Order of the Red Band

Foxglove Manor 1

Yorastor heard the distant shouts of pain from Kohra and combat drifting up the well and over to where he was reading his book and determining the best way to destroy the house. It was plain to Yorastor that something evil affected this house. The very walls were crumbling yet not collapsing. Something stronger than mortar was holding it together.

The carrion birds, black raven looking things with molted feathers and rotting flesh showing through brought back strong memories of his last encounter with such beasts. Their roosting was yet another confirmation of the evil within.

Milo’s cry for aid and clamber of metal brought Yorastor back to the present and the fight at hand.

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Yorastor, Internal Dialogue IX
The Flames of Hope

Yorastor kneeled in the soft sand of this tidal island, water soaking his clothes and salt crusting on his skin. The irony of the expression “watching your hopes die” was not lost on him in these moments. Beneath his blood stained hands, Nualia’s demonic blood leaked away. Yet these wounds were nothing compared to the one she just suffered at Kohra’s hand.

Sometimes hope died slowly – with a tight clinging to every glimmer and twinkle that might promise its bloom. The wasting of his foster parents into old age was such an occasion. Despite every treatment, despite all efforts slowly time took its toil and they passed. Somedays their bodies and minds surged with renewed vigor; allowing hope to flame back to life. In general the trend was clear and unstoppable. But there were glimmers.

Sometimes, like now, it died quickly. This was almost worse. It was as if by a stroke of lightening. When hope died slowly you could see the end. Even though it was irrational to hope you could not stop it. When it died quickly you had no time to prepare. The jarring sensation was similar to walking into the door jam accidentally. You felt foolish for doing it and stunned it happened at the same time. Did he really think he’d convert her back to the aasimar girl of his memories? One look at the demonic arm and terrible scarring should how unlikely that was to succeed. Did he really think she’d give up her secrets, tell him her plans? Even with his new spells it was unlikely. She’d just be silent or, even more frightening, perhaps she’d resist and feed them misinformation. Nualia talking seemed as irrational as Nualia converting. Did he really think she’d survive the encounter? It did seem unlikely. Yet of all the hopes, that one seemed strongest. With her survival the others seemed possible, however faint. With her survival came the possibility of understanding what happened that night in the Cathedral. Yorastor’s gut told him it was part of the beginning of all this. If he could find that root he could unravel this entire problem.

Yet that hoped died, glittering from the wondrous sword held in Kohra’s hand, crafted by the hands of Sandpoint’s finest blacksmith. In the end it seemed to Yorastor the towns persecution of the girl final climaxed. At least she was safe from further persecution. As the hope faded, he felt another part of him break, another hope.

Looking up to Kohra’s face he knew he’d never go back to being just a shopkeeper. He’d never return to his small world of before. He hoped to much to be something more and when hopes warred the strongest prevailed.

At the moment though, he really hoped Kohra had a good reason and explanation. He was burning out on hope fast.

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Telling the Story Right
It's good to be a hero...

Yorastor enjoyed the solitude of the flight back to Sandpoint. He was tired, worn out from casting and the emotional let down around Nualia’s death. A bit of alone time, away from the party, to think, cool-down and plan was necessary. He was beyond enraged at Kohra’s action. While he certainly had no issues with meting out some field justice in killing Nualia it was, to his mind, the height of foolishness to do so before you learned what you could from a prisoner. Her lack of confirmation on it, her follow on explanation, the entire thing set Yorastor deeply at unease. He’d discuss it some with Zenovia to see what she knew about the mysterious order but a second conversation was clearly needed with Kohra.

He set those thoughts aside – more time was needed too cool down and be objective. Instead, he focused on his arrival in Sandpoint. Given their mission, and the time lapse, the entire town likely thought them dead. He should use that to his advantage. Arriving as the sole member of the party was worth some awe too. He should work that in. Perhaps it was time to accept he was no longer Yorastor Farden, simple shopkeeper of Sandpoint. It was time to embrace his recent heroics. He was Yorastor Farden, the First Theurge of the Sodality of the Key, the Ward of the Red Summit, a Founding Member of the Order of the Red Band, the Guardian of Thistletop Keep…and a shopkeeper. Never hurt to keep some humility about you while you charged into the clouds.

He flew carefully; hugging the close as much as he could to avoid packs of harpies or anything else deadly. He flow over a hundred feet off the water and far enough from the shoreline to present a hard target for bows and any other ambushers. Never hurt to be too careful. The afternoon grew hot and the hours drug on. Yorastor seldom flew for this long and it always amazed him and felt good to do so. He relaxed his leg and back muscles and simply kept an upright posture. As the three hours drew to a close the plan was fully formed in his mind.

First, he donned one of the red sashes he’d been working on as a symbol of the band. He wanted to be clearly marked. Next, he planned to stop by Red Summit, or more precisely, the storage under it and claim one of the ranseurs the party had taken from the catacombs. He’d need the banner Zenovia had lain in there as well – to be flown from the site as construction went along. He’d make quite the entrance. He would begin shouting as soon as he was in earshot of the town. He’d visit the Summit, gather supplies etc, then fly over the construction towards the docks, shouting as he went. He’d fly from the docks up and over the town to the square in front of the Cathedral and then land, planting the banner and declaring the news. It would be glorious. At last, he turned a bend and the faint outline of Chopper’s Isle, now the Red Summit, came into view. He could just see faint dots of the walls and towers being raised. Then he could see the first buildings of Sandpoint from the cliffs. Ah, it was good to be back. It was good to be headed to Sandpoint, home of the Order of the Red Band.

