Peribold And Hornsby

Session 8
Where and When the Secret Lies

When the trio arrive at the dock, Esther immediately begins casting her scrying spell. The spell is very difficult to cast when the object in question is not personally known to the scrying mage, and there is no guarantee that the book is even in range. Against the odds, Esther manages to determine that the book is in fact nearby—but a mile away, directly into the lake. They assume it is being smuggled away on a boat and, acting quickly, Hornsby barters with a boat captain in the process of departing. For a rate somewhat inflated by the poorly-disguised urgency of their task, the three are given passage to the retreating vessel. They choose well, as their ferryman is able to quickly overtake the alleged smugglers.

Pulling alongside the weathered cargo frigate Julietta, they are greeted by a row of salty, suspicious faces. Identifying one face as belonging to the captain, Hornsby makes his acquaintance. The man is named Angler Till, and he is clearly not at ease with their presence. However, Hornsby produces Ronald Gilt-hearth’s letter, which commands that any vessel must provide Peribold and Hornsby passage (and be later reimbursed by the Gilt-hearth shipping corporation). To gain access, Hornsby claims that the three of them seek passage to Whitecliff, a Southern town they correctly guess to be captain Till’s destination.

Having paid the other boatman for his services and climbed aboard as he departed, the three are instructed in harsh terms to keep above deck and stay out of everybody’s way. The captain, giving them a long look, realizes quickly that they are not simple scholars—these are mages, on his boat! This breeds an additional condition: there is to be no magic wrought while aboard his vessel. Esther surreptitiously breaks this rule moments later, and reports to Peribold and Hornsby that she can, in fact, detect that there is magic of a concealing nature in use somewhere below the deck.

Hornsby decides it is time to end the ruse, and confronts captain Till with their true purpose: namely, that they are in search of stolen goods which have been confirmed by magical means as aboard his ship. Hornsby demands to be given access to the cargo hold, so the goods can be located. The captain seems genuinely taken off guard, but quickly recovers and refuses them access to the hold. He asks by what authority they attempt to command him, and his bluff has a core of truth—by acting so quickly, the trio have found themselves far outside any place they might claim some feeble jurisdiction. Still, they are stubborn and demand again to be given access, claiming that they are working on behalf of the sheriff (a statement both true in sentiment and false in fact). Many harsh words are exchanged, and everyone feels themselves slowly drawn into the relentless undertow of armed conflict. It is a thing nobody appears to want, yet it seems unavoidable. The trio are clearly outnumbered and would likely all perish in the fight, but the sailors don’t know that. All they know is that they face three mages of unknown capacity and power, and there is no more capable bluff than a mage among the uninitiated. Finally, Hornsby tells captain Till that if he has nothing to hide, he will submit to a search from an authority he does respect: namely, the sheriff. The captain grudgingly agrees.

After a tense sail back to shore, the three depart the captain’s boat to retreive the sheriff. Almost immediately, the Julietta leaves the dock in a frigate’s equivalent of a mad dash. Hornsby, Peribold and Esther make their own mad dash to the harbormaster’s office, which shares its quarters with the local sheriff’s station. Inside, they quickly explain that at least one of the recently-reported stolen objects is aboard the rapidly-receding cargo vessel. The constables stationed at the harbor seem familiar with chasing down fleeing frigates, and assemble a crew of armed seaworthy men in less than half an hour. They all board the policing frigate Woodhide and bear down on Till’s wake.

It is not so easy a race as the first, now that Till and crew are aware of it. Still, the Woodhide is conspicuously free of cargo and rides much higher in the waves. It takes an hour, but they catch up to the Julietta and quickly board. There is another moment where it seems certain that blood will spill, but miraculously the crew of the Julietta recognizes their situation and stands down. The sailors are disarmed, and the three mages take center stage to perform their investigation. Preparing to go below deck and search the hold, Esther is caught off guard by a radiant magical signature in the pocket of the first mate. Asked what he’s carrying, the first mate turns white with fear and produces a small pouch containing magical berries. These berries are known to all mages, for they are of great utility: when consumed, they provide an additional reserve of magical energy for a couple of days. Highly sought and suitably rare (they come from magical groves such as the Green Tide), but also illegal to possess, the berries fetch a high price on the black market. Captain Till throws a smoldering glare at the first mate, who sheepishly says, “I thought if I only kept a little bit, they wouldn’t find it.”

The ranking constable addresses the captain, noting the illegality of the magic berries. Backing towards the edge of the boat, the captain says, “My crew knew nothing of the berries. I alone am to blame!” Then, twisting a ring on his finger, Till leaps overboard into the cool water. Rushing to peer over the rail, Hornsby watches the captain transform into a dolphin and swim quickly away towards Whitecliff.

This presents Hornsby with a puzzle. It seems as if the captain thought they were searching for an entirely different illegal cargo, one of which he seemed to be unaware. Had he not been smuggling the berries, he likely would have cooperated and been found blameless in the matter of the stolen book! There isn’t more than a moment’s consideration of pursuing the fleeing captain, and all agree it is a fool’s errand. Till vanishes beneath the horizon.

Tying up loose ends, the trio head into the hold and find a crate which is the source of the magic they originally detected. Bringing it above deck and prying it open, they find a rocking horse and no book: an illusion has been cast over the contents of the crate to make them appear otherwise. After a moment of careful work, they are able to break the illusion spell and find a parcel of several goods, all likely stolen. The missing book is among them. The crew, including the first mate, are clearly surprised by this revelation. Hornsby decides that the captain and his men were truly unaware of this secret cargo. But where did it come from? How was it spirited aboard? Was there any connection to the magic berries at all?

Returning to shore, the trio thank the constables for their help and leave them to process the remaining crew for their part in smuggling the berries. There is much to be done, and many threads to pull.

Session 7
The Utility of Mystery, the Mystery of Utility

This author will not lend his pen towards articulating the efforts involved in removing the felled ogre’s head from its noisome shoulders, except to note that ogres are not known for their graceful, slender necks; they are not known to possess them in any capacity.

