Kingmaker - As the Ravens Gather

The Upside

The guards moved around the castle, patrolling once again in the night air. While things seemed quiet, there had been news of trolls. If the Baron and the other lords left the castle, then patrolling would become more tense still.

For now, though, Portis and Gim were totalling up a list of complaints, as generations of soldiers had done before them. “That thing makes SUCH an unholy racket. It’s unnerving” says Gim, as he moves across the courtyard toward the front gate.

“It’s worse than that, it’s LOUD. When that beast howls, you can hear it for miles. I’m surprised we haven’t gotten complaints from Olegton, I’m sure they can hear the damned thing” states Portis.

“I’m sure it’s a lot quieter when you’ve got a fine pair of legs wrapped around your ears” quipped Gim. “Maybe someday we’ll get some leave. Till then.” With a snap, Gim shuts the padlock on the front gate, and the chains that reinforce the stout wooden palisade. With the gates closed, Olegton seems farther away.

“For now, though, we’ve got that beast to deal with. While I’m no fan of howling, have you heard the thing eat? It’s horrible. I saw it eat an entire turkey in two bites.” claims Portis.

“Eating’s not the problem.” states Gim. “It’s all got to come out the other end. It’s getting to smell worse than that bird-bear thing. And the size! That’s just not right” stated the guard, as they begin climbing the steps to the top of the wall to continue their patrol. From the wall, the guards had an excellent view of the courtyard and the surrounding forest.

And that is when the great wolf came into view, bounding along far faster than a man could run, even while entangled within some sort of leather net. A rope trailed behind the great beast as it ran, and at the end of that rope was a bedraggled dwarf, dragging in the dirt behind the creature. Few spoke the dwarf’s guttural language, but the tone suggested a series of curses upon the wolf’s ancestors. As the guards watched, the wolf leaped over a fallen tree, and then ran onward. The dwarf hit the tree with a thud, and the wolf slowed for just a second before the tree gave way with a crack. Then the wolf and dwarf were gone, deep within the cover of the trees.

“You know, I’m starting to get used to that thing all the same” grinned Gim “It’s got an upside.”

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Night Air

Yorick sat in the entrance to his tent, staring at the campfire. Zero and Corben sat bickering; he could see their faces lit by the flames. Both the dwarf and the priest had been drinking for some time, but only Corben’s voice slurred. Clearly dwarves could hold their liquor. Markoa was off in the woods somewhere, slinking around. Yorick peered down at his own cup, but he did not drink.

Last night he had had the dream again. On black feathered wings, he caught the wind, soaring across the sky. Far below him, a figure on horseback galloped across a featureless plain. With a shrill cry, Yorick plunged down through the air, closer and closer to the figure. It was a warrior in heavy armor wearing the crimson cloak of the Brevoyan Guard. Yorick flew closer and closer until finally the figure turned it’s hood face up toward him.
Every night for the last month, the dream had ended at that moment, with Yorick waking up before he could see the rider’s face. But last night was different. Last night, as Yorick circled above on outstretched wings, the soldier threw back her hood revealing long blond hair and a familiar pair of brown eyes. It was Lizvetta. She looked up at him and spoke his name, and Yorick had reared up out of sleep with a gasp.