*

As town came into earshot Yorastor began to yell, “Hail Sandpoint! Hail Sandpoint! The Red Band comes in triumph!” as loud as he could. At first it seemed hopeless; too few people near the coast and too much bustle in their own business. Then one person noticed the man flying the coastline towards the Red Summit. The pointed and shouted. Soon, it was groups of people pointing and shouting. Yorastor glided at his sedate pace towards the construction, spotting Zenovia standing out near the freshly worked walls. Her cloudy eyes were pointed directly at him and a grin lit her face. She held one of the ranseurs, point down, with the banner of the Band affixed to the top. Clearly, she had anticipated his arrival. Yorastor couldn’t help but grin himself. As he approached he stopped his shouting and glided to Zenovia. Her grin widened and she stuck forward the banner on it’s makeshift pole.

“I had a feeling you’d want to make an entrance Yorastor Farden. I had a feeling you’d return too.”

Yorastor emitted a rare chuckle, “As ever, your foresight serves you well, milady. Your efforts here bring fruit. It is time I help tend the trees with the folk of Sandpoint. Today shall live in their memories for sometime. It’s a glorious day for Band and the town.” He paused and held a hand, “I know you’ll ask. All are well. We’ll need provisions and a ship to haul everything back. And help from the guard for transport of prisoners. Sadly, Nualia has fallen. I’ll explain more soon.”

“I understand. Go forth Yorastor.”

With that, he took to the skies again, following his planned route, shouting to the town over and over.


By the time Yorastor reached the square in front of the Cathedral most of the town was in attendance, hands over brows to shield the sun’s glare from the figure of a man flying towards them. One last time he shouted to the assembly, “Hail Sandpoint! The Band returns in Triumph!” he glided down and slammed the point of the ranseur into the dirt of the square. A slight breeze tugged the banner open and waving for the entire town to see. Yorastor took a step forward, threw back his hood, raised his arms and yelled to the assembly, “We return in victory! Thistletop Keep is cleared of it’s goblin inhabitants! The traitoress, Nualia, is slain! The Band stands ready to bring back its prisoners for the town’s justice!” He paused and took another stride forward, pivoting as he spoke to take in the entire crowd, he smiled, “And we bring a portion of the extensive wealth secreted in the fortress for the benefit of the town! We will devote some of these efforts to the building of the Red Summit, whose walls already begin to rise! We will reform and restore Thistletop into a bastion of security for the town, securing the hinterlands to the North and seas! Sandpoint, the Band returns, bringing you justice, bringing you prosperity and bringing you security! For Sandpoint! For the Red Band!” He raised his arms at the end to the explosion of cheers and the rush of townsfolk to reach him. Yorastor smiled openly for the first time anyone in town could recall. It was good to be heroic.

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Triumph
A return to Sandpoint

The last 18 days had been long ones. It started with a simple goblin attack on Sandpoint that led down a rabbit hole of ancient enemies, Thassalonian ruins, myths of the Runelords, demon worship, and a not-so-dead Sandpointian with a serious vendetta. The fates had drawn five rookie adventurers together and elevated their status to Heroic in Sandpoint.

With the disbursement of loot complete and the proper tithes and donations paid to those in Sandpoint who deserved it and those who believed they were entitled to it, the building of The Red Summit had begun under Zenovia’s careful attention.

Zenovia welcomed the party back to a quiet dinner at her house after the festivities of the grand and triumphant return. The glorious cries of townsfolk meeting the ship at the dock and hailing them all as heroes. A smaller ship had arrived the previous day with prisoners and rumors had renewed since Yorastor’s impressive entrance two days earlier. This quiet affair was full of drinking but with a less boisterous overtone. Zenovia had spent the afternoon going over the shipping manafest and making deliveries on the promises previously negotiated. It had been a prosperous day. More prosperous than she had even visioned (though she wouldn’t admit that to anyone here).

“Thank you for gathering in my small home,” she began. “soon you will have a much more glamorous meeting hall. Construction has already begun on the foundations. As you hopefully saw on your return we have begun on the draw bridge, a more secure solution to the temporary bridge built already, the great hall and the dormitories. After those are complete you can take up residence there although construction will continue for another three months at my current calculations.” She looked around the table at the heroes wordlessly devouring dinner and sloshing back “the good stuff” she had purchased from Gaven Deverin at Two Knight Brewery. This was a moment for celebration and she was losing the group.

“Ah-hem!” She said clearing her throat. “What you all have been waiting to hear, I believe, is how much you made off your foray into Thistletop Keep.” The five pairs of eyes in the room turned to look at her with spoons and turkey legs freezing midway to the mouth. Zenovia picked up a pad of paper and adjusted her glasses while squinting at it for effect. “By my calculations, the sales profits from today, which includes the sums of coins you brought back, divides out so that each one of you receives 1,709 gold, 6 silvers, and 9 coppers.” There were some frowns and grimaces as those around the table tried to do some mental arithmetic based on their estimates of the wealth recovered from Thistletop. Zenovia continued before anyone could protest. “I expect a further 932 gold and 4 silvers to each of you by the end of the week. I had to make some arrangements as several of my most trusted vendors quite literally ran out of money. The bulk of the sales will happen in another two days and then a further two to get the profits from a few items that had to go to a collector in Magnimar. That is a grand total of 2,642 gold and 9 coppers for each of you.” She smiled around the table at the gleaming faces staring back at her. Everyone nodded their heads and exchanged slaps on the back while congratulating each other on being rich.