The grisly task completed, a spare blanket is wrapped around the unctuous prize to form a sling for easier carrying. After a short rest, the party sets off on their way home to be rid of their charge and flush with coin at the soonest. It is decided that traveling along the Southern bank of the Portmouth will afford them a chance at securing passage on a passing merchant ship, money well spent if the opportunity arises.

A day later, the trio have travelled close enough that they can smell the river over the next rise, and are all set to scale it when four lupine, growling shapes appear above. Even silhouetted by the midmorning sun, they are clearly companions of the red-muzzled wolf. For his companions are themselves not ordinary wolves, but something more ancient and more dire. At a barked order from one of the beasts, all four descend upon the party. There are mere seconds to prepare- Peribold uses this short window to cast a new spell which campfire studies have afforded him time to learn: a flashy incantation called Flame Armor. It is a clever move suggested by Hornsby, which instantly renders him less than appetizing. Harkness prepares by drawing Roughshod; Pellmell will draw itself as needed.

Two of the wolves engage Harkness, but he is more than capable of handling them and quickly lands a succession of blows that fell one. The other two wolves attempt to flank Hornsby while avoiding the blazing form of Peribold. One of them does manage to nip Mr. McSorrel, but is eventually dispatched by the merely adequate swordsmanship of Mr. Hijince. The battle has become a route, and the remaining two wolves limp away as quickly as they came.

Cresting the rise, the trio are greeted with the welcoming sight of the Portmouth river. A major source of trade exports for the region, it is almost always foul with merchant vessels. They walk West for no more than an hour before a ship comes by and retrieves them for a small fee. Shipmen, when not mutinous or wracked with scurvy, are an entertaining lot (and some would say even then). Being so near their destination, they are in particularly high spirits, and the trip back to Wood-and-sea under the quickly brightening noon sky is a pleasant episode of blue wit and shared flasks. Arrival affords Peribold and Hornsby their first view of the docks, which is a blur of activity. They can see the far cliff that supports the [[Gilt-hearth Family|Gilt-hearth]] manor, and realize they are probably in the very midst of [[Ronald Gilt-hearth|Ronald’s]] shipping company. Now to business: before all else, the head must be delivered.

The reaction of the bounty registrar is a source of entertainment. They learn that he has never, during his time in office, had the opportunity to pay out on an ogre bounty. It is a duty which he is eager to fulfill, and the recent doubling of all goblinoid bounties makes this an impressive payday for the trio. Electrified by the accomplishment and already tasting his first drink, Harkness thanks the duo and makes it clear that if they are ever interested in sharing more bounties with him, he would happily accept the cost.

Back at his uncle’s house, Hornsby alerts Jaffrey to their return. The elder McSorrel excitedly notes that they have returned on the very day of one of Marcellus’ magical seminars. It is to be held at Jaffrey’s house that evening, and many of his retiree companions will be in attendance. Hornsby accepts the invitation on behalf of himself and Peribold, while politely ignoring the suggestion that a small demonstration of skill would be most welcome. Lastly, he is surprised to learn that at the most recent class, Jaffrey briefly succeeded in maintaining a small magical light in his palm. This is the customary first spell of all young mages, but it is an accomplishment to even temporarily invoke it after a relatively short length of study (and outside the capable halls of the Golden Order Magical Society, no less). That Uncle Jaffrey is the only member of the class to have achieved this feat suggests that the McSorrel bloodline might be partially responsible.

From there, the two wandering scholars head to the Wood-and-sea mage guild in order to visit Esther and engage in further research on the Green Tide in the guild library. Once she sees them, Esther (who is forever taking tea on the second-floor balcony when they arrive) rushes down and beckons them into the study. Once they are gathered, she shuts the door and swears them to secrecy before passing through a section of the study wall- now revealed to be a persistent illusion. Hornsby steels himself and is able to pass through the illusion, but Peribold must be dragged through. They descend a long staircase to a hall that, passing a series of rooms of unknown purpose, ends in a large room containing several objects of interest. Among them:

1. A magical circle drawn into the floor, with a gem-topped staff embedded in its epicenter.

2. A rolltop desk against one wall.

3. Hornsby’s magical mentor, Galt Pommelarc, seated at the rolltop desk in the midst of what is either deep thought or a magical trance of unknown utility.

Esther says they must wait until Galt emerges from this state, but in the meantime explains that no one else but the three of them is aware that Galt is visiting the town. Furthermore, it is of the utmost importance that it remain so for the time being. The rooms below the school are secret to all but a few. She does not offer an explanation as to their exact purpose, and a few moments later Galt lifts his head. He sees them standing a short distance away, and his expression warms. Striding over, he greets Hornsby and Peribold heartily. Galt explains the purpose of his visit as investigative. He learned of the red-muzzled wolf from Esther, and since the last of the recent graduates have been escorted through or otherwise delivered from the Blue Copse, the Society’s attention has focused on it.

Magical research has indicated that the creature headquarters itself near Wood-and-sea, for an as-yet-unknown reason. Galt decided that he should secretly visit and offer whatever assistance he could. Peribold, Hornsby and Esther are to be his eyes and ears around town. In the meantime, he is using magical communications to request information on the Wolfmatron, the Green Tide, and forest god servants. He explains that the gem-topped staff is what’s known as a [[“teleportation focus”]]. These devices allow mages capable of teleportation to jump to them with much greater ease, but provide no assistance to those attempting to travel elsewhere. Most of the magical colleges and mage guilds have such a device, but they do not provide their benefit to a mage until she is allowed to see and touch them. Thus their existence is closely guarded, and their access even more so. Galt further speaks on the importance of discretion and what he refers to as “compartmentalization of information.” “The more important a piece of information is,” he somberly intones, “the greater care we must exercise in its sharing.”

