Herein we meet our party. All but one have gathered at the Drunken Mermaid for a drink and a quick go-over of the plan. Prince Oliver Constantine is there with Lucian, the guard in his charge. Across from them sits Findilus (no-one is proper enough for him to explain his real name). Sir Montgomery Cromwell is tracking down an errand boy called over to the bar by the barkeep. Handing him a small scroll, Sir Montgomery describes their missing companion, and sends the boy on his way. The boy journeys to two other taverns before finding Ivan Dracolich sitting alone, waiting for the rest of the group. Handing the scroll to Ivan, the boy waits patiently for his tip. Ivan puts the scroll in his pocket, not even bothering to break the seal. The boy gives a slight clearing of his throat, as Ivan orders two pints of mead. He hands the boy one of the two, and smiles. From Ivan’s point of view, this is the best tip he can give to a boy of almost fourteen. The two drink down the pint, and start a conversation that leads to the Drunken Mermaid. Now realizing that he is in the wrong place, Ivan asks the boy to lead him to the right table. The boy smiles the grin of the drunken bastard who has had more than their limit to drink. He stumbles out of the tavern with Ivan in tow, wobbling and giggling with every step. His speech is slurred beyond most comprehension, and his weaving and wobbling would be envied by the best drunken masters. He takes a spill or two, but winds up back on his feet in record time. It must have been by some divine miracle that the boy was able to find the Drunken Mermaid on his first try. as he is sat at the bar, another pint of mead placed in front of him, he smiles the biggest, goofiest, dumbest looking smile at Ivan. The boy passes out cold, his face on the bar and his hand on his mug, before he can take his first sip. A little late to join the party, Ivan is informed of the plan. The group he now sits part of will ride to the Keep of Beauford, only twenty miles from Oxford. They will take the Keep back from it’s current rulers, and use the outskirts as a foothold for the great assault on Oxford.
The end of discussion brings the scroll from Ivan’s pocket. Placing it on the table, he turns to a barmaid who has requested his attention. Prince Oliver picks the scroll up and deposits it in his pocket, seemingly making a mental note as to where he put it. He explains to the group that Ivan probably can’t read it and he may need to use it again. Looks of curiosity are abound, and he explains himself further. “The scroll says to bring the bearer to the prince, and receive your reward. Ivan has never opened one of my scrolls himself,” he says. Laughter is heard throughout the bar from all but Ivan, as he is in deep conversation with the barmaid. After sticking his foot in his mouth one too many times, Ivan decides that it would be better for him to sleep alone this evening than to have company anyway. The group agrees, downs their drinks, and everyone heads to bed for a peaceful nights rest.
Morning greets the party with a bright smile, and a creepy surprise. During the night, one of the tenants had died. He was found in his room with no bleeding, no wounds, no signs of poison, and all of his stuff missing. Only his blackened eyes, some darkened veins, and talk of a succubus gave hint that this was not a natural death. The group decides to let the authorities handle this one, as they move to the stables to get their horses. It’s a five day ride to Oxford, and they need to get moving to make it on time. Almost to midday on the first days ride, everyone is happy to see things going so well. As they come to a bog-like area, facing a darkened forest, things take a turn toward the eventful. Above what looks to be a clearing in the trees just ahead, a head becomes visible on the horizon. It appears to be bobbing to the beat of a drum, just barely becoming audible as the group slows and gets closer. Above the trees, the head looks toward the group, then back to the clearing and the drums. The group moves just a bit closer, and they see three large ogres, and a mass of goblins who’s number could be over a dozen. The large bobbing head is way in the back, attached to an absolutely huge body, and is overlooking the “festivities”. The three large ogres are standing with the goblins, surrounding a figure. The beat of the drum gets louder, faster, and more aggressive, then abruptly stops. A muffled “Thump!”, and loud raucous cheer brings Ivan to spur his War Boar into the fray. He charges the group, running down a goblin on his way to the middle of the commotion. The party cannot seem to discern if this is true bravery or sheer stupidity, but they all rush to the aid of a fellow comrade.
As battle starts, a woman is seen chained to a makeshift stage at the rear of the clearing. She is tied with her hands above her head, her lavish looking shirt torn half off her chest. The huge figure begins moving toward the intruders, swinging his two chained tree trunks, as they are disrupting the beat of the drum he so enjoyed. Sir Montgomery and Ivan Dracolich have attracted his attention, while Findilus cleans up the three large ogres with Prince Oliver. Lucian skirts the edge of the battle making his way to the stage, shooting arrows where they are needed. As he arrives at the foot of the stage, he realizes the only creature still standing is the huge monolith wielding a tree-trunk nun-chuck. Seeing that the other four have everything under control, Lucian cuts the woman free. He lends her his cloak so she might retain some of her honor and dignity, as helps her to his horse. The huge guy falls like a redwood in high winds, and the woman begins thanking the group profusely. She offers the gems she carries as a reward for her rescue, and Ivan takes his share. The rest of the party expresses their gratitude for a reward, but says they were only doing the right thing. Introducing herself as Lady Mistra, she expresses that she is in their debt.
