1999-12-28: Lord Nicolus Kidnapped but Valiantly Rescued!
A firsthand account of the events surrounding Lord Nicolus' abduction and rescue, as told to me:
We were in a strange place I'd never before even heard mentioned in whispers. Before us was a tall building covered in snow and ice. Two wooden doors led to the inside, but were currently locked and barring the way. Worse than that even were the multitude of zombies, skeletons, wraiths, ice trolls, frost oozes, and other denizens of this cold, barren place. They swarmed toward us almost before we were able to react. Behind them, their evil master, Keeonean, laughed and spurred his army of evil beasts into battle.
Doubts plagued me. What reason did we truly have to believe Gondor? What if Lord Nicolus was not here? What if there was nothing more than Keeonean and his minions awaiting us as well as a horrid death at their hands? Could this be nothing more than a trap?
Things began innocently enough a few days earlier. I had heard about Lord British's request to Lord Nicolus, and while not really understanding it's origin, I was not one to turn away from a gift.
I help run a small smithy near Britain. I was cleaning the anvil and straightening up our work area when I heard some terrible news: "Lord Nicolus was missing!" I immediately ran into town to find out more. Once in Britain, a town crier told me what she knew: that Lord Nicolus was missing and that one of Lord British's guards was asking for help in finding him. Lord Rezni at Lord British’s castle was seeking any clues to Lord Nicolus' location.
I sprinted to the castle. When I arrived, a crowd had already formed around Lord Rezni. I paused and caught my breath while listening to what was being said.
Some of the people in the crowd seemed only interested in their own gain… worrying about what they would receive for helping to rescue Lord Nicolus or wanting to know if they would still receive a gift. But Lord Rezni wisely ignored those and instead turned his attention to those concerned for Lord Nicolus' safety. I joined the crowd and pressed in closer to Lord Rezni as he spoke.
"About an hour ago, the golden lantern that Lord British gave to Lord Nicolus was found on the castle steps," Lord Rezni told us. "It was a broken mess... apparently beaten with something heavy. Along with the lantern was a note, which threatened Lord Nicolus' life and dared us to come after him. But the note gives no clue as to where Lord Nicolus is or who has done this."
Lord Rezni then asked us to scour the realm looking for any sign or clue that could be connected to where Lord Nicolus was being held. Before I departed to help search, I heard Lord Rezni mention increased undead activity around the Skara Brae farmlands. I decided to head that way.
After wandering around the fields of Skara Brae on the mainland and beginning to think I had followed the wrong lead, I stumbled across a strange building. At each corner were unusual ice formations, and the building’s roof was covered in snow. More unusual still were the large number of undead that swarmed forward in battle with others who had gotten there before me. Two warriors hacked at a zombie with their axes while a nearby mage threw balls of fire at a wraith. I plunged forward and helped dispatch the wraith. Others fought off skeletons, more zombies, and even a liche or two.
By this time, a mage or rogue had managed to open the doors to the outpost. We surged forward between the two metal doors and immediately clashed with the awaiting undead that were inside. Fortunately, the interior did not hold as many of the foul creatures, and we were able to quickly overwhelm them.
The floor inside the building was spattered with blood. A quick glance at my fellow would be rescuers allayed my fears that any of us had been seriously wounded. Which meant that the blood belonged to some unknown victim… hopefully not the one we sought, Lord Nicolus. At this point, I began to seriously fret for his safety.
In the northwest corner of the building, on the floor near the fireplace, we found a note among the debris. It said,
- Be sure to cover thy tracks well this time. I do not wish to clean up a mess again like ye got us into last time. For the life of me I do not know why I don’t slit thy throat and be done with ye. Vacate and destroy all evidence of our existence at the three outposts. Knowing that thou art stinking of rum and more than likely cannot walk straight any farther than ye can throw thyself I will once again remind thee where the outpost are located.
