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A Tale of Nightmares Part 12 - A Slaad and a Story

Dirty Secrets and Nightmares is a Dungeons and Dragons (DnD 5e) game set in a Ravenloft Domain of Dread, New Solamnia. Play takes place every Friday night at Dragons Keep Roleplay Club in Chislehurst, South East London. The Dungeon Master is Sam.

Five people previously unknown to each other have found themselves strangely transported to a land none of them are familiar with, and banded together to investigate what has brought them here - and survive. According to the locals, it is usually a peaceful place. This is not the party's experience, as strange happenings surround them and monsters stir.

The party consists of:

·Sir Gerigold - A Male Half-Elven Oath of Redemption Paladin of the Morninglord (played by Paul)

·Hazard Darkstar - A Male Human Rune Knight Fighter (played by Alexander)

·Greynen Falstaer - A Male Half-Elven Warlock of the Archfey, Pact of the Tome (played by Mark)

·Morgaen Nightbreeze - A Female Half-Elven Bard of the College of Spirits (played by Imogen)

·Ragnar son of Bjorn - A Male Human Tempest Cleric of Thor (played by Alex)

The party area heading northeast through New Solamnia, searching for Greynen’s sister Olaria. She disappeared over a year ago, but Greynen has heard that someone answering her description was in New Solamnia, trying to catch up to a halfling trader and an adventuring party he hired. They were all heading for a town called either Wardwood or Wardenwood, but a strange forgetfulness afflicts the people of this area and few people had a good idea of either the name of the town or the name of the people travelling there…

The party returned to Torvain and Iskoval’s cabin – watching carefully, but the strange aggression which had affected the creatures of the area seemed to have vanished with the Mindshard’s destruction. The mages were happy to see them again, and Torvain presented them with the device he had promised them for finding and rescuing Iskoval. It appeared to be a leather satchel, but Torvain appeared very proud of it – and when he opened it to show them, it was clear why. The space inside appeared to be much larger than outside.

“It is a Bag of Holding – it will hold up to five hundred pounds, but will only ever weigh fifteen,” he said. “I felt that this would be useful for all of you while you are travelling together.”

The party agreed, and thanked him. Ragnar took charge of the bag and placed the Disks of Fate they had collected so far into it, along with everything else that people decided to put there.

Morgaen cast a divination on the shortsword left behind when the Mindshard was destroyed. It was indeed magical – besides that, it would give the holder blindsight within ten feet, and the ability to detect the thoughts of other creatures once a day. It had a name – Mindsplinter. Morgaen explained to Ragnar that it would not do as much damage as his warhammer, and besides, he had recently named the weapon, hadn’t he? Thunderbreaker -- a good name. And reading thoughts was a sneaky thing, much more appropriate for her than for a cleric of such a forthright god as his, wasn’t it? She kept Mindsplinter.

After they had rested, she also asked the two mages for directions to the town they were looking for – called Wardwood or Wardenwood, their information had not been clear…

“Wardenwood? I haven’t been there in years,” Iskoval said. “It’s on the other side of the Snowy Mountains – just under a week’s travel, once you’re actually past the mountains. Esra is the closer town – and it has a tavern, the Black Rose, which usually has some eclectic characters there. Wardenwood is a much simpler place, less interesting to visit.”

When Morgaen asked about the city they had heard was on the other side of the mountains, however, Iskoval thought for a moment – then the slightly confused expression the party were familiar with from Tenbrim crept over his face.

“I can’t recall a city…” the tiefling said, slowly. Unlike the townsfolk of Tenbrim, the mage seemed to be bothered by this. “I don’t travel all that much…”

“And of course you’re focused on your experiments here, both of you – which is a form of travel in the mind, isn’t it?” Morgaen said, quickly, to smooth over the awkward moment.

“Yes – I’m glad someone appreciates that,” Iskoval said, looking more comfortable. “Very likely I wouldn’t recall a city if I didn’t have to travel there for what we needed. Anyway, Esra is about three days east of the Snowy Mountains. The best way to travel there is by one of the riverboats – when the river isn’t frozen. But when the river is frozen, it’s much harder – the river goes through cliffs, thick forest, marshes, the banks are impassable at times. Most people wait until the river thaws to travel, if it’s frozen when they get there.”

“It’s summer,” Hazard pointed out.

“Yes, but you never know when there’s going to be an unexpected cold snap,” Iskoval said, shrugging.

The party exchanged looks. Even Ragnar, who came from a northern part of his world with long, icy winters, was sure that a river suddenly freezing over in summer was not normal unless magic was involved.

