15 Coolwater to 26 Coolwater, 960 RM
15 Coolwater, 960 RM, evening, Golden
Lady Hawthorne arrived in Golden just as the sun was setting. She stopped the cart in front of Father Elthelred’s house and got out. The villagers slowly started gathering around the cart, their faces somber and grief stricken. Several men retrieved shovels and headed for the graveyard, while a few of the women and Father Elthelred took the bodies of Jeb and Jar Hostler into the church to prepare them for burial. Lady Hawthorne was struck by the air of fatalism that permeated the village.
The funeral was held early the next morning with Father Ethelred reading from “The Chronicles.” After the service the villagers returned to their homes, except for Ethelred. “How many more?” He asked Lady Hawthorne, not meeting her eyes. “None, if I have anything to do in the matter.” She promised. Lady Hawthorne then returned the horses the twins had taken when they fled the village, but the stable master did not meet her. She also left the cart with them.
Lady Hawthorne then spoke with Mayor Golden, who also did not meet her eyes. She explained that for whatever reason, a revenant had come to the village. They would be safe until the next new moon and she planned on returning to destroy it then. When the mayor asked her why this was happening, she explained what had happened to Flynn and that the current thought was that his spirit was the one haunting the village. The mayor would not believe that his son would have been involved in such an act and Lady Hawthorne was unable to convince him otherwise. Disappointed with the mayor’s attitude, she left the village after letting Father Elthelred know she would be back before the next new moon.
To: Baron Mathieu du Clef of Foxton; Captain Uriah Waggoner; Lady Isobelle Hawthorne
From: Lieutenant Niamh O’Derry, Epoptic Corp, Foxtown Draconian Unit
18 Coolwater, 960 RM
Subject: Natalie Sharp’s Escape
When I returned from patrol at dawn on 17 Coolwater, I was informed by Officer Jones that Natalie Sharp was not longer in her cell. He had checked on her three hours previously, but when he went to take her breakfast, he found her cell door open, the back door to the station opened, and on of our horses missing. I immediately sent Officer Silverstone and Trainee Jameson to the Foxton Gate to try to stop Natalie Sharp from leaving the Barony. I also sent Sargent Will and Officer Barechest to inform his Lordship of the situation. While Officer Jones studied the cell for any clues, I inquired of a contact in the Glooms to see if he would let me know if Miss Sharp had hidden herself in that part of town.
I then reported to Captain Waggoner, who suggested questioning the remaining contingent from the College of Cli as they would be the only possible friends she would have in the Barony. Officer Barechest and Officer Jones accompanied me. I first spoke with Prefect Francis who was overseeing the remaining three wizards, six swordarms, and twelve staff. Prefect Francis assured me that they would not hid Miss Sharp as her actions had brought shame on the college. Questioning the three wizards, Journymens Ryan Casey, Allen Ethel, and Morris Adams, I learned the same thing. Officer Jones also confirmed that the missing horse was not in the College of Cli’s stable nor had the stable boys seen anyone leave or arrive. Prefect Francis assured me they would let the Draconians know if they heard anything about Miss Sharp, Master Chaumer, or Billy the swordarm. I then dismissed Officer Barechest and Jones and made my report to Grey Haven.
Master Rake hypothesized that the most likely accomplices to Miss Sharp’s escape were Master Chaumer (less likely as he probably would not have the needed skills) or more likely Billy the swordarm. Although the motive for her release was questionable, except perhaps to silence her as her trial was scheduled for that afternoon. Master Rake wished to examine the cell and so we returned to headquarters. Both he and Officer Jones concluded that the locks on the cells were picked minutes after Office Jones had made his rounds. The lock pick was a master as they were able to open the locks in a few minutes. The horse had been saddled and loaded with supplies and waiting when they exited headquarters. Also, Miss Sharp’s personal belongings were still in the lockers. Master Rake suggested taking one of the items to Mistress Majaera to inquire if she could locate Miss Sharp.
Mistress Majaera was able to determine that Miss Sharp was indeed to the east, heading out of the Barony. Mistress Majaera transformed into a bird and flew toward the Foxton Gate to try to prevent Miss Sharp from leaving the Barony. Unfortunately she arrived at the gate just as the sun was setting and was able to determine that Miss Sharp had already left the Barony.
