© 2014-2019, Kevan Hashemi

The Princess and Other Stories

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Map of Satian Sea
Mittelmarch and Environs
Northern Dukedoms of Weiland

Contents

Cast of Characters
The Princess

Cast of Characters

NameOccupationAge
Galoopius MaximusBusinessman and Collector, Native of BelgorashM 67
DreadmanifoldEarl of Swamp Bottom, Exiled from KratanakM 196
Richard ManchesterDuke of PlantinackM 48
Candor BowlesDuke of MittelmarchM 42
Charlotte NigglebottomForeman of the Larkin MineF 63
Algernon BartonA Bard and HealerM 37
Table: Cast of Characters. Ages given on 1st August 2479.

The Princess

New session, 18-APR-14, Julian by Skype, Chris, Kirsten, and Kevan at 62 Dalton Rd. Game date 9th February 2479. Jack, Wicklow, Martha, and Hocus are traveling to Piedmouth to meet Loose Lips. Once aboard, they will settle their accounts. Global Mediation Inc. owes Galoopius Maximus $520k (5,200 gp) for 52% share of the Larkin Mine. The company must also reimburse the four adventurers the $200k (2,000 gp) they spent on hotels, food, and equipment in the past five months.

It is a dark and stormy night in the middle of winter. Rain pours from the sky. Lightening flashes and thunder rumbles. The ground is cold, and in places the rain freezes on the road, and upon leather straps and capes. It is two hours after sunset, and our four traveling adventurers are sitting in front of the fire in the spacious common room of the Three Compasses Inn on the road to Piedmouth. They are warming their hands with mugs of mulled cider. Their horses are in the stable. Their packs and vacuum thruster apparatus are upstairs in two rooms overlooking the inn's courtyard. Their weapons are leaning on their bench. They still have their armor on. They are wet, but getting warm, so they have begun to steam.

A bard plays a mandolin and sings bawdy songs. A dozen patrons are in a fine mood, drinking mulled wine, eating beef stew, and singing along with the choruses. Every few minutes, someone else will come in and join the crowd. The adventurers are prepared to share the fire, but nobody comes too close to them, although everyone is polite.

The door to the inn slams open. A black orc woman steps through the opening and leans upon the frame. She attempts to stand up straight, but cannot. She is well over two meters tall. She wears a sheepskin jerkin and breeches, but they are too small for her. Over these she wears a cape that fits her well, made of a sturdy green material. On her head she wears a wool hat, pulled down over her ears. Her tusks are covered with blood, and blood drips from her mouth.

The room falls silent. A blast of cold, wet air fills rushes among the tables and benches. "Close the door!" one man calls, who has his back to the door. A woman screams. A man cries out, "Orc!" Another man draws his sword and backs towards the wall.

The black orc woman sways. "I seek sanctuary," she says. She speaks Latin. She casts her eyes about the room. They settle upon the four armored adventurers by the fire. She staggers forward and collapses, face down, on the floor. There is an arrow protruding from her back.

The landlord closes the door and bars it. Wicklow inspects the woman. She has suffered a blow to the face. The arrow is embedded a few centimeters into her body, but does no appear to have pierced her lungs. Her hat comes off and her head is bald. She has no eyebrows. Her tusks are white with small gold caps. She has diamond earrings, a heavy gold necklace, and a ring with a huge ruby.

The bard kneels beside Wicklow. He is well-groomed. His clothes are clean and well-cared for. He has a slight hunchback, and he walks with a limp. He sets his mandolin on the floor. "I have some skill as a healer," he says. A minute later, he pulls the arrow from the woman's back. She convulses and screams. Her scream is so loud and so heart-wrenching that the patrons of the inn cry out in alarm to hear it. Her breath comes in short gasps. The bard puts the arrow on the table.

The woman grabs Wicklow's wrist. "Who are you?"

"I am Wicklow, and this is..."

As soon as she hears his name, she faints, laying her head on the floor.

There is a banging at the door. Someone calls the innkeeper by name and he opens the door. Two men and a woman come in, demanding to know why the door is barred on such a night. Seeing the black orc woman and the fearful crowd of people, they fall silent. Wicklow examines the arrow. I has a heavy lead-filled head with no barbs. Such arrows are designed to penetrate armor. Whether they work or not, he cannot say. But it is just as well that it had no barb.

The patrons, the staff, and the four adventurers discuss what is to be done. The bard presses a freshly-boiled bandage against the wound in the woman's back. Many proposals are aired, from throwing the wounded woman out the door to putting her in a bed upstairs and getting on with the evening's revelry. A consensus emerges: the woman is being pursued. The pursuers are likely to track her to the inn, and they are likely to be armed and dangerous.

There is a banging at the door. The innkeeper opens the door. A man stands there, pointing into the courtyard. "He has my father!" There is a long, hair-raising wolf-howl from outside. Wicklow looks out the door. A black orc sits astride the neck of a giant wolf. A sapien man is draped across the wolf's neck, struggling. The black orc strikes him on the head and he is still. The black orc raises a bow and arrow.

"Princess!" he calls in Latin. "I know you're in there. If you don't come out in one minute, everyone inside the inn will die."

