By Brian Flood
Chapter 1 - Answering the Call
Kendall Keep, Kingdom of Cormyr
15th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
The day dawns bright and clear as the prospectus adventurers wake and take their morning feast at the One-Eyed Cat. A splendid meal of Calista’s fried eggs and potatoes sits comfortably in their bellies as they wind their way through the buildings of the outer bailey to the inner gatehouse.
The inner gatehouse is a U-shaped fortification with the open side of the ‘U’ facing south. The northern half of the bi-level structure rises sixty feet in height and looks down on the southern half, which stands thirty feet high. Battlements line the bi-level roof and arrow slits ventilate the walls, providing ample space to deploy defending archers. A set of double doors stands open, allowing access to the sally port that runs through the ground floor.
The prospective adventurers pass through the sally port, taking note of the arrow slits that line the walls within the passageway. The northern doors of the sally port also stand open, and the party steps through them to find themselves in the inner bailey courtyard.
The large field is apparently being used as a vegetable garden. Orderly, well-hoed rows of freshly planted produce border the pathway that passes through the garden to the main fortress at the northern end. A handful of workers are tending to the field and they stop their work briefly to wave in greeting to the adventurers.
The inner bailey is impressive in its defensibility. Forty-five foot high walls with walkways and battlements along their length ring the entire area. Sixty-foot high towers, with several archer’s slits each, anchor the southeast, southwest, and northwest corners; the remaining corner holds a forty-five foot high archer’s platform. The main fortress, located in the center of the northern wall, is forty five feet in height and has four sixty foot high towers at its corners. Two rows of archer’s slits run along the entire frontage of the building. Finally, a set of low buildings runs along the northern wall, east of the main fortress, and down to about the midpoint of the eastern wall.
A guard, armed with a short sword and dressed in chainmail stands in front of the closed double doors in the front of the fortress. His tabard and shield bears the same heraldic design worn by Sabine, the gatekeeper. He asks what business the small group has in the fortress.
After hearing that the adventurers have come to see Jadale, the guard nods curtly and requests that the small group follow him. The band of visitors pass through the double doors, noticing as they do that a raised portcullis is set in the ceiling on either side of the doors.
The party’s footsteps echo in the torch-lit stone passageways as the guard leads them through the fortress. They pass down a long hallway that ends at a great door. The guard instructs them to enter and await Jadale. After the party enters the room, he shuts the door behind them.
Glancing around the room, the party finds themselves in small, twenty-foot by thirty-foot room. Besides the door in the southern wall through which they entered, there are two other doors in the room – one each in the west and east walls, set near the northwest and northeast corners, respectively. A large, wooden desk dominates the northern wall; a single chair sits behind it and faces south into the room. An ink vial, a quill, and a handful of scroll tubes rest on the desk. Behind the desk hangs a large tapestry of the now familiar heraldic crest of Kendall Keep. The only other decoration in the room is a large mirror that hangs on the eastern wall. After a few minutes, the door on the western wall opens and two people enter the room.
The first is a young woman. Although she appears to still be in her teens, she carries herself with the self-assurance of an experienced warrior. Her firm figure is clad in chainmail and tabard; a ponytail of dark hair is tucked into the collar of her armor. As she walks, her hand rests comfortably on the longsword at her hip. Taking a seat in the chair behind the desk, her dark eyes sweep over the party, as if making a mental assessment.
The second arrival is clad in studded leather armor and earth-toned clothes. He is lean, tanned, and weathered but appears to be somewhat disheveled at the moment. His face has the pallor of one who has just recently sobered. His eyes widen at the sight of the band of adventurers.
Apparently satisfied with her visual assessment, the young woman speaks. “Greetings, and welcome to Kendall Keep. I hope you have found your stay pleasant thus far. My name is Jadale, and I serve as the lieutenant of the Keep’s forces. I am here to represent the Castellan in whose name the summons was made. We are in need of a band of individuals to perform a task for us.” Jadale pauses for effect before continuing.
“Recently, there have been increased attacks on travelers in the nearby area. Some have been fortunate enough to escape…..others have not. Our garrison here is not manned or equipped sufficiently to mount a search expedition or a foray against these marauders. Even if we were to send a request for a Purple Dragon contingent from Arabel or Suzail, it would take weeks for the message to get there and for a force to march to our aid. And anyway, a large group of armored warriors crashing through the brambles would most likely fail to turn up any clues as to the location of the brigands’ lair.”
“However,” Jadale adds, “we felt that a small band, operating out of the Keep, MAY be able to locate the source of the attacks. And once they have done so, we can then determine the amount of force required to exterminate the threat. Thus, we sent out the call for adventurers, such as yourselves.”
Gesturing to the leather-clad man who has otherwise remained silent, Jadale continues. “This is Cob, a local woodsman. Just yesterday, he discovered the victims of yet another attack. I will let him explain.”
Cob clears his throat and stammers, “Well, yesterday I was huntin’ in the woods ta the east of ‘ere. I was trackin’ a deer and came out at the East Way -- right near where the woods ‘r real close like ta the path. I came outa the woods and foun’ some strangers kilt on the road – kilt DEAD they was! Lookin’ like they’d been hacked on with axes, I tell ya. An’ the one what looked to be their leader, well, she was stuck to a tree with a spear rammed right through her! Ugh!” Cob gags before continuing. “Gives me the fantods, it does, just thinkin’ ‘bout it. So, I came back ‘ere ta’ tell Jadale what I seen. There’s somethin’ goin’ on up there in those old caves, no matter what most people ‘round here think!” he says. “I seen gnolls ‘n those woods three times ‘n the last month, I did! And twice the the Goblinwater ran red wit’ blood I tell ya!”
Jadale nods as Cob finishes. “Thank you, Cob.” Addressing the group, she continues, “Cob can take you to the place he found the bodies. From there, you can begin your search. As for a reward, I am afraid I cannot offer much. Our meager coffers barely made it through the winter and we are still to pay our annual taxes to the Crown. I have been authorized by the Castellan to allow you to keep any plunder that you find. I must also ask that you report back here to me with any progress you have made. We have rather few resources to aid you, but we will offer you assistance in healing, supplies, or whatever minor aid you may need.”
She pauses to select one of the scrolls, which she unrolls on the desk. Taking the quill from the inkwell, she makes some notations on the paper as she speaks.
“Now, I see that your weapons are peace-bonded. As you will be in the employ of the Castellan, himself a ward of the King, we will grant you a charter to travel armed within lands around the Keep. This charter will remain in effect until you leave our service. Now, as I can see you have all just recently met, I will leave the name of your company and your leader blank – once you have determined those, please inform me so that I may complete those lines. I will require, however, that each of you state your name for me so that I may record it on your charter. After each of you has done so, I will answer any questions you may have.”
The militia lieutenant stops talking and glances up expectantly at the assembled band of adventurers.
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