Materials for New Players to this Thread
The banners that rest upon the parapet towers above you are caught in a high breeze, fluttering and flickering. They snap and curl back then loosely extend again. Each gilded leaf and branch, painted among the emerald background of the canvases, gleam in the sun. Periodically, the Tree fully reveals itself, emphasized by the golden rays of sunshine from above. The city bustles with activity, as street vendors sell their wares, and illusionists entertain the various children in the streets lucky enough to spend a copper for amusement. A dwarf whose face is smeared with white makeup, wearing a ridiculous wig and cape dances on the corner of the Plaza of the Heroes, a sign which stands next to him declares the first performance of it’s kind at the Legerdemain Theater, for the “young, old, and with a promise to amuse any known race in Cillandar”.
Welcome to the Jewel of Light, Cillandar, capital city of the Celn Empire! Cillandar is a thriving metropolis, not unlike Rome or Alexandria in it’s heyday, and there is great need of a variety of services from those that seek adventure.
Will you join the ranks of the branded? Serve the interests of your Lord, Master Borindin himself? Many a mystery awaits you in the environs near the city, and much more within the city itself. Rumor has it that several large scale magic dealers have been hoarding wares, in defiance of the King’s mandate about magical arms and items. Also, and despite the peace of recent times, many groups attempt to secure their fortunes through nefarious means; will you make it your work to stop them?
Other missions await you. Other avenues of exploration. The Shields are always looking for recruits. Do you fashion yourself a soldier? Interested in protecting, serving the Kingdom? Or do you see yourself at the bar, the King’s Chamber Pot perhaps, or the always seedy Rusty Sabre. Let the adventure come to you. Is that your style?
And finally, the bells toll once again, for the Challenge of Champions has returned. The bi-annual event of a lifetime for most bands of rugged explorers will be held in just a few months. You could enter the event, you know. If you can scrape up the gold that is, for the Challenge is only reserved for the best, and the best never accept watching the contest from the sidelines. Fame, fortune and all that come with it are on the other side of that victory. Many try, few actually make it. Could you be one of them?
Commotion in the King’s Chamber Pot
“Your momma’s tit must have been as cold as a yeti’s cock!” roared the lanky man.
“And you must have found YOUR milk from that same yeti part, Hanilan!”
This fight was getting better and better. Tonight the bar was filled with both soldiers and the oddball adventuring company. Every race and walk of life was tilting back the King’s Ale. And best of all, Hanilan was getting into another of his tizzies. This time though he had picked on the wrong fella. From the looks of him, he might have seen some time in the King’s Isles. He looked seasoned, and weathered. All eyes were watching. Some laughing, but a few had put their beer down, leaving their hands loosely near their sword side, just in case things got out of hand. It WAS the docks, after all.
You’d wager the man throwing out insults and near to reaching into his components pouch was not to be trifled with, but it seemed as if perhaps Hanilan had had just enough Ale not to figure that out. Maybe, tonight was the night that Hanilan learned a lesson on manners after all. This is what happens, when the owner kept the curfew on the Spottle game. People get bored and they told stories that offended someone else. When would they learn.
“I told you. These docks and the people who work here, live here, aren’t going to sit by you and your kind and hear your superstitious tripe about the Wilds, Outsider. You all know you ain’t never seen anything closer to the North than the end of that wall. And as for your Sand People, we’ve heard about them every night for the last season.”
“My tale is true. As is all tales I tell. They’re true when I told them in Xendros and their true in Cillandar. I know you Cillandrians have your own tales, and us Inners have never questioned THEM.”
A young soldier, a SHIELD from his breastplate’s emblem, stood up. His chair creaked upon the wooden floor of the inn. “QUESTION THEM? Sir, pray tell in the name of our Lord and Majesty, what stories of this great city might have been questioned in the Inner Realms you’ve visited?”
“I don’t speak for others. But, it is well known that the tale of your King, is one of the greatest myths of the lands.”
“My king? My king is your king, sir.” At this, several others stood now, the bar had suddenly grown quiet. “Pray speak of the myth of Our Lord, Borindin the Wyrm Slayer.”
The quiet settled in, and the man wiped sweat from his brow. It seemed only a few seconds away from an apology, and perhaps a quick exit into the cold night for the sullen man, the Outsider, one which would probably not return again. They never did. Surely, this outsider wasn’t stupid enough to insult the King or deny the Tale of the Dragon amongst his Shields and Lights in the Dockside district. But then his friend stood up.
“Borindin and the dragon? The fight with no witnesses! That’s what they call it in the north! You don’t need to doubt my friend’s story here, when you tell a tale like that to each other!”
This time, every emerald tunic was standing. “You doubt MY Lord slew the Dragon Gulgol in the manner in which has been told?” said the same soldier. He said each word slowly, deliberately. Time seemed to stand still. The inevitable just a breath away, and too late did most of the outsider’s colleagues realize that what was about to be spoken, was an idea central to the dignity of every Cillandrian.
