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Borderland - Dancing Cauldron (Holt-Lindeck)

This is the in-game/in-character thread for our Grenzland/Borderland Game.
You can access it as a stream and download a copy for your use in CL vNext: https://logger-stream.campaign-logger.com/?rss=57882514bba248b69b91271c059e3a88&mode=next

The corresponding LFP thread is Grenzland (Borderland) - An Open Table West Marches-style Game.

If you like, take your time and introduce your character to the other adventurers.

Consider this the taproom of the Dancing Cauldron - the inn where player characters usually stay and gather when in town.


In the back of the room fixed to the stairs leading up and just beyond the biggest table, there is a big wooden message board.


And often, if the parties do not take it with them, there is a heavy leather map of the Margraviate of Hochholt and areas surrounding Holt-Lindeck. hanging just beside it. A map that evolves with every adventure and every new discovery...

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The one-eyed man glanced over. Squinting he watched Jacob and Echawan at the far table dine on a splendid dish of stag meat stripes from the near pine forest, tender salsify and steaming potatoes. Silently he talked to Gervin. He had inspected his own purse thoroughly before asking for Gervins opinion. Gervin seemed to reluctantly agree. And then, the man rose. He put the hat back on his head, checked the right position of his rapier and swiftly walked over to the corner table near the entrance, where the two were sitting. Disdain on his face and the purse in his left hand he had a jump to his stride that spoke of his quickness in combat.

"You! Girl," he addressed Echawan, "are you proficient with the needle? Repair the purse! And be quick about it."
He dropped the well-made purse in front of her, set a silver coin beside it, and began to fill the rest of the coins into a small pocket at the side of his shirt. They didn't seem to fit though. Angrily sighing, he took the last four copper pieces that didn't fit and put them also in front of Echawan, not even disturbed by the amount. For him, it was evidently only pocket money. A glance over to his seat, Echawan and Jacob realized that he hadn't even eaten half of the expensive food.

"Boy, fetch me my horse. I'll ride as soon as she finishes," he called over his shoulder, probably addressing Gervin. Then his gaze fell on the half-orc at the big table in the back of the room. Again, his lips curled up in disgust, but he said nothing. Only stared.
Jacob had to cough with surprise and disbelief, because he choked on his food. Then he feverishly thought about how he could play a trick on this big shot, and he came to him of his own accord, like a lamb to the slaughter.

Inconspicuously, he touched Echawan on the thigh and nodded at the bag as he whispered softly through a corner of his mouth.

"Of course you can sew! Go on...take the pouch!!!"

Then, turning to the one-eyed man, "You look like you're in a hurry, sir! Gervin has some business to attend to here at the tavern, and I am used to dealing with horses. Since I've finished my meal and can always use a few coppers, I'd like to saddle your horse!"

He lowered his voice, "Also, you might not want to leave your horse alone for too long, some pretty strange creatures roam around here!" His gaze found the one-eyed man's and then wandered to Bausum.

Oh, Jacob had nothing at all against the half-orc, but "good opportunities were not to be let pass," also something the old Dom had always said.
With a smile on his face, Jacob stood up without waiting for an answer. He had quickly learned that as a "servant" you always had to act quickly and submissively, and then you were usually "invisible" and considered not really threatening.
"May I go first, sir, I'm sure there's something you want to do? I don't need 10 pieces of a candle to saddle the horse! And I guess I'll recognize it right away, too, since it's certainly not one of those draft horses that other guests ride around here!"
He went to the door and opened it wide for the one-eyed man.
Occupied with his own business, the one-eyed man seemed not to notice that Jacob had urged Echawan to take the pouch. She did of course, seeing a chance to make some real coins. Her eyes gleamed with sudden joy.
Turning now to Jacob though, as the lad spoke up, the one-eyed man broke into a smile. With seemingly honest benevolent intentions, he complimented him:

"Well spoken, lad. You have talent. And your coins they shall be, if you are quick about it."

He waved his hand for him to leave, then looked over his shoulder to Gervin, pity in his gaze. An idea crept over his mimic and he quickly strode up to the bar. With elegant movement and in one stride he suddenly had his rapier in his hand and struck! Through the heart. Of the apple that Merryweather was holding. Merryweather became instantly pale and had to steady himself. Gervin looked up in sudden shock. And the one-eyed man passed a glance to the half-orc, before addressing Gervin in a conversational manner:

"If you want to become a writer, boy, you need to become faster. Much faster. In everything you do. Even cleaning. If you want to keep up with Rinaldi dela Capistrano, swordmaster of the north, first blade of Mistress Al'Amlinn, and the best dancer of this city, I might add, you need to see as quickly as I move!"

And with a twist of his hand, the apple flew high into the air. And as it fell, there was a short movement like a crack of lightning and as the apple fell to the ground, it was evident, that he had cut the apple a dozen times and in that short flicker of movement that was almost like a blur, he showed a swordmanship seeking its rival. The apple chips dropped to the ground... and were wasted. He raised an eyebrow to Gervin in a loft manner and was seemingly very confident of himself.

"Now, I hope the purse will be ready when I come back from my room. It better be."
And with that, he moved towards the stairs, passing the half-orc and the magician, leaving Echawan to figure out how to sew a purse. Quickly.
The dice didn't roll, they flew! Rushed down the mountain like an avalanche!
"Jacob, do NOT burn your fingers!" he heard his mother say in that reprimanding tone. "It's your own fault for messing with the biggest boys in the village too, I won't get you out of it next time!" spoke Arthur in his mind.

BUT...this urge...in him.

"Rinaldi dela Capistrano, swordmaster of the north, first blade of Mistress Al'Amlinn, and the best dancer of this city...!" he repeated in his mind, reshaping the words:
"Rinaldi dela Capistrano, broommaster of the north, first court jester of Mistress Al'Amlinn, and the second best dancer of this city!", the guy hadn't seen him dance yet! His eyes darted to Echawan and her delighted grin as she collected the coins.

"Now, I hope the purse will be ready when I come back from my room. It better be." the pompous show-off still said.

"Echawan, let me show you how exactly you should sew the purse so that the master should be satisfied!" he whispered to the young woman, and more than a little mockery dripped from his voice.
He quickly described to Echawan what he was going to do, and his mischievous grin grew wider.
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"No," Nichuan said to Eremis, "you mustn't give me this!"

It was a quiet noon in the Dancing Cauldron, as she pushed the bag of coins in the direction of the man that had lead them on their first adventure. It had been less than a day since they had returned from their mission to Auheim to investigate the source of the Black Snow. It has been exciting, and dangerous, and Nichuan had been able to gain some confidence along the way. She smiled when she remembered how Benedikt and Eremis both had been very protective of her. At the same time, it confused her. She had grown up in a culture where women where the protective ones, protectors of their caravans. She'd never seen herself as a protector or a warrior. She remembered, very clearly, the moment when the Teeth Gnome rushed at her, and her flame jet incinerated it. It exploded in a cloud of fire and bones. If it hadn't have been for Eremis, the sharp shards would have shredded her. But he had jumped in the way, holding his shield high up, taking the brunt of blow. How could she take money from him if he had saved her life?

"Nichuan," he said, "you were as much part of the success to our mission as anyone else in our group. You have earned it!" He shoved the bag back to her, ignoring Gervin, the waiter boy, who was trying to take an order while staring with big eyes at the coin pouch.

"Okay," she said finally, gathering some of the confidence she had built up along their journey together, "I will take money. But you have to take out money you gave me before. And you have to agree coming to big dinner with family. Tonight!"

Her heart was pounding a little faster. Would he agree? She knew he was very busy in town, talking to all those guild masters to get their adventurers guild confirmed and established. He had to say yes!


Eremis broke into a wide smile. She definitely knows!

