Arriving at the Keep on the first Moonday of Coldeven, it is obvious that the Keep in under repair.
A stone fortress consisting of an outer bailey and an inner bailey each protected by a gatehouse, surrounded by a 20 foot battlemented wall with 30 and 40 foot towers where the walls meet, it is an impressive construction, despite the crumbling walls.
A scaffolding clings to the north wall, and a master mason and apprentice stone cutters work outside the walls.
Inside the gatehouse, Ord Mandell remarks, “Its apparent that the buildings of the outer bailey have been oriented to serve as defensive bulwarks, and to funnel attacking troops to the clear view of the inner bailey and gatehouse.”
When he realizes that no one understood a word he said, he grunts.
The outer bailey is alive with activity….a blacksmith hammers a piece of iron on an anvil, while an apprentice fans the flames of the forge…possibly the only other stone building among the small village. Chickens and pigs, and a few dogs scramble out of your way as you pass. The Caravan Master guides his wagons into a warehouse near the gatehouse, and says he will find you at the Inn once he is paid.
Upon entering the Outer Bailey through the Gatehouse, the party is greeted by a man at arms in the Entry Yard who explains that mischief and mayhem will not be tolerated in the Keep. “This is a military installation, and justice will be swift and harsh.” He nods at the archers on the towers, and spearmen on the walls.
A careful calculation would put the garrison at roughly 100 men.
The Entry Yard is sandwiched between the flanking towers of the main Gatehouse and the fortified and battlemented Stable and warehouse. Narrow and designed to force attackers to expose themselves to archers, the party feels very exposed here.
Several wagons with canvas covered loads are seen within the Warehouse. Within the stables, the sweet smell of hay mingles with that of manure. Several grooms and lackeys are seen caring for the horses….brushing, shoeing, mucking stalls etc…There appear to be several riding horses, draft horses as well as a pair of mules in residence.
Passing south through the Entry Yard, the entrance leads towards the southern watchtower before making a sharp right turn and passing noxious blacksmith in one of only a few stone buildings within the Bailey. The smith consists of essentially what amounts to a fortified tower, with the ground floor open on three sides. A blacksmiths hammer rings out on an iron anvil, while an apprentice feeds the forge. Nails, horse shoes and other metal wares can be seen displayed for sale.
Just past the smith, the road turns north towards the Inner Bailey, past several other buildings and the blue shingled Chapel, before approaching the well fortified Inner Gatehouse, where more archers and spearmen may be seen.
Ahead, along the inner south wall of the keep are several small ramshackle tenements. Beyond the tenements can be seen a market square complete with a non-functional fountain and well. Flanking the way to the square on your right (north) are two commercial establishments, each bearing a sign indicating a chandlery, and the other a mercantyler.
The last tenement on the south wall before entering the Square bears a sign indicating the Keeps Paymaster, while two blue clad men at arms stand guard with spears outside.
Fronting the market square you find TrollBridge Inn, and the Silvered Stag Tavern. Private rooms are provided for 10 silver , while a rush covered flagstone in the common room can be had for only a single silver. (Silvers are referred to as Stags n the Keep, and gold coins are referred to as Stars)
Meals are prepared and taken in the adjacent Tavern. Smoke fills the exposed rafters, and several patrons (The only patrons at this hour) stop their conversations to note your presence and take your measure. In addition to, the Innkeeper, who appears to run both establishments, a rotund woman who must be the Innkeepers wife shouts orders to an unseen helper from the kitchen, while a young girl wearing an ale stained smock and a buxom young serving wench ply the visitors with wooden mugs of ale. The only other patrons are two armed men who share a flagon and a discussion at a shadowed table in the recesses of the common room.
Besides the Inn and a noisy tavern, several ramshackle tenements line the inner walls, along with a few craftsmen, a chandler (outfitter), a blue slate roofed chapel, and a trader.
Villagers seem gathered idly near the well, and eye you suspiciously as you enter the Inn.
Gendry the Innkeeper welcomes you and offers you rooms and a warm, if meager meal.
“Not many visitors lately….any news from Narwell? "
The common room of the Tavern is mostly empty, only a pair of mercenaries converse quietly at a shadowed table, and a man dressed in garish colors ill suited for wilderness travel.
The Innkeeper catches your glance and explains, “Mercenaries, and travelers mostly….like yourselves. Looking for fortune and adventure. Ha! Its an early grave they will find if not careful.”
He leans down and whispers, “Those who wander alone dont come back…its only in the strength of numbers that the goblinoids have learned to respect.”
“This Keep used to be one of theirs, believe it or not. Me, I never knew them greenskins were capable of building something this strong….but what do I know, Im just an innkeep!” and he winks and turns back to his patrons.
