A few days after all of the Unchained were accepted by the Steelskull clan and made into honorable newots, an opportunity presented itself for all of them to attend a special gathering.
Each week, on the last day of the week, Sunday, all newots and townsfolk are essentially given the day off. The only exception to this concerned the warriors and skyraiders who are needed to patrol the skies and territories of the moot. Most use this time is used by the clan for recreation or socializing. After arriving home the evening before his much needed day off, the human scout Dremnin received a knock on the cabin door. It was Fafnir, the dwarven travelled scholar, calling at the home of the scout’s adopted troll family. Fafnir passed along a friendly greeting and then said, “My adopted clan brother, Stilicho Alaricson, would like to meet with you and the other Unchained for dinner tomorrow to help you all get better acclimated to the clan. He has been a great help to me so far, so I think it would be wise to go. He would like you to be at the home of his adopted family, the household of Rorik Steelskull, an hour before sunset. There we can all dine with Tago and Rorik Steelskull and some of his family, and then have some Skoad on the balcony. Will you attend this dinner, my friend?"
Dremnin was surprised at the invitation, as it was the first event of its kind, and would allow him to speak with others about their situation. “Thank you, Fafnir”, he responded with a smile, “I’d be pleased to attend, and will bring Hannah as well, if that is acceptable. It’ll be good for her to have the opportunity to expand her knowledge of our Troll captors along with the rest of us. Count us in.” The dwarf other had stops to make in extending invitations, so he quickly took his leave and departed.
The next day, Dremnin walked along with Hannah trailing behind him. Fafnir had told him where to seek the Troll’s home, and it was not difficult to follow the dwarf’s footsteps, as the music of his passing was clear to the scout. For the others, this might be hard to find…
As Dremnin and Hannah arrived at the Steelskull home, they were struck by the construction. Most of the dwellings of the trolls in the Twilight Peaks were stout structures made from thick cut stone. This home, however, was instead carved into a very cliff side. There was nothing to mark the entrance to the home, and if he hadn’t been a scout, he’d have had trouble. Except for having been told in detail by Fafnir exactly how to get to it, the rest of the Unchained would probably not have found it, or even noticed that a home existed here at all. Fafnir had indicated that the entrance was hard to see, and that it was along the cliff next to a small outcropping of trees. The door was open at the time as the two humans approached, which aided them in finding the entrance easily. The door, Dremnin noticed, was also made of thick stone and opened outward. It appeared to be made from the same stone as the cliff itself.
As they passed through the door, they were immediately greeted by Stilicho, the human warrior Dremnin recognized from the Truth Stone ceremony and the battle of the cliffs outside of Kaer Derin Kuyu. He greeted the scout with a handshake and a few words, saying, “Greetings Dremnin, I am Lord Stilicho Alaricson of Konigsberg. Here among the noble Stoneclaw people however, I am called Stilicho Alaricson Stoneclaw, just as you are now known as Dremnin Stoneclaw.” The scout had learned since arriving that once a name-giver is accepted into the clan as a newot, they earn another name, which is the moot name.
Dremnin took Stilicho’s outstretched hand in a firm handshake and said, “We thank you kindly for your invitation to come tonight. I’m just glad I was not still out on walk-about.” The scout turned to Hannah and said, “Stilicho, this is my daughter Hannah.” He nudged her up to meet Stilicho. While Hannah made her introduction to the human warrior, the scout thought for a moment about the new name, and decided he liked it, though he would earn his nickname someday as well. The warrior bent down to Hannah and said, “Welcome little one.” Stilicho smiled at her, then stepped aside and motioned for Dremnin and Hannah to enter through the doorway. Dremnin entered as he was bidden, again with Hannah behind him.
Both Dremnin and Hannah immediately realized that they were in a very large hall. This was a common setting for most troll dwellings, however in most troll dwellings, the main hall is also lived in by many of the occupants of the home. This hall, however, was not lived in, but was instead used simply for dining and gatherings. The ceiling was very high, perhaps 20 feet in total height. On either side of the room there was a large hearth, each of which had a small fire burning in them, making the room warm. What caught Dremnin’s eye the most was the trophies on the wall. He was immediately struck dumb by the vast array of trophies that fill the home… some of them incredibly impressive.
In almost every home that he’d been in since arriving at the Reach, he’d noticed that the trolls kept trophies hanging on their walls. They had been things like the hides of beasts killed during a hunt, trophies from the many contests held by the trolls, or battle-won weapons and armor, and even the heads of hated enemies. Here, though, the walls are literally lined with exotic trophies and items. The scout saw the huge tail of a Shadowmant, two skulls from giant snakes, and hanging from the ceiling were a set of leathery, bat-like wings that spanned the length of the room… they could only have been from a Horror. There was the giant skull of a Lightening Lizard, then over on the mantle there were many bricks with runes on them from the lost troll kingdom of Ustrect. He also saw a necklace of Griffin feathers, along with a medallion of house Merice, and an old Bloodlore moot symbol. Several name-giver skulls lay in a pile in one corner, and there was the skull of some sort of beast with multiple rows of teeth.
On the wall, Dremnin saw several inscribed wooden plaques, each with an item and an inscription. One had the inscription “Lorn’s Blade” below a giant two-handed crystal troll sword. Another plaque read “Darklight’s Head” set beneath a mounted human skull. Another mount held a long spear with a barbed tip, underneath of which a plaque which read; “Bran’s Spear”. Right next to it was a broadsword, underneath of which was a plaque which read “Jarl’s Sword”. There were several helmets, two of which were of elaborate design, which most likely meant they must have been from some powerful leader or warlord, both of which were of Theran make. Also there was another plaque with a human head that appeared to have been carved out of stone, under which the plaque read “Kragon Sovertal” . There was a wooden stand with a peg at the top, around which was wrapped a long coil of T’Skrang rope, maybe 100’ worth, with a grappling hook attached to the end. Under it were inscribed the words in Throalic; “May you never fall off another tower my friend! – Han Kray Zomay”.
Dremnin and Hannah gazed around at the myriad trophies around the room as they waited to be told what to do. After a few moments, the scout noticed Fafnir sitting next to the troll recognized as Honus. There are also a few non-troll name-givers in the room, two well-built humans and two dwarfs he did not recognize. They were all in deep conversation, something about Sky Point. The troll, Honus, appeared to be doing most of the talking in crude Throalic, and Fafnir was busy writing things down on a parchment. Stilicho beckoned you over to sit at the table. Where there was a large plate of food, mostly meats and cheeses in the middle of the table. There were also mugs of mead in front of each plate. The scout noted that in spite of troll dining custom of eating with only a knife, there appeared to be, thankfully, forks.
As Dremnin was about to sit down at the table, another figure appeared in the door. The scout recognized the figure as belonging to the one Theran who had been allowed to live. He entered the room hesitantly, his eyes blinking to adjust to the darker setting. Each of the Unchained gritted their teeth, as none of the heroes could say they were happy that he had been allowed to live. Dremnin can see that he was a big man, bigger than even Stilicho. He was muscular, built like a warrior, with long blonde hair that hung down loosely across his shoulders, and a short groomed beard on his face. Before anything could be said, Stilicho greeted him as he greeted the Unchained, and ushered him to the table. He sat down next to Dremnin, and nodded toward everyone, making eye contact with each of you with an almost fearful look on his face.
