A Tale of the Companions of the Silver Wolf
Date: Thu, May 02, 2002
Topic: Stories & Fiction
A tale of how the Companions of the Silver Wolf united in their first adventure, before they became a great company sung in the history of the Flanaess...
Tales of the Flanaess - High Spring in Keoland
(Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.)
During the grand councils of Niole Dra during the first few months of spring, one could notice the flowering of the Keoish capital as soon as the snows melted-orcs and goblins raid from the wildlands, humans and halflings begin tending crops again, raids from the Hold of the Sea Princes and the Hool Marshes begin in earnest. Wintering is over at this time, with adventurers again beginning to explore the wildlands and dungeons, bringing back fantastic tales and wealth. Seven of these would eventually meet at the Paling Pike inn and tavern before long. Around the tables, already adventurers from Geoff and Sterich bring tales of giant and orc incursions, while demihumans from the Uleks call for more beer. Rare visitors from Ket, Furyondy and the Sea Princes greet us with their strange tongues and customs.
Revafour was one of these warriors. His old friend Airk was late after the two had agreed to meet here. Six months had made the young man eager to see the crusty old gnome after such a long time. Airk had returned to the County of Ulek to assist some kin in a goblin clash. Revafour had done the usual work of running with some parties, mercenary work in border clashes, humanoid or bandit raids, etc. His two-handed sword waited patiently in its sheath as it sat ready for the next time it would be needed. The huge, copper-skinned man sipped his stout and waited.
The doors crashed open as a long series of curses and shouts were made to the two bouncers, who towered over the burly gnome in front of them. Racist shouts were made as the gnome shoved his way past the bouncers and stomped over to the table where Revafour waited. An image of the gnome punching out a stonemason’s laborer who insulted him in Cryllor flared and died, as did the thought of what the gnome could do to these men if he wanted to.
“You waitin’ on me, boy?” the gnome grumbled as he marched up to Revafour’s table, a mug of ale in hand. “Drink to old times, and perhaps new ones, I suppose. We going to plan some new harebrained scheme of yours to get some gold?”
“I’ve heard of a couple of new ruins that we could explore,” Revafour said slowly, with a slight lisp to his accent. “Three parties were killed there this summer. Two of us, with no cleric or such could be dangerous.”
“Damn it all, you bronze-headed fool, you want to share the loot with some other idiots? Glittergold’s axehead, you Flan are all the same-stoic, stupid and too goddamn altruistic for your own good!” the gnome snapped.
“Just two fighters?” the man answered. “Certainly you’re not going soft on me, are you? You only called me a bronze-headed fool.” Airk scowled back at him.
“I don’t trust you humans so far’s I can spit you. Why I come back to you, I don’t know, Flandal curse my rotten hide. But if we are to have some companions, who would we join up with? Most of the people here can’t be trusted further than a kobold on the roasted spit…” he paused, noticing the slim young woman walking towards him.
A trim young human woman with reddish-blond hair and stunningly bright blue eyes shining with intelligence. Decked out in the usual robes of a wizard, she smiled at them, possibly hoping to charm this huge moron with her looks, the old gnome thought sourly. She nodded to them both, speaking in a huskier voice than the gnome expected…
“You’re looking for some sort of companions?” she asked.
“Get ye gone, wench. This is no talk for a woman!”
“Ignore him,” Revafour said sternly, as the gnome scowled at them both. “Tell me, what would you want to know?”
“Simply if my sister and our bodyguard could perhaps join you on your little journey,” the woman answered, tilting her body to obviously show the feminine curves to the oversized Flan in front of her. Suel were far too forward for Airk’s preference, making him wonder why he stayed with a human in the first place.
“We don’t need any help,” Airk stated.
“Even from an Olman warrior who’s slain a gorgon by charging straight into its breath and skewering it on his trident? A good cleric of Pelor, and a mage trained for adventuring?” the woman asked rhetorically. Revafour smiled distantly. He was obviously fascinated by the slim wizard in front of him. Her robes clung to her in a human-appealing sort of way, though Airk was not much for it.
“An Olman? Purchased from the Sea Princes?” Airk demanded.
“Yes,” she answered, “and sold to Aerdy. But that’s in the past,” she assured him.
Garl damn me, the gnome thought to himself. Why stay with a bunch of humans? I’ve got enough loot from the goblin raids to go on my own for a while, perhaps find some other gnomes to stay with. I’m getting too soft in my old age, he whined to himself.
