THE LIBERATION OF GEOFF
The Gonfalon of Gyruff (Campaign Notes-SPOILERS by Thomas Kelly)
Based on Living Greyhawk module GEO1-04, by James Quick
The last five years of life in Hochoch have not been easy for the refugees. It’s been that many years since the Marchers liberated the city. The population has swollen with Gyric refugees returning from the Gran March and Keoland. Among them are adventurers and opportunists aplenty. Gran March controls the town, refusing to cede power back to the Gyric people. Food remains in short supply. The only commodities in abundance among the refugees are fear and distrust. Riots, teetering on the edge of revolt, have become regular occurrences, and some parts of the town have been put to the torch during periods of unrest. To help quell the riotous behavior (and to preserve supplies for the soldiers of the Gran March), the provisional governor, Karl Neumann, has declared a prohibition on the sale of and consumption of alcoholic beverages within the walls unless with a writ from his office. Moreover, the sale of hard liquor is banned within a league of the walls. This night, however, Governor Neumann has issued a writ of authorization to serve alcoholic beverages during a one-night only celebration at the Hochoch amphitheater. The occasion is a Gyric bonfire celebration for the fifth day of the festival of Richfest, an important holy day on the Gyric calendar. The town watch, supplemented with Gran March soldiers tonight, is on hand to patrol the event and keep the festivities contained.
Ballad of the Gonfalon
An enormous bonfire lights up the night. The amphitheater seats 1,000 people comfortably, but twice the comfortable number have crowded in for the big event. Bards and scops entertain the large crowd, including the famed Rhys of the Ash and his gravel-throated apprentice, the beloved gnome bard called Squint of the Stark Mounds. Rhys and Squint trade back and forth, reciting tales and songs of the glory of Gyruff and new ballads composed to memorialize more recent heroism and tragedy. The gnomish bard joins the loremaster in a stirring rendition of an old ballad about the legendary Gonfalon of Gyruff. (A gonfalon is a type of banner that hangs from a crosspiece.) Druids created this sacred artifact and gave it to the Brenins of Old Geoff to inspire their armies to great glory. The face of the Greenman embroidered upon the banner bestowed a blessing on Gyric warriors as they took the field. The holy emblem passed from king to king through the generations until, during the days of Brenin Rohan III, a civil war between two sons of house of Rohan took place. The standard bearer, a man called Llywelyn, unfurled the gonfalon, but it’s power inspired both sides of the conflict to a great fratricide. That day, the holy artifact disappeared along with the standard bearer.
Where is the hope of the land that will cure our misery?
And tell me where is the Gonfalon that will set the captive free?
Ioan ap Gwyndred
The magic of the music, the spell of the words, and the longing for glory long-vanished ignites a flame in the heart of a certain well-dressed merchant who stands pressed in with the crowd. His name is Ioan ap Gwyndred, and he is notable chiefly for the reason that his right-arm sleeve is pinned to his shirt, for the arm that should fill the sleeve is missing. Ioan operates a small mercantile on the west side of town where he sells various goods such as quality nails that neither bend nor blunt, long-burning candles, and common household goods, enchanted and otherwise, created by the hands of the gnomish people. The missing arm? He lost it during the disastrous days of the flight from the giants. He is one of the fortunate ones.
For Ioan, the tale of the Gonfalon of Gyruff is more than a tale, for he is a direct descendant of that same Llywelyn the standard bearer once entrusted with the Gonfalon. Moreover, he believes he knows where the sacred artifact is concealed. After the ballad concludes, he tries to speak a word with Rhys, but the celebrated bard has been carried away to another part of the revelries. Desperate to relate his tale and stir some interest in the possibility of recovering the heirloom, the one-armed man seizes the gnomish bard and says, “If you would know the truth of the Gonfalon, meet me at my mercantile, tomorrow at sunrise. Find my shop just off the Sunken Road near the gate to the Commons.”
