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A Tale of Nightmares Part 8 - A New Destination

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

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 Odinson (played by Alex)

After a mind- and body-scarring experience in the crypts beneath the church of Saint Terragnis, in the town of Tenbrim, the party need time to recover and to consider their next move.

The evening was still just drawing in when they left the sad scene in the church. Tenbrim’s central square still looked peaceful – but a certain air of apprehension had seeped into the town. The party saw a new caution in the way people watched them as they crossed the square towards the Code of Honour inn.

Sir Gerigold halted, suddenly, outside the inn and ran a hand over his face – he asked Ragnar again if he really did have flesh and skin over his jaw again. Ragnar told him it looked like he’d developed an issue with dry skin, but nothing worse than that.

“I’ll take that,” the paladin said, happily, and led the way inside.

Emmalina the innkeeper did not seem to have been affected too much by what had happened at the church – perhaps she had been too busy to pay much attention to anything going on outside.

“Oh, hello,” she said, cheerfully, before looking taken aback at the state of them. “What happened to you?”

“We have fought a great evil in the crypts beneath the church of Saint Terragnis,” Sir Gerigold said solemnly. “It was a hard fight, and an excessively unpleasant place. We are much in need of a night here to recover.”

“It must have been very unpleasant, you are all a bit stinky… The rooms you had before are free, and the bathhouse is out the back near the stables. I’ll get the water heating while you bring your horses round.”

“The exact rooms we were in before, you say?” Sir Gerigold asked hopefully.

He got a sidelong look.

“The ones you hired last time are free, as I said… don’t ask me any more questions until after you’ve got in and cleaned up, yes?”

After stabling the horses and visiting the bathhouse, the party spread themselves out around the inn and sought some relief from the stress they had been under in their different ways.

Sir Gerigold flirted determinedly with Emmalina, seeking further clarification of the sleeping arrangements.

Ragnar got drunk.

Morgaen and Hazard went up to their rooms early – Hazard to conduct one of his extensive private rituals, which he had so far refused to explain to the others. Morgaen wanted to distance herself from recent events by continuing to read the book, Tamalain and Other Poems, where she had found the information about the realm of Azarumme which had built the crypts.

Greynen, still down in the common room, became restless. Trying not to think too much about the crypts, his mind went back to the overwhelming question that he only ever escaped for short periods of time. The locals were more withdrawn than they had been the last time they were here – but a few old regulars had still come in. And this was the first time he had been in Tenbrim since he had started wondering if his patron Cyone, the Lady of Dreams, had arranged somehow for him to be here – since she had promised to help him find his sister.

He went over to the locals, who stiffened, but then relaxed a little when they realised that he did not want to talk to them about the disturbing thing that had just happened in the church. Instead, he talked to them about a woman called Olaria – looking rather like him, with silver hair that had been long the last time he saw her. Nobody had heard of her – but one man mentioned that there were a few alehouses around town, less reputable than the Code of Honour, where someone travelling alone and short on money might have stayed the night. He suggested that Greynen go there the next day and ask around – taking one of his friends to watch his back, since the places concerned were frequented by Tenbrim’s dregs rather than its respectable citizens. Greynen thanked him, privately wondering whether travelling with the muscular and well-armoured Sir Gerigold, Ragnar and Hazard was making him look comparatively fragile – he had never had anyone question his ability to handle himself in a rough dive before – or whether the respectable citizen just had such a poor opinion of the alehouses that he would have recommended taking a bodyguard to anyone.

Anyway, he would not be bothering the others to go with him to get some answers from those kind of places – his kind of places.

