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    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
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    Tue Aug 04, 2020 2:29 pm  
    Post 128: Longspear

    DM's Notes:
    Longspear appears on Darlene's map of Greyhawk, but as far as I know, there are no canon sources describing it beyond perhaps population. It gets no mention in the Living Greyhawk Player's Guide to the Yeomanry, it is referenced once in YEO6-04 and YEO4-01, and it has a single-line description in YEO3-05 (A Friend in Need); "The city of Longspear, in the foothills of the Little Hills, is an active trade center and guards the northeastern-most point of the Yeomanry League."

    The version of Longspear below is thus my own, although it was heavily influenced by a post from Druvas on Dragonsfoot (see: The names of the three inns mentioned below all come from that work, although their descriptions are my own.

    Post 128: Longspear
    24 November, 570 - Longspear

    In the morning, Umbra introduces herself to Gerta over breakfast and apologizes for not feeling well enough to join them at table the night before. Shefak continues to play the recluse and says she will take her breakfast in her room as a way of getting food to Aurora. While the party waits to be served it is agreed that Tyrius will look to exchange the party’s wealth while Willa checks the docks for suitable transport; the rest of them are to remain on hand at the inn for a swift departure if available.

    Breakfast is for rooming customers only, and the drunkard from the night before left at first light, so the inn is technically still closed and the party has the common room to themselves. After Gerta has set the table and brought food upstairs for Shefak, she joins the party at their table, and a second later, the halfling stable boy and a shy human scullery maid sit down as well. Apparently the rest of the help arrives at mid-day. That Gerta as their hostess is joining them is a homey touch, but if they are going to be honest, Tyrius and Willa are a bit uncomfortable eating at the same table as servants. These Yeoman are carrying their 'classless society' a bit too far, they think. Thokk and Larry are, of course, oblivious, and Babshapka and Umbra are frequently confused by human customs in general, whether they be Yeoman or Keoish, and are used to just accepting them without question.

    Over breakfast, Gerta takes relish in describing her city to these strangers. Longspear is entirely walled and built on a steep slope above the banks of the Javan River. Actually the city is in two parts; Hightown, where they are now, and Lowtown, down by the river itself. Both are separately walled and the mile of open country between them serves as common pasturage.

    Hightown’s wall has five sides and five gates, with each gate leading to a separate road, and the city at the intersection of them all. There are more towers along the wall than Gerta can name. Last night, the party arrived through the Singleton gate to the northwest, on the road that leads to Singleton. Going clockwise, to the north there is the Javan Gate, with a road that leads to Lowtown; Liberty Gate, with a road that leads to Millen; the Highlands Gate, with a road that leads to Midfell; and the Capital Gate, with a road that leads to Loftwick.

    There is also the River Gate, although it is for barge and not pedestrian traffic. Locals have nicknamed it the “River Grate”, for it is here that the Longspear River enters the city, and a number of grates and weirs assure that only water enters and that logs and other debris are kept out. The river is the source of water for the city, but it also is a source of power, for the steep slope on which the upper city is built means that the small river runs strong and is divided up into numerous catchment tanks, spillways, and millponds before it flows out and into the Javan. All along the river through the city are mills: hammer-mills and rolling mills for ore-processing, and fulling mills for making wool. There is a single gristmill and lumber mill as well, although the hinterlands around Longspear are not a great source of either grain or timber.

    The mines immediately around Longspear itself produce silver and gems; coal and iron ore is brought in by barge from mines in the valley above the city. Most of the raw wool arrives on the Javan from Singleton. Thus the city is a processing center for all the wealth of the Little Hills. The combination of the steep slope providing power and a protected harbor on the Javan River facilitating transportation have made Longspear very prosperous, and that prosperity has in turn attracted skilled artisans, from armorers and weapons-makers to jewelers and gem-cutters. The city has a population of around seven thousand, with over a thousand of those being dwarves and another thousand halflings.

    (7am) After breakfast, Willa and Tyrius take their leave of the inn, but they are not ten steps away before Larry bursts out of the door and hails them. He explains that Aurora wants him to go down to the docks and talk with birds, so can he come with Willa? Willa sucks in her cheeks, shows him a view of the river from between houses, and tells him the docks will be easy to find by himself - he just needs to walk downhill. If he wants to leave the inn, she whispers, she would rather have him accompany Tyrius first on his money-changing expedition - the paladin is carrying nearly 500 gold crowns on him, and a second pair of eyes would be wise. According to Gerta, most of the money changers are going to be down at the docks anyway. Larry nods and moves to Tyrius’ side, while Willa heads for the Javan Gate.

    Tyrius, without explanation, turns east and Larry follows him. The party has charged him with changing the “Nholast Gold” into coins of the realm, platinum if possible. They have impressed upon him the importance of doing this with as little explanation as possible, drawing as little attention to themselves as possible. They have chosen him because his status as a noble and his training in speaking well are likely to get them the best deal - and yet they know full well of his Sacred Oath, and how he will not lie, or even dissemble. They are fully willing to take advantage of his persuasive talents, he thinks, but happy to ignore his convictions. The Yeoman like to talk about how nobles exploit peasants - but what of how the party exploits him!

    Tyrius sighs, says a few prayers reflexively, and sets aside his anger. The party has entrusted him with exchanging their wealth. He will do it, but he will do it on his own terms. With Larry in tow, he continues to head east. Gerta has told him that there is a temple to Pelor in Hightown, at the easternmost point of the walls where the first light of the sun creeps over in the morning.

    The Temple of Pelor is small, but beautiful. Most of it is given over to a large, central worship area. The building is more than three stories tall, but inside is a vast open space, with columns supporting the roof, and no floors. A huge circular stained glass window, entirely above the level of the battlements, is at the top of the east wall, allowing the marble-floored nave to be filled with colored light for the entire morning. Outside, the roof is a vast dome covered in gold leaf. Next to the temple is a small hospital, run by the church. Tyrius has not been in a temple of Pelor since before he joined the party, having made due with temples to Sol while he was in Salinmoor. He spends a long time kneeling in silent prayer before the altar while Larry shifts uncomfortably by his side, wanders among the pews, and views all of the statuary.

    Eventually a priest emerges from the sacristy, returning from a rest after having officiated the sunrise service. Tyrius asks to speak with him in private and he agrees. Tyrius tells Larry that he is safe now and that Larry can go down to the docks if he wishes.

    In a closed office, Tyrius tells the priest that he is part of an adventuring company that recently sacked a tower of Nholast the Unforgiven and came away with great wealth in the form of gold coins. The coins are easily recognizable as being of a strange and ancient mint. The company does not want the attention that spending the coins will bring, but they do desire their value. There are many reasons for this, some self-serving, some noble. The best reason for the identity of the coins to be kept private is that Tyrius fears that other people will use them to find the tower itself. The Sage of Highfell told him that all of the known Towers of Nholast had been torn down in the Yeomanry, and for good reason. Tyrius knows that the tower they found contained both demons and much evil lore. It would not do for the appearance of this treasure to prompt a search for the tower that would allow it to be plundered by the forces of evil. Tyrius hopes that this priest can help him exchange the coins for more innocuous wealth, as well as help him protect the secret of the origin of the coins.

    The priest nods thoughtfully as Tyrius speaks. He agrees that knowledge of the tower should be kept hidden from the general populace, but hopes that Tyrius will tell him the location so that the proper authorities can make sure its evil is purged and it can no longer threaten good folk. He agrees to help conceal the tower by exchanging wealth for Tyrius, but does not know if the monies he has on hand will match Tyrius’ desire for portable wealth - the faithful donate in copper commons, not freegolds.

    Tyrius describes as best he can how to arrive at the tower from Fort Thomas, and mentions how the assistance of the Sage of Highfell might be useful. He takes out a purse and spreads 452 coins out on the table, all of the party’s accumulated golden coins from the tower. He and the priest count them, and then set aside 57 coins, a one-eighth portion, Tyrius’ personal share. Tyrius says that he wishes to donate this to the church, with no recompense. He is not sure if it counts as a tithe - he has no idea of the value of his share of the party’s other treasure, since most of this is contained in the gems that Babshapka carries whose worth is unknown to any of them.

    The priest accepts the 57 gold coins, and they count the remaining 395. The priest agrees to exchange these at face value - he removes all of the coins from the room, and returns in short order with 395 gold coins, in a mix of Keoish lions and Yeoman freegolds. Tyrius asks him if he doesn’t instead have any platinum coins, but the priest shakes his head and suggests that he try the moneychangers in Lowtown. Tyrius thanks him, receives his blessing, and leaves.

    In the meantime, Willa has made her way to the Javan Gate, pausing briefly to watch a group of youths playing at soldiering in the plaza fronting on the gate. The main road from Hightown to Lowtown is broad and stone-flagged, and it is still early in the morning when she reaches the docks.

    (8am) Besides the numerous local fishing boats and a few ferries that take one across the river to Cryford, there are three vessels in the docks currently that might offer passage upriver.

    There is a cog based in Gradsul, bringing a load of Sea Prince pipeweed north, at least as far as Baransford, possibly further depending on wind, how fast they get there, and what the prices are like when they arrive. The captain and most of the crew are Keoish. On learning that, Willa doesn't inquire further.

    There is a knarr based in Longspear, bringing a load of oranges and lemons to Flen. The captain and crew are Yeoman. Flen is inland in Keoland, but is on a tributary that feeds in to the Javan. The advantage of this vessel is that it would be fast - even if the wind is not right, there are plenty of crew for the oars, and the captain is looking to get the fruits to noble tables there before they spoil. The disadvantage of this is that the vessel is small, and all of the crew sleeps abovedecks. The party would need to sell their mules and possibly "dismiss" Eddard for the duration of the voyage. Furthermore, the knarr is planning on leaving by noon, which does not leave them much time to get ready.

    There is a hulk based in Longspear, bringing a load of coffee and cotton cloth to Godakin Keep. The captain and crew are Yeoman. Godakin Keep is a Keoish port, but it is on the north bank of the Javan at a point where the south bank is the nation of Sterich. The advantage of this boat is that it is large, the largest one at the docks, and while they certainly won't have private cabins, Willa might be able to convince the captain to take their three animals on board. The disadvantage is that the ship is wind-powered, only, such that their progress upriver will depend entirely on the weather. The hulk would like to leave today, but is watching the wind, which is not favorable at the moment and is unlikely to change for a few hours at least.

    After a preliminary conversation with the latter two captains, Willa is convinced that she can secure them ship’s passage free of charge, in return for a pledge to pull the oars (on the knarr) if needed, and defend either ship if it is attacked. What her persuasion doesn't cover is protection from discovery by Keoish patrols or port authorities. That is a separate negotiation she would need to have.

    (9am) Concerned about leaving without being harassed by local officials, Willa looks around the docks to take in the lay of the land, so to speak. She can see the customs house near the docks - and it is open, with officials coming and going. In her experience, local officials will be most interested in the cargo, and before the ship sails they will give a careful (or less than careful, if they can be bribed) check of the actual cargo against the manifest. This is to make sure that all applicable taxes have been paid and that no goods that are prohibited for export are leaving. They are generally less concerned about the crew, for it is seen as a captain's business alone who he has as crew. The only times Willa herself ever bothered to check who was on a ship leaving Saltmarsh were when she suspected that someone was being held as a slave (slavery being illegal in Keoland but permitted in the Sea Princes), or when she had a specific warrant and was looking for someone trying to flee town before a trial.

    Given the disdain that the typical Yeoman expresses for Keolanders, she doubts the customs officers would try to stop the party from boarding a vessel - but that doesn't mean that they would be above collecting coin for informing on the party after their departure. She is willing to bet that the party could leave on a small fishing craft (which are almost never searched if they are part of a local fleet) and then rendezvous with a merchant ship once away from port, but she would prefer not to do that, and in any event that plan would be complicated by the presence of their animals.

    Willa starts back up to Hightown, hoping to reach the Silver Steed and get the party on to the knarr before it sails, if that is their decision. As she walks back up the main road to the Javan Gate, she does not notice Larry descending to Lowtown. He left Hightown through Liberty Gate and is going down a dirt road at the edge of the pastureland, and is certainly not the only dwarf to be doing so.

    (9:30am) Larry walks along the docks, looking at all the different vessels, and thinking about his float down the Javan with Tyrius and Thokk in the barge. He must have passed this port, though he does not remember it specifically. How different was his view of the world back then! He goes to the far end of the docks and casts speak with animals, then tries to get the attention of some gulls. Only a few respond, and when he tries to talk to them, all they do is scream “Food!” and “Fish!” at him in demanding tones. He cannot hold their attention for more than a few seconds before they dash off, fighting with other birds for offal snatched from a returning fishing boat. Larry sighs as he realizes how corrupted by civilization these birds have become. The docks are lined with cheap fish-and-chip shops. Larry enters one, and for a gold lion comes out with a mop-bucket full of raw, near-spoiled fish and stale bread. He walks back to the end of the docks and begins tossing out small pieces, one at a time. In less than ten seconds he is surrounded by a cloud of gulls, fighting over the scraps and stealing from one another. When his bucket is half empty, Larry casts speak with animals again. This time, although the gulls shout “Food!” and “Fish!” and “Bread!” at him, they don’t dash off immediately thereafter.

    Larry has an extended conversation with the gulls of the docks, punctuated by dispensing just enough scraps to hold their interest and keep them talking. His first problem is figuring out how to ask them about soldiers. The birds have words for a dozen different kinds of humans they might get food from, but nothing to distinguish a soldier from a civilian. Finally he decides on “shiny hat” since nearly all of the Yeoman soldiers he has seen are equipped with broad-brimmed kettle helmets. Once he is sure that the birds are reliably identifying soldiers, he asks what Aurora bid him - have there been any large troop movements lately, any galleys of troops on the river, any crossings of soldiers from Cryford to Longspear or points north? He is able to keep the birds’ attention just long enough to assure himself that they have seen nothing out of the ordinary for the past several days. By this point his bucket is nearly empty, so he upends it, returns it to the shop, and sets out for Hightown.

    When Larry arrived at the docks, Willa arrived back at the Silver Steed (and Tyrius had still not left the temple). Willa stopped by the stables first to speak with Eddard. After hearing the two options (the knarr and the hulk), Eddard says that he has been seeing mules all over town - not surprising given the mines outside of town and the amount of goods coming and going. It should not be difficult for them to sell Randy and Andy, though selling them fast will mean taking a loss on them. He doesn’t mind returning to the Celestial Realms for a bit, but cautions that this time the party should be sure to take his saddle and barding with them. However, he is not concerned about speed for speed’s sake - neither ship is taking them even a third of the distance to where the Starfall lies, and they have a long journey ahead of them. In the end, he is fine with either option, but says he thinks the wisest course is to decide which ship will attract less attention from the Keoish.

    Willa goes inside and up to Aurora's room to discuss their options with her, Babshapka, Umbra, and Shefak. Apparently Thokk, who left after dinner the night before against everyone’s advice, has not yet returned - Willa checks his and Larry’s room, and finds neither of them there. Babshapka left briefly to purchase incense for Aurora but has since returned.

    Willa’s initial counsel is that she is more concerned about traveling on the river quickly than she is about where each vessel will take them, but the others have questions about just where the destinations of the different vessels are. Aurora, in particular, says “If we took the knarr, presumably, we'd be disembarking from it at the tributary and not going further inland and deeper into Keoland. How far north is the tributary? Will it get us far enough to proceed on foot toward Sterich? Or will we be looking to hop on another vessel we find along the way? The hulk takes us where we want to go, but I'm not crazy about the speed either. Are there other vessels heading upriver that have already left? Maybe we could catch up to them on the knarr and transfer over?” Seeing that Aurora is as willing as ever to talk circles around any situation in which there is limited knowledge, but feeling pressed for time, Willa goes back downstairs and asks Gerta where a cartography shop might be, and is crestfallen when Gerta starts to describe addresses in Lowtown. Although the Silver Steed is not yet open, a handsome man with long blond hair and a mustache is sitting at a table drinking ale - Willa appears to have interrupted his private conversation with Gerta. Seeing Willa’s long face, he asks if there is anything he can do. She is about to tell him no, when Gerta says in a voice of approval, “Morley trades all up and down the Javan - he’s a walking map himself, dear.”

    Without describing the party’s conundrum, Willa asks for more information about Sterich, Godakin Keep, Flen, and the river. Morley sketches out a map with a cinder in the open hearth, which Gerta has just cleaned, answering all of Willa’s queries.

    Were the knarr to drop them off before Flen, the logical place would be where the tributary of the Javan crosses the road on the north side of the Javan. From there, they could walk the road in to Godakin Keep - though the length of the road itself would be in Keoland. On the other hand, no matter where the knarr left them on the southern bank, it would be aways overland from the Sterich road - that road doesn’t approach the shore until upriver from the tributary. Of course, the party could always camp on the southern riverbank and hail another passing ship.

    If the hulk left them in Godakin Keep, on the other hand, they could immediately take a ferry across the river to the Sterich side. Fewer vessels dock there but it would be easy to eventually get another ship.

    Armed with more detailed knowledge, Willa returns to the debate upstairs. Aurora now adds that if they are going to be getting off the boat and walking or camping a good stretch again, they should probably figure out our gear so that they can go without the mules. After pulling their gear into the common hallway, she shakes her head. Realistically, with all of the gear the mules were carrying, all the new bedrolls and such that were purchased in Singleton, there is no way they can walk the road from the tributary to Godakin Keep, at least, not without using Eddard as a beast of burden, which Aurora knows he will refuse. If they take the knarr, which Aurora still favors for its speed, they will need to ask to be left on the Sterich riverbank, camp, and hope to hail another passing ship.

