The Let's Play Archive

Legacy of Dragonholt

by Dolash

Part 18: Chapter Fourteen

Aria continues to practice on her violin, sawing the strings in slow, sad measures. She lies in the shade of a tree on the edge of the green, eyes closed, one foot up on the other. Just a short distance away, Minar sits in the dirt and listens, watching the villagers go about their business and share the news of the dragon's defeat. A few point at the pair, holding excited, whispered conversations or even waving, which Minar ignores.

"The A string could use replacing," he suggests.

Aria stops, lets out a huff, and sits up. "Are you mad about the dragon thing?"

"No," he says, a little quickly. "It could've burned us alive."

"Urk still had the frost rune," she replies, with a dismissive wave.

"Bitten us in half?" Minar turns around. "Stepped on us? Flattened us with its tail?"

"Well, she didn't."

The two of them sit in glum silence for a minute. Minar picks at a hole singed through his tunic. "Do you need any more arrows? I'm almost out again."

Aria sighs, lying back down. "No, I'm good."

"Those arrows Theodore makes are overpriced for what you get," he mutters. Then his head tilts up. "Do you hear that?"

The two adventurers sit up and follow the sound to the far end of the field. A group of traveling musicians have set themselves up on the village green, playing music and singing to passersby. There are four of them, including a purple-clad elf of ambiguous gender and three women with their hair tied back by blue ribbons: two humans and an orc. The elf sings while strumming a lute, and the three women sing backup with close harmonies while playing drums, bowed Lorimor lyra, and harp.

Most of the villagers seem to be ignoring the troubadours, but a few drop coins in the hat lying before them, and some even stop to dance and sing along.

Aria has perform

Aria joins her violin with the troubadours and finds their fast-faced and unusual style difficult to blend. The elf wanders over toward her and directs her attention to their fingers during the bridge. It seems this group's style includes a hitch in the rhythm, which makes even their traditional songs feel fresh and new. It takes Aria a bit to incorporate the trick into her own performance, but before long she's playing as if she's always been part of the band. Minar leans nearby, nodding along, a slow smile spreading across his face as he listens to the tune.

After finishing a frentic and humorous version of "Harvesthorn's Autumn Maids," the elf hands her a jug of wellwater, and the band takes a brief break. "You learned our trick quickly," says the elf.

"That is the highest sort of praise from the Princeling," says the older of the human women, her large brown eyes crinkling with her smile. "My sisters and I have seen five of the Free Cities with him before he felt that we were 'competent.'"

"I have high standards, says the Princeling. "I admit it. But Lin, you and your sisters are divine. Together, we are something new. The Princeling and the Anders Sisters," he says to Aria. "Tell your friends."

"I'm adopted," volunteers the orc with the Lorimor lyra. She holds her ear next to the instrument as she tunes it. "It's not a big deal."

"Cool," says Aria, taking a gulp from the wellwater.

Minar dusts himself off. "Are you guys planning on sticking around long?"

"Just for tonight," says the Princeling with a smirk, appraising Minar. "We play here on the green, and then this evening I have arranged to play the Drunken Hog. Which I admit is not a particularly auspicious name, but I hope it will all be well."

"Oh the Hog's something all right," says Aria with a hint of cheek.

"However bad it is, we've played worse," says Lin. "And like you said, it's only for the night. Come the morning we move on, and we'll likely never see this village again."

"That's a shame, really," says the third sister. "I almost like this town."

The orc sister shrugs. "That's the life we chose, ladies. You'd be bored of this place in a week, anyway, Mei."

Minar snorts. "I can confirm that."

"Maybe we'll see you at the Hog, then," says Aria as she packs her violin back up. "Good luck with the busking!"

The pair wander away from the green, as the small band's music starts up again behind them. Minar steals a sideways glance to Aria, who has a quiet smile. "Thinking about getting back on the road?"

"We still need to wrap up the Kyric thing for Celyse," she says. "But... yeah. I think it's about time." She waves back to a knot of villagers who recognize them standing near the shops. "We're getting too famous around here, anyway."

