Eleint 28, 1479, Year of the Ageless One
Gaerd De’barronn, stepped out of the Misty Forest and gazed upon the lush expanse of farmland known as Golden Acres. The farmland—all seven acres of it—was home to Goldentag Skaylebane, Rina his wife, and their young son Zak. Goldentag was a ranger who befriended Gaerd’s brother, Zaachaeus, when he left the Underdark and the drow city of Eryndlyn deep beneath the High Moor.
Since then, he had heard that Goldentag had died of old age. His body was buried next to an old cypress tree on his beloved farm. After the death of Goldentag, Rina and Zak lived on the farm for a while. They eventually moved away, but later returned to rebuild Golden Acres. Beyond that, Gaerd wasn’t sure what happened to Rina nor Zak.
A lone rider took Gaerd away from his thoughts of the past. Soon, a woman on horseback arrived. He immediately recognized her as Gomorrah Entreri, the young human woman he was suppose to meet.
“Well met, Gaerd,” the rider said as she dismounted. Fine leather armor covered her body accentuating her feminine features. A longsword—exquisitely crafted by the look of the pommel—was sheathed at her hip. He also noticed a shortsword at her hip.
Gaerd returned the greeting. “I wasn’t sure if you were going to make it,” he said.
“I wondered that myself,” the woman responded. “I ran into a patrol from Daggerford along the Trade Way. They wanted to know what I was doing on the road alone.”
Gaerd looked towards the distant farmstead. “And what did you tell them?”
“I said I was meeting a fellow member of my adventuring company near Golden Acres.”
“How far out of Daggerford do these patrols go?”
“They’re known to go as far south as Golden Acres and as far north as the Laughing Hollow.”
Gaerd started walking towards Golden Acres. “Let’s go for a walk. I need to pay my respects to an old friend.”
Halfway to the spot where Goldentag was buried, the ground suddenly began to shake. It was all Gomorrah could do to keep her horse from bolting. “What is it?!”
Gaerd unsheathed his weapon, ready for whatever was coming next.
Suddenly, something large burst out of the ground nearby. A monstrous creature, resembling a cross between an armadillo and a snapping turtle tore its way out of the ground sending huge clods of dirt raining down in all directions. The creature’s large head, covered in gray-blue plates and scales, turned to regard Gaerd and Gomorrah. It then looked directly at the horse whose reins Gomorrah was tightly holding to.
Gaerd didn’t hesitate. He quickly cleared the distance between him and the creature he recognized as a bulette but commonly referred to as a landshark by most unfortunate enough to run into one. But as he got close to the landshark, it leaped. It’s powerful leg muscles propelled its massive frame clear over the drow. It landed next to Gomorrah’s horse and bit deep into its hindquarters, shaking its head from side to side. The horse desperately tried to break free tearing its rear leg in the process. The bulette chomped down hard on the equine’s leg dangling in its massive jaws with a bone-crunching sound. The horse managed to hobble a few feet before collapsing on the ground.
The drow reversed direction and launched himself at the bulette, driving his blade deep into the creature’s flank. It roared in pain and tried to bite Gaerd. He easily sidestepped the jaws and sliced the bulette just behind its head.
Just then, an arrow zipped past the drow, narrowly missing him. It bounced off the creature’s thick armored scales. Gaerd looked over his shoulder and saw four riders, range weapons aimed at his direction. The others fired as well, their arrows doing nothing more than to annoy the bulette. One of the riders, a sergeant judging by the insignia he wore on his armor, dismounted and ran up the bulette to fight it with his sword.
Meanwhile, Gomorrah tried to calm her horse. Blood flowed like a river out of its hindquarters. She knew it was just a matter of moments before it would bleed to death. But the tortured squeals it made made her wish she could end its misery sooner.
Carric took shots at the bullette but couldn’t penetrate its armored hide. The other soldiers who arrived with Carric also joined in the attack. They chose to use range weapons to keep a safe distance from the fierce bulette.