Man and gnome met the other woman, a cleric of Pelor, and the bodyguard the next day. Taller than her sister, with a slightly stronger build and much darker hair, the gnome dismissed her much as he did her sister. Named after the two moons of Oerth, Luna and Seline. Why a man, even a noble of the debauched Great Kingdom, would name his daughters after the moons, Airk had no idea.
Their bodyguard was a surprising sight. Over seven and a half feet tall, wrapped in powerful, iron-corded muscles, his dark brown skin and piercing glare marked him as an Olman, that savage race of men from the jungles of the southlands in Hepmonaland. A gigantic trident lay ready in his hand, and the gnome reckoned it had skewered more than a few folk in its time. He didn’t like humans, and this one made him quite wary. He was introduced as Ma’non’go. He was completely mute, and only communicated through sign language, when he deigned to communicate at all. Mostly, he just followed them around, keeping his trident ready when need be.
Contact with them had been established back at the inn-four humans and one gnome preparing to enter into yet another of the countless ruins and dungeons around Keoland. Before the Great Migrations, supposedly a Flan temple. Revafour had figured that he and Airk could score some good money with these people, and possibly join them on a more permanent basis if need be.
Four horses, a pack mule, and a pony set out of Niole Dra the afternoon of the next day. Miscellaneous provisions, food for the horses, pony and mule, rope, a pole for probing, some climbing gear, some packs and bedrolls, some compasses, and so forth were all part of their gear. They had to duck around some Keoish patrols, who often had little tolerance for adventurers wandering around and disturbing ruins, unless those adventurers were willing to pay good taxes to the Crown for their trouble.
They reached the town of Wolmank by evening, and Airk was prepared to drink away a day of stress. They had met a couple of travelers along the road, and had to deal with one patrol who didn’t seem to have much tolerance for adventurers, but nothing all that serious. Airk was itching for some action, but Revafour remained his cold, collected self.
Luna and Seline drank small amounts of beer calmly, but Airk drank a full mug and more of stout as he tried to forget the goblin raids he had fought in the County. Before that, he had been in the bloody Hateful Wars in the Lortmils, and occasional flashbacks still haunted him as of today. The trauma of what Bangor had done would never fully heal. Revafour, his family dead and buried in the bogs and fens of haunted Blackmoor, kept the man in a cold, mostly dignified state, only opening up when confronted by people he instinctively trusted. Airk could tell he was attracted to that wizard Seline, and it bothered the gnome that the man he thought of as a son could be attracted to someone so flightly. He spat on the ground. A screech greeted him as he spit.
“Watch where you’re spitting, you goddamned son of a *****!” a shrill female voice admonished him. Looking down, he saw a female halfling in black leather garments, her brown hair spread out across her shoulders. Four daggers hung from her belt, and an angry glare twisted her face. The gnome glared back at her.
A nasty argument followed, during which the angry old gnome was confronted with sharp-tongued insults from one of the most disrespectful halfling bitches he had ever had the displeasure of meeting. Luna watched in amusement as the two demihumans argued with each other, the halfling having a shockingly adult vocabulary. She fingered her holy symbol as she watched them argue and fight. The young woman was quieter and not nearly as blunt as her sister, who would make a fine compliment to the leather-garbed halfling who argued with Airk. Seline had tried to engage the gnome in conversation, but all she got for her trouble was a series of nasty and rude remarks. Ma’non’go would have beaten an apology out of the gnome unless Luna had stopped him. Their past from the Great Kingdom notwithstanding, she was still in a good attitude towards life. She smiled at Ma’non’go, who continued with his stony-faced silence. She might have been directing it at a statue, for all the response she and Seline ever got from him when he didn’t feel like responding.
“He’s hardly a suitable companion for you,” she heard a voice from across the table say. She turned in surprise-she hadn’t seen the young man sit down. Ma’non’go shifted dangerously, and she patted his hand reassuringly to let the islander know that it was all right.
Tall and slim, not nearly as muscled as Revafour or Ma’non’go, this young Oeridian fellow was patently a ranger, if one could tell by the chain mail vest he wore, the twin swords at his sides, and the bow over his shoulder. He smiled at her.
“The night grows cold,” the ranger said.
“So it does,” she answered.
“Need a companion?”
“Why would I?”
“Your little party could probably use some additional fighting hands, couldn’t it? I’m good at what I do.”
“How do I know that when I don’t even know your name?”
“Weimar of Niole Dra, fourth Manticore Company.”