A Party of Adventurers
The gnome arrives at sunrise, not having yet slept and still intoxicated from the night of revelry. He joins a small party of adventurers, all summoned by Ioan, that has gathered outside the shop. Here is an elfess, a wood-elf of the Dim Forest, cloaked in a green elven cloak, a long bow strapped across her back. With her comes a Dim Forest druid of the Old Faith named Bogardes. He is a tattooed and brooding young Flanman. He refers to the elfess as “Mumma” despite that she appears to be the younger of the two. Her real name is Kilikili, a daughter of the Dim Forest, and in truth, a century older than the druid she considers her adopted son. (This Kilikili was sister of ill-fated young Felligan, slain in the Rushmoors during the troubles at Orlane, and her son Bogardes was one of the lost children of that place recovered by Father Tabor in the Dim Forest under the goblin trees eighteen years past [CY 573].) Who is this man who stands a head taller than all others, clad in heavy furs and arms of the northern barbarians? His name aptly describes his towering athletic frame and solid build, for he is called Hemann of the Wolf Nomads. He wields a great axe, and a heavy horned helm sits upon his head. He is a mercenary and adventurer come all the way to Hochoch in the hopes of killing a giant. Last of all, the obligatory wizard, a friend of Squint’s who overheard the conversation the night before and decided to invite himself to the party. He is a middle-aged gentleman named Edwyn. He studies with the school of magic in Hochoch, an older student, but not so advanced in the arts as his grey hair, pointed hat, and wizardly robes might suggest. That fact he prefers to keep to himself, and he passes himself off as one more competent in magic than the sparse spells contained in his thin grimoire allow.
The one-armed merchant hustles the half-dozen sell-swords and patriots into his small shop, bars the door behind them, and summons them into a backroom. “I’m glad you came! I feared none would heed my ravings. I’m not accustomed to anything like this. I’m just a shopkeep who needs some help from true patriots and folk I can trust.” He hesitates and adds with hesitation, “I can trust you, yes? I need a party to escort me back to my family’s steading, twelve miles beyond the border keeps.” He lowers his voice, and he adds, while gesturing with his trembling left hand, “I might know where the Gonfalon of Gyruff is located. Will you help me retrieve the banner?”
Now Squint replies with skeptical words in gnomish verse, “We will hear the whole tale before our ships agree to sail. How came you by this Gonfalon which this past night was sung again?”
“When I was a child, I found an old chest at our steading,” Ioan explains. “It belonged to my grandfather. Inside the chest I found a green and gold banner. Knowing that I wasn’t supposed to look in the chest, I never mentioned it to anyone. I had forgotten the whole matter, along with other fleeting memories of childhood, until your song last night reminded me of the chest and the banner. My grandfather, Cedrid, used to speak of a family heirloom that once belonged to a Brenin of Old Geoff. It can only be the Gonfalon.”
The party seems unconvinced, but the merchant continues, “With or without you, I plan to go to my steading at once. There is an old windmill at the edge of the patrolled land. I’ll stay there a night. We can use it as a safe house. Now who will come with the one-armed shopkeeper to see that he returns alive?”
The party demurs, and Ioan admits he does not know where the chest might be hidden or if it even yet exists, but Squint persuades the others that, if by any chance the banner might indeed prove to be the long-lost artifact, the risk of the journey will be worth their while. Ioan supplies them with what necessaries he can, and he offers to secure riding ponies for the whole lot of them. Kilikili objects, “If we enter the contested lands on ponies, we will not likely survive the day. If we must go, we go on foot, by stealth, and under cover of darkness. As it was last night, the skies should be clear and the moon almost full. Plenty of light to see by, but darkness enough to conceal our passing.”
Journey to the Windmill
The party prepares for the journey all that day and sets out on foot the following day at dawn. The Gyric countryside is in the full bloom of summer. Safe under the protective shadow of the Gran March border keeps, Gyric farmers have cultivated their fields. A wet spring and warm summer have yielded a promising harvest of grain and vegetables. Perhaps, this winter, the refugees and people of Hochoch will not starve.
