|Alec the Warlord|
The savage dragon man had prepared his assassination well and so the tattooed emissary found himself choking on the stuff of shadows even as the devilish Amul Fey called forth his hexed blade newly rededicated to the service of the Lady and brought it down upon his hapless pate. Alec the Warlord called out orders and Jetberry hurled such insults that men shriveled at the touch of her scorching wit.
In moments it was over and the surviving men-at-arms of Fircrest had surrendered. Four men were taken prisoner and bound by Luftenant Devlin and his men. It was then that the discombobulated head of the ancient merchant Sasha appeared and beckoned the triumphant warriors to nearby treeline.
There the companions beheld a curious site. A spectral serpent of flame twisted about in the air, bound by a circle of runes carved into the loam of the forest floor. The serpent was apparently an old acquaintance of the the Warlord, the Bard and their Dragon friend, one who's alliance they had rejected some months before. Now the serpent (who seemed to be in fact the avatar of the dread wizard Mordant) reiterated his entreaties for the heroes to cast aside their aspirations and instead sell their services for "great reward", mocking them for their short sighted-ness for could they not see that he had many schemes and much power?
Some of the more clever members of the party toyed with the snake for awhile, asking what tasks he wanted accomplished and how they might come to an agreement. It seemed the wizardly serpent merely wanted the return of a bag of bones won in the battle of the Orc Tree. Not likely. Jetberry had been using those to teach grifters' tricks to Kage. Alec the Warlord was not impressed. He shouted at the apparition that its false offers grew tiresome. Its plots would be exposed by the Swords of the Glade.
After holding his peace, Wolverhampton finally spoke with his hammer. He swung the maul through the soft earth before the serpent, ruining the runes of magic and banishing his presence.
While looting the bodies of the defeated, performing proper burials and preparing to abscond, the companions discussed all they had learned and the questions they still had.
It seemed Fircrest had been infiltrated by the Cult of Io, a nefarious organization of serpent worshipers that had been a political factor in the southern islands for many centuries. In fact, the weightless bust blamed this very organization for his long past petrification. They wish to awaken a god, sleeping or dead.
The red paladin was reminded of an old adage of the Red Knight: "Many things are worshiped. Not all are gods. It is not gods who threaten, but injustice. We will battle them all."
According to the captured soldiers and the necrotic pendants they wore, the true power of Fircrest was not Hector Greymane, but in fact a Necromancer named Mordant, possibly the one last glimpsed fleeing the Orc Tree and few weeks prior. It would be necessary to question these prisoners further, but they would be treated with civility and tea.
Plans were discussed as they Company of the Verdant Glade stole into the Blackburn Forest by quiet byways:
- Perhaps they could find the old Hermit who long ago told the Prophecy of the Once and Future King. Perhaps they could disguise their entry to the town of Fircrest and find what tidings are there.
- Perhaps a gift of venison may be made to the Tiller family or one more deserving. What blight issues forth from the castle?
- Perhaps allies may be found amongst the populace. It is said that the Father of the Church is not a vassal of the Castle.
- Perhaps inspiration might be found amongst the Crypts of the Ancients or in the Shrine of the Red Knight.
- Perhaps Steed of Dream may be ridden up the river and under the Castle gate.
- Perhaps other opportunities might present themselves.