The next morning, the party all felt stronger, somehow – as if their experiences in the crypts had tested them and helped them to grow in strength, skill or magic. They agreed to meet up back at the inn later to go over to the church of Saint Terragnis, then separated. Sir Gerigold, Hazard and Morgaen visited the blacksmith, Donnegan, while the other two set off alone. Morgaen purchased a rapier – the fights at close-quarters in the church and the crypts had made her feel the lack of a melee weapon – before the other two had the final fittings on their new splint armour and then attempted to negotiate a price for handing in their old armour. Donnegan proved as hard-headed as before, despite their new status as protectors of the church, and Hazard’s best persistence did not get him the price he wanted. Sir Gerigold had succumbed to an expensive impulse and traded in his old armour for some nice-looking jewellery Donnegan had taken in payment from a previous adventurer, which he intended to give to Emmalina.

After acquiring the rapier, Morgaen visited Ruby’s Rubies, the jewellers, and bought an expensive pearl. She had studied the spell she needed it for at bardic college, but as with many of them, studying did not mean that you could cast them reliably. However, her increasing familiarity with the spirits that she could sense and speak to was making her feel a greater affinity for divination magic. She sat down in her room, upstairs in the inn, to cast a divination to identify magical properties on the various magical items they were collecting. First, she identified the benefits of Father Reginald Baird’s former amulet – giving a limited advantage against being charmed or frightened, or otherwise affected by external forces – before moving on to the silver raven she had found at the Valkyr Mausoleum. She learned the figurine’s command word, and that it would turn into a raven for twelve hours at a time once every three days, during which time it would be friendly to her and act as a help and a messenger.

The final magic item she needed to look at was the black book. When she opened it, the book again showed her the vision they had had from the most recent brass disk, down in the crypts – the fate of the knight’s family. Casting her divination on the book gave her one thing other than its known property as a magical storytelling book – its name. This book was called The Chronicles of Raistlin Majere.

Morgaen noted the name and returned the book carefully to her rucksack, with Tamalain and Other Poems, and the silver raven to her belt pouch. She hesitated for a moment – it had been years since she had felt religious, opportunistic prayers to the gods of stealth and deception hardly counted – but did put the amulet on. In New Solamnia, she felt she would need all the help she could get, and protecting people was supposed to be Saint Terragnis’ role. She headed off to find Ragnar, and the strange knife he had been carrying around, which gave him darkvision at the expense of ominously misty eyes.

Ragnar had retrieved from his pack a well-wrapped but still by now rather sad-looking piece of dark purple fungus. He hadn’t wanted to tell the others that he still had it – but he was still curious about the plant-monsters they had fought at the Valkyr Mausoleum four days ago. Asking around for people who knew about plants had got him the advice that the best person to ask was the doctor, but further questioning had established that wherever the doctor had gone after his visit to Baron Rennet, he was not back in Tenbrim yet. Patiently and persistently, Ragnar refused to be fobbed off with advice to wait for the doctor – and despite the townsfolk’s surprise at this intransigence, he was eventually directed to a florist’s shop, Florence’s Flora. She welcomed him enthusiastically, as there was nobody else in the shop, but she did stay polite when he explained that he was looking for information rather than flowers and leant over with interest as he unwrapped the fungus.

He looked up at her, enquiringly, after revealing it.

Florence poked the fungus with a small pair of scissors.

“The juices don’t look healthy – some kind of poison, maybe?”

“I’ll say,” Ragnar agreed with feeling, remembering the damage that the fungi’s tendrils had done to some members of the party.

“Well, I don’t recognise this, perhaps if you describe the whole plant?”

Ragnar launched into the tale of exactly what the purple fungus creature had looked like in life – including that it had been moving. Florence was shocked – but intrigued, unlike the way many of the locals were dumbfounded at how strange and terrifying events could happen so close to their peaceful life. She propped both elbows on the counter and demanded to know more. Ragnar told her the whole story of the Valkyr Mausoleum.

“My goodness, you have an exciting life,” she said, a little wistfully, when he finished. “I’m sorry – I still can’t tell you anything about your plant creatures. They’re like nothing I’ve ever encountered in New Solamnia.”

“Nor anything I ever knew in Midgard,” Ragnar said fervently. “We have proper plants there! But some of my travelling companions said their world sometimes has plant monsters too.”

“Their world?”