I take full responsibility for Miss Sharps escape and will await his Lordships and Captain Waggoner’s decision on what the next course of action shall be.
Lieutenant Niamh O’Derry, Epoptic Corp, Foxtown Draconian Unit
18 Coolwater, 960 RM, Gray Haven
Mister Gunn and Mistress Featherlight gather three trackers and head to Hill Rose to look for the Circle of Iron and the status of the chimeras.
Lady Hawthorne receives an invitation from Captain Waggoner to join him for lunch the next day.
18 Coolwater, evening, Derry Dale
Niamh returned to her home late. She had headed toward the Foxton Gate in an effort to recapture Natalie Sharp. When Wythri had told her Natalie had already left the Barony, she was torn as to continue the chase or return to Foxtown. She had reluctantly retuned and made her report. Exhausted, she collapsed into bed.
Niamh was running through the woods, tracking the escaped mage. She could smell the girl’s fear and she was enjoying this hunt. The fact that she was the one instilling such terror was exhilarating. As the girl ran, she tripped and fell down a ditch. Niamh pounced on the girl and tore her throat out, savoring the taste of hot blood on her lips. The girl tried to say something, but she died before the words reached Niamh’s ears.
Niamh woke in her garden. She was dressed, but barefoot. She was also covered in mud and was soaking wet.
19 Coolwater, 960 RM, Gray Haven
The applicants for the Baron’s Court Wizard gathered at Gray Haven after breakfast. They included Ryan Casey from the College of Cli, Allen Ethel from the College of Cli, Morris Adams also from the College of Cli, Rhonda Joslyn a mage from a town outside of Warford, and Hugo Eldamoth. Wythri refused to be considered, much to Baron du Clef and Lady Hawthorne’s disappointment.
Baron du Clef explained that he worked for the people of Foxton, and by extension the Court Wizard would also work for the people of Foxton. The qualifications Baron du Clef was looking for in his Court Wizard were knowledge of magic, the ability to defend Foxton, provide the Baron with sound advice, know Foxton and its people, maintain the dignity of the position, and be loyal to Foxton.
The first contest was to test the applicant’s magical knowledge and combat ability. Mistress Featherlight had set up her archery field before she left for such a test.
19 Coolwater, 960 RM, Hill Rose
Mister Gunn and Mistress Featherlight and their team arrived in the area of the village of Hill Rose and called on Dr Rothbury to see if he had any information on the Circle of Iron and Nikki. Dr Rothbury served his cookies and tea, but was unable to provide any information about the missing Monster Hunters. He had not seen the Circle of Iron since one of their members was killed and he had not had the pleasure of meeting Nikki. He also reported that activity from the chimeras had decreased.
After leaving Dr Rothbury’s estate, the group went to Hill Rose. They saw that the mayor’s house had been rebuilt, the destroyed barns repaired, and a new Yule Tree planted. There was a circle of stones around the tree with the names of those who had been killed by the chimera. Riley Morgan, the mayor, confirmed that the Circle of Iron had passed through the village at the first of the month, but had not been seen since then.
19 Coolwater, 960 RM, Foxtown
Lady Hawthorne reluctantly left Gray Haven to attend her lunch with Captain Waggoner. She arrived at the Garden Café in the High Quarter to find Captain Waggoner waiting for her. He had a chess board set up and ordered them lunch. “Since we will be continuing to work together, I thought we should get to know each other better,” he explained. “I’ve been in Foxtown for a little more than ten years. When I made Captain, I volunteered to come here to help protect Crow’s Head Mountain. Why did you come here?” he asked Lady Hawthorne, making the opening move of the chess game.
Isobelle thought for a moment, “I came here to mourn the loss of my husband.” She made her own move.
Captain Waggoner coached Isobelle on the tactics of the game as they played and Isobelle found herself relaxing enough to let him about the death of her son.
Captain Waggoner expressed his condolences for Isobelle’s loss. “Chess is the only vice I allow myself to indulge in,” he admitted, “However, there are few people in Foxton I can play against. When I was learning to play, my teacher told me that the game was a metaphor for life. Did you ever know what your end would be, Captain Hawthorne?”
“Once, when I was a minor lady at court, and a mother. That was all I wanted.”