    (10am) When Larry arrives back at the Silver Steed the debate about which vessel to take is still ongoing. Tyrius, in the meantime, has reached Lowtown and is moving among the various moneychangers - one official, and several merchant houses and trading companies who have enough cash on hand that they occasionally offer money-changing services. The best deal he finds (Persuasion rolls 25, 23) is from a pair of merchants who are both full of inventory and transportable wealth but short on coin themselves to make purchases in town, and who each agree to exchange ten platinum griffins for fifty of the gold coins that Tyrius has - an exchange at face value for all of them. This leaves Tyrius with 20pp and 295gp in “untraceable” currency.

    The other three possibilities are men who offer to exchange coins with Tyrius, but at rates of 10% in their favor (10 platinum griffins for 55 gold coins each). If Tyrius is going to take a loss, he would like something more portable than coins, so he visits a few gem merchants. There are plenty that offer good conversion rates for gems that they “personally guarantee” to be of a certain value, but none who will put that guarantee in writing before the end of the day. With the pressure to leave Longspear sooner rather than later, Tyrius returns to the moneychanger and two merchants and accepts the trades they offered before. He now is carrying 50pp and 130gp in party funds. Satisfied that he has done his best with the time available to him, he starts to head back to Hightown.

    Knowing that the knarr leaves by noon and it is already past ten, Willa calls for an immediate vote among those present.

    Aurora votes for the fast boat. She thinks that getting out ahead of the knight for a bit is well worth it. She's worried about their weight, though. If Eddard will at least carry Tyrius' armor (after he has been re-summoned), and with Umbra now ambulatory, they will have enough room to carry most of what they have, she thinks, but they will need to buy gems and platinum with their gold and dump everything they can't carry themselves, again. It may mean abandoning bulky things like tents and sleeping rolls and purchasing them again when they next buy mules.

    Babshapka votes for the hulk because he feels it is unsafe for Aurora to be on Keoish soil, and his job is to keep her safe.

    Larry votes for the slow boat. He knows that dominant winds are from the south and east and has faith that they will have good winds for most of the journey.

    Shefak chooses not to vote. She says that whatever they choose will bring its own challenges, and that they will meet those challenges. She knows that in life one can’t avoid conflict, one can only choose how to navigate that conflict. She warns the others, though, that if they are making their decisions based on what material possessions they can keep or must let go, then they are surely making the wrong decision.

    Umbra says that she is still not sure if she will be traveling with the party, or for how long (having just woken, the idea of their journal to the Starfall has been explained to her, but she feels like she still needs to have a long conversation with Aurora about the Whispered One, the Spidered Throne, and other things). Thus, she does not think it fair for her to vote on their course of action.

    Willa ponders the words of the others. She had argued before for the knarr, but if she makes that her formal vote, then they are deadlocked 2 - 2 and will need to wait until either Tyrius or Thokk returns. And the longer they wait, the less likely they are to actually make the knarr - hurrying to the docks will probably draw unwanted attention, which makes her think of Eddard’s advice. She decides that his suggestion of not drawing attention is a good one. His saddle and barding, if not borne by him, will only add to the weight issue if there is a problem or delay in summoning him back. The hulk will provide more below deck options if the party needs to keep someone out of sight, and getting to the knarr in time has just become too complicated. Finally she adds her vote to the hulk, and says the matter is now decided 3 - 1.

    Willa tells the others that she will be going to settle their bill with Gerta, buy some grain for the mules, and then down to the docks to see if she can’t convince the captain of the hulk to take them and their animals aboard. She tells them that she wants all their gear packed and in the stables before the inn opens at midday and any patrons (who would note their departure) start to enter. When Tyrius returns, they are to tell him to stay. At least one of them and possibly more should go try to find Thokk, but they should not leave Aurora unguarded.

    (11am) Not long after Willa leaves, Tyrius enters. He oversees their previously disorganized attempts to pack and get all of the gear into the stables below. That just leaves finding Thokk.

    Thin walls and a busy inn at Singleton had left Aurora unwilling to use her crystal ball while in town. With the whole second floor to themselves, Tyrius at the top of the stairs, and Babshapka at the door to her room, Aurora now brings out the ball without hesitation. It takes her less than a minute to locate Thokk. (Wisdom save 2+3 = 5, target known well -5, total save = 0!) The half-orc is sprawled in an alley, half leaning, half slumped back against a wall, a pool of dried vomit in his lap, his eyes closed. Aurora tries to change the focus or view of the image but cannot, and can see only a small piece of the alley beyond the body of Thokk. A broken crockery jug is beside him.

    Aurora emerges from the room and says that Thokk is unconscious, and appears to still be in the city, but she has no idea where. He could even be in Lowtown, for all she knows (Aurora Intelligence save: 1+7 = 8, Critical Fail). Babshapka asks her about the alley, about the direction of the light and shadows, and other clues, but she did not notice anything of significance (Babshapka Wisdom save 2+2 = 4).

    “Thokk is very straightforward,” says Shefak. “He left here to find drink and flesh. We should start at whatever place is closest and expand out from there.” (Shefak Insight 7+5 = 12)

    Babshapka shakes his head. “This whole city is full of taverns and alehouses. He could be anywhere. He would have found drink easily, but he also left looking for “brothels”. Remember what the Lord of Highfell said - Yeomanry women are free - without anyone to force them to sell their bodies, I doubt there is a house of servitude, meaning he could have been wandering all over the city last night, looking for something that doesn’t exist.”

    Shefak nods her understanding. “Well, if he was wandering all over the city, lots of people would have seen him. We just need to start asking around.”

    Tyrius holds up his hand. “We are supposed to do this in a way that doesn’t attract attention. We need to find him without talking to anyone, if possible.” He frowns pensively. “Aurora, what was he wearing, I mean when you scried him?”

    “His old loincloth and boots,” she shudders. “And his winter jacket, though it was open and all the laces undone.”

    “And his weapons?” For Tyrius, one of the most jarring aspects of the Yeomanry is that even the smallfolk are allowed to bear weapons in public. None of them have been asked to put their blades away anywhere they have gone.

    “He left his javelins in his room - I saw that when Willa looked there for him - but he had his sword on him in the alley.”

    Tyrius smiles. “He still had his sword on him. Where in this city could a drunk lie in an alley with a magic sword on him past eleven in the morning and not have been rolled yet?” (Tyrius Wisdom save 12+5 = 17) The others look at him with blank expressions. “I’ve already walked to the east wall and down to Lowtown and back this morning. All over the city the smallfolk opened their shops hours ago; most were up before first light. Anywhere else in the city Thokk would have been found and his sword stolen hours ago. But the inn beneath us doesn’t open until noon - none of the shops on this block were open when I came in, because they cater to people of leisure who sleep in and haven’t left their homes yet. He has to be either in this block or some other island of wealth. Shefak, with me; Babshapka, you watch Aurora. Larry...maybe go talk to the mules, make sure they are ready for the trip to the docks, ask them if they have ever been on the water before.”

    Tyrius and Larry descend the stairs of the inn, find Gerta in the kitchen furiously preparing lunch. “Madam Gerta, many thanks for your hospitality, you have a most charming establishment.”

    “Yeah, yeah, thanks. I’m kinda busy here and Willa already squared your bill, so if there isn’t anything you need…” She does not call him “milord”.

    “There is one thing, so sorry to intrude. I was just wondering if you could tell me how many other inns of your quality there are in Longspear. We were fortunate you had the whole second floor to let us, but should I return and you are more full…?”

    Gerta is stirring a deep vat of stew and does not even look up as she talks. “There are no other inns of this quality in Longspear, paladin. The Royale has a nice enough staff but I don’t much care for the clientele. Christina’s Home and Hearth charges more than we do but some of their services questionable taste.”

    “And both of these establishments are in Hightown?”

    “Of course. Both of them are on this block.”

    Tyrius thanks Gerta and leaves the inn. He and Shefak begin a walk around the block, with him watching the street and her unobtrusively darting in and out of the alleyways between buildings. They find Thokk in the gap between a high-class pastry shop and Christina’s Home and Hearth. Besides sweat, vomit, and stale ale, he smells of cloying perfume. Tyrius barely manages to get the huge half-orc to his feet and shambling along beside him. Fortunately the brute can support his own weight, he just needs steering. “Tyrius!....” he says, squinting with bloodshot eyes, then “Tyrius….” as if he can think of nothing else to say.

    It is a mercifully short walk back to the stable of the Silver Steed, where Tyrius tosses Thokk down on a pile of fodder. The half-orc smiles contentedly before passing out again. Eddard wrinkles his nose in disgust. “Well, that’s a waste of perfectly good hay,” he opines.

    (11:30am) At the docks, Willa gets permission to go aboard the hulk, the Banner of Heather. Since they have no immediate plans to sail, Captain Roberts is leisurely inspecting its readiness while the sailors go about their business. He does not seem to mind conversing with Willa, as she is full of knowledgeable questions about the differences and similarities between this vessel and the Sea Ghost, between river sailing and ocean-going, between the ports on the Javan and those on the Azure Sea. Each of them knows just enough of the other’s trade that they are honestly interested in learning more.

    After some time warming him up, Willa makes her pitch (“take 20” on her persuasion roll, final score 19). She knows he tentatively agreed to have her and her friends onboard to Godakin for free - now she explains to him that first, she would like three animals as well - two mules and a warhorse - and second and more importantly, that what she really wants is to escape the notice of Keoish authorities.

    The captain doesn’t look at her as he considers. “I’ve no love for the Keoish, that’s for sure, but part o’ me would like to know what they’re after you for. But the more sensible part o’ me says it’s better for me to not know.” Now he turns to look her square in the eyes. “Your word as a sailor whatever reason they’re looking for you, it’s nothing that will endanger my ship or men?”

    Willa returns his stare. “Ain’t got nothin’ t’ do wi’ ye. One o’ us did summit we maybe shouldnay done, but we cain’t do it ag’in an’ it cain’t hurt yer ship nor crew.”

    “Your word?”

    “By the Gentle Sea Cow.”

    The captain looks away and thinks some more. “You’re mercenaries looking for a ride north. Passengers, not on the manifest. I let you come aboard in return for help fighting if needed. You pay for your own food and feed. That’s all I know. If we get questioned, I tell them all I know. Most of the four hundred miles to Godakin Keep is Keoland both sides of the river. You stay belowdecks when we port. If you leave without telling me, I claim anything you leave behind. I certainly don’t know anything about the bag of 100 freegolds you will be leaving behind.”

    Willa agrees to all his terms. He hacks up a generous gob of spit into his palm and offers it to her; she repeats the gesture and they shake to seal the deal.

    The party has been living off of trail game and inn food, and not yet opened the rations they bought for themselves in Singleton. They have, however, been feeding the mule rations they purchased, every day, and currently have just three days left. Willa stops in a feed store in Lowtown, buys 28 horse rations, and asks to have them sent to Captain Roberts at the docks. She then starts back up the road to Hightown.

    Willa arrives at the Silver Steed shortly after noon, and finds the place lively with customers. Most of the party is in the stables, with all of their gear. Only Aurora and Babshapka remain upstairs. Willa slips up to the second floor, keeping her head low as she crosses the common room, and tells them it is time to go. Aurora firebolts[i] the stone outer wall of the building and uses the soot produced to dirty her face a bit, pulls back her hair and pulls up her hood, and the three of them go down to the stable.

    The first group out is Willa, Thokk, and Larry, who is leading Andy. Willa tells the others to follow in two more groups with five to ten minutes between them. When they arrive at the docks of Lowtown they are to stay in separate groups, but all of them near enough Aurora that she can [i]message
    them, and all within sight of the Banner of Heather.

    The next group away is Aurora, Umbra, and Babshapka leading Randy. Ten minutes behind them come Tyrius, Shefak, and Eddard.

    The air is misty at the docks, and downriver a wall of fog can be seen creeping its way along the shore and over the water, obscuring both. The three groups, as planned beforehand, have remained separate from one another; they cannot see one another but are at the limits of Aurora’s message spell. Willa’s group is on the docks themselves, and she hails Roberts and asks him when he plans to shove off. “No wind, and now that fog,” he shrugs, “maybe in the morning.” Willa looks over, frustrated, at the empty berth where the knarr was an hour ago.

    Aurora checks in with her, and Willa says that they should sit tight while she finds them a sailor’s flop house along the docks for the night. Aurora, incredulous, whispers back that if they are staying another night in Longspear, she is returning to the Silver Steed. Willa can sleep three-to-a-bed in a louse-ridden flophouse if she wants.

    Before Willa can retort, Roberts calls down to her softly, “You know, once that fog hits, there’ll be precious few people as stay here riverside. If you don’t want to be seen boarding, that’d be the time to do it.”

    “An’ stay on ther ship all night?”

    Roberts looks insulted - why wouldn’t they want to stay on his ship?

    Aurora messages Willa that she will be going up to Hightown now, but Willa whispers back that all three groups need to stay around until the fog hits and the crowd disperses. They will be boarding soon after that. Aurora reluctantly confirms that she has relayed that message.

    Meanwhile, Thokk and Larry are standing on the docks looking out over the water, reminiscing about the time they shared a barge down this very river. “How long we be on river now, Larry?

    “Dunno. A while, aye guess.”

    “Huh. We not have much in game bag. Thokk not able to hunt on river. What we eat?” Thokk conveniently ignores that of the three party members who regularly foraged, he consistently returned the least food.

    “We bought food en Singleton, ‘member?”

    Thokk grimaces in disgust, thinking of the hardtack. “That not food. Thokk need fresh meat to keep big muscles.”

    “RRRiver like that ooghta hae fesh.”

    “Huh. Thokk hunt fish with javelin, from rocks. Boat too high for that.”

    “Larry hunts, och, aye hoont fesh wit’ me bar hands, en pools. Tha boot’s too high fer tha’, too.”

    “Mmm. Thokk see humans hunt fish with nets, with poles.”

    “Aye, aye’ve seen tha’, too.”

    “We get poles and learn hunt fish?”

    Larry grins. He saw a tackle store somewhere along the docks…

    By the time everyone is aboard the Banner of Heather, Larry has in his gear four fishing poles and tackle.

    The fog lasts all afternoon and past nightfall. On the ship, Roberts directs the crew in making arrangements for the party. Bags of coffee beans are moved out of one section of the hold and piled higher in another. In the open space, wood planking is nailed to a crude frame to create stalls for the mules, and then they are led down thicker planks into the hold. Tyrius puts his bedroll near the stalls, and Eddard joins him.

    Under the fo’castle is the ship’s galley; under the sterncastle are two cabins - one for the captain, one for the mate. The mate is moved out and made to take up a hammock with the crew in the forward section of the hold - he does not seem too put out, and Willa expects he will be sharing that bag of gold she will be so negligently leaving on board. Aurora and Babshapka are allowed to take up the vacated cabin, along with most of the party’s gear that will remain packed until Godakin. The rest of the party will be sleeping on deck at night (when the ship is not being sailed) but will be expected to store their bedrolls out of the way in the hold during the day.

    “Will she nae be sailin’ o’ ther night?” Willa asks of Roberts.

    “This isn’t like the sea, where ye can point her prow at a star and go below for an hour,” he laughs. “The Javan’s as broad as they come, but there is always something to watch for - if not twists and turns in the river itself, then shoals, sand bars, logs and flotsam, Rhennee barges, ye name it. If we can’t see, we don’t sail. Mind ye, if one or t’other o’ the moons be full, we may be sailing o’ a night - but it won’t be often. Imagine if ye had your own ship o’ the sea, but had to keep her within a bowshot o’ the coast at all times.”

    “Aye, I’d nae be sailin’ o’ ther night thattaways, lessen ’twere spittin’ distance from Saltmarsh herself, where I know every rock and narrow.” She nods gravely. Perhaps there is more to river-captaining than she had previously allowed.

    “O’course,” grants Roberts graciously, “I hain’t never sailed a summer squall that gave me waves o’er the gunnels, and hope as I never have to.”

    Willa grins, thinking about some of the monsoons she has sailed through, not knowing if she would indeed live to see the other side. “Me pappy always said ther Azure be equal parts tedium an’ terror.” They both laugh. Willa decides it will be refreshing to spend some time around normal folk like sailors, even river-sailors, as opposed to the loons in the party.

    [12 pounds of food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used]
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 717
    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Tue Aug 11, 2020 3:56 pm  
    Post 129: Willa's Choice VI

    DM's Note: The contents of this post is known only to the player of Willa.
    Sections in italics are copied from "Post 128: Longspear" for context, while everything else is new material.

    Post 129: Willa's Choice VI
    (7am) After breakfast, Willa and Tyrius take their leave of the inn, but they are not ten steps away before Larry bursts out of the door and hails them. He explains that Aurora wants him to go down to the docks and talk with birds, so can he come with Willa? Willa sucks in her cheeks, shows him a view of the river from between houses, and tells him the docks will be easy to find by himself - he just needs to walk downhill. If he wants to leave the inn, she whispers, she would rather have him accompany Tyrius first on his money-changing expedition - the paladin is carrying nearly 500 gold crowns on him, and a second pair of eyes would be wise. According to Gerta, most of the money changers are going to be down at the docks anyway. Larry nods and moves to Tyrius’ side, while Willa heads for the Javan Gate.

    As she is crossing a plaza near the north gate (not the one she came in, but the one that leads to the docks), Willa spots a group of children playing some sort of game - likely playing at soldier, as they all have sticks and one of the big kids is yelling "orders" at them. When the play-sergeant orders them to launch a volley of javelins, they all throw in the same direction but one, who throws his stick so close to Willa that she has to jump out of the way. The other children laugh and mock him, and he comes running up to her, saying "Sorry, ma'am!"

    When he gets close enough to retrieve his stick, though, he loudly says "Sorry!" again but adds under his breath, "Willa?"

    Willa responds loudly, in a tone of annoyance, “Watch what ye be doin’, laddie,” but adds, under her breath, “Aye, ‘tis me.”