“However,” Zenovia continued. “It seems to me that some of the retained items do not share equal wealth.” She could see a frown of confusion fall across a couple of faces. Her eyes went white as she looked beyond that which was visible. “By that I mean not all of you have the same power nor number of magical auras surrounding you. Yorastor, for instance seems to posses the most followed by Kohra. I do not say this to anger any of you but to merely keep the profits of such a joint venture the most equitable.” She had drawn closer to Yorastor during her talk and now stared at the wonderful ring on his hand. Its glowing brilliance was the brightest thing in the room. Glowing like a tiny sun she was as drawn to it as a moth to the torch. “May I examine your ring, Mr. Farden?”

Yorastor sighed wishing he had stashed the ring in his emporium before joining the banders for dinner sighed and removed his ring. Kohra chimed in saying, "Wren, what is it? We found it in a silver vase in the depths of the head. Yorastor said he could not identify it without more research.

Zenovia moved the ring back and forth in her delicate hand examining the ring through her cataract filled eyes, using her magical sense more than her vision. “This is a ring of force shield.” she said after a few moments. It is high level, more powerful than I or Yorastor, I suspect. But it does surprise me that you wouldn’t have been able to identify such an item…Either way, this is a prize worth accounting for on the books. The final say on dividing the wealth is ultimately up to you all but I would sugest that Yorastor forego his share of the profits today and we divide it only four ways. This would give you each 2,137 gold, 1 silver, and 2 coppers. Then Yorastor would enter back into the profit share in the future. This equates to each of you earning 2,000 more gold than he does from this endeavor. I am open to your suggestions and will do whatever you agree upon."

“This concludes our business meeting for the night. More to come in the upcoming days. Enjoy your return to Sandpoint and don’t spend all your money in one place. You will need it to equip for the coming war.”

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Thistletop Adventure 1

The party approached the island known as Thistletop from the North West. Hiding under the cover of darkness the boat approached the island without being noticed. Yorastor flew from the ship up the 80 feet to the top of the cliff and secured two ropes. The heroes of Sandpoint climbed the sides of the strange looking head of some ancient giant statue. The stockade is made of thick wood. Upon closer inspection it appears that most wood seems to have been scavenged from ships. A few nameplates remain affixed to some of the beams. Other timbers look like they once might have been masts. Approaching undetected the party was able to set fire to the north eastern corner of the keep. With a few twirls of a strangely knotted rope Yorastor caused a horrible growling sound like some night monster flying over the island.

Goblins started yelling in their foreign guttural language of squeaks, gurgles, and hard consonant sounds with a few common words thrown in for good measure. Three goblin warriors ran out of the main gate on the southern end and around to the outside of the wall that was burning. They carried buckets on long ropes and quickly threw their buckets over the side of the cliff.

Without letting the goblins even draw up one bucket the heroes attacked and chopped them into quick pieces. The goblins were surprised by the attack on the northern, safe, side of the keep. In response three goblin riders on top of viscous hairless goblin dogs emerged and looked ready for a fight. Yorastor looked them in the eyes reached into his pocket and said a few ancient words. All of them immediately, magically, fell asleep. The heroes rolled them off the edge of the cliff and called it good.

They circled back around the northern side of the keep hugging the wall to remain out of sight. Skirting along the western wall they entered over the rubble of a ruined tower. It looked to have recently burned down and the wood timbers were burned through with most of the tower having fallen off the island. Rubble covers what used to be some kind of storeroom. Crates and barrels lie mostly buried. A couple broke open revealing hundreds of pickles. The leg of one dead goblin protrudes from the rubble.

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Kohra's Journey 3
Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul, or A journey back to underbelly
Sunday, 30 Rova
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ohra exited the catacombs through the glassworks with the rest of the Band and was surprised and astounded by the throng of onlookers gathered there. Apparently, news of the Band’s return to the catacombs beneath the city had spread quickly. Despite being daylight-born, the sudden glare of a cloudless blue sky forced Kohra to raise the hood of her tunic.

As the band began to wind its way through the gathered crowd, Kohra could hear snatches of whispered conversation;
“Look, there’s Lady Caran.” Whispered one young girl to a friend, seemingly in awe. “I heard she killed thirty goblins and rescued the pretty woodsman only using those scarves!”

“Hmph.” An older matron snorted quietly as Kohra passed. “A pretty girl lie tha’ ought be married n’ makin’ babies at ‘er age. ‘Specially with those hip o’ hers, they was made for….gulp.”

A yellow eyed glare from Kohra quickly quieted the hag.

Once past the on looking crowd of towns’ folk, Kohra bid the Band farewell and headed to Wren’s home. As usual, her friend was waiting for her outside the door, delicious smells emanating from a pot over the hearth.

“You don’t seem to much worse for wear.” Wren lilted as she squinted at Kohra. “Come, let me see to those wounds.”

“I’m fine, Wren. These few scratches will heal well enough on their own. But thank you for your concern.” Replied Kohra. “I’m afraid I’ve not too much time, my dear. I wish to check in on Amieko and help her around the Dragon if she needs it.”

“You’re going back aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question.

Will I ever get used to Wren knowing my thoughts and plans before I do? Kohra asked herself.

“We need to finish exploring the branches of the catacombs.”

