The Rise of the Halflings

The Hilltoppers are Commissioned.

This is the first of the many chronicles of the Hilltop Heroes. Our fellow Halflings who have brought our humble hills the prestige of the mightiest warriors the races have ever known. Among them are, Eldon the Bard, Kinter the Rogue, Cade the Cleric, and Jarvis the Sorcerer.

The four Halflings returning from apprenticeships followed by combat training, longed to be off the ship that bore them home (for it is well known that we Halflings care not for sea voyages and it should by noted that Kinter was hardly sea-sick). They had but a half days trek to the bay of the port city of Baynar, and could barely keep from jumping ship to see if the could swim faster than the slow lumbering ship. Two curiosities did happen just then that did stir all who sailed that day. An albatross flew to the ship with a message from Baynar warning of recent pirate raids. Whilst at the same moment did a sailor spot a lifeboat with twenty men rowing in the wrong direction.

The captain was quick to change course and rescue the helpless boat. The men on the boat reported their ship sunk by the same pirates and did declare that they in turn did sink the enemy vessel. Cade, the cleric was not convinced and did pray for discernment. He did, in fact, discern these men as evil and perhaps the very same pirates previously reported.

Eventually a battle ensued, when the Pirate Captain Cramerson summoned his ship out another plane. After a long and bloody battle, Captain Cramerson fled to his ship and was gone. The Halflings won the respect of the crew and the admiration of a fellow Dwarf warrior named, Dnulper. He begged the Hilltoppers to meet his friend (a fellow fighter) at the Black Cat tavern. They agreed because they had been told that this friend was also a Halfling. Upon their arrival it is said that Cade blessed the tavern’s cat as they entered. And they were introduced to Percivilis the incredible (who was not a Halfling but a human). It was there that Eldon first blessed Baynar with his poetry.

The Lay of the Hilltoppers’ Return

Hearken to me as I tell a tale of Halfling bravery;
Of pirates dread and thunders fierce upon a cruel sea.

Sly Kinter, archer of renown, the holy warrior Cade,
With Jarvis Raven-Tongue aboard and Eldon Ever-Staid;

These four set out with naught in mind but rest at journey’s end
The hearthside comfort and relief of family and friend.

Their training done, their talents honed, they dreamed of their return:
The children’s shouts, the ladies’ sighs, the praises they would earn.

Across fair waters did they sail, beneath complacent skies
When lo, across the northern bow a wonder met their eyes:

Aboard a vessel small but sure rowed twenty sailing men
With suits well kept and bellies filled and weapons close to hand.

The captain of the Halflings’ ship did turn to give them aid
But our four heroes, wary few, did see what they betrayed.

The sailors spun a dreadful tale of pirates and, forlorn,
They gathered on the deck their sunken ship, they claimed, to mourn.

Their captain then did gaze abroad across the cloudless sea
And quickly came the clouds and rain he sought so fatally.

The Halflings four did spot his game and cunningly they spread
To guard the wicked crew for fear this storm would see them dead.

The moments passed, and suddenly upon their southern side
The sky did crack and there appeared the pirates’ hidden pride

A summoned ship from out the air, the sailors all did grin
To see their vessel and to know that battle would begin.

Of Eldon first my tale shall tell, and how with flashing steel
He brought the end of pirate Men and danced Destruction’s reel.

Surrounded was this Halfling brave by villains twice his size
But ne’er a moment did he waver. No, with sparkling eyes

He drew his blades, twin rapiers, and with flourish and a laugh
He spun upon the pirates and the first he cut in half.

But while his back was turned the three companions of the dead
Did slash and stab and Eldon in his victory was bled.

But Eldon Ever-Staid was sure, upon his feet he stood
And fiercely did he gaze upon these villains through his blood.

With rapiers for rosined bow and pirate flesh for strings
He struck a tune and lustfully the bard began to sing.

Around him piled fallen men, whoever came too near,
And seeing doom upon the decks, the pirates fled in fear.

Upon the quarterdeck our Jarvis Raven-Tongue did stand
With no one near to aid him and no weapon in his hand.

But never did he worry when he saw the fight below
For steel is not the only friend to seek when met with foe.

In silence and in stillness did the stolid Jarvis stand
And reaching once into himself found power in his hand

Upon the ladders, on the decks, his enemies they fell
While pirates boarding ‘cross the bow were cast into the swell.

Neither magic nor his steel was first resort for Cade
But met with near a dozen foes, he called his Lord to aid.

And graciously his prayer was met. There thundered in the air
A voice to chill the pirates’ blood, to freeze their bones with fear.

Then slowly drawing out his blade the warrior began
To mete the justice that had been committed to his hand.

Around him fell the wicked and around him stood the true.
At battle’s end stood noble Cade. His righteousness was prov’d.

Now Kinter, while his friends stood sure, did flit from here to there
And stole the lives of pirate Men with barbs shot through the air.

Upon the quarterdeck, the poop, the ladders and the mast
He found his footing, tensed his bow, and vengeful arrow cast.

To left and right the pirates fell, then knowing of their end
They drew their hidden weapons out and turned them on our friend.

The thunder cracked and lead did fly toward this cunning bird
But quick he seized their thundersticks, and on them Kinter turned

This cruelest weapon that they’d meant to win their victory.
And seeing that their end was near the pirates then did flee.

Upon his ship the coward captain roared and turned away.
He disappeared into the storm to sail another day.

The Halfling heroes, battle won, then turned their hearts t’ward home
And once again sought nothing more than comforts that would come.

