Once more into the fray…
Much time has passed since the ‘Dreaded Eight’, as they became known, first banded together and delivered devastating blows to the forces of evil in far flung lands. Since that time, as the seasons ebb and flow, they drifted apart to pursue their own callings and needs. Their strong bonds of brotherhood secure as only shared battles and trials can produce. With these bonds came the understanding that if any member ever required aid then all that is needed is the call.
As it so happens, Jolly, residing happily in Marikest, is the first to sense a foreboding evil that requires a call to his band of brothers. Having sent the call, he awaits their arrival and begins to make arrangements. He knows soon his mighty hammer will once again flow with ale and blood.
Throp Steinhammer son of Broond
In a small village one weeks journey southeast of Marikest, Throp Steinhammer, a stalwart second generation dwarven paladin has continued his never ending quest to keep evil in check. As he is fond of saying, “Evil never takes a vaction,” so neither will he. He laughs to himself when he thinks of the things his other brothers might be doing, “Finding themselves, indeed. I suppose to each their own….” he mutters.
Soon after the group disbanded, word reached Throp that in the small fiefdom of Meadowbrook on the eastern shores of Orwall a bent local lord was exploiting innocents and dabbling in the slave trade. With the stench of unchecked evil in his nostrils Throp left straight away. A coward without his minions the local lord, a Lord Lyons by name, quickly fell to the righteous hand of Throp. As is his custom and duty for evil of this magnitude, he strung them up as a warning to others. At the moment the last trespasser was being hoisted into position a dispatched messenger arrives with the urgent plea from Jolly. Seeing this as a confirmation of his work being done here and a new call to more righteous duty, he let loose a dwarven shout, “Onward! To bring the fight to them!” Leaving Orwell behind, he made his way towards Marikest.
In the west, in a merchant caravan bound for the dwarven stronghold of Fardukr, Gideon the monk, one of the ‘Dreaded Eight’, traveled incognito to visit his dwarven family after much time away. His thoughts drifted to his upbringing in his adopted dwarven home. He reflected in fondness on the dwarven tendency towards an unwavering resolute single-mindedness. Although, he had to chuckle when he remembered those of the underworld kin, like Morgrym, that were also prone to living with wild and reckless abandon.
Reclining in the back of an open cart, Gideon rests on soft sacks of feed and tarpin. As the shade and trees pass lazily overhead, the caravan rattles slowly but surely west, his mind drifts to the seemingly contradictory peace he feels in the midst of the maelstrom of combat. He knows much of this is due to his training and gifting, but there must be something more to that—even as he is pondering this his thoughts are interrupted by a small hawk that dives down and comes to rest on the edge of the wagon. Sitting up, he unties the message tied to the hawk’s leg. With a knowing look the hawk takes to flight and is gone. Unraveling the note, Gideon sees a note with the telltale seal of Jolly Aleblood. With nary a hesitation, he swings silently to the ground. Leaving word with the merchant caravan to tell his family not to expect him he sets off immediately to Marikest.
Gurny of the Middlelands
In a dark corner of The Boiling Viper sits a man talking to a barmaid.
“You want to know about me?” The man in the long leather coat asked as he ran a hand across his scared scalp. “There’s really not much to tell to be honest.”
“I was born in the middle kingdoms. My father was the local blacksmith, my mother died giving birth to me. When I was young my father taught me his craft and we lived a simply happy life—until the raid.”
“The horde descended upon our village like darkness fills the night sky in winter,” he said as he stared at the fire, the clatter and din of battle suddenly all too real and close again. “My father was killed in the first wave. I picked up his hammer and swung it as hard as I could at the orc’s head.”
A rueful smile comes to the man’s face, “I know in the stories this is the part where I kill the foul beast with a single blow and go on to drive the orcs out of the village but that only happens in the stories.” Gurny notes a young boy enter the tavern in a hurry and scurry up to the bar across the room. The boy begins talking to the barkeep in hushed tones. The barkeep looks over at Gurny and gesture with his head, the young boy follows his eye line and spies Gurny.
Gurny continues his tale without taking his eyes off of the small boy, “My blow glanced off the orc’s skull, he back handed me, and gave me my first scar,” he points to the thick scar that goes all the way across his forehead, “knocked me out straight away. When I awoke, I was aboard a slave ship heading east. I had been sold to be a servant to a nobleman.”
“My time in the slave pits were amongst the darkest of my life. Fourteen years working in metal and learning the secrets of the eastern blacksmiths,” he motioned to his ‘staff’. “I stayed there until I was rescued by my fief-lord.”
“It was the dead of night when the slave cage door was wrenched off its hinges and there he stood, flaming sword in hand. I knew then that I would follow him until he decided that he no longer needed my service. That was a long time ago, but it is what brings me here today.”
“You be the Verdict bringer?” the young boy asked cautiously.
“Who wants to know?”
“I come in the service of Jolly Aleblood of Marikest.”
“Go ahead, boy. I am who you seek. State your business.’
