Brindol or Bust
Talar was burning. Black smoke in the western sky. Winnie sent a message to the Frye, nestled in his bunker. He responded that he was well, having caught up on his reading, and confirmed Talar was under siege. “Good,” said Garrock. That meant we were a days in front of the horde.
Approaching Brindol, a roadside attraction cheered us a bit. Mounted on a spear, the head of the hobgoblin who had pretended to be Ned the poor farmer who was taken prisoner by Saarvith at Rhest. His hands were pained red with a middle finger extended in the direction of Talar. A sign read “The Red Hand Sucks!” Looked like Saarvith, who we released from Rhest, had caught up with his old pal Nurkelneck (“Ned”). Things were looking up.
Signs of activity on the outskirts of Brindol. Miltia gathering what crops they could, people digging trenches outside the walls, timber felled and rough cut pallisades raised. It was a bit encouraging, with the horde on the doorstep. The city was well fortified with twenty feet walls of stone and the swift Elsir at its back.
The guard at the gate looked us up and down especially Garrock, asked who we were. We each stated our names, and when Sylvana said hers, the man blushed, and nearly dropped to his knees. “Open the gate!” he ordered. We were met inside by a tall sergeant and ten Lions. A young woman in robes concentrated, moving her hands over us. Her eyes widened, amazed. “I do not detect any disception. They are as they appear.”
The Lions nearly cheered, clapping our hands and slapping our backs. The sergeant smiled. “Lady Jarmaath, welcome home. I will send word to your brother right away. He’ll want to see you immediately.” I asked him if Jarvis had returned, a greasy halfling, claims to be a wizard. He nodded his head, knowingly. “Oh, the troll slayer, you mean. He arrived at the head of an army of dwarves.”
A few steps and a familiar voice shouted, “The Defenders of the Vale have returned!” A strange mouth popped up, floating in the air. Puffy lips, and teeth, with a tongue. "It named each of us, not to mention our “leader Jarvis.” It repeated the message, and we could still hear it as we moved through the streets. Soldiers, very few townsfolk, and no children. A cheer was raised for us, whispering of “It must a sign, a great omen,” at the sight of the Lion who had come to defend the city.
A buzz spread from the gate through the near-empty streets, people stepped out from boarded up businesses, up the hill to the keep. Scattered cheers and applause. No parade, marching bands, or lovely ladies with baskets of flower petals, just grimy faces, lined with weariness. It looked as though most of the population had been evacuated.
In the great hall, Lord Jarmaath looked his usual, miserable self. Owen Teskerwill, the horse master, ran his paces in the hall. He was pleading for Jarmaath to send his daughters to Dennovar with the others. Apparently, our classmates Kharra, Hurndahl, and Danella had volunteered to aid in the upcoming fight. Good for them. Lord Jarmaath refused their father, as the sisters were among the best riders in the city.
Sylvana said “hey” to her brother. He immediately stood, stumbled a bit coming down from the dias, but caught himself in his sister’s embrace. Very pleased to see us all alive and well. He asked about Garrock, and the ranger explained as best he could. Jarmaath nodded, called for food and drink, sent for Captain Urveth. Owen Teskerwill excused himself. We gave an account of ourselves.
Our actions had an impact. In addition to the dwarven mercenaries, 200 owl-riders from Starsong Hill had arrived including our friend, Killiar, and Sellyria Starsinger. All told, there were about 1750 defenders, with about 700 hundred trained. But, it might not be enough. We were happy to hear our family had made it to the safety of the walls, but only Townspeaker Norro Wiston and our brother in law remained in the city. The rest of the family as well as most citizens had been sent to Dennovar. Lord Jarmaath let us know our father would be happy to see us.
Tommorow, a war council was scheduled at nine bells. Included were Celiira Neston, Tredora Goldenbrow, Lady Kaal, Captain Lars Urveth and others. Lord Jarmaath asked us to attend so we could report directly.
Winnie and I met with our father who pleaded us to desert our companions for the Dennovar. Man, he just doesn’t get it. We are the Defenders of the Vale. Our brother in law, Drathgar, had stayed as a volunteer in the militia.
Meivyr paid a visit to the Laughing Manticore, caught Rillor as he was packing up. He was leaving town, no reason to stay and die. The Manticore was now Meivyr’s to do with as she pleased. Rillor laughed about Garrock — “he has a tail.” But, he didn’t stick around long enough to see it himself.