“Luna of Pelor, formerly of South Province in the Great Kingdom.” He glared at her suspiciously. She fingered the holy symbol of Pelor around her neck, showing him patently the symbol of the Flan sun god. He relaxed.
“What’s the name of your company?” Weimar asked.
“We don’t really have one yet. Just joined with a couple of new people,” Luna answered calmly. They were interrupted by a series of screeches and angry curses and shouts.
Turning, they saw the halfling woman trying to squirm out of the grasp of the burly gnome, who was shouting for his gems back.
“You nasty little whore! I want those gems back, before I break your teeth for them! Arumdina’s shine, I’ll cut you in two if you don’t give me back my gems!”
“Let me go, you old fat-nose! Why would I steal gems from a moron like you?!?! You need to steal some brains, you bulbous-nosed tinker!” The incensed gnome reached for his knife. Several of the other patrons tensed as the bouncers advanced. Out of nowhere, Seline grabbed the gnome’s arm before he could draw out the knife.
“Just give him back the gems,” she said smoothly. The halfling protested again. Seline reached into one of the pockets in the halfling’s cloak and pulled out a number of garnets. The halfling paled.
“Which hand are you going to lose, you little sneak?” Airk demanded.
“No, wait, please! I can…I can…work it off! Just don’t hurt me! I’ll work it off!”
“Doing what?” Seline asked.
“Let me join you for a while,” the halfling said, bringing big doe eyes at her captor. Airk scowled. He pulled out his knife. The halfling somehow managed to twist out of his grasp and bring up a knife of her own, quickly knocking the gnome’s blade out of his hand. She caught it and spun them both around expertly.
“Let me join you,” she said sweetly. “Half a share, that’s all I ask. You’re getting the help of the greatest artiste in northern Keoland!!”
Luna, watching from her table across the room, smiled wryly at the halfling’s persuasion. Airk looked as if he still wanted to rip her apart, but he took back his dagger and shoved it into his belt. If one more was added to their party, things could get a lot more interesting. The thief was a mistress of persuasion, if nothing else.
A week of travel out into the wildlands brought them to the woods, where they found the wrecked ruin, now mostly sunk under hedges of loam and ruined ash trees. The poor halfling, who was introduced as Amyalla, constantly argued with Airk and sniped at Revafour, Weimar and Ma’non’go, getting an angry rise out of the first, a wry grin out of the second and a stone face from the third. She seemed to enjoy teasing and flitting with them, although she was considerably more friendly to the spellcasting sisters.
Old Flan symbols dominated the wall designs in the ruins, when there was anything at all. Scrabbling rats and spiders were heard as the vermin fled from the torches the party lit to see in the darkness. Squabbling and hooting were heard off in the far distance. Airk’s eyes gleamed as he fingered his war-pick. Goblins. A gnome’s worst enemy after kobolds. Cautiously, they ventured down the left passage. While none of them fully trusted each other, they were willing to work with each other for the time being.
The net trap was easily spotted by Amyalla, although as a prank she let Airk and Revafour stumble into it before she called out. At a four-way junction, they heard hoots and whoops coming from the three branches of the passage in front of them. A dozen filthy, tattooed creatures with sickly maroon and yellow skin, wielding jagged weapons, with gleaming red eyes shining in the torchlight, sprung at the seven.
Ma’non’go easily skewered two of them on his trident as Revafour and Airk struggled to get out of the net. Weimar’s twin swords glowed with fiery and icy light as he easily gave ground to several of the creatures. The icy sword crushed a goblin skull as the other arced, dipped and parried the goblin’s crude axe-strikes.
Revafour simply ripped the net in two, as Airk had his military pick out and swinging. The gnome accepted a sting from the sword of one goblin, ripping it in two with his military pick. His huge friend swung a mighty sword that passed through three of the goblins as if they were paper.
Amyalla almost casually tossed a dagger into one goblin’s eye, as Luna crushed the skull of another and Seline blew the last two away with magic missiles. The pathetic ambush had taken barely thirty seconds to beat, and only Airk had been scratched at all. He shook his head in disgust.
“Goblins. Are there anything more pathetic in the whole damned Oerth?”
“Gnomes, obviously,” Amyalla snorted.
Airk spun around, brandishing his military pick. She smirked at him. He swung the pick menacingly. The various factions didn’t fully trust each other yet, and stuff like this could become dangerous.
