Episode Four

The New Lords of Harmondale

Beth thoroughly enjoyed her time aboard the Lady Margaret. Mostly because she thoroughly enjoyed throwing up constantly.

Nevertheless, time passed and the adventurers arrived in Harmondale.

Saturday, February 6, 1168. 2.30pm.

Harmondale was a small town, situated on the edge of the Elvish kingdom of Tulesia, but firmly in the Human kingdom. It was impoverished. The castle was at one end of the town, situated picturesquely at the bottom of a hill.

"What a dump," Spider remarked. "See, I told you that this whole thing was too good to be true."

"Yeah, yeah," Caber said.

"We're not going to be able to sell this, are we," Bethgael remarked.

"Well, you know what they say: location is everything," Bard said. "And the trees are actually quite lovely."

"It's the middle of winter, you fool," Caber said. "The trees are all naked."

"Exactly how you'd like them," Bard muttered.

"What was that?"

"Oh, nothing," Bard smiled innocently.

The "Castle" was fairly small, as castles go, made of a dirty brown stone. It sat like a stale loaf of bread in an empty pantry. There were two guards outside, and a raky man with a perpetually worried look.

"My lady, my lords," he said diffidently, approaching them. "If I may. You must be the new lords of Harmondale?"

"Something like that," Caber muttered sourly.

"Ah. I see," the man bowed slightly. "I am Butters, my lords' Butler. I am afraid I am the bearer of some bad news about your castle."

"The roof leaks?" Caber said sarcastically.

"Ah, yes, my lord."

"It's cold and draughty?" Spider asked.

"Definitely, my lord."

"It is in need of some repair?" Bethgael asked.

"I would say so, my lady."

"We were expecting that, Butters," Bard said. "How bad can it be?"

"Ah, my lord… well, you see…. Castle Harmondale has been empty for some time, my lord, my lady. So, you have some… squatters."

"Squatters?" Caber said. "Speak English, man!"

"Some uninvited occupants, my lord. Living there."

"Well, we'll just go on in and shift them, then. Get them to pay up with some rent," Caber muttered gruffly.

"Ah, you could try, my lord. But I don't think you'll get far with these occupants. Goblins, you see."

Spider rolled his eyes. "Figures."

Butter the Butler sighed. "I fear talking will fail with these goblins, my lord. May I suggest violence?" He bowed, "I will be at the Inn if you need me." He scuttled off in the opposite direction.

Bethgael sighed heavily. "Goblins. In our castle. And here I was thinking how this place would make an excellent summer home."

Caber adjusted his gauntlets (picked up on Emerald island with some handy spare cash). "I guess we'd better get to it, then."

"You don't want to explore the town first?" Bard asked.

"Why would I want to do that?" Caber growled.

"You're in a fine mood this afternoon."

"I have squatters."

"I was going to say," Bard continued, "these people are also officially ours, and perhaps we should get to know them."

"We can do that later," Bethgael said. "Let's get our house cleared out first, eh?"

Bard shrugged. "Okay."

The front door of the Castle was hanging off its hinges, and there was an awful smell permeating the Castle. Piles of rubbish sat in the Great Hall. It was vaguely familiar…

"Rats," Bard muttered. "I hate rats."

Then the rats came, in large numbers, throwing fire, lightning and spitting their scabby saliva all over them. Spider grimly bashed them on the back of the heads with the butt of his staff, Caber fought them, slashing downwards, but they were coming at them in ever increasing numbers. Bethgael soon felt overwhelmed.

"Argh!" Spider yelled. "Damn things are biting me!"

Bethgael looked at him… he was slowly turning a nasty shade of green… gradually, the colour rolled up Spider's face until he looked very sick.

"I don't feel so good," he moaned, weakly hitting another rat as it chewed around his ankles.

Bard stabbed them with his dagger. "I hate rats."

Then there were no more rats. Spider weakly slumped to the floor, retching. "I really don't feel very good," he rasped.

Bethgael crouched down next to him, feeling his forehead. "He's hot."

"Cold," Spider said.

"Bard, can you help him?"

"There is something I can mix up that will help him, but I haven't got the ingredients in me," Bard said. "I saw an alchemist in the village. We can pick up what I need there."

They made it to the alchemist just before closing time, and soon had Spider ensconced in bed at the Inn – "On The House" - with a good swallow of Bard's potion down his gullet. "He should be fine in the morning," Bard said. "We'll let him sleep and go and talk to the locals."

They clomped downstairs to the common room of the Inn. There were a number of people there. One was Butters, who expressed concern over Spider's condition. Another gentleman came up and introduced himself. "I am Wendell Tweed, the Court Historian. People call me 'JD'. Lord Markham has asked me to write down the history of Harmondale for your lords' perusal." He presented them with a book. The first few pages had been lettered in. "I will continue to write down things as they happen, my lords."

Bethgael took the book. "Thankyou, JD." She opened it up and read it, with Bard looking over her shoulder. "It seems we've taken on more than we realised," she said.

"According to this, Harmondale has been the centre of dispute between the elves and the humans for ever," Bard explained to Caber, who was downing his third ale. "We're not expected to last."

"We'll just have to prove them wrong, then," Caber said through bites of bread.

"Please don't talk with your mouth full, Caber, it's disgusting," Bard said.

"Put it up your – "

"Listen to this," Bethgael interrupted with a frown at both of them. " ' The traditional rulers of Harmondale, Erathia and Avlee, have not really noticed the change of ownership,' " she read, " ' but I'm sure that's just an oversight that will be corrected soon. Since Harmondale is currently under human rulership, I expect the Queen's tax collectors will be here shortly to enquire.' Tax collectors?" she turned to JD.