    He grins winningly at her and whispers "The Royale" before grabbing his stick, whirling and scampering off to join his playmates.

    Willa has no idea what is "The Royale" - a ship at the docks? a business in town? a lunch special?

    The plaza in which the children are playing is just inside the northern gate of the city - and she had been about to leave to go to the waterfront, but now she continues down a street paralleling the city wall, paying careful attention to the hanging signs of businesses. After two blocks, she hasn't seen any signs referencing The Royale, so she ducks into a rope-makers shop and asks directions of a 'prentice.

    The ‘prentice replies that The Royale is one of the finest inns in Longspear, and she gives Willa directions. To her surprise, the inn is on the same block as The Silver Steed, where she left from this morning, but not the same street. Rather, the two inns have nearly-adjoining rear yards, but to travel from the front entrance of one to the other would take one down two different streets and require several minutes between then. She decides to continue to the docks, and then check back on the Royale later.

    (8am) Besides the numerous local fishing boats and a few ferries that take one across the river to Crylor, there are three vessels in the docks currently that might offer passage upriver.

    (9am) Willa starts back up to Hightown, hoping to reach The Silver Steed and get the party on to the knarr before it sails, if that it their decision.

    (10am) When Larry arrives back at the Silver Steed the debate about which vessel to take is still ongoing.

    Willa tells the others that she will be going to settle their bill with Gerta, buy some grain for the mules, and then down to the docks to see if she can’t convince the captain of the hulk to take them and their animals aboard.

    Willa leaves the Silver Steed and goes around the block until she comes to the Royale. Inside she finds the inn full of merchants in Keoish dress, the only Yeoman present being servants, unless a trio of dwarves at a low table count. The dwarves are not in armor, but she does see one military pick among them. Their clothes are simple but of excellent quality, somewhat at odds with the silks and dyed cotton of the human merchants around them.

    She moves to the darkest corner she can find and scans the room. Sure enough, the man she knows as Runnel is sitting at the bar, talking amiably with some manner of priest. Based on his robe and chain of office, she thinks it may be a priest of Zilchus.

    She takes a table directly in his view and it is not long before he excuses himself and comes over to her, ale in hand. He is dressed as a merchant himself, with none of the trappings of knighthood, and without his eyepatch.

    "My apologies if this inn is a bit on the nose," he says quietly. "There are precious few places in Longspear where one does not have to make a constant effort to hide a Keoish accent. Now, about your mage. I let her go at Highfell because you told me that she had turned the gem over to the Sage and you promised to take her away from Keoland. And yet, ever since Singleton you have been traveling closer to the Kingdom. What am I to make of that?"

    “Beggin' yer pardon, Sir. I agreed t' keep ‘er out o' Keoland - but out 'n away be mighty diff’rent t’ings. Back in Saltmarsh, I ne'er dreamed ther world could be so big, 'n now I be realizin' t'at it can be wee, too. Sometimes ther safest 'n quickest path away from Keoland, brings us closer t'an ye would like. But it cannae be avoided. I wants t' live, an’ a journey o'erland through giant infested mountains an’ thigh-high snow ain't ther way t' do t'at.”

    “I am pleased to hear that you still intend to leave Keoland, and that the mage has not decided to make another attempt on the Dreadwood. But what I don't understand is how after you left Highfell, you would travel so far to the northwest only to come back. Surely you knew about those "giant-infested mountains".

    “Ther journey ‘as been full o' twists, turns 'n surprises. I 'ave seen more t’an I could ever 'ave imagined, ar comprehended fer that matter. I don't like ar trust ther mage, but ther party seems caught up in strange magic an’ it ain't jus' ‘ers. One minute we be in ther woods nigh Highfell, ther next we be at an ancient tower in ther cold, north mountains. Then we 'ad t' hike out t' find civilization nay really kenin' war we be.”

    “So the old Sage still has the wherewithal to transport people through magic, eh? That bears noting. Well, if you are not crossing the Jotens, how is it that you intend to leave Longspear, and where are you headed next?”

    “If we be mighty close t' Keoland now, 'tis in an attempt t' get ther wizard away from ther heart o' ther country, 'n ther Dreadwood. Ther palydin wishes t' go t' Sterich, so a journey by ther Javan seemed ther quickest 'n safest way t' do t’at.”

    “Yes, assuming you can find a ship this time of year, a river voyage up the Javan would be the swiftest way to remove yourselves. Of course, going downriver would be the swiftest way to return to Salinmoor and your home. Are you sure you haven't had a change of heart - or a turn of cloak?”

    “No Sir, I be doin' me best t' honor are agreement.”

    “Very well then. I will leave you to finding your ship. But I will also be monitoring your progress. Mayhap I will check in with you in Sterich, if you stay long enough.”

    “Beggin' yer pardon, sir, but bein' shot at by bandits sent t' kidnap ther mage makes livin' difficult too, as difficult as giants would. Be thar a reason ye sent them after ‘er?”

    Runnel smiles, apparently pleased that Willa has deduced that he was behind the bandit attack without asking him for confirmation. "Two reasons. First, I wanted it clear to both you and her that returning to Keoland was not a good idea. Second, that particular group of bandits has been a plague on the good people of County Cryllor for far too long. I didn't seriously expect them to capture the mage, I know you are too powerful for that." He shrugs. "Some people pay adventurers to wipe out bandits. I thought it might be more expedient to pay bandits to attack adventurers, knowing that they would lose and be wiped out."

    Emboldened by his willingness to answer, Willa tries another question. “If 'n I may ask, did ye first pick up our trail in Singleton? Was it ther coin what laid ther scent?”

    "Yes, after you left Highfell I lost track of you - and it is reassuring to know that was only because you used teleportation magic. I had assets looking for you on both sides of the river. And yes, that takes coin. My informants in Singleton were duly paid when they told me that you had surfaced there. I didn't have a lot of time to respond, and I found the bandits close at hand."

    Willa pauses. Apparently Runnel did not catch the reference to Nholast's coins, or misinterpreted it. She decides she will let it slide. Neither will she mention the books that Aurora has been reading, because she does not appreciate serving as a pin cushion for bandit arrows just so the riff raff can be cleaned up.

    She continues, "Thar are more dwarves in these parts. Would ye be able t' tell me why?"

    "’Dwarves are drawn to hills and breed in mines’" he says, as if it were an adage, although if so she is not familiar with it. "There are dwarven colonies on both sides of the river - here in the Little Hills, and on our side in the Good Hills. Would that there were more of them. Ours at least are loyal subjects to the crown and know better than to play with ancient magics."

    Willa says her goodbyes to Runnel and goes to the docks to check on the departure time of the hulk.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
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    Tue Aug 18, 2020 9:35 am  
    Post 130: Longspear to Cryllor

    DM's Notes:
    By far the best source for maps of Greyhawk comes from the work of Anna B Meyer. I used for the party's travel. The hex designations given are from her maps. I would highly encourage any DM to use Anna's work, and anyone with the means to do so to support her Patreon at

    Post 130: Longspear to Cryllor
    25 November, 570 - Longspear

    A bedroll on the deck of a ship is a far cry from the best inn in Longspear, and before the sun comes up the temperature has dropped into the low twenties. Those who laughed at Tyrius for staying belowdecks with the stink of the mules envy him their warmth before the night is through. When Roberts comes on deck in the predawn, Willa is awakened by the sound of his booted feet. He is staring up at a pennant on the main mast, fluttering in a slight breeze, and grinning. When he strides over and begins to shout down into the hold to look lively, she starts encouraging her own crew to clear the deck, despite their groans and complaints.

    While the sailors work to ready the ship, the party crowds the galley. The cook has agreed to cook for them, using their food, but only after the sailors are served. In the meantime, they are allowed to drink coffee. Willa is still suspicious of this Yeoman drink, but at least it is hot - and given the tons of roast beans in the hold below, there should be no lack of it on the journey! Sails, stiff with frost, are raised into the light south wind. Lines are trimmed, the anchor weighed, and they are off, the heavy hulk fighting the current of the Javan upriver.

    Once they are well underway and Lowtown is diminishing in view behind them, Willa asks Roberts to see his charts. As it turns out, he has both detailed drawings of the river at a small scale, and a broad overview of the whole section from Longspear to Godakin Keep. The latter is what most interests her, the large scale section and his claim that the stretch is four hundred miles, which she finds difficult to believe. She sees that along the way they will make port in the cities of Cryllor (which she has heard of) and Kilm (which she has not).

    The sun has been up for two hours or more before the last of the spray ice has melted from the lines. Thokk and Larry, their breaths billowing vapor clouds, bring out their tackle and head to the side of the ship. They know enough to stay out of the way of the sailors, but their first attempts at casting meet with chuckles from the crew and Thokk bristles in response. Willa decides she will have to intervene immediately or this journey will be much shorter than planned. Patiently she explains to Thokk and Larry how to bait, how to cast, how to feel for strikes, how to set a hook, and how to pull in a fish. Thokk and Larry are both enthusiastic students and Willa hopes Thokk has at least found something that will allow him to fill his hours on the boat. By day’s end, between the two of them and Willa’s guidance, they have snagged a small pile of fish.

    [Thokk and Larry, Survival check at disadvantage, +5 for Willa’s help, rolls 24 and 19, total 24 pounds of food collected]

    It is early afternoon when Willa calls all the party on deck. Though she denies to Roberts that anything is the matter, she tells her own people to remain vigilant. They are passing the section of the river where, on the Yeoman bank, the bandit ambush was sprung and where, on the Keoish bank, they can see the stream that the bandits said would lead to their camp. Willa has all eyes watching for canoes and all hands on missile weapons, but no threats are seen and the Banner of Heather continues upriver.

    They sail on throughout the afternoon, the light wind lasting until sunset. Roberts estimates that they have gone 14 miles or so by day’s end. Willa requests that they anchor on the Yeoman side of the river and he obliges.

    [28 pounds of food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used
    Day's travel ends in hex F175-235]

    26 November, 570 - Javan River, one day north of Longspear

    In mid-morning, the last hoarfrost has melted from the port side hull when a light, drizzling rain starts. The sailors curse but go about their business. Most of the party retreats below decks, or into Aurora’s cabin, but Thokk and Larry stay on deck to continue their fishing. The rain continues until early in the afternoon.

    All morning, the river continues through the narrow valley, bordered by the steep, rocky cliffs and bluffs on both sides, with no signs of humans besides themselves. As the afternoon wears on, however, the cliffs to the left retreat from the riverbank, farther and farther back. Now the Keoish side remains wilderness, but on the Yeoman side a settled, green floodplain emerges. Every few miles along the river there are now tiny fishing villages, and, further inland, pastoral communities. Most of these are so small that they were not seen by the party when they passed by them on the cliffs above, but from beneath them on the river they are swaths of color against the green and brown of dried winter grass. In the evening, they again anchor near the Yeoman bank.

    [Thokk and Larry, total 22 pounds of food collected]

    [41 pounds of food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used
    Day's travel ends in hex F175-234]

    27 November, 570 - Up the Javan River, two days north of Longspear

    For the first part of the day’s journey, the terrain is similar to the night before, with rocky cliffs to starboard and a flat plain with fishing villages to port. Willa notes that the wind is not any stronger today, but it is more constant, and she doesn’t doubt they will be carried further by this steady south breeze today than the days previous.

    At mid-morning Roberts brings her to the prow and shows her the river they are approaching to port. Dark and dirty with run-off from the hills, it is leaving a brown streak as it spills into the blue-green Javan and the Banner is already moving to starboard to avoid both its current and anything it has brought downriver, such as logs. Roberts remarks that the river is the same one that flows under the bridge at Fort August, and Willa admits that she is familiar with it. He then adds that the river marks the boundary of the Yeomanry - once they sail past that, they are in Keoland, with Keoish soil on both sides of the river. He pauses, then says he just wants to make sure she is aware of that. “Aye,” she says resolutely, but leaves soon after to check up on Aurora.

    Past the river, the land grows rough on both sides, although the cliffs to the east diminish. Less rocky, the hills are now vegetated, but steep and irregular. They do not see settlements for the rest of the day.

    The fish are not biting today, and Larry even breaks a pole trying to get his line off a snag. (Critical fail on survival roll). Fortunately he bought four poles in Longspear.

    [33 pounds of food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used
    Day's travel ends in hex F175-233]

    28 November, 570 - Up the Javan River, three days north of Longspear

    Even the landlubbers can tell that the wind is much stronger in the morning - a smart southerly breeze blowing steadily, occasionally gusting beyond strong. As Roberts shouts orders to his men, there is no mistaking the satisfied tone in his voice. As they raise first one sail, then another, careful not to throw too much sheet to the wind at once, the Banner of Heather pulls slowly away from the riverbank, then more and more eagerly begins cutting into the current upriver. By the time they are at full sail, the ship is going faster than a man could walk along the riverbank - and if the gods be good, they could do so all the day long, with pause for neither resting nor eating.

    In the chill early morning the rugged hills lower and recede, with Keoish pastoral villages becoming more and more common. By mid-morning they are in a vast, flat plain. Here the Javan is wide and sluggish - did it still run north-south they could really pick up speed, but it has turned west, so the Banner is unable to make full use of the wind. Still, they glide swiftly by a smaller river entering the right bank from the Good Hills, and farming villages without number, their fields all winter-brown.

    It is early afternoon when they pass a second tributary, this one to the left. Roberts explains that the headwaters of this river are in the Yeomanry, and that it flows past Singleton before cutting through the low mountain pass that connects the League with Keoland. Once they pass the river they can see that they are approaching a town, even a city perhaps, that spans both sides of the Javan. Roberts says that it is Baransford, and that reaching it so early in the day puts them in a dilemma. Typically they stop in the city, take on food, and check the market prices to see whether selling any of their cargo might be more favorable now than at their destination. But with the strong wind they have behind them now, “as good as any we’re likely to get this voyage or the next,” Roberts is tempted to continue on.

    Willa agrees that it would be a shame to waste a wind this good, and asks where the next port would be. Roberts responds that that would be Cryllor, another day or two to the north. Willa says that her crew would favor continuing, for what it is worth, and that they have plenty of fish to share if Roberts is worried about food stores. Roberts talks with his mate and agrees that they will continue on as far as they can today.

    As they approach the city, Willa can see that Baransford mostly occupies the west bank of the Javan. Although there are some docks and buildings on the east bank, it is only the west bank settlement that is walled. In whole, it is considerably smaller than Longspear. The Javan here is particularly broad and shallow, with hard rock islands nearly crossing the entirety of the river, which is several miles wide at this point. The few channels that have deep water are spanned by stone bridges - and one of these is high enough that even large ships with high masts can pass underneath. Roberts explains that at this time of year, the water is at its lowest. What are now visible as islands and causeways will, in the summer and fall, be fords of knee-high depth. In the spring, even the bases of the bridges will be under the flood waters and the river is then uncrossable. At the present time, however, they will need to head for the deepest channel and pass under the highest bridge. There are other ships about, but fortunately none close by them. As they approach the bridge, Roberts orders them to lower sails to half and have all hands ready to maneuver.

    Past Baransford, the Javan gradually narrows and deepens again until they have the entirety of its breadth to use. All the rest of the afternoon and into the early evening they continue to sail past rich agricultural land and farming villages.

    As the sun touches the tops of the hills in the west, Roberts talks of selecting an anchorage for the night. Aurora, once banished to her cabin for their passage through Baransford, is now out on deck, speaking with Larry. Overhearing Roberts, she confirms with Willa that the wind they have right now is likely the best they will ever have, and then she speaks to Roberts herself. At first she talks about theoretical possibilities - wouldn’t it be nice if they had a light source to keep going - both moons are only in their first quarters and not bright enough to navigate by. When he agrees, she mentions that Larry, a druid who uses the power of nature and certainly not scary, evil wizard magic, can actually create light, equal in brilliance to sunlight, and place it on an object - something like a spare spar or mast that could project in front of the ship. [Aurora persuasion roll 19].

    Roberts speaks with his crew - and in short order a mast is brought up from the hold and lashed to the prow. When Larry casts daylight on its tip, Roberts finds he can see nearly 150’ ahead of the Banner. Not ideal for shoals or sandbars, but enough to warn them of logs and other vessels. He agrees to keep sailing and not waste the wind that Sotillion has granted them. After an hour, Larry casts his spell again, and after another hour, again. Some forty minutes into the third spell, Roberts insists on looking for anchorage. The Javan has been turning more and more to the east, and he says it will only continue to do so ahead. The strong south wind is of less and less help now, and as the Banner tacks wider across the Javan at increasingly strong angles, they are more exposed to unseen dangers.

    They anchor under a steep cliff. Those on watch in the night report hearing the sounds of scores of boots marching. Roberts claims it to be an echo of a patrol on the roads above the river, but for the party there are several tense minutes as it passes.

    It is not Willa’s watch, but she is woken by those on watch in readiness to respond to the boots, whatever they are. As it is now well and truly dark, she decides to take some star readings. As she suspected, they are now farther north than Singleton, farther north than the Tower of Nholast - in short, farther north than she herself has ever been.

    [ 4 pounds fish caught,
    29 pounds of food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used
    Day's travel ends in hex F175-230]

    29 November, 570 - Up the Javan River, four days north of Longspear

    The wind this morning is scant, and mostly from the southeast at that, while the Banner needs to go due east, practically into the wind. Roberts spends most of the day watching the pennants for wind direction, with the Banner anchored. Every few hours when the wind shifts, he bellows orders - sails and anchors are raised, and with long, exaggerated, zig-zags that cross from one side of the river to the other, the ship creeps eastward for a time until the wind shifts again and progress is impossible. “Fie, we’d be faster’n this if we were warping!” he is heard to exclaim more than once, but he doesn’t bring up a second anchor to put this to the test.

