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The Drake's Head Inn . Rise of the Mage - Chapter 4 . The afternoon sun sets in the Frosty Mountains; a slow descent of lingering warmth that will soon give way to the frigid cold of night. As the howls of wolves echo off of the jagged peaks, a party of travelers emerges from the pine forest. They are led by Kaloyan the Mage; an ambitious sorcerer from the west who has embarked on a journey to overthrow the Empire of Leon. Following the plan outlined in a mysterious black grimoier of magic, Kaloyan and his peasant warriors have just stolen a powerful artifact; the sword of Vlad the necromancer, from its hiding place on the mountain tops. On their descent down the mountain the party has been deprived of food for more than three days, and they grow restless for the first sign of civilization. As they emerge from the forest they come across a shoddy road winding through the pine trees, and follow its meandering shape north when a magnificent building comes into view. Rejoice overcomes the travelers; warm beds and food seem to be in their immediate future. Kaloyan: “Three days sleeping on the forest floor is long enough! Ah, we’re in luck Roger it’s an inn!” John the Peasant: “Not just any inn milord! If I’m not mistaken that’s the Drake’s Head!” Kaloyan: “The what?” John: “The Drake’s Head milord! I’ve never seen it myself but the loggers from Pliska tell tales of this place; wines, ales and lagers that flow cold and strong like mountain springs, pheasants and chickens as big as a troll’s head, and cheese the size of miller stones!” Kaloyan: “Sounds expensive, let’s see if they have some old bread to spare.” Eric the peasant: “Oh milord please, it’s been weeks since I’ve had me a drop of ale, and the smell coming from within is so alluring!” Roger: “It will be good for the men ser, they are a bit restless.” Kaloyan: “Uh, very well, we will get you warm food. I need a night of rest to plan the next step in our journey. Now before we go in, stash your arms, and listen up. Don’t say or do anything that will alarm the locals as to who we really are; I will do the talking, you do the eating, got it?” Everyone: “Got it!” Kaloyan: “And given this is a Mitgardian tavern, you’ll be wise not to talk about Gods; these Norsemen are notorious for getting sour when people criticize their phony-baloney Gods. Understood? Let’s head in.” Walking in, the party is met with the pleasant aromas of foods, spirits and herbs. The locals eat and drink, and a lute player is singing songs about heroes and valor. Innkeeper: “Come in come in weary travelers! Warm yourselves by the fire, taste the northern ale, and try our four meat sausages! I am Helga the innkeeper, what brings you lot up North?” Kaloyan: “Ah, well met innkeeper I am a Baron Wesley and these are my servants, we are traveling to take in the sights! Magnificent country you have here!” Eric: “Who did he say he was?” Atos: “Hush, that’s the story we’re sticking to.” Eric: “Oooh, I see…” Innkeeper: “Well met indeed milord, what will you be having this evening?” Kaloyan: “I’d like a room please, and food and drink for these men…Not too much, they need to stay fit.” Innkeeper: “Of course milord, the Regal Chamber just became available; it’s been lent out to princes, Hersirs and even the Jarl Himself! It’s no doubt the lavish quarters where milord will like to stay?” Kaloyan: “Ah, the prospect of sleeping in the bed of famous men must seem alluring to some people, but I will pass on that…” Innkeeper: “Milord?” Kaloyan: “I’ll just take a regular room (whispers) you know to avoid the attention…” Innkeeper: “Ah, traveling incognito! (Winks) Very well milord, here is a key to a room on the second floor, that’ll be 10 gold pieces.” Kaloyan: “Here you go, and…really don’t overfeed these men.” Roger: “Do we get rooms, ser?” Kaloyan: “Of course not, I need solitary space to read from the grimoier you old fool; now keep an eye on these three and only come get me if there is an emergency!” Roger: “Right you are ser, I’ll keep vigilant!” Kaloyan heads up to his room, grimoier in hand. He opens the door and finds a small cozy room. Kaloyan: “Ah, Northern Comfort! Now, let’s see what the next step is… blank pages? There is nothing here! What kind of plan did that Necromancer concoct?? Just steal a sword and then nothing?” Kaloyan throws the book, which lands on the floor next to Vlad’s sword and a bright glow appears on the previously blank pages. “Incredible! The sword