Episode 1: Admiral Peter and Cairntarry.
| James looked at Bartholomew, "Was that an extra special druid vow? It put a hole in my roof." The Druidic High Priest looked up at a round, smoking hole above them. "No, Sir James, it was not the magic which was unique; rather, it was the people involved who are extraordinary."
"I have not met a druid before." said William from the floor where he lay dazed but unhurt.
Bartholomew gave William a knowing look and offered his hand. "Up you go my young Lord and welcome to a broader world. One more frightening yet more beautiful."
William's father approached and took his son's arm, "I will be leaving you now, I have important business in the city and I am already late. Do everything as your uncle instructs and I will see you tonight. You did well, William, I am proud of you."
"Yes, Father. Perhaps I could come with you?"
William was troubled that his father was leaving him at this time. He wanted to talk about his vision of the future and, after-all, he had only met his uncle a few hours ago and much had happened since then.
"Not today. It is important that I go alone. you must remain with your Uncle James for now." Jonn headed for the stairs without another word.
William waited by a window until his father appeared in the courtyard below. One of the grooms was holding his horse. He watched as his father mounted and rode away around a corner and was gone
James kept an eye on William and reflected that the last time he saw William, the boy was five and he loved him then with a frightening intensity. Now, eleven years later; long after he had forgotten, James felt that love return. He beheld this young man before him and thought he would never love anyone as fiercely. "There is a greater glory in that soul than resides in the father," James said to Batholomew in a whisper, "It is a power surpassing even the grand splendor of the Paladin."
Bartholomew put his hand on James' back. "He will be a great responsibilty."
James had never married nor had children. There had been no time. Now the Wizard would have a son and he would show him the true way through the crooked path of his destiny. His brother always said that fatherhood, "was his best work." James now understood why it was so difficult for him to give the boy up.
William turned from the window and took a few steps toward James, he looked up into his Uncle's eyes. "I think I now may be ready to join you on your travels even should they lead to the ends of the world."
James put his hand on William's shoulder affectionately, "I thought you might."
Meanwhile, Jonn hurried down the stairs of the Royal Inn at Drummond Hill and was about to enter the courtyard when he heard a voice behind him, it was Rose the hotel receptionist.
"Father, Father Jonn," she called. "I have a message for you." Rose handed him an envelope closed with red wax. Jonn recognized the imprinted seal, it was from an old friend, Admiral Peter. The admiral was legend for his long voyages into the unknown and he was often accompanied by Jonn's brother the Wizard.
It read, "Come see me, urgent," that was all. "News travels fast in this city," thought Jonn. He had been counting on it.
"Thank you, Rose," and with that said Jonn strode out the back door and onto the courtyard. He could see the Birch lined boulevard that marked the center of the city. He mounted his horse and took a moment to take in the summer air and the beauty of the square. The streets were clean and the buildings neatly stacked one next to the other. It was an easy city to fall in love with.
He rode out from thr Drummond and down through the three gates and out to the docks. The "Docks" comprised a large fishy village surrounding a deep water lake just south of the walled city and there a hundred ships or more were anchored. The lake provided a safe harbor from the fast flowing river and was the reason Inari-Anar was built here on the high ground.
Jonn knew where he was going, he left his horse in front of the imaginatively named "Sailors cove", a long-standing food and drink establishment, a favorite of Jonn's friend Peter, the Admiral.
Once inside the door, Jonn looked about the crowded bar and saw that the dust had not changed since he was here last. The rough wood walls were decorated and built with the parts of wrecked and broken ships. An entire boat sat in the middle of the place and served as a bar. Lunch time had the pub filled with fishermen and traders. Inari-Anar was a city of traders and it is trading that made the city work; down-river furs and iron were in high demand and very profitable.
The tall priest's entrance started a small commotion as the patrons jostled to get in a word and shake his hand. Jonn was remembered by some for maybe being famous but no one knew what for and only a very few called him by his name; after many years memories fade.
Sitting in his favorite dark corner was the Admiral wearing a large captain's coat, black without decoration, it had wide lapels and a tall collar folded down. A tri-corner hat sat on a table next to a bottle of wine and two glasses. His cheerful face was scarred down the left side.The scar was complimented by a trendy eye-patch with a sailing ship embroidered on it.