The magical pair return to the non-secret portions of the Wood-and-sea mage guild, particularly the library, intent on engaging in their own research of the Green Tide. They experience some success at this, turning up several interesting facts:

1. The Wolfmatron is not the only forest god known to dwell in the Green Tide.

2. The Green Tide is not the only magical forest. Such places are typically known as [[“Ancient Forests”]] or “Ancient Groves”. They course with raw magic, and thus have always drawn the interest and research of mages. However, to say that this is discouraged by the forest denizens is demure.

3. Apparently there is a legend that a human civilization once existed within the Green Tide. Called the Fellspar, they lived in a single, sprawling city and were extremely accomplished mages. At some point their relationship to the forest gods soured, and a manner of war erupted against them, led by the Wolfmatron.

4. An unsatisfyingly vague description of the Wolfmatron paints her as “three massive wolves unartfully fused together.”

Looking up from one of his books, Hornsby can see that Esther is speaking to a frantic police captain in the guild foyer. He overhears that a serious theft has been reported at the estate of one wealthy widow named Miss Peabody, and that a witness has placed her personal servant slinking into and out of a room from which several of the goods were stolen. Miss Peabody cannot accept the idea that her beloved servant, Alice, is responsible for the theft, and beseeches the captain to request that Esther use her magical specialties to verify the servant’s innocence. Esther begrudgingly agrees and they depart together.

Finding further research unbearable and noting the time, Peribold and Hornsby head off to attend Marcellus’ magical seminar at Uncle Jaffrey’s house. When they arrive, they are directed to the dining room. Inside are twelve ribald men of advanced years, finishing a meal of roast chicken and stout. The room erupts as the magical duo enter. Loudly noting that Marcellus has not yet arrived, Jaffrey suggests that Peribold or Hornsby might give a magical demonstration. Hornsby is not partial to the idea or the potential danger, but Peribold offers his skills. This produces another wave of raucous noise. Quieting the ensemble, Peribold requests that a candle be lit and placed on the dining table, and that a table cloth be held vertically between the candle and himself, separating them. He then goes on to explain that he will use magic to extinguish the candle flame, with no notable disturbance in the table cloth. This produces a murmur of intrigue. Marcellus walks in at this moment, a half-smirk on his face as he interprets the scene, and beckons Peribold to continue. Peribold focuses his attention, and a moment later the candle’s flame snuffs out. This apparently requires that all assembled take a hearty sip of their tankards, while never pausing in their loud exclamations.

Unaccustomed to an audience, Peribold finds the experience intoxicating and wishes to continue despite Horsnby’s concerned expression. He tells the assembly that he will now reignite the candle from afar, again without any disturbance to the intervening table cloth. A moment later his confidence falters as his first attempt at the simple spell fails. Again he fails. Beads of sweat form on his brow. He tries a third time, and is finally successful. As the flame leaps up from the candle, the old men leap from their seats and a mighty toast is shared. Only Marcellus and Hornsby are aware that this feat took multiple attempts, but surely each is familiar with the odd string of sour luck.

As the excitement over Peribold’s demonstration finally begins to cool, Marcellus compliments him and asks if he may take the stage next. He asks that everyone take a seat at the table, and sits himself in front of the lit candle. Once everyone is settled, he begins discussing the pupose of magic with Hornsby. Hornsby says that magic is a tool; it can be used to any purpose, and merely assists. Marcellus seems to ponder this, before smirkingly noting that there are perhaps easier ways to light and extinguish a candle. He then blows the candle out. “But what’s this?” he asks, holding a strip of paper over the smoking wick. The paper inexplicably catches on fire, and the old men roar with excitement. Marcellus then passes his hand in front of the candle, to reveal that it was lit all along. What was the nature of this magic? When had a spell been cast, and why hadn’t anyone seen it?

Marcellus goes on to state that he does not personally profess an opinion as to the nature of magic; he would not presume. He is merely curious to know what manner of indoctrination the Society is imparting to its young wards. The whole exchange is somewhat combative, but still pleasant enough. Hornsby had been warned by Galt that many non-graduates bore, in his words, a kind of inferiority complex.

Marcellus turns to the task at hand and begins individually tutoring the old men in a simple spell of magical light. The rhythm of the evening affords him occasional moments to himself, and Hornsby approaches him during one. He has figured out that illusion magic was involved in Marcellus’ trick. The dabbler mage confirms this. He placed a kind of illusory shell around the candle to hide its flame. Obscuration of the actual act of casting came from years of practice and a touch of misdirection. Hornsby is complementary, and Marcellus seems genuinely flattered. As a back-handed complement, he acknowledges that magical colleges provides mages an opportunity to make powerful political and business connections. Also, there are only so many ways for wealthy families to be rid of their children for a time. They discuss how a dabbler mage acquires spells (apparently Marcellus was allowed to use the Wood-on-sea guild library from an early age, in a recognition of his natural talents) and why he never attended a college (as an orphan, he had no way to pay for tuition).

Uncle Jaffrey again manages to create magical light, and this seems to signal an end to any further actual magical practice. The old men have been getting drunker throughout the night, and are now completely unmanageable. An other hour passes with a succession of toasts, interspered with treatises on how magic might be used to beguile women and engorge members. The three mages sit back and wait for the festivities to end. Peribold and Hornsby head off to bed, but not before they are accosted by Uncle Jaffrey and made to understand that they should be especially proud of him, for only moments before he had successfully summoned wind.

The next morning, learned pair return to the guild library to continue their research. However, this second round of inquiry produces no appreciable results. Meantime, Esther comes in with a mixture of exasperation and despair on her face. She explains that she was able to use her magical scrying to confirm that Miss Peabody’s servant, Alice, was indeed innocent. However, this was perhaps the worst result. First of all, ever since word of this got out, there have been a dozen new theft reports submitted by wealthy Wood-and-sea families to the police captain. Some occurred weeks or even months ago. Asked why they never reported the thefts before, the families generally explained that they could not bear to think that their servants would do such a thing, and if they truly had, perhaps it was for a good reason; better to ignore it. Asked why they changed their minds, the families all responded that what they really wanted was for Esther to use her magics to resolve any festering mistrust they felt towards their servants. Esther has tentatively agreed to assist, but knows that this will largely be a waste of time.