“But you could get round along the river, even if it was difficult?” Greynen asked. “We’re trying to catch up with my sister – and we’ve lost another two days with that bloody meteorite.”

Since the meteorite had not, in the end, given them any more information about the Dark Lord or seemed to be the harbinger of a coming cataclysm, he had become restless again.

“I really wouldn’t try it, I’ve travelled by boat myself and seen the banks when the river isn’t frozen and it would be challenging enough then,” Iskoval advised. “I can only imagine the conditions when the river is frozen.” He took in Greynen’s expression. “There is supposed to be a shortcut through the mountains,” he added. “Most of the Snowy Mountain range is too dangerous, those who go in don't come out, but there is supposed to be a pass somewhere in the middle. I’ve never found it myself – but then, I’ve never been in that much of a hurry, so I’ve never looked.”

“And you’d probably catch up to anyone who went by boat that way, I imagine. Right. If the river’s frozen, we’re looking for the pass,” Greynen told the others.

He was inclined to set out that afternoon, but the others pointed out that after the serious injuries some of them had suffered in the fight, they would not be able to travel a decent distance from the Mindshard’s haze before they had to camp for the night – and an extra night’s camping in an area where wolves had recently been possessed and might, therefore, have got behind in their hunting and be rather hungry now, did not seem the most sensible plan.

That night, Greynen thought for a moment that he was waking up - but when he opened his eyes, his surroundings were somehow indistinct and he could not feel his body.

Ah. One of those dreams.

He did not try to get a better idea of his surroundings -- that was not important. He turned round, and his archfey patron Cyone was standing there, in front of him.

"You have done well so far, my child," her voice whispered - although her mouth did not appear to move. "But you must take care now - I cannot say much, but you will need to exercise great caution over the next few days. Things will not be as they seem."

He was about to ask questions anyway - but she either read that in his mind or knew him well enough to expect it. He seemed only to blink - and then he was in his bedroll, staring at the canvas awning they were camping under on the cold ground outside Torvain and Iskoval's cabin, next to a dying fire.

They set out early that day. At intervals, first one path then others joined theirs, developing into a wider beaten track that was more of a road - although the party could not see the names of any places that these tracks went to. The mountains were looming ever closer, and a chill started to enter the air. The idea of a sudden cold snap and a river freezing over in summer no longer seemed so unlikely.

As the evening drew in, the party caught sight of a campfire up ahead.

“It’s about dinner time,” Ragnar said happily. “Shall we go and ask if we can share their fire?”

They came around the corner about one hundred and twenty feet away from the fire. Drawn up near it was a large covered wagon; two big draft horses were picketed nearby. And a large creature, about the size of a troll or ogre but with an odd bulk to it, was walking around, swathed in a cloak and carrying a staff. It appeared to be dragging something away from the campfire – and on closer inspection, what it was dragging was a humanoid corpse, its head caved in as if by a heavy staff – like the one the large creature was carrying. The creature had one large reptilian hand around both of the corpse’s ankles, and pitched it under the trees with two other dead humanoids, then turned and headed back to the fire and the wagon.

Morgaen stared as the creature neared the campfire again and she got a better look at what was visible of it, then dropped back and readied her guitar.

“I think it’s a thing called a slaad,” she said, quietly. “A creature from Limbo. And it’s green – they come in different colours – the green ones are intelligent. They’re spellcasters.”

The creature climbed onto the end of the wagon, and appeared to start rummaging through it, vanishing inside.

Sir Gerigold told the others to wait, not to attack until he had spoken to it, as required by his oath – the creature had done nothing dangerous to them yet, and it was not even certain that it had killed the bodies it was removing. He and Ragnar rode forward. Taking a look at the corpses as they went, they could see that they were indeed human, and were wearing leather armour.

Sir Gerigold hailed the creature from the edge of the light.

“Hello, good – sir! It is a fine evening!”

The wagon shook for a moment, then the creature’s head appeared. It did not appear bothered – although it was hard to tell.

“May I ask if you are responsible for this?” the paladin enquired, waving a hand in the direction of the corpses.

The creature made vague gestures around its mouth and ears, then reached under its cloak.

“Component pouch!” Morgaen hissed to Hazard and Greynen. They tensed.

Ragnar had also seen this.

“One wrong move and I’ll smash your head in with Thunderbreaker!” he threatened.