“That doesn’t mean you should go alone, Kohra. Each of you is important to the success of this endeavor.”

“So you’ve told me a few times.” Kohra said, smiling warmly at her friend, “I’ll be fine. Trust me.”

“The last time you told me to trust you, Kohra, we ended up dangling from the old church steeple in the middle of the night.”

The two friends then spoke of more serious matters regarding the most recent sojourn into the catacombs beneath the city. Once she finished her story, Kohra bid her friend farewell and returned to the Rusty Dragon to check on Amieko and refresh prior to her return to the tunnels.
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As Kohra opened the door to the Dragon, she was immediately greeted by raised cups and looks of admiration from the patrons. A few gave her glances ranging from appreciative to downright lustful, the later had learned the hard way that their eyes where the only bits of their anatomy that would enjoy her.
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Ameiko Kaijitsu was sitting at the bar with her serving girl Bethana, discussing preparations for the evening crowd. They looked up, smiles forming on their faces as Kohra approached.
“Beth, please get our Bander friend something to drink.” Ameiko asked, her voice somewhat raspy. She spent the evening crying I bet. Thought Kohra.

“Of course ma’am.” Bethana answered, her voice lilting musically through the noises of the common room. She returned shortly with watered wine then went to see to the few patrons still eating their breakfasts.

“Welcome back my friend,” Ameiko raised her cup to Kohra, “You’ve been back to the underbelly of Sandpoint. I can’t wait to hear all about it.” She leaned forward expectantly to hear Kohra’s story.

Kohra beamed at Ameiko, the moniker of friend warming her more than expected. “I’m more than happy to share my tale, but I must first ask; how are you holding up? I know you weren’t too close, but the loss of your father and brother within a day…” her voice trailed off as she looked worriedly at her friend.

Ameiko sighed and took a long drink from her cup. “I’ve mixed feelings actually,” she rasped. “My father was not a kind man, and Tsuto wasn’t much better. They were tough to deal with, but father was good for the town.” She paused briefly, exhaling a long deep sigh. “I’m going to have to go back to the house soon to settle things there. I can’t imagine ever living there again though, not after this and especially not after my mother…”

Kohra leaned forward and placed a comforting hand on Ameiko’s forearm, “He never struck me as an award winning father, but perhaps he was better than nothing at all. My father too was slain quite gruesomely, I can empathize with what you’re going through. If you need help with your getting things settled at your house, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

“Thank you.” Amieko replied, relief evident in her voice, “That means so much to me. I have many friends here in town, but none I would want to ask to do that with me.”

“I’m here when you need me. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. This town gave me shelter when I needed it and I plan to repay it.” With that, Kohra began regale Ameiko with the latest adventure of the Red Band. As the story progressed, Kohra found the performer in her coming out as the story unfolded in an almost bardic fashion. Eventually, she realized the common room was quiet and still, all eyes on her as the story reached its conclusion. The patrons all nodded in appreciation and thanked her for the story.

Slightly flushed from the excitement of storytelling, Kohra took her leave to refresh herself and rest before returning to the catacombs that evening.Cave.jpg

Kohra finished her preparations for the evening’s spelunking just after sunset. As she descended the stairs, the smells emanating from the kitchen reminded her she hadn’t eaten since her morning visit with Wren. After enjoying a quick repast, Kohra departed, the Dragon amid disappointed cries from the patrons, her walk suggestive and captivating. “I’m sorry gentlemen, I will dance again tomorrow, but for now, my duties to the Band take precedence.”

“I’ll bet they do!” guffawed one over-weight and loathsome customer. Ameiko, standing nearby, struck him with blinding speed blood spewing from his, now, broken nose.

The man clutched his hands to his ruined face as his compatriots laughed uproariously at him. Kohra smiled thankfully at Ameiko, receiving a wink and a nod in return. As Kohra turned once again to leave, Ameiko grabbed the offender and began escorting him in the direction of the privy.
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A short time later, Kohra, moving with unconscious quiet, reached the entrance to the underbelly of Sandpoint. She drew up short as she noticed a figure squatting near the entrance. She paused to observe the apparent guard. She almost immediately recognized the handsome young man as Mikel, a new recruit to the town guard and sometime visitor to the Dragon. He appeared to be oblivious to her presence, staring intently at a wickedly curved glaive lain across his thighs. The blade glinted black with swirling silver scroll-work.Glaive.jpg

Strong thighs…… she thought to herself. She quickly pulled herself away from thoughts about his thighs. Odd weapon for a town guard though. After a few more moments admiring the handsome young recruit, Kohra stepped lightly out of the shadows.

Mikel flowed swiftly to his feet, twirling the glaive effortlessly and leveling it at her bosom, as her foot purposely scraped the ground. He recognized her at once as a Bander, his eyes widening. “Lady Kohra!” He exclaimed, lowering his weapon smartly. “Forgive me, I didn’t know it was you!”

“It’s okay….Mikel, isn’t it? I think I’ve seen you at the Dragon.”

The young man blushed a deep crimson. “Aye m’lady, I’ve been there and seen you dance. You’re incredibly gifted.”

“Thank you, that’s very kind of you.” Kohra’s voice taking on a deeper more sultry tone. “but you know, I’m no landed noble for you to call me Lady. Kohra is my name and I’m rather fond of hearing it.”

Impossibly, Mikel’s blush deepened even more. “Eheh….yes m’la…..Kohra.”

