The PCs have almost arrived at Strathaven. In the countryside several hours away, they spotted smoke and found a farmstead being attacked by bandits. They were easily able to dispatch them, but they seemed tougher than the usual bandits. Sir Johen claimed he was under orders to bring them to Strathaven, but Grimborn insisted they keep a young girl who was using magic to aid the bandits. Upon their arrival to the city, they saw that Strathaven was swollen in size, with refugee tents outside the walls.
They were offered two rooms at the inn and Grimbull recognized the innkeeper Magnus, who might or might not have been nicknamed Danroy the Fox and who had a cheery assistant named Kristoff.
The Heroes noticed and entered a range of contests for the festival, including jousting, melee, archery, and axe tossing. The contests lasted a three days. At the end of the third day, the champions of each contest were announced, with Grimbull winning the melee and Dane winning the joust!
Dane went to the Temple of the Three Gods and met with the High Priestess, making arrangements to meet with Warden Alana. Upon meeting her, he requested a meeting with the Baroness on Grimbull’s behalf.
The Heroes were on their way from Corbald to Strathhaven. They spent a day of fog and mist in the hills and dealt with a light rain in the night and morning. It stopped by mid-morning, and they started to see the sun come out as they travel through the outlying farm regions of Strathaven.
They heard a scream from a nearby farm and saw smoke start to plume from a farmhouse. Sir Johen stated it was likely the work of brigands and offered to charge them if the Heroes could cut their escape. Dane agreed and the Heroes worked their way around the left side of the farm, with Grimbull ever so slowly bringing his cart to the fight at the very end.
The brigands had barricaded a woman and her girl inside the farmhouse with a fire inside, but Dane and Lore helped them escape the fire. Talon ambushed a brigand from stealth and put in arrow in a young boy who used magic against Sir Johen’s men-at-arms. Lore and Talon felled the remaining two who tried to escape with arrows. Dane, Lore, and Savina healed the men-at-arms who were wounded, but one was dead. The women who was rescued fell to her knees in thanks. Her husband had gone into the city to sell some crops.
The young boy who used magic was actually a girl covered in dirt with her hair hacked short. She looked to be about 15 or 16. She tried to use magic on Nicholae to charm him into freeing her and he threatened her to not try that again. Talon and Nicholae wanted her turned in with the rest of the bandits to be executed, but Grimbull came to hr aid and said she just needed better role models and a second chance.
The girl claimed the brigands were her friends after she was kicked out of her village for witchcraft. She said they were hired by a man at the docks in Strathaven to cause as much damage as possible. Some of the bandits were huge and wielded greataxes. All were unclean and looked like they came from the hills.
“Strathaven has grown quite large, with an influx of refugees who have built a small village just outside the gates. Further off the road are some rickety shacks with the poorer refugees. The city is surrounded by a great stone wall and towers, the guards seemingly small as they pace the walls or peer over the battlements. A great castle can be seen atop a hill to the north of the city. The large gate is guarded by a small group of men-at-arms wear scale and armed with shortswords and longbows. They have the baronial colors—blue with a red diagonal stripe, on their tabards.”
There was a small tax to enter. 1 cp per person and per 2 livestock. Knights do not pay. Each wagon of crops costs 2 cp, and each wagon with goods costs 5 sp. Sir Johen waived the tax for the group.
“A large gate enters what seems like a nice part of the city, with a great temple to the right of the street. The temple has a pool that reflects its great stone stairs and decorative columns. The symbols of the three Astorian patrons, the Divinities, are clearly seen etched into the temple.“
“A large barracks with militia practicing sword and bow is next to the temple. The streets are paved and filled with locals and travelers here for Harvestfest. As you continue into the city, you enter the Strathaven markets, lined with hundreds of stalls with merchants noisily hawking their wares. It is the largest market most of you have seen (except Talon and Dane).“
“Near the market are mansions to your left, and you spot a sign for an inn called the Mandrake, as well as another called the Azure Drake. The Mandrake looks older and has quite the crowd, while the Azure Drake looks newer, with glass windows and better dressed patrons.”
“Sir Johen sent his squire and 2 men-at-arms ahead to send word of their arrival. The squire, Kalynd, says the castle and inns are packed, but Sir Johen’s entourage has 1 room at the castle, 2 rooms at the Azure Drake, and a pavilion tent that is well furnished on the north grounds. Sir Johen spits, then looks at you all. ’I’ll take the castle and pavilion and see that my men are taken care of. How about you all take the rooms so you can stay together and I’ll have a way to send word to you if I hear anything.’”
The Azure Drake was newer, opened by a dwarf named Magnus who slayed a green dragon. He found it fitting that the Baroness also defeated a green dragon, and he had just opened his inn. Using his treasure saved over decades of adventuring, he had spared no expense.
The inn was spacious, but also had many shadowy alcoves and some private rooms. It catered primarily to merchants and anyone with some coin, and its rooms and fare were more expensive than usual. There was a dragon skull with greenish black horns mounted on the wall, but the rest of the décor was more of a collection of Magnus’ travels, with hung weapons, shields, and paintings of faraway places such as Zaladar, Ashear, and even the Dragon Reach!