Within the safety of the protected lands, the party moves freely, and the miles pass swiftly. Ioan directs their path; Kilikili scouts the way. They leave the lowlands around the Realstream and climb into the gentle hills that mark the border of Arweth cantrev and the Rhwng yr Coed cantrev. The farms give way to uncultivated pastureland where shepherds stand watch over herds of sheep. Most offer a friendly wave as the party passes.
By the late afternoon, the party comes within sight of one of the border keeps, a squat square stone building with walls fortified to withstand the boulders of giants. A thick stone wall creates a small bailey around the keep. The party passes by, not too close, so as not to invite queries from the Marchers. On the crest of a hill just ahead stands the abandoned windmill. One of blades has broken off, and two are damaged. It’s stone walls look blackened by fire.
“Is it safe? It appears to be on the verge of collapse!” the barbarian complains. The party sends the ranger to assess and spy it out. She finds the windmill, empty, suitable for lodging, well-built and sturdy. The party takes their rest and prepares for the journey into the unprotected occupied lands.
A Walk in the Dark
They set out at dusk. Already the mist clings to hollows between the hills and other low-lying lands. By cover of darkness and fog upon the heath they enter the Contested Lands and make their way across small rolling hills and grassy ridges. Luna rises in her fulness, obscures the stars, and bathes the world in pale light. The occasional tree and rocky outcropping dot the hillsides as the party slowly makes their way across the moonlight drenched landscape. In the lowlands, the ground is wet, but Kilikili keeps them from the miring mud as she leads them northwest, towards the edge of the Dim Forest. Wispy clouds drift overhead on a breeze from the southeast. Tall grass on the hills waves gently in the soft wind.
“Mumma hears something,” Bogarde, the druid, warns. He hushes the party and urges them to crouch low. The ranger has disappeared in the tall grass ahead, but she returns shortly with a warning, “A band of gnolls sits upon the next ridge. I count six dogs.”
Hemann insists, “They’ll catch our scent if they’ve not already.” He sets off at once with brandished axe. The rest of the party hastens to follow, only Ioan hanging back from the prospect of battle. The party surprises the gnolls and quickly puts them down.
By midnight, the party arrives at Ioan’s family steading. Luna and Celene shine brightly, revealing the shattered remains of a once-fine farmstead built on the border of the Dim Forest. A four-foot stone wall surrounds the property. A well-used road, now overgrown, leads to a rusted metal gate in the wall. The dark silhouetted shapes of a manor house, barns, and outbuildings can be discerned in the moonlight. The manor house is a large three-story stone building with outbuildings enclosed by the stone wall. It seems to be occupied. A thin wisp of smoke rises from the chimney. The courtyard looks well-trampled. But the party does not see or hear anyone.
Kilikili investigates by stealth. She returns to the party to report ample evidence of orcs and giants, but none seem to be present at the moment. “Ehlonna’s smile and the Handmaid’s grace! We have come while they are away.”
The party agrees to search the property. They cautiously enter through the gate, speaking to one another in hushed tones. “We are looking for some type of chest, and if we find it, we’ll be blessed!” the gnome reminds everyone.
Ioan sighs over the sight of the formerly manicured courtyard fallen into disrepair and overgrown with weeds. Obvious footpaths through the weeds connect the manor house to the gates and the outbuildings, betraying the regular traffic of heavy feet. He sees that the majestic roan that once stood at the center of the courtyard has been harvested, leaving only a tall and very wide stump. “I played under this tree when a boy. It stood more than 200 years,” the one-armed man sobs.
“Looks like some giant sits on this stump like a lord upon his throne,” the wizard Edwyn observes.
A search of the outbuildings reveals little of value. The stables contain the rotting remains of a well-made cart and the moldering remains of sheafs of hay and straw. Anything of any worth has long since been looted. Servants’ quarters have become latrines, and one has been made a storeroom. The party wastes precious time rifling through miscellaneous farm and household equipment.
