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    The Silver Wolf: Ghosts Of The Past-A Midsummer Night's Plea
    Posted on Wed, February 07, 2018 by LordCeb
    CruelSummerLord writes "Luna and Revafour frowned as they exchanged glances. Trolls had an amazing ability to heal from most injuries, such as they could not be killed by steel alone. Steel could disable trolls, but the hateful things could only be killed permanently by acid or flame.



    Chapter One 

    A Midsummer Night’s Plea


    “Trust me, the moons will be lovely when they come out together,” the human Weimar Glendowyr said to the gnome Airk Venbelwar as they sat down at their table. They had both heard about the quality of the mead served at the Wizard’s Hat Inn, where they were staying, and were eager to see if it lived up to its reputation. 

    “I’d think I have more experience than you with the moons,” Airk said, as Weimar immediately took a hefty swig of mead. “Do you know how many years I have on you?”

    The human Weimar just laughed as he set his tankard down. The scars on his neck and forearms combined with the reddish look to his eyes and nose, his liquor-stained leather armor and drab trailworn clothes to mark him as a man who had known years of hard living. While Weimar seemed dangerous at first glance, his rakish handsomeness and smiling manner showed an entirely different side to his character, one that was quite pleased with the company and friends he kept. His unkempt blonde hair and dull green eyes completed the look, making him appear affable and rough all at once.

    “Yes, but could you really appreciate the moons’ dance as much?” Weimar asked, a teasing smile playing about his lips.

    “Of course I could, and unlike you I won’t be watching it through a haze,” Airk said, taking a smaller drink of mead than Weimar did.

    Airk’s demeanor and appearance were very different than Weimar’s. He was quiet and somber, his bright brown eyes constantly glancing from side to side, always on alert. Vigilance seemed almost tangible around him, making him able to respond to a crisis at a moment’s notice. The military way Airk carried himself in, bred into him by decades as a soldier, only added to that image. The gnome’s blonde hair, short bushy beard and carefully waxed handlebar moustache were all immaculately cut. Airk was not wearing his heavy plate armor and dragon-headed helmet, or the formidable weapons he usually carried, but Weimar knew that Airk wielded and polished them with equal skill.

    “Trust me, the moons will be beautiful no matter what,” Weimar said, before taking another drink. Weimar and Airk were referring to Luna and Celene, the twin moons of Oerth, which would both be full and shining on Godsday, two days hence. The presence of the moons marked Midsummer Day in the Flanaess, and the week-long festival of Richfest.

    “Pity Greyhawkers don’t seem to have much affection for Richfest,” Weimar said. “I wonder why that is?"

    “Why would they waste time getting drunk, when there’s profit to be had?” Amyalla Reorsa said as she came up to Weimar’s and Airk’s table. The man and gnome both smiled a greeting at their halfling companion as she sat down, a tankard of light, sweet Celenese wine in her hand.

    Amyalla was the envy of almost any other woman she met. Her long fire-red hair and emerald green eyes combined with a perfectly shaped figure and a graceful walk, showing how equally adept she was at stealing hearts and treasure alike. A coquettish smile always seemed to play about her lips, the smile of a woman who knew the power of her charms and took a distinct pride in them. Her attire was a curious mix of the stylish and practical, consisting of a plain traveling gown combined with fashionable doeskin boots and a wide-brimmed hat decorated with orchids and lilacs.

    “Right, you grew up in Greyhawk, didn’t you?” Airk said, referring to the free city where they and the rest of their companions were staying.

    “Not quite-Greyhawk was where I found a home,” Amyalla said. A cloud passed over her face as she recalled the painful memories that had led her to come to Greyhawk.

    “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything,” Airk said, recalling what Amyalla had told them about her abusive marriage in the Duchy of Urnst, and the social scandal she’d caused that had forced her to flee to Greyhawk.

    “Don’t worry about it,” Amyalla said, the coquettish smile returning to her face. “But like I was saying, Greyhawkers don’t celebrate Richfest the way some other peoples do. For them, the party really starts after Midsummer’s Day, when the city guilds display their finest merchandise. The trades guilds hold skills competitions too, the better to show off to potential customers.”

    Weimar was about to say something, when he and the others heard footsteps approaching their table. His back was to the new arrivals, but judging by the pleased looks on Airk’s and Amyalla’s faces he could guess who was coming to join them.

    One of the people was a tall man with deep mahogany skin, dark eyes and black hair reaching down to the back of his neck. Ma’non’go of the Silver Winds might have been mistaken for a person of Flan descent, but his multicolored clothes showed that he was an Olman, one of that type of humans who dwelt in the distant jungles of Hepmonaland. He was nearly seven feet tall, with a powerfully muscled frame that clearly showed his immense strength. He was quick and light on his feet despite his size, and he carried himself with a warrior’s grace. Ma’non’go’s expression was normally calm and emotionless, but his friends could see the warmth reflected in his eyes whenever his gaze met theirs.

