WORK IN PROGRESS…
The finals for the B class entries began with the Specialized Fighter finals: the cavalier Earl of Granrud, Vetnik Talthraudii versus Moira Steelshaper, holy paladin of Cortox. Before exiting the pen, Moira smiled and wished Vetnik luck. Deep down, she believed his affection for her as revealed in a letter to her in Greyhawk would outweigh his desire to win. It then surprised her that, when in the arena, he launched into her with all the might and fury of a born-and-bred barbarian! It was simply no contest and Vetnik brought the duel to a swift and surprising end. The interest of the crowd was arrested by the quick round, and their cheers for Vetnik’s victory and cries to see more of the competition surged through Vetnik, who spent a moment to take it all in. Seeing his companion struggled to rise to her feet was a sobering sight, and Vetnik quickly rushed to her side to assist her.
“I’m all right, thank you friend,” Moira said, gently pushing him away as she excused herself back to the pens. Vetnik then knew his mistake. Lyssa watched from the sidelines, embarrassed for Moira but almost relieved at the sight of Vetnik’s disposition despite winning his title. He stood in the arena and struggled to keep Moira in view before the flood of cheering volunteers rushed to magically mend him and announce his victory. As the officials raised his arms in the air for victory, Vetnik looked back towards the pens and saw the defeated paladin collect her things silently, and return to the rest of the party. Never before had a victor had such a dissatisfied look upon his face.
Next up were the Multiclass contests. Grum (under an assumed alias) was pitted against a human thief/fighter named Rodor Ironknife who fought with dual short swords. Their battle was a tense one that held the audience on the blade’s edge. By the slimmest margin, Grum walked away the victor in the combat portion of the duel! In the skills portion, Grum won upsets in several categories where Rodor was heavily favored, cementing Grum’s title as the winner of the B class. Grum exhaled a sigh of relief. The contest was far too close for his comfort.
Priests followed, and after facing down a Dwarven devotee of Thor and a brown and green robed priest of Ulaa, Armod Steinson, Trisoll faced his last challenger of the division. His opponent was a human priest of Saint Cuthbert named Aldred Helmhew. Dressed in dark green robes, Aldred bore the golden starburst sigil of his deity and carried into the arena with him the traditional golden mace of his priesthood. Prior to entering the arena, Trisoll had a conversation with his opponent in the pen that gave him an idea. Trisoll had told Aldred he wished that the priest of St. Cuthbert could “see the light”. After sidestepping Aldred’s initial attack, Trisoll cast Continual Light on the eyes of the priest and blinded him — an inspired move that roused the crowd to the edge of their seats! Before Aldred could intone a prayer curing the condition, Trisoll cast Silence on him and stifled the priest’s very voice. He finished off his blind and mute opponent by summoning a Spiritual Hammer which delivered a crushing mystical blow to his opponent. Trisoll was victorious the B class for Priests and Clerics. He helped his opponent off the ground and patted them on the shoulder as a show of good sportsmanship before being carted out of the arena to cheers. Unlike his barbarian companion, Trisoll lapped the praise up and waved to the adoring audience with much delight.