    Finally, late in the afternoon, the Banner rounds the rocky point wherein the Javan turns due west, and again begins to sail steadily upriver. The sailors are exhausted, and Roberts refuses Larry’s offer of more light for them to sail at night, now that the wind is finally behind them.

    [ no fish caught,
    21 pounds of food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used
    Day's travel ends in hex F175-230]

    30 November, 570 - Up the Javan River, five days north of Longspear

    The wind is with them today, but bare, often fading to no wind at all. Roberts says that is typical for this stretch of the Javan, where the rock cliffs are close to the river and it cuts a narrow canyon through the Good Hills. They spend the entire day slowly working around the huge bluff to port that has forced the Javan round it rather than be worn down by the river. Roberts says that local legend has it that the bluff is what remains of a mountain giant that lost a fierce battle against Ulaa.

    No settlements are seen along the river banks all day.

    Although they have made little progress, Roberts seems satisfied by day’s end, saying that they will surely reach Cryllor on the morrow. Regardless of when they do arrive, they will spend the rest of the day, and the night, of the morrow in port. Should the party have anything they wish to buy, they should tell him in advance, and he can see that the purchase gets made. Otherwise, they should plan on being below decks for the whole time, at least any of them that want not to be noted by the local Keoish officials. Roberts adds that they may wish to have a rapid departure plan in place as well. As he is neither taking on nor unloading cargo, the Keoish customs agents that run the harbor have no reason to search the Banner or check her manifest, but they would be well within their rights to do so, as would the City Watch, the Inspectors of the Guilds, the Knights of the Hart, the Count’s Guard, the Duke’s Men, and any other of a number of groups charged with some aspect of the defense of Cryllor. Roberts has never been boarded by any of these groups before, and again, they have no reason to single out his hulk - “but forewarned is forearmed” he tells Willa.

    She ponders all this, and gives him a single gold coin from the party to purchase more mule feed.

    [ no fish caught,
    13 pounds of food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used
    Day's travel ends in hex F175-230]
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 717
    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Tue Aug 25, 2020 1:11 pm  
    Post 131: DM's Notes: Up the Javan

    Post 131: DM's Notes - Up the Javan

    The party iss now moving upstream on a sailed vessel; a condition for which the Guide to the World of Greyhawk does not have explicit movement rules.

    It does say that:
    Sailed movement across lakes is at 30mpd for sailed merchants, 60mpd for sailed or oared warships, with one hour boost for oared

    And that:
    Rowed movement upstream is at 30mpd.

    Given these baselines, I decided that I wanted a merchant craft sailing upstream, like the hulk Banner of Heather, to be at an AVERAGE of 15mpd.

    However, I wanted this average to have considerable daily variability depending on the wind direction and strength. I thus constructed the following table, based on the result of a "Fudge 4" roll at the beginning of each day:

    score / movement (miles per day) / observed conditions
    -4: no move (No wind or opposite direction)
    -3: no move (No wind or opposite direction)
    -2: 8 mpd (Wind scant and variable)
    -1: 12 mpd (Wind scant but steady)
    0: 14 mpd (Wind light but variable)
    +1: 18mpd (Wind light and steady)
    +2: 24 mpd (Wind strong but variable)
    +3: 30mpd (Wind strong and steady)
    +4: 36mpd (Wind strong and gusting)

    The average of all of these results, prorated for relative frequency, was close enough to 15mpd for my purposes.

    Thus in the first leg of travel the party went:
    Date, Day of Travel: (Fudge 4 Roll) Distance Traveled.
    Nov. 24, Day 1: (-1) No wind. Fog from 2pm to 7pm.
    Nov. 25, Day 2: (0) 14 miles.
    Nov. 26, Day 3: (-1) 12 miles.
    Nov. 27, Day 4: (+1) 18 miles.
    Nov. 28, Day 5: (+4) 36 miles
    Nov. 29, Day 6: (-2) 8 miles.
    Nov. 30, Day 7: (-2) 8 miles

    Finally, the name of the ship and its captain are Easter eggs. When I learned that there was a medieval ship type called a "hulk", I decided to name the ship the "Banner of Heather" because one possible etymology for the name "Bruce" is from the French for a place with heather. Thus, "Banner of Bruce". And Captain Roberts because the comic book character's full name is actually Dr. Robert Bruce Banner, although my players initially though it was a reference to the Dread Pirate Roberts and were suitably wary.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 717
    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Tue Sep 01, 2020 10:51 pm  
    Post 132: Cryllor

    DM's Notes:
    By far the best source for maps of Greyhawk comes from the work of Anna B Meyer. I used for the party's travel. The hex designations given are from her maps. I would highly encourage any DM to use Anna's work, and anyone with the means to do so to support her Patreon at

    Cryllor is on the Darlene maps, and there are lots of canon sources that describe it, note that its population includes halflings, and repeat the fact that it is the northernmost city on the Javan that is reachable by deep-draft vessels. What is my own invention is the dwarf-gnome engineering marvel of the "River Ladder" lock and canals.

    "Rheneg" is a made-up word in my campaign, a portmanteau of "renege" and "Rhennee". It carries the meaning of "to go back on a promise or deal, like one of the untrustworthy bargefolk would". Thus it is a racial slur, much as using "gyp" to mean to cheat or trick in English is a pejorative reference to the Romani.

    Roberts' wife "Betty" is a reference to Elizabeth Ross.

    In a canon timeline, the west bank of the Javan north of Cryllor would not be Keoish territory in CY570, though it is unclear whether it would be wilderness, Yeoman, or Sterish. However, I decided to make it established Keoish lands both to sustain the tension of Aurora traveling in Keoland while worrying about the Knight, and to further the ease of using Anna's maps. In a canon timeline, the territory was taken by Keoland after the Greyhwak Wars (see:

    Post 132: Cryllor
    1 December, 570 - Javan River, south of Cryllor (hex FT175-229)

    The wind in the morning is good, but Roberts makes it clear that they are spending the day in Cryllor regardless. A bit more than an hour into the day’s journey, and they round a bend and the city comes into view, on the east bank of the Javan.

    With the appearance of the city, hatches are fully opened and ramps set in place to bring the mules up on deck. Then, the party is moved into the hold. Larry objects mildly, as he has already landed a fish and has a “good feeling” about the upcoming day. Unbeknownst to Roberts and his crew, Shefak remains on deck, invisible. Willa also remains on deck, but without her armor or most of her weapons, just the dagger she wears on the outside of her tall leather boots. In traveling clothes and unarmed, and by now familiar with the Banner, she can easily pass as a member of the crew, which gives the party another set of eyes and ears on deck. Roberts has no problem ordering her to trim this line or that and enhance the deception.

    As they draw closer, Willa and Shefak can see the city, larger than Longspear, spread out along the river bank. At its southmost end is a great castle, the seat of the Count of Cryllor, with many towers and keeps. The high walls around the castle run north and become the low walls that surround the city itself. North of the castle is the city proper, interesting in that it is criss-crossed with canals that are fed by the river. Rising above the one or two-story regular buildings are several other impressive keeps and temples. Outside the town along the river is an extensive dock area, crammed with fishing and trading vessels. To the east, the land rises away from the river. Most of the buildings near the river are of wood, but a surprising number in the town center are of stone. Along the eastern edge of the city, on slopes that overlook the city and river, the buildings are a curious mix of wood and earth, many built into the side of the slope, and all with brightly painted doors. Further above and to the east, outside the walls of the city proper, are many hovels and slum tenements.

    As interesting to Willa as the city itself is the lay of the Javan upstream from the city. For a stretch just north of the docks there is a section of whitewater, with braided islands, ledges, and waterfall drops of a foot or more going intermittently across the Javan from one side to the other. There are a number of open channels between the rapids as well, but how Roberts intends to steer the Banner to them precisely, or have enough impulse to go up them against the current, is beyond her. On the west bank of the Javan, just below the whitewater, is a second town, a sister settlement across the water, but it is not walled and it is clear that it is not much more than a ferry stop, warehouse district, and overland jump-off for two trails, one heading north, one south.

    After another three quarters of an hour the Banner has lowered sail at the edge of the harbor, where Roberts negotiates with a local crew of oared tugs for a place on the docks. In the crowded and labyrinthine dock and canal system, there is no way the Banner could maneuver under her own sails, so she is pulled by two tugs into her assigned berth. It is still before mid-day, so Roberts leaves his mate in command and takes a few hands with him as he visits the markets of the city to requisition goods and check prices. Before long two full slabs of mutton are carried aboard the ship, and soon after several bags of figs, prunes, and grain follow. Roberts and the hands do not return until after sundown. They smell of ale houses but do not stumble.

    [ 1 pound of fish caught,
    7 pounds of food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used
    Day's travel ends in hex hex FT175-229 (Cryllor)]

    2 December, 570 - Cryllor
    Tyrius has been fastidious about mucking out the mule stalls. Between that and the several tons of roast coffee beans in the hold, there is no unpleasant smell below and despite their initial misgivings it was not a disagreeable night for the party. After it is well and truly dark, Willa put two of them in turns on the deck to watch in case they were boarded without warning. It was a colder night than any they have yet had on their journey; skim ice formed all along the docks, and the mules shivered and stamped their feet on the deck. Those on watch kept in constant motion even with their cold weather gear, and envied those crammed in the hold below.

    Even before first light, two rowboats approach the Banner, steam rolling off the backs of the men at the oars. A lantern beam from one sweeps the prows of the ships nearby until it alights on the Banner, and the men within call out. Those in the party on guard duty go below to wake the others, but before anyone has their armor on Roberts is on deck and speaking with the men in the boats. As Willa ascends in her “deckhand” gear, she hears one of them say, “The Laddermaster says you’re first in the queue this morning.”

    Roberts grins and mutters something about “coin well spent,” tells Willa to begin casting off, and starts to raise the rest of the crew.

    By the time the sky is ashen gray, the two tugs have pulled the Banner to the very north end of the docks, at the entrance to a long and deep canal, and she has tied off there for the moment. Onshore, Roberts is speaking in Keoish with a portly man with flame-red hair and beard standing at the edge of a small corral.

    “What’re you tryin’ to pull, Roberts? You know I got the hoagie license for the Ladder! Since when did you start shippin’ your own mules?”

    “Calm down, Red. I’m not trying to rheneg on you. I picked up this pair in Longspear, and I’ll be getting rid of them come the Keep. I just want to know what I can get for them. Use them, with all your own gear, and I’ll pay you normal, just tell me honest what you think of them.”

    “Red” is full of more bluster and protestations, but when Randy and Andy are off-loaded, he agrees to put his padded draft collars and other gear on them. When the mules do not object, he says, “I’ll be damned, they’re broke to harness, at least.” Randy is hooked to a tow rope on the starboard side. A clever, laterally swinging, bridge is maneuvered across the canal temporarily to allow Andy to cross, and then he is hooked to a tow rope off the port side, as well as to a lighter lead rope held by Red. Once the bridge has been swung back out of the way, Red flicks the lead lines and calls to the mules, who strain against their ropes, their hooves clattering on the stone towpaths. The first few inches are grueling for the mules, but once they have overcome inertia and the Banner is in motion, each step forward becomes easier. Soon the ship is gliding along the canal at the walking pace of the mules. Roberts has all hands (including Willa) on deck, keeping watch with long gaffs to make sure the ship doesn’t rub along the stone sides of the canal, while he makes a slow tour abovedecks.

    The canal itself parallels the base of the southern wall of the city, and they are pulled past guard towers on one side, houses and shops on the other, the latter just coming to life with the new day. They are headed as much north as they are east, and so are moving both inland and upriver. While the water level in the canal (equal to that of the river), and the stone paving of the towpaths, stays at the same elevation, the earth rises around them, so that the canal becomes sunken, and gradually the level of the streets beyond comes to the gunnels, and then higher. Willa looks ahead with growing concern, knowing that when the walls rise above her eye level, the ship will continue to move ahead in a narrow slot out of which she cannot see.

    By the third time Roberts passes her on his circles about the deck, Willa can take no more. “Alright, Roberts,” she says cuttingly, “Wha’ gives? I ‘eld me tongue all o’ the las’ day, but yer leadin’ us down a mighty great tunnel wit’ no way out. Seems a perfect spot fer an ambuscade, an’ I wan’ t’ know whar we be headed an’ why ye need our mules an’ such.”

    The captain laughs easily, but without the mocking tone she would have expected from, say, Sigurd. “Ok, ok. We are headed for the River Ladder of Cryllor, an engineering marvel and famed up and down the Javan. If you had spent any time on the river instead of all your time at sea you would surely have heard of it. The Ladder will let us pass around all the whitewater that I am sure you saw yesterday and so continue upriver.”

    Willa nods curtly, and Roberts continues.

    “Cryllor is the farthest port north for seagoing ships - the Ladder is not big enough to accommodate cogs, carracks, or galleys. Not that it matters, since there is more like that stretch of rapids all the rest of the way up the Javan, and only longships and barges and other vessels with low drafts can proceed from here on upriver, even if deeper draft ships could use the Ladder. The Banner was designed by a shipwright in Cryllor, specifically for the Ladder. She is the largest ship, with the deepest draft possible, that can still use it. The longships don’t carry nearly the amount of cargo that a taller vessel can, and they need more men on the oars besides. North of Cryllor, the price of all the goods from downriver jumps, like coffee and cotton and pipeweed. We sail just far enough north that we can sell our load at a good profit and it doesn’t matter that we don’t make as much on the way back.”

    “Fine, fine,” mutters Willa. “I get now t’at we need t’ go in yon tunnel fer t’is ‘ladder’ t’ take us upriver, an’ I get t’at we need mules t’ pull us up ther canal. But why our mules? Why make sure Red sees ‘em? We’re tryin’ not t’ be noticed.”

    Roberts lowers his voice. “Because with all of your crew in the hold, the mules have to be on deck. They were on deck all last night. And people in town were already starting to wonder why. So I just gave them a reason why I’m traveling with mules, and why I don’t have them in the hold where they belong.”

    Willa nods begrudgingly, but when Roberts walks away, she smiles. He’d make a fair smuggler, that one, and she likes him. Competent, a good captain and leader. Of course, there’s nothing exciting about him - nothing dashing and dangerous like Sigurd. No, he’s a good man, but he doesn’t fill her sails, as it were. Which is fine, because any time Aurora has minced around him he’s made sure to mention Betty, his wife, waiting on him in Longspear.

    Before the end of the hour, those on deck can see that they are approaching an end to the canal. By then, the walls above them are higher than the Banner’s yards, and Willa is working hard to hide her nervous claustrophobia. Randy and Andy pull the Banner of Heather into a huge, rectangular chamber, the bottom filled with river water. Red unhooks their lines, which are drawn up on deck. He leads one of the mules up a steep set of stairs and ramps while a dwarf does the same with the other. Far above them, on a rampart around the upper edge of the chamber, scurry a number of dwarves and gnomes. With an exaggerated, echoing groan, a massive set of bronze gates, fully forty feet high or more, slowly closes behind the ship, trapping them all in the sunken chamber. Willa notes that the walls are carved with level lines and numbers from the waterline to the top.

    The dwarves and gnomes call to one another, and there is the sound of metal on metal. The Banner begins to rock as if hit by a wave, and Roberts calls to those on the port side to look lively with their gaffs. Willa feels as if she is moving, but doesn’t understand, as the ship seems dead in the water. Finally she realizes that the ship is moving up. The chamber is filling with water, and she can track their rise by the lines carved on the walls. Over the next ten minutes, the chamber fills with so much water that the ship finally emerges into daylight, sitting in what now appears to be a millpond at the north end of the city. A second set of bronze gates, opposite the first and much smaller, is now opened onto another canal. The mules are hitched as before, and Red drives them forward, pulling the ship between the walls of the city, under a high gatehouse, and out onto a plain overlooking the river. Willa can see that they are already above most of the rapids, and by the time they reach the end of the canal, they will have cleared them all.

    This canal is much shorter than the first, and it is not long before Red is handing the tow ropes off to a pair of tugs that will draw them out into the Javan. Roberts is grinning with satisfaction at the pennants and directing his crew to put them at quarter-sail, while he fends off an offer from Red to purchase the mules.

    “No, no, that’s a fair price and all, but I already have a buyer in the Keep. Thanks for letting me test them out, Red.”

    With a good breeze behind them, the Banner is slowly raising sails even as the tugs draw her out, and they are soon far enough upriver of the city that the remainder of the party, even Tyrius and Eddard, decide to come above deck before Randy and Andy are taken below. “Ugh, about time,” complains Aurora. “I thought I was going to suffocate down in that stuffy hold.”

    Babshapka shrugs. “It smelled better down there than up in that stinking city.”

    It is past nine in the morning and still is not above freezing. “Bracing!” says Tyrius happily. “Welcome to the north!”

    Thokk and Larry, glad to finally be out of the hold, go back below momentarily for their fishing gear.

    For the remainder of the day, the Banner sails upriver, nearly due north, through rough hill country. The western bank is wilderness; the eastern bank shows glimpses of a well-trodden trail and several shepherding communities.

    [ no fish caught,
    no food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used
    Day's travel ends in hex FT175-228]
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 717
    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Tue Sep 08, 2020 12:37 pm  
    Post 133: Cryllor to Kilm

    DM's Notes:
    By far the best source for maps of Greyhawk comes from the work of Anna B Meyer. I used for the party's travel. The hex designations given are from her maps. I would highly encourage any DM to use Anna's work, and anyone with the means to do so to support her Patreon at

    Gerth is not on the Darlene maps. I do not think it has a canon source, and do not know its source in fanon. I know it only from Anna's maps.

    Kilm is not on the Darlene maps, but appears in Gary Holian's "The Kingdom of Keoland" in the Living Greyhawk Journal. Kilm is both on the map included and is mentioned in the text under the County of Flen.