“Thank you all for accepting my invitation,” Stilicho’s voice boomed in the large hall after everyone was seated. “I invited you here today to better learn your various tales, and to help you adjust more readily to troll culture. First, however, introductions are in order. After that, we will eat, and then we shall retire to the balcony to talk more, and drink.” He smiled and pointed to himself, saying, “As I said before, I am Lord Stilicho Alaricson, Ealdorman of Konigsberg.”
He paused and surveyed the room… deftly ignoring a snort from a grinning Honus. “Like you, I was once a conquered soul, and I too was given the honor of joining this great clan as a newot.” He motioned toward the other two humans in the room, both of whom were wearing mail. “In time, I, like my brothers here from Konigsberg, were accepted as full members of the clan. Now, I serve the great Stoneclaw moot, the Steelskull clan, and my adopted family, that of Rorik Steelskull, son of Tago Steelskull. “
He then motioned to the Theran, to his right, and sat down, indicating that the Theran was next. The lone Theran stood hesitantly, clearly uncomfortable at the many unhappy faces in the room. He looked young, maybe 17 years old. “My name is Hakka Thurson, he began, speaking slowly but in clear Throalic. “I am from the town of Stordun.” Seeing blank faces around the room he continued, saying, “Stordun is a farming village near Morkant, just Northwest of Vivane. I am… was… a farmer." He hesitated, and then quickly added, "I am also an air sailor and a follower of Jaspree.” He sat down abruptly and looked down at the table.
As he watched the young man closely, Dremnin made an effort to break the ice with this Theran, and said as he stood, “I do not yet know you well, Hakka Thurston, but I do know this. If the Trolls of the Stoneclaw Moot spared you at the ceremony on the truth stone, then you must have a heart that is worth saving.” He paused as he watched the man’s expression while he spoke, noticing the new expression of appreciation on Hakka’s face for the comment. Then he continued saying, “I am Dremnin Stoneclaw, and this is my daughter, Hannah. I am a scout, and call home the tiny hamlet of Diamede on the Coil River, near the town of Darranis. I am a follower of Floranuus." He looked around at the assembled name givers, then turned to Hannah and motioned for her to introduce herself. But being a nine year old girl, she was so shy in front of all these strangers, and gave Dremnin a frightened look, so Dremnin smiled and nodded at her. He simply said, Stand up daughter”, the introduced her. Indicating Hannah with his hand on her shoulder, he said, “This is Hannah Stoneclaw; she was born in Theran slavery and grew up in captivity. She came with me ton this place when we escaped the mines, and I am proudly her father in this new life.” Both of them sat down and waited for the other introductions; it was now Skram’s turn.
Skram took his queue and stood. He looked about the room and flashed his toothy smile, then said, “I am Ardor Zomay Skram Stoneclaw. I am a grandchild of the great Han Kray Zomay of the Nial or house Zomay. My Nial runs an eatery called the Fish Pond, although I do not have enough skill in cooking to boil a fish. I am a Tail Dancer.” Skram paused and smiled knowingly at his friend Dremnin, then added, “now second circle. I have skills in all forms of dancing and, as all T’skrang love good stories, of tales of heroes and legends, present and past. I also follow the path of Florannus, and I do love a good party.” With that, Skram lifted his cup of mead high and said, “to your health my friends”, and drained his cup. Skram then sat down and politely passed the floor to the next in line.
Dremnin pounded the table in open approval of his friend’s introduction, and to recognize that old lizard lips didn’t spill a single drop. “What style he has”, the scout thought in admiration.
After Skram and Dremnin’s introductions, the rest of the people at the table went around the room talking briefly about their lives prior to their arrival at the Reach. Fafnir followed Skram, and the heroes learned nothing other than what they already knew. The others at the table, however, were very interesting.
A troll named Honus introduced himself next with a big grin after a long drink from his mead. He stood up, towering above everyone at nearly nine feet tall, and in a booming voice said, “I am Honus Steelskull Stoneclaw, son of Rorik Steelskull.” He surveyed the room with a confident gaze, and then continued. “I am a warrior by trade. I kill the enemies of my moot with a fury. I lay belly to belly with beautiful troll women, and one day, after I’ve lived a long lustful life and raised many children, I shall be greeted by my ancestors with honor in the halls of Tystonius.”
He saluted the three Unchained with his mug, and then finished it off after a humor filled wink at Skram.
One of the two large humans nodded to Honus with a serious look on his face, and then stood smartly. He looked around the room with a stern expression on his face, and then said, “My name is Kerick Pathwarden. I am soldier in the House of Konigsberg, which means that I serve my lord, Stilicho Alaricson, the true Ealdorman of Konigsberg, as I served his father before him. ” He nodded to Stilicho, and then continued. “He asked me here today to meet all of you”, motioning to Stilicho, the other human. “We too were once newots, and we have proved ourselves and been accepted as full members of the clan.” After a short pause, he added, “I’m a Swordmaster Adept, the son of a farmer and follower of Garland.” As he sat back down, he nodded toward Hakka, who was also a follower of Garland.
The other human then stood up, and much like Honus, had a sly grin on his face. “I am Draiden Draidenson, household soldier of Konigsberg, and sworn to serve my lord Stilicho.” The Unchained heard a touch of humor and sarcasm at the word ‘lord’, and one could see Stilicho’s stern face slip into a sly grin. Without skipping a beat, but still with a smile, he continued.
“I now am an honored member of the noble Steelskull clan, and a happy member of the Stoneclaw moot.” At that, he motioned for the heavyset dwarf next to him to introduce himself.
The dwarf next to Draiden was bald-headed with a long flowing beard. He was heavily built with a large belly, thick arms and a round face. He stood and gruffly said, “I am Stolod Hawkthorn He looked around the room, and eyed everyone with a bit of a frown. “I was a merchant from Travar, and when I was captured by the Stoneclaws they decided I was worth keeping. “ He chuckled, and then said, “So here I am. I am still a newot, but that’s okay.” He frowned again. “Since coming to the Reach, my life has been far less complicated and stressful. I feel good. For the first time, I think I’m actually enjoying life, and I’m among friends here. True, honorable, friends.” He picked up his mug in a toast while eyeing Dremnin and Skram. “I welcome you all!” He took a big drink, raised his mug again, and sat down.
The older dwarf sitting next to Stolod stood next. He was broad shouldered, taller than Stolod, with streaks of gray in his beard and hair. He had the look of a warrior, with muscled arms, a scar running down from his lower lip to the tip of his chin. “Well lads, I am Eldwulf Fireforge. I am a smith.” His brow furrowed, as he continued. “I was known as Eldwulf the Fierce back in the days of my youth. I was a good friend of the young Stilicho’s father, Alaric. He and I had many adventures together.” The Unchained noticed that Stilicho nodded to him with respect as he paused. “I retired in the Konigsberg province with Alaric, and I helped him and his father make the land safe and prosperous.” A look of rage washed over his face. “Now they are both dead, the noble Sarus is dead, and I have seen all that we accomplished put at risk, due to the blind ambition of Elfric the Betrayer. He has stolen the Thaneship away from the house of Konigsberg, and put it into the hands of its enemies. I plan to see to it that Stilicho is restored as the rightful Thane of Konigsberg, and that all I have worked for in that region, made safe once again.” He pounded his fist upon the table, saying, “Whatever strength I have left in my sword arm, and whatever tutelage I have left in my mind, I plan to use to that end!” He looked down at the table solemnly. “I’m an old dwarf now… and when you’re old you want to know that you made the world a better place in your life. That’s why I’m here, not a newot, but as an honored guest of the Steelskull clan.” With that, he looked around at everyone at the table, his face curling up into a thoughtful scowl.