Gomorrah knew she couldn’t do anything to help her fatally wounded horse, so she drew her weapon and charged the landshark who was busy fending off attacks from Gaerd and the newly arrived soldier. She recognized the soldier. He was from the group of soldiers from Daggerford who were patrolling the Trade Way.
Her blade bit deep into the bulette’s leg. In respond, it twisted it’s massive body towards Gomorrah. It opened its massive jaws then quickly snapped it shut. Gomorrah barely had time to move her arm out of the way before the jaws closed, missing her arm by inches.
Meanwhile, Gaerd continued to cut into the creature. With each cut, the drow knew he was quickly wearing it down. If only he could get a clean strike, the battle would be over soon.
As if the bulette had heard him, it dove headfirst into the ground. It’s powerful claws tore through the soil like it was water.
But Geard was not going to let the creature escape that easily.
He drove his blade deep into the landshark’s side, tearing it wide open as its massive body continued its descent deeper into the ground. Within moments the bulette lay dead with half of its flank sticking out of the ground.
Gaerd turned to see a sword pointed at him. The nearby soldiers on horseback had their crossbows aimed at him as well.
“I hope you know who you’re pointing your sword at,” Geard said with a calmness that made the sergeant take a careful step back.
“I see a drow and that is enough,” the sergeant said. “Who are you and what is your business here?”
“I see that Daggerford has soon forgotten those who had helped her in times of need,” Gaerd said. He kept a firm grip on his weapon, but he held it with the blade pointing down at his side.
“I’m sure I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“No, it doesn’t seem so,” Geard said keeping his composure. “I am Geard De’barronn, brother to Zaachaeus De’barronn. Over a century ago, my brother and I—along with some friends of ours—helped Daggerford and its then ruler, Duke Ged Greatshout, against an evil black dragon that had cleverly changed its shape and appearance to win the duke’s trust. I must add, that if weren’t for our help, your town would be vastly different than it is now.”
The soldier must have been trained in Daggerford history, for he lowered his blade and quickly ordered the saddled soldiers to stand down. “I have heard of you, your brother, and your friends. Your deeds in helping Daggerford and its people have been the stuff of legends in tavern talk and fire hearth tales.”
Gomorrah, who had watched the entire exchange between Gaerd and the sergeant, moved back to her fallen horse. She tried to calm the dying creature but she knew it was useless. “Please do something,” she pleaded.
Gaerd moved up to stand next to the horse. He took his sword and brought it down mercifully upon the dying horse. It twitched once and died instantly.
Gomorrah unsaddled the horse and freed it of its reins and saddlebags.
“I am Sergeant Carric of the Daggerford Militia,” Carric said sheathing his sword.
Geard introduced Gomorrah as a fellow adventurer. He added that they were making their way towards the High Moor when the bulette attacked.
Carric said that the area has been recently plagued with attacks from landsharks. Many local farmers have lost valuable livestock to the creatures.
“Who currently rules in Daggerford?” Geard asked.
“Duke Dresden Greatshout does…in spirit,” Carric said with a tone that suggested he wasn’t happy with Daggerford’s current political affairs. “He is a descendent of Duke Pwyll and has legitimate claim as Daggerford’s ruler. But in truth, the Council of Guilds has more to say about how the town is managed these days. To add to this, Duke Dresden is old and is in ill health. The duchess died nearly a decade ago while giving birth to their daughter, who also died soon after. With no heir many fear that with the Duke’s death, the Council of Guilds will gain complete control of Daggerford, its coffers, and its militia.”
“And who commands the militia now?” Geard asked. He knew that ultimately, whoever commands the soldiers had command of the town as well.
“Well, that’s debatable,” Carric said. “By the old laws as stated by Duke Conan, rulership of the town’s economic affairs is completely controlled by the Council of Guilds. This was done to allow Daggerford to compete with the city of Waterdeep in matters of trade. But the agreement gave military power to the duke and to all his legitimate heirs. But now, that old charter signed by Duke Conan is being largely ignored. Duke Dresden’s ill health is giving many in the Council reason to wrest control of the militia.”
“With no heir apparent, the Council can certainly do whatever it wants to,” Geard said. “Duke Conan’s charter makes it so.”
