It was early morning the 3rd week of midfall when Arden and Company rode across the heavy oaken planks of the drawbridge. Martin watched the treeline in the distance. A red-tailed hawk took wing from the nearby field, a mouse clutched tightly in its claws. The weather was colder than yesterday and the wind had picked up a bit. Thane tucked his beard into his belt and nicked at his pony to get in line.
The Company stretched out along the dirt cart path marking the Old Trade Road. Sergeant Tenning commanded his dozen archers, impressing on his men that they were mainly a bunch of layabouts and lacking any redeeming qualities afforded to humankind. His demeanor was different when addressing the principals of the Company. Arden was his junior by a dozen years, but the sergeant showed respect for the fighter. Arden had earned it as did the others who came back from the Caves with their heads still attached.
The castellan had made it clear to his men that Arden would be in command. The archers were to play a support role only. None were expected to enter the Caves. If the Company were pursued by hostiles, they would provide a volley of arrows and as a last resort, close combat with sword or axe.
The sergeant had seen combat in his day, but most often he and the troops would chase down bandits or other ruffians. Chasing was the operative word. Most bandits would flee in the presence of a larger force.
Egg Barkley was whistling a tune as he rode along on a chestnut gelding. He seemed in particulary good spirits this day. Corwin inquired on his disposition and Egg replied, “I’ve sent a letter down to Haversham. Me missus, is packing her things and bringing our girl up to Coot’s Mill.”
Haversham was the county seat of the northernmost county of the Kingdom of Eyre. The county proper was called Dent and the Duke of Dent had holdings in the town. Some of the lumbermen in Coot’s Mill have families there. Until the wilderness around the Keep can be settled, they have left their families behind in safety. Pay is better up in the logging camps surrounding the Keep, but bandits and other dangers make it an uncertain place.
The Old Trade Road is now little more than a trail that winds northward towared the great mountains called the Five Kings. Thane hails from Irendall, a dwarven kingdom in the nearest of the mountains. To hear the dwarf tell it, the mountainside is much more dangerous, that is if you stray from the guarded mountain passes that zig zag through the rocky terrain. Most dwarves would rather be deep in the earth, carving out vaults in search of precious ore.
Martin and Arden rode in the lead of the Company. They stopped for a break as they neared Overlook Hill. Martin noticed that the ground around the hill seemed greener today than elsewhere. Wildflowers bloomed on the green mound. Corwin tapped out the remains of his pipe and silently studied the ground. Of all the group, he was most likely to notice the signs of enchantment.
The chill in the air seemed to warm as the Company neared the hill. The sun poked out from behind the clouds and the wind settled into a gentle breeze as the sound of children came lofting down to their ears. The voices had a bell like ethereal quality that caused all listeners to pause in anticipation for more.
The green grass smell of spring came heralding the arrival of the fairies. Darting like dragonflies, they came. Three of them. One buzzed Corwin’s head, playfully pulling his hat off. They settled on a stone in front of the Company. One of the fairies spoke up, telling of their missing companion, a fairie named Zinnia. They had searched the forest and could only think that Zinnea had been captured by the wicked bugbears living in the Caves.
Corwin, the magician, knew that fairies were trouble, but their magical power made them prized captives for those that would do that. Rumors of granting wishes and treasure were often told to children at bedtime. Corwin doubted the wish granting bit, but fairies held deep knowledge of the land and would offer this up to those they favored.
Bugbears frightened the fairies, more so than any other creature. Perhaps it was due to the legend of Big Yog and his band of bugbears or something perhaps something else. Nevertheless, the fairies had it in their heads that Zinnia was at the mercy of the bugbears in the Caves of Chaos. Corwin could sense worry in the usually lighthearted creatures. Had they been in good spirits, Corwin’s hat would have been tossed into a treetop and Thane’s beard seeded with cockleburs.
Arden and Company spoke with the fairies for a short while. Aster, their leader, gave Corwin a small glass vial of purple liquid. It was the distillation of dreams, both good and bad, that gave the imbiber visions of the future. The fairies bid the company good travels and promised to reward them for the return of Zinnia.
When the faires flew away, the clouds grew darker again, wildflowers were no more to be seen, and the hill lay orange and red, covered in a blanket of fallen leaves. The most remarkable thing was that the sun was sinking in the west. What had been at most only a few minutes of conversation with the fairies, had actually been hours of time passing.
With night falling soon, Arden and Company made camp and set a watch.
Game Notes – This scene came about with the throw of a couple dice. As the Company left the Keep, I checked for an encounter. Result=1, so yes. I consulted the Pits & Perils rules and rolled a wilderness encounter of fairies!
Corwin and the others had encounter fairies in this area about one month ago. They were friend to the Company at the time, so I ran with it. Rolling a Story Cube…result=a lock. I reasoned that one of the fairies was imprisoned. The Caves of Chaos seemed the logical place. I decided the bugbears had one of the fairies held captive. The last thing was to determine some kind of reward or favor for the Company. I rolled on the magic potion table and result=potion of prophecy. It didn’t take a stretch of the imagination to fit this into the story. Just a few dice rolls and plenty of adventure came through!
More to come…