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Welcome to Episode 15 of the Rescued by Dragons podcast, Tales of the Brunch Club: A fantasy fiction podcast inspired a weekly home brew Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
My name is Dominic White and I invite you to picture yourself in a cozy, torch-lit tavern, ale in hand, gathered around a table with other listeners, waiting to hear the next chapter in the tale of… The Brunch Club.
But first, a quick recap of our previous episode…
In Episode 14, The Brunch Club took possession of the old lighthouse as part of their bounty for killing the banshee. They also agreed they would stick together as a team even after they reached the library and help each other with their individual quests. They spent a few days in Wheaton getting to know their new home. They visited Saberhagen who helped them identify items they found in the lighthouse. That evening all three gates of the town were overrun by gnolls. With most of the guards killed, injured or hiding, the Brunch Club was driven back to the guard tower. They saw Harir get slain by one of the gnolls. Vorjhon blocked the door while the rest of them, with the help of Saberhagen, tried to kill the gnolls from above.”
Episode 15, “The Familiar”
Vorjhon braced the guard tower door. Smoke from the fire the gnolls set outside was starting to find its way inside, but it wasn’t affecting his breathing yet. The door rattled and the cross timber shook as the gnolls tried to force their way in, but it held fast. Vorjhon was confident he could handle two or three gnolls on his own should they break through. He hoped his companions could take care of the rest before then.
Outside, burned, pierced, and smote bodies of gnolls piled up around the base of the guard tower, thanks to Saberhagen’s, Salys’s, Drusilla’s and Elora’s attacks from atop the tower. The leader of the small gnoll army that had invaded Wheaton howled with rage as his four giant hyenas were added to the piles of gnoll dead.
He screamed orders at the gnolls who were failing to reach the top of the guard tower with their spears. Following their leader’s orders, they began running to nearby buildings with torches to set them ablaze.
Elora picked off the gnoll arsonists before they could set more than a couple fires. Drusilla, Salys, and Saberhagen concentrated their spells on the gnoll commander. His howls of rage changed to yips of pain as divine energy, magic missiles, and fireballs slammed into him. His bodyguard threw spears at the top of the burning guard tower, but could not hit anything from that distance and angle.
Before the bodyguard could throw another spear, the leader’s head was turned into crispy hyena rinds when Drusilla’s divine bolt hit it first, and Saberhagen’s fire bolt hit it second. The bodyguard took a moment to look at the headless corpse of his dead commander at his feet. He turned and attempted to flee through the gate. His body hit the ground when all three women, and the magic cat, unleashed another volley of attacks against him.
The gnolls trying to get into the tower door realized they were the last gnolls standing and made a run for it. They suffered the same fate as the others and were added to the pile of corpses by the tower.
Drusila, Elora, and Salys ran down the stairs of the tower. Through the smoke, they saw Vorjhon still bracing the door.
“Open it,” said Drusilla. “We got them all.”
Vorjhon lifted the heavy timber out of its supports and set it aside. He pulled the door inward and saw the flames traveling up the charred door frame. When the fresh air rushed in he took a deep breath, then put out the flames with a blast of icy dragon breath.
The Brunch Club ran around the tower to assist with putting out the rest of the fires in the town. They were surprised to see all but one of the buildings were no longer burning. The blackened wood and surrounding ground of the extinguished structures were coated in a thin layer of ice. A cylinder of dark clouds appeared above the final burning building. The flames hissed and crackled as wet and icy sleet rained onto it. They looked up at the top of the guard tower where Saberhagen nodded to them and disappeared into a small portal.
Near the fountain in the center of the town square lay the body of Harir. Drusilla ran over to the wolf pup and cradled his furry head in her hands. He was beyond any help they could give him. She scooped him up in her arms and began walking toward the beach. “I want to bury him on our island,” she said. The rest followed.
The pale lunar elf sat in the bow of the boat with Harir lying limp on her lap. Vorjhon rowed them to the island. No one spoke. Moonlight reflected off the wet oar blades when they lifted out of the water.
On the rocky island, a pile of stones became Harir’s grave. Both Vorjhon and Drusilla said a prayer to their gods.
Back on shore, they went to the barracks to check on any injured soldiers. The battle had all but exhausted their divine healing energy, but they were able to stabilize the critically wounded and promised they would return the next day to help heal the rest.
On their way back to the inn, they noticed the unmistakable glow of fire by the north gate. When they got closer, they saw, and smelled, that it was a pyre. A pair of men struggled to toss the large gnolls onto the blaze.