“I was born the son of a wagon maker.” Captain Waggoner explained, “I thought I would die no more than a mile from where I was born, but the gods had other plans.” His move captured another one of Isobelle’s pieces. “However, I do not believe anyone is a pawn. As paladins, we are on duty at all times fighting evil.” He paused, realizing how his tone of voice must sound. “I apologize for lecturing; it’s become part of my job.” He moved another piece, “Checkmate. Perhaps we can meet again?”
“I would like that.” Isobelle admitted, “Perhaps next time I will be a better opponent.”
Lady Hawthorn returned to Gray Haven in time to catch the end of the day’s contest. Ryan Casey had done the best, followed by Rhonda Joslyn. Sage Eldamoth had unfortunately not done well. After the applicants had left, Baron du Clef asked Quion, Damien, and Lady Hawthorne to devise tests for the hopefuls.
22 Coolwater, 960 RM, Hill Rose
Mister Gunn and his group then headed deeper into the woods, attempting to track the Monster Hunters. Moving through the woods, they did not find any signs of the chimeras, but also no signs of any larger animals such as elk or bears.
Toward evening, Mister Gunn and his team heard a group approaching them. Hiding under cover, they saw a group approaching pulling a large cart. One of the trackers with Mister Gunn was spotted so introductions were made. The group with the cart was indeed the Circle of Iron. They had cleared the wood of several nests of the chimeras, but then came across other strange tracks. Following these, they encountered and killed a new type of monster. They showed Gunn and Featherlight the body in the cart. It was a large bear, larger than any bear the two foresters had ever seen. It also had tentacles instead of arms. One of the Circle of Iron thought that the creature might have trolls blood as the wounds they inflicted seemed to heal as they fought the monster. They were taking the body back to Gray Haven to show the Baron. When Gunn suggested they let Dr Rothbury take a look at the creature, the Circle of Iron refused. They disliked and did not trust the strange man. They also had not heard of Nikki.
24 Coolwater, 960 RM, evening, the Glooms
Damien had been having nightmares ever since the Festival had ended, but he had always woken feeling exhilarated. When he woke this evening, the window was open and he had a feeling there was someone in the room with him although the room was dark and he could not see anything. He remembered closing the window before going to bed.
“Hello?” Damien called out. “I know you’re in here.”
“Hello brother.” A raspy voice answered. “It’s been a long time. I am happy to see you are doing well.”
“No thanks to you.” Damien retorted. “What happened to the house?”
The raspy voice sighed, “I was younger then and foolish. We are all the family that is left. As to what happened to the house, a group of soldiers arrived. They did not understand what I was trying to achieve so they burned the house down.”
“So what are you doing here?” Damien asked, suspicious of his brother’s motives.
“Something drew me here, something in the hills, something old. Imagine my surprise to find you here, alive and well.” The laugh chilled Damien.
“You will let me know what you find?” Damien inquired.
“Of course. It would be nice to have you in the family business again.”
“The family business being raising things from the dead?” Damien scoffed. “Do you still have my finger?”
The raspy voice sighed, “Sadly no. I kept it close from many years, but it is gone. Keep yourself well brother, until we meet again.” There was the sound of flapping wings and the presence was gone. However, the room remained freezing cold, even after Damien closed the window.
26 Coolwater, 960 RM, morning, Gray Haven
Lady Hawthorne was preparing to drill her men when a guard called out from one of the towers that “something” was approaching from the east. Lady Hawthorne climbed the tower to see what the “something’ was. As the “something” drew nearer, they turned out to a swarm of large wasps with Nikki astride the leader. Lady Hawthorne ordered her guards not to fire as the swarm landed in the court yard. Nikki announced that she had acquired all the ingredients to complete the potions and demanded Quion’s help, those infected, and her payment. Lady Hawthorne asked Nikki what had been agreed on for her payment. Nikki asked how much it would cost to purchase a boat, one that sails on the ocean. Lady Hawthorne told Nikki that while the druidess prepared the potions and those that were infected were gathered, she would find the answer for her.
Quion entered the courtyard, curious to see what all the commotion was. Nikki ran over to him and gave him a passionate hug. “Did you miss me?” she asked. “I missed you.” Quion defected the questions by asking why Nikki needed his help. She told him she needed him to help her unload the ingredients and carry them up to his laboratory so she could prepare the potions.