“Has everything been quiet, Mikel.”

“Oh yes ma’am. There’s been nary a bump or scrape until you arrived. If I may m’la…Kohra, why are you here? Is everything okay?”
“Everything is just fine. But I’m here to finish scouting the last corridor down there. It’s generally easier if I go it alone, my friends aren’t the most quiet sort.” Kohra peered up at Mikel, a warm smile on her face.

Mikel nodded, trying hard to keep his composure. “Ahem, er um, would you like me to accompany you?”

“I would love for you to accompany me. But you’re needed more here. If I miss anything down there it’s immensely important that you’re here to keep it from reaching the town.”

Mikel stood a little taller at her apparent acknowledgment off the importance of his post, “Yes ma’am. I’ll not let anything past!”

Kohra patted him affectionately on the chest._ Nice chest…._ “I know you won’t.”

Mikel finally allowed his eyes to wander, as Kohra turned and began to descend the stairs into the underbelly.
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The next few hours past slowly for Mikel. He found himself beginning to worry about the attractive adventurer and dancer. He could still feel her hand on his chest….

“Mikel? Would you mind helping me a moment?” The dancer’s voice lit the night in his mind as it called from the dark tunnel.

“Miss Kohra?” he asked. “You’ve returned safely.” He could see her curvy silhouette holding a hand out for him to grasp.

“Indeed I have.” She replied as he grasped her hand and drew her out of the tunnel. As she stepped into the light she stumbled and slightly fell into his chest. His arms came up instinctively to catch her and he found himself holding her close staring wide eyed down at her. The smile he saw shining up at him from her pale face lit the darkness off his mind even more.

“You can let me go now.” teased Kohra.

Mikel’s face once again blazed red when he realized how long he had been holding her to him and immediately let her go.
“Ahem” he coughed, “Did you have any success down there?”

“You could say that I guess. The tunnel eventually empties through a secret door about 400 feet outside the north wall, near the beach. I imagine this is where the smugglers used to dock to unload their goods and bring them into town. There was only a single goblin though.”
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Mikel found himself suddenly worried for the welfare of this dancer he hardly knew, “A goblin?! What happened to it?!”

“Umm…” she answered nonchalantly, “the last I saw of it, it was missing an arm and the water was smashing what was left of him against the rocks below the cave.”

“I wish I could’ve been there!”

The dancer smiled warmly up at him, “I wish you could’ve too. Turns out it was rather lonely down there. I seem to have become accustomed to traveling with a group rather quickly.”

Mikel grinned down at the dancer, “If you need a companion in the future, you can certainly send word and I will be there for you.”

The dancer placed a hand on hip and smiled coyly, “I absolutely will. But you’ll have to excuse me Mikel, I must pay my friend Zenovia a visit and get myself cleaned up. Please, come see me at the Dragon tomorrow night, I’ll make sure to give you special show.”

With that final statement the dancer swayed seductively into the night.

For several long moments, Mikel stared into the dark after her, the image of her silhouette and the musical tones of her voice burned into his thoughts. Her presence seems to sweep the darkness away or at least keep it at bay, he thought. The Dark Glaive seemed to vibrate in his hand at that thought.
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Town Council Meeting

The evening of Toilday 2 Lamashan Sheriff Hemlock and his two town guards returned from Magnimar. They were weary from the long trip. In their haste they had changed horses at the half way point and pushed through the afternoon and evening to make Sandpoint after dark. Fifty hard miles of riding in one day. No small feat. They dismounted at Goblin Squash Stables where Daviren Hosk took care of the small squad of horses for the town’s guard. Walking up to the town garrison they dropped their saddle bags and riding coats. The blue uniforms of the guards shone bright after the drab riding coats. “You are dismissed.” Said Sheriff Hemlock to the two escorts. “Go get some sleep. We may need you in the coming days.” With quick nods they took their leave.

Belor Hemlock nearly fell into his office chair with exhaustion…and weariness, if he let himself be honest. He pulled out his notes from the saddle bag. He poured himself a few fingers of a stiff whiskey and breathed it in. Twelve hours in the saddle had left him little time to work his thoughts. They were pushing hard and finally made it. He scribbled out some of his notes on a piece of paper. It was time to make some decisions.

The next morning, 3 Lamashan, at 9am, just as the bell was ringing in the cathedral, the door to the second floor gathering room in town hall opened and four people walked in to join Mayor Deverin. Sheriff Hemlock let Ethram Valdemar, Titus Scarnetti, and Shalelu Andosana enter ahead of him. The five town heroes of the Order of the Red Band waited in the hall as the three remaining nobles discussed the town’s future with Sheriff Hemlock and the ranger with her honorary position in the town council. Even Titus had appeared as requested for this meeting instead of showing up late to exert his position as he so often did.
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Discussions ranged high and low for over half an hour before the door opened back up and Belor waved them in. Mayor Deverin made introductions to the town nobles. “Gentlemen,” she says, “These are the Heroes of Sandpoint you have heard so much about. They have recently organized and I hear are calling themselves the Order of the Red Band. Our very own Yorastor Farden, Owner of Farden’s Emporium; Kohra Caran, a child of Sandpoint who has been out in the world a bit and recently returned; Dorin Jal of House Jal, the well known bounty hunter family out of Turtleback Ferry. He is no doubt here to claim some big bounty and perhaps rid us of the Sandpoint Devil. Pel Orthreis, recently arrived to Sandpoint; and Blackheart of clan Corril whose sadness the bards sing. And Heroes, this is Ethram Valdemar. He is a founding member of Sandpoint and operates most of the shipworks in Sandpoint. This,” she said turning, “is Titus Scarnetti. He is responsible for all of the lumber operations in town that provides wood for the shipbuilding industry. He also has his hands in a lot of different pockets.” She said finishing. Pausing for effect she looked around the room to see if everyone was satisfied.