Vorjhon recognized one of the men as Druron, the leather worker he bought his new leather sleeping armor from. The strong dragonborn assisted the men with throwing the corpses on the fire while Drusilla, Salys, and Elora helped drag the dead gnolls to them. When they dragged the corpse of the leader’s bodyguard over, Drusilla said, “Don’t burn this one. I have some questions for it.”
The others stopped what they were doing and stared at her.
“Excuse me?” asked Salys.
“The Raven Queen allows me to speak with the dead for a short amount of time. We may be able to learn why they attacked Wheaton.”
“Spooky,” said Salys. “Useful, but spooky.”
“We’ll set him aside,” aside Druron.
At the end of an exhausting night, after they burned the last of the bodies, they returned to the White Claw Inn where they were greeted by the innkeeper, Stephen, who was the first to formally thank them for saving the town. He pointed them to a table filled with meats, pies and fruit.
Seeing the food made them suddenly realize how hungry they were and they thanked Stephen enthusiastically.
The four of them ate, left a grateful tip for Stephen, went to their rooms, bathed, and slept.
A knock at their door woke Elora and Drusill the next morning. They opened it to Salys who told them Vorjhon wasn’t in his bed when she woke up. “Was there a scarecrow in his bed?” Drusilla asked as she and Elora got dressed.
“Nope,” answered Salys. “Just an empty bed.”
“You must sleep well for a Dragonborn to sneak out on you,” Elora smiled.
Salys shrugged, and the three headed downstairs into the Tavern.
Vorjhon was already at one of the tables eating breakfast. Three other plates and mugs were waiting for them.
Elora greeted him, “You’re up early.”
Vorjhon replied, “I had errand to run.” He placed a rolled up parchment on the center of the table. It was wrapped with an ornate ribbon.
Drusilla asked, “What is it?”
Vorjhon answered, “I bought it from Saberhagen this morning. It gift for all of us to celebrate our new lighthouse and indefinite partnership, but Salys is only one who can use it.”
Salys picked it up and inspected it. “What is it?”
Vorjhon answered excitedly, “It scroll of familiar.”
“Woah!” Salis replied. “Are you sure I can use this? I thought only wizards could have familiars.”
Vorjhon answered his gnome friend, “Saberhagen said you should be able to use it. You decide what animal you want, then read scroll. He said you can see through its eyes, and cast your spells through it even from far away.” He then added with a touch of melancholy in his voice, “If it dies, you can bring it back with new scroll.”
Salys thanked Vorjhon and put the scroll in her bag. “I need to think of the kind of familiar I want.”
They finished breakfast then returned to the guards’ barracks to check on the wounded. Several of the guards still needed Drusilla’s and Vorjhon’s healing prayers. The cleric and paladin exhausted their healing energy, but were able to get all of the wounded out of danger and healed many of them completely.
When they left the barracks, they saw Druron approaching them. A boy of 8 or 9 walked next to him carrying a wrapped bundle in both his arms. The leatherworker introduced the boy as his son, Kif. The boy looked at all of them with awe, but mostly stared at the large silver scaled dragonborn that stood before him. Druron took the bundle from his son’s arms and began unwrapping it. He addressed all of them. “I wish I could give you all something to thank you for saving our lives, but this is all I have.” He held a two headed mace out to them. One of the heads was coated with gold and had the blazing corona of the sun etched into it. The other head was coated with silver and was decorated with a lunar motif. “It’s called ‘Eclipse’, and it’s been in my family for years.” Druran handed the mace to Vorjhon, who gripped the handle with his non-shield hand and inspected it.
“It’s beautiful,” Vorjhon said with admiration. “It looks magical.”
“It is,” Druran affirmed. “During the day it does more damage to your enemies. At night, it aids you in hitting your target.”
Vorjhon frowned. “I don’t know if we are worthy of such a treasure.”
Salys coughed behind him.
Druran insisted. “Please. It’s a hero’s weapon and it belongs with champions like yourselves. In my house it collects dust. With you, it will do good in the world.”
The Brunch Club agreed Vorjhon should take the mace.
Vorjhon thanked Druron with great sincerity. He got down on one knee to make himself more level with the boy. “That mace would have passed to you some day, Kif. Thank you for being generous young man.” Vorjhon handed him his own warhammer. “Please take this in return. May it serve you well when you are older.”
Kif looked up at him with wide eyes, and thanked him.
