By Brian Flood
Chapter 9 - Beyond Yarthrain
The Sword Coast Backlands
Early Morning, 3rd Day of Marpenoth; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
The dawn breaks over a new day, bringing just a trace of a shower to wet the long prairie grasses. The travelers rise, dress and move to the taproom for a breakfast of fried eggs and bacon. After leaving a handful of copper coins to pay for their morningfeast, the quartet retrieves their baggage and mounts and heads for the south road out of town.
Just outside the southern edge of town, they find Trinfingl waiting patiently by the roadside. The plainsman is mounted on his light horse, leaning casually in the saddle. His eyes brighten as his wards approach.
"A good morning to you," he says in greeting to the four travelers. "Chauntea has blessed us with rain this morning. That is good - it will allow the road's dust to lie dormant without coating us in its grains. How did you find Yarthrain?" he asks the quartet. His attention is focused mainly on Rashid - he obviously would like to hear the desert dweller's insights.
Rashid thinks briefly before replying, "I find a number of things somewhat puzzling. The first is that there is, within the town, an area, the ruins of Backlands Castle, that is reputed to be inhabited by unquiet spirits. In addition, one of these roams the town. Despite this, and the fact that anyone entering at night is found dead in the morning, the town has not been moved and the problem has not been dealt with."
"The second," he continues, "is the need to uncover your head when entering the inn."
"Other than this, I did not find it that different to any other town, although I have not much experience of these." Turning towards the river, Rashid adds, "And the presence of the flowing waters I find a true marvel, a thing without comparison in my lands."
Trinfingl nods as the Bedine expresses his opinion. Out of the corner of his eye, Rashid can see that Aris and Aranor look entertained, possibly even amused, at his insights on the town and its unique sights and customs.
"The spirits harm only those who seek to enter the haunted manor houses, and the Spirit of the Silver Blade has proven quite harmless," Trinfingl explains. "Out here, on the edge of civilization, we have learned to focus our efforts only on those things most critical to day-to-day survival. If the spirits choose to celebrate and punish those who trespass on their lands, then so be it. That is their right."
"As for the Silver Blade inn," the plainsman continues, "I have been told that Timn and Gilda Berl - the husband and wife that run the place - are former adventurers who are now tired of that lifestyle. Perhaps it is some custom they inherited during their travels. Again, it has no great impact on our livelihood, so we leave well enough alone."
"Now then," Trinfingl says, shifting in the saddle slightly. "It is time to resume your journey. I will stay with you for the first part of today - until about highsun. At that time, we will be near the edge of my lands and I will be forced to take leave of you. My duty to the wards of my territory demands it. Until then, however, I will be glad to ride with you and hear more of this Anauroch." The guide's eyes turn to Rashid as the quartet continues its ride east and south from Yarthrain.
"And I will gladly tell you what I can," replies the Bedine. "I would also be interested in hearing of your lands through which we travel."
The plainsman nods in reply. "Of course," he says.
Rashid thinks briefly. "Perhaps the easiest way would be to compare the two, as tales and information on Anauroch are many and varied, and I suspect your lands would be similar. Where would you like me to begin?"
"I have heard that the great desert has no trade roads - that it is one vast, untamed expanse of dry, lifeless land. How can this be so? How do you trade with other peoples for that which you do not have if there are no readily accessible routes of travel?" Trinfingl asks.
"It is true that we have no roads as you know them. This, however, is because they are not required, and would not be used by my people even if they were present," Rashid replies. "This does not mean, however, that there are no readily accessible routes over which we travel. We travel across the sands, travelling the ancient paths. Where these pass through mountains and passes, or through wadis, you would recognize it as a sort of 'road'."
"We are not, however, limited by preset tracks in most of our travels," the Bedine warrior continues, "as travelling these would allow our enemies to anticipate our direction of travel. What reason could there be for doing so, except if one was unable to find one's way? Our paths take us from oasis to oasis or town, from resting place to resting place. The exact route followed is an irrelevance, providing we have sufficient water to reach the next source. That is, surely, all that one requires of a journey and its path; to depart from one place and to arrive safely at another."
"Very interesting," Trifingl replies. The plainsman goes on to tell the Bedine warrior many things about life on Pelleor's Prairie. As the morning continues, the hide-clad warrior speaks of the vast herds of bison and antelope that roam the grassy plains. So too, does he tell of the tribesmen that follow the herds, depending on the animals for food, clothing, and shelter.
As if to demonstrate his words, the travelers spy a herd of bison later that morning. The great beasts plod slowly across the prairie, seeking grazing lands. They are very impressive animals. The adults stand as high as a full grown human at the shoulder and are nearly twice that distance in length.
A thick mane of hair covers the creatures' massive head, neck, and hunched shoulders. Shorter, bristly hair covers the rest of their bodies, adding to their front-heavy appearance. Trinfingl points out that both the males - or bulls - and females have horns. These long, curved protrusions make excellent drinking cups, according to the plainsman.
It is just past noon when Trinfingl pulls his mount to a slow stop. "This is the edge of my lands," he tells the four travelers. "Beyond this point, you are left to your own devices."
He points to a hills mass that looms to the south and east. "That is the Hill of Lost Souls," he intones. "Many, many years ago, that hill grew angry and spouted fire from the depths of the earth below. Now, it has grown weary and no longer grumbles with discomfort. Years ago, a great army of men and their allies camped on its slopes. The men were warriors who had just survived a great battle that was conducted many leagues to the east. Many of those who were wounded died on that hill, unable to overcome the injuries they had sustained in the fight. It is said that the spirits of the fallen warriors still haunt that place - so beware.
"As well," the plains-warrior continues, "bands of goblins and orcs make frequent trips to that place. Many are the travelers who have come across these wandering humanoids and have had to fight their way free."
"You should be safe, as long as you are vigilant," Trinfingl says with an air of confidence in his voice. "But now I must return to my lands. Before I go, is there anything else you wish to know?"
"I would like to thank you for your company and the information that you have provided," Rashid says, adding, "I would hope that our paths cross again in future, so that we can continue our discussion on our lands."
"As do I," Trinfingl tells Rashid. "Fare thee well. May Shaundakul see you safely to your destination." The plainsman bows in farewell and turns his light horse around. With a final nod, he snaps his reigns and trots off in the opposite direction.
The four travelers continue on without their guide of past few days. Their course takes them farther southeast, along the road leading to Drawn Swords and Hill's Edge. As they ride, their eyes cannot help but glance warily at the looming green knoll in the distance that marks the Hill of Lost Souls described by Trinfingl.
The content of Rashid's Tale are the property and copyright
of Brian Flood,
and are not to be published or redistributed without permission.
References and content relating to the Northern Journey campaign resources are the property and copyright of their repective owners.
Return to The Rashid's Tale main page
Return to Campaign Logs