"How would I be able to deny you that?" Seeing her confused gaze, he quickly added: "Of course. It will be my pleasure, Nichuan!"
He stretched his back, finally relaxing a bit. "Then let me have the next tab in return. I'll have my usual. A dark beer in a big tankard. You?" He shortly nodded friendly to Gervin still waiting for them.

After Gervin had left with their orders, he took off his leather gauntlets and shortly looked back at the message board. A new request for adventurers was pinned to it. He skimmed "Drag treasure out of a Lonely Tower" and involuntarily smiled to himself. That's exactly how it should work. But I better take part in this to make sure, ground rules are established right from the start.

Taking a mental note to put those "Guild Guidelines" in writing later and to open a discussion about them with the other potential guild founding members, he turned back to Nichuan. He licked over his lower lip as if to bring himself to start a difficult conversation and then began with a voluntary warm voice:
"How are you feeling, Nichuan?" He took a moment to collect his thoughts and to find the right phrasing without speaking down to her.
"I can only assume, that it was your first time fighting a demon. Heroically. And killing a "Teeth Gnome" with your magic. And killing... an infected human. To protect us. How... are you coping with this?" He was worried for her, but wouldn't want her to feel bad about what she had done. Had he found the one phrasing, that was not insinuating what Benedikt had stressed? That it had been a rash behaviour?


Nichuan went from happy to thoughtful while Eremis spoke. Happy that he said yes to her invitation, thoughtful about what had happened when the Infected had attacked them on their way to Alt-Auheim. There must have been a dozen of them, swarming the three of them in a mixture of frenzy and wariness. Benedikt and Eremis both had tried to cover her but one of the Infected got through and was about to attack her with bare hands and dull eyes. She had panicked. It was the strongest lance of fire that she had ever conjured, and it went right through the attackers chest, leaving nothing but a burned hole. The lot had fled shortly after their comrade had fallen. When Nichuan had stared at the dead, smoking body a hot wave of guilt had washed over her.

"I feel good ... now," she began. "I think, maybe I was too quick? Maybe talking would be better then? You talked to them, and they went away. I could not do that. You are good talker, and fighter. I only dance with flames." She looked down for a while, then looked up again.

Eremis was giving her time to finish her thoughts. "I am glad to hear that," he said. "If you want to talk further about it I will be there for you. I am not only a good talker, I listen very well, too!" He smiled, then winked at her.

Nichuan nodded. "Thank you, Eremis," she said finally. 'And not only for talking to me,' she added in her thoughts. Then she mirrored his smile.
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Satisfied Nichuan looked at the result. With Merryweather's consent she had turned the big table in the taproom of the Dancing Cauldron into a lifelike image of a Giriwach tent. Tent panels hung from sturdy wooden poles and were covered with fierce looking clay masks. A dim lantern hung from the tent roof and shedded a soft light. The table was draped with a colourful blanket. Bowls of virtual yellow and orange fruit stood next to vases with purple and green flowers. An exotic beat of distant drums added to the immersion and was accompanied by melodic sounds of strings and flutes. Nichuan wished she could transform all of the Cauldron to her desired setting but she wasn't powerful enough to maintain it for a longer time. The board of the Borderland Explorers seemed to hover in mid air, just behind the table where Nichuan's family and her guests for tonight were seated. Her illusion was perfect but for the lack of scent that would tell of dry dusty heat, hot spices and long travels. In that moment Nichuan realized how much she missed the Golden South. But she had her family with her. Well, all but her sister Rachowan who was studying to become an alchemist back at Liskan.

She looked around the table, watching her friends and family in turn. Everyone was showing their best, which made Nichuan very happy because it was an important dinner for her. It was the first time she hosted such a dinner, and it was the first time in a very long time that someone in her family could afford it. As host of tonight's dinner she had put on all of her copper bracelets and rings, together with a simple brass necklace, and sat at the head of the table. She had her sister Echawan brush her fur for the better part of the afternoon. On her right sat her mother Karlach, without any jewelry. It took all of the sisters' convincing to make her show up at all. She wore a loose, green caftan that hid the absence of her right arm very well. Despite of that she looked very uncomfortable.
Nisalach sat beside her mother, to further shield her from too curious looks and questions. She was talking to Arthur who was one of Benedikt's brothers, the big Sword Brother, who sat opposite her. He wore black trousers with a white uniform jacket that had the golden falcon of his house on it. Nisalach asked him questions about his favourite weapons and maneuvers, and Arthur was politely answering some of them. Right of Nisalach sat her younger litter-sister Echawan who was absorbed in a conversation with Jacob, the nimble Knife Brother, who sat right of her at the far end of the table. Echawan had asked Nichuan to place her next to him. The two youngest of their families seemed to get along very well.
Across from Nichuan, at the other end of the table, the powerful Mana Brother, Hogar, sat with a blank expression, watching everyone at the table, just as she was doing. He had donned an impressive black robe that opened below the waist to reveal his equally black pants. His wooden staff of wizardry leaned against the wall, always in reach. At the far left end of the table Benedikt, the solemn God Brother, sat next to Hrgungdvar, the wild Bear Man, that they had met in Alt-Auheim. They were both religious people. That was why Nichuan thought of placing them next to each other. Benedikt was clad in white robes with a golden sun embroidered on it that was partly covered by a similar looking symbol of Solus, the Holy Sun. The Bear Man had donned his usual leather and fur armor.
Nichuan ended at her left where Eremis sat, leader of their pride-to-be, the Borderland Explorers. Again, it had been Echawan who had insisted on placing him there. That way, maybe Nichuan got to talk some more with the handsome human. She watched him a little longer than necessary. His brand new white linen shirt showed much of his dark, muscular body, which he must have rubbed with some oil. He was freshly shaved and smelled of various spices that came pleasantly to Nichuan's nose.
One friend was missing at the table, though. At the sight of the hellish demon in Auheim the little girl with the red fox around her shoulders had vanished, never to be seen again. Nichuan hoped that the girl who had called herself Foxrouge, was well.

Food was served by Gervin who was ogling her illusionary creation. It wasn't the spicy meat, rice, and lentils she would expect in a southern caravansery. But it was good food nonetheless. She had asked the innkeep Merryweather for the best food he had to offer. Only the best for her family and friends. Expectantly, everyone at the table turned in her direction, different kinds of glasses and jugs raised. She had thouroughly practised what she wanted to tell them.

"Dear family," she began, "and dear friends. Achadir Sala! Fate brought us together. Fate will be our future. Thank you all for coming! My family lost their name, many years ago. But here, in this town, with the Borderland Explorers, we will earn ourselves a new name. A name to be proud of! Have more drinks, enjoy the food. Eat as much you can! Let us be merry, and know us better! Because then we will face fate together! Insalawarma!"

Blood rushed through her cheeks. She was not used to undivided attention. She hoped her speech was as intended. Her sisters were joining in on her mantra of wellbeing. She noticed, a little surprised but happy, that Eremis joined them, too. "Insalawarma!" they cheered together. 'We will be together!'

In the South everyone would have reached for the food and started to eat. But Benedikt's voice rose and held them back. He turned to Nichuan.

"Well spoken, Nichuan, and thank you for this wonderful dinner. Please, allow me to bless this meal in HIS name, Solus the Golden, with a little prayer."

Nichuan didn't know much about the gods that were worshipped in the north. Of Solus of the sky and Freya of the earth she had heard since she met Benedikt. Hrgungdvar was worshipping even another godess. It was all very confusing and much more complicated than having Nurumaya, Mother of the All-Pride, watching over you. She looked at the priest. He now was part of her nurdu, her pride, so she had to accept, no embrace, his different view of the world. She smiled at him and nodded, encouraging him to start his prayer. "Insalawarma," she murmured.
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Nichuan was dressed very differently and seemed a bit ... nervous... on him. Of course her mother was sitting next to her, from experience Benedikt knew how difficult the relationship between family members could be. The best proof was him and Hogar.
The lady Karlach had lost her arm. From the hints of Eremi, who was far too honorable to say such a thing openly, and the reactions of Nichuan to her mother, Benedikt had deduced that Karlach suffered greatly from her injury. Perhaps he, no Solus, could help this family. He had spent almost a whole day in prayer in the temple of Solus. He had prayed for insight and courage, for new strength. For understanding and confidence. And for the first time in a long time, he had not felt completely fulfilled after the conversation with his God. Nevertheless, he had found some ways to rekindle the power of life in the creatures of this world. The power of regeneration was now given to him. Perhaps....