Lady Hawthorne sent runners to Foxtown to request the Deadly Seven, Damien, and Niamh come to Gray Haven for the werewolf cure. She then talked to Baron du Clef who revealed that he owned several ships and would be willing to give Nikki one, if she succeeded in curing those cursed.
The Deadly Seven arrived a short time later, and Lady Hawthorne had to prevent them from attacking Nikki’s wasps. Nikki gave the potions to all of the monster hunters save Brandwyn, who assured everyone that she had gotten nowhere near the werewolves and Lady Hawthorne confirmed her story. Randall handled the potion the best, but poor Errol was violently sick after drinking the vile drew. Before the group returned to Foxtown, Brandwyn reminded Lady Hawthorne that they had not been paid for their assistance with the werewolves. Lady Hawthorne assured her that she would make sure their payment would be forthcoming.
The messengers sent to retrieve Damien and Niamh returned and informed Lady Hawthorne that both had refused to heed the summons stating they were both busy with other duties. Lady Hawthorne and Nikki discussed the situation and devised a plan. Nikki dismissed her wasps and left the courtyard as a whirlwind. Lady Hawthorne requested the use of the Baron’s office, the assistance of three guards, and the Baron’s help in sealing the door. Baron du Clef agreed, but only after Lady Hawthorne had made sure his furniture had been safely removed from his office. Lady Hawthorne then sent another message to Damien and Niamh requesting their attendance at an emergency meeting the Baron had called regarding the aftermath of the werewolf potions and the departure of Nikki. Grumbling, Damien and Niamh prepared to attend the meeting.
Arriving at Gray Haven, Damien and Niamh are escorted by Lady Hawthorne to the Baron’s office, and locked the door after she entered. When the two see Nikki sitting in the Baron’s chair, they realized they had been deceived. Lady Hawthorne explained that the potion was a test to see who would refuse to take it. Those who refused were the ones infected. Niamh and Damian reluctantly agreed to submit to the ritual Nikki would perform. Niamh agreed to go first, but became defiant when Nikki unexpectedly slashed her wrist and gathered the blood into a chalice. She gave Niamh some herbs to stop the bleeding. Niamh did not recognize the herbs and cursed when they burned as she placed them on her wound. Nikki started chanting, calling on the Druidic gods for their blessing and help in removing the curse. As the chanting continued, Niamh felt herself becoming tired, weak, and sick. Damien grew increasingly uncomfortable during the ceremony. The ritual lasted close to an hour culminating with Nikki’s hand transforming into a talon, which she plunged into Niamh’s chest. Niamh screamed in pain as Nikki pulled something out of the Draconian, something that struggled to remain in Niamh. Nikki prevailed and opened her hand to release black smoke. Niamh passed out, her face pale and covered with sweat, her hair matted, and her chest covered in blood. Lady Hawthorne took Niamh to the infirmary while Nikki repeated the ritual on Damien. When the ritual was completed, Damien was also taken to the infirmary and Nikki collapsed into the Baron’s chair. “Now where’s my payment?” she demanded. Lady Hawthorne smiled, “I believe you said that your payment would be to know how much a boat would cost to purchase.” Nikki glared at Lady Hawthorne, ready to take issue, but Lady Hawthorne continued. “Baron du Clef has already made arrangements and will discuss them with you now.” Baron du Clef escorted Nikki down the kitchen.
Lady Hawthorne went to Draconian Headquarters to let Captain Waggoner know Niamh would not be able to report for duty that evening, but encountered Lieutenant Tower instead. Lieutenant Tower was not pleased that Niamh would be missing her shift again. Lady Hawthorne assured him that Niamh was indeed sick and not shirking her duty. As Lady Hawthorne was leaving, she overheard Lieutenant Tower making a comment about “morning sickness.”
A few hours later Damien and Niamh woke, but they were still weak and sick. Quion also visited them to see how they were doing and offered to bring them chicken broth. At that moment there was a loud explosion, which signaled Nikki’s departure from the barony. Baron du Clef had given her the deed to one of his merchant ships which she had accepted as payment.
Master Gunn, Mistress Featherlight, and the Circle of Iron returned to Gray Haven with the remains of the new monster they had killed.