    Post 133: Cryllor to Kilm

    3 December, 570 - Javan River, north of Cryllor
    Although the nighttime low is perhaps not as frigid, temperatures remain as cold this day as the last.

    With their supply of fish exhausted the previous night at dinner, the party is forced to delve into their rations for breakfast - the jerky, hardtack, cheese, and dried fruits they originally purchased in Singleton. Thokk and Larry tell them not to worry, however, for over the course of the day they catch a large basketful of fish, enough for more than a day’s worth of food for them all on the morrow.

    The morning’s sailing is through rugged hills like the day before with only occasional and small settlements. In the early afternoon they pass a town on the east bank. Roberts gives its local name as Riverside, but says that it is known in the official rolls of the kingdom as “Gerth,” on account of far too many minor settlements having the former name to keep track of. The buildings around the docks are more numerous than the entire rest of the town, and the fields and pastures surrounding it are minimal - it is more a way station than anything else, a place for the mineral wealth of the Good Hills to enter the Javan and the goods from up and down the river to find a land port.

    The afternoon is marked by the same desolate, rugged hills as the morning, with the only point of difference being the gradual shift of the river to come more and more from the west rather than from due north. Roberts says that they have finally sailed north of the east spur of the Jotens Mountains, and over the next few days they will be traveling more and more to the west until they arrive at Godakin Keep.

    [ 20 pounds fish caught,
    20 pounds food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used
    8 human rations used
    Day's travel ends in hex F173-226]

    4 December, 570 - Javan River, north of Gerth
    There is a light wind today, but it blows steadily. Soon after they start out, the rough hills to port recede from the river and open onto flat agricultural land. An hour or so later, the ones to starboard do as well. As the day wears on, they pass numerous small farming and herding villages. In the late afternoon they approach the end of the valley and a ridge line through which the Javan has worn a narrow canyon. The Banner anchors at the bottom of a series of mild rapids, with Roberts claiming that they will need hours more of daylight than are left to negotiate them successfully.

    [ 14 pounds fish caught,
    26 pounds food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used
    Day's travel ends in hex F172-225]

    5 December, 570 - Javan River, north of Gerth
    The wind this day is slight, and Roberts deems it insufficient to fight the strong current and have the maneuverability he needs to get them up the canyon safely. The Banner remains anchored at the base of the rapids all day.

    [ no fish caught,
    18 pounds food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used
    Day's travel ends in hex F173-226]]

    6 December, 570 - Javan River, north of Gerth
    The breeze in the morning is light, but it is steady enough that Roberts judges it sufficient to navigate the canyon. They weigh anchor shortly after sunup. Even in the gap it has cut through the ridge, the Javan is wide. While there are many rapids, none of them are extensive enough to cross completely from one side of the river to the other. Navigating around the whitewater from one chute or area of calm water to another takes skill and a lot of maneuvering, but after nearly two hours of work they are through to the valley beyond.

    It is still below freezing when they emerge from the canyon, and indeed, today will have temperatures above freezing for only a few hours in the afternoon. The land to the south is rugged hills, but to the north is open, rolling pasture land, farms, and villages like the previous valley. Tonight Luna, the large moon, will be full, while the small moon is nearly half and growing. Roberts says there will likely be enough light to navigate by in this peaceable stretch of the river, but with the frigid temperatures they will anchor anyway. There would need to be a stronger wind behind them for it to be worth continuing on such a cold night.

    [ 4 pounds fish caught,
    14 pounds food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used
    Day's travel ends in hex F171-225]]

    7 December, 570 - Javan River, north of Gerth
    Today’s wind is stronger and it is soon after the Banner weighs anchor that they reach the end of the second valley. The next twenty miles, and nearly all the day, is spent maneuvering up submerged boulder fields and around rapids. The river is not constrained by canyon walls, but the land around them is rough and rocky and this is reflected in the river bed. It is late afternoon when they finally emerge from the final narrows into another broad agricultural valley to the starboard.

    While the sailors had to work constantly most of the day to keep the Banner from running aground, Thokk and Larry found the rock-strewn, swift-moving water to be very productive for fishing. By day’s end they both have sizable catches.

    To Willa’s surprise, Roberts does not call for the anchor as the sun sinks low on the horizon. The northern half of the river is flowing swiftly, but the rapids and exposed rocks are all on the south side now, where the rugged hills come down to the water’s edge. With peaceful river ahead of them, two bright moons on the rise, and a good wind behind them, Roberts keeps them sailing for several hours after sundown, and does not anchor until two hours before midnight.

    [ 24 pounds fish caught,
    30 pounds food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used
    Day's travel ends in hex F167-225]]

    8 December, 570 - Javan River, north of Gerth
    In the morning, those on deck are treated to a striking sight. So far in the river journey, the horizons have been crowded with the peaks of the Good Hills and Little Hills. Now, the rosy light of dawn is showing off the snow-capped peaks of the Jotens far to the south. Apparently the Javan runs particularly close to the mountains at this point in its course, or perhaps the mountains themselves are higher and can be seen farther.

    There is less wind than yesterday, but Roberts judges it enough for the maneuvering needed in this section of the river. For the duration of the morning and the early afternoon as well there are only small rapids that are easily avoided on the wide river.

    Sometime after noon, Roberts and the others on deck watch with concern as a long line of dark clouds, occasionally lit with flashes of lightning, creeps towards them over the hills to the southeast. Willa, who has weathered plenty of storms at sea but never on a river, asks Roberts what it means.

    “Short-term, it means we be done sailing for the day. The wind in a storm be just too unpredictable - and as you have seen, being able to steer reliably be crucial on a river. Long-term, it be good - thunderstorms mean mayhaps we finally be done with this cold streak.”

    “Cold streak?” asks Willa, nonplussed.

    “Of course,” says Roberts. “It’s been unseasonably cold since before we left Longspear. This has been a cold winter so far. This be the kind of winter in which the giants come down from the Jotens.”

    “No doubt,” says Willa, dryly. “But t’ listen t’ Tyrius tell it, Sterich be even colder than we be now.”

    Roberts laughs, and leans in conspiratorially. “Never trust a Sterishman when talking about the weather,” he says. “They always go on and on about how cold and violent be the weather of their home, how only the Sterish are strong enough to take it, and how us lowlanders could never survive a real winter. The truth be that it be cold enough there, but rarely as cold as it be today, and it doesn’t snow but in the mountains. The cold we be feeling right now is cold enough even for Geoff, to the north.”

    “Well, that be a comfertin’ t’ought,” says Willa, “since we may be headed north on foot after ther Keep. Say Roberts, ye ever seen a giant yerself?”

    Roberts pauses, and looks about as if to see whether they are within hearing of any of his crew. “When I were younger, not having even completed my second dozen yet, I were mate on a longship. We had a military consignment, bringing supplies to the Keoish “Sentinel Keep”, what be up a tributary of the Javan. That little river enters the Javan just below Baranford; we passed it days ago. Well, that water be narrow and rocky, and flows through canyons I wouldn’t dream of taking the Banner into, but our ship were little and lithe and we had a good pilot besides. We’d dropped off our load at the trailhead to the keep and gotten paid besides, and a few too many of the crew were dreaming of the ale houses or pleasure houses of Baranford. We could see a storm were brewing on the Javan and more sensible men would’ve waited it out, but too many of us were young and hot and argued for pushing through the storm and making Baranford before dark. Finally the captain said “storm be damned!” and we all cheered, though I know half the men were more scared than I were, and I had said we should stay put. We put out from port and don’t that river run swift - once you start down it, there’s places you can stop and plenty of places you can’t. The storm hit us in a place we couldn’t stop - steep walled canyon, no shoreline, no banks. Once the black clouds were overhead it were near dark as night, but the pilot were steering us between lightning flashes and memory. All of a sudden we heard rocks crashing down the sides of the cliffs and splashing into the water alongside the ship - rocks so large the waves near come o’er the gunnels - rocks so large they could have stove in the deck and hull, and sunk us on the spot. I thought it were the lightning - that the cliffs above were being struck and the rocks set loose. But at the next flash I saw a huge man standing on a ledge above us - he were closer to thirty feet tall than five, skin as gray as death and naked as an eel. He had a huge boulder in his hands and were just about to toss it. Then it went dark and I heard the rock crash against the cliff face all the way down to the river, where it sheared off one of our oars. At the next flash I saw another man, looking back to where the first one had been before he heaved his own boulder that way. I didn’t know if they were throwing their rocks at each other, at us, or at something else, and I can’t say as I have ever not wanted to know the answer to a question more than I did that one. We kept going all the way down that canyon, and I jumped at every flash of lightning, but didn’t see anything else. I don’t know if they were giants, but I’ve little interest in finding that out, either.”

    By two hours after noon the storm is nearly on them, and Roberts has them lower sails and find a secure anchoring point. By three hours, the deck is being lashed with wind and freezing rain while the thunder booms overhead. Everyone that can go below-decks does so, although many of the party remain in the covered galley rather than crowding into the occupied mule stalls. The storm rages for hours and hours, but finally relents long after sundown so that the party can swab down the deck and put out their sleeping rolls.

    [ 3 pounds fish caught,
    25 pounds food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used
    Day's travel ends in hex F167-225]

    9 December, 570 - Javan River, north of Gerth
    The wind is light in the morning, but enough to sail. However, it comes and goes all day, leading to times when the Banner is becalmed, and other times when her crew is scrambling to tack fast enough to take advantage of it.

    By late morning a walled city has come into view on the north bank, the first settlement they have seen of any size since Gerth. Now a week out from Cryllor, the last time they put in to port, Willa wonders aloud whether they will be stopping in this city.

    “Kilm?” answers Roberts. “No, though it be tempting. “We certainly would get more coin for our cargo there than Cryllor, and more than likely enough to make this trip worth it and more besides. But a few days after Kilm be Godakin Keep, we be nearly there. And while the Keep is in Keoland, the other side of the river there be Sterich, good and proper. The Godakin market will have merchants from Keoland and Sterich competing to buy our coffee, and that is where we will truly make our gold. I be afeared your days on the Banner be numbered, now. That is, unless you would like to sign on as crew.”

    Willa laughs and thanks Roberts for his offer, but says that she will remain with the party for the nonce.

    All the way to Kilm and beyond there are great views of the snow-capped Jotens. Once beyond the city, they can see the hills ahead of them through which they will need to pass on the morrow. If there will be anything like the rapids they have faced before in similar terrain, they will need a better wind behind them than they now have, and the Banner anchors for the night just as the land around the Javan begins to rise.

    [ 10 pounds fish caught,
    27 pounds food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used
    Day's travel ends in hex F166-224]]
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Sep 15, 2020 11:10 am  
    Post 134: Kilm

    DM's Notes:
    Kilm is not on the Darlene maps, but appears in Gary Holian's "The Kingdom of Keoland" in the Living Greyhawk Journal. Kilm is both on the map included and is mentioned in the text under the County of Flen. Most of the description given below of Kilm is my own invention.

    The peddler Vern is an obvious Skyrim easter egg.

    Stats for homebrew "Giant Killer" arrows: Specially designed to break off in their target, these arrows do d8-1 damage on an initial hit. On subsequent rounds, each arrow head will do d4 more damage if the target Moves or takes the Attack action. The head may only be removed with a successful DC15 medicine check, and this check is at disadvantage unless the person making it has access to a Healer's Kit.

    The names and dates of the Sterish leadership come from DM Prata. See

    Post 134: Kilm

    10 December, 570 - Javan River, west of Kilm
    Roberts is not satisfied with the wind in the morning - it is enough to sail on a clear stretch of the Javan, but he will not rely on it to get them through the rough section above Kilm. In addition, the warmer air from the south that is finally winning out over the cold northern air brings an all-day rain. This starts at 9am but the rain freezes as it hits the deck, and soon coats the masts and spars with ice. Gradually it changes to a heavy, soaking rain as the day warms, and only lets up after sunset. The party, who have been waiting out the rain below decks and in the galley, have to swab the deck dry by magical light before they can set out their bed rolls.

    [ no pounds fish caught,
    19 pounds food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used
    No travel - ship still in hex F166-224]

    11 December, 570 - Javan River, west of Kilm
    The day dawns fair enough, with no rain clouds, but even less wind than the day before. Roberts works among the crew, animating them - all are frustrated at being becalmed so close to Godakin Keep and the end of their journey.

    The rain clouds begin to gather shortly after noon. By two hours after noon, a light but steady rain is falling. It continues all day and into the night. This time, the party watching from the galley sees it turn to freezing rain rather than letting up. By the time a layer of ice is building up on the deck, the cook relents and allows them to spread out their rolls on the floor of the galley. The ship itself is getting low on supplies, so there is more room than usual, anyway.

    [ 8 pounds fish caught,
    19 pounds food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used
    No travel - ship still in hex F166-224]]

    12 December, 570 - Javan River, west of Kilm
    It is after midnight when the freezing rain finally stops. Before the sun is up, though, it starts to snow. The snow on top of the ice makes the deck treacherous, but upon seeing the lack of wind in the morning Roberts announces that they will not be sailing today in any event. After a word with the cook at breakfast, he tells the crew that if the wind is not better on the morrow, they will return downstream to Kilm to resupply, and that everyone who did not go ashore in Cryllor will have a paid day of shore leave. This buoys the spirits of the crew and keeps them going all day.

    Willa asks Roberts later whether he can afford to pay his men for not sailing. He shrugs and says that every day of bad weather will make the price of coffee in Godakin Keep that much higher, so it will all come out in the end. Besides, these are free yeoman he has as crew - if he does not keep them happy, they will jump ship and join another captain at their first chance. Their commitment is typically for a single voyage - they don’t sign an enlistment contract for months or years at a time like Keoish sailors.

    By mid-morning the snow has turned to rain, and the rain continues all afternoon, with temperatures in the balmy forties - just enough to have melted all of the ice off the deck. The rain has stopped by the time temperatures drop below freezing in the evening.

    [ no pounds fish caught,
    11 pounds food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used
    No travel - ship still in hex F166-224]]

    13 December, 570 - Javan River, west of Kilm
    City encounter Roll: Day - Laborer
    City Encounter Roll: Night - Noble

    Roberts doesn’t like the wind this morning, either, so true to his word he raises anchor and allows the Banner to come about in the current. Minimal sail is used, just to help with steering, as she makes her way back to Kilm. The party is now faced with a choice - do they wish to hide belowdecks, or in the mate’s cabin, for the duration of the day in Kilm? And if it ends up being more than a day? Or are they now, a week upriver of Cryllor and two weeks north of Longspear, willing to take the risk of Aurora being spotted by Keoish authorities?

    Willa calls for a party conference on deck as they approach the city, but are still at a distance. Aurora says she is going stir crazy and has to get out of the boat. She plans on casting invisibility on herself to avoid anyone who is watching the gates or the harbor, but allowing it to lapse in the city itself.

    Willa objects strongly to Aurora going ashore. She reminds the wizard that there is a price on her head and the possibility of guilt by association for the rest of the party. If Aurora insists, she says, she wants her disguised as a male sailor or invisible the whole time but that will not be enough to remove her objection.

    Aurora says she can wear a ratty sailor uniform and make herself invisible getting to and from the boat, but she wants some good coffee (apparently what the boat’s cook makes is not up to her standards), a warm fire, and a new book. And if there's a dashing scholar somewhere, she adds, the more's the better!

    Willa says Aurora had better take Babshapka too, but he will also need to go in disguise because the authorities may know Aurora travels with an elf. She tells them to avoid establishments frequented by dwarves.

    For herself, Willa plans to go ashore to purchase supplies as needed - in particular, they are low on grain for the mules. When Aurora asks her how she can mention that so nonchalantly after berating her for the same, Willa reminds her that she is just a sailor without a bounty on her noggin.

    As for the rest of the party, if this stop is only for a day, Willa thinks they should stay on board. If it is more than a day, Willa could agree to some party members going ashore as long as they are within message range of Aurora or accompanied by crew members of the Banner - she doesn’t want anyone getting isolated and then picked off.

    Also, as much as Aurora rails against the stuffy hold, Willa reminds her that she and Babshapka have spent most of their time so far in the mate’s cabin, leaving the mate himself to berth with the common sailors in the hold. If he ends up spending the night on the town, she says it is only fair that the party pays for his lodging.

    Tyrius, Umbra, Larry, and Shefak remain curiously noncommittal about their plans to go ashore. After Willa admonishes Thokk to remain onboard ship, and Aurora and Babshapka to at least disguise themselves while ashore, she leaves with the gang of other sailors. Besides the party, the Banner is now occupied by just Roberts and the two crewmen he took ashore with him in Cryllor - the rest of the men have shore leave.

    Thokk waits until Willa is just out of sight and then jumps from the ship to the dock (Wisdom save 9). He moves happily along the waterfront, looking for taverns and brothels.

    Aurora and Babshapka retire to “their” cabin. Babshapka does his best to make Aurora look like an actual sailor in borrowed odds and ends from the crew, but with her soft features and natural endowments the result is rather more like an actress in a farce playing a sailor, or perhaps a costumed prostitute in some customer’s nautical fantasy. As far as his own disguise, Babshapka simply tucks his long hair back and pulls his winter hood up close to hide his elven features. Aurora casts invisibility on herself to get off the ship, whereas Babshapka tries to blend into a passing crowd of laborers (Stealth roll 14).

    Willa, Aurora, and Babshapka soon realize that away from the waterfront most of the townsfolk in Kilm are halflings. Humans predominate among the sailors, fisherfolk, and smiths, but apart from that all of the shopkeepers, merchants, and laborers in the town are “hobniz”, as the small folk refer to themselves. The buildings of the city are sized appropriately, except for the many inns, most of which have separate human and halfling wings adjoining a common room. Even the town guards are leather-clad halflings and while they do not appear that intimidating themselves, every squad has a number of well-trained war dogs and a sergeant mounted on a huge mastiff.

