The Siege continues! As Goodmonth passes into Harvester, the scorching, oppressive weather of high summer continues and the people of Chendl struggle on. The crash of mangonel stones striking the walls has become more or less a constant, hammering home the despair that threatens to steal the heart’s of the capital’s brave defenders. As a result of the Darknight Disaster and the loss of much of his bodyguard, the King issued a decree that has caused waves in his court. The Band of Seven Songs would hence forth share protection duties for the King along with Sir Hadric Silverlance and his men, who have been reassigned to securing an outer cordon around their lord. The distinguished knight is known to be deeply (but quietly) offended that a group consisting mostly of commoners has been promoted to his level. Court wits have been having a field day with the development.
Zonkle Knacklesack, Chief Magical Advisor for All Matters Illusory has become the King’s closest confidante and rarely leaves Belvor’s side. Ranton the Vengeful and his Shield Lander exiles provide a bodyguard for the two wherever they go, bolstered by the tireless alertness of Cae Crystalbow and the wiles of Rendar Redaxe. The newly promoted sergeant Avras of the Household Regiment acts as liaison with Sir Hadric and the other knights as they concentrate their efforts on securing the outer palace, doing his best to smooth ruffled feathers. The noted priestess Mercion and her redoubtable friend, the halfling Figgen have joined forces with the Band of Seven Songs while the third of their party, the famed mage Ringlerun, has left for distant Keoland on the King’s business.
All of this is, of course, a clever ruse fashioned by Zonkle, Ringlerun and the King. Belvor has left the capital altogether in the company of Ringlerun. They joined much of his personal guard who were smuggled out by the old mage after Darknight. Having rendezvoused at a manor near the edge of Fairwain lands and all have taken a desperate journey to seek aid from Baron Jemian at Worlende and Viscount Luther at Brancast. In Chendl only Sir Harry, General Gallantren, Lord Priest Garaeth and the Chamber of Four have been made aware of the ruse. Even Sir Derryian and Gagor Hadush, absent when the Simulacrum was cast, were left in the dark although Sir Harry gave Zonkle discretion to allow trusted people knowledge of the secret.
Over the following three weeks Zonkle gently steered the exuberant faux-Belvor through numerous faux-pas. The simulacrum, while in possession of most of Belvor’s memories, did not have the emotional content associated with them and so appeared to be the King of old, known for his carefree and sporting manner. Indeed, not a few court wits have commented that the King seems to have found a new steel in the fires of the siege- or that it has unhinged him completely. The faux-Belvor makes frequent public appearances to bolster morale but never seems to get too close to any of his subjects (lest they notice the coolness of his skin).
In the meanwhile, Derryian and Hadush have grown suspicious of the party but have remained out of the loop. Sir Derryian has continued his defacto leadership role on the northwest wall as Sir Alexander Quentish slips further into melancholy. His rapport with his Shield Lander militia has increased, and Mortimo Marek and the Emridy Armsmen have worked hard to integrate the newcomers into the fold. Gagor has spent much time outside the walls, infiltrating enemy ranks to gather information, sabotage the mangonels and assassinate as many chieftains and officers as possible. His efforts have led to a paranoid effort by the enemy to secure their siege weapons, drawing large numbers away from another possible assault on the walls.
But still, it is only a matter of time. High Priest Patch and Archmage Ormuz are on their way with their own troops and the city surely cannot hold without reinforcements.
However, aid has arrived from an unexpected quarter. Terevas Sevensong, known in some circles as Terevas Earthshaker, has been missing for the better part of a year and completely unaware of the chaos that has ensued without him. His search for his friend Rach took him high into the rugged mountains of the Clatspurs and into great peril. Although he has related little about his journeys he has returned with Rach in human guise, a copper wyrmling in his charge and sporting the iron ring of a gnome friend. He related that he had just teleported to Crockport, expecting to meet the wizard Ralston, return the boots of teleportation and collect his own possessions before setting out to rejoin the Band of Seven Songs. There he found the old wizard’s tower in rubble and the city overrun by orcs, undead and demons! Wisely deciding to flee as numerous enemies took note of his presence Terevas struck out for the nearest place that came to mind- Chendl.
The appearance of the inhuman sorcerer on the Field of Triumph created a panic of it’s own. After the horrors of Darknight, the defenders of the city had been given standing orders to charge anyone sinister that appeared out of thin air! Some quick thinking on the part of Terevas led to him casting a Voice of the Dragon spell and luckily for him, an ally was within earshot. Sir Derryian forestalled the imminent attack long enough to establish Terevas bona fides and the childhood friends, guardedly reunited, headed to the palace to confer with the rest of the Band. The welcome was somewhat spoiled, with Hadush’ rudeness towards the “servant boy” almost earning the wrath of Rach.