Magnus was a dwarf with a balding head, bushy black beard with two bands of white that ran along each whisker into his beard, and a tattoo of a the outline of a hammer around his face. He also had multiple piercings in his ears, with gold and platinum studs mounted with bright gems. Talon remarked that that must be what a real dwarf looked like.
Magnus knew Grimbull from his time in Grimbull’s settlement. He offered Grimbull some dwarf spirits (“nothing like fermented deep mushrooms to warm yer belly!”) on the house, saying he learned how to make it in Korand.
The Dwarf had an assistant, Kristoff, a larger dwarf who does most of Magnus’ work so he can tell stories and hang out with patrons. Kristoff had a brown beard and eyes, is charismatic, and knows much about business.
The food was excellent, with a wide range of spices available, and large portion sizes. There was all manner of meats, cheeses, and bread. The ale was from the best breweries in Rallas, the wine from Vyshani and Saladar, mead from Hrugorn, and Dwarf Spirits made in-house.
Grimbull decided to play cards with Magnus, and Talorn and Savina joined in. Magnus won he mist hands, with Grimbull, Talon, and Savina winning gone each out of six.
There were rooms reserved at the inn for Sir Johen’s party. He gave the Heroes the two rooms, and Magnus offeedr a third he had kept as an emergency for Grimbull. The rooms were nicely furnished, with feather mattresses. The larger room had a desk and brazier as well.
Odd Patrons at the Inn
The Azure Drake was very crowded that night. Lore played the song of his life and ended up hanging out at a table with 3 ladies: Lady Lavarra Logaire, the daughter of Baron Logaire; Lady Sovena Hawk, and Lady Aurelia Ren.
Dane noticed two knights in plate armor stained dark gray and black sitting in a corner. Both were extremely muscular, even for knights, and had the pale skin of an easterner. One had a greatsword and the other had a flail and a longsword.
The city was full of people from all of Strath and some from other parts of Rallas. There were vendors and market stalls everywhere. People had also come to watch the variety of tournaments. Some, like archery and axe tossing, were held outside the walls. The big events such as the melee and joust were held near the market and the temple respectively, where two fields have been set up.
The Archery started on the first day in the early morning and went until lunch. The melee started that afternoon and ran for three days. The Axe Tossing started that late afternoon after the melee. Jousting was on the second day in the morning, with the final tilts occurring on the third day after the melee ends.
Dane’s Fixation With Warden Alana
Dane donated a lot of gold at the Temple of the Three Gods and asked to see the high priest. High Priestess Valya met with him, and he asked if she could arrange an audience with Warden Alana. She replied that she would.
Later, Dane got word to meet Alana at the temple. They were served wine, and he met Alana for the first time. He revealed he was from the same house in Astoria, and Alana was surprised. She asked if Astoria was seeking him, and he said he was approached by a Luminary but no more. She said Luminaries used to come to Strathaven seeking her out as well. She asked many questions about Astoria and how it had changed. Alana came to realize Dane was her cousin.
Dane asked if she could arrange an audience with the Baroness so that he could present his companion, Grimbull. Alana said she would do so. Dane later got word that Alana would see them for breakfast before the joust on the third day of the feast.
A parade was held starting at the castle, winding through the dock area, market, to the temple and the northgate, through the east gate past the temple again, through the market, and back to the castle.
The archers were placed first, then the melee combatants, then the knights. There were a score of archers, two score melee combatants, and only a score of knights and some elder squires. Dane had seen far better knights in his homeland, as these wear mostly splint mail, did not have as strong of horses, and a third of them were mere squires in chain shirts riding draft horses. Still, their pennants flew proudly above them. Most wore the blue of House Strath, though Alana had her own coat-of-arms—a red white lion on a field of blue with a gold tower behind. Her colors were red and white. Sir Johen wore blue and white with the boar of Avonhill.
The archers were a combination of militiamen, hunters, and some mercenaries. The axe tossers were primarily mercenaries, barbrians, and sailors. The melee combatants were as motley a group as one might see anywhere—made up of Brell, Bron, and Vyshani sellswords, militiamen, and barbarians.
A field outside the east gate had been set. Many commoners came to watch, especially hunters and some farmers. It was a bit of a quiet crowd, with some hunters remarking on a person’s draw or release. The prize was 20 gp and an ornate longbow made of Faldorian oak. Lore was interested in participating, since the joust did not start until Day 2.
The archery started with a general round in which each had to hit the target with 3 of 5 arrows. The second round was also 3 of 5, but the targets were farther. The third round was the farthest targets yet, with 3 of 5 arrows needed.
- There was a militiaman, Sergeant Jarol, who served with Sergeant Simon at Aron’s Rest. He was clean-cut and liked to brag. He swore his bow was blessed by the spirit of the hawk when he fought in Ashdale.