“What if there was an heir that can lay claim to the town’s leadership?” Gomorrah chimed in.
Gaerd turned to regard the young woman by his side. “You heard the sergeant. Duke Dresden has no heir.”
“Well, if there was such an heir, even one born out of wedlock,” Carric continued. “Then he or she can claim the duchy. But it’s a known fact that Duke Dresden was very loyal to his beloved duchess and so—”
“I’m not talking about an heir descendent from the line of Greatshouts,” Gomorrah interrupted.
Both Geard and Carric gave Gomorrah a puzzled look.
“I’m talking about a Delimbiyrian!” Gomorrah said. “Everyone knows that the Delimbyr line goes back even further than the bloodline of the Greatshouts; back to the ancient Kingdom of Man. The Delimbiyr line is of pure nobility and can lay claim to any rulership of Daggerford.”
“Alright, I’ll agree,” Carric said. “But you speak as though a Delimbiyr exists. All know that the line ended when the last male Delimbiyr, Garth Delimbiyr, vanished without a trace and presumably died over a century ago.”
Geard noted a smile that slowly began to appear on Gomorrah’s face.
“But a Delimbiyr does exist!” Gomorrah exclaimed with a tone that sounded like a young girl opening a present on her birthday.
“And how would you know this?” Geard asked.
“Because Garth Delimbiyr’s great-great grandson is here in Daggerford.”
Geard was truly perplexed by this revelation. “And how would you know this?” Geard asked. “Anyone can claim to be a descendant of the Delimbyrs. But that doesn’t make it so.”
“I agree,” Gomorrah said. “However, my sources are reliable.”
“So, where do we find the last of the Delimbyrs?”
“Sounds easy enough—”
“Not entirely,” Gomorrah cut in.
“What do you mean?” Geard asked not liking where the conversation was going.
“There is a problem.”
“There always is in these situations.”
“The ‘last of the Delimbyrs’, as you put it…doesn’t know he’s a Delimbyr.” Gomorrah said.
“What?” Geard said perplexed. “What do you mean he doesn’t know?”
“It’s a secret that’s been kept from him…to protect him.”
Geard felt as though the path laid out before him had just become a lot more difficult. He had many more questions to ask, but he knew they would have to wait. Right now, he needed to visit Goldentag’s grave to pay his respects.
The grave was barely visible through some undergrowth that obscured part of the marker where the legendary ranger’s remains lay in eternal rest. The huge cypress tree stood nearby like some vigilant sentinel.
“Legend has it that the tree is a treant who silently watches over Goldentag’s grave,” Sergeant Carric said. “Even the forces of nature holds the fallen ranger in high esteem.”
Carric and his men had followed Geard and Gomorrah into Golden Acres. They also offered to escort the two to Daggerford after.
Geard welcomed the soldiers’ company. He didn’t know how Daggerford would react to a drow walking up to the town’s gates. It was best to avoid confrontations when possible.
While Geard paid his respects, the guards dismounted and fanned out. They kept their focus trained on the thick copse of trees a short distance away. Gomorrah stood near the edge of the nearby stream.
Geard recalled the story of how his brother first met the ranger at this spot and how a raiding party of orcs had come upon the ranger’s pregnant wife who was too busy washing clothes to notice the orcs’ approach. Fortunately Zaachaeus arrived when he did. After he had slain the orcs, Goldentag arrived and understandably mistook the drow as a threat to his wife, Rina. After Rina conveyed what had happened, Goldentag thanked Zaachaeus. The two quickly became friends.
Geard touched the soft earth with his hands. Has it truly been that long since the days of Goldentag and others like Garth Delimbiyr and Eapoe? To a drow, time is but a fleeting moment. A century goes by like a soft, gentle breeze; felt but for a moment, then is gone.
A surprised yell from one of the soldiers broke Geard’s reverie.
He quickly turned and spotted one of the soldiers desperately trying to control his mount. The soldier was tugging on the horse’s reins to keep it from bolting. Geard also spotted an arrow stuck to the ground within a few feet of the soldier and his mount. Geard also heard Sergeant Carric giving orders for the men to keep alert and find the archer in the woods.