“Yes, we all come from other worlds – the other four from a world called Far Run or somesuch, but I am from Midgard. I serve our god of thunder, Odin’s son, but somehow I have been summoned here.”

“Wait one moment!” Florence said imperiously. She turned, and produced two tall stools – one for herself, one for Ragnar. “Now – please, tell me all about it!”

“Oh – what would you like to know?”

“I have never heard anything about other worlds before – please, tell me everything about your world!”

Ragnar was, admittedly, rather homesick. And Florence had already shown herself to be a very good listener. He sat on the stool and told her all about Midgard.

“You must be so sorry to be this far from home,” Florence said, at the end, putting one hand over his.

“Oh – well, a little,” the cleric admitted, with considerable understatement. “But I am sure that my god has some purpose in my being here, and in that case, I am sure that he will also eventually lead me home. When I work out how to get there, you should come and see my world,” he added.

“Oh, is that an invitation?” Florence asked, smiling with her head on one side. She twisted her other hand through her hair. “I’m not very holy, perhaps your god would not approve.”

“Yes, it is an invitation. We are great hosts, we love to have guests,” Ragnar assured her, quietly wondering why she had not understood the first time that it was an invitation. “And you do not have to be holy to be a guest! Just merry and cheery.”

“Well, I’ll think about it,” Florence said archly, “but I do have this business to run.”

“Yes, you do!” Ragnar said, struck. “And I have taken up so much of your time –”

“What? Oh, no, I have enjoyed our talk!”

Ragnar looked about.

“I should buy a flower – ah! That is also something I have never seen in Midgard!” he said, pointing. The flower that had caught his eye had a very large round centre, surrounded by bright yellow petals – it was set on a tall, strong green stem. “What is it called?”

“That one? That is a sunflower,” Florence said, smiling. “They come from somewhere to the south, they are brought here by traders from the coast. They are very rare in this area – they are one of my favourites!”

“Please, how much for the – sun flower?”

Florence went over and selected the largest and brightest bloom.

“Have it as a gift,” she offered, holding it out. “From a new friend in a strange place, Ragnar Bjornsson.”

Ragnar attempted to insist on paying, but Florence held firm – and Ragnar walked out of the shop, rather bemusedly clutching the large bright bloom.

There he jumped – Morgaen had been standing there, silently. She was grinning at him and seemed to have been eavesdropping for some time.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, surprised.

“People watching,” the bard said. “It’s a hobby as well as a job, for me. Besides, you didn’t want a third wheel in there, did you?”

“Third wheel? What are you talking about?”

Morgaen grinned more broadly and shook her head.

“Made a new friend, Ragnar?”

“Yes, perhaps, she is a good listener and I talked a lot – I tried to buy this flower but she made me take it for free!”

“What did you want it for?”

“To give to Emmalina, to apologise for trying to steal beer from her our first night here –”

“Keep your voice down!”


“Oh, Ragnar… Never mind. Never mind. Let’s just – I have a new spell I can use to find the properties of magical items; would you like to know about your dagger?”

“Yes, of course I would! Why did you wait outside the shop if you were coming to talk to me about that?”

“I… you know what, I think it would take too long to explain. Come on. Let’s find a quiet corner and find out what exactly your dagger does.”

Back at the Code of Honour, Sir Gerigold had presented Emmalina with a beautiful pair of earrings he had purchased by trading in his old armour. She was flattered, and after telling him so, asked carefully if he was planning to stay in the area.

“I think not – my friends and I must still find out what has brought us here. We can get no more information in Tenbrim, so we must consider leaving and looking elsewhere,” Sir Gerigold said. “We will have to discuss our next steps today, once the others have returned.”

“Yes… And your other friend, who just came back with you?” Emmalina asked, carefully.

Sir Gerigold winced.

“I am sure he will join us for that discussion…”

Morgaen and Ragnar arrived back at that point – via the back door, as there was an alleyway which led to the inn more directly from the florists’ than going by the main square. Ragnar was proudly holding both his dagger – in its sheath – and a strange bright flower.