Benedikt rose from his chair, barely noticing the reactions of those present as he tried to concentrate on finding the right words for a prayer to Solus that would fill everyone with joy and hope.
For his thoughts, his feelings were still under the impression of the events in Auheim. Unconsciously, he looked for Eremis' gaze. He just smiled at Nichuan and seemed so...relaxed, as if the flames and hatred of the demon had touched him less. Or was he mistaken? A soft clearing of the throat, then he raised his melodious and speech-used voice:

"Lord Solus, you are the light
that carries us through dark times
that dispels fears and worries
that gives us hope in tribulation
promising us hope and help.
Come and bless those gathered who have passed through darkness and sorrow, and refresh them with your strength."

Hogar at the other head of the uttered a sound, not o obviously derogatory as he did when they were among themselves, but it was like shock to Benedikt. The images from Auheim returned....

He looked into the eyes of each guest for an intense moment, not too long so that it would not be perceived as unpleasant or offensive, but Benedikt wanted to see their soul, to feel their REactions. More than ever, he needed something like proof that the words about Solus were making a difference, that his faith had a foundation.

THESE FLAMES, THESE EYES....the grimace of the demon laughed at him....

The deep bass of Hrgungdvar, the holy warrior of the goddess Perra, flowed into Benedikt like a calming breath. The words were soft and barely intelligible, perhaps simple assent, perhaps a prayer of his own. It didn't matter. He gathered himself and swallowed....

"You light,
that heralds new beginnings,
that banishes the terrors of the night,
that makes the morning dawn
and accompanies us through the day.
Come and give hope to all!"

Arthur next to him spoke the words softly along, Jacob no longer chuckled, but looked at his eldest brother worriedly. Benedikt knew about the dark and morally questionable sides of the youngest "von Falkenstayn", but he also saw the light of confidence and the radiance of curiosity in him.

"Lord Solus,
guiding star through our lives,
source of strength on all our paths,
orientation and goal,
our salvation, our future."

His arms lifted and warm light surrounded his hands, Solus blessing had come! And the old feeling of closeness to him...was there again. At least: NOW.

"Come and bless and illuminate our path!"

At the end of the prayer, he once again sought the gaze of Eremis. When he found him, he silently formed the words:
"We must speak!"

Then he sat down slowly, exhausted. But...happy in the circle of family and... new friends...
The invitation to dinner, so completely unexpectedly extended by the cat-man lady, Hrgungdvar
accepted somewhat distinguishedly. He does not sufficiently understand the culture of inviting each
other to dinner. His grandmothers always taught him that food is only for the intake of nourishment.
Why one had to invite oneself explicitly to it, in order to dine besides still in a large mixed group,
disconcerted him. Whereby....taking food in company is of course in no way alien to him, he always
ate together with the lumberjacks, who lived in a village on the edge of the forest in which he grew
up. he spent most of the day with them and the felling of trees. The grandmothers thought it was an
ideal job for him to steel his body and to learn to be responsible and to work with and for others.
Nevertheless, he gladly accepted the invitation, as his stomach had not been satisfactorily filled for
some time, and he was also tempted by the prospect of a few mugs of fresh beer. In addition, he
found himself in a strange city with far too many strangers, and his newfound companions also went
As, hopefully, was not to be expected otherwise, Hrgungdvar appears in his usual clothing (armor).
Although he noticed from the looks and reactions of the other guests that this was probably rather
inappropriate and some felt disturbed and/or disgusted, such conventions are completely indifferent
to him. If you don't like the way Hrgungdvar appears, you shouldn't feel compelled to invite him. The
two oldest mothers taught him forcefully never to pretend for others, always to be honest with
himself and others, and always to stand up for his convictions with his head held high. If someone
takes the trouble to get to know Hrgungdvar better, he will quickly realize that he did not appear that
evening dressed in such a way to snub or offend others, but simply because it is inherent in him to
wear this one "clothing" at all times, it is extremely practical for his life, protects and warms him, and
besides, it decorates immensely. He would have considered it much more of an affront to appear
differently than he does in ordinary life because of some social convention.
Fortunately, brother Benedict sits near him, a man with whom Hrgungdvar has been able to build up
a little trust. With a cursory glance over the oppulent meal that Nichuan presented here, it struck him
that he had never seen most of these dishes before, let alone eaten them. Since he did not want to
give himself the nerve to ask, he was content with the, also abundantly available, well known dishes,
of which he was convinced that they are pure. After he had satiated himself satisfactorily, he
withdrew to a quiet corner and enjoyed one or the other mug of beer before he withdrew. This, of
course, only after he had thanked the hostess for the invitation, perhaps a little too effusively (he had
heard that it is done so
"Insalawarma!" Eremis repeated back at Nichuan and rised his cup. Thank you for rescuing me, he thought to himself. It was a strange feeling, seemingly being back in a Riksharr tent. He knew it was decoration and magic, but it made him remember the first time he had stepped into a tent like this. Made him remember with such a force that the energy pouring out of his emotions, bad and good, would almost hurt.

For days upon days he had stumbled along in the desert. The constant heat making his sight blur, his head swim with pain and his lips and throat rustling like paper. The silt moved within his clothing and scratched open his skin. It found its way between his teath, into his eyes and even into his lungs. He had collapsed several times only to be rescued by the falling of night or the appearance of some predator which became prey to him. Somehow, he survived, shuffling along from stone formation to dune and from dune to stone formation. But finally, he had collapsed and no power nor will anymore to stand up again. And there, he would have died. He nearly died.

How wonderful the sight of food and drink had been in the first days after his rescue! He had cried when he saw the splendid table. Confused where the tears had come from. "Insalawarma!" they had tought him. We are in it together. We help each other. We are a family.
He had never known a family that was helping each other. A concept that was so strange that it was as if he learned the word "family" for a second time. He looked over at Nichuan and their gazes met. There was a stong emotion in his guts, and his eyes showed, but educated to not ever show weakness, he unvoluntarily blinked and looked at Nichuan and her family, at the guests and table.
Now, the table was filled with the finest of foods and drinks, spices and smells. And he was in good company!
"You should never let good food be spoiled or company get bored," he remembered his good friend Galvin Redbeard always say, when they were at a tavern in the Akrassian Empire.

It was a special occasion and it was especially surprising that Nichuan had organized it all. Knowing that it meant a lot to her, he had prepared to look his best. He had purchased a new white linen shirt fitting his size. He had rejected any additional embroidery, but had Mistress Zervikal, the guild master's wife, adjust it to perfectly fit his body and make him presentable without showing off. He had taken the time and leisure to soak in the Twin Swan Bathhouse near the brothel and had his muscles relaxed with oils thereafter. Now, he was smelling nicely and his muscles were all smooth under the shirt. And he felt good and alive again. What better way to spend his coins and forget a demon?!

And as Nichuan even held a speech, he became almost speechless. Her common had become remarkeable!
"Insalawarma!" Thank you for your company, my friends.
He rised his cup of tea and later his tankard of ale, he talked to Nichuans family to make friendly conversation and stood by her and listened to her talk to make his support clear. He talked about warfare and his family with Arthur, about his goals and his reason to join the to-be-founded-guild. And later, when invited by Benedikt, he shifted places with others to get to know Benedikt's two brothers, Jacob and Hogar also. But they were in the middle of a quabble, so he did not have much time with them. Instead he drank laughingly with Hrgungdvar and tried time and again to pronounce his name correctly, before shaking his head and laughing with him about his funny looking faces while trying to pronounce the name. He could laugh about himself alright, no shame in that. But during the whole time, he did keep a clear head. Although burning to drink his fill and go over to the other table where young lads were playing dice games, he told himself that this was not the time to give in to his urges. Later maybe, but not during the meal and this nice event.