Druran asked Kif to head home and he’d follow him shortly. When Kif left, they discussed what to do with the gnoll body they set aside for questioning. Drusilla said she spent all her energy healing the guards, but could perform the ritual in the morning. Druran agreed to keep the body safe one more day. He also suggested they find a secure, private space to perform the ritual. The town’s residents were still rattled from the previous day’s attack and the sight of a dead gnoll being interrogated might be a bit startling. They agreed and Druran bid them good day.
They agreed the benches by the fountain in the town square would be an ideal place for Salys to use the Scroll of Find Familiar, so they headed that way.
Before reaching the fountain, they saw three portals open up next to it. A female elf, male elf, and someone they could not identify in fully concealing armor stepped out of the portals.
The elf woman called out “Saberhagen!”
A smaller portal appeared before them and the black cat with white chest and paws stepped out. “Solania,” he greeted her with the barest amount of civility. He nodded at the male elf. “Illian,” he greeted even less cordially. “What drags you out of your crystal tower?”
“We detected a lot of magical activity here,” Solania said.
Illian added, “We guessed you were up to no good.”
“It wasn’t all me,” Saberhagen replied curtly. “The town was attacked by a gnoll warband. Thanks for your help with that by the way,” he added with more than a hint of sarcasm.
“We sensed divine magic,” Illian said. “You know that is illegal in Elnor.”
Saberhagen narrowed his eyes. “We’re not in Elnor, are we? And if you don’t care enough to help us when we’re under attack, you can’t get too upset when some divine magic users come to our aid instead.”
As if she knew who the wizard was talking about, Solania turned to look at The Brunch Club, who had halted their approach once they were in earshot. Her gaze rested on Vorjhon for an uncomfortably long moment. She turned back to the wizard and said, “Watch yourself Saberhagen. Tell your friends to be careful too.”
The three of them stepped back into their portals, which closed and disappeared behind them.
The Brunch Club approached the fountain. Drusilla asked Saberhagen, “Who were they?”
The cat licked the dirt off his paw. “The two elves were part of The Five, the council of wizards that rules over Elnor. The other one was one an ‘Instructor,’ the elite guard mostly responsible for keeping divine magic out of Elnor and keeping The Five in power.”
“They didn’t seem to like you,” Salys said.
Saberhagen laughed. “Most wizards are kind of bitter. They have to work very hard to achieve the powers that others, like yourselves, are gifted with. Solania’s okay. Illian can’t get over the fact that he spent years at mage college only to see a cat teach itself the same skills. Now if you’ll excuse me, they interrupted my nap.” A small portal appeared and then disappeared when he leapt through it.
With Saberhagen gone, Salys decided it was time to try out the Scroll of Find Familiar.
The gnome removed the ribbon and unrolled the parchment.
Elora asked, “What did you pick?”
“It’s a surprise,” Salys answered.
She read the scroll quietly while sitting on the edge of the fountain’s basin. The letters glowed and vanished as she read them. When she finished, the scroll disintegrated into ash. The dark flecks fell, but instead of hitting the ground they seemed to land on, and stick to, an invisible mold. When the last of the ash completed the three dimensional puzzle on the ground, it all fell away, revealing a white and gray pygmy owl with bright green eyes that matched his master’s.
Drusilla covered her mouth and said in a high pitched voice, “It’s soooo adorable!”
Elora agreed. “I can’t even handle that cuteness!”
Salys picked the owl up. It fit perfectly on her palm. She raised it to her eye level. “Hello. I’m going to name you Pip.”
The owl cocked its head. It stared at her. It looked past her at Vorjhon, Drusilla, and Elora then looked back at Salys. “That’s a fucking stupid name. I hate it,” the adorable owl replied with a deep, gruff, curt voice.
Salys was momentarily surprised, but wasn’t going to take this back talk. “Listen here,” she scolded. “You’re my familiar so you have to do what I say. Your name is ‘Pip’. Live with it. Now sit on my shoulder, and if you shit on me I will dispel you and bring you back as a worm, got it?”
Pip grunted but relented. He flew up and perched himself atop Salys’s shoulder.
“Oh my gods,” Drusilla practically squealed. “Look at him sit on your shoulder! This is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.”
“I know!” Salys agreed. “But can you believe that sass he gave me?”
Elora answered, “No. All we could hear was you.”
Vorjhon extended his finger slowly to pat the owl on the head. “Hello Pip. Nice to meet you.”
Pip nipped at the paladin’s finger before he could touch him.
“Look!” Vorjhon beamed. “He’s protective of his master!”
They sat on the benches as they listened to the soothing sounds of the running water in the fountain. They were entertained by cute tricks Pip did at the bidding of his new master. Only Salys could hear the adorable owl’s complaints and curses.