    The other person was a young woman with an angelic face framed with bright strawberry-blonde hair, bright green eyes, and a figure that could make men’s hearts race and other women’s hearts burn with jealousy. Seline Roas Del Cranden wore robes of indigo and midnight blue, decorated with symbols of crescent moons, stars and planets that clearly indicated her wizardly training. Despite her scholarly background, she seemed to almost radiate warmth and energy, able to project her moods as well as the illusions and lightning bolts she cast so well. It was that, rather than any magic, that improved her companions’ moods as she and Ma’non’go sat down.

    All the better for the guildsmen to profit, I suppose? Ma’non’go signed in the hand cant he used to communicate with his companions. Ma’non’go was mute, and could only communicate through sign language. When his companions had asked him why he could not speak verbally, Ma’non’go had always evaded the question, alluding to some long-ago betrayal.

    “Of course,” Amyalla said. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again-the only thing Greyhawkers value more than their gold is their platinum. There’s a reason the free city’s unofficial motto is ‘coin makes the world go ‘round’.”

    “It’s a wonder there aren’t more dwarves living here, then,” Airk said, finishing his tankard in one swallow before slamming it down on the table. “You’d think Greyhawk would be a natural place for them.”

    “This again?” Seline said, frowning in disapproval. “Every dwarf I’ve ever met-“

    “-never thought of betraying you for blood money,” Airk interrupted, his expression turning ice cold. “I’m very sure.”

    An awkward silence fell around the table again, before Weimar spoke up.

    “Like I was telling Airk, the twin moons will be beautiful on Midsummer’s Night. Did you plan to watch it?”

    “I would,” a voice said as its owner approached, “but I have other duties.”

    Luna Roas Del Cranden’s beauty shone almost as brightly as Pelor, the sun god to whom she had dedicated her life. Her beautiful face and figure were framed by her long chestnut-brown hair and bright blue eyes, and accented by her soft voice. Dressed in blue and gold clothes reminiscent of the morning sun rising over a heavenly sky, Luna projected compassion and joy all at once. She was much more quiet and reserved than her outgoing younger sister Seline. As quiet as she was, her smile was as bright as her sister’s as she sat down to join her companions.

    “The temple of Pelor hosts a great feast for the poor every Midsummer Eve,” Luna said, a glass of fine Ideean sherry in her hand, “and I would be a poor daughter of Pelor indeed not to participate. It will take the whole day, so I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to watch the twin moons with any of you, if that’s what you’re planning to do.”

    “Why not?” Airk asked in disappointment.

    “The worship services will take most of the day, and then the evening’s spent serving the feast and healing any sick or wounded who come seeking aid,” Luna said. “I wish I could watch the moons dance, but I just can’t,” she said with a sigh.

    “Well, we hardly need the moons anyway,” Weimar said. “Why would we, when we have their namesakes, far lovelier than the moons could ever be in the first place?”

    Seline laughed at that, and Luna smiled.

    You do realize that I should punish you for saying such things, don’t you? Ma’non’go said, before making a fist of one hand and driving it into the palm of the other. As Luna and Seline’s sworn protector, Ma’non’go took his responsibilities seriously.

    “You should punish him?” Amyalla said. “If anyone has the right to demand punishment, it’s me! Imagine, leaving me out of his praise!”

    “Forgive me, both of you,” Weimar said, bowing in apology. “I was dazzled by Amyalla’s beauty as well, such that I had forgotten both my manners and my wits.”

    “I’m honestly surprised you had either of any to begin with,” Revafour Greystar said as he sat down to join the rest of the company, a mug of water in hand.

    Revafour was more than six and a half feet tall, with thick, treelike limbs and broad shoulders speaking of a strength to match Ma’non’go’s. He had the coppery-bronze skin and shoulder-length black hair of the Flan, the original people to inhabit the Flanaess. His Flan heritage was also indicated by the beading on his cloak and the moccasins on his feet, as well as the quiet stoicism he carried himself with. His bearing was that of a seasoned warrior who showed no mercy in a battle, but he regarded his companions with the look of a man who would lay down his life a hundred times over for them.

    “And now you’re getting on my case too,” Weimar said with a mock sigh. “Surely I deserve better?”

    All seven of the companions laughed at that. Collectively, they were known as the Company of the Silver Wolf, having united as an adventuring band after they had helped each other during a harrowing experience in the Cairn Hills some weeks ago. They had named their group in honor of the wolves who might start alone, but often found new homes with others of their kind.