    Most of the sailors from the Banner scatter upon hitting the waterfront, but the cook, mate, and a few others accompany Willa to the market. While the cook purchases supplies, Willa buys another week’s worth of grain for the mules from a grinning, portly, halfling merchant. She uses party coin, and before she departs gives another gold to the mate in gratitude for his letting the party use his cabin. She mumbles something about hoping to not have to use it much longer and he nods curtly as he takes the coin. [2 gp from party treasure] She then returns to the Banner under gathering clouds and learns that Thokk has jumped ship.

    Once away from the waterfront and reunited with Babshapka, Aurora lets her invisibility drop. The hobniz are polite and don’t stare, but there is plenty of muttering after they pass by about “crazy big folk” and their curious ways. It doesn’t take much effort for her to locate Kilm’s only bookseller amidst the leatherworking shops of the trade district. She is impressed by its size and the number of patrons there on this chilly winter’s day. Apparently the halflings of Kilm have a higher literacy rate, or more interest in reading, or greater disposable income, than humans in an equivalently-sized town. The proprietors, a husband-and-wife couple of friendly middle-aged halflings in matching brass-rimmed spectacles, are eager to tell Aurora about their wares. No, they don’t have anything about the history of the Sheldomar Valley or ancient Suel Wizards or falling stars. They do have lots of almanacs and trade books and books on agriculture and animal husbandry. They have a fair number of traveler’s phrase books and studies of languages. Aurora finally settles on a history of the Good Hills region, although the proprietors warn her that it is a bit dry, and wouldn’t she rather have something with adventure tales? [25gp from Aurora’s personal treasure]

    With her new book in hand, Aurora sets out for a warm hearth and hopes of a dashing scholar - there were a few bookish halflings in the store, but apparently they were not her type. Babshapka scans the sky worriedly and tells her to find the hearth soon. Kilm is a walled city, and the best inns are located near the east gate, far away from the rough taverns of the waterfront. The merchants who frequent these inns are scarce in the winter, and as the first drops of cold rain begin to fall, Aurora finds a wonderful, human-sized place with a large hearth and numerous candles. She spends the rest of the afternoon in an overstuffed chair near the fire while a buxom halfling wench keeps her tea mug full, alternately turning the pages of her new history book and nodding off to the sound of a heavy rain on the shutters. Babshapka sits on a bench nearby, sampling small but delicious portions of meat stews, cheeses, and cold root salads. Fortunately the rain ceases before dusk. The two of them have a large, early dinner and return to the Banner just before dark, with Aurora ducking into an alley to renew her invisibility before going shipboard. [1 gp each from Aurora and Babshapka’s personal treasure]

    It being too early in the day to find any brothels open, Thokk moves among the seedy ale houses of the waterfront, looking for a dust-up. The few halfling fisherfolk about seem to vanish at the appearance of the huge barbarian, and even the human sailors look away, move away, or otherwise avoid confrontation. Thokk is in his third ale house, frustrated at finding no one to fight, and bellowing at the customers that they are all cowards, when the wind shifts and he suddenly catches the scent of an intriguing new smell. He follows his nose a block and finds himself in front of small storefront selling meat pies. There is a display counter inside but no seats - at least half a dozen halflings scurry behind the counter between huge ovens and blood-stained countertops. Thokk buys a small pie, eats it as he stands in the store, and is entranced. He throws the empty tin to the floor and orders ten more.

    Thokk guffaws at the sight of a wrinkled halfling in a floppy white hat who approaches him, suggesting that he eat his pies across the street in the ale house and smoke shop, and promising that one of his staff will bring the pies to him, one at a time, as they emerge from the oven. Thokk laughs again and walks across the street. He has been eating mostly fish for two weeks now and while they are his own fish, caught with his masterful use of the pole, to be honest he is tiring of the taste. He is glad for the red meat, but even more than that, these diminutive men use some sort of magic they call “spices” to make their pies the best thing Thokk has ever tasted.

    Thokk is on his second pie and third flagon of ale when an enormously rotund halfling with a twinkle in his eye approaches him and asks if he would be interested in a pie-eating contest - with the loser paying for the winner’s pies and offering up a bag of silver besides. Thokk readily agrees, spewing crumbs from his mouth in his eagerness to accept.

    Both contestants are on their third pie (counting from the start of the contest, although actually Thokk’s fifth) when Thokk gets up to “make more room” and retches violently into the gutter of the street, now awash in the cold winter rain. When he returns to the ale house, the halfling is smiling triumphantly, but objects when Thokk says he is not done eating yet. The silly halfling man says, “I don’t know where you are from, but here in Kilm, the rules of pie-eating are that…” Thokk bristles at his tone and draws his longsword from its sheath. At the sight of the naked steel the shop goes deadly silent. [Thokk Intimidation roll 24]. The halfling squeals, grabs his bag of coin, and darts out the door into the rain. Thokk stares after him, then at the table and the abandoned food. “Fat half man left his pies!” he yells delightedly, then laughs uproariously as the other customers join in nervously.

    Over the course of the afternoon Thokk continues to happily eat meat pies, drink ale, and explain in lurid detail to any who will listen what he intends to do when it is finally dark enough for the brothels to open. Regular customers drift off, and the ale house slowly fills with town guardsmen, each nursing an ale or mug of broth to make it last as long as possible, dogs curled up under their tables, all with their eyes trained on Thokk, and him oblivious.

    An hour after the rain has stopped, as the streets are darkening and the sun is slipping behind the western wall, Thokk collapses back into his chair, teeters, hits the floor, and begins snoring deeply. A sergeant of the guard prods him carefully with the butt end of his spear and gets no response, then slides Thokk’s money pouch off of his belt. He pulls out a gold coin for the owner of the ale shop, another for the owner of the pie store, and then reattaches the pouch. [2gp from Thokk personal treasure] Six halflings hoist the unconscious half-orc, carry him out the door, and dump him into a waiting hand cart. With one man on each handle, they take turns hauling the cart mostly downhill to the waterfront, and then dump Thokk off, sprawled in a heap on the docks in front of the Banner.

    When she learns of Thokk’s arrival on the docks, Willa looks over the rail. She watches him, debating with herself for several minutes, while he lies unmoving. Her first instinct is to leave him there. It is not below freezing yet, but will certainly be so tonight. Most of his winter gear is still aboard the Banner, though he did go ashore with a fur vest that would normally be worn under the thick leather jerkin. His legs are bare between loincloth and boots, and Willa is glad of the gathering darkness as he belches, rolls to his side, and the loincloth dangles precariously.

    Willa sighs and puts down a gangplank, finds a swab-bucket and lowers it over the side to bring up ice-cold river water. She stands over Thokk on the dock, then slowly pours the entire bucket over his head.

    Thokk coughs and sputters and thrashes, but the second the water ceases he resumes his snoring. (Thokk Constitution save 22). “Oh, fer ther love o’...” Willa curses, and calls for Tyrius. Together, grunting and heaving, they haul Thokk up the gangplank and stuff him into his bedroll on deck.

    [ no pounds fish caught,
    5 pounds food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used
    Day's travel downstream, but still in hex F166-224]

    14 December, 570 - Kilm
    City Encounter Roll: Day - Peddler
    City Encoutnert Roll: Night - Tradesman

    “Aye, there’s wind today,” says Roberts, looking at the pennants on the mast in the morning. “Trouble is, she’s blowing the wrong way.” Indeed, the strips of cloth show the wind coming from the west - the direction they want to go.

    Gathering his crew, Roberts tells them that they are free to take shore leave again today - but it won’t be paid leave. Anyone who wants his daily wage will need to stay aboard the Banner, mending sail and checking lines. When a man grumbles about the cold, Roberts tells him to go ashore and order a half-barrel of pitch - he can work the tar brush and spend the day warming himself over the boiling barrel of pitch. The man scowls but nods. About half as many men go ashore as the day before, while the others remaining aboard are quickly sorted into work crews.

    Willa leaves the Banner with the first wave of sailors, dressed as they are and with her only weapons a dagger worn on her thigh inside her breeches and a belaying pin tucked into her belt. Her companions have eaten breakfast in the galley, but she has deliberately not broken her fast so that she has a reason to tarry in one of the greasy eateries that can be found along the waterfront. She picks slowly at her eggs and hash, trying to make out the different conversations around her. (Willa Investigation roll 12) Most of the talk is local - how is the fishing, what price for fish, who is foolish enough to try to make a profit by hauling goods in winter, what said fools are paying for hands, which regulars are sitting out a few days in a “small cell” for public drunkeness. Now and then there is an occasional reference to the huge orc barbarian on the Banner and speculation as to what he might be doing in town, but the tenor of the comments is more curious than conspiratorial.

    After she has eaten and, of necessity, visited a pot behind a burlap curtain besides (the amount of grease in the hash being impressive even by fisherfolk standards), Willa tours the waterfront area. Most of the span of the waterfront is filled by the personal docks of small, family fishing vessels of a kind familiar to Willa from Saltmarsh, though more are found with oars only and no mast than in her town of origin. Only around the river gate itself are there long docks for large commercial vessels like the Banner, and most of these are on much lower pilings to accommodate barges, rather than high-railed vessels like the hulk. Of the few commercial vessels present, all are docked and winter-readied with tarped-over hatches, bare masts, and skeleton crews - often of a pair of young boys and a dog trading day and night shifts. One large ship is even pulled halfway onto shore in a rudimentary dry dock. In its journey from Longspear the Banner has passed any number of Keoish naval patrol barges, and there does seem to be a well-maintained section of dock near the customs house that could hold such vessels, but none are berthed there today.

    Just inland from the docks are rows of wooden buildings - cheap ale and grog houses, fish markets, diners like the one she visited, a tattoo parlor, shacks for the poor fisherfolk, and the like. A few of the ale houses have second stories, and the faded red curtains in their windows hint at services not available during the day.

    Inland from this narrow band of ramshackle buildings is the city wall, high and of large stone blocks, pierced only by the single gate aforementioned. The gate is open all day and sees reasonable traffic. The absence of nicer houses for shipowners, merchants, shipwrights, and such, as well as the lack of warehouses and tackle stores from the waterfront, suggests to Willa that such things are likely within the walls of the city rather than without. Also, as seen on the day before, all of the citizens of the waterfront district are humans, and the occasional halfling present is obviously on some errand or other and not a resident.

    Once Willa has traveled the length of the waterfront and back again, she is convinced she has seen what little the town has to offer. Away from the commercial docks she finds a larger fishing vessel, of a kind that might be owned by a prosperous neighborhood boss, or perhaps a collective of poor fisherfolk, and crewed by those without money for their own craft. A grizzled old man sits nearby, his bony but nimble fingers working methodically through a huge net. From where the man sits, one can more-or-less make out the figures on the dock next to the Banner. Willa sits down nonchalantly, as if she were one of the crew of the vessel, and begins mending the net herself. (Willa Deception roll 4). “Ye ain’t foolin’ nobody, wench,” spits the old man.

    Willa shrugs, unconcerned. “Two can work t’is net faster’n one,” she offers. (Willa Persuasion roll 11).

    The old man snorts. “Or ye can work as fast as I were, an’ leave me more time,” he says, pulling forth a clay pipe that is more bowl than stem, and a worn leather bag of loose pipe weed. He fills the bowl, then ambles across the street to a pot shop for a light, returns and settles himself back on his stool, puffing. Willa looks down at the net, concentrating on her fingers but also her ears. For the next several hours the old man seems content to let Willa do his work for him while he smokes and chats with a few passersby.

    Willa listens carefully to the conversations of the man and anyone else within earshot (Willa Investigation roll 16). In addition to what she got at breakfast (which is still the majority of the conversations), she hears more about the Banner and local speculation as to its real goal. Comments seem about equally split between two different theories. The first is that Roberts, a well-known captain and “damned Yeoman”, is smuggling drugs - most likely one of the strong and addictive narcotics that originates in the lands of the Sea Princes and is bound for the debauched cities upriver on the Javan - like the “Black Spice”, for example. In this version, the orc barbarian and the other strangers like the dwarf and supposed “paladin” (an obvious disguise) are simply hired muscle to protect his shipment. His declared cargo of coffee, of course, is the preferred cover for such operations.

    The other theory is that the “ignorant barbarian” is in reality a shrewd orc war chief, intent on bringing an army down out of the Jotens to sack Kilm. He is using this time “becalmed” in the city to scout its defenses in preparation for his assault. The “paladin” is a disguised priest - most likely one of Hextor or Erythnul, there to act as an advisor to the warlord. If he were truly a priest of Pelor, as his shield claims, he would of course be using this time to proselytize in the city rather than being confined to the ship. But then, if he were truly a paladin of Pelor, he would not be traveling with an orc in the first place.

    Aurora has been watching Willa from the deck of the Banner. When she has passed out of sight, Buckbeak has followed her, hopping from rooftop to rooftop along the waterfront. Once she settles into her work mending nets, the hawk flies back to the Banner. Soon after, invisible scholar Aurora accompanied by hooded Babshapka leave the Banner and make their way to a two-story tavern near where Willa sits.

    Aurora opens the door of the tavern, carefully making herself visible the instant she steps inside so that anyone outside would not see her, being blocked by Babshapka, and anyone inside would be unlikely to note that just a second before she was invisible. Two sullen men sit on leaky kegs that pass for chairs while a third lies passed out on the floor. A slovenly matron, “cleaning” a battered stein with a filthy apron, strides from the bar to the door, not even giving pause as she steps over the unconscious man. She makes no effort to hide her disdain as she looks at Aurora and Babshapka.

    “I don’t like scholars,” she spits through a mouth with more teeth missing than present. “And I don’t like elves,” she sneers.

    Aurora tries to smile winningly. “But everyone likes coin,” she says, and pulls forth a gold lion. “Madam, I’m just looking for a quiet place to read, out of the cold for the morning. Perhaps upstairs, where I will be out of your way.”

    The woman snatches the coin from Aurora and holds it up to what wan light that has managed to penetrate the shuttered windows and smoky air. She stuffs it between her pendulous bosoms, smirks, and hooks a thumb at a steep, railingless stair to the second floor. “Myrna’s off until dark,” she says. “If ye wakes her, ye pays for her time, too.”

    Aurora smiles agreement and the women spits in reply. Together, Aurora and Babshapka ascend the stairs, but not closely together, as none of the steps look like they could support the weight of them both simultaneously.

    Upstairs is a bedchamber where cheap perfume covers other, less pleasant scents. A woman sleeps on a straw-stuffed mattress on the floor. She is young, but hard-worn. A crudely-drawn erotic illustration hangs over the bed. The other walls have their rough timbers covered with large swaths of fabric - perhaps to soften their appearance, perhaps because there is no trunk at hand in which to store spare bed linens. There is a single window, and next to it a chair with a hole in the seat, a cracked ceramic chamber pot beneath. Aurora settles squeamishly into the chair - just enough light to read comes through the ill-fitting shutter over the window. Babshapka wrinkles his nose. “I’ll wait downstairs,” he says. “Or perhaps outside.”

    Over the next several hours, Aurora reads her history of the Good Hills. The woman on the mattress groans and stirs, but doesn’t wake. Aurora uses message on occasion to check in with Willa, who promptly tells her to be quiet and stop interrupting. Every so often, she has Buckbeak appear just outside the window, and soar in great spirals over the city before returning to his pocket dimension. He doesn’t see any troop movements along the roads.

    Nearing noon, a man dressed in traveling clothes enters the tavern downstairs. He looks swiftly about the room, then immediately limps to where Babshapka is sitting glumly in a corner. He orders two steins of ale from the matron.

    “I don’t drink…” begins Babshapka.

    “Oh, I wouldn’t drink that swill either,” the man whispers, grinning. “Still, one has to pay the piper. We can pour it out when she isn’t looking.”

    He introduces himself as Vern, a peddler of wares, specialist in sales to adventurers.

    “I’m not an adv…” protests Babshapka, but the man will hear none of it. He points out the twin blades under the elf’s cloak, the ring set with runes on his finger.

    “Call yourself what you will,” he says happily, “Elite mercenary, specialty guard, scout forte. But what’s wrong with adventurer, eh? In fact, I used to be one myself, ‘til I took an arrow to the knee. Nowadays, I peddle wares especially designed for adventurers. Take a look at this…”

    From a leather quiver under his own cloak, the peddler pulls forth an arrow. The shaft and fletching are normal-looking, but the head is exquisitely-forged steel, wickedly barbed and serrated. Impressed, Babshapka takes the arrow from him, quickly noting how the shaft tapers sharply just before entering the head. He frowns.

    “Why weaken the shaft just before the head? That would make the…”

    “...head break off inside the target. Exactly! I call these 'giant arrows', as in, they are made to shoot at giants. The heads break off inside them, and keep doing damage the more they move. Useful in bringing down really big things. I’m selling them all around the Jotens. ‘Winter is coming’, as they say.”

    Babshapka frowns again and considers the arrow. Something that did continuous damage would be a waste on smaller creatures easily slain, but against something large and fearsome like a giant, continually doing attrition while avoiding it, would be a viable strategy.

    “Where do you get these from?” he finally asks.

    Vern smiles. “The design is my own, but I have them made to my specifications in a gnome forge or two around the Good Hills. Now don’t be thinking of rooting out the source and undercutting me! For one thing, you’d have to tromp all over the hills to find any of my sources. And for another, I deal exclusively with smiths who agree to sell these only to me.”

    “And the cost?”

    “One lion an arrow. Obviously these are for adventurers, not the village militia.”

    Babshapka reflects. The price is about twenty times that of a normal arrow, but they are easily worth several times a normal arrow just in having worked and hardened steel for the heads. The specialty manufacture would add more to the price. If they actually work as claimed, they could prove somewhere from useful to lifesaving. Since he became an adventurer, Babshapka’s had little enough use for gold besides paying for Aurora’s spell-casting supplies, and he is currently carrying nearly 300 lions of his own money, plus uncounted coins and gems in party funds.

