Week 25 – The Year Turns

It was straight into organising for the ennoblement ceremony and the Winter Festival. The open area down by the new pier had been selected to host the ceremony, although it had also been used for the executions and needed a bit of a clean up before hand. Slowly a large awning was built with a small dais underneath it, Rudy and the nobles would be under the awning and the public would be invited to watch. Right around the outside would be all the traders and vendors selling seasonal snacks and drinks. There was a big chair (although not quite a throne) for Rudy, with chairs for the other Charter Lords arranged behind. First Oleg and Svetlana, Chief Sootscale and Larran were given noble titles, then Keston, Lonny, Mikmek and Nug were given chivalric titles within the order. Then there was a formal party – first of all around the Quayside, then back to Rulers Roost for all the new nobles and the elite of Newhaven. Then it was a series of parties and celebrations right to way up until after the New Year festival.

However, the managed to discover that Jhod (the high priest) knew the people who were building at Tatzleford and that the woman was a cleric of Erastil and (as Erastil is a traditional deity who thinks women should support their men folks) that is a rarity in its own right. There were some minor disputes between Narthrople's gnomes and Sootscale's kobolds – but no one was seriously hurt. But when they compared maps with Narthrople, to show him the location of the Dwarven stronghold (where the Trolls had been holed up), they spotted a Barbarian Cairn marked on his map they weren't aware of.

So the first trip in the new year was a journey up the river Skunk by boat. They broke their journey at Tatzleford, to see what was actually happening there, and found a simple fort that served as home for the settlers. But everything was very basic and slow, very countrified, with everyone following the simplistic life style that Erastil would approve of. Then further up the river for a wallow in the hot springs at the source and to enjoy the sensation of bathing in the warm water while there were snow flurries in the air. They enjoyed it so much the decided to build a spa village here later in their reign. The Barbarian Cairn was a bit of a let down though - just a large pile of stones inside a big blackberry patch - which they decided to leave as it was - except to put a statue of a barbarian up next to it. Although that was probably just Rudy trying to get the Horcroft Sculptor away from Lily.

On the way back they stopped off at the Boggard's lair, and with the help of language spells managed to have a more serious conversation with him. Only to discover that he had tried to start a (failed) revolution among the Boggards of the Slough area, but had managed to escape execution due to his guards finding a bottle of bog whisky – and then smashing his left hand up enough to escape from the rope holding him. They also discovered that the Boggards raid the trading vessels up that travel up and down through the slough. Maybe that was the reason that particular trade route had proved so troublesome over the last few years.

Then back to Horcroft to prepare for a visit to Candlemere Island. They knew there was some sort of fear aura, they knew there were Will-o-Wisps and they knew primordial Chaos was involved. So, just for a change, they prepared themselves for the challenge ahead. Robert memorised spells to protect from Chaos while Cassandra built a wand of magic missile - because she knew that was one of the few spells that affected Will-o-Wisps. And it all went to plan - once they got to the island they made it all the way up to the tower without feeling any fear or discomfort, and were not bothered by any Will-o-Wisps at all - although they did manage to take a few pot shot’s at one which appeared briefly.

They made their way carefully inside the tower, only to spot a few ‘stones’ that seemed to be scuttling across the ground. They investigated, only to find they weren't really stones, more like bone fragments, and that were rushing to form into a pair of skeletons right before their eyes. It was even more surprising when one paralysed Larran in the first round of combat while the other started throwing spells at Cassandra! However, the party prevailed and soon the bones were scattered around the area again. Then Rudy decided to amuse himself by drawing beard and moustache on the paralysed Larran's face - he found it highly amusing until Larran started to stir …

At which point Rudy bolted, and used his slippers of climbing to run up to the safety of a wall top. However, that took Rudy outside of the Circle of Protection from Chaos that Roberts had so carefully constructed – and two Will-o-Wisps suddenly appeared next to him. To cut a long story short, Rudy started to feel afraid, and then very afraid which combined with shock attacks saw the Baronial Bard running for the shore and the safety provided by Helga and the crew.

Interestingly, Cassandra cast Glitterdust on Rudy, hoping that the Will-o-Wisps would get caught in the area of effect - unfortunately none were. However, Rudy was blinded and fell to the ground – then crawled much of the way back to the boat. Once they knew he was safe, the party went back to exploring the ruined tower – and found a magical dagger hidden under the rocks. Only to discover that it was Chaotically aligned and had some limited Human bane properties. Robert wanted to destroy it, but Larran has finished up owning it. Robert wasn't best pleased.

Robert worked out that there was spell that would lift the Aura of Unease, but he would have to wait for a while before he could cast it. Then Cassandra declared that she wanted the island as her home once it was safe. She thought it would a good place to watch the stars from. Back at the boat, they discovered a frightened Rudy being comforted by Helga …..

Back to Horcroft, to find the town had been attacked by a giant armoured Owlbear. It have pushed over part of the new city wall, smashed down some of the tenement building by the Inn and then dug up a chunk of the new quayside. And there were dead workers and guards as well. The trail left town along the side of the lake – and leaving the town in the hands of Charles and Keston they set off in pursuit. There was damage all the way along its path – minor damage to farms, Riksferry had been pushed underwater and even the Old Arvon's hut at Gurdinford had been stove in. And somehow, in all of the carnage, Tig had managed to break his leg. It didn't take long for Robert to set the bone and fashion a splint – and a Cure Light Wounds spell started the healing process - so the lad won’t be in pain and will heal properly - but he will be slowed up a bit for the next couple of weeks or so ….

The giant Owlbear went across the ford and is heading south …

Another month gone – and a new year started.

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