Blackfell March

Chapter 1: The Crucible

Luther arrives to Blackfell Keep and is greeted by Everard and Drummond, along with a slew of other guards. Inside, he swears an oath to his Thane in the dark, when the latter lights a chain of torches and reveals a horde of well-dressed Keep staff, townsfolk, food, and wine. It is a surprise party to welcome the new Housecarl.

Edmund leaves with a mistress, and Luther speaks to Jillian, Lady of Blackfell to ask who is worth meeting. She points out Zess, Captain of the Guard as well as a ruffian who seems to be a questionable guest.

Luther speaks to Zess, who is dismissive and even chides Luther for not dealing with the ruffian, who Zess says is poisoning the drinks for all they know. Luther leaves to speak with Everard and Drummond, who say that Zess is just overprotective.

So Luther talks to the ruffian himself, who he finds out is Arturo the Ox, a Strombardi bounty hunter chasing Pennythane, a halfling conman who has caused trouble for thieves guilds an town governments alike. He is believed to be in Ulfrecht.

Ulfrecht’s Mayor, Lars Burchhardt, is getting very drunk, so Arturo makes a move and intimidates him in a corner. Clearly he knows stuff about the Thieves Guild in Ulfrecht, but he breaks down crying before Arturo gets anything useful and Zess intervenes.

Luther deescalates the situation before violence happens, and Zess insists that Luther escort Arturo to the dungeon. Luther obliges him to avoid further conflict. While he locks Arturo up, Luther makes sure that the ruffian has some food—which is easy, because Arturo has been pocketing custard rolls all evening. Luther then rejoins the party to wait for a chance to speak with the Thane.

When the chance comes, Peter the Squire escorts Luther to see the Thane. He finds his lord staring out a window and feeding his pet bear, and explains that the so-called ruffian is a Strombardi bounty hunter looking for the halfling Pennythane. Edmund tells Luther to free Arturo and help him with his quest, and further tells him that he will pay double whatever the current bounty is, so long as Arturo brings him the halfling alive. Finally, he gives Luther a bag of jewels and tells him to take it to Valdr Blackmallet, the finest smith in Bashkel just south of the Keep. Valdr, he says, should be happy to give Luther some better arms and armor.

Arturo and Luther find Valdr in the outskirts of Bashkel, next to the hut of a charcoal-maker. Luther recognizes his heraldry. Valdr thinks the gems are fine and even points out the quality of old Strombardi coins in the bag, but he tells Luther that he has a more pressing need: his best crucible has been stolen by goblins, which he identified from an abandoned game of stickbeetle. He tells Luther he can refit some platemail, and asks Arturo about what tools someone in his “profession” would enjoy. Arturo is pursed-lipped but mentions he has a passion for whittling.

Luther and Arturo follow the goblin trail to the outskirts of Blackfell forest. In a clearing, they see four goblins and a bugbear making a camp. One of the goblins takes the crucible out of the bugbear’s bag, giggles, and defecates in it. The bugbear gets enraged and bites the goblin’s face, incapacitating it.

At this opportunity, Luther starts working himself into a righteous berserker rage. The goblins notice and rush Luther at the bugbear’s command, at which point Arturo hides. Arturo springs out and deals a mighty blow to the bugbear with his bastard sword, and Luther delivers the finishing blow. One of the goblins charges Arturo and the others go for Luther; this is foolish, as the berserking paladin fanatically swings his greatsword and cuts on down before it even touches him.

Arturo kills the goblin that is in his face by tossing it face-first into a campfire. The final goblin gets on his knees to surrender, but the froth-mouthed Luther understands only death. He bisects the goblin even as it kneels.

Arturo, though alarmed by Luther’s ferocity, keeps his composure and washes out the crucible while the paladin recovers his strength. They rest for a while, but resolve to make it back to Valdr by the morning.

When they do, Valdr is very grateful, and gives Luther good-fitting plate. To Arturo, he gives a fine set of lock-picks, hammers, a saw, a chisel, and a whittling knife. Arturo is mainly interested in the knife. Armed with their new equipment, the pair sets off to find Pennythane in the river city of Ulfrecht.

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