Secondly, the fact that Alice was innocent but an eye witness who knew her well clearly placed her at the crime suggests that magic may be afoot. Additionally, one of the stolen goods was a rare but nondescript book that only a person of some education would be able to identify as valuable. Esther is horrified by the idea that one of the mages in the guild may be responsible for this crimes (and perhaps many more). She dreads the very thought of using her scrying to begin peering into the lives of the guild mages, many of whom are close friends.

Meanwhile, they put some thought into what is being done with the stolen goods. Clearly, they cannot be sold in Wood-and-sea. It occurs to Hornsby that perhaps the goods are being smuggled out of the city. This strikes Esther as a marvelous thought, and suggests a course of action: namely, that they should go to the docks and she should use one of her scrying spells to detect whether the stolen book is within a mile’s distance. It is difficult since she has never seen it, but still possible.

On the way, Hornsby asks Esther to tell him more about Leopold the Dabbler. Esther, who lived in Wood-and-sea at the time but was not directly involved with this reclusive man, says that perhaps Galt might be a better source of information. Still, she does know a little about what happened. Leopold the Dabbler was a very talented non-graduate wizard who resented that magical colleges forbade access to arch-level spells except to those who had long attended their schools. He argued that they did not possess the authority to do so, that magic belonged to all people and no one had the right to cloister it. Whether this argument possesses or lacks merit is irrelevant in the face of what supposedly happened next: it came to light that Leopold the Dabbler had murdered several arch mages and taken their spell books for his own enrichment. It was shocking to many at the time that a dabbler could best an arch mage, and the crimes alone were shocking enough. To make matters worse, Leopold shortly vanished. It is presumed that he went into hiding to give him time to digest the spellbooks he had acquired.

It was fully twenty years before he was located again. He had been hiding in Wood-and-sea, never leaving his home. Then, at some point he began to steal into the night and commit murders for an unknown reason. Perhaps solitude had driven him mad; perhaps he had become cocky in his powers; perhaps he wanted to be caught. Esther is unclear on this point, but she has heard rumors within magical society that he was employing necromancy to some unknown end. Once his location was discovered, a group of powerful mages was convened to plan a method of capturing or killing him. They debated and prepared for an entire month. Then, one evening, they surrounded his house and engaged him in battle.

He was truly ferocious; his magic, and the cruelty and cunning with which he employed it, were astounding. However, careful planning and sheer numbers carried the day. Leopold the Dabbler was killed, his presence erased from the city. The house he lived in still stands, and today houses a elder baker.

Session 6
An Unpleasant Diversion

Harkness, a goblinoid bounty-hunter like his father, nevertheless fails at some tasks his father was renowned for. To whit, tracking. He is horrible at it. Peribold and Hornsby are no better, but perhaps more naturally talented in this direction. In any case, after following the river for a couple days with no results (thinking that staying close to a major trade route would provide some extra safety), the trio head South East further into the woods. At some point, they pick up a trail and follow it for another day, only to lose it again.

Then, without warning, they crest a ridge and find themselves staring out over what can only be the beginnings of the Green Tide, not half a day’s travel from their lookout. As mages, they can feel the immense magical presence of this ancient place washing over them. They can just make out a massive stone face lying sideways on the ground, the remnants of some vast statue. Peribold wants to investigate, but Hornsby is firm: they will complete their current task, return to the guild and undertake further research. Only then will they consider returning to this place. Still, the aura is intoxicating and frightening, and neither of them turns away with ease. Harkness is disinterested.

The hunters decide it is time to return home. Harkness is no stranger to this particular variety of frustration, but Peribold and Hornsby are less accustomed. Still, the mood is light as they quickly and quietly make their way back to town. A day later, they are making their way between the gnarled, massive roots of the Blue Copse when they hear sounds of an altercation. Stealthily, they investigate and discover the very ogre they’ve been hunting. It is enormous, standing some nine feet tall and thick as a tree. It is currently quickly making its way through a pack of goblins and hobgoblins in a clearing. Each time it swings its club, another falls.

This is their moment: the trio quickly formulate a rudimentary flanking scenario, and take up positions. They wait, hoping the ogre will fight with the other goblinoids long enough to induce some exhaustion- but it tears through them like a force of nature, hardly winded. Harkness steps out into the clearing and directly challenges the ogre. The lumbering foe moves with surprising speed towards him, and seconds later they engage. Harkness fights with careful precision, prioritizing his own safety far beyond striking back. This is a necessity: a single blow from this monstrosity would end the fight, and the same could not be said in exchange.

Peribold and Hornsby make use of the distraction to cast attack spells at the ogre, but this turns into a comedy of errors. Harkness is more at risk of being struck by their spells than the ogre! He yells at them to try and be more helpful. They move in to improve their accuracy and perhaps give him a distraction he can make use of.

The fight is long, and punctuated by several near-tragic moments. However, in the end the party prevails, though not before they have done what seems like an impossibly large amount of damage. The thing does not even countenance its grotesque wounds until the very moment it expires, slumping to the ground. Truly a terrifying opponent. Harkness falls down exhausted, and after a bit of rest, pleasantly reveals that the only remaining task is to lug the creature’s huge head back to town. Peribold and Hornsby are . . . unenthusiastic.

Session 5
First Contact

In the middle of the night, Hornsby is awoken by an utterly alien sensation that he nonetheless immediately recognizes as telepathic communication. It is Galt. The communication seems to be one-way and brief; Hornsby is simply told that there is a woman at the Wood-and-sea mage guild who he should confide in. The directive is apparently open-ended, but presumably related to the student attacks.