- There was also a Bron barbarian named Firas. He also fought at Ashdale and is quiet, with a calm demeanor and fierce concentration. Though shorter than many Bron, he still stood over six feet tall, is gaunt, and had long blonde hair with braids, and icy blue eyes. The other barbarians cajole him and call him fart. He wore furs and has a fur-wrapped bow.
- Last was a Vyshani mercenary officer named Varturo. He had a black mustache, long black hair, and wore gold earrings. He also wore a silk shirt and velvet vest with high leather boots and a sash. He was gregarious and will point out others’ faults.
Lore made it to the third round after doing better than every other contestant but fell one arrow short. The barbarian surprisingly won.
The archery was in the morning, melee in the afternoon, and axe tossing in the late afternoon and early evening. It was held in the dock area and was especially rowdy. The prize was 10 gp and a matched pair of hand axes with light colored ashwood hafts and darksteel blades dipped in silver.
Each participant had to throw 3 axes and hit a barrel with all three to advance. Each round the barrels were placed farther away. After that, people were matched into pairs.
Notable participants included the following.
- Sheriff Bors was tall, broad shouldered, balding, has stubble, and a crooked nose. He had squinty green eyes and wears chainmail, but only wore a chain shirt for this.
- A barbarian named Husk was also quite tall, husky build, powerful muscles, missing one eye, has a wicked scar on his face, and a graying beard. He was the leader of the barbarians and they will all show up. He had a winter wolf cloak and a necklace made of the teeth of beasts.
Talon participated and defeated Husk much to the dismay of the rowdy barbarians watching. Talon lost to Bors in the final match.
The melee was popular and took the full 3 days to complete. There were a couple of knights, half a dozen barbarians, some sellswords, militiamen, and some hunters. The grand prize was 50 gp and a greataxe once wielded by Origond the Ogre, a member of the Chosen who died fighting against Astoria. The greataxe’s haft was blackoak and the handle is wrapped in whiye winter wolf hide.
Each round consisted of a fight against one opponent. The ring was set up in the market, with a deafening crowd and rampant betting. First one to drop or surrender loses. There were priests and druids present.
Grimbull participated, but Dane changed his mind about signing up, deciding it was for the “common” folk. Grimbull accidentally killed a Vyshani in one swing, which caused a stir. He fought a tougher Vyshani duelist who sought revenge and used poison. He ended up facing a barbarian berserker, a match that surprisingly lasted a long time. In the final match, Grimbull faced Sheriff Bors and defeated him, giving Talon a little bit of payback. Bors was impressed and told Grimbull he’d get him next year. A knight, Sir Bryn, and a Recloak, Sergeant Allias, made it to the final four.
This is what makes Strath unique in the Duchy and what many came to see. The field was near the temple. All manner of people were there, with the affluent protected by a fence and guards on the temple side, while the rabble congregated on the other three sides. There were not many who could joust—less than a dozen. The prize was a golden chain with the Strath seal (proclaiming its wearer as the Champion of Strath) and 500 gp.
The combatants were slated against each other and had to either knock the opponent off in 3 rounds or strike him for points and beat his total. If both were unhorsed, both lost the round. If there was a draw, they would go into sudden death until one is unhorsed or misses with an attack.
Dane was defeated in the first round by a squire. Warden Alana, Sir Morgan Chase, and Sir Liam Bellamy easily won their matches. The next day, Dane faced a knight and won, though it took much more than the standard 3 passes. On the third day, Dane faced another squire and easily won. He then faced Sir Morgan Chase and won and then Warden Alana in the final round, whom he actually unhorsed!
Audience With the Baroness
The group—minus Talon and Savina who were sleeping off hangovers—went to the castle and met with Baroness Dierdre Strath for breakfast. Alana was also present. The Baroness was much younger than the Heroes expected (in character of course). She asked Dane about his noble house in Astoria, and also asked Nicholae some questions about Pavik, uncovering his noble origins as well. Grimbull remarked that he has been traveling with a bunch of nobles all this time.
Dane introduced Grimbull, who informed the Baroness that Vyshani had run a mining operation using enslaved locals in Avonhill as slave labor. Deirdre thanked the Heroes for their efforts in stopping this and mused whether he Vyshani were acting under the Prince of Amarre. Also, Grimbull claimed his kin were looking to expand and could run the mine for Avonhill, since the mine was going to waste prior to the Vyshani intruding. He pitched an alliance between the dwarves and humans to mutually protect that region and trade.
Deirdre confidently stated she would be interested in giving the mine to the dwarves and also meeting their leader in person in their settlement. This caused a lot of surprise, and Alana asked the Baroness if she was sure this was wise. Deirdre claimed she would have guards and that she could handle herself.
Throughout the meeting Deirdre asked a lot of questions but revealed little. At the end, she asked the Heroes if they could go to Amarre and see if they could trace it’s prince to the actions in Avonhill. She said they would recognize any of the involved Vyshani.
Grimbull also informed her that some bandits they caught were hired by a man at the docks, and this could be connected. Grimbull asked the girl he had taken in, Dakara, if she would recognize the man at the docks and she said she would.
Deirdre again thanked them for their vigilance.