Time passes

A) Cool your heels at the Countess Inn and try some the finer vintages

B) Head to the Fairfax Manor to confer with Celyse

C) Take a little break at the Bakery

The dwarf baker Grisbeck hums to himself as he carries fresh loaves of bread from the kitchen out to the shelves that line the shop. His daughter Penny lies on top of a table, dangling a string to brush along the flagged stones of the shop's floor. A calico cat lurks beneath the table, periodically lunging at the string. When it sees Urk, the cat rumbles a tiny growl, then sprints out of the room with all its hair standing on end.


"Ah, there ye be," says Grisbeck, smiling. "Sit, sit," he says, gesturing at the table Penny is still lying on. "Penny, lass, get off o' there an' wipe that table down, please." She does so, then uses the rag to mop at her brow.

"It's too hot ta play," she sighs, flopping down in a corner of the shop.


Penny marvels at the orc sage as her father moves back toward the kitchen. "Ye defeated a real dragon, all by yerself?"


Grisbeck returns from the kitchen with a small dish, holding a delicate biscuit of oats and sweet smells that steams slightly from the oven. "I made ye this," says Grisbeck. "It's a bit different from mainly what I sell here in me shop; a traditional Dunwarr dish. A soda cake." He sets it down in front of Urk and sits, tugging at his beard absently, while she eagerly digs in.

"I wanted ta say, ye've been so good ta me an' Penny since ye came here. Ye've done quite a bit ta make us both happy. Quite a bit a good fer Dragonholt, too," he adds, nodding toward the east.

"ALL IN DAY'S WORK FOR URK," she replies. Urk takes a casual posture, at ease in the little shop.

Grisbeck seems to be working himself up for a moment before he continues. "Well, I was wonderin' if - I wanted ta invite ye ta join me for a walk this evenin'. After sunset. From the dragon statues, out inta the orchard."

Urk freezes, the soda cake caught between her sharp teeth and her eyes wide with surprise. She begins chewing slowly, buying time.

A) Accept Grisbeck's invitation

B) Politely decline his invitation.

(I've been more than a bit off today so thanks for your patience, feel free to take your time on this one if you like - it may be a bit of a surprise, but this is one case where I'll say we're following the book)

Urk finally swallows her mouthful of oats, eyeing Grisbeck carefully. She clears her throat. "UM," she begins, glancing over to Penny, who's doing her best to appear distracted. "URK MIGHT LIKE THAT ACTUALLY."

A smile spreads across Grisbeck's features. "Oh, good, ah, that's brilliant," says Grisbeck, smoothing out his beard with one hand. He stays and keeps Urk company as she finishes off the soda bread, which is sweet and a little tangy and quite an intriguing morsel, grinning and not saying much of anything.

As Urk is saying her goodbyes to him and Penny, Grisbeck points to the west. "And don't forget. Tonight. At th' dragon statues. I'll see ye there."

Time passes

A) Ease into the evening at the Countess Inn

B) Confer with Celyse at the Fairfax Manor

C) Get out some restless energy training at the Guard Station

The guard house door stands open, revealing a spare room with a crude desk and a large iron bell. A black iron cage covers the entire back wall, its gate secured with a heavy lock. Swords, poleaxes, coats of mail, and various other armaments glimmer in the shadows of the cage.

The lantern-jawed guard with more good looks than, well, really, anything else, Deakon, is admiring his reflection in the blade of his sword. "Oh," he says, noticing Deepmind. "Hello. Can I help you?"

Deepmind gives the handsome human a doubtful look, but says "Maybe. Think you can give me access to that training ground you've got? I want to work off some energy."

"You're one of those adventurers who rode off to fight the dragon this morning, right?"


Deakon seems puzzled, trying to square the unassuming hyrrinx with the tall tale of dragon-battle. "Wellll... I suppose it's the least we can do, considering all the help you've given us."