After breakfast, Peribold and Hornsby realize they will need some assistance to find their way to the mage’s guild. Uncle Jaffrey, trying for all the world to conceal his utter delight at being of assistance, makes a show of seeming put out by the interruption to his intent meditation on a globe in his dusty study. Moments later he is guiding them through town, taking what appears to be a less than direct route. On the way, they are treated to an abridged history of his time as a police captain.

The Wood-and-sea mage’s guild appears to be a small estate converted to multiple purposes: place of business, intellectual salon, research facility, meeting hall and more. The second floor opens out onto an expansive balcony frequently populated at mid-day with two or more takers of tea, weather permitting. This is just such a day, and a man and a woman are maintaining a polite discourse when Uncle Jaffrey arrives with wards in tow. The woman turns out to be Esther, and tells Peribold and Hornsby to meet her in the first floor entry room. Jaffrey takes his leave after instructing them on how to get from the guild to town hall. Esther, the guildwarden for Wood-and-sea, is friendly, helpful and officious. After leading the two scholars into a magically-protected study, she reveals that she, too, was telepathically contacted by Galt during the night. A pooling of information follows. Esther expresses sorrow at the death of Darcy Gilt-hearth, as she was the one who urged him to undertake magical studies. His focus was meta-magic, a field usually left as the last topic of study for arch-mages, and extremely ineffective in the hands of a novice. Esther recommends that they make use of the guild’s library, and is caught by the detail of the wolf. Its unusual markings suggest that it is no ordinary animal, and merits attention; it might in actuality be an emissary of the Wolfmatron, a forest god known to hold court deep within the Green Tide. If this is the case, then at a minimum it possesses fierce strength, magical abilities and intelligence on par with or surpassing a human, opening up the intriguing avenue that it is not a mage’s familiar and is operating alone. Esther, Peribold and Hornsby agree to work in concert and share information when opportunities present themselves. After receiving directions to the Gilt-hearth estate, the traveling mages take their leave, promising to return soon.

The estate is sprawling, opulent and nautically-themed. Topiary whales, dolphins and mermaids line the stone avenue leading up to the manor. The entryway features a compass rose statue beneath a winding staircase with a lacquered rope banister leading to a large mezzanine. Everything is appointed in rich wood and brass. Paintings of ships and captains abound. On the second floor, the wandering scholars are met by Ronald Gilt-hearth, a shipping magnate native to Wood-on-sea. Before either gets a chance to speak, Ronald has intuited the purpose of the visit. He guides them quickly into his nearby study, but not before Darcy’s sister, Belinda (a fetching and heart-achingly fragile creature) sees them and faints to the floor. Ronald begs their pardon and sees to his family for several minutes, leaving them alone to explore his study. The most impressive detail is the view that Ronald’s study window affords of the Wood-on-sea docks, probably the very docks that his shipping company owns.

Ronald returns and takes the official news as best he can. His questioning leads him to learn that Peribold and Hornsby were responsible for the death of the goblins that killed his son, and furthermore that they also took care of retrieving the body and delivering it to the Golden Order Magical Society. This makes a big impression on Ronald. “You’ve done a thing for me that I can’t quantify,” he says. “And I’m a businessman. Quantifying is what I do.” He makes clear to Peribold and Hornsby that it would bring him great peace to help them in any way he can, and that he is a man of extensive means. They are given free passage across Lake Tannerpens whenever they need it. For their part, the magical pair are subdued in tone and deferential. They leave shortly after arriving, a sense of closure achieved.

Hardly slackening the pace on their day, they head off for the Spitted Pig, the inn where Harkness debauches away his bounty earnings. He is several sheets to the wind when they arrive, but in a practiced manner. They are greeted warmly and entreated to drink, but manage to stay focused on the task at hand: namely, the collection of their bounties. Once reminded, Harkness is eager enough. The three walk over from the Pig to city hall to collect, but just before they can do so a messenger informs the desk clerk that all goblinoid bounties have been doubled by order of the city council, and paid for from the personal coffers of the Gilt-hearth estate. Flush with reward money, they return to the Pig and discuss future plans. Harkness plans to head back out into the Copse and track down the ogre he’s been searching for. Peribold and Hornsby are invited to come, and agree to do so on the following morning.

With that, they take their leave of the bounty hunter to prepare. The first stop is the mage guild, where they are greeted by Esther. She informs them that she’s been doing some research and is more convinced than ever that the wolf they described is from the Green Tide. They go into the study and research ogres for several hours, but their poor study skills cause them to turn up only the most basic information. Still, some of it is useful: Ogres are huge and ferocious carnivores, nearly intelligent as humans. They can be fairly quick and quiet despite their size. Solitary creatures, they attack and eat goblins and hobgoblins in addition to other forest animals. They leave the carcasses of their meals wherever they are done with them, but bury their scat.

Having finished their studies, they pair get up to leave when a blood-curdling scream draws them out to the avenue in front of the guild. There, they see the red-muzzled wolf accompanied by several large, grey wolves. The red-muzzled wolf is standing over the mauled corpse of a guild wizard, while another wizard stands nearby in a state of complete shock. The red-muzzled wolf turns its attention to Peribold and Hornsby and begins speaking, to the shock of all present. It tells them that it has been aware of their presence and purpose for some time, and makes it clear that any further investigation into its affairs will be rewarded with death. It then departs, its retreat protected by a phalanx of grey wolves. No one makes any attempt to engage. Afterwards, an emergency guild meeting is called. This provides the two scholars an opportunity to see the amassed members of the Wood-and-sea guild, which number roughly twenty. Among them is Marcellus, the mage who tutors Hornsby’s uncle and other widower friends. He is an extremely intense person, but cordial in their meeting. He says he looks forward to seeing them at their uncle’s sessions, and hopes to see what they are capable of.