But the creature produced a small piece of paper instead. It looked around for a moment – a small monkey suddenly jumped from inside the wagon onto its shoulder. The slaad held up the scrap of paper, and the monkey grabbed it, leapt down, then scampered over to Sir Gerigold, climbing a nearby tree and holding the paper out to him.

He looked at it – there was writing in Common.

I cannot speak to you. May I communicate through your mind?

He called out to the others, letting them know the creature’s offer. Morgaen cautiously declined but the others, curious, agreed to let the creature speak through their minds.

Sir Gerigold indicated to the creature which of them were open to this, and it nodded.

-I thank you,- a dry, rasping voice said in their minds, -My mouth cannot make the sounds for your language, so it is really impossible for me to communicate with others in this world except this way. My name is Zurgal, Sir Gerigold.-

“This world? May I take it that you have come here from elsewhere, as we have?” Sir Gerigold asked.

-Yes, I did, but much longer ago than you have – I was travelling across the planes of existence with several others of my kind, from our homeworld of Limbo, but there was some interruption in our travel and I ended up here. I have been searching for my companions, and for some way for us to leave, ever since.-

“And… to return to my previous question, may I ask if you killed these people?”

-Yes, I did – in self-defence. Unlike you, they saw me and attacked straight away.-

Ragnar walked over to the bodies – two had had their heads staved in, and one appeared to have been burned to death. However, what most drew his attention was the red and black check kerchiefs wrapped around the lower part of their faces. He told Sir Gerigold this – it appeared to be some kind of uniform.

“Bandits, I suppose,” Sir Gerigold said, with distaste. He told the others of this discovery, and apologised to Zurgal for being suspicious. The slaad said it was very reasonable under the circumstances and invited the party to share his campfire. The others came closer. The bard, despite not wanting to let a strange spellcaster read her thoughts, definitely wanted to know what was under discussion, and was pestering Hazard to repeat everything as it happened. She pointed out to the others, when he had done so, that the slaad did appear to be reading their minds as well as communicating with them. Sir Gerigold decided to ignore this as probably a consequence of the method of communication rather than a hostile act.

-Your companion appears hostile to this form of communication,- Zurgal commented, as they gathered around the fire. Once this had been repeated, Morgaen explained diplomatically that they had just had an encounter with something that attempted to control their minds, which made her hesitant about this just at the moment. The slaad said that this was quite understandable, and the monkey came to sit next to her, looking up at her every so often. This attention did not help to alleviate Morgaen’s suspicions.

Sir Gerigold told Zurgal, who was very interested, the whole story of the mind-controlling meteorite, then returned the conversation to travel between worlds.

“You said that you came here by accident. Do you know where this place is? We have never been sure how we arrived.”

-Indeed I and my friends, if they are also in this world, came here by accident. I am sorry to tell you, but no-one would willingly come to this place – it is horrific!-

The party looked at each other.

-Have you seen the mists? The mists surround this place, and imprison those who would leave. Whatever you do, never walk into them.-

“We did so, once,” Sir Gerigold said, and the slaad started and gazed at them with surprise. “They were… certainly hostile. There seemed to be strange things in them – but we reappeared where we had first entered this land without encountering any.”

-Then you were lucky. I would not recommend trying it again. There are indeed strange things in those mists – I would never risk that way to leave, myself. This land seems fair, but it is a small part of a dark dimension, and the mists are barriers to that place, where some of its worst creatures roam as guardians – some call it the Shadowfell.-

“I have heard of something like that,” Morgaen told the others, slowly, when Hazard had repeated it to her. “In old stories – a place where evil people were sent, because horrible things happened there…”

“New Solamnia does not seem as bad as all that,” Sir Gerigold pointed out. “More dangerous than its surprisingly forgetful residents think, but many parts of it are quite nice.”

-Each domain is shaped by its ruler,- Zurgal said, -and may depict different parts of their life. No creature starts out fully evil – some places in a domain will reflect what they were, before others start to reflect what they became.-

“There are many of these domains?”

-Yes, at least ten that I had heard of before arriving here, but possibly many more. All of them imprison those who somehow arrive here, and all of them are ruled by their chief prisoner – their Dark Lord.-

“The Dark Lord!” several of the party exclaimed.

Sir Gerigold rolled up his sleeve.

“On our second day here, we encountered a dying knight who told us to stop the Dark Lord,” he said, slowly, “and then we each felt a burning pain and found that these tattoos had somehow appeared… we all have one.” He held out his wrist, showing the hourglass tattoo, with its sands still endlessly falling. “Would you be willing to tell us anything you know of these, good Zurgal?”