He leads Deepmind around to the back of the guard station, where the racks of training weapons sit across from the dummies. The whole affair is rough but serviceable, a standard Deakon himself doesn't quite live up to. "Do you need a sparring partner by any chance?" he suggests brightly, trying to pose with his sword in a casually confident way that doesn't quite come together.

"Nah," says Deepmind, nodding to a hurrying orcish figure. "I'm covered, thanks."

After a few more awkward moments, Deakon takes the hint and slinks back to the guard house. Shortly thereafter, Urk arrives, walking briskly and wiping crumbs from her mouth. "You're late," she casually remarks, pulling her cloak back to reveal her belt full of knives.


Deepmind points to the Rune Sword hanging loosely from Urk's back. "Urist doesn't have a rune-encrusted warblade he doesn't actually know how to use. Which I couldn't help but notice you didn't even draw while we were fighting a two-story dragon."


"Which Urist could've used just as easily," Deepmind insists. "If you're going to go hogging all the good loot, you're going to learn to use them at least."

"URK NOT HOGGING-" she pauses, her hand going to a wondrously-painted shell hanging from a strap off her belt. "...OKAY, MAYBE URK COULD USE REFRESHER COURSE ON SWORDS."

Smiling, Deepmind adopts a ready posture, a dagger held in each hand. "Great, because that dragon fight ended too quick for my tastes. Now, let's find out what a War Rune's good for besides rattling around your collection."

Deepmind and Urk each lose two stamina.
Mark one progress in combat training - maxed out! Can now buy archery, brawling, dueling and military
Time passes

A) Have celebratory dinner at the Countess Inn

B) Confer with Celyse at the Fairfax Manor

C) Take it easy at the Library

The house seems quieter than usual, but the serving girl Mathilda greets Athtar and Urist promptly at the door. "Her ladyship is away," she says," but Miss Celyse is in the salon if you'd like to join her."

"Lead the way," says Athtar, and the setting sun chases the two adventurer into the manor.

The salon's windows were thrown open to minimize the heat of the day, but now a cool breeze begins to flow through them. Celyse sprawls in a large overstuffed chair with a book open on her lap. As Athtar and Urist watch, she turns the page. She doesn't appear to have noticed their presence.

Urist politely coughs, and Celyse closes her book with a snap and stands up. "I was about to check on Phillip's studies. If you promise not to distract the child with stories of our adventures, you're welcome to join us." She smiles and crosses to the door. "Or you can wait here, and I'll be back soon."

"It would be good to check in on the young gentleman," Urist suggests, and Athtar nods in agreement. The trio depart the salon together.

"Time is up. Quill down," calls Celyse as she sweeps into Phillip's studio.

Phillip places his quill back into its inkpot and snatches up a rag to wipe his ink-smeared hands. "Yes, your highness," he says with a smile.

"I know you haven't forgotten your proper forms of address, young man, so I shall have to assume you are making a joke of some kind," says Celyse as she sits on a stool next to him. "You have had one hour. Tell me about the three noble families of this region as if I were a naive traveler from a distant land."

"Hm? Yes?" says Urist, distracted. "Oh, sorry - thought you might've been talking about us."

Phillip smiles, then clears his throat and begins to read. "The counties of Dragonholt, Haverford, and Rostum are linked together by shared geography and history. Ruled respectively by the Fairfax, Cunningham, and Belmont families..." Phillip goes on for some time while Athtar steps lightly around to an open book. The text is a genealogy and history of the three families on which Celyse is currently quizzing Phillip, so he reads along with the lesson as Phillip proceeds. Apparently all three families have centuries of history in the region, and they have been united politically and militarily since the reign of Count Aleks Fairfax, when the three counts fought side by side against an undead army. There have been a number of intermarriages between the families over the generations, including the marriage of Phillip's grandfather Lord Holland to a Belmont woman, which the book covers but Phillip does not mention.

"And today," says Phillip, the "Cunninghams are well known for their artistic and scholarly pursuits and eccentric behaviors, the Belmonts for their strong martial tradition, and the Fairfaxes for the tolerant and open-minded leadership that has made Dragonholt Village the economic center of the region."