The meeting commences, and Esther shares news of the attack with the assembled members. The red-muzzled wolf’s ability to speak and reason confirms its nature as an emissary of the Wolfmatron. Whether it operates under her auspices or those of another master is uncertain. In fact, Esther strongly recommends that it be considered the creature’s master is itself. They must all be on guard and work in concert, sharing information and strength. Another interesting detail is that there were two guild members present, and only one was attacked. This reason is unknown, but a possibility is that one of them, the deceased, was a graduate of the Golden Order Magical Society. The other was not . . . It is also noted that the assembly remembers another time, many years ago, when mages were openly attacked in Wood-and-sea. At that time, the culprit was a powerful yet wicked mage known as Leopold the Dabbler. However, he was hunted down and killed.

Exhausted, Peribold and Hornsby return to their uncle’s house and go to bed. These troubling events will have to wait until after their trek into the woods.

The next morning they find Harkness at the Pig, already inebriated, his belongings carefully packed in a bag by his stool. The trio immediately head off due East along the Portmouth river, in search of the Ogre.

Session 4
The Ambush

We rejoin our adventurers, Peribold and Hornsby, at a moment of great peril—a sudden attack by two goblin warriors, a goblin shaman and a large hobgoblin warrior wielding an axe and a crude shield. The vicious creatures take the initiative. The goblin shaman charges onto the road and evokes a gout of goblinfire that strikes Hornsby squarely and threatens to end the fight as quickly as it started. The two goblin warriors rush out to overwhelm Hornsby. The hobgoblin, slower, makes his way toward the fray but does not yet display an obvious preference of victim.

Sensing how dire their situation has become, both mages cast powerful Armor spells to buy them time. They even go so far as to tap the energy reserves in their rings. The battle is engaged when a shout from down the road heralds the sprinting approach of a dusty, flint-jawed warrior. The hobgoblin lets out a roar of challenge and runs to meet the interloper, who in turn draws an exquisite, though battle-worn greatsword from his back. Seconds later they clash. The hobgoblin’s axe is true, but at the last moment its arc is interrupted as the shield on the warrior’s back leaps to life and intercedes. Dancing around the warrior and protecting him from the axe, the shield moves with a magical life. To complement this magical defense, an aura of blames bursts up around the blade of the greatsword. With a seasoned calm, the strange warrior dispatches the shrieking hobgoblin in a few quick strokes.

Meanwhile, Peribold and Hornsby battle fiercely with the goblins. The shaman strikes Peribold with two solid blasts , leaving him dazed and near collapse. However, the shaman is similarly weakened by the magical exertion and can summon no more flame. The battle quickly becomes a route as Hornsby fells one of the goblin warriors and Peribold defeats the shaman. The last goblin sprints for the woods, but Hornsby dispatches him with a bolt of lightning set square in his fleeing back.

Introductions are made. The warrior shares that his name is Harkness Beringer. He lives by hunting down goblinkind and trading in their toes for a small bounty, as his father did before him. His heirloom weapons are known as Roughshod the greatsword and Pellmell the dancing shield, and he speaks of them with obvious fondness. A quick deal is reached by which the goblin bounty can be split, to which Peribold and Hornsby, previously unaware that a bounty even existed, quickly agree to. The trio decide to travel the rest of the way back to Wood-and-sea together. On the way, Harkness shares that his current task is the hunting of an ogre warrior, a massive beast whose bounty would allow him to live comfortably for some time. However, unlike his father he is terrible at tracking and has lost the scent several times.

Finally, after much danger and distraction, the city stands before them. With Harkness’ help, they talk their way past the city watchmen with ease. Before departing, he tells them how to collect on the bounties, and suggests that, when their duties are addressed they might visit him at the tavern he calls his home. They promise to do so. All that remains is to make their way to the home of Hornsby’s Uncle Jaffrey.

Uncle Jaffrey’s manservant greets the scholars at the door and leads them into the living room with great excitement. Moments later, Jaffrey comes charging into the room and hugs Hornsby and Peribold with obvious delight. There is a rush of excitement and discussion, during which Hornsby carefully avoids mentioning their business at the Gilt-hearth estate, but which also reveals that Jaffrey and some fellow retirees have been attending sessions with a magical tutor. This has produced nothing more impressive than simple Light spells and the like, but Jaffrey humbly invites the graduates to attend a session and meet his tutor Marcellus. They agree and happily retire for the night, feeling a degree of safety almost unremembered.

Session 3
Into The Woods Redux

The next morning, rested up from a night in real beds, Peribold and Hornsby set out to deliver their grave message. Their classmate, Darcy Gilt-hearth, an aristocratic but ultimately pleasant young chap, was ambushed and murdered by goblins as part of what appears to be a larger operation to strike a blow against the Golder Order Magical Society. His parents, Eloise and Ronald, are fairly well-to-do and make their courtly home in Wood-and-sea, a cultured coastal city where, coincidentally, Hornsby’s uncle Jaffrey McSorrel also resides. To get there, they have to make their way through The Blue Copse, the very wood that lends Wood-and-sea half its name. The Blue Copse has proved surprisingly dangerous so far, despite its proximity to more than one population center. After a full day of uneventful travel, and passing the ambushed carriage to find it in much the state they remembered, they bed down.

That night, Hornsby wakes up from his notoriously light sleep to the strange silhouette of a small creature making its way down a tree toward the camp. Hornsby quickly arms himself and awakens Peribold from his comparatively deep slumber. The pair have hardly a moment to assess the situation before they are attacked by two very large spiders who but a moment ago were mere feet from their sleeping heads. The creature in the tree reveals itself to be a third spider, and the battle is quickly joined. Immediately, Hornsby is bitten on the leg by one of the spiders and injected with its venom. The sensation of the toxin coursing through his leg brings a sense of urgency to the battle and he is understandably focused on his immediate safety—thus, a wall of wind springs up around him and causes two of the spiders to be flung away and dazed. Unfortunately it also extinguishes the campfire, putting Peribold and Hornsby at a disadvantage. Peribold casts a weak Armor spell, but even this seems enough to protect against the spiders’ bite. He and the remaining spider face off, neither seemingly able to squarely wound the other.