The Manor House
It’s clear that the manor house, an enormous three-story affair, once belonged to a family with wealth. All the windows are now boarded over. The front double doors have been completely remade. The lintel has been raised from its original eight-foot height to more than twice that, and new doors, fashioned of heavy boards of rough-cut roanwood, have been hung in place of the old ones. The party cautiously tries the doors and finds them unlocked, well-balanced on hinges, and easy to open.
Using candles to illuminate their way, they observe that most of the interior has been gutted. Much of the second floor has been ripped out, as have all the walls. Support timbers, crudely jammed into place, replace loadbearing walls. The ceiling is not eighteen feet above the ground floor. The fireplace on the south wall overflows with ashes, still slightly warm. Bedrolls lie scattered everywhere. Edwyn counts eighteen. The party sets to search for the chest. Several chests pushed against the wall prove to be nothing but orcish belongings.
A kitchen area remains in relative good shape. Cooking utensils are scattered everywhere. Several large metal vats and pots are stacked near a fireplace full of still-warm ashes.
While Squint, the Gnomish bard, and Hemann, the Wolf Nomad, search for a chest among broken casks and rubble in the cellar, they disturb a giant centipede which delivers a deadly bite to the barbarian. Squint summons the others, and the centipede is quickly dismembered, but the poison seems to have killed the unfortunate barbarian. “We will bear him away from this place when we have found the chest and the Gonfalon,” Ioan says. For the time being, they leave the large man’s body in the cellar. Squint carries the dead barbarian’s great axe away with him. “A memento of the nomad, to make his mourning kinfolk glad.”
The party makes their way up the broken stairs to the remains of the second floor which consists of a narrow open shelf that was once a hallway with doors into a few bedrooms. A search of the bedrooms turns up evidence of orc captains. A promising looking chest turns out to contain only parchment scrolls, written in orcish runes, signed over in giant. “Perhaps of some strategic value,” Edwyn observes.
The Ghost in the Attic
Ioan suggests they try the attic. The stairs to the attic have been ripped out leaving an open hole in the ceiling. Kilikili athletically clambers up into the attic while the rest of the party waits below, looking up into the darkness. Presently she drops a rope, and one by one, they make their way up to join her. Relying on the light of their candles, they search the empty dusty attic. It’s evident that no one has been in the attic in many years. The ceiling sits upon A-frame timbers, rising to fifteen feet in the middle. Two boarded-over dormer windows face the courtyard. Bricked over fireplaces on both ends of the room connect to chimneys from the lower levels. From out of the fireplace on the south wall, a terrifying translucent figure of a warrior steps through the brickwork, freezing the blood of everyone present. The candles flicker wildly. The ghost seems to be dressed in a chain shirt over regal finery. He carries a longspear. The rampant black and silver griffin of Old Geoff adorns the surcoat he wears over his armor. Exposed wrists reveal open wounds—cuts dripping silver blood that floats away and dissipates.
He levels his insubstantial spear at the party and demands in the old Flan tongue, “For what have you come?”
“Pity we did not bring a priest!” Edwyn exclaims.
“Ioan, he looks like you! Time to ask, ‘How do you do?’!” Squint squeaks.
Indeed, Ioan sinks to one knee and introduces himself to the phantasmal spirit.
The ghost’s empty eyes regard the one-armed man carefully. A glimmer of recognition passes over him. The voice speaks, “The sapling that grows in the shade withers. Walk now in the sun. I am Llywelyn, your forebear, standard bearer for Brenin Rohan. I failed my liege and country; in shame I spilled my own blood. But Pelor showed me mercy. As the Gonfalon was my duty in life, so too in death.” The hovering spirit draws closer to Ioan. “Kin of my kin, flesh of my flesh, you must bear the standard now. Break open this tomb and raise the banner for all Gyruff.” With those words still hanging in the air, the spirit vanishes.
“Break open what tomb? I see no vault within this room!” Squint asks of the air. The party puzzles on the matter, finally deciding to open the bricked over fireplace. They hammer at it with Hemann’s axe as they might until they dislodge enough bricks to open it. Behind the brick wall, in the cavity of the fireplace, they discover a long iron chest, securely locked.