“He asked me only to give you this.” He hands a small sealed letter, bows slightly, and makes a hasty retreat.
“Sorry, me-lady, I need some space for now, but may we pick up later where we left off.”
Once she retreats, he gives one more wary glance at the door. Opening the letter he breaks Jolly’s official seal. Leaving ample coins on the table, he grabs his travel bag and gear, nods to the barkeep, and heads for the back door.
In the far reaches of the ancient deep forests of Belden there is an infestation of green kobolds. Born into this chaotic clan of kobolds was an anomalous dragon-kin; Hödekin. Anomalous as he was born with intelligence and wisdom, not common traits among these evil creatures. These blessings, seen as a curse among his clan, caused constant friction and struggles for the young green one. Taken on training raids on the civilized lands surrounding the forest, Hödekin failed miserably to rise up to their standards of evil and destruction. He could not justify the senseless killing and bloodlust. No rhyme or reason to the attacks and devastation. More and more an outcast, he spent longer and longer time in the deep dark forest. The animals and trees his only true friends.
Eventually, a disease spread among the clan and the shaman ‘divined’ that Hödekin was to blame. Beaten and tortured he was left to die strung up between two trees at the edge of the forest. Although beaten and rejected by his clan, his darkest day was to became his brightest.
Gurny had been tracking a band of kobolds that had been attacking a local village. The trail led to the path that Hödekin was now strung up across. Silently Gurny steadied his aim. Getting his breathing into a steady predictable rhythm he waited for the slight breeze to subside. His finger slowly began to squeeze the trigger when his concentration was disrupted by a familiar tongue.
Gurny had never heard a kobold speak in an intelligent tongue. Not many have. Slowly letting pressure off the trigger, Gurny carefully makes his way to the side of the trail and into the forest. After silently and meticulously scouting the area, he determines that he is indeed alone with this one kobold, save only a lone serpent. Making his way up behind the tortured kobold, checking for traps, he presses the cold barrel of his gun against the back of Hödekin’s head.
“Give me one reason not to end you.”
The kobold, struggling against the risen blinding sun, breathes out a raspy reply, “It is a senseless waste to kill an innocent.”
“What makes you an innocent?”
“None of us are truly innocent, but I have done no wrong to you or your kin—thus my current state.”
Truly perplexed by an intelligent kobold and having a kinship with those wronged and caged, Gurny holsters his gun and draws out his dagger. Scanning the forest one more time for tricks and ambushes, Gurny slides around to face this enigma of a kobold. With the knife against the kobold’s neck he whispers, “Explain yourself.”
Hödekin shares his story and something inside of Gurny knows he’s telling the truth. He cuts him down and Hödekin eventually comes to be part of the Dreaded Eight.
Hödekin awoke with a start as the dream of his rescue all those years ago still echoed in his head. With the foolish hope that someday he can somehow lead his clan to a new day and a new way, he finds himself once again on the fringes of the deep forest of Belden.
An owl makes its way through the dark canopy to Hödekin’s hidden resting place high in an old oak tree. Lighting next to him, Hödekin grabs the note tethered to its leg as it flies away as quickly as it had arrived. The quiet and still peace of the ancient forest returns as he opens the note from Jolly. Reconciliation with his wayward clan will have to wait. His true and righteous family calls.
Morgrym of Rag or Grunfik or Durburmalk or one of a dozen other aliases.
Morgrym has always kept his true past to himself. In his line of work anonymity and doublespeak are a necessary trade skill. The only real constant in his past was that he always did what Morgrym does—get into trouble.
Uncharacteristic and unlike the majority of his kin; he cares little for nobility, law, or tradition. Morgrym does what he wants to do at any given moment, so long as it doesn’t hurt others (too much at least, like helping lighten a heavy coin purse or two for folks that would otherwise suffer possible lower back problems—now that he thinks back on it—they should be paying him for this helpful service.)
Banished for good from his dwarven homeland (no one but him is really sure which), Morgrym was selling his services as a mercenary to make some extra coin. After an unsuccessful dungeon crawl—a long bloody frustrating story—he vowed never to work with amateurs again!
Waking from a wonderful ale-induced stupor at The Arrogant Priest in Latterton by the rude jostling of some interloper. He grunts a slurred, “Argh, you fool!” and before he can stop himself his training kicks in and he leg sweeps the jostler. But quickly loses his balances and collapses partially on top of him while fumbling with his knife.
“Stay your blade, Morgrym I come to you on behalf of Jolly of Marikest!” the helpless jostler cries out.
“Well, why didn’t you say so, friend.” Awkwardly and slightly unsteady they both pick themselves up and right their chairs. The clatter and chatter of the tavern returns to normal as the other patrons return to their mead and food.
The messenger shakily hands the sealed note from Jolly to Morgrym and spins on his heels and heads towards the door muttering something derogatory about dwarves and their mothers under his breath.
“Ah, don’t go away mad, longshanks!” Morgrym chuckles to himself as he turns his attention to the letter.
