Yondalla forgive me, Amyalla thought to herself, sickened by what she was
participating in. Would that there was
Using her magical hat to
disguise herself as one of Pieden’s thugs, Amyalla was now riding on one of the
slave-wagons Pieden and his men were using to transport their kidnap victims.
The children in the wagons were carefully disguised with suitable wigs and
overly large coats, to make them look older than they truly were. They were
cowed into silence with threats of all kinds of dire punishments should they
reveal themselves or plead for help. Of course, the children would have gained
nothing from it anyway.
Slavery was perfectly
legal and common in Greyhawk. The markets were far too lucrative for it to be
As much as Amyalla was
disgusted by Greyhawk’s slave trade, she had to admit that Greyhawkers were at
least open about their lust for hard coin. Other people were more apt to hide
their greed behind purer motives, such as her family. When Amyalla had married
the decorated halfling noble and adventurer Kivern Goodleaf, the Reorsas had
proudly announced Amyalla’s wedding to anyone and everyone who would listen.
House Reorsa was quite pleased to support the marriage, as being associated
with a name as prestigious as Kivern’s could only better House Reorsa’s
Amyalla had indeed
loved Kivern when she first met him, enchanted by his devils-may-care attitude
and air of bravery. Unfortunately, she’d soon come to learn learned about his
love of fine wine, and the all too common rages he would fly into when he was
It was bad enough when
he would shout obscenities at her, calling her a no-good whore. It was all the
worse when Kivern decided to force his hapless wife to “dance” for him by
shooting his loaded crossbow or throwing his daggers at Amyalla, forcing her to
dodge his attacks as he laughed like the drunken ass he was.
Even that was not as bad
as all the times he cuckolded her with other halfling women. Whenever Amyalla
had reproached him, or even just shown her dismay at Kivern’s philandering, he
was quite happy to cut her with his sword, or give her a good beating with his
to her family had done her no good. House Reorsa refused to do anything to help
Amyalla, as they had no desire to see Kivern’s good name ruined. A scandal that
tainted Kivern’s name would have hurt House Reorsa’s own mercantile profits.
So it was that House
Reorsa’s daughter had had no compunctions about causing that hideous scandal
herself. Using her wiles and wits, she had publicly exposed Kivern’s
philandering. The uproar had ruined Kivern, and nearly taken House Reorsa with
him. Amyalla had fled Leukish after that, taking Kivern’s cherished magical hat
to help her disappear.
Now, the halfling hated
herself for what she was doing, hated herself for willingly letting these
children suffer at the hands of Pieden’s men and the slavers who would take
them. Every time Amyalla cursed herself for what she was doing, she had to
remind herself that it was only so she and her companions would be able to
track the slavers down back to their lair. From there, they would be able
rescue not only Louella’s and Pieden’s children, but also anyone and everyone
else who’d suffered at these monsters’ hands.
Pieden’s caravan was
well into the Cairn Hills by the time they met the slavers, and it was nearly
dusk when the children were transferred into the new caravan. Surprisingly,
there wasn’t much to distinguish the slavers from Pieden’s own men. The slavers
were a collection of rough-looking thugs equipped with a large set of
horse-drawn wagons. The slavers’ wagons were set with the same kinds of cages
as Pieden’s own, and the children were loaded into the new wagons with a
minimum of fuss.
The children cried and
wailed, their sobs tearing at Amyalla’s soul, and she cursed herself once
again, forcing an image of Louella’s pleading to the front of her mind.
image fought for space in her mind’s eye with memories of Kivern and all the
things he’d done to her.
Once the exchange was
done, Pieden’s caravan turned around to return to Greyhawk. After a mile, they
stopped briefly to refill their waterskins from a nearby stream. Amyalla took
the opportunity to speak up, giving the excuse that she needed to relieve
herself in private. Disappearing into the woods near the road, Amyalla hid
where she could view the caravan, knowing that the nervous thugs had no
intention of looking for her.
So far, Amyalla’s plan
was working well, and she only needed to wait for Airk and Revafour.
Concentrating for a moment, she used her hat’s magic to shift back into her
natural form, even as she watched Pieden rally his men and get the caravan
going again. The nervous thugs had no desire to be out in the Cairn Hills at
night, and would be returning to Greyhawk even if they had to travel until
Dozing in the hollow of
a large duskwood tree, Amyalla awakened when she heard the sounds of Airk and
Revafour approaching up the road a few hours later. Emerging from the hollow
and making her way back to the road, Amyalla greeted her companions as Revafour
tossed Amyalla her backpack. Airk and Revafour had hidden in the woods as
Pieden’s caravan had returned to Greyhawk, letting it pass them by before
they’d continued into the hills. Worn out by the long march from Greyhawk, Airk
and Revafour were led by Amyalla back into the woods. Laying down, the
adventurers ate a short meal and prepared to make camp.
The adventurers planned
to set out at dawn, with Revafour tracking the slavers’ caravan further into
the hills. From there, they would hopefully find the slavers themselves.