    Now, they had returned for Greyhawk to enjoy Richfest. They were also in search of work, either as hired agents or dungeons and ruins they might explore for long-forgotten riches.

    “If we wait until the end of Richfest, we could take up with one of the caravans leaving here,” Amyalla said. “Many merchants come for goods they can resell in their homelands, and bandits follow in their wake.”

    “Maybe,” Revafour said. “Or perhaps we could mount an expedition to this Castle Greyhawk I’ve heard mentioned?”

    Weimar and Amyalla exchanged glances, before shaking their heads.

    “The rest of you likely aren’t familiar with the legends of Castle Greyhawk,” Amyalla said, looking at the rest of the companions except for Weimar. “Yes, there are the rumors of riches there, but those few adventurers who ever come back tend to have lost more than they gained, whether it be in treasure, limbs or even life energy. And exploring there can lead to catastrophe, such as when Iuz was released.”

    The rest of the companions stared back at Amyalla in shock and horror.

    “That’s what caused Iuz the Old’s return?” Luna said, referring to the vile half-demon who shared his name with the wicked, destructive empire he ruled. Iuz was widely known and feared across the Flanaess for his brutalities until his disappearance more than seven decades ago. Tales circulated of Iuz’s actions in the interim, terrifying people from one end of the Flanaess to the other. When Iuz returned to his throne some six years ago there were few who did not curse the fact.

    Amyalla nodded.

    “Then we’re obviously not doing that,” Luna shook her head. “Who knows what other monstrosities might be trapped down there?”

    “Perhaps we could try and search for one of the Star Cairns?” Weimar said. The Star Cairns were a collection of fabled dungeons in the Cairn Hills north of Greyhawk, said to have descended from the skies to reward the mortals of Oerth.

    “Maybe,” Amyalla said, “but the hard part would be even knowing where to begin looking for them. Many con artists have made fortunes selling knowledge of where one of the Star Cairns supposedly are.”

    “Well, we could consult a more reliable source,” Seline said. “Surely there are sages we who know more of such things?”

    “There are,” Amyalla said, “but we’d be better served saving as much of our treasure as we can. We could see what we could find for ourselves in Greyhawk’s Great Library. Admission’s free, so we could search on our own.”

    The companions thought that over for a few minutes.

    “I suppose it’s as good a place as any to start,” Revafour finally said, as the rest of the companions nodded in agreement. “We’re as likely to find a worthwhile place to explore here as we are boarding a caravan and heading off somewhere else.”

    “True enough,” Luna said, “but we won’t be able to do anything until after Godsday anyway. I’m not going anywhere until I participate in the Pelorian ceremonies and feast. Would any of you care to join me?”

    “I can’t,” Amyalla said. “I’ve already made arrangements to meet up with some old ‘friends’ of mine for the evening.”

    What kind of friends would those be? Ma’non’go asked.

    “What kind do you think?” Amyalla said, her eyes lighting up mischievously as her wide smile returned to her face.

    “And the rest of you?” Luna asked.

    “I want to participate in the worship services at Burrow Heights,” Airk said, referring to a Greyhawk neighborhood where most of the city’s gnomes and halflings lived. “After that, I’ll likely spend the evening training.”

    I might join you for that, Ma’non’go said. It would help us to learn each other’s fighting styles. Would you join us as well? he said, turning to Revafour and Weimar.

    “No, I want to participate in the Pelorian ceremonies,” Revafour said, nodding at Luna. “You don’t have any issue with my joining you?”

    “Of course not,” Luna said, shaking her head.

    “I might as well,” Weimar said with a shrug. “From what I’ve been told, almost the entire city shuts down at this time. I’ll likely pay my respects to Trithereon first, though.”

    “Then I’ll join you as well,” Seline said. “I should like to see how you all fight, too-it will help me learn how best to use my magic,” she continued, her eyes lighting up eagerly. “Then we can likely watch the moons together in the evening?”

    Ma’non’go nodded in satisfaction at that, before his glance turned to Weimar and Airk.

    Weimar offered a wide smile, eager for the challenge, while Airk just raised his eyebrow.

     Greyhawk’s temple to Pelor seemed run-down on the outside. On the inside it was filled with finery of gold and electrum, often decorated with sunstones, topazes, rubies and garnets reflecting the different stages of the sun’s passage across the sky. The temple was topped with a great dome of crystal through which Pelor could shine his light down on his worshippers.

