Throndville by Night, or Josef's Account of Dance of the Dead Part I
By Josef Olsen
It all started well enough, with a roasted suckling pig on a bed of potatoes and sauerkraut, followed by ample quantities of ale and herbal digestive. I was still in that “Raging Boar” Inn in the village of Doryn, waiting for the band of the rune bearers to reunite. With me was my old buddy Stolz the dwarven fighting machine, Audrey Five-Fingers the halfling thief, Varg Kon, the dwarf with the big mouth, and Liam Grimsson, the druid with the, well, heritage issues.
Doryn had been finally good for some shopping, that old bugger from the general store had gotten the masterwork climber’s kit I have ordered several weeks ago. Always gave me excuses about the war and all, and now that the item finally was in stock he robbed me blind for it. 200 Gold! Think of how much that is in ale and suckling pigs!
Anyway, I need that kit if I want to climb in my heavy armor, so I paid him in cash. Hope he gets robbed.
We were just starting to really dig into that kraut – well except for Stolz with his Ring of Sustenance – when two elves arrived on scene. One of them was dressed up all like you expect an elf to dress, leather armor, longbow strung on his back, long hair with the occasional twig stuck into it, you get the picture. The other however was wearing something resembling a blood and gore-spattered mage’s robe that looked like he took it off some dead guy. It didn’t
even fit, and with a robe, that is not that much of a challenge normally! He did however sport a ruby amulet and some awesome looking staff, and Audrey, Stolz and the others recognized him.
Anyway, we invited them to our table where they started to quarrel about who could get the apple out of the pig’s snout.
Just then, a messenger of the local duke, Lord Arno Baroghast, appeared. Lord Baroghast was the one who sent us on the Burning Sage quest, which turned out to be hugely profitable both in terms of knowledge as in terms of gold, so I immediately agreed to meet him in his tower at dusk, and we invited the two elves to join us. Their names, I learned, were Aramelle and Lavanth, and they had just arrived from Mirabar, where Aramelle had been fighting alongside
Audrey, Liam and Varg Kon against the attacking Uthgardt.
On second look, Lavanth, whose name reminds me of a brand of soap I used to buy when I went to the bathhouse in Baldur’s Gate, was not that average of an elf, he seems to have an awful lot of burn scars on his body, and kept mumbling about his honor and how he could get it back. There must be some story behind this, but this is nothing I would ask a man I just met. I am sure he will share this when he thinks the time has come. Eventually, they all do.
There was just one hour left before dusk, and the way this elf Aramelle looked made it impossible for me to appear in court with him. We made haste to the marketplace, and started to look for something he could put on – but him being a wizard, he started to rummage around a scroll sales booth looking for new spells, instead of the much more urgent change of clothes. We did finally manage to convince him to buy at least a humble artisan’s outfit, and he also took
some scrolls back. After we found a potion stall and had bought up all their potions of healing, a guard of his Lordship already arrived to remind us of time. Varg Kon and Liam decided to stay behind and finish the rest of the pig and ale.
Lord Baroghast was in a sour mood as his fiefdom also had suffered from the recent war with the barbarians, and he didn’t make many words. He told us that his vassal, Baron Talluth of the barony of Throndville, has recently not replied to any communication. He had send one of his men, a soldier-turned-hunter named Torian, a fortnight ago to investigate, but this man also has not sent word. There was rumor of a curse or something. Now he asked us to investigate.
This is when things went downhill… to think Aramelle’s outfit could be the source of any social gaffe was really looking in the wrong direction!
Lord Baroghast is a powerful nobleman around here, and as such he is somehow used to people obeying his wishes. I would anyway, as this seems a quest worthy of a Seeker of Oghmas attention, but understandably our more money-minded fellows asked for a reward. His Lordship refused, insisting that the reward had to come from Baron Talluth’s coffers, which seemed rather reasonable to me given that Baron Talluth is said to run a pretty profitable barony.
Lavanth however flew into a rage how this nobleman could just ask him to do his bidding, without a reward and without even “pretty please with sugar on top”.
You are used to some clumsiness in elven social interaction with humans, but Lavanth proved to be the blind among the one-eyed men… even worse than Torn Paiso. We could barely stop him from having a go at His Lordship right there and then and dragged him off, but as soon as we had left the tower he spat on the floor and cursed and insulted Lord Arndor loudly. Not surprisingly the guards didn’t take well to that, drew steel and demanded an apology. As this was not forthcoming they attacked!
I was well in the mood to just let this fool die, but being the diplomat I am, I stepped in and apologized on his behalf.
The guards held their blows, and we were unceremoniously kicked out of Doryn. They threw rotten fruit at us and shouted abuse. Street urchins pulled down their pants and showed us their ass cracks, the whole program. I have never been humiliated like this before in my life, and I am not going to forget who I owe this to. Doryn as a base of retreat is
history, and it is this moron’s fault.