The black orc draws his bow. Wicklow closes the door. An arrow thuds into the two-inch thick oak and its head protrudes from the inside. The head is similar to the one pulled from the woman, but larger. The company inside demand to know what is outside. Another howl is heard through the door, of the giant wolf, and then it is joined by several others.

After a brief explanation to the company, and a short discussion among the adventurers, Hocus moves to the door. Jack, Martha, and the bard lift the princess onto a table and carry the table to a corner. Hocus opens the door with Wicklow behind him. His intention is to parlay with the hunters. But there is noone to be seen outside, except for a sapien man lying unconscious on the ice in the center of the courtyard. The lanterns over the door and the coutyard entrance swing in the wind.

Hocus closes the door. The last man to enter says, "Did you see my father? What's become of him?"

"I think he's lying on the ground in the middle of the courtyard."

"I'm going to get him."

"Stanley," the innkeeper says, "It's a trap."

"I'll get him," Jack says. Wicklow opens the door. Jack rushes out. Hocus stands nearby. Jack grabs Stanley's father. An arrow flies from the darkness on the far side of the road, over Jack, between Wicklow and Hocus across the common room, and thuds into the far wall, twenty meters from the door. The company moves away from the arrow. Martha moves towards it. Jack pulls the unconscious man through the door. Hocus lets off a Grand Flash on the road. Wicklow closes the door and bars it.

A voice comes from the arrow, which has a bridge ring holder in its shaft. It is the black orc. "Don't approach this arrow, or you will suffer for it."

Martha draws her sword and advances. The arrow emits a hiss, and gray matter appears around it. Martha slices through the conjured material and cuts the bridge in half. The spell is stopped. Conjured sponge floats to the ceiling. There are shrieks from some of the patrons, and a few prayers also. The inkeeper directs his staff to bar all doors to the inn, and all windows in all rooms. Most of the company move from the common room into the stoor room behind, but some remain in the common room. Some draw small swords or axes. The bard stands over the wounded woman.

Hocus is peering out the hatch in the door. The lantern over the door shatters and goes out, hit by an arrow. The lantern at the courtyard entrance shatters next. "They are coming," Hocus says. He flicks a luminous stone through the hatch. It lands in the center of the courtyard. Four armed and armored orcs are rushing across the courtyard. Several more are already pressed against the walls of the inn. Hocus casts Lightening Ball, a process that will take twenty seconds. Wicklow advances with Jack to the window behind the drinks bar, intending to open it. But the shutters and the glass shatter and are torn apart by two axes wielded with inhuman strength and vigor. The window next to the kitchen suffers the same treatment. Jack and Wicklow fire at the orcs outside. Martha shoots through the other window. Wicklow and Jack have fired three shots, and Martha two, when the orcs back away from the windows.

The black orc hunter steps into the entrance of the courtyard, his bow strung, and fires an arrow. Wicklow and Jack fire back, to good effect, but they do not ruin the hunter's aim. His arrow flies through the window and strikes the wall beneath the stairs. Wicklow rushes to it and cuts it with his sword before it can create more than a cubic meter of conjured sponge.

"Move back from the windows!" Hocus says. He shoves a bridge ring through the hatch. The lightening ball detonates outside with a deafening crack and a blinding flash.

"That will slow them down," Wicklow says.

The mullions are all that remain in the window frames. Martha looks out. Thunder rolls across the sky. Rain hammers the courtyard. The orcs rush forward with their axes. None appear to be hurt. None are hesitating. They attack the window frames. Once the mullions are gone, the apertures will be wide enough for an orc to leap through. Martha backs away, stows her bow, and draws her sword.

New session, 03-OCT-14, Julian by Skype, Chris, Kirsten, and Kevan at 62 Dalton Rd. Game date 9th February 2479. We bring to mind the recent history of the Kratanak Outlands. In the diaries we have a private conversation between Stardiamond and Dreadmanifold, a brief lecture by Dreadmanifold by the fireside, and a chronology provided by Dreadmanifold for the Duke of Plantinak. It's been thirteen years since Nastinklackel the Sorcerer King was assassinated, and twenty-three years since Dreadmanifold left the Kratanak Outlands. And now we return to the Compass Inn.

Orcs with double-bladed battle axes are chopping through the oak mullions of the windows on either side of the front door of the Compass Inn. Hocus warns Wicklow away from the window nearest the kitchen, and casts Targeting Sponge just outside. The orcs at that window back away before their work of destruction is complete. But the other window is now open and an orc takes a running start and dives through. He lands upon the floor behind the drinks bar, scattering glazed clay beer jugs across the floor. Jack is on one side, with his back to the door that leads to the stable, and Martha is on the other, at the end of the drinks bar. The orc jumps up even as he is being assaulted from both sides, and pushes towards Martha. Hocus casts Targeting Sponge outside this second window and so blocks it before a second orc can dive in.

The orc behind the bar wears plate armor. But he had no trouble diving through a window and jumping to his feet immediately after. He fights with a ferocious intensity, swinging his battle axe in short arcs, parrying his opponent's swords with its metal head, ducking their cuts, and kicking their legs. Martha's sword seems to slide off his armor. When Jack can land a blow, he is confident that he is having an effect, but the orc is fast and hard to hit.