The goblins had only a few scattered copper and silver coins on them, and their weapons were useless to the party. Down the left passage was some rushing water, to an underground river. The one straight ahead led to a dead end. Down the right passage, they came upon a section of doors. Amyalla easily opened them, her picks moving like magic through the locks of the doors. A Flan privy converted to a goblin latrine, a bedchamber with six bunk beds and miscellaneous junk, and a pile of gold and a couple of scattered small jewels in the three rooms respectively. Amyalla sprung eagerly into the room and pocketed a fair-sized statuette before anyone else noticed. She palmed several coins before the rest could catch her and force her to divide the treasure up. Not much in the way of magic-one potion that the goblins figured they probably wouldn’t need for an easy ambush, and a couple hundred gold coins. Hardly worth the while of a brave band of heroes, or so Weimar snorted.
“Just what in the Abyss are we looking for, anyway?”
“There are rumors of a treasure left behind by bandits before the Keoish patrols cracked down on them in this region. Supposed to be a fair-sized haul, and a bit of magic too, perhaps some books,” Seline informed him, her eyes gleaming at the thought of a fat spell book, containing some spell hidden for hundreds of years. Luna was patently more realistic. She just wanted a donation to the temple of Pelor in Niole Dra.
Several dead ends and twists later, they hadn’t found much of anything beyond some dead skeletons and miscellaneous vermin. Not much use was found in wandering around dead-end tunnels, at least until they came upon the sign of the scythe carved into the wall at the junction-the sign of Nerull, god of the undead.
Revafour cursed and spun around accusingly at Luna, glaring at her. Ma’non’go stepped protectively in front of his mistress, but the huge Flan didn’t budge an inch. Luna stepped back defensively.
“I suppose you knew about this Nerull nest down here, didn’t you?” Revafour snarled, fingering his sword. Amyalla stepped forward boldly.
“So what if we did? Those people would suffer soon enough from that son of a ***** if we didn’t do something!”
“Commanded by your precious sun god, then?” Revafour growled, looking like he wanted to cut both women in two at that moment. Airk raised a military pick, and Ma’non’go shifted dangerously. Weimar and Amyalla were simply shocked at the standoff.
“Pelor’s trying to help those people,” Luna said with conviction. “If he gets his hands on that rod, things could become even worse for this part of Keoland.”
“And why should we care?” Amyalla chimed in, angry that she was tricked on this little escapade.
“Would you like to be torn apart by wights and ghouls?” Luna demanded. “Those bandits had a rod down here that could enhance undead, make them incredibly strong. We saw this happen in Zeldradton,” Luna said, tears in her eyes. “Our parents-eaten alive by ghouls. We fled with Ma’non’go before they could destroy us as well. The Hextorian church seized our noble house, had undead devour anyone and everyone of the house that they could find-including us. Would you want us all dead?”
Revafour quieted instantly. Memories of Bestmo having his father impaled flashed before his eyes. A flinty gaze crossed his visage. He punched the stone in fury, the iron gauntlet smashing a large dent in the stone, glowering at his hands, and what he perceived again on them.
“So…you suffered too? I remember old Blackmoor. Losing your family to Nerull or Hextor can be painful. I lost my family to Wastri,” Revafour growled. “One day, I’ll make Bestmo pay with blood.”
“You’re just going to forgive them, then?” Airk demanded. His prejudice against humans was showing again. Revafour spun around and punched the gnome in the face, cracking his bulbous nose. Airk spat a curse and tried to contain the bleeding. Pain and regret crossed Revafour’s face as he saw what he did.
Luna placed her hand on Airk’s face and muttered a brief chant. The broken nose healed, and the gnome quieted.
“The pain’s still gotten to you, I see,” he grumbled sarcastically to Revafour. He then barked at Amyalla and Weimar,
“You two fools just standing there, or are you coming with us?” Weimar merely nodded. Amyalla looked sour.
“I suppose there’s no way out of it now, is there?”
Airk grinned. “Hardly, unless you want my morning star smashing your sneaky little fingers for your bloody insolence.” Amyalla scowled back at him.
They realized they had entered undead crypts when they noticed a terrible stench. A row of privies must have exploded in a hurricane to cause this stink…or perhaps it was just the ghasts they heard shuffling down the way. Luna took the time to cast some brief protections, casting iron dust on the ground and blessing some holy water. Revafour waited patiently, drawing his huge two-handed blade as he felt the revolting stink of the ghasts coming at him. The party had entered the foul-smelling oval room, where lay a dozen of the horrible undead leering at them flies picking at their flesh. Revafour lunged for a strike at the first one, gagging as he cut the thing in two. He nearly keeled over from the stink that resulted, but was protected by Luna’s spell. His next blow took the head off another monster, as he jumped back to avoid the ghoulish stench.