"That information, Master Phillip, is not supported by any of the books I gave you," says Celyse.

"No," says Phillip. "It's common knowledge. Call it original research your books are old and out of date. I've just written the first chapter of a new one." He grins as Celyse does her best to maintain a tutorial glower.

"I suppose time will tell how correct you are," says Celyse.

Mark one progress in academic study

"I think that's enough study for today," says Phillip. "Don't you?" He tugs at his collar and strides to the closest window, pushing it open. "It's still too hot to think."

"That does conclude our lesson," says Celyse with the caution of someone knowing she is walking into a trap.

"Oh, good," says Phillip. "Then I think we have plenty of time left for a story." He turns to the visitors with a smile. "And I think we've found a few storytellers."

"Oh, very well," says Celyse. "You may have your story." She gestures for Athtar and Urist to take the floor and sits by the window.

"Tell me about Nerek-"

"But not the Nerekhall story," calls Celyse. "Tell him a different one. And, ah, try to keep it..." she pauses, eyeing Urist. "Appropriate."

"My stories are all of the utmost propriety," Urist mutters, casually reaching for a vial in his belt before Athtar nudges him and shakes his head. "Very well, a story... as it happens, I suppose we did just defeat a most terrible dragon on the plains east of here."

At this, both Phillip and Celyse perk up. "There were rumors floating up from the village..." says Celyse, her curiosity poorly masked.

The pair describe in great detail their battle with the dragon, the heat of its wings, the thunder of its roar. The memories are fresh, and they use the opportunity to sort through them, fixing the story to enure they will get the details right in future retellings.

"Weren't you scared?" asks Phillip as Athtar describes riding his horse between the dragon's legs. "I would have been so frightened. But I suppose, if you didn't do that, the dragon would still be out there. And then who knows what might have happened." He leans back in his chair, staring at the ceiling. "Thank you," he says. "Let's all hope that's the last time you risk your life for Dragonholt."

Athtar says nothing but unconsciously rubs the spot on his chest Kyric's crossbow bolt had struck him.

Phillip chatters excitedly as they finish their tale, bombarding the adventurers with dozens of questions, but Celyse cuts him off. "That's enough, Phillip," she says. "I believe you promised to help in the kitchen today, did you not?"

Phillip sighs, and stands up. "I suppose. Thanks for the story," he says, then walks through the salon and down the stairs.

The three old friends return to the salon, where Mathilda soon serves tea and oat cakes, and conversation turns toward the three noble families of Phillip's report. Athtar notes the conspicuous absence of their connection to the Belmonts through Phillip's grandfather's wife, and Celyse frowns as though her tea had gone sour.

"I expect not," she admits. "Because the lady Mabel Belmont was not his grandmother - but she was mother to Kyric."

Time passes

A) Go to the dragon statues to meet Grisbeck

B) Join the band playing the Drunken Hog

C) Take in a quiet evening at the Countess Inn

Just two more choices in Day Six, then we're on to the last day!

A light swings through the darkness and becomes a lantern, swaying from the end of a pole. Grisbeck steps into the puddle of golden light and smiles. "Ah," he says. "Ye came."

"SORRY IF URK LATE," the orc explains, dusting off her slightly weathered traveling clothes. "URK HAD SPARRING PRACTICE WITH TINY ANGRY CATFOLK FRIEND."

"Not ta worry. Come along, I have everythin' prepared." So saying, Grisbeck leads Urk through the slumbering orchard, where the scent of fall is in the air and the fireflies dance, their lights tiny cousins to Grisbeck's swaying lantern.

"I love th' night," says Grisbeck. "Th' darkness, th'quiet. 'tis so bright, during th' day, livin' above the ground." His hand brushes Urk's as they walk together. "But 'tis not all bad."


Grisbeck returns a wry smile. "It's not that we never see the sun in the Dunwarr Mountains, o'course," he explains. "Aye, we live under th' ground, but there be many reasons ta go ta th' surface." He glances up to Urk's honest, relaxed expression and quickly looks away. It's hard to say for sure in the lantern light, but he may be blushing.