    Revafour had come to the temple with Luna, but when she left to join with the other priests he found himself alone among the congregation. Revafour hadn’t minded, enjoying the solitude. During the morning prayers and worship service, Revafour thought back to his youth growing up in the Duchy of Tenh, and the Flan ceremonies worshipping Pelor. He remembered the drumming, dancing and songs, part of ages-old Flan traditions now lost to much of the Flanaess with the arrivals of the Oeridians and Suel…

    Revafour suddenly felt his eyes opening in anger at that. Taking a deep breath, he looked around at the congregation and priests that surrounded him, his gaze settling on Luna as she participated in the singing to Pelor.

    He smiled at the sight of her, but it did little to dispel the pain he still felt.

    The worship service took the entire morning. The afternoon was taken up with the priests serving a grand feast to all comers, as well as healing many of the wounded and ill who had come to the service. Junior clerics and acolytes wove through the crowd as well, requesting donations to help the temple continue its good works in the second half of the year.

    As he ate on a bench with several other parishioners, Revafour thought back to his youth in Tenh. This time he recalled the potlatch ceremonies practiced by some of the Flan nations that made up the duchy. Potlatches involved participants distributing wealth, food or even special roles or titles to each other. They were a means for the Flan to support one another, and to build both alliances and friendships.

    These feasts are like a potlatch, but the Suel and Oeridians need a god’s motivating them to do it, Revafour thought, recalling how Tenha potlatches could occur any time they were needed, and often without any kind of clerical involvement.

    Shaking his head, Revafour stood up from the bench as the feast came to an end. A large crowd was gathering at the temple’s entrance, which the Pelorian clerics would lead down the Processional, one of Greyhawk’s main streets, to further distribute food and healing. Revafour hurried to join it, trying to pick out Luna.

    Revafour spotted Luna, but he wasn’t able to catch up with her until the crowd had proceeded almost halfway down the Processional. By the time Revafour reached Luna, she was in animated discussion with a Flan man dressed in green and brown trousers and a beaded vest over a leather breastplate. A long sword hung at his side, and Revafour could tell immediately that he wasn’t from Greyhawk.

    “Luna?” Revafour said, tapping her on the shoulder.

    Luna started and turned to look at Revafour, as the Flan man she was talking to followed suit. Luna was pleased to see Revafour, although the other Flan man wasn’t pleased at being interrupted.

    “Oh, Revafour,” Luna said. “Did you enjoy the feast?”

    “Of course I did,” Revafour said. “Who’s this? Is he a friend of yours?” he asked, nodding in the direction of the other Flan man Luna was talking to.

    “My name’s Dennine,” the Flan man said before Luna could answer. “Maybe you’d care to explain why you’re interrupting?”

    “Because Luna is a friend of mine, and I wonder if you’re the same,” Revafour said, his eyes narrowing.

    “Yes Revafour, Dennine is a friend of mine,” Luna said, stepping between the two Flan. “You recall the people of Oakdale, who helped us find the Bearded Lord’s Hollow?”

    Revafour nodded as he remembered what Seline had told him. The companions had originally been two groups both trying to rescue a large group of kidnapped children at the Bearded Lord’s Hollow in the Cairn Hills. Revafour, Airk and Amyalla had managed to trail a caravan of kidnapped children from Greyhawk, but Weimar, Luna, Ma’non’go and Seline had needed the help of the Flan of Oakdale to find their destination. The companions had met after that, combining their groups into one before freeing the children from the Hollow.

    “Forgive me,” Revafour said, bowing in apology to Dennine. “Tell me, what brings you to Greyhawk?”

    “As I was telling Luna, I came seeking aid against a large pack of trolls that’s assaulting our home,” Dennine said. “I was hoping I could find mercenaries or adventurers who might be able to aid us, and I also hoped to buy some oil and acid to help us battle them,” he continued.

    Luna and Revafour frowned as they exchanged glances. Trolls had an amazing ability to heal from most injuries, such as they could not be killed by steel alone. Steel could disable trolls, but the hateful things could only be killed permanently by acid or flame.

    “I can help you with all of that,” Revafour said. “I’ll help you get the supplies you need, and come back with you. Whatever it takes, and whatever you need, I’ll help you.”

    “Thank you,” Dennine said. “How much money-“

    “Keep it,” Revafour said, “and don’t worry about the costs of supplies. We’ll deal with that as well.”

    “Come with us back to our inn once the procession is over,” Luna said. “I’m sure our friends will be happy to help you.”

    “Thank you both,” Dennine said, bowing his head in gratitude.

    Revafour and Dennine fell in behind Luna as she led them back into the procession. Dennine looked relieved to have found the help the people of Oakdale apparently sorely needed, but Revafour bore a stoic expression.

    Revafour expected that the people he called his companions would be willing to help the people of Oakdale, but he knew they might refuse. If they did, he would have no compunctions about abandoning them.

    Revafour had enough personal experience to know that the old Flan saying about Oeridians and Suel speaking with forked tongues was all too often true. 

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