Next, the crowd and party watched as Lyssa prepared for the final round of her division. Her opponent was a stoic mage covered in ornately-trimmed grey robes. Iban the Grey was quiet as he entered the arena, and bore neither staff nor rod. Made anxious by the intense magic she could feel vibrating throughout the arena from the composed mage, Lyssa quickly (and nervously) dispatched an Irritation spell. The crowd muttered to themselves at the unconventional move, which found Iban spending his turn itching furiously at his lower back. Some even chuckled and jeered at the young wild mage. “What does she think she’s doing?!” one attendee said to their party, while another others cries out “Get on with it! We came to see some magic!” Lyssa did her best to block out the comments, but if they wanted a show she would give it to them! She raised her arm and pointed at Iban, who had scratched himself clean of the magical affliction, and summoned at her side another flame arrow which she sent hurtling towards the grey mage. While there was impact, Iban stood defiant, his robes billowing as the flames fell to the ground around him. Iban’s composed expression broke and with a furrowed brow he opened his palm up and within it Lyssa could see a swirling orb of cool, snow-flecked air. Suddenly, a chill went up Lyssa’s spine and goosebumps populated her skin, and as she exhaled, she noticed she could see her breath. Shivering, Lyssa looked around but saw no visible disturbance that could account for the sudden change of temperature. Lyssa looked back towards Iban and their eyes met; as a sudden and brief flash of red flickered in his eyes, Iban forcefully closed his fist and appeared to extinguish the swirling air in his palm. A small piece of hail fell from the sky above and bounced off her shoulder. Before she could properly look to the skies, an even larger hailstone rocketed from the sky and crashed down against her skull. Iban stood silently with closed fist as more and more hailstones rained down upon the unsuspecting mage. He watched and she cowered and collapsed to the ground as his spell continued to rain down pellets of ice upon her back and knees. As the Ice Storm calmed, Lyssa managed to regain her composure. With furiously burning eyes she reached out her hand and hurled one of Melf’s Minute Meteors. The flaming orb zipped through the air but missed its target, exploding only feet away from Iban (who did his best to shield himself from the blast.) As Iban lowered his robed arm from down around his face he saw a fearsome sight: Lyssa’s arms engulfed in magical fire. With a sharp war cry, she let loose a jet of flame that swallowed the grey mage whole. As she withdrew the fires, his body collapsed unconscious to the ground. Lyssa stood to a roaring cheer from the audience. Officials from the games rushed in to both cart the fallen and smoking Iban out of the arena, and to rush the battered Lyssa to the winner’s circle! Lyssa limped beside them with an expression of confusion mixed with embarrassment.
The penultimate contest was devoted to the Bards, long known to be a crowd favorite event. Thom (as Dim Razor) went up against Hawk Osricsson, a human Bard who carried with him a beautiful and delicately-crafted small harp. Skills were first and Hawk, though human, sang an Elvish ballad so beautiful and stirring that the whole crowd was hushed by the song of reverence. Always the entertainer, Dim Razor took the opposite plan and came out with a thunderous anthem that broke the crowd from their whispered tones and got the crowd clapping and stomping along. Winner: Dim Razor! Hawk was none too pleased since his talents were in music, not combat. Hawk began the combat round with a lucky break from Thom’s defensive blade spin, but the battle was to only slump downhill for the human bard as Thom managed to land two critical hits. His first was in mid-battle, where he injured Hawk’s arm into uselessness. Before Hawk could fully recover, Thom let loose with the butt of his blade and delivered a concussive blow to the Bard’s head. The crowd cheered the name Dim Razor as Thom took his place as winner of the B Class Bards. Thom triumphantly banged his drums and kept the crowd arrested to his beat as he trotted out of the arena and back to meet with his friends.
After the main event of the evening, the finals of the Fighters, there took place a ceremony presided over by Warian Greenshield where all winners from each of the three classes were each presented with 2,000 gold pieces. Spellcasters spiced up the ceremony with small magical cantrips, fireworks, and color displays as the carnival performers outside of the stadium performed. The declaration of cross-class challenges followed. The winner of the C class division, a _________ named __________ stepped to Ventik and issued a challenge. Ventik, who had been feeling nothing but terrible since his “victory” over Moira, took the opportunity to take the challenger to task by venting a bit of frustration and showing everyone in attendance what a barbarian could do. The crowd roared as Vetnik defeated the ________ with merciless precision, winning an additional 2,000 gold. Alas, as he walked victorious from the arena, the high of victory seemed to escape him. There was no solace in his victory. Moira’s impassioned smile was no longer there to greet him, and as he returned to his party, the sting of his win over Moira only seemed to burn even more.