They cross out of the orchard and into a broad, flat meadow dotted with oak and cedar trees. The sky overhead is clear and limitless, a vault strewn with glimmering stars and the wonders of the heavens.

In the center of the meadow lies a table, complete with chairs, awaiting Urk's arrival. A ring of lanterns hung from poles surrounds it, each a twin to the light in Grisbeck's hands. Grisbeck places his lantern to complete the circle, then pusies himself lighting candles on the table. "Come," he says, pulling out Urk's seat.

"I wanted ta do somethin' special for ye," he says, uncovering the silver trays on the table to reveal a stunning repast: a summer salad of greens and berries, with just a hint of sweet vinegar for dressing, and goat cheese; a basket of warm, nutty bread, still steaming; a tureen of hearty vegetable stew; an entire roast duck, its skin crisp and golden and speckled with savory herbs; a bottle of some golden -brown liquor that can only be Dunwarr whiskey.


"Ye're kind ta notice," says Grisbeck with a glow of pride as he serves. "I've always had a knack f'r t' kitchen. Me father, he wanted me ta join th' Warrior's Guild, like him, like his father. Made me train wit' them as a wee lad. Ha," he chuckles, settling into his own chair. "Bit of a surprise for im when th' warriors put me ta work in th' kitchens. Soldiers need to eat too, eh?"

The food is amazing, and the pair share a pleasant meal, swapping stories beneath the stars. As the meal winds down, however, Urk finds herself getting quiet, contemplative. She pushes the last scrap of bread around her plate, already scrubbed clean of sauces and soup.

Grisbeck notices the drop off in conversation, and pauses to see what Urk has on her mind. After a few more moments' thought, she says "URK NOT REALLY PLAN TO STAY IN DRAGONHOLT LONG." She waves sort of generally, encompassing the town and the countryside. "VILLAGE LIFE... SOMETIMES MINAR COMPLAIN." Urk reconsiders"ACTUALLY ALWAYS MINAR COMPLAIN. MINAR LIKE BIG CITIES, LIKE NEW PLACES. COSMOPOLITAN."


"Will ye join me?" Grisbeck suddenly asks. "T'watch th' stars, I mean." He waves up toward the night's sky, now rich and twinkling. "S'long as ye are here, I expect ye could tell me a thing or two about constellations. We don't have 'em, under th' mountain."

Urk stops, craning her neck and focusing on her hearing. Underneath the rustle of the night, the wind and the fireflies and the shaking of tree boughs, she hears the quiet whisper of faraway voices coming from the shell she carries. She hears their echo along the sparse woods dotting the foothills below the Eventide Forest itself, where the singing of the Tree of Tales itself calls in response, until the air seems thick with the song of the spirits, settling on the peaceful sage like a blanket.

"SURE," says Urk at length. "URK CAN STAY A LITTLE LONGER, MAYBE." She surreptitiously picks up the bottle of whiskey and a couple cups, and follows Grisbeck up the hill for a better view of the stars.

Time passes

A) Search the library for information on the Belmonts

B) Play with the band at the Drunken Hog

C) It's late! Go back to the Swan for sleep and get an early start tomorrow

A grey cat lies on top of a shelf in a beam of moonlight. It opens its eyes, stares at Deepmind a moment, then closes them again. The hyrrinx woman keeps looking at the library cat for a few more moments, delicately considering the existential implications of housecats and catfolk.

A young, brown-skinned human woman with honey-colored hair, not yet twenty at a guess, comes through the door from one of the library's side rooms carrying a slate and a piece of chalk. "Miss Ainsley," she says. "I've finished." She hands the slate to the librarian, who takes it and reads it, pursuing her lips as if doing so tastes bad.

"Hello," says the honey-haired woman to Deepmind. She smiles, her eyes sparkling and open. "My name is Sasha. I've just come to town from Carum's Cross last night to study with Miss Ainsley. Are you from around here?"

"Not exactly. I'm Deepmind."

"That's an interesting name!"