“It is called Ghost Eye,” he said, showing Sir Gerigold the dagger. “And it is not cursed, despite what everyone thought. It is spelled to be better at attacking as well as to give me darkvision.”

“That is good to know,” the paladin said gravely. “What is the flower for?”

Ragnar walked up to Emmalina and held out the flower.

“It was very kind of you to have us again despite my behaviour last time I was here, pretty lady,” he said. “Thank you.”

Emmalina’s smile shone out.

“Ah, that is sweet of you! I have seen these flowers at Florence’s, they are beautiful but it is not an expense I could justify for myself – thank you!” She took the flower, carefully. “Today,” she said, smiling mischievously, “you must drink as much as you want here. For free!”

“Thank you!” Ragnar said, gratefully, and turned to his friends.

For some reason, Sir Gerigold was giving him a very hard stare and Morgaen was covering a grin again.

“What?” he asked, confused again. “You people from Far Run… I think I understand the people of New Solamnia better!”

That was too much for Morgaen, who let out a peal of laughter before stifling it and apologising.

“If you’re quite done?” Sir Gerigold said, coldly. “We want only Greynen's arrival to start a discussion about what we should do next - since our hopes of information from Father Reginald Baird were so cruelly disappointed.”

Ragnar blinked.

“Do we not also want Hazard?” he asked, confused.

The paladin sighed.

“He’s here,” he said. “He’s out the front – keeping a watch on the church. He still feels distrust towards Tibalt, but at least he’s being subtle about it,” he added sarcastically.

Her curiosity piqued by Sir Gerigold’s emphasis on the word ‘subtle’, Morgaen looked out the front door. There was a muffled growl for her to get back, and she ducked inside, closing the door again. She turned to the others.

“He’s a brooding dark-haired human over six feet tall – taller than anyone we’ve seen in Tenbrim – and he’s sitting out there wrapped in a dark cloak, glaring over at the church, while all the locals stare at him and scuttle past looking scared or suspicious…” she said, voice quivering. Then she collapsed on a nearby bench and started laughing again, trying to muffle the noise in her coat sleeve. Sir Gerigold did not rebuke her. He only sighed again.

Ragnar shook his head at them and settled down happily with his first-of-many free mug of beer, to wait for Greynen.

It was another hour or so before the warlock reappeared – they heard his footsteps and voice at the front of the inn, greeting Hazard enthusiatically, followed by a rebuke from Hazard not to speak to him openly and give the game away. Greynen walked in, looking confused.

“What’s he up to and why can’t I talk to him?” he asked, pointing outside.

“Hazard is on a stake-out,” Morgaen said, solemnly. “He is, you will have noticed, cunningly disguised, and if any of us speak to him then someone might realise who he actually is.” She grinned again.

Greynen shook his head, but he had other things on his mind.

“I – look, remember I told you that my sister Olaria was missing? And I thought maybe my patron arranged for me to be here, to help find her? I think I’ve found news of her! I think she was here in Tenbrim a few weeks ago!”

Everyone’s heads came up at this. This was not just Greynen’s news of his long-lost sister. They knew she had disappeared over a year before their arrival in New Solamnia, causing him to make his pact with Cyone (the fey Lady of Dreams) to give him the power to try to find her. For Greynen, there had always been the chance that he had been brought here somehow to find her. But for the others, news of another world-traveller who had been mysteriously brought here, connected to one of their companions, might help them to also start working out what had brought them to this realm and why.

“Over here,” Sir Gerigold said, and pulled up an extra chair to a table near a front window. He opened the window. “We are merely here talking loudly about our own concerns,” he said, not looking directly at the bulky figure wrapped in a cloak who was sitting outside right next to the window. “There is absolutely no reason why we would not sit at this table or open this window if we wanted to. Greynen thinks he has news of his sister.”

The bulky figure jerked slightly – but did not openly respond.