Jonn could not quite stand up straight due to the low ceiling, so he walked slightly stooped to where Peter sat and pulled up a chair.
"Peter, it is good to see you. But you seem overdressed for this warm day."
"Aye, Father, I am glad to see you also and you should know I don't go anywhere without a coat and hat, how would you recognize me otherwise."
"And how did you know I was Inari-Anar?" Jonn inquired.
"When I docked here the first thing I did was go up to the Drummond looking for your brother the Wizard. He was not there but Bartholomew told me you were having a family meeting sometime this month. I made it my business to be here for the entire moon if necessary and my midshipmen are watching the hotel. You were spotted this morning wearing your priestly vestments. You can't be missed dressed as you are. I am assuming you are publicly announcing your presence."
John nodded. "I am in need of friends. The days have grown dangerous."
"Yes, I thought that might be the case. I'm glad we are together this day and it is not a moment too soon. All the news is bad."
Peter looked around the room to see if anyone was listening. All the long windows were opened outward and held up by wooden poles. Many of the indoor diners were standing at the window sills talking to patrons outside which added to the bustle and noise of the establishment. Nearby a group of sailors were singing loudly and badly at one table. Peter and Jonn would not be overheard in all the noise..
"Is that your lot singing?" asked Jonn.
"Yes indeed, some of my best men," answered Peter, " I don't go about alone these days and neither should you. Listen to this."
"I'll start at the beginning."
"Some four weeks and a few days ago I was downriver at the Imperial Harbor and received orders to immediately come before King Clarence. When I arrived in His Majesty's presence Clarence told me that Crown Prince Harold had been kidnapped right out of the King's own forest in protected land. The bunch that did this must have been experts to pull that off. The purposes and identities of his abductors are completely unknown which only makes things worse. The King knows his son may be dead already. I arrived here last week on my swiftest galley, the Osprey, and I have had my crew patrolling the local forest paths on the chance the Prince's abductors are headed this way overland, if they are I should be ahead of them. I have hope in my heart that Harold is still alive. "
Jonn waved a hand across his face as if he were brushing away the evil tidings, but more was to come as the Admiral continued.
"And... news has gotten its way to me that the city of Cairntarry has been attacked. Raiders came out of the East in many ships with more than a thousand soldiers. The militia fought them off... barely. According to the good citizens of the city these men did not speak the common tongue nor did they look like any men ever seen before. Their skins were of many different hues and their eyes were not blue as it is here everywhere in West Andor. I have never heard of such men but I believe this tale to be true. I believe these men are the Vendel."
Jonn replied, "Your speculation is quite correct. It was I who sent you the news of Cairntarry. I currently have three of the Vendel and the Mayor of Cairntarry as quests at my farm. These men carried with them the most amazing tale."
Now, Cairntarry is by most people's reckoning out in the middle of nowhere; which is indeed true.
A trip from the city to the civilized world entails a rough sea voyage south, sailing contrary to the current for four to six weeks before finally arriving at the Imperial Harbor. Going overland is impossible due to the barren nature of the landscape and away in the far distance there are mountains and bogs encircling the village which makes the way out or in, on foot, in any direction, simply impossible; nearly everyone was agreed on that.
However, this was not entirely accurate, there was an over-land route winding South-West to the the lands of Anari-Anar, a narrow and very secret way known to only a few. One of those who did know of its existence was Nestor, an iron worker by trade and the Mayor of the Village as appointed by Clarence the Highland King. Nestor lacks any education except for his trade-craft but he is a wise man and fair. He generally avoided interfering with people's affairs as much as possible and so is highly regarded.
It helped Nestor's reputation that he worked at smelting ore into iron, then through secret processes and arcane rituals the iron was made into steel. This was considered a high art by most and it required the aid of Wizards and Witches. Little did the craftsmen of Cairntarry know that they produced the finest steel tools, weapons, and armor that could be found anywhere, not just in West Andor but in all the world.
The entire city was devoted to metal working. Tall chimneys venting smoke were to be seen everywhere attached to long low buildings. A constant west wind blew most of the soot out to sea but Cairntarry could not be kept clean. It was a sooty but well made place with underground sewers and neat brick roads but mostly it was a place of secrets. The artisans here (magical and otherwise) did not share the intricacies of their skills with more than a apprentice or two. A stout wooden palisade surrounded the entire place, the better to keep the secrets in and outsiders out
One day, Nestor was wearing his heavy goggles and leather vest and pouring liquid metal into a mold when he heard a great uproar of voices outside his door. This was not a good moment for an uproar to occur and Nestor was not pleased. How-so-ever, he put down his tools and ran to see what was the matter.