Suddenly, Eldwulf’s face turned into a look of surprise, and Dremnin turned to see what had changed his countenance so dramatically. There, towering in the doorway with a sympathetic look on his face, was the legendary Tago Steelskull.
“And we are glad to have you here, Eldwulf the Fierce.” The old troll walked into the room, being led by the red-headed beauty that the Unchained by now knew to be Quorra, Stilicho’s woman. She guided Tago to his seat, and then quickly exited the room, her hand brushing Stilicho’s arm as she walked by. “I am sorry that we are late… but it could not be helped.” He sat at the head of the table, with Rorik to his right. Then he looked around the room, as though he could see everyone clearly through his milky white, blind eyes. “I am Tago Steelskull Stoneclaw”, he said and smiled. “I’m sure you all have many questions, and many things to talk about. That will all come in time, but for now though, we eat. We can enjoy the sunset from the balcony and talk more once our bellies are full.” With that, he unerringly picked up a large knife at the table, stabbed a large slab of meat on the big plate in the middle of the table, and plopped it onto his plate. The others quickly began to follow suit.
Dremnin waited until the family had all taken the meat they wanted, then selected a portion for Hannah and a larger one for himself. He passed the platter to Skram, then turned and held it for Hakka, the human newot next to him. Father and daughter ate silently, choosing to listen to the conversations around them and thus learning about the personalities of their adopting clan.
Skram took the platter of roasted beast. He took a small slice but was eyeing the platter of steamed tiger fish. There were many stories being told and laughter. Skram saw that the Theran was very uncomfortable in the crowd. Having no love for the Theran he decided to put him on the spot by asking “So where are you working? I have not seen you after the truth wheel.”
Hakka, his mouth full of smoked Lightening Lizard meat, seemed grateful for the question. He paused for a moment as though thinking of the answer. “I have been working with Gromar in the stone quarry, and training to fight when I am not in the quarry.” He shoveled some goat cheese into his mouth, then continued, speaking slowly. “I have always been a good fighter, but the training is good.” He then took a drink of mead, and began loading more food onto his plate.
Then he looked toward both Skram and Dremnin, who was listening. “I am glad that I did not have to kill the two you, you both seem like good men.” He looked very sincere as he spoke those words, then began shoveling more food into his mouth.
“Funny”, the scout said with dry humor, “I was thinking the same thing about you, Hakka. You were fortunate that the Hammer of Skram did not fall upon your head, as it did to some of your less fortunate companions.” He smiled serenely at the Air Sailor and turned his ear to Skram, who was leaning in his direction.
Between mouthfuls Hakka nodded, acknowledging the truth of Dremnin’s words, but clearly not understanding the twist that was applied to them. “Yes, a hit in the head from that hammer would have been bad. Probably would kill a man.”
He took another drink of his mead, and then, still chewing, added; “Most of the men I was fighting with were native Therans. They were evil men, and I was their sworn servant, so I cannot say that I was sad to see most of them perish.” Hakka continued to eat, and though he seemed friendly enough, it was obvious he did not have much in the way of social skills.
In the meantime, the T’skrang Taildancer had taken a big cut of Tiger fish and leaned over to Dremnin and whispered, “This is the best eating fish in the lake; try it with a little of that berry sauce.” Skram passed his platter to the scout and then filled his and Dremnin’s mead cups from a pitcher on the table.
Dremnin was not one to waste the advice of his friend, so he immediately heeded Skram and served himself a slice of tiger fish from the platter, waving his hand over it to allow the aroma to reach his nose. It smelled delicious, so he reached for the bowl of berry sauce and scooped a ladle of the thickened sauce over his serving of fish. As he put the first bite into his mouth, his eyes widened with surprise and delight. The firm, white flesh of the tiger fish was wonderful, and the sauce added another dimension that accompanied the fish perfectly.
“By the Passions, Skram”, he said with conviction and picked up his mead cup to toast his friend, “you have shown me the best dish on the table.” He paused and looked at Hannah, then asked her, “Would you care to try some fish from the lake? Your uncle Skram recommends it highly, and after tasting it, so do I.” Seeing no objection, he reached for the platter and stabbed a small piece for her, dropping it gently onto her plate. “I’m going to drizzle a little of this fine berry sauce here on the side of your plate, so that you can try the fish first by itself, then with the berry sauce.” Dremnin knew his daughter had never eaten fish before, so this would be a small adventure in its own right for the nine year old. He watched her closely to see how she reacted.
As he watched Hannah’s reaction to the fish, Dremnin was reminded of himself as a child, growing up around fishing and the water. His mind was suddenly miles away in the tiny hamlet of Diamede, sitting at the family table and trying a new fish recipe by his mother, Gabriella. “Here Dremnin”, she said with a loving smile, “try this fish and tell me what you think.” The vision disappeared as quickly as it had come, as he was aware that Hannah had said something to him. “What was that, daughter? Did you like it?” The girl only nodded this time, as her mouth was filled with tiger fish and her eyes shone with great pleasure. The scout looked up at his friend and said, “Looks like the fish in the lake have a new reason to be nervous.” He then laughed and patted the girl lovingly on the back. “Are these fish to be found only in the lake here?” he asked Skram. “I do not recall my father mentioning them from his fishing in the Coil River.”
“No, not in the Coil”, said Skram. “They like cold water, deep water. They like to have caves and holes to hide in, so normally rocky bottoms. The cold clean water is part of what makes them so good to eat.”
“Well that makes sense”, Dremnin replied as he considered the T’skrang’s answer. “I think I know of one other variety of aquatic life form around here that likes those deep waters for, ah, certain recreational activities.” The scout glanced quickly at Hannah to ensure she hadn’t caught the drift of her father’s teasing remark to his friend. “The cold water must be very invigorating. Personally, cold water puts me off my game”, he said with a wink at Skram.
“Well,” said Skram with a big smile," I’m not cold at night."
Dremnin made an odd noise as he suddenly laughed out loud while simultaneously taking a drink of mead. He came up choking and spluttering with laughter as he wiped the mead off his tunic. “Serves me right”, he said aloud as he wiped up the mead. Then under his breath added, “You seem to be quite taken with the young female in question. Are you planning on settling down here for the long haul?”
“As that could be a wonderful idea,” said Skram with a pause, “but no, I will not be staying here when we are allowed to leave. We will need to figure out how to get the book back to its home. Also, Partakkis will only be able to train me for one more Circle, so after that I will not have a trainer.” Skram started to laugh and said, “I am still on my first trip away from home, and it has not gone as planned. There is still more I want to see, and I will then have to go home to tell our story to the Niall. You will have to come and stay at my family home; now they can cook. The house is supported by one of Bartertown’s best eateries.” Skram finished with a glazed, far off look in his eyes.