“Pity we did not bring a burglar!”Edwyn exclaims.
“Haven’t you an opening spell?” Ioan asks. The wizard does not. Squint takes Hemann’s axe to the iron box, raising a terrible clanging racket. Alarmed at the incautious noise, Kilikili shakes herself as if from slumber, “Why did we set no watch?” Squint’s last blow with the hammer breaks the iron lid from its hinges. “That’s it! Bring the candle!” Ioan gently lifts the Gonfalon from the chest. It’s a rectangular banner, six feet long by four feet wide, made from a heavy green cloth. Despite its age, it shows no signs of wear. Broidered upon it the smiling face of the Greenman overlooks the ramping griffin of Geoff.
Kilikili pays little heed to the trophy. She hastens to leave the attic, concerned lest orcs might have returned and heard the clamor. Taking hold of the rope, she drops through the opening in the floor, surprising a band of stalking orcs who have mistaken the sounds in the attic for the raging of the attic ghost they so fear. Terrified, they leap back, away from the elfess as she drops to the floor. She, for her part, scampers back up the rope. The orcs recover themselves quickly and hurl javelins after her. “Orcs!” the ranger shouts as she clambers back into the attic. Javelins clatter to the floor around her. “Lots of them.” The javelins are followed by arrows through the opening in the floor. The euroz below begin to scream and shout, calling to their companions and raising the alarm. Kilikili nocks an arrow and returns a shaft.
“We cannot be trapped up here!” Edwyn complains.
“Out the window to get below!” Squint suggests.
Bogardes hurries to one of the boarded dormers and peers through the spaces to look down onto the moonlit courtyard. “More coming!” he reports. “And a giant too. Looks like they have a Fire Giant.”
The party peers down through the opening in the floor to see even more orcs gathering below. “They are lighting firebrands!”
Squint desperately hammers at the brickwork of the chimney with the barbarian’s axe. The rest of the party joins him, quickly breaking an opening through the back of the chimney large enough for a person to squeeze. Bogardes ties a rope off. Kilikili goes first and drops the ground outside the manor house. The party starts coming through after her, one at a time. Squint goes; then it’s Ioan, struggling with only one arm and the heavy Gonfalon hung around his neck. Meantime Bogardes and Edwyn quickly exhaust their spellcraft on the orcs below and those in the courtyard—casting through the dormers.
The Fire Giant spies Ioan dangling from the rope. In three great strides, he is over the courtyard wall and coming upon the helpless merchant. Kilikili sinks her arrows into the giant as fast as she can nock them. Ioan clings to the rope precariously. Bogardes has his head through the hole, and he sees the giant snatch merchant up in his hand.
Raising the Standard
The orcs come spilling out of the manor house to join the fight, but even as they do, they are viciously attacked from behind. Behold! Hemann has risen from his paralyzed slumber and found his way up from the cellar. He sets upon the orcs from behind, shouting, “Where’s my axe?”
Where indeed? Squint has abandoned the blunted and broken tool in the lawn as he works his bardic skills to distract orcs and giant both. He rejoices to see the barbarian, and he joins him in the fight in the courtyard. Even with this unforeseen reversal, their efforts tally not enough. The party will surely be slain. They might have held their ground against half as many orcs, but who can stand against the whole troop and a mighty Fire Giant? One kick of his booted foot or swat of his great hand…
Free of the rope and feeling the squeeze of the giant’s hand, Ioan unfurls the banner holding it aloft with both his arms extended, for his severed arm has been miraculously restored by the power of the Gonfalon’s dweomer. The Greenman on the banner fixes on the giant with a fierce scowl. At that same moment, the ghost of Llywelyn joins the fight for Geoff. Wailing with a fearsome undead howl, it passes right through Bogardes and the chimney wall. Everyone feels the wave of terror except Ioan who finds himself safely upon the ground, still holding the Gonfalon aloft. The ghost smites the giant; the giant swipes at it as if to dispel bad air.