Standing on his front porch he immediately saw the problem. Before him, three young men were roped together with their hands tied. Inexplicably, none of them had blue eyes and even more, 'un-normal,' one of them had black skin...and that was quite disturbing. The black one was not burnt, nor did he appear sick or injured. In fact, he appeared in good health and was a rather handsome young man in an odd sort of way.
Nestor was speechless, he had never heard of black people of any kind or black elves, nor black dwarves... not that he had ever seen a dwarf. Had Nestor ever met a dwarf he would no doubt be surprised at how much they had in common. But that is story for another day.
For the moment, he entertained the thought that this could be a case of too much exposure to the sun and elements. Then, after a bit of thinking Nestor realized how ridiculous a theory this was. The man was wearing his natural skin, there was no doubt about it. But then there were the eyes, they all had dark eyes in shades from green to brown, a thing quite unknown in all the lands that Nestor had ever heard of.
Still, the Mayor needed to think fast and say something. The wisdom of the mob was that this black man was a demon and that he and his two followers needed to be burned alive immediately. Nestor did not believe in executions in general and especially those done in a hurry but his citizens were badly frightened and in a bloodthirsty mood, this alarmed him mightily, besides, the city had never held an execution before. Nothing unusual ever happened in this town and his neighbors and friends weren't used to dealing with such foreign occurrences.
The only ships which came to this place were the kings ships and they always carried the same nondescript passengers and cargo. Cairntarry was a secret city whose where-a-bouts were known only to the King and a few trusted navigators. It was nestled nestled by a small bay in a narrow valley and was very hard to spot from sea unless one knew where to look along the mountainous shore line.
"Friends," Nestor yelled in his loudest booming voice, "Before we begin starting fires let me hear the tale of how these... MEN-- came to be at my front door."
This produced a long moment of silence quickly followed by a new uproar of various stories and some facts. Nestor soon pieced together enough information to realize these men were simply shipwrecked sailors blessed with the amazing good luck to wash up at the only inhabited place for hundreds of miles in either direction. The black man was no demon; rather, he must be very far from home thought Nestor. "They all must, by necessity, be far from home, what with their dark eyes and all."
Nestor was a trusting man and did not hear many rumors from the outside world. It never occurred to him that these men had been placed on his beach by men whose intentions were not good.
"My friends,this black man here is no demon, he comes from a whole nation of Black folks down in the far south. Now. There is nothing to be afraid of so go back to your work!"
"Why have we never heard of such people before. You haven't explained that!" yelled Gillis.
"Gillis, it's the nature o' foreigners to remain unknown until they arrive in the first place and of course they have a different look about them. The Elves are a bit odd to look at, but they are our friends. Are they not? And was there not a time when no one believed in Elves?"
Nestor did not know all this to be true, of course, but it sounded plausible and indeed it was closer to the truth than he realized. Besides, it made the townsfolk happy. The citizenry of Cairntarry generally trusted their mayor very much.
He quickly brought the men into his home and made them feel as welcome as he could. The one called Cornelius (The young black man) was clearly in charge, the other two, Linden and Able appeared deferential to him in all ways. It took a few weeks for the men to get over their suspicion that the executions had only been put off for a later time. Nestor put the men to work in his foundry and paid them the same rate as he paid his other workers and so the three strangers became a part of the community and quickly began to learn the language. They appeared very happy in Cairntarry and seemed to have no desire to go anywhere else. Still, they continued to appear worried for a long time.
And that would have been the end of it but unfortunately it was not. A dozen years or so passed and one evening in May strange sails appeared from the out of the mist on the horizon, beneath the sails a dozen or so odd looking ships were headed in the direction of Cairntarry. When the only black citizen of Cairntarry, Cornelius, arrived to take a look he was overcome with dread. He explained to those around him that these were the ships of his countrymen and In that country men such as Cornelius and his companions were slaves.
Nestor was working on a fine, delicate piece of armor with many moving parts; an armored glove he called an articulated gauntlet and at that moment he was rudely interrupted by a loud commotion rising up from outside his front door. Nestor did not like to be meddled with when working but he put down his tools and went to the door to see what was happening. He was the Mayor and it was his duty to look into such things.