Magic missiles blasted two more creatures out of existence, as Airk moved boldly at one of the ghasts. Its filthy claws swung at the gnome, but he merely ducked and smashed it with his morning star. Spinning the spiked club around, he smashed thrice until the thing fell apart beneath him. His prominent nose wrinkled at the stink, and it was all he could do to avoid being sick. He crushed another one straight away, jumping over it as it collapsed. Weimar and Ma’non’go cleared the way for Luna as she easily crushed the last few creatures. Brandishing the sun disk, she saw the things howl and rot away.
As they recuperated, they saw a small, wiry man in a skull-mask slowly stroll out of the far door. Smirking at them, he waved his hand. A loud crashing was heard behind him as two massive creatures stomped out of the back room. Twin giants wearing moth-eaten skins in one case, the other monster wearing nothing at all. Four heads leered at the companions. Ettins. Two-headed giants that were horrifying opponents. The filthy creatures brandished various weapons as they strode towards the companions.
Seline advanced at once, a prism of colors flying from her hand square into the two faces of one ettin. Howling, the creature swung its twin axes wildly as it tried to protect itself blindly. Ma’non’go came nearly to its shoulder, thrusting his trident wickedly into the horrible creature, ducking the massive axe as it came at him. Weimar easily cut and slashed at it, his glowing swords moving like twin streams of light as they gutted the hapless creature. It recovered enough, eventually, to slam Ma’non’go with one age. The islander gritted his teeth as the axe tore into his side, but he didn’t flinch, thrusting his trident square at the monster’s right head. He ducked aside at the last minute.
Revafour and Airk smashed and slashed at another one, the gnome being too small for the ettin to directly smash at. A spiked mace smashed into Revafour’s shoulder, causing a loud screech of armor to ring off it, knocking the man back. The creature smashed Airk as he tried desperately to parry with his morning star, knocking him back as he tried to protect himself.
The priest chanted and cast in an eerie voice as he conjured a number of black sickles out of thin air. The weapons scythed at Luna, whose own protections stifled the attack. She began her own assault at the priest as Amyalla snuck up on the man. Her dagger strike was cut short as the knife bounced off what appeared to be a stony barrier. Cursing, the man whirled about, drawing out a flail. He smashed the halfling with it viciously. The woman screamed as she slammed into the wall, dizzy from the blow. Luna’s own spell caught him off guard. A globe of light exploded in front of the man’s eyes, blinding him instantly. Luna charged past the ettins, intending to smash down the priest. One ettin was falling to Weimar, as Ma’non’go stepped away to protect his mistress. Seline caused some strange purple fires to surround the other ettin, not burning it but stopping it long enough for a sword to gut the creature. Airk got up and smashed his pick into the creature’s other head, finishing it off.
Luna cast a healing spell over the poor halfling as Ma’non’go smashed through the priest’s stoneskin spell with sheer brawn. The trident gutted the priest, causing him to fall dead square on the end of it. The islander’s face was a mask of iron as he pushed the corpse off his weapon.
The haul of treasure they received was fairly good, and they managed to divide it among themselves without fighting and arguing too much. The party looked at each other one last time at the dungeon entrance, wondering who should be first to depart. Weimar spoke up first.
“Kind of a waste, isn’t it?” he asked. “We fight well together, and we’re all in the same profession. We could stay for a while together, to see how we work out?”
The gnome scowled at him. “With you fools? And a halfling to boot? Glittergold’s shining axehead, I won’t do it!” Revafour scowled at him.
“Why not, you stubborn, bulbous-nosed fool?”
“I never trust humans!” Airk snarled back.
“You trust me, and I trust them, for now,” Revafour shot back. The women only grinned. Amyalla smirked. “We’ve met up with worse, haven’t we?"
Airk sighed. “I suppose so. But the second any of them betray us, they get my pick through their spines,” he glowered. He looked warningly at all of them. Only Amyalla spoke up.
“That is, if you can wield that thing fast enough to catch us, you whoreson,” she smirked.
“You dirty little *****!” Airk roared. He came forward, but, at a wave from Seline, Ma’non’go blocked the gnome’s path.
“If we come, the halfling comes too. Same with Ma’non’go,” Luna tittered. Airk scowled, and muttered something about the bad weather and how old gnomes grow soft.