-Ah,- the slaad said, peering. -Ah, yes – I am very sorry that you have shown me this. This is a death curse; it will delay death by certain means, but when the sand runs out, someone who bears this curse is erased from history. After their death, in a short time they are forgotten as if they never existed – but not only this, they will never pass to the afterlife. They become – nothing. Fully erased from history, forever.-

A chill settled over the party as they heard this.

“It seemed a blessing when it brought Ragnar back to life,” Sir Gerigold said, wishing to deny what he had heard.

Ragnar held his wrist out.

“Mine’s filled up a bit – a building fell on me, and my heart stopped beating, but then I started breathing again and came back,” he said.

- Yes,- Zurgal said. -The Dark Lord of this place, I have learned in the time I have been here, has a twisted sense of honour. To set such a curse on someone, that their death be truly an ending, he would feel it honourable to give them a certain number of chances. I would never inflict such cruelty on anyone, and even he feels that this curse requires a measure of protection against accidental deaths.-

“Is there any way to get rid of it?” Sir Gerigold asked quietly, staring at his tattoo.

-I would hope so. As I said, the Dark Lord of this domain has a twisted sense of honour. There is one way I know that you could rid yourselves of this curse. You must prove yourselves worthy to enter the battleground of the Dark Lord himself, Dargard Keep – and there you must prove yourself worthy to enter the heart of this domain, a place he calls Knighthund. Then, I believe, your death tattoos would be removed.-

The party, with a start, recognised the names from the visions that the Disks of Fate had shown them.

“This Dark Lord,” Morgaen said, “does he have a name?”

-He does, but I will not speak it.-

“Why not?” Greynen asked, bluntly.

Zurgal was clearly ill at ease.

-Saying a person’s name in a domain such as this… can cause bad things. It… attracts them. I really do want to tell you more, but I am afraid for my safety.-

“Why?” Ragnar asked, confused.

-The Dark Lord… has some powers over the entire domain, some measure of omniscience within it, and if his true name is spoken… he will know it. I … would very much prefer not to come to his attention.-

The party were silent for a moment, remembering how they had asked in Tenbrim, and again asked the mage Torvain, what they knew of a knight, or possible mage, called Raistlin Majere; and a long, involved discussion of whether Raistlin Majere was the Dark Lord. They had concluded that since the magical book Morgaen had acquired in Tenbrim, called The Chronicles of Raistlin Majere, was showing them the same visions of a knight who ruled a place called Knighthund as a series of brass disks they kept coming across, that knight – whose actions were becoming darker and darker – probably was the Raistlin Majere of the title, and probably was the Dark Lord.

In that case, by now, he definitely knew about them and where they were – although the curse probably indicated that the Dark Lord had known about them all along, and that they were pawns in some sick wager for their very existence.

“We have been seeing visions which may have been of this Dark Lord and his stronghold,” Sir Gerigold told Zurgal. “Do you know where we could find this place?”

-I do. If you cross the Snowy Mountains, three days to the east is a town called Ezra. Two days to the south of that is a town called Wardenwood, and then four days to the southwest is a city called Palanthis. Only one day to the west of Palanthis is Dargard Keep, guarding the borders of Knighthund.-

“Well, then the only question is how to prove ourselves worthy,” Ragnar said, determinedly. “I never thought I would have to struggle to live so that I could have a proper death! If anyone sees me trying to have a heroic death before we beat the Dark Lord then it means I’ve forgotten, so make sure you stop me!”

-To be worthy, you must be powerful foes, powerful enough that the Dark Lord can accept a challenge from you without lowering himself,- Zurgal said. -You must train yourselves – learn spells if you are spellcasters, grow stronger at your weapons if you are fighters. You will know if you are worthy, there is a magical barrier which prevents anyone who is not worth the Dark Lord’s time from approaching his fortress. As I said, the Dark Lord has a twisted code of honour. He would not fight someone who did not have a chance – a small chance – of surviving the encounter.-

“Is this some sort of entertainment?” Greynen said, twisting the leather braid around his wrist with his other hand and running it over and over the tattoo. “We get a chance to survive because he wants to fight us?”

-He is a master of hand-to-hand combat, a strong spellcaster with the magic he knows, and he has a small retinue of loyal followers who will stand by him and defend him if you encounter him. So… the chance of victory and survival is small. But yes, it is possible that this is a form of entertainment for him. The Dark Lords rule their domains, and may decide if others may leave or come, but they are the chief prisoners here – they cannot leave themselves. They are prisoners in their own kingdoms. It is possible that the Dark Lord views cursing others so that they must fight him if they wish to survive at all as a form of entertainment to pass the weary years. I know of no way to leave without earning his permission to do so – and I have been searching since I arrived here.-

Sir Gerigold thanked Zurgal, politely, although his voice was subdued. They were hard truths to hear, but it was better to know than not know.

