By-Tor Brigade Legacy
Part 2 – Quest of the Sunken Citadel
- Chapter 1 – Arragwyn the Fair
- Chapter 2 – Crossroads Contention
- Chapter 3 – The Piper
See also: Session 03 Adventure Log 2013/09/27
Chapter 1 – Arragwyn the Fair
While lounging around their favorite table in the taproom of the Darford Inn, Lee noticed a young girl enter through the front doors and timidly look around. She approached Alrica the barmaid and tugged on her sleeve. The two appeared to exchange a brief conversation then Alrica pointed toward Lee’s table. The young girl nodded then headed for the exit. She paused at the door to take a second look at the table, perhaps to make sure of what she saw, then slipped back outside.
The scenario seemed innocent, but Lee casually mentioned to his friends what he had just witnessed. He also pointed out his observations, that the girl had short red hair typical of a thrall and looked about 12 years old. Although her clothing was common, it did appear a little newer and cleaner than the average Darford resident.
Curious to know more, they motioned Alrica over to their table.
“Who was that girl you were talking to?” Lee politely inquired.
“I d’know,” Alrica nonchalantly replied, “but now that I think about it, it does seem a little strange to see a young girl, so nicely dressed, out alone at this hour of the day. Perhaps she was a thrall for some traveling merchant.”
“Well, what did she want?” asked Lee.
“Oh, she was asking about Glen. When I pointed him out at your table, she thanked me and left. I was too busy serving these pints to worry about her intentions. And now I have more to deliver. If you please, may I be excused?”
After hearing it was himself that was being sought, Glen immediately went out the doors and looked around, but there was no sign of anyone waiting for him outside. Perhaps it was just a mistake. He thought no more of it and went back inside.
Not long after the initial appearance of the curious young girl, she entered the taproom once again. This time she stopped at the entrance and held the door as someone else walked in. As Lee watched, he witnessed a very young woman, practically still a girl, dressed in elegant clothing, walk through the doorway and glide smoothly toward his table without even glancing around. She bore herself proudly and with confidence. She had clear, fair skin, and her long, white hair was adorned in elaborate braids – that which would require the skills of a trained handmaiden. As she neared the group’s table, her face softened with a warm smile as she placed her hand gently on Glen’s shoulder.
“Greetings Glenlivet Lesgoth,” she said formally, yet with friendliness. “I heard that you had returned to Darford recently, and yet you never came to visit me.” Still seated, Glen looked up at the girl, but it was clear he did not recognize her. “You don’t remember me, do you?” she asked with a cute little pout. “I am Arragwyn, your little cousin. I was only a few years old when you left Darford. We never knew where you disappeared to, but even after all this time I never forgot you or stopped worrying about you. I am very happy to see you whole and healthy.”
Although his friends were clearly charmed by her beauty and elegance, Glen’s demeanor immediately soured when he realized who she was – he felt nothing but hatred for the Arrion family. Though dismayed by Glen’s reaction, Arragwyn gathered her courage and boldly continued with her purpose.
“I heard about how brave and resourceful you were in the Crypt of Dartron,” she continued, “and I know this may seem awkward, but I have a very important favor to ask of you and your friends.”
“I will have nothing to do with anyone from the house of Arrion,” Glen replied in a gruff tone. He folded his arms and turned away from her.
“Wait, let’s hear what the young lady has to say,” offered Magna. “Come, lady, tell us what is so important.”
“My brothers are missing and I need brave heroes like you to find them for me. My father and mother asked Ulfrid to send a search team, but he will not for fear of weakening our village’s strength by sending away any rangers or guardsmen. My parents are too proud to ask anyone else, so I slipped away without their knowledge to ask you in secret for this favor. They offered a reward to any rescuer who brings them back in good health – 100 gold shillings per brother. Or if they are deceased, a reward of 50 gold shillings each if you only return with their gold signet rings – as proof of their demise.”
Glen was visibly irritated when she mentioned her brothers – Arrioch and Arrafel – the two cousins who were a constant pain to him in his youth. He lost what little patience he had to begin with, but his friends – interested in helping the fair maiden – continued to press on with questions.
“Why are your brothers missing?” asked Kyran.
“I believe they journeyed to a place called the Sunken Citadel a month past. My father hired three mercenaries to accompany them, but they have never returned.”
“And who were these mercenaries?” asked Dodge.