The others sat around the table. Greynen leaned on it and told them his story. He had spent the day going around the more disreputable parts of Tenbrim – the alehouses where the labourers drank and gambled more than was good for them, and where travellers short on money might be able to find cheaper lodgings for the night than those offered at the Code of Honour. He’d asked if anyone had seen a half-elf with blue eyes, silver hair like his which had been long when he’d last seen her – her name was Olaria but she might not have been going by that name. People had seemed strangely hazy – they knew there were travellers, had been travellers, but many of them were unable to clearly remember what those travellers had been like. Eventually, however, he had found a young dwarf working at one of the alehouses. She had also seemed confused at first – but Greynen’s looks had helped to trigger her memory, and she had kept trying to remember apparently elusive details, until she was sure that she did remember a half-elf matching that description and possibly going by that name, who had stayed at the alehouse a couple of weeks ago. She had been short on money, and trying to sell some nice jewellery she had, but she had not looked prosperous and the shopkeepers of Tenbrim had been too suspicious to buy the jewellery from her.

(“But we have never had that problem selling jewellery,” Ragnar pointed out, confused.

“We are adventurers,” Morgaen told him – again, this seemed more of a tradition in Faerun than in Midgard. “We are obviously respectable people who respectable shopkeepers can buy from without fearing they are handling stolen goods.”

“But we did steal the jewellery, from the dead guests at –”

“Sssh! Don’t say that out loud and ruin things for the next adventuring party! We clearly got that necklace as part payment or a gift or taken from a dead monster at some point!”)

The silver-haired half-elf who might have been Olaria had been anxious about this, as her money was running out and she could not find work – visitors seemed to be acceptable, but there was not much work in Tenbrim for people who were only passing through. However, she had heard of a trader who had also just passed through Tenbrim, and she had gone off to try to catch up with him in the hope that he would be more willing to buy her jewellery from her. The young dwarf had racked her memory, but she could not remember if the half-elf had mentioned the name of the trader. She could remember that possibly-Olaria had set out in the direction of the Snowy Mountains, to follow the trader to another town, called Wardwood - or possibly Wardenwood - something like that, anyway.

Greynen had been increasingly concerned at the haziness of this story – which was only supposed to have happened a couple of weeks ago – and even more at the lack of knowledge of other places. The alehouse had a dormitory and expected to rent beds in it to travellers. Therefore, travellers came through, and travellers could be expected to talk of their homes, and their destinations, and the locals who drank at the alehouse should have been able to talk about other places than Tenbrim even if they had never left the town themselves. But none of them had been able to do so. A few of the regulars at the alehouse did have a vague idea of the town towards the Snowy Mountains, and which of the roads leaving Tenbrim headed in that direction, but none of them were sure if it was Wardwood or Wardenwood either – or roughly how many days’ travel away it might be. This, in Greynen’s experience, was not normal.

Morgaen thought back to her and Hazard’s interview with the doctor at Rennet Manor – supposed to be a well-travelled man, but only able to tell them that he had indeed travelled to and around the Snowy Mountains before, seeking for rare herbs, and not able to tell them about any cities, other significant settlements or any form of government in the area. Sir Gerigold thought back to his repeated but unsuccessful attempts to get some idea from Montressa Wend of where he lived before the man had succumbed to a strange sickness. They all remembered the strangely uninterested servants at Rennet Manor who did not even seem to know much about Tenbrim, except that it was the main town in the area, and the direction the party should travel in to get there.

No – the longer they stayed here, the more the natives of New Solamnia seemed part of its strangeness instead of merely unaware. Solamnia, the educated of the party knew, was a word that was linked to forgetfulness. Something here seemed to be affecting all the residents with forgetfulness – so it was not sure that the strange events they had encountered were, in fact, unusual. Possibly people just forgot them within a few weeks.

They hoped that they, themselves, would not start to forget things.

Greynen looked at the rest of them.

“I would like to set out towards the Snowy Mountains to find this town,” he said. “Today, if possible – if it’s her, if it’s my sister – I have to find her.”