"Well, yes, my lady," JD replied. "The Queen is most insistent that her dues are paid promptly."

"Well." Caber said. "Nobody told us that. And I don't think so."

"It's up to you, my lord," JD said diffidently, "If I may say so, you're not really expected to last long enough to need to pay taxes anyway."

"If the Queen is in charge of Harmondale, then she certainly hasn't lived up to her obligations to the populace," Bard commented, taking a sip of his ale. He coughed. "Not the best, but it will do."
"Castle Harmondale has been under Lord Markham's rule for some time, my lord," JD replied, "with a succession of pretenders. Lord Markham is also the Lord of Tatalia, and it has been said that he is not very generous with his peasants."

"It is still the responsibility of the Queen to make sure things are looked after properly," Bethgael said, "and I'll be damned if I am paying any taxes to anyone who has neglected her responsibilities for so long."

"It's your funeral, my lady," JD commented.

Bethgael felt a tap on her shoulder. "Excuse me," said a deep voice. She turned and saw a very upset merchant. "Are you the new lady of Harmondale?" he asked.


"My name is Davrik Peladium, my lady. I've lost my livelihood, my lady. My signet ring was stolen, and I have no way of getting it back. I was wondering if you could help me."

Bethgael took a description of the bandits and promised the man that they would keep an eye out for the thieves.

"Would you like anything else to drink?" the Innkeeper asked Bethgael. He had earlier introduced himself as "Chowguy". "No? To eat, then? How about a game of Arcomage, then?"

"What's that?" Bethgael asked.

"A card game," Bard said. "No, thanks, Chowguy, we don't own an Arcomage deck."

"They're hard to come by," Chowguy said.

Sunday, February 7, 1168. 6 am

"I don't see why we should have to work on a Sunday," Caber grumbled as they trudged back to the Castle.

"The sooner we get this done, the sooner it is done," Bard said, shivering slightly in the cold.

"Yeah, that made sense in an unnecessary way," Caber muttered.

Spider was deep in thought. "What did you make of that Hairbaugh fellow?" Bard's potion had done its work, and he was fully recovered from the mysterious disease the rats had given him. As they had left "On the House", a peasant named Hairbaugh had sidled up to them and told them that if they lit beacon fires, they could expect help from Erathian troops in getting rid of the goblins that surrounded the town.

"I didn't like him," Bethgael said. "He had shifty eyes."

"Yup, that's a good way of judging someone," Caber said. Bethgael stuck her tongue out at him. "And no more of that, young lady."

"Let's worry about that when we've finished here, okay?" Bard said.

They all took their weapons out and walked into the Castle.
"Anybody home?" Bethgael said brightly. "Yoo-hoo!"

"Was that really necessary?" Bard asked her.

Bethgael shrugged. "Let's get them to come to us. I couldn't be bothered looking for them." She raised her voice. "Your landlords are here. Rent's due!"

"That brought 'em," Caber said, unlimbering his sword.

By 6.40 it was all over.

"Nice little fight," Caber commented, surveying the green-skinned mess on the floor. "Let's have a look around, shall we?"

"Hey have a look at this," Bard said, digging into a chest that Bethgael had disarmed. He produced a scroll and read it. "It seem you two were right about Hairbaugh – he's a traitor. If we had lit those signal beacons, we would have gotten troops, all right – from the wrong side though. Goblins."

Caber cracked his knuckles. "We'll deal with him first, I think."

Hairbaugh tried to bluff them, until they produced the scroll – a letter to Hairbaugh.

"I'll get you," he snarled, and ran towards them, but Caber was ready for him and smoothly ran him through.

"Well, that's that," he said grimly, wiping his blade. "I guess we can expect no help getting rid of the goblins from around the town."

"I suppose not," Bard said. "Let's go and talk to Butters. I dare say he can advise us on how to proceed."

Butters was most impressed. "Well done, my lords, my lady! Well. I shall get back up there and see to the removal of the bodies, then."

"We need your advice," Bethgael said. "We don't have the labour or the money to fix the castle. We'd really like it habitable and it just isn't. There's a heap of rocks in front of the throne room… rubbish everywhere.."

"I understand, my lady." Butters thought for a while. "May I suggest that you ask the Dwarf King? His good opinion of you may help in this ongoing conflict over Harmondale… and he has the resources to help you. He lives at Stone City, at the Barrow Downs."

"Well, I guess we go there, then," Spider said. "Thankyou, Butters." Butters inclined his head and scurried back up the hill towards the castle.

"Ah, Spidey. You do realise that the town is surrounded by goblins and we'll have to get past them to go to the Barrow Downs?" Bethgael asked.

"A mere inconvenience," Caber said. "But let's get some training first." he pointed his thumb at a nearby building. It had a rickety sign that said "Basic Principles".

They walked towards it, but were inundated with peasants, offering help (for a price). They shoo'ed off those, but a couple caught their attention. One, a man called Darren Temper, told them of his brother, an avid Arcomage player, who had gone to the White Cliff caves and never returned. Another one, a monkish fellow with a rather nasty sore on his face, said that Harmondale was cursed because the Lantern of Light had been stolen. He believed it was in the Barrow Downs – could they find it for him? Good fortune was sure to follow!

"These people seem desperate," Bethgael said, "I can't believe that it's so awful."

Bard looked at her sympathetically. "We'll do what we can as we can," he said, as they entered Basic Principles. "Ah, JD, be a good fellow and wait for us at the Castle, will you?"


Back: to Episode Three
Next: to Episode Five - Goblins, Goblins Everywhere : Coming soon

Comment on this story
Chapter List
Story List