The only B to A challenge was issued by Slean Beechbranch to A class winner Fisk Moonford. The contest started with combat, with skills to follow. In the midst of combat, Slean leaned in close to Fisk as he appeared to whisper something in his ear. Slean underhandedly drove his blade through Fisk’s heart, killing him instantly. The crowd composed not only of men, but women and children alike, began to shriek in horror. This was an especially troubling act, as it appeared Slean had been able to breach the protective magics that dampened magical damage and prevented fatal physical damage from being done. “Oi! Where’s my gold?!” Slean cried out, no care given to his fallen opponent or to the mothers covering their children’s horrified eyes. When no move was made to pay him he grew more indignant. “Where is my coin? I know the rules…where’s my damn gold!” Two unnaturally large goons entered the field silently and placed their meaty hands upon Slean, dragging him out with little effort on their part Slean out. The crowd was arrested in a hush awe, with only Slean’s protests cutting through the silence.
A representative of Warian Greenshield visited all of the Bards and presented them with 50 pieces of platinum each to distract the crowd with music and performance while they did away with the corpse. Of the five recruited, only Dim Razor and the two bards he personally defeated (the half-elf lyrist Scur Tindagger and the other drummer, the female Yasha Twelvefingers) managed to keep up. The other two — the female Isidor of the Pale Ruins and the Tiger Nomad Shurik (of Hoscha) — fell behind the beat and departed the field to return their pay. The Bards succeeded in turning the mood, and the games concluded in a way that left the crowd feeling mostly positive about the season. As the attendees departed and the vendors packed up their goods, Thom was approached by a man who asked if he’d be interested in any after hours action. When asked about the company he keeps, he replied, “only my horses”.
The mystery man asked Thom to hang around until the crowds were all gone. “We’ll talk later,” the man said with a bit of a wink. Moments later, Grum was approached as well and asked the same question. Grum replied, “I’m with people.”
“I hope they’re not that cavalier and paladin that have yet to leave, because they are definitely not going to want to get in on this.”
Lyssa, meanwhile, stayed to herself in introspective contemplation. The first time adulation in such an explosively massive way felt overwhelming, and she spent her time trying to contain and process all of it. She did take notice to Moira and Vetnik from afar, ready to pounce on Vetnik should his interaction with Moira displease her in any way. Lyssa watched though, and saw the prince in what appeared to be low spirits. Lyssa kept herself at bay and continued to stand by in silence. Trisoll had other opinions on the weirdly celebration-less air. “For a bunch of winners, you’re all pretty dour right now!”
Their traveling companions from Raven’s Claw returned to meet with the party from Greyhawk, all collectively expressing their disappointment in not placing. “The next season’s games are ours for the taking!” Galrim exclaimed, trying to lift his own men’s spirits. They fully and heartily congratulated Trisoll, Vetnik, and Lyssa before seeking out the Black brothers with the same message: they represented the characteristics of Raven’s Claw with honor and that they should share the honor with whomever they feel deserves it. They said their goodbyes and set themselves back on the road onto new adventures.
The mysterious man from after the games stalked the fairgrounds once more looking for Dim Razor and (Grum’s assumed name) and after finding them, revealed to them the secret of the after-hours dark games. Gone would be the magical dampening fields in favor of an all-out, no holds barred bloodsport, where the winner who takes their fatal victory would receive tenfold their share of gold — graciously put up by more discreet thrill-seekers looking for action. The brothers took a moment to deliberate. Grum decided that he could not kill for money and declined. Thom also declined, but not out of moral objection, but apprehension for the suspicious nature of these so-called dark games (if such games existed and lacked all manner of rule and order, what was to stop the organizers from killing he and his friends despite winning or losing?) Lyssa was last approached by the sketchy man, but seeing the rest of the party packing their things and mounting their horses, decided to take the ride home.