Morgaen had started looking confused, scribbling at the rough map of New Solamnia she had started, and did not make too many objections when the others decided to share Zurgal’s camp for the night. She had sketched out the rough distances and directions to the places Zurgal had mentioned, and discovered that it made a circuit which should have come round almost to Tenbrim again – but people there had spoken of ‘the city’, when pushed, as an almost impossible place, far away and barely remembered.

Ragnar inspected the bandits' bodies, acquired the loose change in their pockets, and tidied their usable weapons and armour into the Bag of Holding.

Sir Gerigold, back at the fire, turned the conversation back to Zurgal’s friends, wondering if the party might encounter them if they continued travelling in New Solamnia. Zurgal agreed that this was possible, but warned that the encounter might be less agreeable than meeting him had been – his friends (Blue, Red and Grey – none of them had ever felt the need of a name) were less intelligent than he was, so they might be confused and therefore hostile even if approached peacefully. He wrote a note on a scrap of paper in an alien alphabet even Hazard could make no sense of, which he said explained that the party were friends of Zurgal’s and should not be attacked – he gave this to Sir Gerigold, saying that he hoped the knight would have a chance to show this to his friends, and perhaps tell them where they had seen him if there was any way to communicate with them. Of the three, he explained, Grey was most likely to talk to those who seemed willing to communicate. Blue was, er… rather large, and often feared by those who did not understand him, so might be inclined to lash out quickly, but he might be persuaded to accept a formal trial of strength if one seemed offered, and they might then be able to hand him the note. Red was of a mischievous bent and likely to play pranks but might well talk to people who seemed inclined to take him in good part and play pranks back at him.

Very early the next morning, Ragnar – who was on watch – saw Zurgal wake up, and start getting his things together and hitching his horses as quietly as he could. The slaad explained that he wanted to go and see the meteor crash site they had mentioned – if it was as far as they had said, he would need an early start to get his slow wagon there before dark. He usually found it was usually best for him not to arrive at places in the dark, and he would not like to alarm the mages they had mentioned – he did not feel that would be positive for any of them.

-Well, I wish you luck,- he said, settling his big frame onto the driver’s seat. The monkey perched on his shoulder, leaning forwards and looking keen to be off. -And I hope that we may meet again some day. Preferably all of us out of this place!-

Ragnar bade him farewell, cheerfully. A niggling thought struck him as the wagon rumbled off that it was a little unusual for so much noise not to have woken his friends – even trying to be quiet, Zurgal made as much noise about his departure as a pair of draft horses and a rumbling, creaking wagon had to make – but he did not dwell on it.

The mountains loomed ever nearer that day, and the chill in the air bit deeper the closer they got. The tree cover began to get thinner, and in the clearing where they stopped for a midday meal and to rest the horses, there was frost on the ground. Eventually the party crested a rise and caught sight of the river ahead of them.

By now, it did not surprise them that it was frozen, in summer. Morgaen quipped about the hazards of an occasional actor’s life, going on tour somewhere for the weather only to have them spend the time telling you it was their worst summer in living memory. Hazard muttered darkly about Tibalt. The others couldn’t tell if he was serious in thinking the dwarf acolyte from Tenbrim was really behind everything affecting them, or if this was Hazard’s idea of joking with them, so had stopped responding and now just ignored him.

They headed down the path to where a rough wooden jetty jutted out into the river, letting the horses pick their way slowly and carefully down the frosty slope. They thought they could see a boat – and as they got closer, it was clear that it was a boat, a small keelboat which could have taken only three or four humans – if its sail had not been currently doing duty as an improvised tent. Sitting on the jetty next the boat, with a red fez on his head, a pipe in his mouth and the air of someone who would have been dangling his feet in the water if it hadn’t been frozen, was a halfling.

They dismounted in a large, well-trodden area at the end of the jetty, and tied the horses to a convenient rail to one side of it before walking out along the jetty over the ice. The halfling looked up and nodded to them.

“Hello, there,” he said.

“Do we address the renowned trader Nim Graygos?” Morgaen asked.

“Yes – yes, that’s me. You’re looking for me?”

“For you, and some people we heard you were travelling with,” Sir Gerigold said. “Why are you waiting here, may I ask?”