Then they would see how well the slavers, who were so
brave against helpless little children, dealt with people who could actually
fight them on even terms.
Weimar, Luna, Seline
and Ma’non’go did not feel any less worried, even if they knew they were
getting closer to their goal. If anything, it only increased their concern,
hope they wouldn’t be too late in rescuing little Teddyrun. Luna’s divination
spells had given the adventurers a general idea of which way to go, but none of
them knew what Pelor’s omen had meant by the “giant’s cloven beard”. The companions
had asked many of the farmers, merchants and other travelers they’d
encountered, but no one had been able to help them. Now, a day and a half after
the adventurers had left the Listells’ estate, they had reached the Cairn
They’d continued heading
north by northeast, and Weimar had made sure they stayed on course, but so far
they hadn’t come across any giants. Now, the companions weren’t entirely sure
what to do.
“We could ask at some of the mining villages
here,” Weimar suggested as the companions rode down a trail that cut through a
copse of thick birch trees. “The dwarves and gnomes might know something most
of the humans wouldn’t.”
And how much time can we afford to spend asking about,
before Teddyrun perishes? Ma’non’go
asked, as Seline translated for Weimar.
“Could you cast some
more spells?” Weimar asked Luna, shaking his head in frustration.
“They take too long to
cast,” Luna frowned. “It’s taken us a long time to get here already, and I
don’t know how much more time we can spend-“
Luna’s horse, which was
leading the group, suddenly neighed in surprise and recoiled onto its hind legs
as an arrow shot out from the trees and thudded into the path in front of it.
The adventurers looked around warily as a group of men and women seemed to
appear around them as if by magic, emerging from the trees.
The people who had
emerged from the trees were dressed in clothes of green and brown to help them
blend in with their surroundings. Most of them wore light leather armor, and
none of them wore anything heavier than brigandine. Their spears, maces and shields
were similarly light, although made of well-crafted steel. They carried
themselves with the practiced ease of people whose ancestors had spent
countless centuries living in these hills, knowing them as intimately as any
dwarf or gnome.
Most of the Flanaess
was dominated by countries established by the Suel and Oeridian peoples who had
come to these lands during the Great Migrations. In most cases, the Suel and
Oeridians had driven away the indigenous Flan who gave the continent their
name. Many Flan now lived among other humans as citizens of these new
countries, but others continued to live in their own independent communities.
Some of them were nomads, others were settled farmers, tradespeople or herders,
but they all recognized no outside authority and belonged to no country other
than their own. A group of these independent Flan now surrounded the
adventurers, their weapons at the ready.
The situation remained
tense for several seconds, before one Flan, clearly the leader from the way he
conducted himself, spoke to the group.
“What brings you to
these lands?” he asked in the common tongue. “Why have you come here?”
Much to Weimar’s
surprise, Luna answered for them.
“We come to these lands
in search of an innocent who needs our help,” Luna answered in the Flan
language. “We mean you and yours no harm-this I swear as a daughter of Pelor,”
she continued, displaying the golden sun icon she wore as a pendant around her
The Flan leader rocked
back on his heels slightly, surprised at Luna’s answering him in his own
language. The other Flan warriors were just as surprised, mumbling to one
another and lowering their weapons somewhat.
“All we would seek from
you is guidance,” Seline added, also speaking in the Flan language. “We are
searching for a child, a child abducted by some evil that could threaten all
the communities around it. Any help you could give us would be greatly
Once again, the Flan
looked at the adventurers and then each other in surprise at the Aerdi women
who spoke their language.
Weimar looked at
Ma’non’go, who glanced back at him and nodded as if to assure him.
“You don’t hail from
the City of Greyhawk, do you?” the Flan leader realized, speaking in the common
tongue. “You, do you speak our language?” he asked, this time turning to Weimar
and Ma’non’go and speaking in Flan.
Ma’non’go nodded, while
Weimar just shrugged helplessly, not understanding anything the leader was
saying in Flan.
“An Olman from the
southern lands, two women from the east, and…a man from the west,” the Flan
leader mused to himself. “Clearly you all have an interesting tale to tell, and
very good reason to be in these hills. Perhaps we can help one another after
“Help one another?”
Weimar asked in surprise, as the group of Flan turned to walk down the trail,
gesturing for the adventurers to follow them. “What do you mean?”
“Your friends have
mentioned a great evil,” the Flan leader replied, as the adventurers kicked up
their horses to follow. “If my suspicions are correct, we may need your help
just as much as those whose child you seek to rescue.”