The way the Unchained were fitting in to the community made life as a newot bearable. Hard work, good food and fellowship, and especially good treatment by the full-time residents of the Reach went a long way to make the case for taking up permanent residence here. “If I was allowed to roam Barsaive freely, I’d almost enjoy calling this place home”, the scout added with a serious look at Skram. “There is so much to learn from the Stoneclaws, and it would serve as a great base for operations into the wilderness.”
Skram swallowed and cleared his throat with another drink of mead. “I would agree that this is better than working the mines. I fish most of the morning, and then Partakkis and I spend the afternoon training on an island beach out in the lake. I admit this is not a bad life, but soon my feet will be ready to wander.”
“I understand your statement, Skram”, the scout said thoughtfully, “as I share the wander lust of which you speak. The Book’s return is paramount, and we must remain true to that end. But afterwards, I think your Niall in Bartertown might be an excellent place to rest and rejoice.”
Dremnin paused to drink some more mead, then said, “You know, Skram, I found an older Ork out near the volcano who turned out to be a member of the Moot. He’s called Black Harn, and he’s a really messed up Horror Stalker. I took Urgral out to meet him recently, and the two of them hit it off well. Urgral even agreed to go along with Black Harn when he finally finds the Horror that marked him long ago. I told him I’d like to go too, if I can.” Another bite of Tiger Fish was then bathed in berry sauce and then popped into the scout’s mouth to be chewed and savored. Dremnin made a mental note to pick some of these berries while he was out on walkabout.
“I’m not sure that I would want to fallow a crazy person named Black anything anywhere.” said Skram. “You don’t even know what kind of horror you are dealing with.”
The scout nodded in ready agreement as he swallowed some fish and said, “Following a Horror Stalker anywhere might be bad for one’s health. I’d need to know it was not similar to the one from the Kaer, as we are definitely not ready for that much epic adventure.” He paused for a swig of mead, then he added, “I have no desire to simply leave my bones on the dusty floor of a nameless Kaer in a futile quest to show how brave, or how stupid, I truly am. The incident facing both the Horror and his female Nethermancer in our previous adventure gave me sufficient insight to know I am nowhere near prepared to take on something like that.” The scout checked up on his daughter, Hannah, to ensure she was doing well and see to her needs at the dinner table. He had tried to teach her good table manners, and the trolls were serving as bad examples in this regard. He sighed and said, “Ah well, when in Bartertown, do as they do.”
Meanwhile, as Skram and Dremnin spoke over their own meal, several different conversations were being carried out around the room. The human air sailor, Hakka, seemed to be listening to the conversation between the two Unchained friends as he ate. He smiled and nodded, first at the scout and then at the tail dancer, whenever eye contact was made.
Around the table, Fafnir, Honus and Rorik discussed the Battle of Sky Point, which was a famous battle between the mountain trolls and the Therans that took place before the Scourge came. Most Barsavians were familiar with this battle, due to its constant re-telling by bards, and here it seemed as though Rorik and Honus were telling Fafnir things about the battle that he’d never heard before. He was following their words like a ravenous dog eyes a 35 pound ham.
Stolod and Tago sat quietly, not really chatting with anyone, yet they seemed to be trying to listen to all of the conversations at once. Tago, though blind, acted as though he could actually see everyone clearly. To round out the table guests, Stilicho, Draiden, Kerick and Eldwulf were talking about Konigsberg, a recent visit there, and the dilemma they were facing with Elfric, Stilicho’s uncle.
“Lord Stilicho, if I may?” Skram asked. “You seem to have more than enough fighting power here in the Reach. Is there some reason why you don’t just take back your lands?” Dremnin tuned in to his friend’s question to try and catch the response.
With that, the conversation between Eldwulf, Draiden, Kerick and Stilicho, abruptly ends, shortly followed by the conversation between Honus, Rorik and Fafnir. With all eyes shifting first to Skram, then to Stilicho. The human warrior’s face was stern as he paused, as though searching for the appropriate words.
“Noble Ardor, it is a good question, but the answer is not that simple.” He looked to Draiden and Kerick, then back at Skram. “Such an attack would result in much bloodshed, and in the deaths of many of my brothers, the soldiers of Konigsberg. In addition, though the warriors of the Steelskull clan are peerless in Barsaive, I do not know if even their mighty number would succeed, and many of them, also my brothers, would certainly also perish.” He shook his head, then continued, “Such an attack, even if successful would drive a wedge between Throal and the troll moots of the Twilight Peaks. It would also drive a rift between my people and myself. For many husbands, brothers and sons would die, and I would be blamed.” His hand slid up to clench his sword… and he continued with a cold but murderous tone. “I will kill Elfric the Betrayer, and free Konigsberg from the Theran yolk, but to succeed I need to infiltrate the fortress of Konigsberg with a small, but elite force, and kill Elfric and his vile Theran puppet masters before too much damage is done.”
Stilicho appeared as though he was going to continue, but he was interrupted by Tago, who stood, silencing the room. “Thank you all for coming tonight. My adopted son, Stilicho, invited you all here this evening for two reasons. The first is that he and I both felt that with so many new name-givers joining the clan, it would be good for them to meet and learn from other name-givers here. In addition, I know that the Passions have something in store for all of you. So… here it begins.” He smiled pleasantly.
Before anyone could ask any further questions, he motioned for the assemblage to wait, then continued. “It is time now to tour my old home, which now belongs to my son Rorik.” He beckoned to Rorik, who stood. “Rorik, would you be so kind as to show these Name-Givers around the home, and then bring them to the balcony for some drink and further discussion?” He smiled, clearly quite proud of his eldest son.
Rorik nodded respectfully to his father. “Yes father, of course.” Then he turned to Fafnir and said, “Fafnir, fill up mugs for everyone. Skoad for Honus, father and I. Mead for the others, and bring them to the balcony.” He then turned to address everyone. “I hope that you all enjoyed the meal that my wives and daughters cooked for us. Now that we are finished, please join me and I will show you around our home.” The red-headed human beauty came gliding into the room at that moment, and without a word she took Tago’s arm and began to escort him out through the corridor leading further into the home. The others were beginning to stand up, and file in behind Rorik who was preparing to lead the group down the same passage from whence Tago just departed.
Dremnin looked at Skram and then over at Hannah, telling her, “Okay Hannah, come along and let’s see what surprises the trolls have in store tonight.” He smiled at her and put his arm around her as they were ushered out of the dining hall.
Skram downed the last of his mead, wiped his face and then jumped up from the table. As he began to follow the group, he whispered to Dremnin, “I have not seen the inside of one of these troll great houses.” With a big smile he added, “I can’t wait to see.”
Dremnin and Skram made up the tail of the line, with Hakka following them. The group passed through the corridor at the back of the great hall, which led down a long dark hallway that opened up into another large room. This room had four exits, two on the wall to the left, one on the wall to the right and one in the wall opposite the Unchained. The room itself was full of things that were rather interesting. There was a slow moving stream of water in the floor, running across the right-center side of the room. There was also a wide stone walkway across it. In the corners were shelves and a pair of tables, on which the heroes could see piled a large quantity of items, including some bags, weapons, armor and, much to their astonishment, all of their missing gear from the fight on the ridge outside of Kaer Derin Kuyu. The weapons and gear, like the rest of the items stacked there, was not hidden but seemed to be just lying there in the open.