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March of the Trolls

King Vesket lay in the holy mound to Gorum. His body was obviously broken and blood still seeped from some of his wounds. The Third of his consorts crouched near him using her knowledge of healing to try to keep him alive while the Second and the Fourth huddled near representing the last of the king’s mates. The holy mound was also filled with many of the other warriors of the tribe who had managed to stay alive through the fight. The rest of the tribe, females and young as well as a few males, still able to move were attempting to fix one of the other mounds so that the tribe had someplace to sleep. Fires still smoldered in some of the tents where, in desperation, the tribe had ignited their own living quarters hoping to drive the attackers away. The lizardfolk village was awash in bodies and blood of its own people, its walls torn open in a few places where the invaders had smashed through. Had the Lord in Iron not sent a miracle Third of the harem was sure that the tribe would have been destroyed. King Vesket had adopted the Lord in Iron as his people’s deity after a human priest had brought the power of the Lord to their village driving out the false ancestor. In the weeks that followed the king had prayed to the Lord in Iron and received visions and re-sanctified the holy mound to Gorum. It was when one of the young had found the mighty human sword in the river that Vesket had known that the Lord in Iron accepted the tribe. The Third had known when the rampaging beasts had faced Vesket himself and she had seen the sword suddenly become clean and full moon bright shining within the holy mound. Vesket had become, to her sight, armored with blood red armor and his trident erupted with fire. It was she who had ordered the females and young to torch the village except for the holy mound. She’d had to kill the First consort but Third knew that the Lord in Iron appreciated her strength. The battl;e had been terrible and many, warriors and tribes people, had died and all of the eggs had been destroyed by the Two-Head but they would build again in Gorum’s name with herself Third. No, not Third, Seetha the First and Only and she would be the speaker for Gorum for she felt his power within her, and her people would be strong again.

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Tatzlford Erastus 4711

The northern winds of Erastus were hot off the plains of Numeria and Brevoy rippling off the tops of the thick foliage of the Narlmarch Forest and shaking the growth along its northwestern border practically out of the ground. The heat that it brought quickly dried the earth and picked up a fine dust from the grasslands that erased small creeks and streams from existence. The winds assaulted the great forest with cloudless days of hot sun or sudden violent thunderstorms but under the canopy in the dark cathedrals of wood they were reduced to cool breezes and a susurrus of agitated leaves.

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Erastus 4711

The hot summer sun beamed in the soft blue sky shining down on the city of Meeroever. The city was a riot of color and activity as the people of the Narlmarches enjoyed their first festival. Streamers and banners stirred in the cooling breezes that swept over the city from the Tuskwater and from the Narlmarch Forest. The city had never been so full of people and Warden Ismort couldn’t believe that so many people lived in the area. Farmers driving wagons and herds of the best their farms could produce moved into the corrals and booths erected just outside the city.

Every peddler, tinkerer and trader from Restov to Mivon seemed to be there shouting about deals and wares in the marketplace. In the town square he sat upon his horse with a few of his senior guard around him watching the crowds move from one point of interest to another. It amazed Akiros that this many people lived in the backwoods. He, of course knew how many people lived in Meeroever and Olegton and even Tatzlford but he never appreciated how many had moved into Narlmarch but didn’t live on the Zebulon. Akiros looked at the large group of halflings that had gathered to admire the Baron’s new council table carved by a local halfling woodworker. He had a man watching it after it drew a lot of speculation over who would sit at the hickory table and if they were all equal in rulership. Akiros knew better. Yorick ruled but Zero and Markoa held a great deal of influence and were as much a part of the rulership of the barony as Yorick. Akiros made sure to have guards escorting all three of them as surreptitiously as possible when they were within the barony but they were gone so often that it proved difficult to ensure that the lords of the land were safe. Indeed, Markoa often ducked his retinue as a matter of habit when he was within the city.

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A "HOT" summer night

Corbin, Baron Yurick, and Brother Zero, randomly find themselves in the same tavern after a long day in Meerover. The three noble men share a tankard of ale each and enjoy the end of the day,

Corbin “When are we going to be heading out next?”

Zero “I have at least two weeks of journals to go over so not for a bit.”

Some of the shine in Corbins eyes dims and he looks in his stein, then he shifts his gaze to the Baron.

Baron Yurick “Sorry Corbin I’m backed up a good two weeks with judgments, hearings and other things of the such.”

Corbin looking completely defeated lowers his head and sloshes the ale around in his stein.

The nobles sit for a few mores minutes listen to the bustle in the tavern and talking to random towns folk that approach. Then an eerie silence falls over the tavern, the noblemen being ever aware of there surroundings notice the instant tension in the tavern and look around.