“I don’t tell lies, lad.”
You couldn’t quite remember what happened, or how it happened for that manner. Did the Outsider and his friends lift the table first? Was it the elf in the back that placed the Shielded in a sleeping trance? However, it began, it ended with two dead, and another without a sword arm. By the time the Order arrived, the Chamber’s floors had been stained red and irons were being clinked on more than a dozen.
The stocks would be full that night. And by the looks of it, the next several days. Children would have a day with this lot, pelting them with stones and avoiding their reach. Stocks and Run, the locals called it.
The Outsider would most likely never make it past the Inquisition. Unless he had magical training, he’d fail the Loyalty Test. Tonight would be a lesson told for several months, perhaps years. It surprised you that it wasn’t better known to the few who still visited Cillandar without hearing it’s many tales.
No one insults the King. And only a fool with a death wish insults the King in the presence of his Loyal Subjects. Cillandar is the very beating heart of the man who loved and lost Cillande, the woman for whom this city is named.
Briefing in the Beard and Tail
“Quiet! I said quiet you lot!!” Darkness take you Billius! I told you no transfigurations in any part of the tower. And you Halfling, stop sticking your dagger in the mortar!” Commander Gralf Luger swept past the few stragglers arriving late to the tower, his hurried gait slowing only for a moment.
“He’s branded, m’Lord!”
“I TOLD YOU, I DON’T CARE IF HE’S BRANDED TWICE. Walk that damn Outsider out of here! Mortar may not harm our Majesty, but it keeps us warmer when there aren’t holes between the bricks in the winter. Now, sound the muster call. I’ve got things to do today, and I don’t intend to spend all day with Borindin’s “Lights” trying to solve the mysteries of the Kasilians again. I’m going to give the briefing as requested, and let this rabble out before the king’s silver ware starts vanishing….”
“Fellow Adventurers,” began Luger; he seemed to be well behaved tonight. There was virtually no notice of the usual annoyance he seemed to exude whenever he had to give the “Talk to the Lights”. Whatever his mindset, the assembled mass looked composed of just about every walk of life imaginable. Most appeared green. Some very green. Swords and the typical adventuring supplies much too prominently displayed. Armor too well polished, too few dents and none from what a weapon would make. Every so often however, a group or two appeared in the crowd, faces stern or subtle, just the slightest hint of readiness without the concern. Those, you thought, those were the faces that had seen the Wilds, the creatures of the Before Times, and lived to tell their tales.
“For those of you who have been briefed before, Welcome Back. For those of you who have never been here, let me welcome you to the Tower Keep, or as we Branded like to call it, the Beard and the Tail. In this chamber did our Lord, King of Cellinor slay the wicked wyrm Gulgol, secure the lands that have now been named for his beloved.
A hush fell as it always did. Luger continued.
“I have much to tell you, and you have much that you wish to do, and earn, of course. Let me start by answering what is sure to be your first question. What you have heard from the Town Crier is true. The Lighted rate for magical wares, paper wares, and the Before Times Wares has increased. In particular, we seek map wares. A premium will be paid for any such material proven to be of genuine truth.”
Luger paused while nods were exchanged and a few murmurs arose. An elf made a motion of rubbing two coins together to his comrades. They smiled.
“A second reminder to you all that the Lands throughout Cellinor are subject to the laws of our Lord, and his Loyal Subject, the Keeper of the Flame, Bishop Belloran, host of the Inquisition. Any activities of a nature involving murder, thievery or acts that are deemed detrimental to the Realm will be reviewed by the Inquisition and punished accordingly. Any magics used in concert with forces deemed of a Dark nature will be punished accordingly. Any tie to races, or beings of a sinister nature will be met with a swift and public execution until you are dead and your soul obliviated. Outside the Realm’s borders, in the Wilds, our Laws do not often see the Light of Day. Those that venture into Darkness are often at the mercy of the Demons that dwell within it. Do not expect assistance from his majesty’s forces should you find yourself in trouble there. For those of you willing to take on such adventure, this is nothing new.”
“But enough of that. Let’s let the puppies trickle out with their tails between their legs and begin what you all came here for, eh lads?”
Laughter erupts but quickly settles down. No one actually left though….that was a first.
“We have placed the locations of ruins we wish explored on the maps and scrolls given to you at the check-in. New to this list are several areas in the Northern Gate region of the tropical lands. Be advised that rumors of refugee races coming south from over the Dry Mountains may be true. These refugees are hostile to our lands, and should not be engaged in the Wild. If you learn of a group larger than 500 and seek out Outpost forces for Parlay, you will be compensated should treaties be signed.”