“I was not allowed to meet them when they visited our manor, but I overheard some of their conversation and later spied them from a distance. They called themselves Tribus Baceolus. Their leader was called Mauritius, though his companions called him Mar. The others were called Larz and Crispus. They were girded in well-worn armor and bore the look of battle-aged warriors.”
Recognition flashed through their minds as they heard mention of Tribus Baceolus – Mar, Larz and Crispus – the same trio the group had encountered in a brawl a few weeks before. Revenge blazed through the thoughts of Kyran as he remembered Brightflame, the dagger with which Mauritius had absconded. The group now had more personal reasons for assisting the fair damsel, but Glen still extremely reluctant, and argued against it.
Nearing desperation, Arragwyn the Fair lowered herself to her knees and looked up at Glen with her huge, sad eyes. “Please Glenlivet. Oh please help me find my missing brothers,” she pleaded.
“Very well!” Glen finally gave in. “I will accompany my friends on this mission, but I do not like this. And if it comes down to it, I will not risk my life for theirs. Now let’s get you out of here and back to your manor immediately.”
“Oh, thank you so much, Glen,” Arragwyn replied. “But with your pardon, I am here with Drysi, my handmaiden, and Bleiki, my horse. It is not far to our manor, and we will leave right away. Besides, I need to return home quickly anyway, before my father discovers my activities.” And with those words, she and her handmaiden hastily departed.
The team wasted no time preparing for the adventure. They immediately started asking around for more information about the place called the Sunken Citadel.
Glen asked his friend Trygil, the owner of the Darford Inn, who responded, “I remember the last time anyone, aside from Arrioch and Arrafel, asked questions about the Sunken Citadel. It was about thirteen years ago, a grim man named Baeloch stopped by. Most passing strange – as a pet, he had a very large tree frog.”
Magna asked Liric the Scop what he knew about it. “The Old Road ran right past the ruins, but fell into disuse because of goblin banditry. I don’t know for sure what the Sunken Citadel once was, but old legends hint that it served as the retreat of an ancient dragon cult. The Old Road also skirts the Ashen Plain, a lifeless land. The desolation is attributed to the ancient rampage of a dragon named Ashârdalon.”
Chapter 2 – Crossroads Contention
The group finished packing their gear and supplies for travel, got a good night’s sleep, then gathered and departed at the first light of dawn. Spring weather had still not arrived, so in addition to travel rations, they were also burdened with small tents and warm clothes. Magna estimated they had about two and a half days of foot travel before them.
After barely a half hour of walking, they approached a crossroads, where the path from the West Road met the North Road. At the crossroads there were three people waiting. On the west side sat Arragwyn astride her white horse. On the East side stood Sidric and Breena with their pony.
Breena was the first to come forward and greeted them cheerfully. “Did you think you could go on your mission without our help?” she asked playfully and with a hint of slyness. “We owe you our lives,” she added. “Alrica hinted that you were planning a journey and it didn’t take a wizard to figure out what you were up to. I have my pony, Rohese, and she can carry all your gear and supplies.”
“And I have my trusty crossbow,” added Sidric with a smile and a slur, tapping his masterwork weapon.
From across the road, Arragwyn chimed in, “I shall be going too… to help you look for my brothers.”
“No way! Absolutely not!” Glen practically shouted. “She is not going with us on this trip.”
“I agree,” said Breena, sharing Glen’s outward dislike of the fair maiden. “She is just a sheltered little girl. She will be nothing but trouble for us.”
“I will be no trouble,” Arragwyn argued defiantly. “I can take care of myself. And my horse can carry supplies too. Or we can ride him if necessary…” she suggested, with an uncomfortable smile.
“Her horse would be a great help,” admitted Breena, “but she’s too weak. She’ll hold us back. Look at her – she’s accustomed to being served by a handmaiden, while I am a shieldmaiden.” She lifted up her flail to give weight to her statements.
“I will look after her,” volunteered Lee. “I think she deserves to go along to help find her brothers. We don’t know, she might be of some use to us. Not to mention her horse.”
“I agree,” said Yriadel. “And with brave Dodge in our company, we need not fear for our safety.”
“All right,” grumbled Glen, exasperated. “I will go along with the group, but once again under protest. And she better not drag us down in any way,” he added.
Recognizing her standing was insecure, Arragwyn quickly dismounted and began loading their supplies onto her magnificent riding horse.
“I had a pony once too, when I was six,” she bitterly muttered under her breath, seemingly to her horse, though the barb was obviously directed at Breena.
After a half day of travel, the group arrived at the Broken Glade. From there they continued northward on the path, towards the Old Road. They remembered how just a few months before they had taken the westward path that led to the Crypt of Dartron.