“Well, I guess I’ll be going as well. And since my new friend has so kindly decided to pay for my ale, I’ll leave right away.” With that, Morgrym drops the small coin purse he lifted off the messenger while they were on the ground from his sleeve, counts out the exact amount—not a farthing more—and places it on the table and pockets the rest.
“Oh, to taste that ale that Jolly makes…oh, it makes all the travel but pleasant anticipation!” To no one in particular he shouts boisterously in dwarven, “Brace yourself, boys, Morgrym is coming your way!”
Edmos Delgall of Silver Hill
The bright sun swells over the silhouette of Brindinford filling the sky with the wondrous palette of the dawn. Its warmth brushes across Edmos’ face as he awakes. Next to him sleeps Lady Lenna, his beloved wife. He plants his bare feet onto the cool smoothed stone just outside the edge of the plush rug letting his muscles stretch from his deep slumber. He rises and steps to the small balcony overlooking the streets of Silverhill, the noble quarter of Brindinford. The sweet perfume of the morning dew swells in his nostrils as he gazes upon his home. Bustling commerce below clang and tap his ears. He smiles as he looks upon the gardens that surround his city residence, manicured with careful precision. He sees the walls of the Baron’s keep and the chiseled stone of the Manor House. It is a good day.
He turns and sees his small wooden desk in the corner and hanging from a peg is his most recent prized possession, the Stone of the Night Dwarf. Well, recent, as in months ago now, Edmos remembers. He closes his eyes and let’s swim his thoughts to those glorious days trudging through harsh terrains, deep caverns, and vast realms alongside a small band of brothers. He opens his eyes with a twinge of want to be back there again.
Then, he looks to his beautiful and peaceful wife, her noble skin soft and smooth, and remembers what drives his labors. He dresses as his Lenna stirs awake. She rises with her shear nightgown clinging to her curves and hugs her husband from behind.
“Good morrow, beloved,” she whispers softly hugging Edmos tight.
“Sweet dreams, my love?” Edmos asks with the same soft voice.
“Always, when you are at my side,” she smiles with those pouty lips.
A tap rattles the chamber door, a mousy voice speaks the thick oak door, “Good morrow, my lord, forgive my intrusion but I heard you stir. I hold an urgent message from afar.”
Edmos opens the door once Lenna covers with a robe. His butler, Jermane, bows his head as he holds out a sealed letter. The seal is one all too familiar. Lenna stretches her neck to see and knows immediately as well, “Jolly?”
Edmos looks to her knowing that her eyes swell with concern and opens it. Quickly, he reads and knows immediately what he is to do.
“My sweet, you have only been home a few months,” compels Lenna as she sees her husband’s eyes look on.
Edmos turns to her, smiling comfortingly, “He is a brother of arms, I must.”
She places her hand upon his cheek brushing his black locks aside, “I know your loyalty to your brothers, my love. I simply ask you to not forget your duty to your family.”
“My duty to my family is paramount in my thoughts when I venture out beyond the city walls, whether it is for the Baron or my brothers. It is the life I have chosen and the one that has chosen me, my love,” answers Edmos.
“I know,” she smiles melting Edmos’ heart, “I just needed to speak the words.”
It is not long in the morning before Edmos is ready to sit upon the spine of his steed, Drake, the horse’s black coat shimmering in the morning light. He tightens the last strap smiling back at his beloved Lady Lenna with his two sweet children hugging her hips.
His eldest, his daughter, Cypen, a 12 year old younger version of his wife with her curly ash brown hair and amethyst violet eyes, pierces his heart with fatherly pride. His youngest and only son, Eni, a red-haired, gray eyed 8 year old firecracker, salutes his cherished father. Edmos salutes back and lifts to Drake’s waiting saddle. Edmos turns the steed toward his new days of adventurer waving to his family as he kicks the trot to a gallop.
As he travels the roads toward his old friend, Jolly, he thinks of his family and why he chose this new path from his life of a soldier. He knows this is his destiny, for it is this path that will grant him grand glory some day. It is this path that will give his family more than even their noble hearts can desire. He does this not for himself, but for them. There is no doubt.
Talathel the Elven Wizard
Talathel the wizard hails from the West and travels the land yearning for the day that disparate races may live in peace. The folly and destruction of evil, man, and varied creatures seems like lunacy to the patient and optimistic young elf. For a hundred years he has sought to bring peace wherever he goes. Sometimes this takes diplomacy, sometimes it takes violence. Always preferring the former, but not one to shrink back from the latter, he takes each in stride so long as the ultimate goal is pursued. It was this lofty goal that first brought him to be part of what later became known to those who fear the cause of justice as the ‘Dreaded Eight”.
After their season of conquest came to an end, Talathel returned to the Middlelands in an attempt to bring peace to two warring factions. Diplomacy was the rule of the day, but things were quickly descending towards chaos and war, and Talathel could feel his time drawing to a close in this land. It was in this context that Jolly’s message came to him. Seeing it as a sign of confirmation, he gathered his things into his wagon, and with his ever faithful monkey companion he made his way east towards Marikest.