Falconbridge

Chapter 1: Now That's Gratitude For You













The ragged remains of King Darius’ army stretched for miles along the foothills of the Thurid Mountains, baking in the brutal heat of the desert sun. What had marched west a disciplined and confident force returned a broken and dispirited rabble.

The defeat of the Cyonian army at the Battle of the Lion had been nearly complete. King Darius who had led them to their fate was now a pale corpse riding in a wagon, his body bloating and stinking in the oppressive heat. His eldest son, Prince Dallatus, the former heir to the throne, lay bloody and cleaved next to his father. Darius’ second son, Prince Godfry had fallen as well, his body captured by the Myvar and taken to Coronet as a trophy.

Thousands of lords, knights and common soldiers from the crusader kingdom had been killed in the vicious fighting. Their corpses now littered the stony fields around the base of the mighty rock formation called ‘The Lion’. Many hundreds more were now captives of Sultan Fareez ali Husseini ibn Kadar, the Red Pirate of Coronet, who had led the victorious Myvar forces. The lucky ones would be ransomed back. Those who could not fetch a good price, however, would be sold into slavery.

For those who had escaped during the route, the way home was hard. For days they marched through the parched desert that skirted the mountains. The hardships of the road claimed more victims and behind the long train of men and horses a scattering of fresh corpses were buried in hastily made graves…

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Amongst the column of near-broken men Brother Brandos Griffin, a monk of the Order of Saint Lucius, and the gnomish wizard Kaspar travelled. Weary and battered from their own adventures, they looked forward to a return to civilization.

They had been relieved to hand over custody of the troubled young Count Kheldon whom they had rescued from the clutches of Lord Covin and his so-called Brotherhood of the Pure Land. They had fought hard to first find and then defeat Covin who had hidden in the lost city of Thaylia. Brother Brandos had secured the treacherous priest, Father Tarduk, who had been the spiritual leader of the Pure Landers. He had been happy to turn the wily priest over to other authorities for future prosecution.

The journey across the desert took nearly a week, but finally the hills and dunes of the Paythian Desert gave way to the stoney, scrub-covered lands of the Sabine Valley. When they came to the river the men rejoiced and threw themselves headlong into the cool, clear waters. Barges from the city were waiting to ferry the men up the river to the capital of Ran Adin.

While Brandos awaited his turn to be brought to the city, Kasper used his magic to fly the final length of the voyage, touching down at night in an empty bazaar of the Dwarven Quarter. He immediately made for his small but well appointed house. He was pleased to find his household staff had maintained it perfectly during his absence and that the secret lab that he had constructed in the cellars remained undisturbed. Eager to once more begin plumbing the depths of the necromantic arts, Kaspar immediately began making plans to secure a couple of fresh corpses. Over the next two days he arranged with the lizard man, Ssibliss to steal the bodies of two fallen knights and, using alchemical solutions suggested by the disembodied skull of Thalaspin, he removed their flesh and reduced them to bone before animating them.

As for Brother Brandos, upon arrival in Ran Adin, he made his way to the White Palace and headed to the Royal Archive. Finding the Archives in the dark, he summoned the assistant that he had left in charge of the archives and found that the boy had done none of the work that Brandos had left for him. He immediately fired the boy and set about trying to find some more suitable employees.

Three days after returning to the city, both Brandos and Kasper were given royal summons to appear before the new king to state their allegiance. They did so, meeting the Lady Leora who was clearly in morning for her lost father, brothers and for Sir Lawrence Godwin who had fallen alongside Brandos and Kaspar in Thaylia. They noted that Leora was some months pregnant.

Accompanying Leora was the elderly Cardinal Guy de Valin, the Privy Seal to King Darius and longtime member of the Privy Council. Cardinal Guy spoke briefly with Brandos and Kaspar and thanked them for recovering Kheldon.

When Brandos and Kaspar were called before the king, they both strode into the magnificent throne room that was packed with courtiers and bowed low before him. King Kheldon was dressed resplendently and sat upon the high-backed throne that had been his grandfathers. Around him stood many great lords and knights of the realm. As Brandos bowed he could not help but recognize among them Father Tarduk.

The priest was cleaned and well dressed and about his neck hung the official chain of the Privy Seal. Tarduks lips were twisted in a smirk.

It was then that Brandos noticed several men with crossbows cocked and ready amongst the crowded courtiers. He was little surprised when the king accused them of fomenting war with Coronet and so named them traitors to the realm.

Kasper, unwilling to submit, began casting a spell which drew several poorly aimed quarrels and a scorching ray from a magic user. Unhurt by the barrage, Kaspar became invisible and quickly began casting Fly. Brandos, who was not so fortunate, surrendered to the guardsmen and was severely beaten before he was dragged off to the dungeons.

Kasper made good his escape from the White Palace and immediately travelled home. Knowing that royal guards would be hot on his heels, Kasper ordered his staff away and, with the help of his loyal butler, secured a wagon and hid away his two newly-animated skeletons.

He managed to escape the city and was hidden by the dwarves. Eventually they returned him to Ran Adin to a secret chamber located beneath the Dwarven Quarter.

For three long months Kasper hid in the dark while Brandos languished in a cell. Finally Kasper was approached by Sir Tristan Rigby, Cardinal Guy de Valin’s loyal retainer. It was their hope to break Brandos from the dungeons in order that he may help them understand Father Tarduk’s apparent interest in the poor barony of Namaran.

The assault on the dungeon involved Kasper, Ssibliss, Sir Tristan and the mighty dwarven warrior Rurik. Together they used a dungeon entrance to assault the lower dungeons and rescue Brandos. Many guards were killed, but the party was able to make good its escape.

Once freed they rested and recovered until a meeting was called with Cardinal de Valin. It was there that Brandos was given the armour and weapons that the Cardinal himself had worn as a young priest during the crusade when he was chaplin to Lord Marshall Tiberius.

optimus_mush

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