my subjects. Which do they choose: the pass of the Minalins or the defense of Fort Kirin. Decide quickly, we’ve another war to win.
Tsaba and his company decide to stop the secret strike force being sent through the Minalins.