Meanwhile, Sylvana and Garrock worked with the militia. Winnie and I visited the requisitions department, formerly known as Shank’s Shivs. We queued up, a line of militia, mostly farmers were given spears and simple weapons. Stephan, Karl, and Laurie were of course in charge. As I handed over our donations of masterwork weapons captured from the Red Hand, Karl pointed out that our enemy had very nice gear, much nicer than ours, so he didn’t understand why they wanted to take our stuff. In exchange, I received three arrows of slaying and a javelin of lightning.
We all got together for a reunion at the Laughing Manticore. Jarvis was in a good mood. He told us how he had won over the dwarves by taking care of a troll problem. We identified the items from Ulwai Stormcaller: shock arrows, a magic mithril breastplate, potions of pass without a trace, invisibility, and healing, and gloves of dexterity.
“Yoo-hoo, Jarvy-Warvy?!” a husky, female voice called out. The halfling slid down in his seat under the table. A dwarven woman in armor was looking for Jarvis. Meivyr stood up and pointed under our table. The dwarf walked over and introduced herself as Gadralen Earthgrip. He quietly promised to meet her later. Way to go, Jarvis. The rest of us turned in. We stayed at the Keep, but I missed our old dorm room.
Early in the morning, Winnie hurried off for a clerics meeting where they prayed and talked about healing people and the blessings of being a morning person. I think the pierced paladin of Wee Jas was there. Croakums and I slept in.
The meeting of the war council took place at nine bells. In attendance were all the important people, including the self-important wizard Immerstall the Red. There weren’t enough chairs as the long table, so many of us stood on the sidelines. Lord Jarmaath wanted to lead a sortie to hit the horde as it advanced, while Captain Urveth prefered to use the walls to their advantage. I spoke up for Lord Jarmaath, but was shot down. After some discussion, Captain Lars won the argument. Although it would be valiant, it seemed foolish when the defenders of the city were outnumbered. Jarvis was very excited, saying he had the perfect spell. He could make it appear to the invaders that Brindol was surrounded by swampland. This might impede the invaders, while the defenders pelted them with missile weapons.
Next, Lady Kaal and Lord Jarmaath were at odds. She refused to turn over command of her personal guard, some 75 highly skilled mercenaries, insisting that they were needed to protect her property. If a hobgoblin happened by they would deal with it. Nothing would convince her, but she said she would change her mind if Jarmaath named her his heir. If the city fell, then all would be lost, including her precious manor, but she smiled as though she had a secret plan to escape. Jarmaath of course flatly refused, and that was that.
It was then decided the clerics would be stationed at the Cathedral during the siege rather than out among the troops. Immerstal the Red offered to cast a powerful spell to telepathically link Lord Jarmaath with three others during the battle. It was decided that Captain Urveth, Sylvanna, and Sellyria Starsinger, the leader fo the Tiri Kitor elves, would coordinate their thoughts. Lady Kaal lobbied very hard to be included. She just didn’t seem like a team player. ’
As things were settling down, a sentry arrived with a message from Elsircross. He announced that the Baron Trask regretfully could spare no troops as he needed to protect his people; but instead he had sent his best fighter. It was none other than Van Trask, who had kidnapped the lovely Miha Serani from the wedding at Kirken Farm. He was very good on his horse, Gromo, but Jarmaath wasn’t pleased by the slight.
The meeting adjourned. Jarvis respectfully chatted up Immerstal the Red, asking the prominent wizard if he would be interested in trading spells. The wizard scoffed at Jarvis’ request, laughing, he dismissed him as nothing but a “halfling vagabond.” Jarvis responded by calling the Red’s magic “boring and obvious.” A mage’s duel would settle the matter, today at sunset at the Cathedral Square. Be there! Jarvis immediately excused himself to study his spell book.
With nothing to do, we all worked with training the volunteer militia. It went very well, thanks to an inspiring song by Celiira called “Moves like Jarmaath.”
Over a Barrel, In a Pickle
Sundown. Quite a crowd in the Cathedral Square. Jarvis was hiding in a doorway, called us over. He looked nervous, didn’t understand how the word got out. Stephan said, “They must have saw the posters.” Jarvis looked like a small pickle. He quietly asked Meiyvr if she would agree to serve as his second in the duel. She could stop the fight if things got bad for Jarvis. Stephan called for bets at 50 to 1 against the halfling. I loudly put down 10 gp.