Hakka quietly grunted, “My old sword is over there.”
“I know”, Dremnin said wistfully, “I can see my sword and shield over there, too.” He missed his old equipment, but the scout had no doubt that at some point he would earn the right to regain his items with honor.
On the left side of the room, in the corners, there were a pair of cooking ovens, tables, shelves, barrels and other containers. Clearly this was where the recent meal was made. The room was illuminated by what looked to be a large glass globe hanging from the ceiling, giving off a white, magical light.
Tago waved his arm across the room. “This is our kitchen and storage room. The stream comes from a hot spring, so the water is warm.” He began to cross the room, saying “The room just ahead is my quarters, follow me and I’ll show you.”. Honus began leading him across the room, but it was obvious that Tago did not need his help here.
Hannah and her father, Dremnin, walked along behind the main group, carefully observing every detail of the route they travelled. One never knew if they might be recalled here sometime, and knowing one’s way made the difference between life and death. The scout could already feel the layout of the home and knew his way around very quickly, but he played ignorant so that his daughter would enjoy herself finding new thrills in each chamber.
“Ha. I would have expected flowing water to be in a T’skrang house”, said Skram as he looked around the room. He looked at everything in the room except the large hammer on the table, even though that was all he was looking at in his peripheral vision.
Skram used the slave sign language to ask Dremnin, “You know how to get back here right? In case we need these. The scout signed back to Skram, “I know the place and how to find it, but we’d most likely have to cut our way through the entire household to get here, and in the act completely dishonor ourselves.”
“I’m not sure that we could cut our way here, even if we wanted too.” Signed Skram. “I just feel better knowing where they are and that we could get back to them.”
One thing you notice as you look back, is that the entrance to the room has an elaborate door. There is a huge stone disk, several feed thick, that is bracketed by a pair of massive guides so that it can be rolled into place infront of the entrance, then barred shut. This would effectively seal off the rest of the home from this direction, making the Steelskull home extremely defensible, almost a small fortress with it’s stone walls and continuous fresh water supply.
You plod across the room with the rest of the group, seeing the entrance to Tago’s quarters. The group gathers just inside the room… all except for Stilicho, who you saw disappear down another hall.
Counter to what the Unchained had seen in many other troll living quarters, Tago’s was fairly well furnished by any standard. There was a massive bed covered in woolen blankets and fur. There were a pair of shelves filled with old books and scrolls. There was a large chest clasped shut, and a weapons rack filled with a variety of mostly troll sized melee weapons. There was also a complete set of ornate crystal plate armor, including a helm and a crystal Viking shield, mounted on a pedestal. The group saw a massive twin bladed battle-axe, clearly a two-handed weapon for a troll, mounted on a wooden plaque. The inscription beneath it read; “My old friend, may your offspring send many Therans to hell. – Ivan”.
At this point, Tago waved his arm around the room. “This is where I sleep, as I’ve gotten older, I have had a thirst for knowledge, and I suppose I’ve become more sentimental, so I have kept many things.” He smiled. “The quarters for the rest of the family are down the hall.” He pointed toward the hall Stilicho went down. “Out of respect for their privacy, we will not see those. Now, it is time to retire to the balcony for some drink and talk while the sun sets.”
With that, the group shuffled out of the room. Honus and Rorik clearly knowing where they were going, and the group began to trot off after them with Tago bringing up the rear… Skram followed along behind.
Dremnin held Hannah’s hand as they and Skram followed the group outside for the evening’s festivities. He had always enjoyed a fine sunset, and this would be the first time to enjoy such a time with his new daughter, and the Name Giver who was now his best friend.
After leaving Tago’s quarters, the Unchained followed the group back through the room with the stoves and the stream, through one of the two exits on the North wall. According to what Tago said previously, the other passageway lead down toward the quarters for the rest of the family. The heroes could see there was light down that tunnel, likely the pale light from more of the globes that they’d seen lighting the rest of the home. As they entered the 2nd corridor, they saw stairs leading up. The stairs were wide enough to allow two trolls or three human sized name-givers to stand abreast of one other, and they were long enough to be stable platforms for fighting.
The group followed the stairs up for quite a ways, which then opened out into a small room, dimly lit by another small glowing glass globe. Then another set of stairs took the group upwards once again. The new stairs led to yet another large room, nearly the size of the hall where the group had taken their meal. There was only one exit from this room, and that was a huge opening at the other end of the hall. Dremnin could see another massive stone disk that could be slid shut to bar the entrance to this room, much like he had seen in the water room below. This room was once again lit by a large globe in the ceiling. It had stacks of bags and crates on one side of the room, and the other side had many barrels, which Skram recognized as likely kegs of mead, skoad or ale. There were are also a number of weapons stacked in the corner of this room, along with a handful of shields. About half of that equipment was troll sized. The group continued on and passed through that room, then entered another room which was much smaller. It had double doors that were barred shut. Honus lifted the bar, and Rorik swung the door open, immediately dazzling everyone with bright sunlight.
After a moment, everyone took a moment for their eyes to adjust to the sudden bright light. They all walked out onto a natural stone plateau, which represented the top of wide ledge higher up on the mountain. Below the group stretched the Reach, and ahead of them was the most beautiful sunset they’d ever seen. Fafnir was already there, handing out mugs to everyone. Skram and Dremnin were each given a mug filled with either sweet mead, ale, or the powerful troll brew, skoad. There was a fire pit dug into the stone, with a nice fire already roaring in it, and a large pile of chopped wood nearby. There were several large natural boulders and stones to sit upon. Tago sat on one of those next to the fire, and unlike anyone else, was drinking a thick, whitish brew that one would recognize as hurlg. Honus sat next to Fafnir, while Rorik stood, like everyone else, looking into the sunset. Both were drinking skoad. The others began to pick their choice of brew, and took places beside the fire.
Dremnin selected a place for Hannah that was out of the steady breeze blowing atop the plateau, and sat down with her and Skram to enjoy the scenery and see what the trolls had planned next.
At this point, the conversations started up once again as drink was consumed. Honus and Fafnir begin their discussion anew, with regards to the Battle of Skypoint. Rorik and Tago, sat by the fire, staring into it without saying anything while taking savoring sips of their drinks. Draiden, Eldwulf and Kerick were sitting by the fire, talking in low voices about their homeland, Konigsberg. Stolod the old dwarf, was standing by the fire, warming his hands. Skram and Dremnin, with little Hannah by his side, were all still in awe of the beauty of this place. The sunset seemed brighter than you could ever have remembered, and the view of Barsaive from these heights almost made the Unchained forget the cold wind.
With his arm around Hannah for warmth, Dremnin sat and watched the sunset from their vantage point in the high peaks. It was, in a word, ‘breathtaking’ from up at this altitude. Even little Hannah seemed to be enjoying the sights and sounds of the gathering as she sat quietly and spoke softly with her father.
A moment later, while Skram and Dremnin were staring at the amazing view and listening to the conversations, Stilicho suddenly arrived. In his hands he was carrying a battered-looking, two-handed war hammer, and a fine looking Elven war bow. He tossed the heavy hammer to Ardor, who deftly caught it with both hands. Dremnin had watched the human warrior as he walked up to Skram and tossed him the great hammer.
