Welcome to the Flaming Faggot

Callovia is called "the boundless empire" yet you have managed to find its northern border - a notorious roadhouse deep within the Madrasan Marches on the edge of the wilds of Llanvirnesse. The sign above the door reads "Flaming Faggot," which would suggest a cozy, homey inn with fresh biscuits served at teatime if not for the severed troll heads mounted on pikes at the gate.

As you cross the threshold the raucous din quiets momentarily as all eyes dart to the door and calloused hands drop instinctively to well-worn sword hilts. The threat, instantly assessed, is dismissed and roadhouse patrons go about their business hardly missing a beat.

Grim, hard-eyed men huddle around tables in close conversation thick with conspiracy; caravan guards gamble away their earnings; Caemric rangers sit close to the fireplace cooking the damp of the Black Annis from their clothes as they warm their innards with Red Dragon Ale; minstrels play and buxom wenches dance for the pleasure of men who pay them little attention - until they need a companion to warm their bed.

As you approach the bar, a huge, bald barman with a greatsword slung across his back slides a mug of freshly-pulled ale towards you, its frothy head dripping over the rim.

"Pull up a seat, lad," he says, "and let me tell you a tale of high adventure."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Session 4: Malash Thwarted

Last session ended with Bvar and Theon in the clutches of Malash the Magnificent, cleric of Balor, while Jin and his henchwoman, Caitlin, successfully escaped their pursuers and fled the dungeon.

Malash interrogated his prisoners to determine what they had seen of his operation and, more importantly, what they had reported to the outside world.  Bvar and Theon denied telling anyone anything, but Malash could not trust their assurances and sent for his torturer to determine the truth for certain.  Eager to avoid torture, Theon told him that what they might or might not have told anyone was irrelevant, since Jin was heading back to the Flaming Faggot, where he would tell everyone what he saw and organize a rescue party.

Thus forewarned, Malash organized a suitable reception, by way of an ambush, for any rescue party that might enter the keep.  Meanwhile he incarcerated Theon and Bvar in the dungeons prison cells to await their transport to the Temple of Balor where their fates would be decided by Malash's unnamed Master.

Meanwhile, back at the Faggot, Jin appealed to the sinister mage-priest, Frasck, for aid in the rescue of his comrades.  Frasck reminded Jin that it was he, Jin, who was beholden to Frasck and not the other way around, and if he couldn't prove himself to be a resourceful and useful servant, then Frasck would use the vial of Jin's blood to turn him into an amusing, albeit disturbingly unnatural, one.  Possessed of uncommon intelligence, Jin grasped the threat almost immediately and decided to look elsewhere for aid.

Fortunately, the Flaming Faggot is one of the best places anywhere in Faedun to meet dangerous men in need of coin and unafraid of getting their blades wet.  The trouble was that Jin, wisely, wanted to be certain of from whom they would wet their blades and take their coin.  He approached the lovely half-elven bar-maid Rhiannon and explained his plight, asking her opinion about trustworthy patrons he might hire.  The Flaming Faggot's resident minstrel, Euan Carvel overheard and immediately volunteered to accompany Jin, in hopes of chronicling an epic tale and making his reputation.  It was clear that he was also trying to impress the lovely Rhiannon with his bravery.  Next, he approached a lone Caemric ranger sipping ale and sitting quietly by the fire.  The ranger, named Daffyd, was uninterested until Jin showed him the cloak embroidered with the eye of Balor, and then agreed to go to Gogledd Keep and investigate the situation.  Last, a taciturn and sullen dwarf in threadbare garments but carrying a sharp-edged great axe was offered a share of great treasure in exchange for his services.  The dwarf, Garyn, agreed provided that Jin give him ten gold coins with which Garyn could get his armour out of hock at McTavish's Trading Post.

Early the next morning Jin and Caitlin met the three hired men in the common room and set out immediately for Gogledd Keep.  Upon entering the courtyard they were caught in a crossfire of crossbow bolts from firing points within the keep.  They made quickly for the stairs into the keep's great hall only to be confronted by a rank of crossbowmen with weapons at the ready.  Miraculously, the volley of bolts all missed their targets, and the rescuers charged their ambushers.  The fight was long and bloody, and both Caitlin and Daffyd fell, injured, before the guards were overcome.

Meanwhile, back in their cells Theon and Bvar were yelling and kicking at the door and creating as much ruckus as possibly until, after repeated warnings to "shut it," the guard opened Theon's cell to deliver a much-deserved beating.  Theon immediately attempted to command the guard but was unable to dominate the strong-willed guard, and received a spear butt in the stomach for his troubles.  The guard continued to chastise the prisoner, raining blows upon him but, finally, Theon was able to come to grips with the guard and wrest the spear away from him.  The acolyte of Lir was finally able to slay the guard and free Bvar from his cell, just as Jin and the hired men from the Faggot arrived.

Taking the body of the slain guard below to the crypts, Theon gave it as a peace offering to the ghouls that dwealt within and negotiated with them for their aid in destroying Malash and driving him from the keep.  The four ghouls agreed to the proposal, having no love of the humans that had invaded their demesne.

The now large band assaulted the chambers held by Malash and his few remaining men.  Though weak in numbers, having killed so many guards, this was no easy fight as Malash's black armoured lieutenant proved to be a skilled and implacable warrior, while Malash called upon the dark majesty of Balor of divine aid.  After a lengthy fight the last of Malash's guards and, finally, his dread lieutenant fell and Malash, sensing the futility of continuing against overwhelming odds with his magic nearly depleted, called upon his dark god one last time to cloak the area in eldritch darkness and fled the dungeon after vowing revenge for thwarting the Master's plans.

The party lost no time in ransacking Malash's private chamber, which was opulently furnished and found a diamond-studded platinum necklace set with a large, rare fire opal that is certain to fetch a small fortune.  Even with having to give equal shares to Daffyd, Euan, and Garyn, every one is certain to be financially well-set for the near future.

On the return to the Faggot, Euan regaled the party with some of the history of the ancient Gogledd Keep, which figured prominently in the last stand of Gwyddno, High King of Llanvirnesse during the De Danann Wars and recited the lay known as The Last Ride of Gwyddno:

With honour they rode forth to battle,
following the course of Ildanach
to the ford of Gogledd Keep.

In the hills of Cyveni the foemen are spied;
the war cry is raised,
into battle they ride.

Gwyddno is stricken, pierced is his shield;
speared is the warlord
to fall on the field.

His guard rallied 'round to defend their liege-lord,
but valour means naught
to a blood-maddened horde.

At last all was silent on a field stained red
save the cawing of ravens
come to feast on the dead.

A cairn of boulders was raised on his mound;
the king laid to rest with his scepter and crown.

With honour they rode forth to battle,
following the course of Ildanach
to sleep forever more.

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