In Leavendale they proceeded to sell their newfound gems. After first being misdirected to the shadiest part of town (even after spending a silver!) they found a jeweller at the market place. Asked of the stones’ provenance Gil spun a whole lot of cloth about them being from a grandmother in Cillamar who was a seer and had put them by for old age. Enough to convince the shopkeeper. He proved to be discreet and did not share anything about the lord of the town when asked, but pointed them the way to the Citadel and the Lord-Mayor’s mansion.
Originally they were only given access to the lord’s clerk, Godfrey. When he had weighed the facts of their story, an audience with Lord Gerrenburg was granted. The lord denied their request to see all of Old Grey’s possessions, as he deemed the journals personal and nothing missing. But he allowed them to read accounts of legends now stored in the lord’s library.
They found the legend of the headless horseman, and it revealed that the headless horseman can only be truly killed at its point of origin. It’s also rumored to abduct children. They also found a short account of elementals and it revealed the nature of air elementals to be “flighty” – not likely to stay in the same place for long. And mentioned the power of true names when dealing with elementals and fey folk.
The clerk also told them a farmhand named Helmut had been struck down the night before at Grendelstuir farm. After the incident at the Hurnesons’ the night before that one it seemed like the horseman might strike at Bruildir farm again. They returned towards the farm.
Having skipped lunch they decided to hunt a contribution for the dinner in the forest. Both John and Braenn tried their luck as hunters. Instead of finding a quarry they came too close to a tree whose roots seemed to attack them. John first fended off the evil grabbing roots, but in the end got grabbed by the feet, first by one and then by a second. But they were not roots, they just looked like them. They were tentacles of sorts, bleeding some sort of ooze when hit.
John had already tried to pull out the creature by a tentacle, but his bout of strength was matched by its opponent. Neither did the thing manage to drag him in.
Braenn tried to turn the unholy abomination, but while she did not incur the disfavor of her goddess, it was not enough to drive away what lurked below. In the end, after they had hacked away one tentacle and severely hurt another they all withdrew underground and Gil could hear something slither-crawl away.
Gil used his shovel to excavate more under the tree… After excusing himself to the innocent tree he had javelin-staked first. (Under pressure from his dead grandmother echoing through Braenn’s head.) They inspected the lair and found kobold skeletons, picked perfectly clean, some cooper coins and rusty short swords. And when deciding whether to crawl into the tight corridor the creature must have crawled away into, Gil stepped on something. Good luck that a silver dagger does not pass infection. Oh, and free silver dagger!
While Braenn brained a fat rabbit with her sling, Gil explored the forest’s edge. He found a small trail and a piece torn from a woman’s tunic in some brambles. They decided to track the trail and arrived near an ancient dolmen resting on three pillars, in a depression amidst three hills. Their trail was crossed by some other tracks – horse tracks leading to the south-east! They retracked their steps to the farm before dark.
Braenn brought her prey to the kitchen, and while preparing it less than expertly tried to ply some gossip from the women. Brunhilda was indeed a gossip, but her interest was mostly in Gildorel and if “elves are like us, you know.” Gil tried to gather more information from Ralf Bruildir, but unlike Gil’s suspicions Ralf seemed to hide nothing.
During dinner it became apparent that the mother of the household had placed Ada far from John and did not like Hilda’s attention for Gil either! When asking if all farming people had been accounted for, they said that Zill should have come back from the stable now. The Fellowship hurried outside into the farmyard upon hearing these news…
They found Zill with a goat on his farm coming around the corner from the back of the barn, but they Gil’s sensitive ears also heard the sound of hooves approaching. They shouted for Zill to start running, tried to warn him, and John and Gil ran towards him. As they approached him, the headless horseman turned around the corner and gave his horse the spores to charge towards Zill. Gil was grabbed by fear and stopped running, being paralysed by his dread. John was slowed down by his heavy armor, and missed when throwing a goblin spear. The horseman struck down the farmhand, but nearly lost his sword in the process.
Braenn failed to turn the abomination, but then thought quickly and spoke a word of command to the horse: “Roll!” It did, but the horseman jumped off with quick reflexes. The horse rolled back and forth under the influence of the magic. The rider now attacked on foot. He approached Braenn who panicked and ran when the unholy creature came close. John swept the creature off its feet with a jump, his legs slamming into the creature’s. It tried to hit John but broke its sword on his chest-plate.
The thing now wrestled John’s sword from his grip and stood up. It made a gesture and the thrashing horse turned into dust that fell to the ground. It got going again, ready to pursue Braenn who had reached the farmhouse and slipped inside. Gil put himself in harm’s way and a mighty spell made his hands burn with cold fire. He attacked the creature and savaged it. John had fetched a nearby torch and tried to burn the horseman. Not satisfied with the result he smashed a bottle of oil on it.
It struck Gil with John’s sword, enough to hurt but by far not enough to take out Gil. Braenn had returned to the battlefield after catching her breath and coming to her senses. John set the thing on fire. It dropped the sword, gestured upwards and a horse rose below it from the dust, and it rode away, his body a giant flame of burning oil.
Braenn put a healing spell on Zill – he will live. They fetched the two horses from the stable, ready to start pursuit of the flame riding away of them…
He’s riding through your town with his head on fire.
He’s riding through your town with his head on fire.
Halo burning. Eyes are crying. Halo burning. Eyes are crying.
Ghostrider, Ghostrider, Ghostrider, Ghostrider keep riding.
Never stop riding.
Hey, hey, don’t forget to burn, don’t forget to burn.
Burn with fire. With fire, fire, fire, fire! (Rollins Band, “Ghost Rider”)