She tells the group she was originally captured by a group of men, and traded to the giant for a pair of claw like gloves. Her memories are not like a finely detailed painting, but she thinks the gloves may have had the stripes of a tiger. Her memory of her captors is a different story though. She describes them in quite a bit of detail, as they held her for a few days more than the giant and his friends. The common consensus is that the group of men were most likely headed toward Mordred, based upon their description and their direction of travel. Lucian makes a mental note as to the direction the group should take next, sadly, thinking mostly of the gloves.
From the trail the group arrived on appears a Purple Knight. It seems that Oliver has been summoned home, as his father needs help with certain negotiations. From his belt, Oliver takes his “pouch of potions” and hands it to Lucian. He hands the reigns of his horse to Lady Mistra, as he plans to ride with the Knight. With a wave, Oliver and the Knight turn and head toward his father. Lady Mistra now rides with the group, telling all that it is the least she can do for her rescuers. The newly formed group rides onward toward Oxford. About an hour into their ride, flutes can be heard lightly on the wind. A quick pause for a listen, and Lady Mistra is the only one to speak. “Satyrs”, she says, “have come here, and they prey on unsuspecting travelers.” They all continue onward, and the rest of this day is uneventful.
Night falls, with a slight rain, and Ivan sets a few fishing lines in the creek they have chosen to sleep near. On his first trip to check his lines, he finds a silver goblet on the ground. It is filled with what looks like wine, and it is getting spoiled by the rain. A voice without a face tells him to drink, as he tips the vessel all the way back. Meanwhile, back at camp, Sir Montgomery is woken by his own sister. She is holding his nose, and his sword, while only inches from his face. Confronting him about his mission, she finds that her brother is not one to lie. She finds that he is also one that will not be persuaded to her side. Fed up with his decisions, she gets up to leave. As she gets to the doorway of the tent, she vanishes into thin air, the sword falling from her grasp to the ground. The tent flap flies up briefly, then comes back to rest. Following instinct, Sir Montgomery throws himself out of the tent after her, picking his sword up on the way by. With Ivan not in sight, he fears the worst. Picking up the pace, he heads to the creek where the fishing lines have been set. Dangling from a tree by his foot, Ivan has a silver goblet underneath him. Helping Ivan down, Sir Montgomery seems to have overstepped his bounds. Ivan sends him back to where he came from, saying he can handle himself, and busies himself with his fishing lines. Sir Montgomery excuses himself, apologizing for trying to help another, and returns to his tent.
Lady Mistra lays awake, unable to sleep. She goes to Lucian’s tent to look for a companion. Try as she may, she cannot persuade him to bed her right. Frustrated, she leaves him to sleep alone, and tries her luck with Sir Montgomery. His night has not gone so well so far, and he is on no mood for company. Disappointed with her luck, she returns to Lucian. She maneuvers her way into his bed, and curls up beside him, settling for any company she can find. For tonight, someone to be with will be fine for her. The rest of the night gets colder, but it is quiet. While the light rain turns to a sleet and snow mixture, the group sleeps soundly.
Morning brings a well rested group to their doorways with a cool, crisp hello. While packing, the group finds footprints around and through the camp. A few giants have passed the group in the night, but they have not disturbed anyone or anything. Weird as it is, nobody looks a gift horse in the mouth. With camp packed, the group continues onward toward Oxford. Afternoon comes and goes with little issue, and the weather gets a little warmer. The sun starts to set, and the keep starts to peek into view. Smiles begin to creep onto their faces, as their destination is now only a few hours ride away. In less than a day they shall be at the front door, ready to liberate the residents from their current rule. As the group pauses to discuss resting for the night, or pressing onward, they are confronted by a pair of tigers!
The larger tiger attacks first, knocking Findilus off his horse and pinning him to the ground. It snarls and growls, almost toying with his food before eating it. The smaller tiger pounces on Lady Mistra, also knocking her to the ground. Her quick reactions have left her with a level head, and plenty of courage. As she hits the ground she disappears from the tiger’s clutches, and reappears on her horse. Ivan charges in to the fray, looking to the smaller one, his closest target. He brings his weapon to bear on the tiger. With a stunning display of agility, the tiger pounces on top of him, pinning him to the ground. Lucian unleashes two arrows into the beasts hide, but it does not release Ivan from it’s clutches. Findilus tries to throw the tiger off of him, but it is too heavy. Ready to panic, he decides to attempt what he feels is his last resort. Gritting his teeth, he releases a fireball into the tiger’s chest! The tiger seems to scream in agony as the spell hits it’s mark, charring flesh and burning fur. It releases its captive, and turns to run. Sir Montgomery moves to Ivan’s aid as the larger beast rushes onto the woods. Following the stench and smoke trail, Lucian catches up to the crispy tiger, and puts it out of it’s misery with a couple of quick arrows. Returning to the group, Lucian finds the other tiger has been dealt with, and his companions have all survived. Looking at the small battlefield, the group finds that one of the horses was killed in the fireball. Findilus is in rough shape, but decides that a good nights rest should put him in much better condition.
With the tigers Dispatched, and dusk upon them, the group has decided to rest for the night. They turn toward a home on the outskirts of the keep, and call on the owner. As it happens, the owner is happy they are here. He offers them his barn for the night, as long as the group keeps mum about him having knowledge they where there. Agreed, the small party of adventurers makes their way to the barn and beds down for the night. Much awaits them come sunrise, and everyone feels they may yet need all the strength they can gather.