When they began to get hungry they went to TJ’s tavern for lunch.
Drusilla told them about the ritual she would use to speak with the dead gnoll in the morning. “I’ll only have enough time for four or five questions, so we need to decide what to ask beforehand.”
“Can it lie to us?” Elora asked.
Drusilla confirmed it could.
“I can help with that,” Vorjhon told them. “I have ritual of my own that will force it to tell truth.”
Salys spoke while scratching Pip’s forehead. “That’s handy. Now we just have to find a safe place to do it.”
They agreed they should ask Saberhagen if he knew of such a place. While they were discussing which five questions they should ask the gnoll corpse, Kif ran into the tavern and up to their table.
He was sweating and winded and spoke while trying to catch his breath. “Mister Vorjhon. You have to come quick. Something weird’s at the north gate.”
The dragon born asked the excited boy, “What is it, Kif?”
“Scarecrows. Lots of them.”
The Brunch Club looked at each other briefly. They left payment for their lunch on the table and quickly headed for the north gate with Kif running ahead of them.
Just outside the north gate they saw a dozen scarecrows forming a semi circle on either side of the road. The guards at the gate said they saw no one put them there. They had turned their gaze from the forest for a moment, and when they looked back, the scarecrows were there.
They looked like the same scarecrows from Jameson’s farm in Wyhill and Vorjhon’s room in Boughmoor. Upon closer inspection, they discovered they were also made with bloodwood. Vorjhon snapped a bloodwood stick in half and put it in his pack. He then told the guards to burn them all.
As they walked to the Sun Spot, Salys said to Vorjhon, “Someone is messing with you hard. Who did you piss off?”
The dragonborn shrugged. “I have no idea. The head of my old monastery could want to punish me, but this is not Silver Flame’s method.”
They arrived at the sunspot. Saberhagen looked at Pip on Salys’s shoulder and remarked, “Ah, I see the Scroll of Familiar was successful. Interesting choice of animal though. I’d have picked something less… bird-like.”
“Fuck you, pussy!” Pip said angrily. Only Salys heard him.
“How can I help you today?” the wizard asked.
They told Saberhagen of their plans to question the gnoll corpse in the morning and asked if he knew of the safest, most private place to perform the ritual.
The cat hopped off the counter and started up the stairs. “Follow me.”
They followed him up the stairs until they came to the final floor. It was a single room with no furniture. The ceiling of the room was a peaked skylight roof. A beam of light shone in through the glass, directly on a plush, comfortable looking pillow. The cushion floated two or three inches off the floor and was covered in black and white cat hair. In the center of the room, sitting on the floor, was a large, shallow crystal bowl filled with water.
“This is my sanctum,” Saberhagen told them. “Not only is it private, it’s shielded against scrying as well.”
“Scrying?” Vorjhon asked.
Saberhagen pointed a paw to the bowl in the middle of the room. “Scrying let’s me see what someone else is up to.”
Salys walked up to the bowl and looked into it. “You can scry on anyone?”
“It depends. You need to know them, know what they look like, or have an object belonging to them. The more familiar you are with them, the better the chances the spell succeeds.”
Vorjhon held the bloodwood stick out to Saberhagen. “Can you scry on owner of this?”
They explained the stories behind the scarecrows and how they seemed to be following Vorjhon. The wizard agreed to try.
The Brunch Club crowded around the scrying bowl, trying to give Saberhagen as much space to work as possible. The cat placed the stick in the bowl, waved his paw over it, and muttered something quietly. It took almost ten minutes for the rippling water to calm to a smooth surface. The reflection of the ceiling in the water morphed into a woodland scene. They looked into a bloodwood forest as though they were looking through a window.
They saw an older wood elf walking leisurely through the trees. He stopped and looked around. He stared in their direction, as though he were looking at them through the same window. He turned quickly and ran. Within four strides the running elf had transformed into a galloping elk and disappeared into the forest.
The image faded away, replaced by the reflection of the roof once again. They looked up and noticed Saberhagen’s bed had floated across the floor following the movement of the sun spot.
This tale will continue next week in Episode 16
Episode 15 was written by Dominic White and based upon a Dungeons and Dragons campaign created by our dungeon master, Brian Messmer.
Valuable contributions to the story were added by the role playing of:
- JP Black, who plays Drusilla
- Liz Raychard, who plays Elora
- Anna Flemke, who plays Salys
- Dominic White, who plays Vorjhon
- And Brian Messmer, who plays everyone else
Thank you very much for listening Please join us next week to find out, along with the rest of us, what‘s going to happen next!