Sensing that the spiders will disregard him and focus their attack on Peribold, Hornsby disperses the wall of wind and flanks the spider facing his friend. The darkness proving to be a serious liability, Peribold uses his fire magic to re-kindle the campsite. The other two spiders quickly swarm Hornsby and score a second bite. The poison has not yet affected him but he knows his life will hang in the balance soon enough. The light now restored, the schoolmates slowly but surely turn the tide of battle, scoring hit after hit until the spiders flee or are vanquished.

The duo quickly turn their attention to Hornsby’s wounds, but fail to have any luck at providing any immediate aid or drawing the poison out. Peribold runs off into the woods in search of anti-venom herbs, a fool’s errand made even more ineffectual by his agitated state. That leaves Hornsby to struggle against the toxin without any assistance or sense of what he faces. Over the course of an hour, the poison racks his body and he comes closer to unconsciousness. His leg is swollen and fiery to the touch. After some time, the fever breaks and he feels his body begin to recover. Peribold, embarrassed but glad that his friend seems to be doing better, uses his healing magic to greatly accelerate the recovery process.

The next day they continue their trek to Wood-and-sea, tired from lack of sleep and sore in the limbs (one, especially). A short while after setting out, they hear feminine cries of distress emanating from the thick woods South of their road. Without any hesitation, they head in the direction of the sound and quickly spot a very young girl gripping her leg in apparent pain and calling for help. Striding towards her, they are almost-but not quite-too distracted to notice the deep covered pit in front of her, clearly meant to swallow them up. Her plan foiled, the girl quickly leaps to her feet and sprints off into the woods on her two perfectly able, but bony legs.

Incensed at the callousness of youth but ever-mindful, Hornsby takes in his surroundings and realizes that a young boy, not more than a few years older than the girl, is standing high up in a nearby tree and pleasantly smoking on a pipe. A delightful parlay ensues, pitting Hornsby’s desire for the boy to come down the tree and face a reckoning with the boy’s desire to pass the whole episode off as youthful pranksterism with, in the present case, no obvious victim. Peribold suggests that Hornsby use Earth magics to fill the pit (an idea he congratulates himself on), but is ignored. Finding no purchase with the slippery logic of the charming vandal’s mind, Hornsby shifts his attention to details of the nearby gypsy camp in which he lives. The boy agrees to guide the duo back to the camp, where it is suggested they might find more information, as well as the opportunity to peruse the local wares.

Back at the camp, and feeling slightly out-of-place, Peribold and Hornsby are presented to the camp elder. He is helpful and patronly. Among other things, the traveling scholars learn that: 1) The goblins do not attack the gypsies, even though they inhabit the same woods, 2) the gypsies have little luck entering or doing business with the nearby towns and cities, and 3) lately a massive, greyish-blue wolf with a red muzzle has been spotted looking down from the rise above the camp. Understandably intrigued by this last detail, they secure permission from the camp elder to spend the night in the hopes of observing a visitation; they are not disappointed.

That night, both Peribold and Hornsby awaken inexplicably and come out into the night air with a sense of dread and heightened awareness. There, they come across the camp elder. All three look to the rise. There, standing perfectly still and looking down on them, is the wolf with the red muzzle. A moment later, it steps back and out of sight. They contemplate chasing it, but the degree of its head start and the possibility of an ambush convince them to leave well enough alone.

The next day, they leave the camp and return to the road, again setting out for Wood-and-sea. Half a day’s travel from finally arriving at their destination, a rustling in the tree line to their right alerts them to an ambush. A dread wells up in their stomachs as they see two goblins, a shaman behind them and a man-sized goblin-like creature leading the charge with his vicious hand-axe. “Oh no,” says Peribold. “A hobgoblin.”

Session 2
A Plot Becomes Apparent

Peribold and Hornsby, following the goblins’ indiscreet path through the woods, cross a small creek and then find their trail ascending sharply upwards. Moving slowly due to the rocky, uneven landscape, they travel for about half an hours’ time before something makes them drop to a crouch. There it is: some ways further up the mountain, a small cave guarded by at least two more goblins.

Choosing discretion over the direct approach, the duo circle around and make towards the cave entrance along the mountain-side. Once within attacking distance, the two make themselves known as they steps out from the shadows and begin gathering arcane energies for an assault. The goblins almost immediately run at the young pair, displaying a frightening, animal speed. Perhaps alarmed by the rapid approach, both disciples miss their targets. Hornsby brings up his already-famous wall of wind, while Peribold prepares for melee—he has no intent of frittering away his magics on his Armor spell this time!

Almost immediately he regrets it, as he is deeply wounded by one of the goblins. Things go from bad to worse quickly, as he takes another wound. He is in bad shape and facing off against two of the goblins, who he can’t seem to land a hit on. The third goblin is preparing a sling stone to try against Hornsby’s wall of wind.

Hornsby, seeing the dire situation his companion is in, directs a jet of air toward one of the standing goblins, and knocks it down. This leaves Peribold with a fighting chance as only one goblin is standing near him. Peribold jumps at the oportunity, striking a surprisingly vicious blow to the goblin’s weapon arm, crippling it and stunning the goblin. By now, the goblin that was facing Hornsby has gotten up and decided to try throwing a sling stone against his foe hidden behind the vortex. This proves to be a futile attack as the swirling winds buffet the stone away.

Peribold easily dispatches the stunned foe, and squares off against the other goblin who is, once again, on the ground and seemingly blind after throwing himself into the wall of wind in a desparate attempt to attack Hornsby.

Hornsby, now seeing his friend is doing well, launches a bolt of lightning against the goblin with the sling in the hopes of destroying the foul creature in one strike. Unfortunately, the goblin is not killed by the bolt, only stunned. With both remaining goblins unable to defend themselves effectively, Peribold and Hornsby dispatch the remaining foes.

