The Deck of Many Things, book 2 p. 5
Wjizzo’s ancient ivory card named “Ruin” comes from a larger deck. There’s certainly a strange power in the card, and the magic of the Deck is surely greater than the magic of the individual cards.
Priest of the Eye, book 2 p. 6
Quoth Grundelmar in Fallcrest to Fosden: “Years ago, adventurers destroyed a cult of the Elder Elemental Eye but the leader, Vadin Cartwight, escaped. Well, the Sun Lord has spoken in my dreams to let me know that Cartwright is still a danger. He is dabbling with forces beyond mortal understanding that could be disastrous, and must be sought among the dead in old Gardmore Abbey.”
Quoth Pelor Sun-father: “The Temple is too high above you few.”
Peace with the Fey, book 2 p. 9
Lord Padraig of Winterhaven said: “Thanks for scouting the Abbey. Here’s 600 gp.
“The fey you describe living in these woods might be useful allies against the orcs and the best way to stop the raids. Find their leader and make peace with them, securing their cooperation.”
He had his scrivener draw up a document recognising Velfarren’s claim to the Feygrove, to be given to the Elf-knight if his claim is proven.
Establish a Claim, book 2 p. 13
The High Elf knight, Sir Berrian Velfarren, said: “My father had a hand in the establishment of this grove, and your Lord Padraig will recognise our rightful claim here if the proof of it can be demonstrated.”
Tower of the Archmage, book 2 p. 5
Valthrun told you there is a tower in the village below the abbey, which he believes to be the location of The Winterbole Codex, a tome bound in white dragon scales, which he would very much like to get to read.
‘Icon Relationship’ Benefits pending
Cram, Hero of the Spirits: A benefit with strings attached
Wjizzo, ___________________ : A clear benefit
Eric Bloodhammer, Conflicted of Bahamut: A clear benefit and a benefit with strings attached.
A Return to Winterhaven
Fosden on foot led his winded steed back to Winterhaven, and was reunited with Elana Lee-Chearda in Wrafton’s Inn.
Cram, Eric and Wjizzo arrived just half a watch later.
Elana intercepted Wjizzo at the door and guided him away for a private conversation.
“Something about those damned cards, no doubt,” grumbled Cram.
But Fosden said Elana had told him she needed to speak with Wjizzo alone regarding a wizardess who had recently been here in Winterhaven. Lenna, a student of Nimozaran the Green in Fallcrest and a confidante of Wjizzo’s in his researches into the Deck of Many Things, had joined with Tam and her companions: the dwarf with Tiamat’s emblem on his paunce-plate, the half orc barbarian and possibly a fifth of whom Elana could learn nothing. Tam’s Band of adventurers had left Winterhaven two days earlier, boasting that they would walk right into the ruins of Gardmore Abbey, even if the place was the lair of an orcish warband.
“But I notice you’re admiring my gauntlet…” said Fosden with a note of pride. “I rode hard, following the directions I received in a ray of sunlight from Pelor himself, until I gained a remote Chapel guarded by the Holy Order of the Returning Dawn. After many lifetimes of service, this order now included just one remaining elderly priest and the acolyte who must succeed him. They told me that my arrival fulfilled a prophecy and the priest offered up The Golden Gauntlet, the keeping of which had been their sacred charge.”
“Fill it with beer!” roared Eric Bloodhammer. “Let’s christen it. Hold on, I’m getting a strange waking vision… Cram, the gods are telling me it’s your round!”
Elana and brow-furrowed Wjizzo joined them at their table.
“I have further news,” said Elana. “A Bahamut paladin named ‘Sir Oakley’ is expected here in Winterhaven in the next few days.”
“Ahem. The name’s Walter!” exclaimed Eric abruptly. " I never heard of that ex-paladin ‘Eric Bloodhammer’ in my life, unless he’s my long lost twin, the one who still has both his eyes… Yes that’s it, I’m not him, I’m his twin brother."
Elana continued, “Having spent some weeks here in the Nentir Vale researching the history of Gardmore Abbey, Sir Oakley will be coming to Winterhaven before venturing into the ruin seeking to reconsecrate it to the Platinum Dragon. Perhaps if you can join forces with him you will have the strength to assail the Temple on the Mount.” This was met with sober nods from all but ‘Walter’.
Cram turned to him and asked, “What did you do, to get yourself black-balled out of the Paladins?”
“Nothing! I chose to leave of my own accord. I was getting all the rubbish chores, dishmaid’s hands and all that, and felt it was time to make a break. Or Eric did — I expect, since I don’t know him.”
“Hmm. Maybe I do begin to see why they did it.”
Having Scouted the Abbey for Lord Padraig
The group made their way Into the inner ward of Winterhaven, to the manorhouse of Lord Padraig. They indulged the scrawny-necked lad standing guard at the doorway when he bade them wait while he called for Lord Padraig’s butler, who very soon invited them to ascend to the Audience Hall. As they topped the stair to the first floor a man emerged from a connecting door with an elaborate twist of the hips to get his high-slung long duelling sword to clear the doorframe.