Baron Yurick starts a coughing fit and has to spit his ale back into his stein

Brother Zero “By Abadar, that sight will be etched in my minds eye forever” he grumbles and averts his eyes in disgust

Corbin stares at the doorway his mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water his eyes slightly glazed, as he stares at what he considers a vision of beauty. He pats Baron Yurick on the back until he stops sputtering

Corbin “Aye that is a vision i wont soon forget either” a lustful tone in his voice.

In the doorway stands Karrah, Her flat face all made up and her tusk polished to a yellow shine. Wearing what can only be described as lonsheray, her enormous bosom very nearly completely exposed, bristly hair poking out, over, and threw the thin veil she covered herself with. Her midriff bare with patches of hair exposing not a happy trail, but a happy jungle. And to top it all off legs as hairy as a she wolf.

Corbin stands up drunkenly and staggers love sick towards his fiancee, the crowd looking on in terror, Karrah reached out and picked him up a foot in the air so they were eye to eye, and planted a kiss on him. People could be heard puking in the background, then Karrah bodily dragged Corbin out of the tavern.

Baron Yurick “its a good thing he slapped my back i was choking on my vomit”

Brother Zero slammed his stein on the table “He didnt pay for the twelve steins of ale he drank”

Baron Yurick" well you can try to pry him away from Karrah if you’d like"

Brother Zero flopped down in his chair muttering something about a “she beast”

Markoa wondered into the tavern not a minute later pale and slightly green, he saw his friends and took a seat next to them

Markoa “You guys wouldn’t BELIEVE what I just saw”

Then looking into the eyes of his friends and seeing Corbins empty stein dis-guarded on the Table, and the eerie silence in the tavern Markoa realized he wasn’t the only one going to have nightmares tonight

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Concerning the Beldame's Request

With an exasperated sigh, Yorick put the Swamp Witch’s letter down and put his fingers to his temples. Among the rafters above, the shadow ravens had begun rustling and squawking, causing him to peer up into the darkness. When had that started? When had his illusion, a thing to designed to give the people something to chatter about, to help the legend of the Baron of Narlmarch grow, when had it taken on a life of its own? He probably should be more concerned about this development, but who the hell has time?

The young baron had expected the Beldame to leap at the chance to Magister. She clearly craved respect; surely the position would bring her that! But here before him sat not a gracious acceptance but rather a haughty missive demanding that he go rooting around in a mushroom patch. “Across the Tuskwater from my domain”? What does that even mean? It could be outside her picket fence for all Yorick knew.

He stood up quickly. There were loud shrieks the sounds of flapping wings from the shadows above. Where the hell was Brother Zero? He would know where this place was.

“Boy!” the baron shouted. Zebert caming running up. “Ask the Lord Treasurer if he would meet me in the dining hall.”

Zebert turned white and began shuffling from foot to foot.

“Well?” Yorick growled.

“Of course, sir, your Baron-ness sir,” the boy said, tossing his head to remove his long bangs from his eyes. “It’s just that . . . the Lord Dwarf Treasurer Inquisitor is counting the kingdom’s funds . . . he really hates to be interrupted, Sir Baron. Last time I went in there, he threw a tome at me, sir. It was bigger than my head, your baronship.” The boy thought for a minute. “It was bigger than his head,” he muttered.

“Zebert!” Yorick roared.

“Yes sir, your Baronial majestic-ness!” the boy squeeked, and fled from the room.

Yorick sighed again, rubbing his temples with his fingertips. Perhaps Yorick could reconsider this ‘baron’ thing. Corben might make a lovely baron. The shadow raven’s piercing shriek from over his head set Yorick off into a fit of laughter.

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You are the law

“Ismort, just the guy I was looking for” spoke the dwarf.