No more than a mile out of town, the party was set upon by eight grizzled bandits hoping to relieve them of their winnings. Vetnik was first to act and wounded two separate thieves with the slashing of his longsword. Quite annoyed by the encounter, Lyssa lifted her hand and summoned a mighty Fireball, a spell that was conjured with such intensity that it burned all of the bandits and left them smoking in the road. Vetnik sheathed his blade and as he did so, turned back to Lyssa and tipped his helmet to her — a genuine act that only perplexed Lyssa even more.
Several days later on their journey back to Greyhawk, the party happened upon a grizzled man berating four young children picking small plants from the grasses. Seeing the disheveled children at the mercy of this man, Moira immediately stopped her horse and dismounted. “Vetnik?” she asked, turning towards the barbarian prince. He complied and the pair headed over. As they approached, Moira noticed a long, thin switch in the man’s belt with a well-worn handle. Turning towards the children, she could see not only filth but lashes up and down the backs of their little legs. The man, alerted by the sounds of armored boots, spun around.
“This doesn’t concern you, piss off!”
Vetnik grabbed the man without word or concern and wrenched his arm up behind his back.
Moira approached the children while Vetnik subdued the grizzled man. “What are you children doing out here? Has this man harmed you?” The children were dead eyed at first, but at the sight of Moira’s warm grace, they began to break down and huddled together in tears. It appeared the paladin’s fears were confirmed.
“Those is my children, you slag!” the grizzled man barked at Moira, whose eyes were a mix of pity and fury. Enraged by this, Lyssa too dismounted and left the Black brothers and Trisoll to their mounts. Vetnik wrenched the man’s arm harder at the sound of the insult, dislocating his shoulder and causing the man to cry out for mercy, “let me and my kids go!”
Lyssa strode past Vetnik and the grizzled man and with a wave of her hand, cast Blindness over him before moving towards Moira. “My eyes…My eyes, I can’t see! What have you done, you sodding witch!”
“Where are you children from?” Moira asked sweetly, kneeling down to their level with Lyssa looming behind. The children stayed cowered together, frightened and afraid to speak. “It’s alright, I promise you are safe now!” Moira assured. She removed her gauntlet and extended her hand to them. One child stepped forward.
“Beloth” he said in a shrunken, dry voice.
“And you don’t know who this man is?”
The child looked to his captor for approval, but seeing him incapacitated, quickly shook his head from side to side before retreating back to the other children.
“Thank you,” Moira replied, her voice cracking. Turning to Lyssa, she asked, “please watch them” and stomped her way towards Grum and his mount. “Do you have any rope?”
Grum shrugged and began to rummage through his bundle.
“We ought to just burn him and leave his sorry corpse.” Lyssa shouted out, keeping an awkward side-eye on the children (who seem both intimidated and fascinated by her.)
“Though he is despicable,” Moira began as she returned with Grum’s rope in hand, “it is not our place to act as his judge and executioner. That is what the law is for.”
As Moira approached Vetnik and the prisoner, Vetnik expressed his own dissatisfaction with Moira’s plan. “You heard it from the children’s mouths.”
“Our priority needs to be getting these children back to their homes.” Moira countered.
“Very well. Give me the rope… please,” Vetnik requested, to which Moira obliged. Moira returned to the children and she and Lyssa escorted them to the horses, where they rode with herself and Trisoll. The children held on tight as they made their way down the road. Vetnik kept to the back and spared the children the awful sight: Vetnik dragging the blinded slaver behind his armored horse, his arms bound to his torso and tied off to the rope, which Vetnik firmly kept at his side as he lead him down the road. The slaver whimpered and struggled to follow, his arms unable to help him keep balance while his sightless-ness only further hindered and humiliated him. “Let me… let me go please! I don’t have nothing else for you, take the kids, leave me here on the road!” The slaver’s cries for mercy only seemed to anger Vetnik more, who yanked at the rope at every protest.
