Lodivico was returned to his cell after yet another round of interrogations to find another prisoner sharing his cell. The prisoner gave his name as “Garth” and they made each other’s acquaintance. They also noticed some scribbling that a former prisoner had left on the wall. Shortly thereafter, Lodivico was removed to face his punishment. He was paraded to the stocks with an accompanying chorus of catcalls and boos. He was locked in, and his left ear nailed to the lower portion of the stocks. A guard makes a point of noting that the ragamuffins up front were from the orphanage that Lodivico had burned down. They had rocks. The guards stepped away, and a fusillade of stones and rotten vegetables rained down upon the miserable criminal.
When the crowd had tired of their sport, the guards opened the stocks. But the coward refused to tear himself free of the nail.
He stood there, a pitiful excuse of a man, for hours.
Tomas watched from the crowd. Eventually, he got bored and wandered off.
Archaelos eventually freed him, and whispered in his ear, “Leave. And don’t come back until you’ve redeemed yourself.”
A young nobleman named Garvin (who had previously referred to himself as Garth) made Lodivico’s acquaintance for a second time. They quickly reached an agreement to exploit each other. Garvin evidently wants a greater understanding of magic, but Lodivico’s motives are more uncertain.
The pair returned to The Green Dragon, where Lodivico managed to talk Robert Fitzbob out of clubbing him like a baby seal. (Mainly by trading on his companion’s noble status.) He was less successful mollifying Maude, and she lit into him until bodily restrained by Garvin. At which point, she appealed to Garvin to defend her honor. The scurrilous charges Lodivico made had become clear, so Garvin backhanded him. And Lodivico passed out from accumulated wounds.
Tomas returned, with information that a giant orc had been seen leaving town in haste, and on horseback, with Forstrang Beran of the Kingsguard two days prior. Evidently bound for distant Ceald, at the far corner of the kingdom, and not far distant from Yazzi’s tribal lands.
Lodivico came to, and healed himself. He tried to talk Robert into fronting him a loan. Robert reached for the club. Lodivico pled that he was leaving town for an extended period, but needed some help. Robert brightened at that, and gave him a small wheel of cheese.
The next morning, they left the city. And began a long walk of some 110 leagues (as the crow flies), which would take them over a month to make. Fortunately, roads are few, while inns and waystations are fairly frequent. A bard was a great enough novelty that Tomas being along kept the expenses minor, and generally assured the travelers of a place to sleep in the main room, often not too far from the fire.
For the most part, the trip was uneventful. Aside from some sightseeing, Garvin seeking his favorite garlic, and Lodivico being freaked out by a whore, the most interesting thing occurred on the night of the eighth day, when the party stopped in an isolated tavern hard by the Great Green Swamp as night was falling.
Despite being isolated, the tavern was fairly full, with a bard already in attendance. The bard challenged Tomas, and told a tale of impending evil. The crowd preferred Tomas, and his more uplifting story of a man becoming a God. The other bard left the tavern in disgust and foul temper. Lodivico followed him outside, but he’d already disappeared into the gathering mist and moss-shrouded trees. Lodivico decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and returned to the tavern.
The next morning, the party woke up in dew-covered blankets, surrounded by a few blackened timbers from a building that had burnt down in some time past, and very hungry.
It was the 8th of Tirianmonth when our footsore heroes reached Ceald. First frost is only weeks away, with snow expected in about a month-and-a-half. As they trudged up the hill to the town’s gate, they anticipated rest. Alas, it was not to be.
They entered the town and the public square. There they found a dead, emaciated orc hanging from a gibbet. Facing the corpse was a beautiful woman trapped in the stocks. She was obviously pregnant, her eyes were red from crying, and a sign proclaiming “orc-whore” hung from around her neck. Her skirt was hitched up around her waist, and it was evident that a number of the townsfolk had taken advantage of the situation. Tomas attempted to join their number, but was physically restrained by his travelling companions.
They went to find the town’s Justicar Sir Winfred, Garvin’s brother-in-law. Sir Winfred welcomed them, but when was asked about the whereabouts of Forstrag Beran and the orc accompanying, he balked. He said he had some information, but insisted that they do something for him before he would share it. They agreed.
He referenced the sad scene that they’d just passed, and told the story of a young woman and orc who had fallen in love and were secretly married. This was, of course, illegal, but Sir Winfred had a fair amount of leeway in applying the law. He accepted the orc’s vow of allegiance, levied a fine, and gave them an extended period of time to pay it, expecting this to be the end of it. But it wasn’t. The community was not willing to accept the situation. No one would trade with the young couple. They were unable to pay the fine. It’s likely the only food they had, was what they were able to steal. In the end, Sir Winfred claimed, he had no choice but to accede to the demands of the townsfolk. His charge to the party, was to take the young woman to a place of safety. He also warned them that she would find no warmer welcome among the orcs than she would among the townsfolk, indeed, it would be worse.
They accepted. Garvin recalled Skeldergate Convent as being not terribly far away, and they figured it as their best bet. They removed her from the stocks. She was dazed, barely aware of what was going on around her. They tried to take her to an inn, planning on setting out first thing in the morning, but were refused service because of her. They decided to try a temple instead, but noticed a mob gathering, and heeded Lodivico’s advice to get out of town as quickly as possible.
Garvin returned to the town for dinner with his sister Anne and brother-in-law. They encouraged him to make something of himself, stressing the importance of gaining martial prowess and land. He seemed less than enthralled with the advice.
Garvin rejoined the party, and they made a cold camp out on the moor. During his watch, Lodivico saw the light of fire above the town walls off in the distance. Shortly thereafter, he heard horses moving quickly down the road, towards the village they’d passed through earlier that day. After they were gone, he woke everyone up. The girl began to scream upon being touched. Tomas held his hand over her mouth to quiet her. She thrashed and tried to escape, but it worked, after a fashion. She regressed into catatonia fairly quickly. They decided to travel by night. Lodivico used levitation to bring the girl along.
They approached the village as the sun came up. They saw black birds spiraling overhead. The villagers were dead, except for (maybe) a few kidnapped young girls. They looted the village for valuables and food that had been overlooked, and found a place to sleep until dark.
They traveled all night, and reached the convent just before dawn. They waited until they saw some sign of life behind the walls, which wound up being the morning opening of the gates. They were greeted with silence, and directed to the temple. Tomas elected to stay outside. They opened up the doors, and much to their surprise, found Yazzi. He gave them rib-crushing hugs, was amazed they’d traveled so far to find him, but has not yet shared any stories he might have. They talked to the Mother Superior about the girl. She instructed a couple of her followers to take the girl “into the inner sanctum, and see that she learns to know peace”. That a priestess of a death-god would say something like that might ordinarily be a cause for concern, but Gavin and Lodivico were already obsessing over a magical black sword laying on the altar. They asked the Mother Superior about it, but she told them that if they didn’t already know, it wasn’t their concern. She warned them not to touch it. Lodivico cast an “analyze magic” spell. The Mother Superior seemed amused by this. He learned that it was bound tightly with the cords of fate, but little else. They left the temple, and Yazzi greeted Tomas with another rib-crushing hug.
It’s the 10th of Tinianmonth, about an hour after dawn. Three of the adventurers are drop-dead tired.