A few hours later, while still traveling along the forest trail, they came upon the lone corpse of a stray cow. It appeared to be pierced by dozens of needlelike claws. Magna and Yriadel inspected it closely, but neither had ever seen any would like that before.
Much later in the day, Magna scouted about and found a strategic location for them to camp. Exhausted, they unpacked the horses and set up their tents with little conversation. Lee was kind enough to lend assistance to Arragwyn, whose tent was larger and nicer than everyone else’s.
They divided into shifts for the night, ate some rations, then practically collapsed with fatigue.
Chapter 3 – The Piper
In the early morning, as Dodge, Glen, Kyran and Yriadel slept, through their dreams there came a music thinner and more pure than any they had heard before, and it was full of longing. Indeed it was as if pipes of silver or flutes of shape most slender and delicate uttered crystal notes and threadlike harmonies beneath the moon upon the lawns; and they longed in their sleep for they knew not what.
When they awoke the sun was rising and there was no music save that of a myriad of birds about the trees. The light struck through the limbs and leaves and shivered into merry glints upon the wakening faces of their companions.
(The preceding was adapted from: The Book of Lost Tales, Volume 1, Chapter 2, The Music of the Ainur, page 46; by J.R.R. Tolkien; Copyright 1983.)
At dawn, when camp began to stir, Lee, Magna, Breena, Sidric and Arragwyn all noticed there were many more birds in the trees than normal. They spotted Swifts, Shrikes, Larks, Warblers, Waxwings, Nuthatches, Wrens, Starlings, Blackbirds and Thrushes, Robins and Stonechats, Sparrows, Wagtails and Pipits, Finches and Linnets. Their songs were diverse and beauteous, inspiring joy in their hearts. They were too distracted by their morning duties and the song birds to notice that Dodge, Glen, Kyran and Yriadel were acting strange and distant, like they had a vivid dream and were still lost in the memory. Lee and Magna continued their guard duty, concentrating on the area surrounding their camp. Arragwyn was fetching some pots and rations, to prepare a breakfast, while Breena and Sidric tended to the horses.
Suddenly the singing birds were silent! Everyone halted their activities, mystified. Then they heard the pleasing sound of musical pipes. They were all enticed by the sweet, mesmerizing music, and began to pursue the source of the sound.
As the light of dawn grew steadily stronger, and the intoxicating melody drew them closer, they pushed through the blossoms and undergrowth in silence, until they approached a little lawn of a marvelous green, set round with crab-apple trees. The small clearing was fringed close with immense weeping willows, as if hiding whatever it might hold behind a veil, keeping it till the hour should come, and, with the hour, those who are called.
Then they felt a great Awe fall upon them, an awe that turned their muscles to water and rooted their feet to the ground. It was not a panic terror – indeed they felt wonderfully at peace and happy – but it was an awe that smote and held them and, without seeing, they knew that some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty, they turned towards each other, and saw that each was awed and trembling.
The song wound down to a satisfactory conclusion, then finally they gathered the boldness to lift their eyes, whereupon they saw a handsome, grinning man, reclining leisurely against a small, moss covered bluff. They saw the backward sweep of his curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight. They saw the stern, hooked nose between kindly eyes that were looking down on them humorously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners. They saw the rippling muscles on his arms and broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips. They saw the shaggy legs like a goat disposed in majestic ease. All this they saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky.
(The preceding was adapted from: The Wind in the Willows, Chapter 7, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, by Kenneth Grahame.)
A few small woodland animals sat in audience nearby, but when the music stopped and the animals sensed the group’s approach, they scurried quickly away into hiding. The trees were filled with an abundance of birds who continued to flitter and hop from tree to tree, branch to branch, while chirping and chiming.
Without arising from his reclining position, the Satyr began to converse with the group, very charmingly, yet with a slight, cheery arrogance. “Good morrow, friends. ‘Tis well I am found by ye. Thou come most carefully upon thine hour. E’en so, ‘tis about time ye approached, though I sat with patient expectation, and didst make no secret of my perch by way of merry tune”. He calmly sat up and looked everyone over briefly. “Verily, ye have all changed greatly so.” Then his attention centered upon Yriadel. “And thou, Yríadel – thou hast grown into a maiden most passing fair.”
Yríadel blushed with shyness. “M.. My apologies, sir. I do not know who you are.”