Finally, Nichuan stood up and it became clear that the event was officially over, although many still stayed. And when all had thanked her again for her hospitality, he looked around to maybe "watch" a game or two of those dice games, when Benedikt's gaze met his and the priest nodded towards a seat beside him. "We need to talk," he began with a worried face. Shortly glancing over to Jacob laughing at one of the dice tables with Echawan beside him, he looked Eremis right into his eyes. "In private."
Eremis nodded and motioned the priest to follow him up the stairs to his room. Although he didn't know what this was about, he had come to think highly of Benedikt with whom he shared a threatening experience. It was by all standards a life changing experience, but by no means his first encounter with an overwhelming foe.

"I know how hard it must have been for you. How scary. How bewildering." His uncle Ulissian, general of the army, was trying to comfort young Eremis. It had been Eremis' first skirmish, his first life or death situation. Barely and with amazing luck he had managed to stay alive, when all around him the chaos of many people fighting had broken loose. Overwhelmed by the situation he had barely managed to react at all. A glancing blow to his head and he had stumbled back. When he fell, an unknown soldier had stepped in and protected him. That one was quick and dealt with the foe in a matter of quick strokes. When he turned around, the all blood splattered face turned into a warm smile and he had extended a hand to help Eremis up. "This is different from where you come from, right? I'm Auminius by the way." And they had become best friends in the army. Until Augustinius had tried to kill him for money...

Only now Eremis remembered how his uncle's face had become solemn and how he had continued with a glint of sorrow in his eyes: "But the darkest of times have a habit of forming the clostest of bonds. It's a gift. To feel so connected to others. So close. To be part of a team. Cherish it. Believe me. Doesn't last forever."

Now, Eremis looked at Benedikt following him up the heavy wooden stairs, past the balcony and down the corridor of the inn. It is not a question of whether it will eventually end, but how. His breast hurt as he felt the anticipatory agony of that future moment. He grimaced shortly on this thought and then decided to keep on cherishing it as long as it may last. He has come to like the priest and depend on his thoughts. Now, what can be so important to speak about in private?

"...Do not worry, I will keep an eye out for him. I will try to postpone the departure enough to prepare accordingly. But why shouldn't Jacob here about-" A creaking noise outside stopped him short. Someone was listening. Quickly, he stood up and with two steps he had reached door. There was nobody outside though. He felt along the door and there it was: a slight warmth at about his shoulders' height. Someone had indeed listened in with his ear against the door. But it was a quick and silent spy. No additional noise had given him or her away.
"Anyway, you focus on Auheim and I will focus on protecting your brother!"
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"Hey you! Boy! Put that horn back! It is not a trumpet, it's a demon's horn." Eremis voice boomed through the inn. Hastily he rose from his seat at the gambling table and walked warningly towards the lad that had taken down the mighty black horn and tried to squeeze a tone from it. He winced away and almost dropped the horn when Eremis loomed over him. Eremis grabbed the horn and held up a warning finger to not try something like this again.

"Hey Sergeant, why don't you tell us, how you got it? I guess some of us would be quite interested." The old innkeep was smiling as he brought Eremis a new tankard of ale. He knew that if people listened to an interesting story, they didn't mind if he filled their glasses again and again. And anyhow, he was interested himself how their first adventure played out.

Eremis took the ale with a suprised nod and understood that this drink was free if he became tonights storyteller. He pondered a moment where to begin and then climbed nimbly onto the big round table in front of the message board. Gazes swept towards him as the bard eventually stopped his song and saw a chance in listening. With a deep trembling voice, Eremis began:

"We were three at first. Three adventurers departing through the Harbor Gate to march to Auheim. Nichuan, the Riksharr fire dancer, Benedikt, the holy priest of Solus, and myself, Eremis, former sergeant of the Crimson Legion. You have probably all heard the rumors. But for those of you who haven't... yes, I'm looking at you, bard, I will shortly summarize why we travelled so far: A Gnomish miner called Frundir Samtstein had arrived in Holt-Lindeck to warn us of a terrible disease. And we feared that it could spread throughout the country. It was my duty, I felt, to investigate. For you people's sake! Anyway, as soon as I heard the rumor, I interrogated the guardsmen. Frundir had started with a party of others and they were not infected when he departed from Auheim. But it played out that he became the lone surviver when he stumbled through the Harbor Gate. Alas, he passed away shortly after. The Bleaching Plague, as it is called by now, had spread to him, coloring his hair white and his flesh and blood colorless. Feverishly he talked about greenish black veils. And when his last words were "Black snow falling onto Auheim" it spread throughout town. With the strong support of our magistrate Willert Moosball we urgently took off to find out for ourselves, what had created this plague and how to stop it. It was only one day, before we saw our first miracle."

Eremis took a long sip from his tankard to savor the moment, before he pointed throughout the room to indicate that feeling of anxiety and continued:
"We came to the small village of Acht-Ziegen. Travellers looking for a rest and some information. We found out that Frundir had indeed travelled through the village, stumbling and pressing on, rejecting any offer of comfort. He warned them to stay back. He was cursed and not worthy, he said. And the people fear what they don't know. As they then heard from us about a dreadful plague that came with him, they wailed and sobbed and pleaded. But it was not me, who then spoke to them. It was Benedikt. And he praised the Lord of Sun, the Lord of Light to protect the village. And when he saw that an innocent boy was crippled, he felt that surge of benign energy flowing through his body and inspire him to call upon his master. So he raised his hands above his head and a beam of light struck down towards the cripple, ripping away any clouds that would try to block them. And in this beam of light, the boy almost floated aloft as we all were struck with awe. And then he stood as good as new. And tears were running down his dirty face. He was healed! He was. Healed. Our good brother Benedikt had called upon the gods and they answered his call. And the boy ran like a rabbit and laughed as he had not laughed his whole life. And this was henceforth called the Miracle of the Limp. Ask for it, if you are ever in Acht-Ziegen. Ask for the Crippled Pollen. And you will see that he is now in good health and tending a shrine for the Lord of Light."

Eremis looked around into the faces. They listened closely. His story took on pace. Great, now wait until you hear this! He lowered his voice, so that people needed to strain a little to hear him, even coming silently closer to him. They felt, that the tides would turn now. And they would.

"We made camp that night in one of the valleys between Acht-Ziegen and Alt-Auheim. And as dusk settled and the colors faded from the world, it was not a pristine grey, but a bloody red that the land was plunged into. It was one night before the full red moon. Almost complete it looked down at us, big and round and eerie. And as we shared the watch - you don't want to skip this part if you are beyond the walls! - we all felt, that SOMETHING was watching us. Red, gleaming eyes staring at us from the nearby forest. Outskirts of the Black Fang Knolls. Only in the morning we found tracks. Tracks of an Orcish scout and we hastened on. Who knows how many there are in the woods?! How many would come down to us if we linger. And as we hurried on, we came upon a mighty tree fallen across the road. A crude and obvious road block. Instantly I urged my companions to be ready. And I was right: it was a set up. So, what do you think, attacked us as the sun was beginning to sink in the west?"

Eremis smiled knowingly and used this opportunity to ask the audience for their guesses. This activated their interest, gave them a chance to drink (and himself) and evoked in their minds their most terrible horrors. Some of it was surprisingly unterrifying, so that he had to resist a hearty laugh instead.
"A dragon?" "Orcs. Of course, it is Orcs." "A two foot woodpecker?" "The demon..." "I think, it was boars. Some of them push down trees." "I hate spiders!"