“Well then, now that we are all introduced I first want to thank you for all you have done for this town in the last ten days. It has been a trying time for Sandpoint and you have helped ensure we are still here.”

“Now Kendra,” interrupted Titus. “We would have managed if these young men and woman hadn’t been here. We have a well equipped town guard, after all.”

“A guard that lost four members during the attack.” Interjected Sheriff Hemlock. “And who knows how many more would have…”

“Yes, yes, Thank you for all you have done.” Titus nearly sneered. “Let’s get to the point. Our plans to preempt any future attack on Sandpoint.”

“Yes, thank you Titus.” Mayor Deverin looked red in the face from the obvious rudeness against the Heroes of Sandpoint. “We have made some difficult decisions. Shalelu has intel that the goblins of the other clans are aggitated and look to be preparing for some kind of attack. Not in their normal skirmish ways but in a concentrated effort. Yorastor’s intelligence about the forces on Thistletop leads us to hope that the keep is only the center of command and control and Tsuto’s journal and statements by Ameiko clearly detail, and not a base of amassed goblin might. If that is the case a preemptive attack on Thistletop might allow a small force to get in and kill the leadership, notably Bruthamus the bugbear leader and Nualia who has somehow gained control of the goblins. With those two out of the way, Shalelu tells me, the plan will fall apart.” Deverin pauses to look around the room for questions and comments.

Titus jumped in to fill the brief silence. “We cannot leave the town without its forces, you see. We need you to take on the task of riding Thistletop of its current leadership…Just think of the spoils of a goblin hoard you will find there. Perhaps enough so you won’t have to live in a hotel forever.”

“And of course there will be some payment involved.” Added Mayor Deverin. “Miss Zenovia Wren has been applying for building permits on your behalf down at the Mercantile League. These fine gentlemen have assured me that your permits will go through with only the utmost efficiency and that upon completion the league will contribute 25 goods and 25 labor toward the building of your hall. That should get you started on a real place to live, as Titus pointed out.”

Old Ethram Valdemar chimed in, “I have a boat you may make use of if you choose to go by water. I will send a team to sail you out there. It isn’t far, but it is difficult to get to. Treacherous even by sea.”

Yorastor was already running the numbers in his head: With that kind of goods and labor it would save nearly 1,000 gold pieces and they would easily be able to finish the lodging, kitchen, lavatory, and common room. Zenovia might even have the bridge finished by the time they returned from the keep. Pilings had already gone into the ground near the old light. It wouldn’t take long. He ticked things off mentally.

The party of reluctant Heroes looked around at each other and nodded. It was agreed. Dorin was the first to put the thoughts into words. “We will gladly take on this quest for the town.”

Shalelu who had remained silent in the corner, as was her comfort zone, chimed in. Her voice sounded strong yet quiet like the ocean. “I would like to question the goblin brought back from Thistletop if that is ok? I think he may have some important information. Yorastor, would you accompany me to question him?…That is all.”

With that the meeting was dismissed to work on preparations. Ethram said he would put a boat and a few men on notice to be ready to depart on Order of the Red Band. Sheriff Hemlock also sent word to Harsk at Goblin Squash Stables to prepare the horses for the heroes in case they were needed. Shalelu and Yorastor (and whoever else) went across the street to the basement of the garrison to question the goblin. Buzz around town spread that the Banders were getting ready for something big. Shop keepers grabbed a few wares of adventuring quality and sought out Zenovia Wren the reputed account manager for the band. Perhaps they would need new items before such a quest.

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Yorastor, Internal Dialogue VII
A man, a boat and a goblin walk into town...

Sunday 30 Rova

Yorastor spent the day preparing for his planned outing. He made no mention to the townsfolk or to the other members of the Band and he avoided Zenovia all day. He finished the fliers for Jorad in the morning. While he wished to keep the business reputation up and running he could see he needed some staff to take over. He had serious matters to prepare for and it was only going to get worse. While he never envisioned himself a hero, Zenovia’s visions and the townsfolks words fired his heart in a way he didn’t expect. He reflected a lot on it too – perhaps Nethys was playing an active role again. It would explain the sudden shift in mood.

On the serious business front, Yorastor would need a covert method of transportation to reach Thistletop Keep. He wished to scout it some and see if the forces there really were bristling for an attack on the town. To this end, Yorastor paid a few coins to a local fisherman to rent a boat for the night. He didn’t mention his plans or his purpose; the rough worker just grunted, “If a Sandpoint hero needs me boat that’s fine with me.” It probably helped that Yorastor left considerable collateral in the man’s hands with a note of credit for the full value of the craft, payable by Zenovia from Yorastor’s share of the Magnimar sales. He figured all would be well but it paid to think ahead.

