Peribold And Hornsby

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.

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