Eremis shook his head about all of it, still trying to keep the earnest face. Remembering the moment, it was not so hard.
"Shambling and moaning, a wave of many bodies came down on us. Pale. Pale hair and skin, eyes white and fingers outstretched like claws. It was people. Infected people. Moaning for our blood. I readied my shield and stood guard in front of the others, making them take on tactical position behind me. And as twilight sank upon us, it was again Benedikt who was shrouded in light and made the Infected wince. And then, with a flicker of her paw, Nichuan created fire out of nothing. Hot red flames caressed her hand without burning it. With a hiss, she hurled it like a spear at one of the first attackers. Singing my beard even as it flew past, it burned a bloody hole into one of them and threw him back a couple of yards. I've- I've never seen something so horrid in my life. With a flick of her hand and some words she ended a life several feet away. And there was nothing anybody could have done to stop her. Please, people, never make her angry!"

Standing on top of the mighty table, Eremis tried to show them how tiny and graceful the movement had been and how utterly destroying. Again, he took a deep sip and put the empty tankard onto one of the stairs behind him.

"And what about the rest? What did they do? What did YOU do?" someone called.

"Me? I just called out to them. And they fled. And right they should. They didn't stand a chance against us. But you know, although they were people, they might still be out there. Somewhere. Waiting for unsuspecting travellers. You better keep us close when you travel East."

Eremis got another tankard and blinked at Merryweather. The people were drinking. And they liked his story. But now, some got restless. He had to come to the demon soon.

(to be continued)
Excitedly, Nichuan left her room on the first floor of the Dancing Cauldron. It had been a wonderful evening with all her friends! Although it was late, she was headed for the market to meet Shandra, the halfling carpenter. Nisalach had helped her find an artisan to build her first wizard's staff. She hadn't quite understood, when Master Berling told her she would need one. It seemed to be a traditional thing with wizards and would help channel her magic more efficiently. Shandra was very understanding when Nichuan explained how she needed a handy staff made of light but sturdy wood that would fit her delicate physique. Shandra was even more intrigued when Nichuan described intricate patterns that should cover its upper part and ending in an endless wooden flame.

She was very happy that she could finally afford something like that. That and that she could study at the College of Holt-Lindeck. Over the last weeks she had learned so much already! While Master Berling was a little odd sometimes, he at least answered all her thousands questions patiently and helped her to find topcis to study. Back at Liskan something like that would have never been possible unless you were part of a rich pride to pay for your expenses. Nichuan took the stairs down to the taproom when she heard Eremis' voice. She smiled. She recognized his tale-telling voice that she had listened to a couple of times already when they had travelled the Dwarven Road together. As she heard him calling her name she stopped on the upper end of the stairs and sat down to listen more closely. He was entertaining the guests with a story of their mission to Auheim!

"I've never seen something so horrid in my life. With a flick of her hand and some words she ended a life several feet away. And there was nothing anybody could have done to stop her. Please, people, never make her angry!"

Her smile froze. She well remembered her first encounter with the pale bandits. She well remembered how she summoned a jet of hot flames and aimed it at the first man rushing at her. She remembered how she burned a hole into his body, how he fell backwards with painful scream before he went silent. She remembered the forbiddingly pleasant smell of burned flesh. The heavy feeling on her stomach, the guilt. Eremis and Benedikt had been very forthcoming, completely unjudging. But that had made the feeling even harder to bear. Now he was telling everyone that he had been terrified. That ... that she was a monster? No! He mustn't think of her like that! Tears fled her eyes as she jumped up and ran back to her room. A few patrons in the taproom looked briefly toward the stairs when they heard the footsteps, but turned back to Eremis when they saw no one coming down.
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"The evening's rain was pouring down on us as we reached Alt-Auheim, the old and original Auheim. I already saw myself with a nice tankard in hand and friendly company in the famous Black Bear Inn. But as we stared down at it from the nearby hills, it was nothing like what we expected. First of all, Alt-Auheim is seemingly divided into a part north of the Silver Linner called Norbruck, which is half a halfing settlement within the hills, half human village. And then, beyond the river we saw a village made of tent. Hundreds of them. This was Sutbruck, as we later learned. Anyway, a wooden palisade made from spikes and wagons was drawn around Norbruck, fires indicating the many guards, big halfling mastiffs growling as we approached. There was no bridge connecting the two parts of town, Norbruck isolated itself and didn't let anybody cross the river. They were trying to defend themselves, seemingly from pale infected people on this side of the land, and from possibly infected people on the other, as we soon learned. At first, they wouldn't let us approach too near and we had to assure them, that we were not infected. This was, when we met FoxRouge and Hrgungdvar, two adventurers that would follow us to Auheim to stand against that what had caused the Plague. But at that time, we thought that they were just some guards. A small girl with long red hair, a dirty face, and a spear in hand hiding in the cover of a big spike, and a huge fellow with grissly beard and fur covering his muscled body. Some of you may have seen him already."

Thinking back Eremis had to smile. Running, stumbling and closing his belt over his fat belly, the clumsy constable of the little town had run towards them, to greet them and to investigate what was happening. A funny fellow, a halfling, and obviously drunk. But it wouldn't be nice to talk about him like this, so Eremis decided to skip this part.

"So, a short while later, I finally had a famous Black Bear Ale in hand - they call it a Black Pelt - and sat with the others at a small table with the constable of the town, Odilon Fußtreu explaining to us, what was happening. He told us that there were a lot of people fleeing from Auheim in the South, coming all the way to the North, to Alt-Auheim. They closed down all transport across the river and assured us that there were no sick people in Norbruck, but surely many in Sutbruck. They didn't dare to help."

And FoxRouge rudely spilled all the precious ale...

"About the Bleaching Plague he could only tell us that it began with earthquakes, black snow and miners getting infected, acting strangely. Although Benedikt urged us to keep on going, I was rather looking forward to a hearty meal and a warm bath after all that rain and continue in the morning. But it all changed in an instant when Odilon told us about vampires roaming the streets of Sutbruck. So we set out, in the middle of the night without a proper rest or meal, we flung ourselves out into the darkness, crossed over to Sutbruck and had a talk with the leader of the camp, Snilkis Samtstein, no other than Frundir's brother. He confirmed what Odilon had said, but that it was not in Sutbruck but in the streets of Auheim themselves. Pale People would roam the streets at night to drink of the blood of innocents."

Again, Eremis would would pause and look around, savoring the tenseness in the air. They didn't know about how Benedikt wanted to walk on and on and on, even in the middle of the night, and Eremis was arguing for rest and a meal. Benedikt was even becoming fanatic about it, being driven on by his god, although rest was especially needed for Nichuan. I shouldn't mention strife and differences within the group when I tell the story. These parts should be kept quiet. They wouldn't make for good poems or songs.

"But it weren't vampires that we found in Auheim. When we arrived, we were instantly attacked by small demonic minions, flying ones - so called Demonic Striges - and walking ones - that we named Doomchildren. Once again, Nichuan saved us with a hot jet of fire flying past my face. But we had even more help: I had asked the other two adventurers to join us and they had accepted. Hrgungdvar was a priest of Perra and is an experienced warrior against demons. And FoxRouge was able to summon lightning and control beasts. Nothing prepared us though for what was going to happen next."