“Wyrm activity is always being told in tavern and bar. I’ve heard the stories myself and they sure do make for a great story. We do not have any new reports of any dragons or their like, however, many beasts have been engaged in the Wilds within the past cycle. We are, as always, interested in live beasts that can be domesticated or used for defense of the realm. A premium will be paid for winged beasts which may be used for mounting (obviously the crowd thought this rather funny, Luger simply waits for the snickering to stop). If you encounter a creature which is unknown to our librarians, have your mage create a vivid illusion of it and bring a sample of it’s blood. If genuine, and viable to our wizards, you may be compensated.”
“The Southern Lands are currently involved in a mass conflict with beasts, giants and races of Night that dwell past the Orstfelders. The King’s Spear has begun an offensive there and our information received thus far tells us the campaign goes well. New lands for our Realm, and revenge for the giant raids of last Spring. Our treaty with the “Lords of the Winterlands” prohibits you from involving yourself unless you carry the King’s Banner. Unless you wish to find your skin upon their floor, do not venture past our Southern Outposts. If you wish to aid this campaign, see your nearest recruiter.”
Maps and other essential items are made available to you at prices I am sure you will find satisfactory. All of these will be reimbursed should you return with genuine completion of any of the tasks given to you by your recruiter. If word of your assignment is given to any other party, it will be assumed that you are in league with those wishing to subvert our peace and prosperity. A warrant for you to be judged will be arranged and an Inquisition ordered upon your capture.
“Several missions are available for those of you who have proven your worth elsewhere. Be warned these are highly dangerous yet highly rewarded. If you believe you have what it takes, please see one of my captains directly after the briefing.”
A Season of Change
Report of the Librarian, to his Royal Majesty, Haidius Borindin
As per your request, our census machinations have been working to gather information about the land and sea. The summary of this information is magically encoded in this scroll and available to you in it’s condensed form. My staff remains ready for our next task regarding research of your prioritization. Until then, we will be hard at work amongst other interests to the Realm.
What first began as the rumor of farmers in the Southern Valley that the Sun is rising and falling farther and farther in the Eastern sky, appears to be accurate. Our astronomers are calculating that in just the last 4 years, a 2% gain towards the East is the appropriate alignment change. At night our visible constellations also show this 2% gain. We have no explanation at this time for the change, but our wizards believe that by the year’s end, another 1% gain can be estimated. This is alarming to the Southern Valley farmers as the winter sun is only several degrees more. If the gain continues, in less than a generation, the Southern Valley will no longer be a viable place to grow warmer crops.
As you know, Belloran continues to preach that the Ketians are but a myth and are not subverting the ways and means of our realm. Alas, we continue to find evidence that the Dark races we encounter are better organized than they should be. The engagement outside of Carr Theris recently has revealed a greater web of deceit. The outlaw, Red Owl, was not found, and “The Sisters” appears in literature and periphernalia we have obtained from those slain. Furthermore, it appears as though the groups responsible for invading our villages have purpose. They are obviously given information they themselves could not have known, and work in a unit that cannot be traced back to those responsible. I know your majesty does not believe in certain tales of old, but we continue to hear from the villains own mouths during Inquisition, that they seek certain individuals, targeted for murder. The latest intrusion seems to have slaughtered an entire village to the North of Corners Keep, in order to commit a single 5 year old child to a certain death in flames. I urge you to take these reports seriously. Your majesty must stay protected at all times.
A Call to the Contest!
“Here Ye! Here Ye!” called the Crier.
“His Royal Majesty and our great Realm’s Lordly Nobility proudly proclaim that the festivities and preparations for the 18th Challenge of Champions….
“Ok settle down, settle down, (the crier chuckles a bit as he steps higher onto your villages central podium), “the registration of Champions for this Challenge will be held on Summer Solstice Eve. All parties of 4-5 are invited to register. The usual fee of 1000 crowns will be used by the Challenge’s Master of Festivities for sights and wonders as you have never seen! Just imagine, winged demons from the Frozen Lands, spectacular magics, and I bring you news that will be sure to spread throughout your homes before the sun has risen.”
“Oh Blast you Crier! You say that every year!” Chortles a man near the front of those surrounding the podium.
“Not like this year, Henrikson! This year, I bring you something truly new. For this year, your lord, His Majesty, Borindin himself, will enter the Challenge!”
What? Could it be? The crowd was stunned!
“You heard true my fellow Celns! Lord Borindin will enter the Challenge himself, and what’s more, he intends to select his team AFTER registration!”
The crier continued on, telling of the many festival highlights, the parades and theatre events that the Nobility held generously for it’s citizens free of charge. Of the many parties that had entered in previous contests, the many contestants well known and idolized that might be returning to the registration booth. Assuring the villagers that what they had heard about Borindin was true, and how he had already begun training in order to help inspire his people in this time of limited peace.
Incredible you thought. Just incredible. The opportunity of a lifetime. Of many lifetimes perhaps. The chance for even the most common of common men. Anyone in the realm to Prove themselves that they were cut from a different cloth. For 1000 crowns, they could have a chance to become heroes. Known to every man, woman, child and race within the Flame’s embrace.
This year’s Challenge would be the greatest ever held.