Geard scanned the thick woods but couldn’t see anyone. Whoever it was had skills in hiding. No matter. Geard knew it would simply be a matter of time before the sniper would give himself away. And when he does, Geard would be there to greet him.
While Carric and two of the soldiers carefully made their way into the copse of trees, Geard got up and moved to the west, hoping to flank the hidden archer. He moved quickly, using the bushes and low branches to mask his approach. Gomorrah, meanwhile, quickly ran to the base of the tree and tried to hide.
Now would be a good time for the legend of the tree being a treant to be true, Geard thought. If nothing else, maybe the treant can protect Gomorrah and the soldiers while he confronted the archer.
An arrow sailing through the air caught Geard’s attention. Although fast, the arrow almost seemed to travel as if time moved slowly. He tracked the arrow’s flight. He saw the arrow fired from a distant pine tree and arc its way towards one of the soldiers. What surprised him was how the arrow went through two trees before striking the ground near the surprised soldier. The arrow had phased through the trees!
It was obvious that their attacker was not trying to kill them, but rather was trying to scare them off. The archer’s skills was not in question and his having a Phasing Weapon was further testament to the archer’s ability to put them all on guard.
Geard moved as fast as possible towards the tree where the archer was hiding.
“Whoever you are,” Geard yelled as he pushed his way through bushes that didn’t hinder him at all. “You have us clearly at an advantage. Why do you attack us? We are not your enemies. We are friends of—”
An arrow struck Geard in the leg, causing him to wince in pain. He had to end this quick! The archer was now a deadly threat, not just someone toying with the others and him.
He broke the arrow in mid-stride and moved faster.
But by the time he made it to the tree where the archer was hiding, the archer was nowhere to be found. Geard couldn’t believe how fast the sniper had moved from his hiding place.
A sound from behind Geard caught his attention.
He saw a thick patch of fog suddenly appear out of nowhere and surround one of the soldiers. Another quick movement caught his attention. It looked like someone—or something—quickly leap out of some nearby bushes and into the fog with the trapped soldier.
“Whoever you are,” Geard quickly yelled. “How dare you attack us in these sacred woods! We are friends of Goldentag and have meant no harm to you or this place.”
Suddenly, the fog swirled and instantly dissipated to reveal a cloaked man standing next to the soldier. The man held a sword—no doubt enchanted—to the soldier’s throat.
“And who are you to speak of Goldentag?” the cloaked man asked in a hoarse voice.
“I am Geard De’barronn. A friend to Goldentag when he lived. We are here paying our respects to a departed friend.”
The cloaked man seemed unsure of what to do next. Geard gripped his blade tight, ready to spring upon him if he so much as draws a drop of blood from the soldier.
But instead, the cloaked man released the soldier who quickly backed off and then pointed his sword back at the cloak man.
The archer lowered his sword and turned to face Geard. He let his hood fall to reveal a head that was in a state of decomposition. The man—or rather what was left of him—had no lips. His eyes were cloudy and to Geard, seemed useless. Even his ears were missing having long ago deteriorated.
Geard had heard of such beings. Here was an undead before him. But it was unlike any other undead, like zombies or ghouls. Geard knew he was standing before a revenant. Revenants were what became of those unfortunate enough to have their eternal rest interrupted by Kelemvor, Lord of the Dead.
But Geard knew that such acts, even by a god of death, was not done lightly. For this man to have been brought back as a revenant meant that he had been given an important task by Kelemvor. A task that he must complete or be denied the eternal sleep he deserved.
“Who are you?” Geard asked.
For a brief moment, it seemed as though the revenant didn’t understand Geard’s question. He seemed strangely confused. He looked around—at the forest and at the gravesite a short distance away. He even looked to the sky as if awaiting a message from some divine messenger.
Finally, the revenant looked back at Geard.
His answer struck Geard like a warhammer.
Gomorrah Entreri, Four Daggerford Soldiers