He emptied his tankard, set it down and took the huge, black demonic horn off the wall instead. Now it was time for the climax and he saw a gleaming of anticipation in many eyes. I must say, I love to tell stories!
Remembering now how they approached the burning city, he felt a moment of pride. He felt that it was his courage and leadership that had held the group together, that made this story even worthwile telling. Besides the fact that they actually survived. He remembered every moment of it as if it was just now:

Reminiscing about what had actually happened, he smacked his lips and began to retell their story in a way, that was for sure better to remember them by:

"We moved towards the city. All around us were weathered ruins of dwarven walls and fallen battlements half imbedded in the grassy hill. They still showed centuries old inscriptions and pictures of strange creatures. Fires burned behind the palisade of the city. The wooden spikes of the palisade smoldering themselves, burning in bright yellow flames or already blackened and toppled over. Something very wrong was happening. Through the cracks of the fortifications we could see inside, as we moved up towards the peok of the hill. We saw numerous high pyres scattered within the city. Their fires burning even higher than the fence and smelling of meat. Only then, we saw something like little children dragging adults to the pyres and hauling them onto them. Of course, we were horrified! Human ash rained onto us like Black Snow. Had all of these people burning on the pyres been infected? We didn't know, but it made every step harder. Even before we reached the top of the hill - which was actually the Great Burial Mound of the Dwarven King Thor Grimbeard, as I later learned - we came upon a place where the palisade was breached and through which we could access the city and see the nearby pyre more clearly. These were no human children, not even gnomes or dwarves or halflings. Naked but for dark knives they seemed to giggle and chuckle with an unearthly sound as they scattered around the pyre. Their faces seemed to miss noses. They were hairless and with greyish skin. They had fins for ears and yellow eyes and hands ending in sharp claws. But when they opened their big mouths, half of their face was replaced by rows upon rows of needle sharp teeths. 'Demonic Doom Children,' Hrgungdvar whispered aghast and 'Ritual' Nichuan. In that moment, streaks of eery green light burst from the pyres all over the city and shot up into the night sky. Instantly, we engaged these demonic minions to stop the unholy ritual. Like harpys they screeched and screamed as they poured out of the city and washed over us, their unholy knives poisonous to the touch, their movements swift and deadly."

At a nearby table a hooded figure lifted his head with interest. It was a young halfling man with eyes like smoldering coal. As he looked up at Eremis, their eyes locked for a moment. Behind that expression of greed and distrust, Eremis saw a determination that he had seldom encountered before and a darkness that he knew well from soldiers who had just lost their friend or loved ones. Even Eremis startled for a moment, before looking away. Eremis had noticed that the halfling had looked up precicely on the mentioning of the poisonous knives.

"In mere seconds Hrgungdvar's axe had felled four of them, Benedikt's beam of light countered his four with four of his own, and Nichuan's jet of fire flashed brightly and consumed half a dozen of them at once. My loyal companion Carrikal smashed the heads of the remaining while my shield protected us from the bone shards as the unholy creatures exploded upon impact with our weapons."

"Who is that? You didn't tell us about Carrikal,"
someone shouted.
Eremis' face lit up and with a proud smile he countered: "I did not? My pardon. It is but the most beautiful and deadly companion someone could wish for. Please meet Carrikal, the traveller from the lands beyond the Akrassian Empire far, far to the south."

And with that, Eremis pulled out his dark mace Carrikal with a flurry and held it up towards the light of the candelier hanging high above them, so that everybody could see her beauty. It was a mace unlike anything that could been encountered hereabouts. Its smooth steel form a shiny black, the grip covered in dark brown leather checkered with black branding. At its tip it ended in a black steel ring. But it was the head that looked the most magnificient: Almost like it was carved from bone, several exotically shaped sharp blades protuded from the shiny black surface like if they broke its skin.

Some where definitely in awe, others in fear. Some may even have thought about making quick money. But as easily as Eremis had held it aloft, it was a low, booming sound as he set the heavy mace down.

"Anyway, we had been too late. As the eerie green light shot into the night sky, like pillars they held a glowing magical circle aloft above the city. The red moon showing in its center like an eye watching the ritual from the infernal wastelands beyond, where demons roam and Hehl is master. The earth trembled and shuddered. With a sound like cracking heads, buildings fell, stone broke off and deep gorges opened all around us. The ground gave way to chasms from which yellow fumes rose and the stench of brimstone filled the area and burned in our noses. A deep gurgling sound, a red glow and a sudden increase in temperature from those chasms were the first indications that there were deep underground lava streams below the countryside. And then we heared it. A deep bellowing roar echoing across the plains. In the middle of the city, right beside the Fountain of Virtue, a creature rose from the flames. A demon with heavy, leathery wings. Huge. Standing surely four to six times my size. Look at the horn! It is just the tip of the original horn, but it is already the size of a huge buffalo's horn. In one hand it held a mighty Abyssium two-handed sword. In the other it brandished a long flaming whip. And then, all the minions fell to the ground to worship their master. A lord of demons had arrived. An overlord that was going to concquer our country, our continent, our world."

Eremis paused a moment, thinking about how to proceed and letting the anticipation run higher again.

"It would be stupid, not to fear for our lives or even for our very souls. I would speak falsly if I told you that we didn't falter. And I could see the worry and fear in my companions' eyes, looking for my leadership. And as I overcame my fear I spoke to them the following:

Alt-Auheim will fall. First Sutbruck, then Norbruck. Then, Acht-Ziegen will fall. And after that, they will reach Holt-Lindeck, and it will fall also. All that is between the people that we know and love and this demon, is us, and only us. We cannot flee and abandon everyone! We cannot and mustn't. Our missions so far are unimportant and flimsy in comparison to what the gods threw before us. Beyond this wall lies a town filled with demonic monsters and a mighty demon lord in its midst. But fear not! We will succeed. I have a plan. And we will become Undying Legends defeating a huge demonic monstrosity. But we will need everything that we've got. Fight. Fight for your life. Fight for the people you love. Fight for humanity! We are the Borderland Explorers and we are the shield of the people."
Eremis got his tankard silently refilled and continued, making a show of how he looked into the distance as his story unfolded.

"We were standing on top of the Burial Mound of the last dwarven king, Thor Grimbeard. An unsurmountable riddle protecting a mighty treasure hoard beneath our feet, as I later found out."

Seemingly intrigued, the fat bard with the lute looked up and laughed. "Pray Sir, please tell us more. What kind of treasures are contained in that mound, and how do we solve the riddle?" With a twinkle in his eyes, the bard seemed to know more of it than anybody else here.

"I can only tell you, what I later heard from the mayor. Never, in hundreds of years it had been opened. He tried for thirty, fourty years, but was stuck. But then, one day, there came two adventurers, who succeeded to solve the riddle. They came out with magical weapons, items of power and more treasure than they could carry. But after them, it closed again and as they left, they took with them the secret of how to open the mound."

Seeing that the bard was slowly beginning to grin and sitting up more straight, Eremis feared that his story would end prematurely, the bard using the moment to tell his own story. Quickly, he held the horn above the fire of a sconce. The black horn beginning to glow with a red shimmer, attracting the attention, as he lowered his voice and rekindled the mood.

"In cover behind dwarven ruins, I was able to rekindle the spirit of my companions. One by one I evoked their courage, bravery, fear for their loved ones, and lastly, their duty to mankind. The swiftest and stealthiest of us, FoxRouge, was to warn surrounding settlements. And as she departed, the rest of us watched as the Doom Children approached their master, the Demon Lord, and his voice boomed across the city. He spoke to them and then to the citizens. He would spare any that came forward and pledged their fealty to him, he said. And as we collected our joint knowledge about demonkind, which was sparse, we actually saw four people approach that entity of Hehl's fiery domain. He turned two of them to Doom Children, and killed the other two with a flick of his whip. Never have I seen a cut so smooth. The reach of that mighty weapon was going to cost us dearly, if my plan was to fail. But we had to do it now."

Looking around, Eremis was glad that he had once again catched everyone's attention. And even the bard didn't seem to mind.

"Nichuan and Benedikt approached the market place from side alleys, keeping out of sight, while Hrgungdvar and me approached the Demon Lord openly with sheathed weapons. Each step was heavier than the last. A creature covered in flames and towering above us. Approaching an ogre, as I had done before, was nothing compared to this. But then he noticed us."