“Have you heard what that she-beast has done, Lord Zero? I must insist…”

“Lord Corbin’s personal affairs are his business. Besides, I’ve gotten a request from the Baron, and you’re just the guy to help me with it” said Judge Zero, as he began walking to the conference room.

Izmort slowed his pace to match with the dwarf, “What request is that? The wolf situation is well in hand”.

“Aye, but it won’t be the last time one of the people gets hurt or killed. While you and your men are doing a good job maintaining order, we also need law. You and me, we’re going to write the laws down, make ’em official.”

“You need a piece of paper that says murder is illegal? Won’t take long, but I don’t see the point”

“You will my boy,” said the dwarf, as a rare grin spread across his face. “If you kill someone, what do we do about it? How much proof is needed, and what kind? What sort of punishment is dealt out? If the person is executed, who’s going to do it, and how?”

“Have a seat, I’ve told your men you’re unavailable for a while”

As Izmort’s face fell, the grin on the dwarf’s face only widened.

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The Beldame's Payment

Late Sarenith.4711

Elga Verniex settled into her chair and watched the young man fixing supper. This one was much nicer than the last messenger that the nobles of Narlmarch, the latest attempt at a country in the River Kingdoms, had sent. Narlmarch’s leader, the Baron Yorick, had sent a man some time ago but that rude individual had been chased away by one of her scarecrows a hair’s breadth from losing his life. This young man was much better indeed. Elga wasn’t sure but she thought that maybe she had midwife for either his mother or grandmother, something about his features seemed familiar. Regardless, he knew of the Old Beldame and accorded her the respect that a woman of her should receive.

So, the baron of this new country wished for her to take up the mantle of magister in his country Elga pondered. She had met the man and his compatriots when they had visited and found them well-mannered and capable. She had seen that Yorick had been possessed of a great birthright and given all that she had heard and all that she had felt within her blood in these past years knew that he would be important. It was when she had felt the death of the fey lord that she knew that the whisperings and anticipations within the First World and, in resonance, the Greenbelt had come to pass. She would accept the post if only to keep an eye on Yorick for one does not unmake a fey lord without consequences but to assume the raiment and auspices of its power without fey blood to seal it. Elga frowned for she knew it dangerous for Yorick and, by association, his friends. She was heartened by the news that Tyg-Titter-Tut had delivered her that the heroes had been dealing well and fairly with the Folk throughout the Narlmarch. She liked this and decided to accept the offer given that the Baron Ravenswing granted her a boon.

It was the way of things with the Folk and though Elga was human the fey blood within her insisted on their conventions. Elga smiled, it was proper that she be shown respect from the baron’s court if she were expected to serve.

The messenger placed a bowl of porridge with a game bird before her and she feigned waking to smile gently to the lad. The Beldame had found that people’s assumptions could be most useful to her. Elga spooned the gruel with some of the bird to her mouth and savored the meal. The boy, Elga cackled to herself bringing a nervous smile to the messenger’s face, the boy was in fact at least thirty winters old but Elga had seen at least twice that so he seemed youthful to her. The Swamp Witch picked the meat from the pigeon bones with her needlelike fingers licking the juices from her nails. Grease dripped from her hand into the porridge as she slowly placed the bones to the side, a simple action that with exaggerated care and a few amused chuckles brought discomfort to the messenger’s eyes. Elga ate and thought of what would be an appropriate gift for her.

”Child, would you bring the Beldame a script and nib? I would like to send a response to your Lord of Ravens.”

“Of course mother Beldame.”

It was, of course, dangerous but she too could be dangerous if need be and her loyalty was not cheaply nor easily bought. Elga had been feeling the weight of her years and some Rattlecap tea would do her good. Yes, well chosen she thought as ink was set to paper and a pact was begun. Elga felt the immensity of it, it would take time of course but to the Folk time meant little and everything. It was either too late, long in coming or imminent but it would be crafted, sealed and executed this pact and it would cost the Beldame her life.