“Are you any good with that double-handed knitting needle?” quipped Cram.
Sizing up the barbarian’s fullblade that practically scraped the floor even in its shoulder-baldricked scabbard, the man replied diffidently, “There have been thothe who have found me tho. Good day to you.”
In his hall, Lord Padraig elaborated upon his plans more than on their first visit. He explained that they were his spearhead, but that he knew he needed greater strength in arms before he could do anything about so large a force of orcs, and was recruiting hireswords of every complexion in anticipation of the success of the spearhead mission.
He said he was glad to see that Fosden of the Cliffs had joined with the others as he had suggested, and enquired after the missing members of the group that had latterly set forth. They related the disappearance of Percival and the tragic death of Varris the Scarred, to which Lord Padraig responded with genuine concern.
“But we recruited a mercenary knight in their place, and completed the task you charged us with,” said Wjizzo.
“Yes, I’m a trained expert at reconnaissance. There were 157 orcs, 12 of them left-handed, and 3 with squints. And a giant of some sort. And a minotaur,” said Eric.
“Aren’t you forgetting something large and scaly?” added Cram.
“Yes,” said Wjizzo. “We also sighted a red dragon on the wing directly over the Abbey.”
“A dragon?!” exclaimed Lord Padraig. “In an orc camp? Come now, you try my credulity.”
“And gnolls, and land-sharks,” added Fosden. “The whole of Gardmore Abbey is a boiling pit of chaotic madness. But they’re not necessarily all working together, thank goodness.”
“You have my thanks for this information, and my commiserations for your losses. And I’ll make no bones about my earnest need for you to return to the Abbey. I hope this purse can convince you.” Padraig produced the sum of 600 gold, and charged them with a further request, “The fey you describe might be useful allies. Make peace with their leader and secure their cooperation.”
“That’s easily sorted — Ernest,” said Cram. “The nonce who was in charge said something about his father setting up the Abbey when it was founded, giving him a claim to the fey woods. If he’s allowed to call the woods his own, he won’t be against us.”
Padraig had his scrivener draw up a document in advance recognising Velfarren’s claim to the Feygrove, to be given to the Elf-knight if his claim proves justified. “If it is as you say, then the next requirement will be to establish a defensible fortified position I can use as a bridgehead for a move against the orcs.”
The group told Lord Padraig that if they were going back in there, they would need a covered wagon and a stout driver.
As he only required them to return to Berrian Velfarren the same way as they had left, he was initially reluctant about this. But they repeated Cram’s statement that they were confident of Velfarren’s cooperation, and they needed to push onwards into the orcish camp itself, like they believed another band of adventurers were doing. Given a lone wagon upon the King’s Road, they could expect a small attacking force to be despatched, which they could defeat, and then enter the orcish camp as mercenary recruits with a plundered wagon demonstrating their allegiance better than they could achieve with mere bravado.
Lord Padraig said he thought the watchtower at the southern limit of Gardmore village’s defensive wall would offer the best prospect for a base of operations against the orcs. But he was prepared to trust the judgment of those with the best sense of how the land lay. A wagon would be provided, and he would ask captain Kelfem (Rond Kelfem, leader of the Winterhaven Guard) if he might find a volunteer for such a mission.
A Night with the Spirits
Everyone returned to Wrafton’s, and many ales were sunk. Cram led the festivities, buying several rounds of a strong liquor brewed in the Winterbole Forest, called “Master Hunter”, to chase down everyone’s ales. In truth, Cram of the Thumpers was far more into the spirits than his companions.
That night, too drunk to pursue the affections of Elana or of the innkeeper Salvana Wrafton, Cram dreamt.
In a chaotic tumult, he ran through an endless forest of faerie delight. With his elven sword-brother, Varris, he stepped into an ancient ruin and relived the horror of Varris’ flesh melting before his very eyes.
High among the leaves of the trees he looked out over a landscape blighted by smoking fires, and saw ravens circling the spire of a tower. Varris would have seen omens in the flight of the ravens, said a voice he thought his own.
The ravens’ croaks echoed back to his ears as they ranged the whole sky as far as the eye could see beneath impossibly speeding clouds. But they never flew nigh to the garrison block nor alighted upon it.
And with a sourceless certainty he knew that the raven-spirits’ allegiance with the Raven Queen goddess of death gave them the wisdom to eschew an unholy deathlessness bound in that place by the power of the wizard whose tower had been their roost for generations.
In that tower The Land itself was in an anguish of magical forces gone awry. The tortured elements writhed and lashed, earth, wind and fire endlessly evoked by an undying wizardry but given no outlet by any guiding will.
Cram awoke the next morning with the sure sense that the spirits had charged him with putting an end to the rogue magic’s tyranny over the natural existence of the Land in that place.