Stilicho smiled and said, “I think this will be far more suitable for a fighter to use, don’t you?” The scout chuckled at Stilicho’s comment and added to Skram, “Yes, now you can get some more time training with a suitable weapon of sufficient size, so that you won’t be rusty when you get your own hammer back. Is it well balanced?”
Skram looked at the battered old war hammer. It was still sturdy and had a good weight, but it was not his. He smiled at Stilicho and said, “Thank you. It feels good to have a weapon in my hand.” Inside Skram wondered why if he was allowed to have a weapon why he could not have his own. Were the trolls not telling them the truth? Were they never to get there items back? It was not like The Unchained could leave without the Book of Tomorrow.
“You’re quite welcome Ardor.” He studied your face for a moment, and as though he read your thoughts he continued. “Your gear was lost in combat, and thus belongs now to the clan by right of conquest. However, as you saw in our home, we are keeping this gear for you. Tago would not have us do that if he didn’t plan to return your things to you.”
Without waiting for a reply, he looked to Dremnin with a grim expression. “My uncle, Elfric the betrayer, sent an assassin, here, to the Twilight Peaks, to kill me with this bow.” He held the bow up into the firelight as he spoke. Dremnin could see that it was finely made, the woods were very dark and smooth. The grip was wrapped in soft black leather, making for a good, secure gripping point. “I killed him and with the help of good newots like Stolod here, his companions too.”
Stolod looked up as his name was mentioned. “Hell, if falling down a ravine, landing on my sorry arse, and then getting shot full of arrows is helping you, then yes, I helped!” He lifted his mug in toast. “You saved my life, lord. My allegiance is the least I can do.” He then took a long pull of his drink and continued to warm himself.
Stilicho smiled and continued. “Stolod, you are too modest. If you hadn’t been there, I might be dead right now too.” He looked back to the Unchained and continued, saying, “I only kept a few of the spoils, as I gave most of their gear to the men of my household troops.” He nodded toward Draiden, Kerick and Eldwulf. “Dremnin, I am a sword and shield warrior, and I have no use for weapons such as this. But I know that you do.” He looked Dremnin squarely in the eye, then said,. “If you can use this weapon, I would give it to you as a gift. It does me no good hanging in the wall of my room. Can you put it to good use?”
When Stilicho turned to him and began speaking, Dremnin became even more surprised. “You are giving me an elven war bow?”, he asked his benefactor incredulously. He looked at the bow and noted the beautiful blending of the three types of wood that together created a weapon of great power. “I certainly have the ability to benefit from this bow, as I have been working with an archer here at the Reach to acquire a potent missile talent. Hard to believe that an assassin would have one of these, but then, he’s a dead assassin, so it was not misplaced in his hands for long.”
The scout accepted the bow and hefted it to feel the balance in the bow, noting it was as fine in feel as it was in form. Dremnin looked up at Stilicho and said, “I accept this gift from you Stilicho, and thank you for noticing that I can benefit from it. My crossbow is effective, when I can hit my target, but it is nowhere near as elegant a weapon as this beautiful war bow. I shall treasure this and use it with pleasure.”
The scout paused for a moment, then asked Stilicho, “Did you by any chance save the quiver and arrows for this bow?”
Stilicho nodded. “I thought you might ask me that”, he said and slid a satchel off his shoulder. Connected to it was a quiver loaded up with feathered arrows. Dremnin noticed immediately that while most of the arrows had white feathers sticking out of the top of the quiver, there were a few that had dark brown feathers, and a couple that had red feathers. He handed the bag over to the scout, who immediately recognized that this satchel and the attached quiver were of very fine workmanship. The leather was a pine green color, and the straps were adjustable so they could fit snugly to the wearer; an invaluable thing for moving quietly.
Stilicho saw Dremnin admiring the craftsmanship. “There is an extra string, a few files, a fletching tool, a bunch of arrow heads, and what looks like a flask of glue in the satchel. Everything an archer needs.” Then, his face turned grim. “The assassin’s name was Calamon. He was my uncle’s dog and a servant of Vestrial. I killed him in single combat and he died howling like a gelded mule… I left his severed head at my uncle’s doorstep.”
He paused after that statement, and the mask of anger faded as his face brightened a little. “I asked the two of you to come today for many reasons. The first is, that I thought it would be good for you to meet some other newots and former newots, who are not trolls. I know when Draiden, Kerick and I first arrived here and became newots, it was very confusing for us at first. If there are any questions, that you have, please feel free to ask now, before our minds become too addled with mead.” With that he sat on a rock beside the fire, and took a drink of mead.
Before either of you can think of a question to ask, Hakka, who had been quietly sitting near you, spoke. “Lord, there is a human warrior named Tekil in The Reach. I heard he was part of Calamon’s party. Was he an assassin too?” The word assassin hissed out of Hakka’s mouth as though it was a forbidden word.
Stilicho nodded to the big man. “Tekil was with Calamon… but he was not an assassin. He was forced to swear an oath to serve Calamon, but he did not like him, or his mission.” He wiped some mead off of his beard. “Tekil passed the test of the Truth Stone, and even if he hadn’t, I could tell he was a good man.”
He then looked over at Dremnin. “Which reminds me, Dremnin, there is a human boy named Wheeler that is a newot to the clan. He is 12 years old and is staying with the tanner, Farnis Longknife now. He is a good boy, and Farnis is a good troll. But Wheeler needs to have a human child to play with, and human interaction. Perhaps he and Hannah would enjoy playing together?”
Dremnin considered Stilicho’s statement about the boy, Wheeler, and looked over at Hannah for a clue as to her feelings on the matter. “It is up to her, Stilicho, whether she will pay him any mind or not. After growing up as a slave in the mines, she is a tough little girl who knows her own mind. If she wishes to be around the lad, I have no objections. Just don’t allow him to distract her from her studies. I am hopeful she will find the Adept’s way here in the Reach.” The scout went back to his tankard and tried to listen to the tone of the gathering. It was good to be acting like a free man again, even if it was only for a while. “I thank you Stilicho, for your hospitality this evening”, he said in earnest, “and for the gifts to Skram and myself. It is very generous of you, and I thank you for your calming words about our lost weapons and gear. These possessions were earned in noble battle with Horrors and Horror constructs in a realm so fell and dire that normal men cannot fathom. Like my good friend Skram here, I too look for the eventual return of our well-earned trophies.”
“You should thank, Rorik and Tago.” He motioned toward the two trolls who were sitting on the other side of the fire, talking in hushed voices. “We could not have done this without their approval.” He took a sip of his drink. “As the lords of this land, it is up to Tago and Rorik as to when and if you get your gear back, but if there is one name-giver in all of the Twilight Peaks who respects the rights of hard-earned possessions, it would be Tago.” He took another drink. “Is there anything about The Reach or the clan that either of you would like to know about? That means you too Hakka.”
Dremnin looked up at Stilicho and said, “Well, in the short time we have been newots, I have come to observe the troll culture, and it appears that all the name-givers here live a life free of thieves and dishonorable acts by self-serving beings. Is there any thievery or dishonor here, and if so, how is it detected and handled?” The scout had pulled the quiver around so as to rest in front of him, and he pulled one of the more numerous white fletched arrows to examine its head and the shaft itself while he waited for an answer.