“Yes, naturally you are worried – we can leave this afternoon –” Sir Gerigold started.

“I don’t think today is possible,” Morgaen cut in. “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I was planning to recover from everything that happened yesterday – and I’m not equipped for an indefinite number of days on the road. Besides – we shouldn’t just set out and hope. We should use the rest of today to try to get more information. Just because that alehouse didn’t have anyone who knew anything else, doesn’t mean nobody in Tenbrim knows. Tannoc Puddleduck at the adventuring supplies store, for instance – he might know more about other destinations, at least how long it takes to travel to them. He sells the travel supplies.”

The others agreed to this – but first, they would visit Tibalt at the church of Saint Terragnis. He had, after all, promised to try to reward them appropriately for their efforts, and some more money to kit themselves out for a journey would be good. Also, Greynen pointed out, they should be able to persuade him to part with the emeralds that had been used to control the attacking undead.

A growling undertone from outside announced that Hazard had no intention of simply walking into that church again – he would stay outside and be prepared to come in and rescue them if it was a trap.

The others decided to leave him to his ‘subtle’ watch on the church, and walked over the square.

One of the surviving acolytes opened the door to their knock and welcomed them inside, before sending another acolyte to find ‘Father Tibalt’. When he arrived, the dwarf former-acolyte was openly wearing another amulet rather like the one Morgaen was wearing, that had belonged to Father Reginald.

“You are taking over Father Reginald’s responsibilities, then,” Sir Gerigold observed.

“Yes,” Tibalt said, giving him an odd look. “I am the senior acolyte – and someone must take over here. I shall of course step down, if you do find Father Reginald alive somewhere else – but your story does not give me much hope.”

“I am glad of it – I had wondered whether you must wait, sending word to a higher church for a replacement or for permission for your elevation. That would surely not help, when the darkness below your church makes strong direction sorely needed,” Sir Gerigold said diplomatically.

Tibalt’s brow cleared.

“Ah – yes. It has always been the case that the church here manages itself, and that the senior acolyte is the next priest. I had wondered,” he added, “if you shared your comrade’s opinion of me… I see that he is not here.”

Sir Gerigold sighed.

“It is very hard to trust everyone we meet, when such strange things have been happening to us… But the rest of us are here.”

“There is something I must tell you,” Morgaen said. “You remember that when we were fighting here, several of my comrades were able to teleport to my side at a critical moment – so that we were able to stop the ghouls from dragging away a fourth of your acolytes. We were able to do that because a spirit in the church spoke to me and leant me the power of his story, so that I could use that power and tell you the story.” She told him of the runaway acolyte who had served Saint Terragnis under a false name to avoid family expectations, but now wanted his family to hear what had happened to him. Tibalt thanked her – he remembered the acolyte – and said that he would let his family know.

“I am glad that you have come to let me thank you properly for all that you did yesterday. Unfortunately, the church does not hold much in gold reserves, but – there were all of those emeralds that you advised me to dig out of the creatures’ eyes. I have done so – and had them cleaned. I hope that selling them will help you with your expenses. However, that is not nearly enough of a reward for your troubles on our behalf.”

Greynen and Ragnar had been looking disappointed at the idea of being paid with something they considered that they had a right to, anyway. They perked up again at the last sentence.

“I have spent the night in prayer to Saint Terragnis, and a couple of things came to me – the first, that she accepts me as her new priest here, and the second was the gift that she wishes me to give to you. To all of you – do you think that your companion could be persuaded to join you here?”

“We might,” Sir Gerigold said, “see if he is anywhere nearby…”

He and Tibalt went to the door of the church – and a large, cloaked figure, walking along the edges of the square with slow, careful steps, rapidly ducked and attempted to hide behind the horse trough.

He was a big man. His boots and the greatsword on his back were sticking out very obviously.

Tibalt went down the steps of the church.