The last thought startled her in its sudden realization but even as she thought it she knew its truth. So be it but there was more to it than that. The chorus of ravens upon the roof attested to it and Elga pulled her shawl tight about her as she finished her note.

Lord Yorick Ravenswing, Master of Ravens, Baron of Narlmarch, Sorcerer of the Destined Blood

I, the Swamp Witch, Beldame of the Tuskwater, recognize you and respond to your summons thusly:

In the mud flats across the Tuskwater from my domain grows Black Rattlecap mushrooms, a rare and prized find. The flats bubble with the fires of the earth and spawn fungus and mould in abundance and great size. There is, of course, danger but to entreat the services of myself to your banner it is seemly that you face such danger to prove the sincerity of your request. Gather the rattlecaps and have them delivered to me and I shall pledge myself and blood to you nascent Lord of Ravens. Be warned Yorick, the task is yours to undertake in person with those who serve you. I will not serve a dandy or coward.

I await the evidence of your success or the news of your demise.
The Beldame

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Sarenith 4711

Akiros Ismort scowled as he rode along the Zebulon Pike in the warm sun sweating profusely while Baron Yorick enjoyed conversations with his subjects as they went. Akiros had a contingent of Meeroever guard following just behind the baron providing security. Akiros himself didn’t need to be there but it was a welcome, if uncomfortable, way to escape Meeroever. The Warden was furious. Akiros could admit to himself that he wasn’t cut out to be leader. That had been a hard concept for Akiros to accept but with it came the realization that his role providing law and security to the cities of the kingdom and for the baron and his council had brought a sense of purpose and fulfillment that he had searched for since his escape from Taldor. It even occurred to him that serving Brother Zero and his group had allowed Akiros to serve Erastil and while he had no plans to necessarily repent for what had happened in a way it made him feel as if he had regained some small measure of respect. In fact everything had gone well until Corbin. It was bad enough, the Warden had stated to any that listened, that the General had tried to steal his men to play army with men needed to man Meeroever and Olegton and the pike, and although he come to enjoy his battles with the battlepriest the latest turn of events was impossible. Now Corbin brought absolute scandal upon the barony with his deplorable behavior. Akiros couldn’t respect a man in that kind of position who behaved as Corbin did: drinking every night and gambling on his cups, consorting with unsavory individuals in any place where a beer is poured, partying in the Castle, trying to steal his position (Akiros found it hard to let of of that one), that week in Olegton alone that ended not only Corbin’s welcome there but Topper’s eviction from the town on the end of Oleg’s boot but this farce of a occurrence that brought that freak of a harlot Korrah Daggerthews into Castle Stag. That idiot Corbin loses at a drinking game, an arm wrestling contest, and a pitched bare fisted brawl through half of Meeroever and suddenly he’s bedding the ogre-faced, muscle-knotted, troll faced female half-orc Numerian primitive. It made Akiros shudder. Their couplings sounded like elks rutting; it had the servant frightened. The beast of a woman stalked the castle at a whim, abused the staff, and forced Akiros to station triple the men in the castle to ensure security and to watch the hag. He didn’t know what the baron thought of it all but this tour up to Olegton was welcome indeed. It was unfortunate that Akiros couldn’t ride the whole way but he didn’t trust the “General” or his beastcunt alone in Meeroever for too long. Akiros would return when the baron had crossed the Rickety Bridge which was now quite sturdy and well travelled and leave the guards, Baron Yorick and all of the damn crows (Akiros had really started to hate crows, ravens, whatever) and their incessant noise and shit.

The baron ended a pleasant chat with a farmer and began to ride again. Akiros Ismort began to smile at the slight breeze from the river when there was a tumult of wings above him and cries and screeches from the unkindness of ravens that leapt into the air heralded the guano that hit Warden Ismort in the helm and slid down his cheek. Akiros gritted his teeth and sloshed water on himself to clean the mess off but thought to himself that it was a better place to be than near the General and his slatternly cow.

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