“Well, I’m expecting a delivery, but it hasn’t arrived. Couldn’t fit the cargo in my boat, this time, see – I usually make the trip round the mountains in the boat – but I’ve been waiting here three days now, when it should’ve been here waiting for me or a day later at the most, and I’m not going anywhere now until the river unfreezes and lets me have the boat back – so, nothing for it but to wait! Weird drops in temperature, you do get around here. Can’t explain it, for summer. But there you are. It was the Red Drakes I hired to bring it through – I’ve hired them before, always successfully, so I paid a pretty penny for ‘em this time, but they haven’t turned up! They the ones you’re looking for?”

“What are they like?” Ragnar asked.

“What are the Red Drakes like? They always wear red cloaks, and there’s this red dragonborn mystic called Garlan who's one of them, sounds like he should be the leader, but in fact that’s Bruga – a half-orc warrior. Then there’s a tiefling witch called Talia, and this human called Logus – sketchy type, I reckon he’s a thief. Oh, and another woman – what’s her name – caught up with us on the way, she was trying to make some money –”

“She a half-elf called Olaria?” Greynen demanded.

“Uh, yeah,” Nim said, looking at Greynen measuringly, taking in his appearance as if he had just realised that the silver-haired half-elf reminded him of someone. “That’s her…She’s with them, too.”

“She’s with them? We’re trying to find her,” the warlock said, and gave a long, long look to the trader who had just told him that his missing sister had been safe, if short of money, but was now somewhere in the mountains and overdue to return.

“Well – there’s somewhere you could look,” Nim Graygos said, seeming suddenly inclined to be as helpful as he could. “They’d’ve been coming over the Frostfall Pass, see – about a day’s march into the mountains, you go up and then there’s the pass, always snow on it so most won’t go that way.”

Greynen turned and started walking back along the jetty. Morgaen followed, and her voice drifted back, trying to convince Greynen to at least wait until they had got some clearer directions.

Nim puffed on his pipe and took a deep breath.

“If they’ve run into trouble, and you find and bring back my cargo, I’ll pay you what I was going to pay the Red Drakes,” he offered the others. “Three hundred gold – each.”

“Three hundred each?” Ragnar said, eyes wide.

“’Tis a big box, and Bruga drove a hard bargain for fetching it over the mountains. Worth it, though – she and her crew have done good work for me before. So if you find the Red Drakes, and they need help getting out of whatever trouble they’re in, I’ll add two hundred gold for each one of them you bring back alive.”

“What’s the cargo?” Ragnar asked with interest.

“It’s a weapon. A special weapon,” Nim said. “It’s, er…”

“It’s a big weapon if it couldn’t fit in your boat,” Sir Gerigold said, his eyes lighting up.

“If it fell into the wrong hands, it’d probably be very dangerous,” Nim said. “It’s a sword, but you won’t see that – hopefully – it’s in a large crate, very well packed. Safety first, transporting a weapon like that, and it’s the crate wouldn’t fit in my boat… The crate has my name on the side of the box.” He looked at the expressions on the faces of the cleric and the paladin. Even Hazard was looking interested. “It’s broken right now,” he added, cautiously. “I’ve someone lined up to fix it, but it won’t be an easy job… took me a lot of negotiating and paying to get that sword, even broken, and they’d likely have charged me even more if they knew I knew a feller who’d a hope of fixing it.”

“How much are we talking about?” Ragnar asked interested.

“Sorry to break it to you, but you couldn’t afford it,” the trader said firmly. “And it’s not fixable unless you know someone who knows the right way to be about it. So the sword'd be useless to you lot, but worth a lot of money delivered to me.”

Ragnar sighed slightly.

There were footsteps on the jetty, and they looked round to see Greynen and Morgaen rejoining them.

“Have you got directions yet?” Greynen asked the others. “No? Well, why the hell – never mind.” He looked at the trader. “Tell me the way to Frostfall Pass.”

This was Part 12 of 'Dirty Secrets & Nightmares', featuring Sam as Dungeon Master with a cast of Mark, Alex, Paul, Alexander and Imogen. Written by Imogen Solly.

Photographs sourced from Pexels unless otherwise stated. Many thanks to the artists for making these available. From the top, by: Olivier Darny, Lukas Kloeppel, Anuar Gresati, Kristal Terziu, James Wheeler, James Wheeler, Elias Tigiser, prasanthdas ds, Jordan Benton, Olivier Darny, map made on Inkarnate by the author, Todd Trapani, Jonathan Aman, Pok Rie.

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