Personal preparation for the trip came next. Yorastor worked on the scrolls he might need tomorrow focusing on healing and methods to help evade and escape if he was seen. He also planned out his prepared spells – focusing on those that would provide suppression of enemy forces. Between the two he hoped he could survive any unpleasant encounters with the goblin forces. He used most of the day on the scrolls, including all of his most powerful spells. Next, he checked and re-checked his bag. All the needed components where there but he would leave the camping gear and extra food behind. It was extra weight and he wouldn’t need it. Finally, he headed to the lab to mix the potent ingredients he might need in a pinch. He prepared several items, again focusing on versatility. Finally, he penned a small note to the band and Zenovia and set it in the window of the store. If he didn’t return tomorrow it would be seen and someone could force the door and read the note. Help shouldn’t be too far behind him in case things went south. Knowing what Nualia had become though he suspected if she were in the keep he would not survive long enough for the rescue attempt. Still, it was worth a try. At last, he closed the shop and went to sleep.

Yorastor awoke early and set about visiting all over town. He was in search of any skilled in writing and notation. He needed someone there to help keep things going while he was off exploring and helping to build the Red Band. The addition of the Red Summit re-doubled the problem. The town of Sandpoint held enough people, including passers-through, that one or two individuals surely existed with the requisite skills. He just needed to find and hire them. His efforts so far hadn’t panned out though and he was beginning to think he needed to send word to Magnimar and recruit a few bright, fresh faces to the town to its south.

The day crawled to a close and, finally, the sun slipped below the horizon. Yorastor set his plans in motion immediately. He gathered his bag, triple checked everything and confirmed his scroll case was tight to avoid water damage in-transit. Then he set the note in the window, closed and locked the door to the shop and strode into the night. He walked briskly to the docks where the small fishing skiff lay. Unmooring the vessel he set the oars into their locks, pulled on thin goatskin cloves and rowed the small craft out the mouth of the harbor. Once free of the immediate vicinity of Sandpoint he ran the small sail up and headed east out of town on calm waters. Looking back the faint light of stars and moon shone on the island that would give rise to the Red Summit. Yorastor took it as a positive omen.
….
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….
Moonday 1 Lamashan

As the fishing skiff returned to Sandpoint several hours later it had an extra occupant. A small goblin huddled in the stern of the craft, rope looped over it and fastened to the tiny mast amidships. Already the wretched creature had accepted its plight and new “Master”. It sniveled quietly and bemoaned its fate. By now it had learned Yorastor good reply in Goblin so threats and other mutterings were kept to a minimum. It suited Yorastor just fine. He was tired and stressed from his recon and wanted nothing more than to go home and sleep a few hours.

Even with gloves, the necessary rowing and steering had shredded Yorastor’s soft hands. He debated using his final healing scroll to repair the damage but then thought better of it. The scrolls weren’t cheap to make and he would survive just fine. First though he needed to drop off the goblin, Stenchstep, he really should start thinking of him by his name, at the. He’d need his sleep. His guts told him Zenovia would look him up in the morning and discuss Red Summit further. She’d probably chastise him for his “risk” too but that was another matter.

As he approached the harbor and dropped the sail, Yorastor groaned inside. Pulling on the oars, was painful work as the blisters turned bloody and popped during the final pulls into the small harbor. He’d need bandaging and time off to heal – or he’d need magical help. In either case with some time he’d heal fine. He also realized how much sailing was not his strong suit. He nearly rammed the skiff into its slip before slowin. The goblin has thrown to the hull and knocked out. It was just as well for Yorastor. As they trudged through the mostly deserted streets Yorastor was thankful for the cover of darkness. Vachedi was on duty again. Yorastor knew he was taking Tsuto’s suicide hard but the man did his job well. Nodding tiredly, Yorastor exchanged the bare minimum of words to get the goblin signed in. Before he marched out and went home to rest. Tomorrow would be a long day too. The Sheriff needed to come back soon. Yorastor wanted to clear out Thistletop Keep.

….

Yorastor strode into The Rusty Dragon at an hour reserved for those with hangovers and general laziness. He’d sent word first thing this morning after pulling back into the harbor that he’d join the party for a late breakfast, on him. This was a bit of joke between them all now. None of the people called “Sandpoint’s Heroes” had paid for anything they ate or drank in almost a week. Fame, and hero status, did have its perks. A look down at his torn hands though showed the pains it had too. He was fresh from his meeting with Zenovia and still a bit worked up.

As he saw the party in the back corner, he motioned to Bethana and strode to meet the others. He arrived at the same time as the elderly halfling and Yorastor nodded, smiled and pushed back his hood. It was something new he was trying. When he wished to speak, or didn’t mind being spoken to, he went without the hood. He’d found it effective so far.

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“Good morning Bethana! You look young as ever today! Yes, I’d love something but you must let me pay this time. I understand how Ameiko feels but I have feelings too – and mine keep getting hurt by this silly policy! I’d love some ham, eggs and toast please along with a cup of the eau, if you would.”

Bethana alternated facial expressions as polite conversation dictated; smiling at his greeting, blushing and waving at his compliment and half formed protestations at his desire to pay. By the time Yorastor reached his order her face returned to its usual attentive expression. Her eyebrows spiked up at the mention of the eau though.

“Eau Master Yorastor? Are you sure at this hour? Are you well, sir?”

“Quite well, just a long night. Need something to help fortify me is all.”

The diminutive waitress smiled, shook her head and nodded, “As you wish sir. I’ll back shortly. Anyone else?” The party shook their heads in the negative.

“Where have you been Yorastor?” asked Kohra.

“Indeed, and what have you been doing that your hands are bandaged and you are in need of fortification at this hour?” quipped Dorin.