Outside before his front porch was a crowd consisting of almost all of the villagers. In front of the crowd were Cornelius, Able, and Linden, the shipwrecked sailors. Cornelius, spoke first.
"Nestor! Slavers have come to take us away! I know these men... they are the Vendell and they will attack our town. We must run!."
The citizenary of Cairntarry all had heard the ancient tales of sea invaders called the Vendell but no one really believed such things. After much grumbling amongst the crowd Old Banky yelled out. "These men are our neighbors. We can't allow any strangers comin around here and kidnapin folks."
Nestor placed his large hands on his front porch railing and leaned his stout frame forward, there was a dangerous glint in the eyes of his broad, good face. "Now everyone just calm down for a moment. There's not going to be any slaving in Cairntarry or kidnapping. We will fight them if we must!"
All the townspeople cheered and roared their agreement.
Nestor did not fully understand all the facts of the matter but he knew the villagers would fight, whether he agreed with it or no, before they allowed pirates to cause harm to any of their people.
"Banky, go and ring the bell. Cornelious fetch my keys and open the armory. To arms! To arms! Arise Cairntarry!
Nestor walked over to the armory to watch Thomas and Richard, his brigade commanders, sort out the arming of the village. This maneuver was practiced twice a year, every year, so everyone knew what to do. Both Thomas and Richard had served in the kings navy so they knew a bit about winning battles.
A boy ran from the sea shore yelling ,"Long boats are on the beach!
Nestor cried, "Thomas take your brigade to the beach and stay on my right. Richard, you're with me we will go straight for them. Wizards and Witches pick your own ground."
Nestor led the militia through the East gate and down to the fishing village and there on the sand were marks where three boats had been but they were gone and could be seen rowing out to sea in the twilight, only a child was left on the beach, Millwork's nine-year-old son, Touly. The boy seemed to have been enchanted with the visitors.
A cold shiver of clarity ran through Nestor. "It's a trick!" He shouted. But it was all too late, their enemy had entered the city by the unguarded West gate and soon shouts and screams were heard.
A few Elderly Wizards and men at arms put up a gallent defense at the West gate. A wall of fire appeared as the enemy clambered over the wall and opened the gate from the inside. The East Wind then came in howling and blew the fire and hot embers toward the invaders. But the Wizards began to drop dead one by one from their exertions and their fires burned low, then in came the Vendell.
The Mayor of Cairntarry called his commanders to him. "There's nothing for it boys. The advantage is lost. We have to charge back into the village the way we came out. All together now, we will beat them with naught but courage and strength."
He turned and ran back up the road to the East gate. "Follow me!" Nestor roared to his small army of twelve hundred. All closed ranks and shoulder to shoulder they pressed through the city gate. Once inside they discovered a hundred men each wearing matching uniforms of blue with white shoulder capes and only a breastplate and helmet for protection. They were formed in two straight lines. These soldiers were musketeers each armed with a pistol and a heavy long barreled musket called a arquebus each equipped with a fork rest for accuracy.
The musketeers fired two volleys at the approaching barbarians but to their dismay, most of their shot bounced off the Cairntarry armor.The village militia quickly closed the distance to their enemy and hacked at them with their war hammers and long axes. The musketeers drew their swords and fought bravely; these were clearly disciplined veterans but they were hopelessly outclassed by the heavily armored Cairn-tarrians and the musketeers broke and ran.
But the next line of the enemy the army of Cairntarry ran into were men-at-arms wearing heavy armor and carrying swords, flails, and maces... trained killers. Despite their superior numbers, arms and armor, the Cairn-tarrians suffered from a lack of experience. None had actually used a weapon in anger, they had all enjoyed peaceful lives for generations.
The battle grew confused as it went on through the night, every side seemed to have the other side surrounded and all sides fought valiantly from street to street. The Vendell took a terrific beating. They had never encountered long bows before and the arrows of this weapon.caused much damage. The Cairn-tarrians soon gained a rough respect for their enemy. They were surprised to find that their opponents fought honorably. Civilians ran to and fro among the combatants but none were harmed: at least not on purpose. Prisoners were taken and the wounded found themselves tended to by friend and foe. Brave counter attacks were followed by determined assaults.