Watching the fight, Wicklow hopes that this orc is the captain of the troop. He looks out the sponged window by the kitchen. It is dark outside. He hears nothing. He sees nothing. "They took your luminous stone," he says to Hocus. Hocus and he watch the room and listen. Wicklow hears a shriek from the kitchen. Orcs are trying to smash through the outer door of the kitchen. Wicklow and two women push the heavy kitchen table against the door just as the door frame shatters. Hocus joins them and together they thrust the door shut despite the orcs pushing on the other side. They brace the table with chairs and benches. Hocus returns to the common room. Wicklow remains with the two women, watching the door. There is another door, he now realises, between the kitchen and the laundry room. "Does the laundry room have an outer door?"

"Yes," one woman says, nodding her head vigorously, her eyes wide and her face pale.

In the common room, a man, his wife, and their son run past the fighting, and up the stairs. More guests do the same in the seconds that follow. Hocus hears the outer door of the store room open. He turns and sees it closing again, the people inside locking it behind whoever fled into the night. An orc voice shouts, "Wait!" in the stable.

Thirty seconds have passed since the single orc jumped into the common room, and still he battles with both Jack and Martha. The door to the stable cracks. Martha strikes the single orc on the helmet and the orc steadies himself with an outstretched arm on the bar. Jack smashes his arm with the flat of his sword, as an act of mercy, for he might have beheaded the soldier instead. The orc collapses to his knees. The door to the stable smashes open and an orc charges in. Jack meets him and stops him, fighting with his large sword in the confined space behind the drinks bar. He shatters the liquor cabinet. Sweet, sticky liquid splatters his armor. Two more orcs, in the stable, push their front man forwards. Jack strikes a mighty blow, but he cannot stop them advancing far enough to allow another orc to enter the common room and leap over the bar. Martha meets this new intruder.

Wicklow rushes from the kitchen, and by the time a second intruder has leapt the bar, he is beside Martha. A fourth orc leaps the bar and now it is two orcs on Wicklow, one on Martha, and one on Jack. All are wearing the same plate armor. All are uninjured and ferocious with their battle axes.

Hocus is wondering how he can help. He hears a scream from outside the inn, beyond the store room door. The orc with a broken arm stands up and is about to attack Jack from behind. Hocus's friends have their backs to him, but all the fighting orcs are facing him. He casts flash in front of the face of the wounded orc, blinding him, and forcing the fighting orcs to shield their eyes.

A scream comes from the kitchen. The two women come rushing out. "Orcs!" they shout. Hocus looks through the kitchen door. Four orcs are inside. They must have come through the laundry room, having smashed their way in there. He closes the door and examines the handle. It is a push-down latch with the catch on the other side. He grabs a chair and jams it under the handle. The orcs on the other side are trying to lift the latch with their mailed fingers, but can't seem to do it. Hocus is casting a Poison Cloud.

The ring of steel, the scuffle of boots on the floor boards, and the panting of the combatants fill the common room. Hocus concentrates upon his spell and keeping the latch up. The orcs stop playing with the latch. Hocus takes his spell bridge from in front of his forehead and places it in two bridge rings. He opens the door. Two orcs have a bench and are about to charge. He throws one ring into the kitchen, closes the door, and thrusts a Sleep Stone through the remaining ring. The orcs with the bench smash through the door, followed by a cloud of gray smoke. Hocus backs away a few paces.

There is a scream from the store room. The outer door opens. More people must be fleeing into the night. The black orc hunter stands just outside the common room, in the doorway to the store room, bent at the waist so he see through, for he is two and a half meters tall. A large sword is at his waist. He wears plate armor. His bow is on his back. He has something in his fingers. He casts his eye over the scene in the room. As he watches, Jack and Wicklow break the legs of their opponents. Martha delivers a solid blow to her own. In the store room behind the black orc, three more are roaring at the few remaining patrons of the inn, and the innkeeper himself, and these people rush out the store room door and into the rain and darkness.

The black orc sees his three wounded, two still fighting Wicklow and Martha, two dropping a bench and drawing their axes. He knows there are three behind him. But he does not see the Princess in the corner, just out of view to his right. But Hocus looks at the corner. The bard, whose name is Algernon Barton, has covered the unmoving body of the orc woman with a tapestry he pulled from the wall, and set two plates and three beer mugs on the table. The bard himself stands in front of the table, mandelin in hand, and shows every intention of breaking into song.

"That might help," Hocus thinks. And it might be time to cast his Destroy Spell. That might put the fear in the enemy. But who will be the target?

New session, 19-JAN-19, Julian by Skype, Kirsten, and Kevan at 27 Loring St. Game date 9th February 2479. The rain clouds are hiding a half-moon sinking towards the north-west horizon. There are two conjunctions open on Clarus at the moment: CSOA4 leads to Olympia from the Vale of Wortham, CSVR4 leads to Vagor from an island beyond Vezdakh in the Very Far East.