“I hold you no ill-will for your words yesterday, Hazard Darkstar,” he called out. “Please come into the church – I wish to give you a reward for all you have gone through.”

Hazard straightened up, attempting to recover his poise, and walked with as swaggering a step as he could manage up to the front the church.

“Well, what is it?” he asked.

“Despite your distrust of me, would you accept a boon from Saint Terragnis for your efforts yesterday?”

“Can’t be more useless than your healing,” Hazard said, shrugging.

Sir Gerigold gave him a hard stare, which Hazard ignored. He walked past the two of them, and into the church to join the others. Tibalt gave a small, amused smile, and he and Sir Gerigold walked back inside after Hazard. He led the party towards the altar. Several of the acolytes were gathered nearby, with townsfolk from Tenbrim fastening together a load of wood and tools. Work to temporarily seal the well before it could be filled in permanently had started, Tibalt explained.

“Saint Terragnis wishes to cast her protection over you all, with her Boon of Health,” he went on. “Please – make a circle around the altar.”

The party did so. Tibalt laid one hand on the altar, raised the other, and spoke to his saint – telling her that here were the adventurers she wished to reward.

A shaft of sunlight lit the altar brightly for a moment, despite the overcast weather outside – then the light pooled around Tibalt’s hand, spiralling up his arm, around his shoulders, then up to his other hand. He waved his arm in a circle – and the light shone out, all around him, in bright beams going into each of the party, giving them a feeling of wellbeing and strength.

The light vanished – Tibalt leaned on the altar and breathed heavily for a moment. Then he straightened up.

“As you risked your lives for her servants, Saint Terragnis grants you a measure of protection against death, such as is in her power. For seven days from today, the first time any of you may die, you shall instead rise up again with strength returned to you,” he said solemnly.

“We thank Saint Terragnis for her grace towards us,” Sir Gerigold said, respectfully bowing towards the symbol high on the wall in the apse behind the altar. Morgaen touched the amulet around her neck and make her own, rather self-conscious bow. Ragnar touched his hammer and bowed his head, whispering a prayer for his god to thank Saint Terragnis for warding his servant against any deaths, such as being crushed by fallen buildings, that might not count as heroic deaths – and making it possible for him to survive longer and take down more enemies should he make his heroic last stand in battle.

Greynen wondered privately what the Lady of Dreams would think of him taking favours like this from random local gods he had never heard of. Hazard made a non-committal noise but received glares from Sir Gerigold and Morgaen before he could speak, so rolled his eyes and remained quiet.

The party walked back towards the front of the church. Once they had a respectful distance from the divine magic that had just taken place, Sir Gerigold asked Tibalt again about the workings of his order – how the worship of Saint Terragnis was organised in this land.

Tibalt looked puzzled to be asked and said again that the church in Tenbrim usually handled its own affairs. Persistent questioning by Sir Gerigold, who knew how religious orders worked, about where artists might have come from to do the excellent stained glass windows in the church – there was no such artisan in Tenbrim itself – seemed to trigger something in Tibalt, and after an effort he told them that there was a city in New Solamnia. It was a long way past the Snowy Mountains, to the northeast, but it was said that the artisans who had built the church had come from there. But when pressed on the name of the city, his brow furrowed – he had to tell them that he had forgotten.

Sir Gerigold shared a look with the others.

“Thank you anyway,” he said. “I think that we shall set out from here to the northeast. To find a town called Wardwood, or Wardenwood. I hear it is near the Snowy Mountains.”

Tibalt thought for a minute, then shook his head again.

“I am sorry – I do not believe I have ever head of that town. We usually have enough to concern ourselves with our own affairs, here.”