    “How many do you have on you?”

    “A quiver-full at the moment. I can get more if you would like to meet tomorrow.”

    “I’ll take what you have now. I don’t know if I will be in town on the morrow.”

    One of the men at the other table gets up and staggers to the corner of the room, where a ratty burlap curtain barely conceals a piss-pot. Vern stands up and lays a leather quiver on the table, then carries his untouched tankard over to the other table, emptying it into the steins of the other two men with a wink. By the time Vern has returned to his own table, Babshapka has taken the quiver and has twenty gold coins concealed in his palm that he passes to the man as he shakes his hand.

    Satisfied, Babshapka decides he needs some air, and steps outside the tavern. When he is not immediately followed, he empties his tankard onto the ground. Vern, who has apparently settled his account with the matron, comes out the door soon after and takes his leave of Babshapka. The wood elf notes that as the man limps down the street, he is paying special attention to the sky.

    The passers-by along the waterfront diminish as midday passes, gone home or to shops to eat. Willa sighs, stretches, and stands. The old man snatches the net from where she lay it down and holds it up appraisingly. “Not bad,” he allows, “ye can come back later.” She scoffs at his attempt to get her to do more of his work and leaves without comment as she returns to the Banner along the waterfront. Spotting an inn of somewhat better quality than where she broke her fast, Willa takes her lunch there, still with one ear open.

    Most of the conversations she hears are repeats of the banal news of the morning, with occasional snippets of speculation about the Banner such as she heard at the docks. However, there are a pair of well-dressed merchants in the inn, a bit out of place among the other clientele. Most of their talk is about prices and markets, how ale and wheat are low, due to good harvests in Sterich and hereabouts. Willa has already lost interest when one of them says (Willa Investigation roll 20), “Yes, good harvests and a harsh winter to follow.”

    “Now, that was a bad cold snap these past weeks, but I would hardly call it a harsh winter.”

    “You wait - I bet it gets colder still before Growfest.”

    “Mayhaps. Your point?”

    “You know the adage - a good harvest followed by a harsh winter - that’s giant times, for sure.”

    “Aye, there’s truth in that. And young Earl Querchard on the throne of Sterich. Gods give the pup wisdom, if there are raids.”

    “Aye, give the pup wisdom, and give us an army contract!”

    “Grain or spears?”

    “I’d take either - but I’ve already bought my grain stores.”

    “Luck to you then,” says one merchant graciously as he raises his glass to the other.

    Just as Aurora begins to feel the desire to eat, the woman stirs on the mattress beside her. She sits up, eyes going wide in confusion at the presence of Aurora in her boudoir. Composing herself, but still bleary from sleep, she puts on a sultry pout and lets her loose shift slip off one bare shoulder. The pretense of desire is so feigned that Aurora can’t decide if it is more comical or pitiful. “No, dear, not today,” she says softly, closes her book, and makes her way downstairs. She is not yet at the bottom when she hears the young woman clearly retching into the chamber pot.

    The party, together, passes the afternoon on the Banner. Willa, reflecting on the merchants she overheard, asks Tyrius how close they are to Sterich.

    “You know that narrows that Roberts is waiting on the right wind to get us through?”


    “If we ever get ourselves to the other side of that, Sterich is on the south bank of the river. We could have walked there by now.”

    In the late afternoon a light rain begins, and continues until after dark.

    [ no pounds fish caught,
    no pounds food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of human food used
    2 rations of mule feed used
    No travel, still in hex F166-224]

    15 December, 570 - Kilm
    City Encounter: Day - Merchant
    City Encounter: Night - None

    In the morning, Roberts looks critically at the pennants on the mast, blowing steadily in the breeze. Aurora is nearby.

    “That’s better, right?”

    “Aye, better. ‘Tis from the south, now. That’d get us to the narrows fast enough. But we need it from the east to get us through the narrows.”

    “Ugh, when will that be?”

    Roberts shrugs. “She’s coming around. Mayhap on the morrow.”

    Aurora glowers. “Tyrius said we could walk to Sterich from here.”

    Roberts nods his agreement. “Ye could indeed. Ye could hae’ walked from Longspear, too, for that matter.” He lowers his voice. “Of course, ye told me ye didn’t want to be on Keoish soil, and that’s what walking means.” Roberts points at the mountains to the northwest. “There be a pass in those mountains, and the trail goes right over it. Fifteen miles from the other side of the river, and you’ll be in Sterich. My men can row ye to the other side of the river, if that be what ye want.”

    Aurora takes a moment to message everyone in the party to come over. When it is obvious this is going to turn into a party meeting, Roberts motions the other sailors away. Aurora considers asking Roberts to leave, but he already knows so much about the party it seems pointless. Willa tries to object that any meeting like this should be held below decks, but Aurora ignores her and launches ahead. Aurora explains that there is a land route option - Roberts has offered to take them to the south bank of the river, and from there it is just a fifteen mile walk, up and over the mountains, and then down into Sterich. Once they are on Sterish soil, they can either continue walking if the roads prove fast, or look for another ship - preferably an oared vessel.

    Thokk and Larry are eager to get into the mountains. Thokk is excited about the prospect of testing his mettle against a giant or two in front of the party (just not three at a time while alone). Larry just feels far more at home aground than on the water and would welcome the change.

    Aurora says they should give it another two days, getting their mules and gear ready on the second day to depart on the third if there's no fortuitous change. She makes the point that the longer they stay, the less time they'll have as a head start if someone is coming after them. Also, departing on foot makes them more noticeable and trackable. She would rather head out on foot from an undisclosed location, or at least with a bit more guile. A band of mercenaries traipsing out into the mountains on a whim seems awfully memorable. She muses that they could plant a story in Kilm that they are leaving to work as mercenaries for giant defense and can't wait on our river transport any longer.

    Willa objects to traveling overland on Keoish soil. There is (she whispers, trying to avoid Roberts’ ears) a bounty on Aurora's head, and she asks them if they have so quickly forgotten what happened when they left Barovia, and then again at the ruins outside of Highfell. She urges patience with the wind and asks the party to focus on the goal of reaching the (and here she again whispers) starfall location. Willa argues that it is still probably faster to use the river than to trudge overland, and she looks knowingly to Tyrius for support in this matter.

    Tyrius waits until everyone else has spoken before he weighs in. He reminds them that he is neither fond of secrecy nor skulking, but that he has made a pledge to defend Aurora from capture by the knight, so long as they are not in Keoland (and he does not whisper as he says this). If the knight finds Aurora on Keoish soil, he will be well within his rights to arrest her, and Tyrius will not interfere. He looks around at the deck of the Banner and says that he is unsure of the legality of attempting to extradite or arrest someone on open water, and does not know whether this section of the Javan belongs to Keoland, even if both banks of the river do. Roberts smiles and says that while riverine law is not as complex a subject as maritime law, it does have its idiosyncrasies, and he would be happy to sit down with Tyrius and explain his understanding, or even introduce him to a magistrate in Kilm. Tyrius thanks him, but continues.

    Tyrius says that he has no preference for their route, so long as it is clear to all that he will abide by local law wherever they go. As to Willa’s assumption that the river will be faster than walking, he’s not sure. The river is faster so long as the wind is blowing - but how many days becalmed would it be before walking would be faster? He thinks Eddard might be more qualified to answer than he is, but the horse is belowdecks. What he can say, however, is that the path Aurora suggests, up and over the mountain pass, is at the frontier between two independent nations - Keoland and Sterich. It would be unreasonable to expect it to be unguarded, unfortified, or unpatrolled. If what the party wants is to slip through without notice, he recommends the water route.

    Aurora shrugs. “I said I’d wait two days more.”

    Willa shakes her head, her jaw set defiantly, and arms folded across her chest. “Doesn’t matter ‘ow many days, we be waitin’.”

    “Two days,” mumbles Aurora under her breath, and the party disperses.

    Willa goes below to check on the rations - there are two weeks’ of grain for the mules, and a week of food for the party. More, once they get started, if Thokk and Larry return to fishing. Reassured, she nevertheless goes ashore, leaving the sullen and frustrated party on board, and all of the sailors working on maintenance and repair of the Banner.

    She takes a circuitous route of the docks and, when she is reasonably sure she is not being followed, enters the river gate into the city of Kilm, proper. Heading to the market area, she finds a mostly-deserted corral used at various times for cows, sheep, and horses, at least judging from the manure present. It takes her the better part of an hour (initial Investigation roll 3) to track down a mule seller, eventually locating one at a stables on the east side of the city far from both the waterfront and the market square. Apparently there is little trade in beasts of burden in the winter.

    The mulemaster is happy to give her the lay of the land upriver from Kilm.

    There are trails on both the north and south banks of the river, although the trail to the north is far more traveled and better maintained - the one to the south is just a mule track. As Roberts and Tyrius reported, the mountains to the west of Kilm form the boundary between Keoland and Sterrich. Although here in Kilm, Keoland controls both banks of the Javan, beyond the narrows, the southern bank is Sterish soil.

    The northern bank, along the trail, is dotted with small fishing villages and halfling hill farms, but none of any particular size or note. The southern bank is even more deserted. As Roberts suggested, some fifteen miles west of Kilm the track goes up and over the mountains, then comes down into a grassy valley. The whole valley is used as pastureland for the Count of Flen, a Sterish nobleman who breeds horses for his own knights and the national cavalry. There are few villages, and they are all in direct service to the process of breeding, raising, and training horses. It is not until the next valley over, some twenty miles further along the track, that the Sterich agricultural communities begin.

    Tyrius’ suspicion that the border between Sterich and Keoland would be guarded is well-founded, although the mulemaster says the fortifications are rather small on each side. As Keoland and Sterich maintain friendly relations, the stockade posts are more to jointly control bandits and smugglers than either is actively guarding against the other. It is nearly forty miles upriver from the border before the first true Sterish fortification, a large stone keep that the count maintains to protect against giants and humanoids from the Jotens rather than human invaders from Keoland.

    Willa thanks the mulemaster and finds an inn for lunch. Halfling-run, she can hardly believe the bounteous and delicious board that is set for her, especially considering her last two meals along the waterfront (Willa spends 5 silver of personal money).

    Returning to the dock area in the afternoon, Willa finds the “Master of the Quay” in residence at the customs house. She wants to know about the empty berth for the naval patrol barge, but surmises that asking questions about matters of national security is a surefire way to draw attention to herself or even get labeled a spy. Using her own history as an excise officer in Saltmarsh, she decides the most innocuous route is to claim to be an out-of-work sailor, a loyal servant of the crown but from the south and tired of the flophouses in this cold northern city, and simply wondering when the next patrol barge might be through so that she can talk terms with the captain about an enlistment in the navy, or even just pulling an oar for free to get herself downriver and back to Salinmoor.

    The officer finds her story relatable and believable (Deception roll 11, but 15 with advantage for her sailor background). He is guarded about specific information, but cheerfully tells her that patrol barges come through every week or so, though not all of them stop in Kilm. He says that naval patrols typically don’t take on civilian hands, and enlistment terms will be longer than the winter, so she may want to try a merchant craft instead. They are few in the winter, but still they are more frequent than patrols. She is about to thank him when he calls across the office to where a well-dressed merchant sits in front of a desk, taking coffee and dried fruit with the exciseman there, more than likely “greasing the wheels” of the local government, as it were. “Master Bartholomew,” he calls, and as the merchant turns and rises, Willa recognizes him as one of the two men she eavesdropped on the day previous.

    When the Master of the Quay introduces her to the Master Merchant as a sailor in need of work, she drops her gaze. “Haven’t I seen you about the waterfront?” sniffs the merchant.

    “No, sir,” she dissembles. “I jes’ got in t’ town t’day, drivin’ a mule fer a peddler from Gerth. Footsore work, that, fer a sailor. I probably still have ther stink o’ mule on me,” she says, and hopes it is true. She thinks, but does not add, ‘I certainly did not come in to town two days ago aboard the Banner.’

    Master Bartholomew gives her the address of one of his captains, and says she is welcome to try there. She thanks him without raising her eyes, and leaves the excise house as quickly as she can. She re-enters the city gate and waits until just before it closes at dusk, then returns to the Banner under the cover of darkness.

    Eating a late and cold dinner from party rations in the hold, Willa questions Tyrius about whether he knows the “young earl” and whether he remembers giant raids in his youth. Tyrius says that His Magnitude, Querchard Emondav, Earl of Sterich, was born in CY 538, making him currently 32, and admittedly young for a palantine earl and supreme ruler of the land. Querchard ascended to the throne in CY 558, at the age of just twenty, following the death of the former Earl, his father Querail Emondav. Querchard was third in line to the throne upon his birth, but his two elder brothers both preceded their father in death. Tyrius mentions that he actually, as a boy, attended the coronation ceremony of the current Earl.

    Tyrius adds that Sterich always has “giant troubles” - especially in those lands bordering the Jotens and Crystalmists. Tyrius’ family’s estate is in the lowlands, near the capital, so his household has had little direct experience with the raids, but he can attest that the adage “a good harvest followed by a harsh winter - that’s giant times, for sure” is both common and conveys much truth.

    [ 8 rations of human food used
    2 rations of mule feed used
    No travel, still in hex F166-224]
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Sep 22, 2020 10:49 am  
    Post 135: Kilm to Crosswater

    DM's Notes:
    Godakin Keep is not on the Darlene maps, but appears in an online supplement to Dungeon 117 at The smaller town across the river on the Sterish side is not shown on that map, but is shown on Anna Meyer's map of the region. Even there however, it does not have a name, so I have no idea of the source. The name Crosswater, as well as the description of the town, is entirely of my invention.

    Post 135: Kilm to Crosswater

    16 December, 570 - Kilm
    “All hands! ALL HANDS!” bellows Roberts in the wan pre-dawn light. Hatches are thrown open and the party, snug in their bedrolls in the below-freezing temperatures on deck, groan as the sailors dash among and about them, threatening them with trampling.

    Willa sits up and squints at the ragged pennant against the grey sky. A light breeze, faint but steady, lifts it - more importantly, it lifts it from the southeast. Willa slides out of her bedroll, draws her winter cloak about her, and contemplates getting something hot in the galley. “Wi...woman!” yells Roberts, almost bellowing her name across the waterfront but recovering just in time. The captain points at where Thokk is standing, relieving himself over the railing. “Get that orc in the dory! We’re nae waiting for a tug!”

    Willa grabs two hands to help her lower the dory over the side, then puts them and Thokk in it, him with a pair of oars and them with one each. They move aft of the Banner and attach a tow line as the ship itself casts off from the dock. Willa taunts Thokk until the dory is pulling so hard that the Banner is slowly moving away from the port.

    “Is t’at all ye hae, brute? Ther fish be laughin’ a’ ye! Ther river be laughin’ a’ ye!”

    Thokk screams in rage and plunges his oars into the water, dowsing the sailors in the dory with freezing cold water. He strains his back and calves and the thick oars flex against his force as the tow rope goes taut.

    Roberts lets the Banner get two full ship’s lengths away from the dock before he raises the foresail and recalls the dory. Thokk and the two sailors stand on the deck while the other hands dash about working the lines, Thokk with great gouts of steam rolling from his back and lungs and the two men soaked and shuddering.

    Once the Banner is moving upriver, Roberts raises the mainsail but lowers the fore. The mainsail is full but rolls rather than snapping - the breeze is light, but sufficient. After the party has eaten breakfast, Roberts explains that the wind will get them to the narrows, easy enough, but he is worried about it getting them completely through the narrows before dark.

    The day is pleasant, clear and sunny, and even climbs into the high forties as the riverbanks slide by. By early afternoon the land rises on either side of them and they enter the narrows. Then, it takes all of Robert’s skill on sail and rudder to maneuver the Banner with just the light breeze behind them. As the sun goes down in the west there are still high rock walls on either side of the river. Roberts keeps sailing with the light of the Handmaiden, nearly full, rising in the east behind them. The larger moon is a waning crescent and offers little help.

    They sail a full two hours after sunset before Roberts finally calls for anchoring and the crew gives a ragged cheer. The party has eaten hours ago, but Roberts kept all his hands from dinner until they stopped for the night. Roberts gathers the party around him and bids them look at the southern cliffside, along which they are anchored. “Climb that cliff and ye be in Sterich,” he says, and the cheer from the party echoes off the face of the rocks.

    [ no pounds of fish caught
    8 rations of human food used
    2 rations of mule feed used]

    17 December, 570 - Up the Javan River from Kilm
    Overnight the wind has shifted and now comes from almost due south. After a few half-hearted tries in the morning, Roberts decides that even with tacking, the Banner would be losing ground all day to the current. They remain at anchor. At least the southern wind has brought with it warmer temperatures - it remained above freezing all the previous night.

    [ no pounds of fish caught
    8 rations of human food used
    2 rations of mule feed used]

    18 December, 570 - Up the Javan River from Kilm
    Early in the morning they leave the sheer cliffs of the narrows behind, and although the south bank (Sterich) remains steep, rocky, and uninhabited, the north bank (Keoland) opens up into a fringe of farmland and pastureland before the rugged hills begin further back from the river. As the mulemaster from Kilm told Willa, the northern bank is populated by tiny farming and fishing communities, small affairs each without a blacksmith or stone church to their name, strung out along the trail that parallels the river.

    With a bare east wind, the Banner struggles to make progress today, creeping upriver against the current. This would never have been enough wind to maneuver up the narrows, but now in the broad river the crew keeps at it, and inch by inch the miles go by.

    Larry has great luck fishing, to the relief of several in the party, who were worried about running out of rations before their arrival in Godakin Keep, and counting on the fish the river would supply. Thokk tries to match Larry but cannot, and grows more and more frustrated over the course of the day. When he finally snags something heavy in the afternoon his hopes soar, but pulling it out reveals it is just a heavy tree branch. Thokk snaps his fishing rod in frustration and hurls it into the river, then stomps below decks in advance of a cold rain.