Old Banky stood in the middle of one street, his wizards staff whirling about his head summoning forth a rain which instantly froze upon anything it touched. A whole company of the Vendell found themselves frozen in their tracks choking to death on a murderous fume emanating from the mighty Wizards staff. When at last Banky was surrounded by his enemies they poured arrows into the spot where it was guessed he stood but when the smoke ceased he could not be found.
Neither side could find an advantage and all soon learned theirs enemies strengths and weaknesses, by first light all were too exhausted to fight anymore. The raiders were last seen rowing for their great ships but not before they set free those who were taken captive. Considering the reputation of the mythical Vendel this was a most unexpected act of chivalry.
However, missing were Nestor, Cornelius, Able, and Linden. They were not among the dead and the mystery of their disappearance concerned the townsfolk greatly.
However Nestor's wife knew where the men were. Nestor had spirited them out of the battle and had secretly lead them out of town amidst all the confusion.
So it was that Nestor found himself outside the city hole up in a emergency storage cellar. "You are not safe here," Said Nestor to his companions. "I don't rightly know where you will be safe. However, in the event of disturbing events such as these I have been instructed by the King to contact him directly. So that is where we are going. We will go see one of the King's greatest Knights, who is a friend of mine. He will know what to do. Yes, that's it! We will go see Sir Jonn."
"Your King wants to see us!?" said Cornelius.
"Indeed, I suspect he has been looking for you for a long time now. Not you personally, of course.
I have suspected from the begining that you are Vedell."
The eyes of the three sailors went wide and there was a shocked silence.
Cornelius kept his eye locked on Nestor's face. He wondered, "What did this good man know?" Cornelius had come to both love and respect this simple illiterate man who with no formal education was the wise Mayor of a thriving city.
Cornelius spoke, "I have a confession. It is hard to speak it but now I must. We are spies placed purposely on your shore to learn all we could of the nature and work of your people."
"Nestor, you cannot leave now, your wife and children are out there and we are not worthy of your protection or care".
Nestor replied, his voice was sad and quiet, "my first duty is to King Clarence, he is as good a king as anyone has ever had. I accepted this responsibility when the King, himself, came to Cairntarry and put his hand on my shoulder. He said he needed me. Said he trusted me."
"I saw my family only minutes ago. Told my wife I had to see you three to safety, told her it was the Kings business. And that woman, with five children in her care, summoned forth the courage of her fathers and told me to go. Not a tear in her brave eyes. Told me to go and not look back. My three boys each had a sword in their hand and Carl is only thirteen."
Nestor stared into the walls around him. When he turned back to the three men Nestor had a determined smile on his face.
The journey that I recommend is epic and magnificent, you will know beauty and freedom in a manner known to very few men. The journey is long but do not worry I know the way and we are hail and hearty.
Able spoke up, "But, Sir, we being sailors, we knows nothing else. How wills'-we survive ah journey ov-the-land for so long ah time?"
"There is a magic in the woods and I will show it to you. In time you will learn how to wield it and then the forest, the lakes, and the rivers will provide you with everything you will need.The wilderness will become your friend and not your enemy. "
"I didn't know that path still existed." Said Admiral Peter, "It is indeed fortunate that these men fell into your care after surviving such a hard journey. This Nestor must be a remarkable man. Jonn, I'm worried, reports of strange sails on our horizons have recently become more numerous than ever. Clearly the rumors of the Vendel are more valid than I expected. We may be facing an invasion."
Jonn was sitting with his head in his hand when he looked up at his friend. He kept his voice low but there was anger behind his words. "Finding the Prince is our first concern, we cannot abandon him to go chasing shadows in the dark. Is there any evidence where the brigands are headed?"
"The King's Scouts followed their trail North for more than one hundred miles before it was lost in the foot-hills. If they stay to their course these men they could be here any day now... if this city is indeed their destination
"I must be off to see Ean. The Lord Mayor will need this news. I will ask him for every man he can spare to patrol the woodland. Peter, I need you and your men here at the Docks, keep your arms and cannon at the ready. Go find what friends you can trust and have them make ready also."
"I'll see it done Jonn."
"Well, I will be off then, Admiral. You can send any messages for me to the Drummond. We will need to meet again soon.
"Good Luck Sir Jonn." Peter responded.