The day ended with us crossing the river by ferryboat and making camp on the other side, out of sight of the jeering and cursing citizens on the walls of Doryn. We decided to let Lavanth stick around for now, hoping he could be of some use in the wilderness at least.
The trip to Throndville
Throndwill is a long and stretched valley in the mountain range to the south of Doryn, and we needed a few days to reach it. Nothing much happened on the way except an attack of wolves during one of our nights in the forest – we fought them off with ease, and as some of them were magically put to sleep, not killed, Lavanth did the elven forest guy thing and set them free in the wilderness instead of putting them down. He seems more at ease with animals then humans. Big surprise.
During this trip, we really had an easy time with the night watches – and I got a lot of my beauty sleep. After all, Stolz with his Ring of Sustenance barely needs to sleep at all, and the elves also seem to need only a few hours. Yeah, they need a hundred years until their voice breaks, but in the night they are really quick sleepers.
After a few boring days of riding I got really, really fed up with rations and sleeping on tree roots and my hurting ass and all that crap. Luckily we passed into the valley of Throndville and found the first village under Baron Talluth’s rule, a tiny speck of settlement called Thun. Of course there were no facilities whatsoever, no inn, no temple, no bathhouse or brothel, but we made the best of it! We invited all villagers to a big feast, paid for everything and had
a jolly good time with them.
One of the men there was a refugee of the city of Thrond, where the House of Talluth resides, and he told us some more about the curse that had supposedly befallen them. It seems that a few weeks ago folks started to go missing in the night, three nights in a row, and nobody could find them. After that it got worse: Animated skeletons appeared, dressed in the livery of the House of Talluth, and starting dragging more people off. By the time this poor guy saved his soul, it seems there were few citizens left alive! He said a big group of would-be heroes tried to storm the castle to save the Baroness Gudrun, heiress of the recently deceased Baron. They didn’t make it, and got slaughtered by skeletons guarding the castle.
Now, horrible to imagine, he says the skeletons are dancing in the streets of Thrond every night, forming a twisted parody of a parade. If there was ever doubt in me that this mission is worthy of my attention, this doubt is gone now.
I gotta watch this party. And then end it.
We also received confirmation that he hunter Torian went through here, and didn’t return. There wasn’t much else to be learnt from the citizens, who seemed to answer every second question with “alas, we are just simple folk!”, so we went to sleep in the barn – which is only minimally better then a tent – and went our way in the morning.
On the way to the next village we met a bird trapper named Tamino, which Audrey bought a falcon of. He couldn’t tell us much more of interest except warning us of a “Sir Waltherus” who would guard the road a little way down and demand a road toll.
The second village on the way was called Chur, and it was pretty much a repeat of the first, we partied with the folks, confirmed Taurian went through, and slept in their barn. There was still no temple, just a small shrine of Ilmater who is the deity of most of the locals here.
We had barely left Chur, when we saw something like a huge suit of armor coming down the road – Sir Waltherus, presumably. He turned out to be a rather big and smelly ogre, acting like he owned the place and asking us for a road toll. We were offering cash, but he demanded Audrey’s cloak instead – and after I told him some bull about Audrey having the pox and so on, he settled on my holy symbol instead.
Now that was pretty much the end of diplomacy. I mean, he could have also asked for my left testicle, which cleric would hand over his holy symbol to a bandit? It came as it had to, weapons were drawn, and Stolz, Lavanth and me formed a battle line in the road to stop the ogre, while Audrey and Aramelle were skirmishing. And hard he was to stop! Obviously my refusal had seriously enraged him, he focused his blows on me and hit me so badly and twice, that I went down and had to let the others finish him off. To honor the truth, I even played dead in order to get out of there. What a brute!
Luckily, the group finished him, and while I was sitting around praying to Oghma to heal my wounds, Stolz found a sack of Gold behind a rock. We left Sir Waltherus unconscious and unarmed, but alive, to face his fate.
The next village was called Bregentz, it was slightly larger than the ones before, but still had nothing of note. I bought a chicken to make a sacrifice to Ilmater to thank her for my survival of the ogre rage, and prayed to Oghma too, who is always with me, even with no shrine or temple around. Villagers here were much more on edge then in the two villages before, they knew something was amiss in Thrond and didn’t go there anymore. They repeated stories of undead.
They also told us about a “Wild Man” in the forest, a savage creature, half man, half beast, preying off lost wanderers and stealing little children in the night. Lavanth was all ears about this, as he seemed to sense a kindred spirit.
Before long he took his leave, wandering alone into the forest, I can just assume that he was trying to find this Wild Man. He was back in the morning, though, I don’t know if they met but I will assume they didn’t.
While Lavanth was out, Stolz found this little box in his backpack, that he was carrying unopened since Obsidian Keep. We had a good laugh about it, and he asked Audrey to open it. This was obviously a challenge, even for the small and nimble fingers of the halfling! There was a nasty poisoned trap, which Audrey set off several times, the second time being hit by a poisoned needle. I immediately invoked a spell to slow poison but he was already weakened by it. It took many more tries to open it, but somewhere around midnight it was finally done. 300 Silver and a
Potion of Firebreath were inside, which Aramelle identified. Why do they never label these things? I mean, what if they get into the wrong hands!
