Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Ballad of the Pigeon God #53: A Prophetic Winter at the Chateau

22 DuoDec 1072 - Chateau d'Echelon, Barony of Eding, Kingdom of Crosedes
The chaos which had been affecting our heroes back in Eding had not settled down a bit in their absence. It was a stressful Fall, where the original owner, Baron Echelon himself, was declared dead and ownership was transferred to the manager, "Baron" Felix Homburg.  Felix managed to successfully finish the harvest and prepare for one of the worst winters in recent history.  Where the Chateau had been full of activity with the heroes, hirelings, and hangers-on spilling out of the house and into the series of "bungalows" that they had built for the summer months, in the depths of winter, there were a measly dozen inhabitants in the main house.
  • "Baron" Felix Homsburg:  Former Baron of Homsburg in Ras-Prythax had been kidnapped 342 years prior by the evil doppleganger Spider-People.  He had just recently been rescued by the Baron Echelon and his fellow adventurers, and was given an opportunity to run the farm portion of the estate.  With so many deaths of the trusted staff, he was thrust into the role of manager of the entire estate, and ultimately took ownership from the current Baron, ten-year old "Timmy" d'Echelon to keep the assets away from the scrutiny of King Cervinal, previously known as "The Dread Lord" before the suspicious death of his brother, King Nevin IV.
  • Zoe Loupe-Alberhold: A former peasant girl who had a night of passion with Maloran Alberhold, a fellow adventurer with Echelon.  He got her pregnant, then he was magically transported to a different world, where he died while trying to get back home.  Their child, Luke, was almost two now.  After the death of beloved housekeeper, Dew Xyclone, and a decline in residents, the heads of the household found it fit and proper to offer the job to Zoe. 
  • Babette de Sarista: A former street thief from Hydincall, she got herself tangled up with the party after a botched pickpocket attempt and ended up getting magically teleported to that different world with them.  She performed admirably on their missions to get back home, and even had a romantic tryst with a gypsy from that world.  She gave birth to twin boys, Darius and Yuri, from that affair upon her return last winter.  She retired from adventuring, and focused on her boys, as well as helping Zoe and Felix with the Chateau, when possible.  
  • Heirylat: A former brigand and gang enforcer, he was kidnapped by the Spider-People in 1050, and only recently was rescued by Echelon's company along with Baron Felix.  After discovering he was the long-lost father of the current Baroial Regent, Lady Iris, he was given a prominent job on the estate, but through his laziness and other's incompetence is now just a general laborer and farmhand.
  • Mohammad -  A Mentor of the Echelon, now a crippled, agoraphobic, and psychically weakened cleric of Tshang Kai Shing, the Eastern God of the Sea.  He spends his days in a broom closet on the second floor of the Chateau, trying to commune with his God, only occasionally wandering out and communicating with others.
  • Brutus - A dim-witted but loyal ex-gladiator who found a home and a family at the Chateau.  Works as a manual laborer on the estate alongside Heirylat.
  • Kane - An Eastern monk and water elementalist.  He too was part of the group that travelled to a different world, and upon his return, effectively retired from the lifestyle.  He has spent his days is careful meditation on the Chateau's grounds, or assisting his friend Mohammad.
  • Pathfinder - A grey wolf, permanently charmed by and telepathically linked to Echelon.  With Echelon gone, he spent his summer sleeping around the barn or helping the humans herd animals.  This winter he spent his entire time curled up near the fireplace in the Great Room.  
  • Sterling Riverbend - A bulbous, greasy Quarter Ogre Warrior picked up Hydincall, now a manual laborer and armed escort for the fellow residents of the Chateau. 
The winter had been quite snowy, but somehow the estate was still making money.  Numerous stops were made by the caravans of sleds, sledges, and sleighs en route to the military camp in Lansluck under the command of General Norm Dingleberry.  The quartermasters in charge were willing to purchase any and all provisions, no question on the prices, so Felix calculated what they could do without.  
A clear day to work the outskirts of the Chateau
Other travellers stopped by the Chateau to beg for a moment of respite from the elements and perhaps to purchase some supplies on their pilgrimage to the Camp of Apotheosis.  Apparently the prophecies of that cult of Goodness and Light travelled far and wide, and resonated with many people, who were willing to travelling in the harshest of conditions to join the encampment at a lake just outside the barony's boundaries.  They were never any trouble, but their talk of the return of the King, their god, who would restore order and light to the land worried Felix.  He even took two trips up the road to the encampment. What had been a few dozens adherents had transformed in a community of hundreds, if not thousands.  He even got to talk to two of the high priests, Brothers Knoepp and Lawrence, who welcomed him for a meal, espoused their beliefs, and warned him that they knew with some certainty that their God was returning, "by the end of the year, no doubt."  Felix kept their information under advisement and left promptly. 