Looking off toward the cave entrance, the companions see at least two more goblins watching them from a safe distance. A moment later, they are gone into the belly of the mountain. It’s clear that they want the next skirmish to happen on their terms. Cleverly, Hornsby casts a spell to move the earth and seal off the entrance, save a couple feet. This strategy, intended to give them time to rest (but not suffocate any allies inside the cave) pays unexpected dividends—one of the goblins attempts to scramble through the small hole. It is defenseless in this position and quickly dispatched. No more goblins are so daring. Feeling good about this turn of luck, the two rest a short while before re-opening the cave mouth. Peribold uses his healing magics to great effect in the short time they can spare.

There is a smell of filth and death when they enter the cave. Sensing another dire situation, both cast protective armor spells. Hornsby takes the lead through the short passageway. Before too long, the passageway opens up into a larger cavern, where there is a goblin with a sword and a smaller, odd looking-goblin holding a staff and wearing some kind of ceremonial shroud.

The goblin with the sword charges, swinging his weapon at Hornsby. A little too overeager for violence, the goblin swings wildly and misses. His companion, however, remains in the corner of the room, pointing his staff at Hornsby and letting loose a searing ball of flame. Instinct saves Hornsby as he reflexively brings up his shield to block the blast.

Once past the initial surprise of a goblin shaman, Peribold and Hornsby take to the threat they can immediately deal with, the goblin blocking their way to the fire shaman. They quickly move to flanking position and strike the goblin with their weapons, knocking it senseless. Furious, the shaman lets loose another jet of flame, but it goes wide. Peribold tells Hornsby to finish the helpless goblin as he charges the shaman, ever ready to close with those who would harm his companion.

Perhaps it is Peribold’s familiarity with fire magic that allows him to dodge the ensuing magical flames. But after short order, he is standing, and the shaman is not. They can only guess at how close they came to perishing.

The cave is quiet, save the crackle of a small dung fire in the corner. The two survey the room, and their hearts drop as they see what was once a classmate of theirs laying in a heap not too far from the fire. They notice that his magical class ring, the one given to all new graduates, is missing, and moreover, so is the finger that held the ring! Hornsby inspects the wound and mentions that it looks like it was ripped or bitten off. They quickly confirm that neither the ring nor the finger are anywhere to be found, but they do find a rough leather pouch of 300 gold pieces that appears to have been carried in someone or something’s teeth. They find that the goblin shaman’s staff is a potent source of magic, but is the source of much of the stench in the cavern. They also find paw prints that suggest a large dog or wolf. Concern takes the two and they decide they need to leave the cave quickly and discreetly.

Bearing their fallen comrade down the mountain is the right thing to do, but proves to be back-breaking and difficult. They move slowly and carefully through the rocky terrain toward the road and the destroyed carriage. Morning comes and the two are exhausted. They quickly decide to bring the body back to their school, as it is closer than Hornsby’s uncle’s house. A litter is created out of scrap lumber salvaged from the ambushed carriage, and they head back.

Upon reaching the college, they cause an immediate stir among the headmasters present, who quickly spirit away the young boy’s body. A surprised Galt approaches and they relate the story of the goblin attack. His mood darkens and he thanks the boys for doing the right thing, instructing them to return to their rooms at the Society and wait for him. Not much time passes and Galt enters the novice’s quarters.

He looks troubled as he tells Peribold and Hornsby that there is a new, surprising danger to the school. Apparently someone is paying goblins to attack and kill graduates passing through the woods. None know who could be doing this, but this is the second graduate to have been killed since leaving the college. It appears that the class rings provide proof of the deed to the buyer, and the gold is delivered in a pouch. The tooth marks on the pouch suggest that it was delivered by a large wolf. This raises the frightening possibility that another mage is hiring the goblins, and his wolf familiar is handling the delivery. However, it doesn’t explain what goblins would need with gold—they typically scavenge their food, have no economy of their own and are despised by all of the races intelligent enough to possess their own merchants. The goblin shaman’s staff is a thing of evil and will be careful destroyed. Galt states the instructors will be having a meeting about this disturbing situation and deciding how to best deal with the threat (as well as try to guess who might have cause to harm them), and asks Peribold and Hornsby to deliver a note to the parents of the fallen student relating the sadness the college has over losing one of its own.

Of course the two accept and agree to deliver the note. They leave the next morning…..

Session 1
The Story Begins

Peribold and Hornsby, recent graduates of the Golden Order Magical Society, head out along a path through the woods which will ultimately take them back to Hornsby’s uncle’s house in the city of Cobblecleave. This is a natural decision as his uncle is Hornsby’s geographically closest relative. Peribold tags along as he does on most of his friend’s adventures (not to mention his family is much farther away). Just before nightfall, they come across an ambushed carriage. On closer examination, they find it is still being picked over by two goblin warriors, eyes glowing red in the amber twilight. Utilizing their rumored (and now known to be abundant) speed, the two goblins spring at the young mages, hissing and drawing crude iron short swords. Peribold, panicking, casts a powerful Armor spell on himself, giving his body the equivalent protection of a full suit of platemail but depleting most of his energy reserves. Hornsby, always the calmer of the two, surrounds himself with a magical wall of wind. This turns out to be the perfect action, and carried out in the nick of time, for the two goblins were about to display that other famous trait of their kind: a penchant for singling out and swarming individual opponents. As Peribold draws his longsword, he watches as the two goblins leap at and are buffeted away by the wall of wind. They fall to the ground several feet from Hornsby, stunned and blinded. Peribold wades in with his sword, making short work of one of the goblins. Another begins to run and is struck down by a magical bolt from Hornsby.

Regaining their composure, the two inspect the carriage and determine that a goblin ambush has taken place. A rough path off the road seems to have been created by the dragging of a human-sized body into the woods. Whether the body is of a captive or a corpse remains to be seen, but Peribold and Hornsby are determined to follow the trail where it leads.

First, though, Peribold requires a brief rest to regain some of the mana he expended so carelessly. His skill in recovery allows him to make the most of the fifteen minutes the duo set aside for rest and then they quickly strike out into the woods.


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