As the young dragon’s spittle sizzled on the floor, Terevas related some of his tale adding that they had made an enemy of a powerful red dragon known as Farflame whom had made the destruction of Rach’s bloodline his obsession. Farflame seemed to know wherever Rach was whenever the copper was forced to resume his natural form and had indicated that he would seek the younger dragon wherever he went. Therefore it was only a matter of time before Farflame became a problem for Chendl as well. At this point someone commented that the palace did, in fact, have rooms that were warded against scrying or any other kind of detection magic. The faux-King added that if Terevas was willing to make the protection of Chendl his problem for now, then he would see to it that Chendl would make the protection of Tervas and his kin against Farflame a priority when the siege was broken. Gratefully Rach agreed to retire to the shielded rooms as his Karmichael form had only a few hours left.
Suddenly a servant was found eavesdropping on the conversation. The party swiftly captured the boy, who was frightened into near catatonia by the presence of Ranton. His second, Hangman Holmer, used his facility with ropes to bind the boy and the interrogation began. The rather groggy young lad Gil said that he worked in the kitchens and mindlessly repeated an order in a high pitched, girlish voice telling him to “hide, listen, return and report”. Obviously the servant was under the power of some sort of compulsion and utterly without fault, but perhaps he could lead to the capture of the Old One’s spy in the palace! Clearly woever was responsible for the leak in the palace was using the largely ignored servants as their unwitting agents. Young Gil was released under a new compulsion to return and report nothing of his capture, while Terevas followed at a close distance in search of a “snack” and Ranton, Rendar, Derryian and Figgen took a more casual pace.
Gil did indeed return to the kitchen, where Terevas saw the servant boy report to none other than an equally dazed Dair Mooncaller, the young halfling cook whom had served many a fine meal to the Band on the road. The sorcerer hailed Dair and abruptly the spell was broken and the halfling was overjoyed to see a friend thought lost. Seeming to come back to himself, he asked Terevas if he had seen Dair’s good friend Dallia Thistledown, a fellow lightfoot. Apparently Dallia had been a travelling cook and bard in her youth and had settled in Chendl three years ago to accept a position as the Royal Chef. Terevas’ keen elven ears also heard further orders being given in the same girlish voice behind the closed pantry door. Abruptly the door opened and a young, strong woman stepped out with a similar glazed look and, to the amazement of the other servants in the kitchen, started trying to club the half-elf with a rolling pin. A chuckle issued from the pantry as the spy within moved to escape.
Doing his best to avoid the blows of the wench without harming her, Terevas shouted a warning to Rendar, Derryian, Figgen and Ranton as they entered the room. Ranton bellowed at the servants to block the exits but they instead fled from the unfamiliar, menacing warrior in a blind panic. Dair ducked for cover as Figgen went to Terevas’ aid and Rendar sought out the tell-tale signs of an invisible foe. Thinking quickly Terevas reached into the pantry, grabbed a tun of flour, hurled it into the kitchen and let loose with his patented “Hey!” spell. The tun exploded and flour covered the whole room, outlining a small form making for the nearest exit.
Rendar set out after the spy, only to be waylaid by a spell. “Ensure my escape and kill your friends”, she whispered, and Rendar felt powerless to resist. At first he ignored Ranton and looked for Terevas, Derryian or Dair but when the big warrior pushed past the ranger in pursuit of the receding cloud of flour Rendar was compelled to act, dealing the Shield Lander a horrid blow to the side. At a disadvantage and with the spy escaping, Ranton thought better of tackling Rendar and rushed off after Dallia. Derryian engaged the ranger and tried to reason with him, only to receive a blow from the Axe of Gella himself as Terevas dodged past with supernal speed.
With the two old friends in a deadly standoff, the sword Ansanther took a direct hand in events. Calling upon her Holy Avenger powers, she dispelled the enchantment and freed the Ranger’s mind. With redoubled fury Rendar took chase after Dallia as Derryian was quickly left behind. With Ranton screaming at guards in the courtyard to “stop that cloud!” the spy was quickly surrounded by Household regiment guards and Sir Hadric’s knights. One sergeant in particular distinguished himself, continually disrupting Dallia’s attempts to escape via dimension door spells. Now visible, the sweet eldlerly halfling was struck several times and it swiftly became clear that she was something other than a simple bard. Born down under many strikes, she let loose with a last horrid, shrill pronouncement, “My Lord comes! Your city will fall, and be scoured from the Oerth!”
As the Band of Seven Songs and their allies looked on, Dallia Thistledown rapidly fell to rot. Cae carefully picked out a ring and what appeared to be various spell components hidden in her apron. They were left to ponder the last, dread words of the creature and speculated that perhaps she was some strange variant of a lich. The King resolved that her quarters must be searched, and the party left the remains under the care of Sir Hedric Silverlance, his knights and the brave sergeant whom had played such a decisive hand, now identified as one Owen Gwynn.
Will the quarters of Dallia Thistledown reveal the extent of her treachery? Can the city hold out long enough for reinforcements to arrive? And what menace does the red dragon Farflame pose to the Band of Seven Songs?
Find out next week!