    [Larry, survival check with disadvantage: 17, 18: lands 20 pounds of fish]
    [Thokk, survival check with disadvantage: 5 (Critical fail), 11]
    [ 20 pounds fish caught,
    12 pounds food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used]

    19 December, 570 - Up the Javan River from Kilm
    [Wandering Encounter - Patrolled Hills. Tribesmen; Hillmen]

    The balmy southeast wind continues, and temperatures push into the mid-50’s by the afternoon. The Banner continues to fight its way upriver, at a similar pace to the day before. The terrain is much the same as well - small farming and fishing communities on the Keoish side of the river, rugged and uninhabited hills on the Sterish side.

    Around noon, the forward lookout spots something on the southern bank and calls for Roberts. After he takes a look with his glass, he asks Willa to get the party moving - just have them walking around deck, put on a helm or pick up a shield for the sun to glint off of. She raises an eyebrow but does as told.

    Eventually they are close enough to see for themselves. A small mountain stream empties into the Javan on its south bank. Clustered around the stream are a number of dugout canoes, and in and around them are a dozen or more rough-looking men in furs and leathers. “Hillmen,” says Roberts.

    “Freefolk?” asks Tyrius, with a note of honest surprise in his voice.

    “Aye, ye could call ‘em that. They’re on the land of the Count of Flen, sure enough - but I doubt they be payin’ him his feudal dues. Flan, most like, or maybe even old Oerid - but they don’t farm much, just hunt and fish.”

    Willa looks at Tyrius, with helm on and shield raised as requested. “And pirate?”

    “Aye,” says Roberts, “they’re not above that - if the mark looks easy enough that they can take it quick, with none the wiser. They wouldn’t try anything if they thought at least some of us might get away, and get word to the Count. If they think we have a few swords on board, they’re not like to bother us. Still, as long as you’re on deck tonight, you might want to set a watch.”

    “We would anyway,” says Willa. “‘Tis a good habit, nae matter ‘ow safe ye think ye be.”

    Thokk and Larry both have a good haul of fish today. “This pole much better than other stupid pole,” says Thokk contentedly.

    “Better be,” mumbles Willa. “Ye done broke ther ‘tothers, an’ now ye hain’t got no spare.”

    [ 26 pounds fish caught,
    30 pounds food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used]

    20 December, 570 - Up the Javan River from Kilm
    The warm south wind picks up a bit, becoming more steady today. And as the river curves more to the north, the south wind becomes more and more useful. By day’s end, Roberts judges that they have gone more in this one day than the last two combined.

    The Keoish communities look much the same as before. On the Sterish bank, however, the rugged hills finally pull back, allowing a swath of green and arable land near the river. They pass more than one small farming community of the Sterish side as well.

    In the early afternoon, the trail on the Keoish bank recedes farther and farther from the river until it is lost from sight, and then the farming communities with it, although there are still fishing villages at river’s edge. Near the end of the day they pass a swift-running Keoish river emptying into the Javan; Roberts says that up that way lies the city of Flen, the seat of the Count, but the flow is far too strong for the Banner to make headway even with the wind behind her. He sounds pleased with their progress, and tells Willa that if they can keep today’s wind they will be at Godakin Keep in a day or two more.

    Aurora for her part has finished the book she purchased in Kilm, a history of the Good Hills. She found it refreshing to read something in Common, instead of struggling through Ancient Suel like the last several works she had read.

    She found little of immediate use in it and no mention of a starfall, but it was entertaining and illuminated somewhat the regional situation between the Yeomanry, Sterish, and Keoland:

    The spur of true mountains that is the east-west running Jotens eventually curves around and descends into roughly north-south running hills. The mighty Javan River bisects these hills. To the north and east of the river they are called the Good Hills, and to the south and west the Little Hills, but geologically they are likely the same formation. Gems are to be found throughout them all, as well as precious metals, though there is more silver in the south and more gold in the north.

    Both of these hill lands had been well-settled by demihumans, back into prehistory - hill dwarves, gnomes, and to some extent halflings. Generally they had independent settlements based around mines, with only a loose relationship between different settlements and no rulers or large states over more than a few of them. The gnomish settlements typically occurred where a gem mine was located underneath good pasturage. The dwarven settlements could be found where veins of useful metals like copper, tin, or iron were near enough those of gold or silver so that both could be exploited by a single community. Halflings were found in small valleys in the hills where they could raise crops to trade for dwarven or gnomish goods.

    When the initial wave of Suel migrants escaping the Rain of Colorless Fire that destroyed the ancient Suel Imperium in the fifth century BCY passed through this part of the world, the horsemen ignored the hill country and pressed on. Later the Oerid tribes did the same, so that the demi-humans were largely left in peace by the human migrants. Not so by the humanoids who were also displaced by the wars, however, and for several centuries the Good Hills were troubled by orcs, goblins, and gnolls. During this time many small confederations and mutual defense leagues were formed among the local dwarf, gnome, and halfling communities.

    By early in the first century CY, the Suel houses of Rhola and Neheli were setting up petty states in the Sheldomar Valley in what would eventually become Keoland, but that was far away from the Good Hills. Closer to home, a huge host of Oerid tribesmen had banded together to conquer the native Flan of Davish River Valley and formed a nation that would become Sterich, possibly even before the first century CY.

    During the second and third centuries CY, the nation of Keoland expanded, absorbing the demi-human communities around it and incorporating them into its Kingdom. There is no single date for the annexation of the Good Hills, as that was a piecemeal process, with each of the local dwarf, gnome, and halfling communities pledging fealty to the Keoish King at a different time and under different conditions, but all eventually coming firmly under Keoish control by the end of the third century CY. At the same time, Sterish and Keoish nobles intermarried, so that eventually much of the land in each of the nations was technically beholden to a lord in the other nation. By the end of the third century CY, the Earl of Sterich had formally pledged fealty to the King of Keoland and the two nations became one.

    After a century and a half of growth and prosperity, most scholars take the mid-fifth century CY as the peak of the Kingdom of Keoland and the start of its imperialist phase. Shortly thereafter, Keoland began a series of conquests, taking control of the Yeomanry by force, as well as other lands in the north or south. After fifty years of this, Imperial Keoland was beset by open rebellion in the conquered lands, increasing disaffections among demi-human communities, internal political struggles, and a massive humanoid invasion from the Lortmil Mountains. As a result, by early in the sixth century the Yeomanry had forcefully regained its independence, and the Earl of Sterich had negotiated a peaceable secession from Keoland. The Good Hills remained nominally part of Keoland, but many of the demi-human communities did not really re-integrate until a half-century later when it became clear that Keoland had given up its imperial ambitions.

    [ 14 pounds fish caught,
    36 pounds food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used]

    21 December, 570 - Up the Javan River from Kilm
    Once past the swift-flowing tributary from Flen, the Javan has turned to the west again. Roberts’ morning check of the pennants shows that the wind is coming from the due south. Despite the balminess of the breeze, he sighs.

    Several times during the day, when the wind shifts to the east briefly, he orders sails raised and they start out - but each time, the Banner founders and ends up losing ground to the strong current. By afternoon he has given up and found a place to anchor.

    Thokk (bare-chested as the day climbs into the 60’s) and Larry have no luck fishing, but their reserve from the previous days is so great that this is not a concern.

    At night, the crew of the Banner uncharacteristically gather on deck to witness the rise of the small moon, with many of them murmuring chants or prayers as they do. Tyrius soon realizes that tonight is “Handmaid’s Glory”, the only night in the year when the small moon Celene is full, but the large moon Luna is new. For Tyrius, that means today is the fourth of Needfest, and that there are only three days left in the calendar year. That doesn’t quite square with the date as Willa has been reckoning it, but there is always a bit of discrepancy between the nautical calendar used by the people of Salinmore and the agricultural calendar used by the inland nations. In any event, the sailors are likely thinking of their families, who will be celebrating Needfest back home in the Yeomanry. In Sterich, Needfest is a festive occasion and even Tyrius gets a bit sentimental, thinking how he is closer in distance to his family now than he has been in years, but still with no intention of continuing to their estate to see them.

    [ no pounds fish caught,
    28 pounds food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used]

    22 December, 570 [Needfest 5] - Up the Javan River from Kilm
    “If it be any consolation,” says Roberts, shaking his head ruefully at the lack of wind that has them anchored and becalmed, “You’re as unlike to find a ship in Godakin Keep during Needfest as we are to sell our cargo. So long as we get there before the end of the festweek, I’ll be satisfied.”

    [ 14 pounds fish caught,
    34 pounds food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used]

    23 December, 570 [Needfest 6] - Up the Javan River from Kilm
    The day dawns even warmer than the day before, with a long bank of clouds blanketing the peaks of the Jotens to their south. The wind is still light, but has shifted enough to the east that when sails are raised the Banner can make slow headway west against the current of the Javan.

    As they sail, the party can see both banks of the Javan clearly. The Sterish side is becoming more densely populated, while the Keoish side less so, until they are about equally developed. Roberts explains that the main trade route went up the swift mountain river to Flen, and just a mule track remains for land traffic to Godakin Keep. They even pass a section of the river that curves around a rocky promontory on the Keoish side where no settlements are to be seen for miles.

    All morning long the clouds from the Jotens approach and by the early afternoon a drizzle falls briefly. Fortunately it is so warm that the rain does not inconvenience the sailors working the lines. Aurora wonders aloud whether the cloud cover will hide giants coming down from the Jotens, but Roberts shakes his head.

    “Mayhap a lonely fog giant, but the frost giants would never raid in such balmy weather.”

    When Aurora asks why it is so warm now, after the recent cold spell, Roberts says that the warm, wet weather is likely the far remnants of a hurricane savaging the Azure Sea coast. Willa mouths a silent prayer to the Sea Cow and hopes that the hurricane is as distant from Saltmarsh as it is from them.

    Larry’s fishing line snags on the bottom and breaks - the party is now down to one working pole only. [Survival Check Critical Fail]

    At day’s end, Roberts announces that they have come more than half the distance remaining to Godakin Keep, and that even a poor wind like that of today will allow them to reach the city on the morrow. He asks the party to decide whether they will be staying with the Banner all the way into port, or if they instead would like to be dropped off on the Sterish side before the Banner puts in at Godakin Keep. He would like their answer in the morning, if the gods grant them wind.

    [ 8 pounds fish caught,
    34 pounds food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used]

    24 December, 570 [Needfest 7] - Up the Javan River from Kilm
    Roberts looks at the pennants in the morning, flapping halfheartedly on the mast. “It’s a rum wind, but it be what we got,” he says stoically.

    “Be it eno’ t’ carry us t’ port terday?” asks Willa.

    “If not, I’ll be asking your dwarf for his light the last few miles,” replies Roberts. “There won’t be any better day to sell our cargo than the first o’ Fireseek, so I’m wanting to make port tonight as much as your lot.”

    Willa nods. “In t’at case, we’ll be landin’ on ther Sterish side o’ ther river, if ye please.”

    Roberts nods, then calls loudly to his mate, “If we make port by day’s end, we’ll be checking the price o’ coffee on both sides o’ the river.”

    “Aye, Cap’in.”

    Willa, Tyrius, and Aurora retire to the mate’s cabin, and Aurora unrolls the sketch map she made showing the approximate location of the starfall, deep within the nation of Geoff, to the north and west of Sterich. Tyrius shows them where Godakin Keep would be on the map, just below the confluence of the Javan and Davish Rivers.

    “So Tyrius,” asks Aurora, “what’s the best way to the Starfall?”

    “That’s a big area,” he says hesitantly, “the best way there depends on where the starfall actually is.”

    “It’ll be smaller soon,” promises Willa. “Once we get a bit furder north, I can take some mar sextant readin’s an’ revise ther scale o’ t’at map. Fer now, jus’ give us options.”

    Tyrius sucks in his cheeks. “Really, there are only two viable options. We keep going up the Javan, at least to Hochoch, and then turn west by foot.”

    “More river!” protests Aurora.

    Willa waves at her to calm down. “If we keep goin’ upriver, we be gettin’ an oared boat,” she says. “None o’ us be wantin’ more days becalmed. What’s ther second option?”

    “There’s a caravan route from Istivin to Gorna, up and over the Stark Mounds. There won’t be much traffic on it this time of year, but it is well marked.”

    “Alright,” says Willa. “What’s ther down sides o' each?”

    Tyrius pauses and reflects. “If we can find an oared ship for the Javan, it will be faster - but I don’t know if we can find an oared ship. Or how long it would take to find one, especially this time of year, especially in the smaller Sterish ports. If we do get an oared ship, we might not be able to keep our mules. And most of the way north the whole east bank will be Keoland, so we would still have to worry about crown patrols all the way to the Rushmoors. Then, from the Rushmoors through the Oyt Wood is wilderness. There could be bandits or humanoids and such.”

    Willa nods. “An’ ther land route?”

    “Slow. The Stark Mounds are pretty steep, the caravan trail notwithstanding. It could snow or rain; we could get stuck in a mountain pass with snow or mud. The Mounds are wilderness themselves, and could have the same bandits and humanoids as the forest, or even just wild beasts to eat the mules.”

    Willa listens carefully. “Summit t’ think aboot. Fer now, let’s overnight in town, an’ ask aboot ships in ther marnin’.”

    The Banner moves slowly upriver throughout the day, with the Sterish bank settlements growing larger and more frequent, while the Keoish bank settlements remain about the same. Thokk and Larry take turns operating the one remaining fishing pole. The night before was the coldest they had felt in a week, but the day is still in the balmy sixties.

    In the afternoon the river turns almost due north, and the Banner struggles to make it upriver. While the settlements and villages continue on both sides, as the sun reaches the horizon in the west, there is still nothing that could be considered truly a town on either side of the river. Roberts asks Larry to light their way with a sunlight spell when the gathering dusk makes the river travel dangerous. After an hour of this, the moons are up and bright enough to navigate by - Celene, still nearly full, and Luna, a growing crescent.

    After half an hour of sailing by moonlight, the twin towns come into view around a bend, both lit up spectacularly in the night. It is the last night of Needfest, the last night of the old year for these farming people, and everywhere there are lanterns, bonfires, and candles in the windows of the meanest huts. Those with the means have been carousing for a week, drinking, dancing, and sporting, but for those so poor that they can only celebrate for one night of the festweek, this is the night. As the Banner approaches the Sterish port of Crosswater, the sounds of mirth and music spill out across the water, and no customs agents or longshoremen meet them at the docks.

    Roberts gathers his crew on deck. He tells them that he knows they want to join in the festivities, but he is confining them to the ship for the moment. The wholesale markets will have been closed for the entire week of Needfest, and there will be no better day to sell their cargo than the morrow, and he wants to make sure they get the best price for it. He will go ashore here just long enough to find merchants and inquire about price, though that may take a while as he will need to navigate the revelry. If he is satisfied with the price in Crosswater he will return to the ship and dismiss the sailors to join the festivities, but if he is not satisfied, as soon as he returns they will use the moonlight to cross the river to the larger market of Godakin Keep so that they can find a buyer the first thing in the morning. He warns them in no uncertain terms that if any of them have gone ashore when he returns, he will not wait for them, but will leave them behind when the ship crosses the river tonight. After receiving a hearty “Aye, Cap’in” from all assembled, he goes down the gangplank and disappears into the crowd.

    Several minutes later, the party begins moving the mules and Eddard onto the deck. The sailors repeat Roberts’ words to them, and are ignored. The mate pulls Willa into his erstwhile cabin and has a heated exchange with her, with the cabin door open and their argument carrying out onto the deck. When he sees a sack of coins on his bed, tied about the top with twine in a sailor’s knot, he winks at her and raises his volume still more. Tyrius and Eddard are off the Banner first, so that they don’t have to participate in the pantomime, and Thokk leads one of the mules off next so that he doesn’t get confused and start a brawl for real. By the time Willa leads the last mule off, she and the mate are shouting obscenities at one another and she has to shove him out of the way to use the gangplank.

    The party presses their way through the drunken crowds of the town, trying to find an inn. Their search is hampered by a cultural oddity - part of the celebration tonight appears to be speaking in a reverse sense, such that everyone they ask assures them that they know of an inn with space for them, and then either leads them in circles or takes them to a lodging house that is obviously full. Passing women swoon over Larry and proclaim him the most handsome man they have ever seen; Tyrius is scolded as a scoundrel and wastrel and threatened with being charged with public indecency by every uniformed guardsmen they pass, most of whom are only half as drunk as the average townsfolk.

    In the end they try to find an inn for themselves, but each and every one is full enough that it cannot accommodate a group of their size, and they are unwilling to split up in this unfamiliar town. As the night wears on, people start to congregate in vantage points from which they can see across the river. Then of a sudden, a fiery bolt rockets skyward from a tall building in Godakin Keep (that they will later learn is the observatory tower of the Temple of Celestian, god of the stars and heavens). Then all the crowds about them take up a song unfamiliar to any of them but Tyrius, who sings along heartily. At the end of the song, and with everyone wishing one another a prosperous new year, many in the crowds begin to disperse, and taverns and inns to hustle out any who have not paid for a nights lodging and then bar their doors, while the more resolute revelers try to ferret out private parties to join. In any event, the streets thin out while the party remains without lodging.

    Tyrius leads them to a market square where they set up a campsite, taking over an abandoned bonfire that has burned low, and then building it up by scavenging wood from other fires. The night is still in the fifties, and pleasant enough weather to camp outside. Willa goes over the watch schedule and then most of them drift off to sleep.

    [ 10 pounds fish caught,
    36 pounds food remaining without using human rations;
    2 rations of mule feed used
    100 gold coins of party funds removed from Larry and left on board the Banner]
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.
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