- "In the Skara Brae farmlands"
- "North of Vesper close to where the three rivers converge"
- "Near of the dungeon Wrong"
- Do not forget to destroy this message ye lousy sack. I will not tolera...* the ink on the remaining pages has run together, apparently from a dark liquid spilled on the paper. The only word that can be read is "Gondor"*
Everyone else rushed out to give Lord Rezni the news or to go in search of the other outposts, but I hung back and studied the note a bit more. I began to wonder if it would be possible to make sense of the blurred portion of the note. With that in mind, I quickly made my way back to Britain and straight to the Britain Public Library. Upon entering, a scribe near the door recoiled in horror. I spun around, drawing my blade, but there was no one else in the doorway or even in sight. I slowly surveyed the library and my surroundings, but found nothing out of the ordinary. Turning back to the scribe, I found him pressed back against the wall and inching slowly away from me. It was then I realized that I was covered in the reeking remains of the zombies I had helped slay.
Grinning, I told him he had nothing to fear from me and gave a hurried account of what had happened at the first outpost. A bit hesitantly, but moved by curiosity, the scribe came to the table where I had placed the note. He bent close to it with his face only inches away.
"Hmmm... 'tis difficult to make out much more than the single word, 'Gondor,' among the soiled portion. There's little chance of ever knowing what the rest might have said," the scribe told me. "I would venture to conjecture, though, that the rough handwriting shows a lack of any training or skill or even comfort in holding a quill." Thanking him, I left and brought the note to Lord Rezni.
Lord Rezni had not yet heard any other news, but waited in anticipation of information from the other two outposts, one near Wrong and the other north of Vesper. The worry and concern was plain on his face, but he stood tall in his duty. Realizing that both of us would do well with a bit of food in our stomachs, I went down to the Cat’s Lair, a tavern in the southwestern portion of Britain. This tavern was once part of a village known as Paws, but Britain had expanded and attempted to claim the tavern as its own. Most of the farmers of Paws had pushed out more west and southward.
I purchased some bread and a wheel of cheese from the tavern keeper at the Cat's Lair, and then went back to the castle. A large mob had gathered just inside the castle gates since I had last been here. They seemed to center around Lord Rezni and a swarthy man who appeared barely able to stand unaided. I feared he was wounded until a lanky mage standing next to me pointed out that he was just drunk.
"And very drunk at that," the mage continued. "His name is Gondor."
"Gondor??!!" I exclaimed. "As mentioned in the first note?"
"Aye, the very same. Two similar notes at the other two outposts led us to him straightaway." The mage shook his fist at the drunken figure in the middle of the crowd. "These fools trust him to lead them to Lord Nicolus. I say he is only telling us what we wish to hear to save his own hide. He’s a lush and a scoundrel who will happily send us to deaths to be rid of us."
I pushed my way through the crowd, but Gondor and Lord Rezni were moving also. "Move back! Give us room!" roared Lord Rezni as he tried to find a clear space among the onlookers. Growling in frustration, he stopped beside the apple trees and whirled on Gondor. "Open passage to thy master’s hideout NOW!"
Cowering, Gondor pulled a gleaming stone from a pouch on his belt and flung it toward the ground. It struck with a flash and then a pulsing moongate appeared. Heedless of the danger, the mob pushed forward to the gate and disappeared as they stepped into it. I paused as I approached the gate, but the surging of the mob forced me into it.
A sudden chill turned my breath to mist as my next step trod ground I had never before seen. Around me, throngs of warriors fought with more of the vile undead but also with creatures of ice. A frost troll lunged at a mage nearby so I leapt to his aid. The fighting all around me was fierce and strangely silent but for the clash of weapons of frozen or rotting flesh. We battled our way forward until we reached Keeonean and the prison in which he held Lord Nicolus.
Keeonean smiled as we approached. "Oh No! A rescue party!," he said laughing. He turned toward the building and bellowed, "Ya hear that old man? Looks like ya gonna be free soon." Keeonean slapped his thigh and sneered. "Or perhaps they all just wanna help me decorate my lair with their blood and bones." His howling laughter sent my skin crawling.