Edwyn has his head out the hole in the chimney and Bogardes is rappelling down the rope. The Fire Giant remains distracted with the ghost until, suddenly, he roars insanely. The ghost takes possession of the giant’s mind and turns him about to attack the orcs about his feet. He kicks at them wildly. Kilikili dodges out of the way. The orcs flee in terror, but they are not fast enough to escape the crushing rampage. The party watches, awestruck, as the crazed Fire Giant flees the steading and runs howling into the darkness of the Dim Forest beyond.
The Muster of Hochoch
Back in Ioan’s mercantile in Hochoch, the party marvels over their adventure and the miraculous restoration of merchant’s arm. Ioan finds two poles and deftly weaves them together with rope to create the crosspiece for the banner. He unrolls the heavy wool and holds it aloft. The face of the Greenman looks down upon the adventurers. Embroidered branches sprout from behind his head and on those branches sit golden griffins. Golden tassels hang from the bottom and the sides.
Ioan grasps the pole and lifts the banner, “March with me.” His voice sounds stronger, fuller, and richer. The air feels stirred. Hearts beat harder.
“Where are you going to take it?” Edwyn asks.
“Where it needs to be!” the standard bearer replies. “Where it should have been all along.”
Ioan carries the Gonfalon high above him so that every eye can see it. He leads the party through the streets of the squalid shantytown and into Hochoch itself. People stare. The face of Greenman strikes them like the morning sun, dispelling eight long years of gloom. Wonder and awe lights every face. Men rise to their feet and rub their eyes as if suddenly wakened from long slumber. An old Flan woman weeps tears of joy.
Ioan walks on. Little by little, the people fall in behind the Gonfalon. The crowd swells as Ioan parades the Gonfalon through the streets of Hochoch. Squint takes up his shalm and plays an ancient tune, well-known to the patriots of Geoff. The crowd finds its voice and the song fills the streets.
Land that holds my heart’s desire
Forest deep and mountain’s spire.
Wilt thou wake to peril dire?
Th’ Lion comes for thee!
Fellow Gyri lie ye dreaming?
See ye not the foes’ swords gleaming,
Fevered brains of conquest scheming.
Gyruff stand as one!
Look on with awe and wonder
Banner we conquer under
Summon all with ramhorn’s call.
We’ll break the foe asunder!
Would ye risk a death most gory?
Would ye win a name in story?
Strike for home, for kin, for glory!
Gyruff stand as one!
The parade pours out through the city gates and marches toward the refugee camps outside the walls that serve as the headquarters of the fledgling Gyric Army of Liberation. Ioan leads them to the main camp where Cadofyth Parn stands watching along with several of the officers of the Army of Liberation. “I have brought you some volunteers,” Ioan boasts.
Parn nods, shocked at the hundreds of people and the sight of the legendary banner. He sends his lieutenants back inside the tent for tables, chairs, and the army muster papers.
While Parn registers volunteers, a group of ten riders gallop toward the camp from the direction of Hochoch. They are Marchers from the Army of Retribution, and at their head rides Field Marshal Alicia Helanasdotter and her elite bodyguard. They reign up before the party. “What is the reason for this crowd?” Helanasdotter demands with gruff demeanor. She is dressed in full plate armor and has the markings of a Knight of the Watch on her device.
Squint the gnome steps forward, bows low, and speaks on behalf of the party, Ioan, and the whole assembly, assuring the Field Marshal that this no riot or rowdy assembly, but the joy of a blessing and an omen of good tidings for Gran March, for Geoff, and for all who would see the giants driven back to their mountains. Is it the bard’s persuasion, or has Gonfalon’s dweomer affected even the Field Marhsal? Helanasdotter offers, “Let the courageous bearer of the Gonfalon represent the Army of Liberation on my personal Honor Guard. Your banner will fly beside ours, at least until your Duke returns.”
Parn agrees readily to these words, “Let the Gonfalon march at the head of both our armies.”
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