reveals the writing!” (Reading from the book): “Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward pathway had been lost.” The room fills with white light and Kaloyan collapses to the floor. He awakens, a brilliant white haze surrounds him, and snowflakes fall from the sky. The wind is cold, there are no sounds, jut the slow inhaling and exhaling of his own frigid breath. From the haze a distinct shadow emerges, lingers and then disappears in the distance. Kaloyan: “Hello! Hello! Who goes there?” Voice: “Kaloyan… Kaloyan…” Kaloyan: “Show yourself, where am I, what is this place??” Voice: “We are in your mind Kaloyan, you are a clever guy; this shouldn’t be too hard to comprehend.” Kaloyan: “Vlad! How is this possible you’re trapped in the underworld! “ Vlad: “Yes, I am a chained prisoner but now that you have my sword, my voice can carry from the depths of Erebus to the surface world; it’s quite refreshing to speak again. And I have you to thank, I must admit I wasn’t expecting you’ll be quite so successful at attaining the sword. I am here to guide you on the next step of your journey.” Kaloyan: “What madness is this?! What do you want from me demon?? I am no slave to you and your will!” Vlad: “What do I want? Poor mage it is what we both want that is relevant! You want power and I want to head of the emperor on a plate to complete my revenge. I want the destruction of the monarchy, and you want to rule what remains! These goals go hand-in-hand. My revenge is your rise to power, your strike at the heart of the lion, is my twisted satisfaction, what else can I possibly want? Without my power and knowledge you will perish as I did so many years ago; before you can take on Leon you must become truly powerful!” Kaloyan: “I have the sword; the rallying symbol behind which my armies will assemble!” Vlad: “That you do, but are you a strong enough mage to convince them to follow? Don’t you think there will be tests? If you go to the Vampiri clans as you are now, you will be dead before you raise your staff mage! You need a source of powerful magic before you take them on!” Kaloyan: “Where can I find such a power?” Vlad: “There is a mythical crystal that is said to contain shards of the soul of an archaic demon; it is entombed in a catacomb not too far north of here. You must attain it and incorporate the shard in you magic staff. It will then become a weapon of incredible power-the most powerful staff in all the mortal lands!” Kaloyan: “Then I shall find it!” Vlad: “Beware; the tomb contains dangers unlike any you’ve previously faced, and extracting the crystal will require a sacrifice! Your most trusted servant must give his soul in exchange for the demon’s shard, take this rune, it will guide you and unseal catacomb.” Kaloyan: “Sacrifice? I can’t sacrifice my servant; he is the only person on this earth that I trust!” Vlad: “This must be done mage!” Kaloyan: “I won’t just throw him away! Where are you going?? Vlad come back! What’s happening???” Roger’s Voice:” Ser! Ser! SER!!!” Kaloyan: “Ah!! … what, Roger what?! “ Roger: “Terribly sorry to wake you ser, but we may have a problem. John and Eric decided to try every ale in the cellar, had too much and they’re gotten to talking and upsetting the locals.” Kaloyan: “Fools! Ah, this was not merely a dream Roger…the rune! But no time, lead the way to those drunkards!” In the tavern the blissful John and Eric have had one too many and are having a good time, unaware of the growing crowd of angry Norsemen surrounding them. Eric: “An’ then… and then my lord will be the boss of you!” John: “And.. he will turn you into… into… into…CHICKENS!! Aha you’ll see!” Innkeeper: “There you are sir, your servants have been spewing out insults and threats all night! I demand that you leave at once!” Kaloyan: “My apologies, they are drunkards and don’t know what they’re saying, let’s go John, Eric!” Norseman: “Hold on a minute there! These two have been bragging about killing guards; is that something we need to know about?” Kaloyan: “I assure you it’s drunken rants! COME ON ERIC!” Eric: “But milord… you said we shouldn’t…shouldn’t worry about these savages and their… their… phony baloney gods!” Kaloyan: “Atos! Hit these men and carry them outside! Roger grab my things; we’re leaving!” Atos obliges, and the party leaves carrying out the drunken Eric and John outside. Kaloyan: “You fools! I should tear your guts out for that! I don’t intend to end up as bloody spatter on a wall at the hands of some enraged