Without a sound, we pressed forward. More ice creatures rushed toward us. Keeonean threw spell after spell at us. Many bold champions fell, but even as a snow elemental struck down a warrior in green, others reached the building and stormed within… I among them. Keeonean snarled angrily, but was pressed on all sides and unable to stop us from entering. Despite many attackers, Keeonean appeared to be oblivious to all blows and spells.
Inside the building was a blood red tree... a seeming parody to the many holiday trees that were so popular this time of year. Around the tree were brightly colored boxes. The air was dank despite the chill, and the floor was littered with pale bones... far too many of which were obviously human. A shout from my right revealed a small cell, and inside the cell, trembling from the cold, stood Lord Nicolus. He wore nothing but a pair of short trousers. His white beard was almost grey with grime and dirt. His skin was marked with bruises and bloody gashes. But his eyes gleamed with a mixture of relief, confidence, and unwavering faith, almost as if he was not at all surprised to see us there, rescuing him.
A mage quickly opened a moongate leading back to Britain. Lord Nicolus was usher into it and then many of the rest of us followed. We gathered around Lord Nicolus, pressing in probably more than we should have, but Lord Nicolus took it in stride. More and more moongates opened as more of the rescue party returned to Britain, as we laughed and cheered with relief in our success. Lord Nicolus smiled as he watched our celebration.
Newly arrived warriors brought word that Keeonean had fled once Lord Nicolus had escaped. But he had snarl furiously and vowed that we had not seen his last. I privately hoped he would slip on a patch of ice and crack his skull, but harbored no true belief that such a thing would happen.
Also found at the building was another note:
- Curse Lord British and Britannia together, I will not allow him to continue to rule for much longer... Time, all I need is time.
- I am acquiring thy services to strike a blow to the people of Britannia, a blow to break the very spirit of the land itself. Find, capture and hold the one know as Lord Nicolus. It would seem British has Nicolus consorting with the common beggars of Britannia and giving them gifts to lift their spirits in celebration of the passing of another year. Once ye have Nicolus, all of Britannia will lose spirit and weaken in their resolve. A weak heart and soul lend themselves nicely to evil tendencies.
- Thou will be paid well for thy service. Do not fail me, or I shall seal thy life’s breath.
- Thy Mistress
So Keeonean had acted on the desires of another… that was a disturbing thought. I shook my head as I contemplated what this might possibly mean, but stopped as my eyes began to water from the strain. I broke from my thoughts in time to hear Lord Nicolus address the assembled throng.
"I thank each of thee for coming to my rescue. I had no doubt that I could rely on the strength and valor of my fellow countrymen to aid me if able. 'Tis truly a momentous time for our realm. I am grateful, but must go rest. Before I leave, I shall try something that Nystul taught me just a few days a go." And with that Lord Nicolus made a complicated gesture.
Piles of gold began to appear all round the courtyard as well as enchanted weapons and armor. I was nearly trampled in the mad rush as everyone scrambled to grab what they were able. Seems ironic to survive rescuing Lord Nicolus only to be crushed to death here at the castle. Chuckling to myself, I turned and began making my way back to the smithy.
Lord Nicolus returned to his duties as the bearer of gifts for the holiday season, but with one minor change. Lord British had gone to see him soon after his return. As he learned of the ordeal Lord Nicolus had undergone, Lord British nodded slowly to himself and then handed Lord Nicolus a new outfit that was a deep red. Lord Nicolus looked up at his Liege questioningly.
"Well, it would appear that Valor played a much larger role in thy duties than either of us would have ever expected," Lord British answered. "I believe this new red suit shall not only symbolize the bravery thou didst show during thy captivity, but shall also stand as a reminder of the valiant and courageous effort the people of the realm forged for thee."
Lord Nicolus only smiled in response and began to don the new outfit.