“Innkeeper…I am Tarvik Ursason, you see this sword here? It is from my homeland, it is very special to me. When I hit those barbarians with it, I make two smaller barbarians. You understand this? Very good. Now, you see this silver coin, it also come from my homeland and is special to me. I give to you. You bring me good food and drink. You do this, and sword stay clean. If food and drink not so good, maybe I make two of you…?” Tarvik stares at the man intently so that the full meaning of his words sink in, and then he smiles and sits down at a table. “Come friends, sit, we have earned it no? You hear this? There are goblins near by. Goblins bleed very well, much better than strange lights or the walking dead. I say we listen to these men and find out more. This is good idea, yes?”
Gendry the Innkeeper chuckles at the Barbarians obviously false Bravado, winking knowingly at the tall youth before returning to the kitchen to fetch some fresh meat pies. The smell of fresh baked bread wafts from the kitchen. The rafters of the inn are cluttered with various dried sundries, vegetables and staples.
Once you have finished your meal, the Caravan Master returns with a gray bearded veteran wearing oiled iron mail, wearing a blue tabard. He pays you in silver coins what is owed, and takes his leave.
The bearded veteran introduces himself as Sergeant of the Guard, Ornelt Straken. “You may call me Sergeant Straken.” He is a tall man with arm corded with muscle. He says, “I hear you all fought off ten of the highlanders.. is this true? I could use good men like you….theres goblins and worse in the hills around here, worrying and raiding wagons.”
He points to a finely dressed man in the Tavern "Loris over there has several wagons bound for Verbobonc, but he wont brave the road with less than 20 men, and we dont have men to spare for escort, plus our knights are no good in the hills and forest. The Bailiff is offering a copper an ear for every goblin killed…..and possibly a bigger reward if you were to locate their nest….if you are interested. "He accepts a flagon of the local small beer, which is a poor excuse for ale. After wiping the froth from his beard with a pursed lip, he explains: “When the Armies of Greyhawk defeated the goblin kingdoms in this area, many pockets of the greenskins remained, hidden in their holes. The Baron of Narwell, with the aid of the Lords of Greyhawk charged the Bailiff to garrison this Keep and defend the caravans bound for Veluna. At first a couple knights were enough, be eventually the ambushes were more orchestrated, and the creatures fled before the knights into the thickets and crags. Our knights were no use. So we sent footmen, but the last two caravans we expected from Verbobonc never arrived. Our Scouts have reported sighting Orcs, Goblins and Lizard Men in the surrounding wilderness. Even the Hillmen and Bandits have been problematic.”
“We repulsed an attack on the Keep last week, I think it was a probe, to test our defences. Obviously they dont fear us, or the stone walls. I dont dare send men outside the keep for fear there would be no one to man the walls. The scouts have indicated several possible nests, but lone scouts and most bounty hunters never return.”
“Well, Renkin”, Sergeant Straken says, “If you find the nest, Ill put a good word in for you to the Bailiff. He is an honorable man, and well thought of by his men and his liege the Baron of Narwell. Im sure he would consider an apt reward.”
“Now, before you wander out and get yourself killed, make sure you have supplies to survive in the wilderness. The Chandler, Lornegrim can provide you the tools you might need. Also, you might ask around, there are others like you looking to earn their mark. "
“As for a Priest, well the Curate Vortigern is a follower of Heironeous, but holds non-diety specific services in the chapel weekly. Brother Hamis can usually be found telling a boisterous story fireside most evenings here at the Inn. I dont know which god he professes to follow, but if in need, both are well regarded.”
“Bounties are paid by the Paymaster. Ask for him at the strongbox across the way.”
With his business done, Sergeant Straken turns on his heels and marches out of the Inn, his blue tabard billowing about him as he leaves.
The Innkeeper Gendry arrives at just that point with another round of bitter small-beer, ales.
“Coo….you arent looking to go Troll Hunting are you? There is dangerous creatures and worse out in the hills. They say this area used to be a goblin kingdom or some such. This castle was built on the razed ruins of some Orc warlord…or so they say.”
Renkin the Paladin mulls over the goblin offer out loud so all can hear. “A Copper an ear for a goblin, sounds fair, and I’m all for purifying the countryside. I am not a greedy man, but I have my eye on buying me a horse. I’m pretty sure I saw one around here somewhere. 2 copper per goblin, takes 5 goblins for a silver, 50 for a electrum, and 500 for a gold piece. Now I’m not as smart as our magic user here, but I’m thinking we are gonna be knee deep in goblin parts. I don’t want my first horse to be the one hauling my aged carcass to my own funeral. What sort of incentive was there for finding the goblin nest?”
Renkin stands up and suggests the party give our next adventure some thought, then ducks out of the Tavern, with [Jed B] at his side to make reparations and offerings at the chapel. They return to the Inn to re-join the party a short time later.