"I like to think so." Deepmind looks around the library. "Have you seen an elf and a dwarf around here? I've been looking all over town for them and somebody said they-"

"Oh yes!" says Sasha, clapping her hands together. "Athar and Urist, right? I've been helping them with their work. They've got an extremely interesting problem!" She looks around in an exaggerated, conspiratorial gesture. "I've never worked on a noble intrigue before!"

"Well, the first rule is you probably shouldn't be telling people you're working on a 'noble intruige," Deepmind suggests. "You better take me to them."

Sasha leads Deepmind back to the library's secluded work room, where all manner of books lie open and scattered around. Urist, sitting in front of a particularly weighty tome and fighting the droop of his eyelids, notices Deepmind enter and snaps awake enough to croak out "Oh, good evening to you."

Another weighty tome lowers and Athtar appears behind it, energized compared to his companion's exhaustion. "Deepmind!" he announces. "I'm glad you're here - I think we're finally on to something useful!"

"You know Aria's playing the Drunken Hog with some traveling minstrels," says Deepmind. "We were beginning to wonder where you guys'd gotten to. Almost rude to skip a friend's performance."

The elf shakes his head, gesturing toward his book. "No time. Urist and I visited the manor today, and Celyse revealed Kyric is Regina's half-brother, that his mother is a lady of a neighbouring noble house. I think we're close to deciphering his true intentions and where Kyric has been getting his support."

"I just thought he was some bastard with a bandit clan at his back," says Deepmind with a shrug. "Nobles usurp each other all time."

"But why now?" Athtar urges. "Where did he get his supporters? What is he really planning?" Athtar slides his book forward. "The answers are here, I believe."

Deepmind walks over to the book in the center of the table. Bound in red leather, its cover is marked with a silver dragon and a black iron dragon circling each other - clearly a version of the noble crest of the lords of Dragonholt. Within it is a formal history of Lady Regina's family, stretching back many generations. The back third or so of the book is blank, but the last few entries detail the reign of Regina's father, Lord Holland, and the beginning of Regina's reign as Countess.

Although the author states that Lord Holland was a good ruler and beloved by his subjects, it tells of great struggle in the latter part of his reign. The spirits became angry when a dragon burned part of Eventide Forest, and they punished the county of Dragonholt with a great drought and all manner of misfortune. Monsters roamed unchecked, and the Count of Dragonholt despaired, until his bastard daughter Regina defeated the dragon and saved everyone with "a great feat of magic." Count Holland named Regina his heir, in defiance of custom. The section ends with a note that Countess Regina, in one of her first acts, established a public library in the village, moving the bulk of the family's private collection there.

The only mention of Count Holland's other child, his trueborn son Kyric, is the fact of his birth and the death of his mother, a Belmont noblewoman, in the process.

"So by common law, Kyric really would be the lord of Dragonholt?" Deepmind wonders.

"And would be connected to the Belmonts by blood," Athtar confirms. "The Belmonts, who have a martial tradition and manpower to spare, but a terrible need for gold, and whose taxes have driven many of their people to resettle in Dragonholt county. A county rich with trade and agriculture." He gestures to the book sitting in front of Urist, a copy of one of the books Phillip used in his report.

Deepmind smiles. "You're getting cynical. And you're probably right. Okay, I can see where you're going with this," she closes the tome. "What now?"

"Now, we-"

Whatever Athtar had in mind is interrupted by the sound of snoring coming from Urist, who slumps forward in his chair. The elf smiles at his weary friend, and changes tack. "Now we should turn in for the night and regroup tomorrow morning. I suspect I know what Kyric's next move will be, but the others should weigh in as well before we take action." He rises from the table and hands the history book back to Sasha. "Thank you for your help, Miss. Best of luck in your studies."

"Thanks!" says Sasha, who begins gathering the scattered texts and reorganizing them. "Have fun defending the castle!"

"Wait, what?" says Deepmind as she helps Athtar haul the sleeping dwarf out of his chair.

"I'll explain later."

Time passes
Mark one progress in academic study
Day Six ends