Stilicho nodded. “That is a fair question. But one must be careful when asking something like that in troll society. To even insinuate the possibility of thievery or dishonor among a clan, could be viewed as a slight to clan honor. Which is something that troll society takes very seriously. The Stoneclaws are more relaxed about this than other moots, but beware when dealing with other trolls that asking a question like that directly, as it could result in trouble.”
He took another drink, and Dremnin noticed upon close examination that the white feathered arrows were well constructed and had standard combat heads.
“To answer your question, there is almost none. Any dishonor or thievery would result in a member of the moot being considered Kava. They would have their horns removed, or branded if they have none, and thrown out of troll society forever. The rules on this are extremely strict.Troll honor is divided into three parts, personal, clan and racial. A perceived slight to any of those will result in bad things. There have been very rare cases of thievery and dishonor, but those cases have almost exclusively been the result of newots not understanding troll society after acceptance.”
“So what can one do if they feel there personal honor has been slighted?” asked Skram. “And what does count as a personal slight?”
Stilicho smiled and nodded again. “I am glad that you asked that Ardor. You have many options. The first would be to ask them if they insult your honor, this would give them the option to back out if that was not their intent.” He sighed. “Another option is to challenge them in defense of your honor. This is not without risk though. As challenger you can suggest the terms of the fight, but they can refuse. If they do, they would lose face and reputation, so they will likely accept. The fight can be unarmed, or armed, usually they are to the fall, but can be to the death. That part is up to the challenged. It is rare, though, that such fights are to the death. For fall fights, it doesn’t matter much who wins, both parties will retain their honor, but the winner will gain reputation and the loser will lose it, so it is best to win. Typically such fights are fought within a square of hazel branches that are laid upon the ground, and the use of any magic other than offensive magic, is forbidden. Which means that the spell of fear your friend Vridich cast upon the noble Rorik, would result in the outcast or death of Vridich.”
At this, Rorik, who appeared to be drunk now, shouts out with a laugh. “That lucky bastard! I had hoped he would fail the Truth Stone so I could challenge and gut him as Stilicho did to that damned Kava archer!”
Honus raised his mug in salute. “That you would have father, but he’s Grimlock pupil now. Maybe he’ll end up as Wyvern bait like his last apprentice!” All of the trolls, plus Stilicho and most of the others, chuckled at that and returned to their drinks and conversations.
Stilicho continued. “Similar spells like the confusion spell your companion Suulin cast on the Therans, would have similar repercussions.” He took another drink. “What can also happen, to name-givers not part of a troll moot or respected allies, would be an outright attack without challenge. Again, those can be armed or not, but such name-givers are generally not recognized as being worthy of a challenge. Does that all make sense?”
Dremnin nodded and said, “Yes, that makes sense, and I’m glad this has been answered so that we can stay out of trouble… unless we want it.”
As he sipped his mead, Dremnin thought of a question to ask Stilicho. “If you are now here among the good trolls of the Reach, what are your plans then for trying to seek revenge on the Usurper? How can you do this without endangering all of the inhabitants of the Reach? Will they give you leave to take on this monumental task?” As he spoke, he reached into the quiver and extracted an arrow with a brown fletching, then began to examine it.
Stilicho hesitated at that question, and as he opened his mouth to speak, Tago began speaking instead. “Dremnin, I know that answer weighs heavily upon your soul, so if Stilicho would permit me, I would like to answer it.”
Stilicho nodded and said, “Of course grandfather.”
Tago smiled kindly and continued. “Starting a new life as a full member of the clan takes different amounts of time for all newots. It could take a week, years, or in some cases, it may never happen. What one must do is prove their value and loyalty to the clan. In the case of Stilicho’s woman, Quorra, she was made a full member of the clan within a month, and she was accepted because of her kind nature, her skill as a bard, and that her loyalty was never a question.”
He held up his hands to the fire, warming them. “In your cases, you are all very new to the clan, and there are many of you which makes it harder for the clan to understand each of you as an individual. So it may take longer. However I believe that nearly all of the newots passing the Truth Stone this time are trustworthy, so I know it will happen for you soon.”.
His milky white eyes seemed to be boring into yours as though he was staring into your soul. “In some cases, certain newots are given a quest to complete to become full members of the clan. Perhaps this will be your path, but that is up to the clan elders to decide.” Stilicho nodded. “Yes. Once you are accepted as a full member of the clan, you essentially have your freedom. You can leave and do whatever you’d like. You can stay with the clan, or go, but you will always be a member of the clan.” He frowned, and then looked to Tago.
Rorik, Honus and Tago were all quiet. The Unchained saw Tago nod to him, as though he could see Stilicho’s look. “My presence here at the Reach puts them in more danger than if I were to leave. Here, I cannot be touched by Elfric’s assassins. I am safe.” He paused and looked around the fire. “Here though, I am unknown, so I cannot stay. I must leave this place, build a reputation, and advance my abilities as an adept. Most of the men of Konigsberg are loyal to me, and although Elfric is their gold-giver now, and has surely replaced their leaders with men loyal to him, they still know that I am their lord as long as I’m still known in Barsaive. This is why I went back to Konigsberg and risked leaving the heads of Elfric’s assassins at the gates.” He looked down to the ground, and then back up at Dremnin. “Once I am to the point where I can safely make my assault on Elfric, I will do so. But first, I must make myself ready and I must surround myself with the right men for the job..” He looked from Ardor, to Hakka, to Dremnin. “I would be honored to have men such as you on my side.”
As Dremnin was absorbing his word, he looked down at the three red fletched arrows. The shafts are made of a different type of wood than the others. When drawn, the scout noted that each head was protected by a leather cover that had to be pulled off. As he did so, he could see the heads were smooth and without barbs. Each had just a tapered point, and notches that the scout recognized could be used to hold poison. He was startled to notice that the notches on one of the heads had a creamy tan substance filling the holes, and Dremnin nearly dropped the arrow in surprise. The substance he saw had dried out on the edges and was beginning to crack. He didn’t know what it was, though, and if it was poison, if it would even still work. He carefully replace the arrow into the quiver, and thought that he should check the substance later with Vridich.
Eventually the conversation became less localized and everyone got involved. Hakka, Skram determined, was a grim fellow, but simple. He was working with a troll Stonemason named Gromar in the Stone Quarry. The Unchained realized in talking to him that he was quite happy here in The Reach. At one point, while staring at the stars, he very seriously stated with slurred words, due to too much mead, “I love it here. This is the best place I have ever lived.” Dremnin learned a bit from him via questions from the others. He mostly despised his former Theran masters who enslaved him at the age of 14. At one point Draiden asked him if he had befriended any of them. He frowned and responded slowly. “No. But the captain treated me better than other slaves and conscripts.” He went on to talk about the Therans in his homeland. Apparently they required some kind of payment to Viviane from each town and village, and if it was not paid satisfactorily, the town was then attacked and the people enslaved. They kept the nobility and men of power in the region firmly loyal through fear. Death or enslavement appeared to be the penalty for any who opposed them in the Vivane territory.