Yorastor smiled, gave his head a shake, accepted the freshly returned eau and took a sip. Then he began the tale.

“If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to get this all out before you ask any questions. Before I forget any key details. I’ve been up most of the night and starting to get fuzzy in the head.

Yesterday I prepared for a trip by boat to Thistletop Keep. I wanted to scout for the possible attack and verify if Naulia was present on the fortress. I made a few scrolls, prepared some alchemical agents and borrowed a looking-glass from Veznutt. Then I rented a fishing skiff from a local and awaited nightfall. While both the goblins and me have the ability to see in the dark I figured they would have lights and I’dve the element of surprise.

I sailed fairly close and pretended to be a normal night fisherman heading up to the reef that others have had such great luck on. Dropping anchor I pretended to fish while quietly observing the top of the island. I noted the following but I could be wrong on exact numbers.” Yorastor paused to sip the eau and then ticked off the points on his fingers, “
- the chief Ripnuggert is present on the fortress. I heard him called out several times.
- Just over a dozen goblins were active in the fortress itself
- I counted four goblin dogs in the fortress
- More goblin troops are in the woods – I spotted a single rider on a goblin dog near a precarious looking rope bridge.”

Yorastor paused as the food arrived. He waited till they had privacy before continuing.

“More importantly, I was able to secure a source of information. I was not the only night fisherman in the area. A foolish goblin was trying to net some fish on the outcroppings a bit off the island. His name is Stenchstep. I hit him with a sleep spell, tied him up and slipped away. I’ve turned him over to Varchedi at the jail when I returned. I’d like to rest some then, perhaps, we can go interrogate him and see what he knows? I think there is something afoot here and they have sufficient troops for sure. An attack at least the size of the last one would be possible and I have no clear information on the number of troops they have in the woods. Naulia wasn’t present though. I made a rough map of the presumed layout of the fortress. Mind you, it’s from an odd angle so it may not be all correct.

Questions and thoughts my fellow Banders?” With that ending Yorastor tucked into his meal and awaited the questions of the others.

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The end of Tsuto

On the morning of Sunday, 30 Rova, Mayor Deverin approached a small platform placed on the town side of Tanner’s Bridge with the dramatic backdrop of the cliffs rising to the cathedral cemetery behind her. The focus for this gathering was the infrequently used timbers jutting out from the cliff face. The timbers served as a hang point where a gibbet could be attached. This morning the jailer, Vachedi, was placing the dead body of Tsuto into the gibbet in the back of a wagon. Soon he would be hoisted and hung there until the flesh was pecked from his bones by the birds. This tradition was reserved for traitorous actions against the town and most often the gibbet held a person convicted of piracy against the fishermen. Today, it was Tsuto, bastard son of a former Sandpoint councilman.

To_Suffer_Without_Dying_3.pngMayor Deverin stepped forward to the small crowd of about 40 townsfolk who had come to jeer and hear the crimes against which Tsuto was charged. News would spread to the rest of the town. Religious services were in only an hour and by the end more than half the town would know. “My fellow Sandpoint citizens, we gather today to declare the crimes of Tsuto Kaijitsu against this town. He is charged with collusion in the attack on Sandpoint at last week’s festival. The Order of the Red Band found him using the abandoned smuggler’s tunnels to bring in goblins. He had on him at the time of his capture a notebook that detailed future plans for a larger attack. Had the Heroes not apprehended him we might be facing that attack any day. Thanks to their initiative and significant might they were able to deter this attack. If he had not taken his own life yesterday he would have faced execution today. He is also charged with the murder of his father and councilman, Lonjiku Kaijitsu. The torturous act by which this depraved mind killed his father means we cannot even show his body for burial.”

Kendra took a moment to look over her shoulder at the preparations and gave a nod at Vachedi. He started hoisting the gibbet up the cliff face with a squeak of the rope and pulley. Returning her attention to the growing gathering she finished, “He will hang here as a testiment to those who think they can betray this town until his bones are pecked clean by the birds and bleached white by the sun.” After her conclusion she turned and walked back up the path toward town. She did not even look back at the body hanging in the cage.

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Ruins beneath Sandpoint

Emerging from the sandworks for the second consecutive day with more slain demons the townsfolk clapped their hands for the Red Band. vargouille.jpg Yorastor carried the dead Varigoule in his hand and the gathering crowd looked on in fright. Cries of thanks rang out from the people of the town and more than one young woman threw herself at Dorin. There were a few dissenters in the crowd looking on with disdain but not saying anything. It is possible that the local Scarnzi branch did not look at the growing fame of some do-gooders in their town with excitement.

Alaznist.pngThe wicked and beautiful ranseur carried out glinted in the sunlight and gave a very military look to the party. Word spread quickly of the existence of the underground complex right below the city streets. An evil had been dwelling there for thousands of years and now it was gone. Brodert described his plans for excavating the stairs and continuing his study of the complex. “It must be connected to the Old Light and its reason for being here. There are weeks, months of work to be done down there!”

Mayor Deverin sent a runner from the town hall asking a report of the heroes actions. The messenger invited one or more to lunch and discuss the situation.

As members of the Order of the Red Band met with Mayor Deverin and filled her in on the events of the last day and a half she had a scribe take notes. She explained that she was sending a messenger to Magnimar to update Sheriff Hemlock on the latest developments. “This information will surely help him secure our requested forces. I ask you to remain in town until he returns. It should be another three or four days before he returns. We will discuss plans when he returns.”

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