Eremis' head suddenly flicked around as he played the towering creature. Gazing at the customers from on top of the heavy oaken table, he imitated the deep growl. His face was lit from below and the horn in his one hand, the bone mace in his other created a tension in the air that made everybody hush.

"Seeing adventurers approach, armored and heavily armed, the creature turned his full attention to us. He growled and his hand flicked back to give us a good licking with his burning whip. But I raised my hands and called out to him, praising his beauty, his magnificience, reducing ourselves to mere pawns in his coming conquest. And I found the right tone. It laughed arrogantly and waved us nearer, so that we could get a good look at our new master, as I had intended. Step by step we intruded into the reach of his whip. Step by step it would have been more difficult for him to attack us with it. And as I praised the wonderful horns on his head and asked for a better look, he stooped down, convinced of my earnesty. And as I gazed at the horn, I loudly exclaimed:

Legends will be told about this!

And as the Demon Lord beamed with pride convinced that I had meant his great horns, it was then, with this phrase, that I called upon the others, called forth the joint attack against it."

The bard's eyes widened with surprise, his expression showing that he hadn't thought that a mere mercenary would be using words to conquer a Demon Lord and get the better of him. His mouth curled up to a smile.

"It was Hrgungdvar who brought forth his axe the quickest. With a mighty slash he cut off the demon's hand holding the whip. This had been the most dangerous of all situations. If he hadn't succeeded, if I hadn't catched all of the demon's attention, then it could have used it against Benedikt or Nichuan, who were by far less armored and vulnerable. Also, he could have flewn up into the night sky and attacked us with that mighty weapon from afar. But now, the table had turned. Fighting off Doom Children as they approached in masses with our off-hand, we focused our attacks on the Demon Lord itself. Hrgungdvar's axe hacked into him time and again, slicing pieces off of the great monstrosity. A bright searing streak of light burst from the corner of the market, blinding it and filling his darkness with Solus' Light. It screached in pain as Brother Benedikt called forth the power of the Lord of Light. Furiosly, it tried to jump up into the sky to use its wings for a better position. But then a hail of bright flames shot down on it from the other side of the market place. Nichuans encantations a high tone against the brutal bellowing of the fight. Hole upon hole burned into his wings and made his attempts to get out of reach fruitless. With my shield I fended off the Demon Lord's powerful attacks, concentrating all of his rage upon myself. And I resisted barely by pure strength and gritted teeth. With a crack, my shield suddenly broke and as I deflected his final blow with the rest of what was left, I called upon Hrgungdvar to concentrate on his ankles. Simultaneously, we hacked at his ankles from both sides, and with a loud boom he fell onto his knees. Terribly exhausted but seeing our unlikely chance, I collected the last of my strength, ignored the knives pushing into my body by the hands of Doom Chlldren, and hauled myself up with a mighty thrust, jumping by mere strength of will, up and up towards its fiery head. Our gazes locked for an instant and I smelled his rancid breath. Pure anger showing in his eyes. And then, I shouted: 'For mankind!' as I brought down the mightiest of all weapons. Carrikal broke his skull. She tore into him and broke off her prize. This horn. Its expression that of unbelief as he fell down onto the broken ground. Its body dissolving leaving only the spectators and the tip of the horn as proof. We had killed the Demon Lord of Auheim! We vanquished the Army of Darkness and freed the country of its menace!"

And there the tale ended. Eremis did say nothing about the Eye of Hehl that they later found, he said nothing of the vampiric plague that had infested Auheim, foremost the mayor himself. The people only heard of the Killing of the Demon Lord of Auheim and they forgot the Bleaching Plague. Only later they would notice, that this was not the whole tale...

Eremis had to recount the tale many times in the following days and weeks. And often, he was drunk by ale and excitement thereafter. But he was delighted that his legend had begun!
July 19, 1021 NL

"Thank you all for coming!"
Eremis looked around. They had moved several tables for this evening's event. Almost everybody could be seated, had place for their tankard and food and several of the more educated had even brought ink and paper. Many candles dipped the tavern into a warm orange glow.
All his friends and companions were here. And several other people interested in the adventurers' guild.

He felt proud.
"As you all know, for months I have worked for the creation of an adventurers' guild in Holt-Lindeck, a guild of our own. With pride in all of us, tonight I can pronounce that in a few days the 'Borderland Explorers' will be registered with the town."

His smile was reflected in several faces.
"Tonight, we will discuss the guild's guidelines which need to be registered with the name. First though, let me catch you up on the current status:
In order to register a guild in Holt-Lindeck, one needs to determine an official name and guild guidelines, have at least 5 independent founding members, the support of at least 3 guild masters and pay a fee of 50cp.

The registration and listing in the town archive will be conducted for us by the oath advisor of the council, Jana Hemlok.

When I see around me, I see many adventurers who could be listed as one of the 5 independent founding members. It does not matter who is listed, but let's just appoint some as to be written down in the official documents later, yes?

As for the council support, we have the support of the magistrate Willert Moosball himself, Master Durok, Guildmaster of Metalworks, Mistress Hamla Dornholt, Guildmaster of Stoneworks, Master Jeremias Feldberk, Guildmaster of Woodworks, and Mistress Gemma Al'Amlinn, Guildmaster of Entertainment. How Mistress Ravanna Priem, Guildmaster of Leatherworks, and Master Zervikal, Guildmaster of Clothworks, will decide in the council meeting is not clear. But with those mentioned before, we are safe to create the guild. Finally."

Several people cheered and tankards were raised. But with some, there were a lot of questions still written on their faces. He met the eyes of the innkeep.

"As for a guild house, I have negotiated with the town to acquire a land plot here in Meadow Quarter, only a few minutes away from the Dancing Cauldron. Further, I am negotiating and re-planning how it should look in the end with the Woodworks and Stoneworks guild who will also be responsible to build it. It will still take several months until completion, once we fix a design, but currently I am opting for a 100m² 2 1/2 story half-timbered construction with stone basin, stone cellar and maybe even an attached 'mage tower'. I also intend to add an inner courtyard, but right now it is not included in the designs. Honestly, I would like to have the works start as soon as possible, so that we can move to it within the year, but the costs will be somewhere between 50,000cp and 150,000cp, so it is not something I can easily pay for right now. We need many more quests within the year to complete this agenda. Later I will be open to your questions, requests on what to include, tips on what to think about, or even for your aid regarding the guild house. For now, I will continue.

In addition, we have been offered a free-of-charge permanent residency in Auheim. The mayor of Auheim, Merwild Dusk of Amber, is indebted to us for freeing his city, the silver mines, and finally for saving his life on two occasions. Thus, he lets us move in in one of those well-defended dwarven stone and metal houses. Ceilings aren't that high, but they are very, very sturdy. Of course, we would need to man it as a permanent outpost or secondary guild house. And we would need to clean it, refurbish it, and acquire furniture. If anyone of you is interested in becoming the outpost ward or help me deal with all these things, please talk to me after the meeting."

This was already quite a lot. Eremis took a sip of his tankard of ale and thought about what else he needed to inform about.
The air was heavy with fragrants, smells of the roasted pork wavered gradually into the big room. Eremis had ordered a special dinner for all, which was currently prepared in the kitchen, and which was probably the reason so many people had answered his invitation. Even a bard from the guild of entertainers was present, licking his lips and looking back and forth between Eremis himself and the door to the kitchen.
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As the cups were refilled and the first dishes were brought out from the kitchen, Eremis stood up with a warm smile, extended his arms as if to hug everyone at once and continued:

"So why should you join the Borderland Explorers? Why should you become a member?"

With a twinkle in his eye he noticed that for some of the attendants, the free food and ale was all that was necessary. And there were actually some folks present who would never set out foot of town.

And even an adventurers' guild will need some members who would only be responsible for accounting, household affairs and every day life matters. Cooking for example. We definitely need a great cook or two!