Immerstal the Red approached, with his companion, Alandri. It wasn’t much of a fight. Nothing was going for Jarvis. Immerstal clutched him in a telekinetic grapple, rubbing his face in the dirt. “Pickles belong in a barrel,” he said, dunking poor Jarvis in a rain barrel. The wizard asked him to give up, but Jarvis refused. Meivyr wasn’t sure. He might drown, and this was very humiliating. Then Immestal was left with no choice but to turn our friend into a toad. At last, a companion for Croakums! Just then Jarvis sloshed and sputtering, uttered a two, simple words. “Feeble mind.” Or was it one word? In either case, Immerstal the Red was dumb struck. His eyes were crossed, tongue reaching for the tip of his nose.
Jarvis had won! I had won 500 gp. But, at what cost?
Alandri was livid. “What have you done, you half-wit?! This spell is permanent. He can’t cast even the simplest cantrip in this state. Brindol needs his magic for defense of the city.” Jarvis clutched his hat, wringing out the water. “You saw, I couldn’t just let him turn me into a toad. Anyway, my powerful friend, the most powerful cleric in the city, can reverse the spell. Right, Winnie?” Everyone looked at Winnie. Winnie frowned and shook her head. “Maybe after the battle, if we live through it, Fharlangan will grant me the power.” Jarvis said, “Well then, I guess I will just to assume Immerstal’s role. It will be up to me to protect the city with my magic.”
Stephan was already calculating the odds for the upcoming battle. Place your bets, place your bets.
Tea for Three
Next day, while we continued our training with the militia, Meivyr had tea with her benefactor at House Kaal. Celiira also attended. Silver set and little gnome cakes. Meivyr asked Lady Kaal why she wasn’t willing to give command of her guard to Lord Jarmaath. She said, “They will fight, just not for an idiot.” After some pleasant conversation, she persuaded Celiira to take a stroll in the garden so she might have a private word. Left alone, Lady Kaal suggested that Meivyr use her influence to convince Jarmaath to reconsider her offer. In return, Lady Kaal would adopt Meiyvr as her heir. By all rights, the Kaals are rightful rulers of the Vale. She had only to call in her debts. Meivyr was confused. Lady Kaal pressed her, urging her to use all her skills. Meivyr said she would think about it.
There was a familiar warhorse in the courtyard. Meivyr asked Lady Kaal where it had come from. She said Captain Janaki had purchased the horse from some merchants. She also mentioned she had purchased all the diamond dust in the city. In the event that things turned awry, the Lady had insurance. She seemed confident she would win the day.
In the afternoon, horns blasted a warning. Guards scrambled to the walls. A large creature flew in the western sky. The Red Hand was here. They made their camp far outside of missile range. Built fires, pitched tents. A red dragon circled high above the city. It’s shadow draped over the ramparts, shrouded the citizens with dread.
Killiar planned to scout out the enemy from the air. He agreed to take Garrock and myself along, and Meivyr would fly with us. We had potions to hide our tracks and invisibility in case trouble was aroused. He set us down about 700 feet from the camp. Garrock and Meivyr stayed put, while I crept in for a closer look. I moved for a large bonfire surrounded by fierce bugbears. They were dancing, leaping in a frenzy with white-painted faces. “Burn in blood, bathe in blood.” A hobgoblin sergeant told them to quiet down, and the bugbears nearly tore off his head. I would guess about 100 bugbears. Moved on. A group of ogres and giants were sitting around, eating and drinking. Among the ogres, maybe 120, several wore armor and looked intelligent. I couldn’t understand their language. A hobgoblin patrol happened by, and the giants complained about the food. They were sick of mutton, wanted some man flesh. A hobgoblin sergeant assured him that after tomorrow evening, he would have his fill. As I was sneaking back, I passed a cart of large boulders. Nearly caught by a robed hobgoblin, but the invisibility potion saved me. Garrock and Meivyr had nearly been detected by a flying creature with falcon’s head and lion’s body. Garrock called it a hieracosphinx. A manticore was also flying about, but Hodin and Killiar managed to avoid them.
The next morning, we went to Lord Jarmaath and told him to prepare for the attack this evening. He gave us a bag of holding, which had been stocked with donated magic items. Could be useful. We will have some time to prepare ourselves, discuss strategy. Or maybe we’ll just wing it and see what happens.