Norseman! “ Roger: “Just unleash a golem on them ser! It will make easy work of them!” Kaloyan: “I can’t Roger, we’re too far from the tower and my staff isn’t powerful enough…Not yet. (The rune begins to glow blue) Let’s go, the next stage in our journey is at hand! Atos, carry these two!” An hour later the Norsemen emerge from the inn. Norseman: “That lot didn’t look like any traveling party I’ve even seen, I’ll ride out to Valholl see if the Captain of the Guard knows something about dead guards up on Frosty Mountain.” Meanwhile in the capital of Leon, Asparuh the warrior is worried about the stolen sword. Unaware of Kaloyan’s existence or the death of his friend Edrin the Mage, he has requested a meeting with the Minister of War in the capital. Minister: “Ah Sir Knight come in, come in! What can I do for you?” Asparuh: “War Minister Servius I’ve been waiting for an hour; this is an urgent matter!” Minister: “Apologies Sir Knight, I am quite busy at the moment with the Orcish uprisings in the South as I’m sure you’re aware.” Asparuh: “Minister, I came here to ask to move a small company of men north into the Mitgardian Mountains. I seek to pursue the men who stole the sword from our undisclosed outpost.” Minister: “Ah yes the matter of the Mitgardian assault; I have read your report; it appears no civilians were harmed and that no significant treasure was stolen. The work of bandits no doubt; our involvement in that matter is terminated and as for taking a company of Thunderers into Mitgardia, I would have to give you a categorical “no” Sir Knight. Is it your wish to provide reason for war with our northern neighbors? Will there be anything else?” Asparuh: “Minister I don’t believe you understand the gravity of the situation; in the wrong hands this sword will become a gathering symbol for rebellion against Leon!” (Messengers enters) Messenger: “Sir Asparuh, Minister, I am sorry to interrupt, but there is urgent news coming from Western Leon! I rode out to summon Edrin the mage and was stopped at the bridge near Pliska and told no Leon soldiers were allowed to cross. It seems the mage at the tower has taken over control of the province.” Asparuh: “Impossible!” Minister: “This Edrin is the man who knew about the location of the sword?” Asparuh: “Well yes minister but there is no possible way that...” Minister: “It seems that we have found a resolution to a lot of problems Sir Knight! Western Leon has been resisting Imperial legion presence for thirty years now! We finally have a reason to occupy that backwards province, and in the process we’ll catch the obvious culprit of the tower assault and hand him over to the Mitgardians as an olive branch!” Asparuh: “With all due respect Minister, I know Edrin and he is a true son of Leon; I cannot believe that such a man will ever betray his country! I must protest moving in on the west!” Minister: “Loyalties change Sir Knight, as your dwarven friend once demonstrated. This opportunity is golden; we will not mss it out of petty nostalgia.” Asparuh: “Minister this war can cost you your seat!” Minster: “I beg your pardon Sir Knight, you may be the emperor’s favorite soldier but you do not hold the power to threaten me!” Asparuh: “It is a warning of your own undoing Minister, invading a peaceful region you will spur rebellion the whole empire-over! Soon we will be fighting multi-front war with our own people and our enemies will use to opportunity to further undermine us! All I’m asking for is time; I need to figure out what is stirring in the West and confront my old friend Edrin!” Minister: “Hmm very well, Sir Knight, you have made your point. I will postpone my decision by seven days. If you are not back here in a week with this Edrin at hand, the legion marches west. Are we in agreement?” Asparuh: “We are Minister” Minister: “Excellent, now if you’ll excuse me gentlemen, I have a lot of work to do.” Messenger: “What are we going to do Sir?” Asparuh: “I do not know what could be going on in the west but if Edrin is still alive he will have a reason for doing this. Nonetheless, we take no chances; assemble the riders; we head out by high noon!” Messenger: “Where are we riding to my lord?” Asparuh: “We are going to see someone who knows a thing or two about this kind of magic; my Orcish friend “Him”. I have not seen him in a decade, but if anyone would know what were dealing with, it will be him. Now come on! We ride at noon!” To be continued…

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