Dremnin learned a bit about Stilicho’s men, Draiden and Kerick. Kerick was a very serious fellow who had been put to work as an assistant to a shipwright. He was a follower of Uplandal, which fit right in to his ship building work. Much to Dremnin’s surprise, he learned that Kerick has been spending his free time with Solara, the female elf archer who had been training Dremnin. She apparently spent her days working with the children of the Reach, like Suulin. In her spare time, she spent time either training Dremnin or romantically meeting with Kerick.
Draiden on the other hand reminded Dremnin of Honus. He was funny, boisterous, and like Honus, one couldn’t help but like him. He was quite confident that he will return to Konigsberg with Stilicho in absolute victory one day. He also made no bones about his desire to return to Konigsberg sooner or later. He had a large family that is still there, and he missed them terribly.
Eldwulf was a grim dwarf. The Unchained discovered that he was a master weapons and armor smith. He was an adventuring friend of Alaric, Stilicho’s father. He left Konigsberg when he saw Stilicho dropping the heads of his uncle’s assassins at the gates to the keep. He sought to help Stilicho in any way that he could to regain the rule of Kongsberg. He was not a newot, or a member of the clan, but rather was a guest of the clan. He had two sons and two daughters, who had all moved away from Konigsberg and lived in Throal.
Stolod, the other dwarf, talked endlessly about his travels. It seemed as though he was a merchant before being captured by the clan. He had traveled often between Travar and Throal, and was a very interesting fellow who seemed to have done a lot of different things over the course of this life. Now in his old age, he was just enjoying his time at The Reach, free of the burdens of his former responsibilities.
Late in the evening, after the fire was low and the drink had taken its toll, something happened that the Unchained would never forget. Tago suddenly stood, looking into the night, followed by the others one by one. Dremnin peered into the night sky and noticed that the stars in one point in the sky were disappearing, one after the other. All at once, a long sleek airship popped into view. It swooped in right over the group, and Skram could see the sides of the ship were lined with living crystal. Both name givers looked toward the others in alarm, but noted that the others seem unconcerned. A troll leaped off of the ship , fell through air and then deftly landed near the fire with a thud. He stood, and Dremnin immediately recognized Vargas, the eldest son of Rorik, who stood up and hugged his brother Honus and then asked where his mug was.
Fafnir ran off and brought him a fresh mug filled with Skoad. The Unchained later learned that the ship was Tago’s own custom ship named Air Wolf. Vargas bragged that the ship was the fastest ship every built and that it boasted six Thunderbolt Throwers, a weapon none of you ever heard of. However Hakka seemed quite impressed, so Dremnin assumed that means that those weapons must be dangerous.
The Unchained spent much of the evening upon the cliff side, and everyone drank a little too much while immersed in good fellowship. Tago told everyone a long tale about a crazy battle against the Therans where all of the troll clans of Barsaive united and they rained from the sky down upon the largest Theran army ever assembled. He told of Ork Cavalry, Ardors relative Han, and many feats of bravery. He said it was the most glorious battle he’d ever fought in… and if half of the heroics in his tale were true, you believed it must have been glorious indeed.
Stilicho then asked Dremnin and Ardor a question. “So, what can you tell me about your friends Vridich, Urgral and Suulin?” He took a long drink. “I have not seen much of any of them since they arrived at the Reach.”
Dremnin paused and looked at Skram, then back to Stilicho. “I have seen Urgral a little more than the others, as I helped him make his way to see Black Harn recently. Vridich it seems has been inside a hut the whole time, as much as I can tell, which is pretty much his normal routine. As for Suulin, she stays with the women and children each day. I am out with my mentor on walkabout most days, so the woods and mountains are my companions. When I come home, I like to spend time with Hannah and learn of her days experiences.”
Stilicho nodded. “Do you know much about them, as to where they come from and what kind of people they are? I am aware of much of the story of your companions since you were united by circumstance, but I know little other than that. I know quite a bit about Suulin, I suppose, but I know little about Urgral and Vridich.”
“What I can tell you”, Dremnin continued as he considered his mug of mead, “is that from the time we first struck out to escape slavery in the mines, each of them has proven themselves to be unafraid of battle. Indeed, Vridich never ceases to be a source of surprises and has struck manty a telling blow withy his magic. They have all willingly risked much to assist the group as we made our way from one predicament to the next. There is no cowardice amongst them, and when the chips are down you will find them still at your side while others may flee.”
Dremnin looked over at Hannah, who was struggling to stay awake and listen to all that was said, in spite of her fatigue. “It is time for us to turn in, as the dawn comes all too quickly in another busy day.” He stood up and said to Stilicho, “Thank you for the invitation to dine with you and the family this evening, for great fellowship and tales of adventure.” He paused and looked at his host and said, “And for the gift of this bow, I am truly grateful. I shall enderavor to use it well to benefit the clan.” He reached out to firmly shake the human warrior’s hand. “Be well and prosper”, the scout said as he turned to leave. He looked at Skram to see if he was also going to depart at this point.
Skram stood and stretched tall and shook the cold out of his tail. He looked at Dremnin and said, “I will walk with you.” Skram looked at Hannah sleeping on the bench and said, “I think I’m going to have to carry your new bow and arrows for you. It looks to me like you are going to have your hands full.” The scout looked at his T’skrang friend and nodded, smiling.
Looking to Stillicho, Skram then said, “Thank you for the hammer. We will put it to good use in training.”
He then turned to the trolls of the house and gave a slight bow. “Thank you for your hospitality and generosity. The food was wonderful and the mead was sweet and tasty.” Skram finished the last of his glass of mead. “Your stories and insights are worth more than I can measure.” Dremnin agreed with Skram, saying, “Here, here”, and handed the quiver he was holding to Skram as he reached down to collect the sleepy Hannah. Skram tossed the quiver of arrows onto his shoulder, collected the hammer from the side of the bench, and then held his hand out for Demnin’s new bow. Skram said with a little giggle, " Are you ready to go dad?"
The human scout looked back at Skram and he passed him the war bow, then collected Hannah into his arms. “It’s a good thing you’re too old for a paddling, buddy”, he said with mock gravity, then a smile broke out on his face and he made as thought to give the Tail Dancer a sideways kick for good measure. Dremnin made a face at Skram as he struggled to heft Hannah in his arms and said, “Ufta, this little one has been putting on some beef with all the good living here in the Reach. Any more weight and I’ll have to make her walk home next time.”
As it became clear to the group of attendees that Dremnin and Ardor were preparing to leave, the others around the fire also stood and offered to shake hands.
Stilicho clasped both men by the shoulder and said, “Thank you both for coming.” He paused, then continued. “Both of you are invited to start coming to our Sunday morning combat practices. Hakka, Draiden, Eldwulf, Kerick, Honus and I do this most Sundays at dawn, here at the Steelskull home. It is good practice and keeps our skills sharp.” He looked to Dremnin. “Ardor has been to a few of these and can tell you more about what we do if you have questions.”
Stolod, the older dwarf also took his leave as well. He stood and with slurred words said happily; “It has been a good time tonight. Thank you for the invitation and the hospitality. It is time that this old dwarf retires.”
The three men and the little girl made their way back through the Steelskull home, with the globes in the ceiling lighting the way, and finally out into the village to make their way home. The Unchained trudged home together, happy and feeling the positive effects of an evening with the Clan.
Written in concert with Stilicho and Skram.
3rd Circle Scout Adept