32 DuoDec 1072 - Chateau d'Echelon, Barony of Eding, Kingdom of Crosedes
Another storm began raging in the last days of Winter, but not before Felix had time to hear tremendous news from a quick morning trip to Eding proper.   Stopping for a quick drink before heading back to the Chateau, a military messenger also stopped to rest and water his horse,   He dashed inside with a bold announcement.  

"Mad Norm has done it!   The King's finest knight and general has done the impossible and crushed the invading dwarves of Ruuna in a daring winter assault.  Awaiting further orders from the King.  The people of Ruuna are free!!!"   The tavern erupted in celebration.  

Felix was concerned even more.  Norm Dingleberry, dwarf simpleton, was no military genius.  His first adventures with the group were punctuated by his martial incompetence and his only recollection of him fighting valiantly was slaying the Spider-Person doppleganger of his beloved Dew.... by bludgeoning it with a table leg.   His thoughts wandered towards the worst.  Was Norm a Spider-Person?  But would a Spider-Person even try to duplicate his horrible (French) accent?   He travelled home and told everyone the good news.  

As the storm escalated into the evening, the residents of the Chateau, save Mohammad, migrated to the warmth of the fireplace in the Great Room.  Over the mantle was the the large oil painting "White Plume Mountain."  The adventurers overlooking the fog shrouded peak sure resembled the hereos that saved him.   He learned of the prophecy as they had.  Ashe the Elf,  Norm the Dwarf, and Echelon the... Pigeon Lover(?) resembled those adventurers, wielding three artifacts of antiquity that could stop the end times.  A battle-axe, Overwhelm, a trident, Wave, and the sword of the ancient Fereasean Kings, The Blood-Brand.  The only problem was Ashe had disappeared with his wacky brother, Norm was probably a Spider-Person, and Echelon?  Felix was one of a few that knew the former Baron was still alive after his failed diplomatic mission to Ruuna and had gone off with Velandro, Talis, and Mellandria into the heart of Crosedes to search for Count Zabty.  

Zabty was another of the rescuees from the Spider-People.  A paladin of some renown, Zabty left the Chateau just weeks before Echelon had become Baron, and most of the adventurers had decided, with the hated Dread Lord on the throne, war looming on the borders, and prophecy being spouted off, that finding a main of his high character was instrumental in making sure things got better.  Echelon wasn't the smartest or wisest of the group, but with Zabty, he was the last link left for the good guys to have some control over divinations and auguries occurring down the road.

The friendly banter of women and their toddler children grew a bit much for Felix, and he ventured off to the porch to smoke his pipe and find a moment of clarity.  He hunched over again wall to ensure his tobacco stayed lit while still enjoying some of the winds.  There would be a time tomorrow when he would trudge through it to help the boys tend to the animals in the barn, now was a time to enjoy the power of Guya in her most primal form.

Then the most peculiar thing happened.  A small brown owl, caked with snow, landed on the outside railing of the porch.  It's head pivoted towards Baron Felix and it let out a quick, "Hoo- hoo!"   It shook itself off from most of the snow, stared at him again with another "Hoo-hoo." Intrigued, Felix moved towards the bird.  The owl did not try to move away, only uttering another pair of hoo's and turning its head back towards the road.

Brutus had just opened the door to check on his master, when he saw Felix jump off the porch into a foot and a half of fresh snow and try to trudge through it to a lone figure slumped over a horse.   The horse was trying to walk through the snow, but after a few steps, its front legs would collapse forward, it would struggle to regain its footing and keep moving forward.

When Brutus finally to reached Felix, he had made it to the collapsed and obviously exhausted steed. He pulled the person, a woman, away from the horse.

It was Mellandria.

It had been five long months since she had left the Chateau to help Echelon.  She was bloodied, bruised, and at death's door.

She opened her eyes to see Felix, "Is Talis here?"

"No, my dear, I thought he was with you?  Where is everyone"

"Wizards. Explosion.  I think Velandro...  murdered by Witch-Hunters, Talis probably too.  I know Echelon is dead."

"And.... I'm not.... a fucking.... Spider-Person."

Felix wrapped up the magic-user in his own cloak and carried her inside. Once there, he barked at the other men to help Brutus get the horse into a barn and come back inside.

With Echelon dead, what little hope they had was lost.   

DM Note:  Our active heroes were away from the Chateau for the better part of half a year.  It was quiet back home for most of it, but I figured this was a good way to bring the story back to Eding. Most of these characters are NPCs.  Babette's player had permanently stopped showing up, Kane's took a short hiatus for real-life, and Sterling's got him in the game right before the others decided to get a little paranoid with this new regime running the Kingdom.

We know one thing, though.  Mellandria is alive...  because if it was a Spider-Person pretending to be her on the road, they need to keep the human alive to continue the facade.... plus their code phrase was more vulgar than Mellandria would normally speak.

But before things get even worse, let's figure out how Mellandria got home...

NEXT: #54 Mellandria and Horatio's Bogus Journey Home

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