The party split up for the afternoon. Greynen hit the alehouses again, talking with the patrons about what might be to the northeast, or about any travellers they could remember who had gone in that direction. A few people remembered a few scraps – Greynen got the idea that if he had been asking this question after another couple of weeks, nobody would have remembered anything. Besides the young dwarf who had remembered a silver-haired half-elf asking the road to Wardwood or Wardenwood, to catch up with a trader, a group of three friends drinking together remembered a member of an adventuring party who had come in for a drink a few weeks ago, sat with them, and talked about heading towards the Snowy Mountains to some town or other. Another alehouse keeper remembered a halfling trader had come through in the last few weeks – Nim Greygos, who had a reputation for not being afraid to deal in exotic goods, or dealing with people who were… not nice. He had come through Tenbrim several times before, and the alehouse keeper was almost sure that the last time had been just a few weeks ago. Greynen remembered the information they had got at the adventuring supplies store and the Code of Honour the last time they were in Tenbrim – that a halfling sailor, come up from the coast, had joined up with an adventuring party in Tenbrim, and the whole group had set off towards the Snowy Mountains. Piecing together his information, he could infer that Nim Greygos had come from the coast, met an adventuring party here, and gone off towards a town in the direction of the Snowy Mountains – and that the half-elf he believed and hoped had been his sister had left Tenbrim after them, trying to catch up.

He tried not to think about all of the things that could happen to someone alone on a road, reminding himself that travelling on the roads here had been very uneventful so far. The doctor had always been travelling alone, on safe roads, and had been incredulous at the idea of trouble.

A couple of the party went to the adventuring supplies’ store to stock up for a journey. Tannoc Puddleduck was happy to see them again, so Morgaen questioned him about other places in the area that the adventuring parties he catered for would be visiting. But the halfling took on a similar confused look to Tibalt – or to Montressa Wend before he collapsed – and told her that other parties weren’t chatty like hers. They came, they bought, they left – they didn’t talk about where they were going or where they had come from.

Morgaen found herself dissatisfied with this. She spent the rest of the afternoon attempting to collect information from the locals by going to visit old people and asking them about any stories that had been handed down through their families, as well as any journeys they had made – recently or longer ago. She found herself with a dearth of information – again, people repeated that they had enough to do minding their own affairs in Tenbrim. Of course they liked hearing of things from other places – but now that she mentioned it, they could recall only the merest scraps of anything they had heard before. The stories they handed down, also, were not the folklore she was hoping for – they were stories of things that had happened in their families, during their childhoods or their parents’ childhoods, concerning family, neighbour and friend relationships. This was unlike any town Morgaen had ever been in, and the determinedly mundane nature of their information only made her surer that there was something decidedly magical affecting the entire area.

After getting in supplies for the road, Ragnar took advantage of the free beer from Emmalina and sat in the Code of Honour getting very, very drunk. Hazard, still distrustful, stayed around to keep an eye on him, but Sir Gerigold also went around Tenbrim, speaking to shopkeepers and anyone else who seemed to have time. After asking them for anything they knew of the local area – receiving the same story that they were usually busy just in their local area, but liked to hear of other places, although they couldn’t now remember much about these – he recollected his religious responsibilities, and spoke to them of the Morninglord. The townsfolk were interested – they did not hear much about any deities apart from Saint Terragnis – and Sir Gerigold proselytized about the Morninglord, the god of hope and renewal, until the evening started drawing in and he returned to the Code of Honour.

They met back at the inn to share their information, sitting around a table while Ragnar snored on it. Hazard confirmed that the cleric would not have any information to add, so they left him to sleep off the beer.

Their final conclusion was that there was a town named Wardwood or Wardenwood, somewhere to the northeast, and something between four and seven days’ journey away – information on this point had been very contradictory. However, they were sure that the halfling trader had heard of something in that direction and taken an adventuring party with him, and that a half-elf answering the description of Greynen’s sister had followed them.

Tomorrow, they would set out to the north-east.

This was Part 8 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: Vlad Fonsark, David Guerrero, Irina Iriser, Cottonbro, Teona Swift, Cottonbro, Rodnae Productions, Ksenia Chernaya, Volkan Vardar, Olga Lioncat, Julia Volk, Skitterphoto, Pixabay, Alina Vilchenko, Tembela Bohle.

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