The Battle of the Wagon
“Your chariot awaits,” the old boy said in greeting outside Wrafton’s Inn the following morning. “I’m Lonnow Grent, and if you need someone to drive a wagon, I reck’n it’s better an ol’ widower like me than me nephew or any of Rond Kelfem’s other young ’uns. I was a Winterhaven regular for 30 year, and even retired I still just about managed to squeeze into this.” He peeled back the collar of his shirt to reveal the dull glint of a serviceable mailshirt beneath.
The wagon he sat upon was a sorry affair, with woodworm-ridden timbers and a moth-eaten canvas awning over the back of it, but it was sufficient for their purposes.
The pair of broken-down nags in the traces drew them achingy slowly down the leagues of the King’s Road, till they passed into the Gardbury Downs in the late afternoon. Everyone assumed their stations concealed in the back of the wagon between the casks of ale that Wjizzo and Cram had conspired to bring along.
Though they saw no sign of any orcish scout as they peeked out of the convenient moth-holes, at sunset their plan came to fruition.
“Looks like this ain’t your lucky day, old man” called a growling orcish voice up ahead. Beit by luck or good judgment, the force that accosted the single wagon numbered only ten orcs, half of them hefting axes ready to throw from atop a low ridge on the left, and half sauntering with menacingly brandished weapons down the slope towards the wagon.
“Sweet Avandra!” exclaimed Lonnow in unfeigned terror and for a long drawn-out moment it seemed the orcs were willing him to abandon the wagon and flee back down the road. But his discipline held, and he dived through the canvas door-flaps into the back.
The scale-mailed orc leader laughed cruelly, his great stone maul staying at rest on his shoulder. “Lessee what this stupid frighty fuck’s brung us.”
Orcs moved down either side of the wagon, the pair on the right arriving first, one of them reaching out to pull the canvas awning aside…
At which Cram gave silent vent to his rage. He lent out of the back of the wagon, thrusting his fullblade past the first grunt to take the fiercer-looking orc at his shoulder right in the mouth. Ripping sideways despite the weight of the dead orc impaled on his blade, he brought its edge biting into the side of the first one’s neck. Eric forsook his hammer and reached out, hauling the two corpses bodily into the back of the wagon before they could hit the ground.
Fosden thrust his spear right out though the canvas in the direction of the leader’s voice, but his spearpoint met only air.
“You stab like a woman!” crowed the orc at the unseen attacker.
“Come and get it, boys. Line up!” came Eric Bloodhammer’s utterly unconvincing falsetto, followed by a deeper “Fuckit” as he leapt out of the wagon and brained the first of the orcs coming up the left side. “Next!”
The berserking Cram bulled his way right over Wjizzo and Lonnow to get to the front of the wagon and deliver another double-handed thrust through the canvas, stabbing another axe-wielding orc down.
A thrown axe missed him, and then the orcs joined battle. One swung a great spiked flail ineffectually at Eric, and another with an axe struck sparks from his plate armour. But the leader showed more skill with his stone maul, striking Cram almost in mid-air, battering him down off the front of the wagon to fall in the dust of the road. Another orc swung an axe down at him, but too slow to hit the barbarian who rolled out of its path.
Fosden stood forth on the driving-bench of the wagon with his golden gauntlet pointing right at the orcs’ leader. “Feel the Righteous Wrath of the Sun!” he cried, and brilliant spirits seared from his sun-medallion and his gauntlet into the orc who was driven screaming backwards.
Eric’s warhammer beat the flail-wielder about the shoulders and chest, though his victim had the strength to endure the assault.
Cram surged to his feet in a rising whirlwind spiral of berserk steel. The Fullblade of Krand sheared through both legs of the first orc, felling it instantly, across the belly of a second who howled his pain, and into the side of the sun-blinded leader’s helm. With a crunch of bone the helm tilted at an impossible angle, Cram swept a full circle and struck the belly-slashed orc a second blow in the shoulder. And behind him the corpse of the leader collapsed to the ground.
Even reeling from Cram’s double strike, the orc brought his spiked flail around to hit Cram glancingly in the face before lurching away along the side of the wagon to join his two remaining companions and bring the flail down on Eric’s stoutly-presented shield. Trusting to his armour, Eric shrugged off the attacks of the other two, sweeping his hammer out in a counter-attack that forced one of them back.
Leaping down from the driving-bench, Fosden called upon Pelor and shot a javelin of sunlight at the wounded orc, bringing him down.
Eric seized the moment and sank the spike of his hammer in the chest of a second and Cram hurtled into the breach with a mighty blow that battered the last one to his knees.
“Good god!” barked Eric at his companion’s sheer ferocity.
“Surrender and we let you live!” called Fosden.
The orc defied him by slipping one hand to his belt and flinging an ill-aimed axe in Fosden’s direction.
The priest of Pelor bore down upon him, forsaking his spear to strike a perfect uppercut with his golden gauntlet, knocking the orc back twenty feet to fall unconscious on the grassy bank.
And silence fell on the scene of bloodshed, broken only by heaving breaths as Cram regained his composure.