"The guild will be foremost for adventurers who travel beyond the gates of this town, who battle with monsters and the wildernis, and who will bring back riches and knowledge. But there will also be dire need of people who stay in town and assist the adventurers."

Our own armor makers, potion brewers, artificers, and trainers?

Eremis was already thrilled with the fact in which direction this could go and how big the guild could become. Eremis unrolled a scroll with bold but learned handwriting.

"This is the current draft of our Guild Manifesto and once I've read it all, we can discuss on each of the items so that most of us are contend with its provisions before joining. For all of you, who are interested or have even already confirmed your interest to me, here is again what it all entails when you become a member:
  1. Membership to the guild shall cost 2 silver coins (40cp) to demonstrate earnest interest and for initial administration.

  2. All local taxes paid to the town of Holt-Lindeck or Auheim or any other town to which a member was to pay taxes under the laws of the Margraviate of Hochholt shall henceforth be paid to the guild, and the guild shall be responsible to ledger them and forward the taxes to the responsible town administration.
  3. Quests, tasks, and missions shall be acquired, collected, and researched by the guild, presented on a wooden board within its halls to be chosen from by its members. The guild shall function as an intermediate between the clients and the adventurers ensuring professionality to the client and information, assistance and gear for the adventurers. The client shall pay the guild, the guild shall pay the adventurers. In case adventurers do not return in time, another party may be sent out to investigate or help if new information becomes apparant and their life is in peril.

  4. The parties of adventurers shall follow a guideline regarding treasure and loot to ensure a collegial trust and understanding between its members. All treasure shall be appraised in the guild and ledged. Each party member shall receive an equal part of the treasure, regardless of role, expenditure, and status. Each member may claim specific items of the treasure for their own in case appropriate, as long as all other members of that party agree. In case of conflics, the guild council's Master of Treasure shall decide. The guild shall assist in selling the goods to merchants the guild is affiliated with.

  5. 1/20 of the loot and treasure shall be paid to the guild for financing guild agendas like the guild house, training for its members, free potions, armor upgrades and several more matters that will be discussed at another point.

  6. Blessed items and magic items shall not be sold to outside sources but kept within the guild to distribute among its members, unless the guild council agrees.

  7. Demonic or cursed items, as well as items which can be used for inhumane practices, magical or otherwise, shall not be sold to outside sources, but be destroyed if possible, or kept save and hidden from the public to be researched and disposed of in an appropriate way.

  8. In case of emergency, guild members shall be obliged to protect the town and its inhabitants.

  9. Guild members shall be expected to regularly stand watch on the town walls assisting the town guards. A regular schedule for such watches shall be created by the guild in discussion with its members. As there are currently almost 3.500 inhabitants in Holt-Lindeck, but only 50 official town guards and 100 volunteer guards, the town needs the guild's assistance. Further, it is believed that adventurers are well trained and equipped warriors, magicians, rangers, clerics, and whatnot, who have faced danger even more often than the typical town guard, so that with the help of the adventurers' guild the town could even stand a chance against an attacking army. By regularly standing watch in key positions in town, the members of the guild will not only get access to places and people formerly restricted to them, but will also achieve knowledge and experience to prepare them for such dire emergency.

  10. Guild members shall provide a service of their choice to the guild. This could include training, provision of potions, spells, protection, information, repair, provisions, care for horses, blessings, items, armor, weapons, and so on.

  11. Guild members shall be bound by honesty against other guild members.

  12. Guild members shall be bound to never use magic or otherwise against members of the guild of which it is expected that those members would not agree to it.

  13. Guild members shall be bound to humanity against every inhabitant of this town, regardless of the species.

  14. Guild members shall be bound to never commit any heinous deed against this guild, against this town or against its inhabitants.

  15. Guild members who commit a crime shall henceforth not fall under the judgement of the town or any of its judges, but under the judgement of the guild. The guild shall enforce with its own methods order and righteousness of its members, including magical and clerical methods or methods usually restricted to specific cultures, while expected conduct, behavior, laws and guidelines shall still be based on local laws, to ensure that there is a fair trial for everyone and no guild member takes the rest of the community for granted.

  16. Guild members, who are affiliated with other organizations in which they could be commited for a crime like mages in front of a mage council or clerics in front of a council of other clerics, shall be judged by those organizations in case the crime is related to that organization, otherwise they shall be judged by the guild as stated before.

  17. The guild shall be able to advertise for its services, purchase land and erect a guild house.

  18. The guild shall name a guildmaster who shall be the head of the guild council, representative of the guild and its members, face of the guild, contact to other guilds and the town, experienced in the trade, and able to decide urgent matters of the guild when a council decision is deemed to take too long, and to decide in case a council meeting's deliberations result in no clear decision.

  19. The guild shall name a secondary guildmaster who is a member of the council and shall step in as guildmaster in case the current guildmaster is incapacitated due to magic, illness, death or otherwise.

  20. The guild shall name members of its council, who will decide on guild direction, representation, guideline changes, matters of disgress or crime, and any other matter. All council decisions shall be made after honest deliberation respecting the individual competencies. The method of decision shall be an open vote. A vote is only enforceable if at least 4 of 5 council members were present to the vote and all council members voted in their own volition.

  21. The guild shall name members for specific roles to be responsible for that area. This might include a Master of Treasure (council member), Master of Scriptures (council member), Master of Propaganda, Master of Quests, Master of Righteousness, Master of Transport, Master of Provisions, Master of Stories, Master of Maps, Master of Magical Identification, or a Master of Research, to name a few possibilities.

  22. All changes to the guidelines shall be valid only if based on a valid and enforceable council decision."

Eremis took a deep breath and looked around. People were mostly enjoying the food, but some were listening closely. Some had even marked down points of their own which they were now eager to suggest.

"My friends, adventurers, and courageous people! I have talked too long. Let's enjoy our meal and drink and then, refreshed and after you had the time to digest this all, talk about each of those items in our Manifest. I'm willing to hear canditates and any changes or additions you might suggest, or any contradicting opinion. Let us be open for discussion this evening AND don't drink too much please. I have a hard time understanding intoxicated people."

The last sentence he brought up with a smile and a twinkle. People usually knew that he drank quite a lot.
Mid-August 1021 NL - Heat of High-Summer

Halfling boaters visiting the relatively cool #Council Cellar Inn: "The heat is taking its toll! Ripe fields wither while the peasants stay at home out of the murderous sun. Just a few days ago, a farmhand collapsed at the riverbank directly beside near-dead cattle. And the water is so warm that fish is dying by the hundreds!"

In the #Dancing Cauldron, a guard from #Halberstein is pondering the lines she received from her parents: "The wells are drying, and the upper town needs to go down to the river to get its water. Still, the wood is creeping closer every night. The trees looking fresh and vivid green. Last week the first oak broke the town wall - in one night, a mere palisade stake grew into a huge tree!"

At the #Harbor Gate, refugees arguing with guards to let them enter the town: "We just escaped those man-eaters, barely alive. Our uncle lost his leg - not to an accident or a fight. He was just treated like raw meat! They took it, roasted it, and ate it in a mocking of a communal feast! And you are telling us that there is no room for him?!"

A beggar asked for gossip: "The Eye is all around the city. Some say it is Perra's Eye about to bring judgment to us sinners. Some say it is Hehl who is waking to avenge the defiling of his temple by those adventurers. I say it is the Deathless One coming to claim his dominion!"

A merchant from #Auheim on the central market: "These are crazy times! We had just suffered through a demonic invasion, vampires, and a dwindling of silver - and now this blinded fool of a preacher is wandering the rural communities, inciting the people to stop "toiling" and start "living" - the end being neigh and such!"

Young Pollen from #Eightgoats on an errand to inform the magistrate: "More and more people from the north are heading for the Dwarven road. They are yet undecided whether to turn to #Holt-Lindeck or #Auheim. But they tell of orcs seizing their land and forcing the young to work it while the elderly get questioned and then roasted..."