The Flan village was a
collection of log cabins and wigwams, typical for this part of the world. The
structure of the buildings was new to Luna, Seline and Ma’non’go, who were more
familiar with the pueblos and hogans of the Flan people of the southeastern
Flanaess. Weimar was more familiar with them, having seen the elves construct
similar buildings in the communities he’d occasionally visited during his days
in the armies of Keoland. It came as little surprise, particularly given the
cultural exchanges the elves of the Flanaess had had with the Flan for
The village was
thronged with laughing and playing children and adults tending to domestic
duties, although Ma’non’go and the rest of the adventurers could detect the
palpable sense of tension in the air. The village was fairly large and
prosperous, but there didn’t seem to be as many people as the visitors would
Seline was surprised to
see how relieved many of the people in the village seemed to be that the
adventurers’ escorts had returned home safely. The villagers were more relieved
than she would have expected people returning from a patrol to be. They spoke
rapidly to one another, and soon there were so many conversations that she
couldn’t make out what any of them were saying.
The leader of the Flan
patrol, a man who’d called himself Dennine, broke off from the crowd of
villagers, gesturing to the adventurers to follow him. They approached a larger
longhouse in the centre of the village, and were surprised as the longhouse’s
front doors opened and a group of dwarves carrying weapons and sacks emerged.
Several of the villagers called out good-byes to the dwarves, who saluted back
as they mounted the ponies tied up outside the longhouse and rode away,
seemingly satisfied with themselves.
“Who were they?” Weimar
asked Dennine curiously.
“Some of our regular
traders, who hail from the dwarven kingdom of Greysmere,” Dennine explained as
he brought the adventurers into the longhouse. “They were here to drop off some
supplies we needed.”
“What do you mean?”
“Our chief can explain
it to you,” Dennine asked, as he led them towards a large table at the back of
the longhouse. The area was elaborately decorated with fine furniture, while
the walls were festooned with hunting trophies, weapons and blankets and
carvings depicting war victories. A large table took place of pride in the
centre of the room, around which a group of older people were seated. At the
head was a lean woman with dark bronze skin. Her long hair alternately gray and
white, dressed in a beautiful doeskin gown and wearing a colorful sash that
denoted her as the main leader of the community.
The adventurers stood
before the table as Dennine explained briefly how he’d met them, before
concluding by saying that they would be able to help the Flan with their own
“Indeed?” the older
woman asked, looking intently at Dennine, and then back at her guests. “Very
well, then-be seated and welcome at our table.”
“You are…” Luna trailed
off, giving their host the opportunity to introduce herself.
“I am Melonanne,” the
older woman replied, “current chief of the village of Oakdale. These others are
the rest of our council,” she continued, gesturing to all the other Flan
sitting around her at the table. “Now then, perhaps you can give us more of an
explanation as to why you pass through our lands?”
“We didn’t know these
lands were yours,” Seline immediately replied, bowing her head slightly in
apology. “We were originally hired by a family from the land of Greyhawk whose
son was recently abducted by an unknown evil. Our task is to find the family’s
son and bring him home before he can be injured...or worse,” she continued.
“The trail has led us here, into the Cairn Hills, and we only passed through
your lands because we believe that this is where we need to go,” Seline spoke,
deep concern in her voice as she recalled the plight of poor Teddyrun.
“…This is most
disturbing,” Melonanne said after a moment, as the other council members
murmured to one another. “It means that the evil is far more widespread than we
“What do you mean?”
Seline asked curiously.
“Many of our own
children have been abducted in recent weeks by parties unknown,” Melonanne said
sadly. “We’ve been stretched to the breaking point trying to find them, as
we’re also currently fighting a large pack of trolls that’s come into this
territory. Our dwarven allies were just here to give us a fresh supply of oil,
and we’re likely to need every drop of it. Because of the gods-damned trolls,
we haven’t been able to spare the resources to search for our children, Pelor
forgive us. It is all we can do to survive!”
“I know that Pelor
would bear you no grievance for fighting for your survival,” Luna pointed out.
“Indeed, perhaps our presence here is Pelor’s means of helping you. I suspect
that the same beings that abducted Teddyrun, whoever they were, are the same
ones who abducted your children as well. If we are to rescue Teddyrun, we can
also rescue your loved ones as well.”
“You would do that for
us?” Melonanne asked in surprise, a hopeful look on her face. Most of the other
members of her council had similar expressions, although some of them did not
share their chief’s optimism.
“Of course we would,”
Seline assured her brightly, smiling warmly with assurance. “We need your help,
“With what?” Melonanne
“We were led here by a
divination I cast to try and find Teddyrun,” Luna replied. “The message from
Pelor was that Teddyrun could be found at the ‘giant’s cloven beard’, but I
don’t know what that meant. We asked as many people as we could think of on our
way here, but none of them could help us.”
“The giant’s cloven
beard…” Melonanne murmured, trying to remember where she’d heard that before.
“I could swear that…”
“I know what they’re
speaking of,” another one of the council members spoke up. “It’s clearly the
Bearded Lord’s Hollow.”
“The Bearded Lord’s
Hollow gets its name because it’s at the base of a large hill that vaguely
resembles a giant’s head,” the council member explained. “The forest at the
hill’s base resembles the giant’s beard, although it’s sharply divided by a
hollow. The last we heard, it was previously an orc lair, but the orcs were
driven out several years ago. No one lives there now,” the council member
“Until now,” Seline realized.