“Thou dost not, poppet?” the Satyr replied, his dark eyebrows lifting with surprise. “And what of thy trusty and most valiant companions: Dodge, Glenlivet and Kyran?” he asked, motioning to each of them as he mentioned their names. But he could tell by their blank expressions that they did not know of him either. Seemingly annoyed, he proclaimed, “Alas, know of your youth!” Then his expression changed to patient acceptance. “Sadly, such is the effect my enchantment doth bestow upon children – the gift of forgetfulness. But hold, mayhap thy memory will return soon, now that we are re-acquainted, and you are now fully grown into gentlewoman and gentlemen.”
Then a new thought seemed to enter his mind, as he rose to his feet. “Pardon my neglect, fair damsel. Introductions art o’erdue,” he said with a bow. “You may call me Tinnfang Warbel, as I am known in Willowdale. Among the elves and the fey I am called Timpinen.”
The travelers were all still much in awe – and only Yriadel could find her voice. In a timid manner she asked, “We are pleased to meet you sir, but how do you know us?”
“I pray thee, mark me,” he replied, motioning her to come closer. “The very minute bids thee ope thine ear.” And with grave seriousness and a hushed tone he continued. “On the day that thou were born, the task was laid upon me to protect and look over thee. Oh, cherubim thou wast that did preserve me. Verily, I did so faithfully throughout thy childhood; retrieving thee, lost in the woods, an abundance of times during thy wandering phase. Twas during one such episode when I met thy three stalwart friends, as they were heroically looking for thee also.
“As the years didst pass, I was released from my avowal when thou grew older and departed for Linwic. Marry! Joy didst fill my heart when I learned of thy safe return to Darford and of thine apparent health and beauty. Indeed, thou hast grown most well and wondrously. Thou hangest upon the cheek of night like a rich jewel in Freyja’s ear.”
Once again, Yriadel blushed, then she seemed to gather her wits and inquire seriously, “You have known me since birth? Why were you tasked with looking over me, and who would give you such a command?”
Tinnfang replied disappointedly, “If I had my liberty, I would do my liking, and reveal those secrets to thee as requested. But little of this great world can I speak. Thou should ask thy mother for the tale, or query thy grammer. Let it suffice thee – tis hatched, and shall be so.”
Yríadel was quite shocked to hear Tinnfang mention her grandmother and mother. “My grandmother!? But she is passed, many long years ago!”
Now Tinnfang appeared taken aback. “What say you, then? Good my mouse of virtue, what hast thy mother kept away from thee? Wherefore and to what purpose would she hide thy legacy from thee and make thy life less fulfilling than it need be? By my troth, so much it liketh unto the folly of backward gaze through spying glass! Hark! Thy amazing grammer Gyldenfeax is not passed. She didst returneth to forest realm long ago, back to her foster father – Feligan Finch the Gnome. Twas always my assumption that perchance her heritage was the cause of thy many lonesome wanderings into forest.
“Ah, but again I speaketh too much. Thou must ask thy mother Thyri to continue this story. Tis not for me to reveal. I can as well be hanged as tell the manner of it.” Apparently consigned to speak no more of these secrets, he began brushing the grass and leaves from his fur, as if preparing to leave. “Now, I must continue my journey, as certainly thou must thine own, and these tales must wait for another time.”
And yet, while in the midst of turning away, he snapped back toward the group, as if yet another new thought entered his mind. “Pray pardon me. By coincidence of a name of which I have just spoken, if it will please thee to show me so much gentry and good will, I have most need of blessing.” His language was confusing to them, and they were not quite sure that he was asking a favor of them, so they continued to stand dumbfounded. After a pause, Tinnfang continued. “A few months past, upon visitation with my good friend Grimble Gromble, he weaveth a tale that he had exchanged words with ye at a recent meeting. He didst ask me to convey message to Feligan Finch that thou had returneth to Darford and were about. Gladly, I satisfied my boon, for a visit with Feligan Finch is always a most hearty affair. I have now journeyed back to provide a tender reply to Grimble Gromble, but he was not at his lodging to be found.”
“The favor that I ask is thus: if ye doth happen to encounter Grimble Gromble amidst these timberlands, do please direct him towards the humble woods of Darford, and inform him thusly that Tinnfang Warbel doth seek him. Remember him hereafter as my honorable friend. For this relief, much thanks. Kind gentlemen, thy pains are registered where every day I turn the leaf to read them.”
Finally, having spoken his piece, he turned to slip away, stating instructively “Let us not be dainty of leave-taking, but shift away. Now dispatch! And good wish upon ye.”