Almost half a day later, the children had directed the party to their home village of Beloth. The village itself was a small hamlet with only a few huts and, at most, 8 families. As their horses entered the hamlet, villagers slowly crept out of their homes, and as they saw their tuckered children sleeping against the backs of the heroes, rushed towards them with tearful cries of thanks! As the women retrieved the children and ushered them into their homes, the men stood and graciously thanked the party. Soon after, their circle of thanks was interrupted by a wretched sight. Dragging him behind like a lame dog on a leash, Vetnik introduced the villagers to the man who had taken their children. Throwing down the pitiful slaver to the ground, the men of the village quickly drug him away shouting and cursing at him. “Bring back the rope when you’re done”, Vetnik called out as they pulled him away. Moments after he disappeared from view, one of the men returned with the rope and quickly returned to the mob of men. The villagers then offered what meager resources they had (food, water, shelter) but the party had plenty on their own and were ready to be home already. They give their final thanks and the party continued their journey home.
Days later just outside of Greyhawk, a drunk was seen stumbling down the road with wine-filled leather bota in hand. He glanced at Moira with uneven, beady red eyes and slurred out to her,“what’s a fit, sweet lass like you in all that armor?” Moira did her best to ignore him at first, but he persisted. “C’mere girlie, I’ve got something you can ride better than that horse of yours!”
“You are uncouth sir,” Moira replied with disgust and she quickly rode ahead. Wanting to deal further humiliation to the blathering wino, Lyssa slowed her pace and began to stare down the man. “What are ya looking at, ya waif?” Lyssa smiled and with a quick flash of her eyes, cast a terrifyingly potent Scare spell over him, leaving him behind a quivering mass on the side of the road.
Once back at Greyhawk, Lyssa was the first to depart. Leaving her horse in Trisoll’s care, she took her bag of winnings and headed back to her apartment for the evening. Vetnik escorted Moira back to her father’s house with Trisoll tagging along. At the doorstep of House Steelshaper, Moira turned to Vetnik and said quietly to him, “There is no fault here, you are a great warrior.”
“Thank you, I’m glad someone thinks so,” replied the cavalier before Moira made her way inside the house.
“So, what’s going on here?” asked Trisoll.
“Let’s go have a drink or several,” Vetnik replied.
“Well, ok!” the cleric heartily agreed.
The Black brothers made a first stop off at their shared home, stashing away their newly acquired riches. Grum remained in for the evening while Thom made his way to the bazaar after dark to spend some coin. After hours of perusal, he found a number of magical items for sale, though most were outside of his price range. He settled on a Horn of Fog, an Elixir of Youth, and a Potion of Heroism before heading home.
Vetnik and Trisoll made a stop at Pimpleton Manor to stable their horses and check in with Zemilay, who they learned was enjoying some alone time with his reunited love, Xanti. Vetnik left a note while Trisoll tried his best not to think about it and together they headed to the Dripping Blade (per Trisoll’s suggestion.) Trisoll explained that the tavern belonged to Thom and Grum’s mother, Lady Morgana Black, and that the place was much nicer inside then it might initially appear (though the outside was still much nicer than when the Lady Black acquired it). Inside, the pair indulged in four pints of ale each. While this was just enough to get Vetnik on the cusp of drunkenness, it was more than enough to get Trisoll fairly inebriated. During the course of this, the two had a conversation about Vetnik’s feelings for Moira and discussed possibly moving on in light of his defeating her at the Games. Trisoll in his slurred speech advised him to go with whatever he truly feels is right.
“If you want her, go after her! If not, well… I know plenty of girls who would fawn over a strapping knight like yourself!”
“No, not those kind of girls,” Vetnik replied, protesting the off-color suggestion. Vetnik, in his ale-laced state, continued to meditate on what it might be like to exploit his royal heritage in the quest to meet someone. With the night coming to an end for both men, Vetnik took the drunken cleric and carted him back towards Pimpleton Manor. Vetnik continued to ponder if whether or not his quest to win the hand and heart of the pure-of-heart Steelshaper girl was a vain one, all the while doing his best to reign his friend in from drunkenly engaging with other nightowls in slurred, jovial pleasantries.