The next day, we set off on foot, after I had convinced my fellow travelers to leave the horses and carriage in the village. Horses, after all, don’t react well to undead, and we were just half a day away from Thrond now. Out in the forest, we ran into a fur trapper named Gultrom, and then, as expected, into the Wild Man himself. He looked like a mentally retarded beggar dressed in rags and with his hair matted down by dirt, and smelled like the sewers of Luskan after a week without rain, but still Lavanth tried what he could to greet him and socialize. That didn’t really lead anywhere, though, so we went our way.
Anyway, as sure as night follows after day, we put up camp and there he was again, the Wild Man, screaming some desperately wild stuff and turning into a damn Werewolf before our very eyes. This was the toughest fight we had so far, this monster was barely hurt by anything we attacked him with! Audrey gave a silver dagger to Lavanth which did work to hurt him, but he knew this and focused his attacks on Lavanth who barely got a hit in after this, as he was repeatedly thrown to the ground.
Meanwhile, Audrey and Stolz were putting enough hits into the monster to kill half an army of orcs, and Aramelle pelted it with magic, but it didn’t fall. I hesitantly quaffed the Potion of Firebreath , which Audrey had quickly given me before, and managed to, well, blow him twice. All together worked to bring him down somehow, I do not really remember if Audrey or Stolz got in the killing blow, but I do remember very clearly that I cremated the body afterwards. It took a day to get rid of this taste of cinnamon. We wondered if this monster may have a lair with
treasure somewhere, but how to find it? We didn’t actually try. Maybe we can search on the way back.
Finally we reached a hillside a few miles out of the city of Thrond, and rested there to tend our wounds and regain our magic. In the early morning, we walked towards the city and found the fields around still being tended – by skeletons! The undead did not attack us, even as Stolz and me went very close up to examine them. They went about their business, and that seemed to be to bring in the harvest. Very unusual, who should this food feed?
The gates of the city were wide open, and even with skeletons in uniform and with weapons there, nobody stopped us from entering. In fact, none of the skeletons reacted to us in any way. As we knew that skeletons can best be smashed to pieces with blunt weapons, we went to the marketplace to pick up some more of them. We didn’t find a smithy at first, but we found a woman with her two daughters, hiding in a house and scared out of her mind. She explained how people had been vanishing constantly, and how she and her daughters (one was 12, one 15) stayed
behind because of the stubbornness of the father. She clearly described that after the initial three days the people had all been abducted by the skeletons itself – in the liveree of the family of Talluth. They have been brought to the castle, where they are supposedly turned into more skeletons. Now, I really started to wonder, what if the baroness Gudrun is
not really a victim in this, but actually the culprit? Maybe she is building herself an undead little empire, and is still harvesting the food to export it, or maybe she has a small group of living allies she needs to feed. What an idea! I asked the woman if the baroness or her father studied magic, but she didn’t know.
Then the daughters showed, and oh, I was taken. Especially the older one was a beauty, a fact that was enhanced by her pale face, which showed some fear but no panic. Her nipples, hard as rock from the excitement of the situation, poked through her simple dress… I had to catch myself and quickly took action to ask them where their father was. To my big surprise and dismay, they were all too ready to abandon him! They said he was in the fields, and would not
come anyway. I reminded the woman of her oath of holy matrimony; she even cried but still insisted to leave with only her daughters. Well, so we brought them out of town, and I hope to see them again in Bregentz, where they would head to.
Before we let them go, we asked them to show us to the smithy, and everyone picked up some blunt weapons. Lavanth looked like a drummer with his two light maces, but they will do, once we fight the skeletons. We then decided to leave the keep and the local wizard (yeah, there is supposed to be a wizard living outside of town) for later, and clean out the church of Ilmater first. My initial hope to find someone living maybe holed up in the church was fading, when we
found it locked from outside. And indeed, inside everything was destroyed and looted, and there were two wights waiting for us, walking corpses of rotting flesh. I made one cower in the corner by showing him the awesomeness of Oghma, and we killed the other without getting hurt ourselves. When we cleaned the first one up however, Lavanth was hurt, but it seems Aramelle had a potion ready to bring back his lost life energy.
In the church we found absolutely nothing, the place had been thoroughly looted, and even the graveyard was empty – even of bodies I presume. The decoration showed three symbols on great tablets, a lion, a falcon, and the word Honor with a sword and a scroll depicted. I would assume the lion is the family animal of the house of Talluth, as their ancestor was Baron Renhard the Lion, but we didn’t figure out what the other symbols mean.
Anyway. The question is where we go next… there will be a party tonight, which I don’t want to miss at any price.
And I have a strong feeling the hostess is the local baroness.