For not for pride or great renown did these four heroes fight,
But only for the vict’ry of the noble and the right.

For all the Men and Halflings who are true and who are kind,
For fireside and family, for love and peace of mind.
©d.wartsbaugh

Then after sharing a drink with the men of the tavern (and perhaps a brawl), they departed in glory with their new friends.

They were received at the Hills with a parade like has never been before. Every Halfling was there singing and rejoicing for their story had reached the Hills before them. There was much feasting and merriment and that is why we celebrate Hilltopper Day, every second day of third spring.

The following morning our heroes met with the Elders, who had sent out the “Generation of Heroes.” The Elders commissioned them to go back to Baynar and win their hearts. For tensions were at their highest. They were to learn the motives behind the humans plot to take the Old Hills and leave the Halflings with half of their estate. They agreed to dispel the recent dragon rumors or kill whatever dragon they find and to find out why the humans would betray the Halflngs.

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The Second Chronicle

The Hilltoppers set out from the Old Hills, having been granted boons from the Elders. In search of rumors of dragons, they did proceed to The Black Cat Tavern in Baynar. Although hesitant, Cade overcome his fear and accompanied the group inside. However, once in the tavern an actual black cat ran across his path and struck terror in his heart causing Cade to flee. The warm greeting the Halflings received in the bar turned quickly to companionable laughter. As the Hilltoppers pass, those within stand and bow out of respect for their great deeds. Standing on a table, Eldon called the patrons of the tavern to attention and asked for information regarding the dragon sightings.

Rosie, the beautiful barmaid, recommended that they speak to one of the following three men: Bramsen (Local Oaf), Libsen (Arms Dealer), or Smything (Civic Leader). Once this information was imparted, the crowd called for a song. Eldon regaled them with The Lay of the Hilltoppers Return. The companions threw silver to the crowd and departed to meet with Libsen and Smything.

But first, Dnulper urged them to meet with his good friend the wizard Dimple. As they walked down the street to meet with Dimple, shutters and doors closed when the Hilltoppers passed. The friends arrived at Dimple’s home and workshop to find, to their surprise, that Dimple the Wizard was a gnome. After speaking with the wizard only briefly, a noise arose in the street; Dimple’s neighbors formed a small mob and shouted insults at those within. Dnulper and Percivillis quickly sprung to defend their friend with force of arms; the Halflings were not so quick to fight.

Stepping outside, Eldon began to speak to the crowd. Even as he began, he caught a head of lettuce with his face. He laughed it off and continued speaking, entreating the crowd to set aside their animosity. The big folk, however, took this as an incitement to fighting and drew their weapons, while Dimple cast a spell on the Hilltoppers to turn them into terrible lizards. Instead of lizards, however, the heroes were turned into large toads. Although Eldon was certain that he could have persuaded the crowds not to fight, their transformation was taken as a threat, and the neighbors fled.

The Halflings were quite upset with this turn of events, and lost confidence in their new wizard acquaintance, who begged their forgiveness and urged for a partnership. After regaining their proper shape, the friends hurried to meet with Libsen.

Their reputation preceded them, as Libsen and his clerk were quite excited to meet the famed Hilltoppers. He quickly offered reduced rates for all their goods. And for a reduced fee, Libsen also directed the adventurers to the Northeastern mountains to find the dragons responsible for the massacre. After leaving, the Hilltoppers made their way to see Smything. Kinter noted that something in Libsen’s report did not seem reliable and Cade concurred.

A crowd was gathered outside Smything’s office, listening to him as he closed out a vitriolic speech regarding the evils of the world. “The dragon is an evil without,” he declared, “but we must also recognize the evils within. We must change our hearts, turn back to true religion, and reform our lives.” Eldon broke in. “Good news! We have come to fight the evil without, so that you may turn your hearts to the evil within.” After speaking thus to the crowd, the Hilltoppers met inside with Smything. After much persuasion, Smything agreed to give the friends the information they sought.

As Smything imparted this information, Eldon noted an emblem on the wall: A wolf with the mane of a lion. He recognized this as the sign of the Order of the Wolf, an order descending from the wolves who fought against Aslan. Smything gave the adventurers information regarding the dragons and asked them to return with tales of their quest and offered companions to accompany them. The Hilltoppers agreed to return with tales, but Eldon did so warily.

After leaving Smything’s office, Eldon addressed the crowd once again. He recited the Lay of the Hilltoppers Return, introduced the companions, and sang the praises of Aslan. The crowd turned to their favor and took up an offering. Cade received their offering, but entreated them to give the gift instead to the poor and widows among them. The widows wept with joy.

After so addressing the crowd, the Hilltoppers sought out Bramsen. Upon the completion of a frustrating search, they found Bramsen hidden unconscious on his front porch. Cade healed his drunkenness, and they began to speak with one another. Bramsen agreed to give them information regarding the dragons only if they would save his brother, who had been kidnapped by the Order of the Wolf. Glad to be of service, and of detriment to the Order, the Hilltoppers agreed.

Bramsen’s brother, Jaymz, was being held at the Temple. Once outside, the friends agreed that Jarvis should spy out the temple while invisible. After investigating, he reported the prisoner’s possible locations and recommended that they enter through the back door. Unfortunately, the temple doors were closed. Not to be delayed from their quest, Kinter unlocked the chains on the back gate and the companions entered.

Once within, the six discovered that the temple was nearly deserted. Only a few guards roamed the halls. Jarvis, still invisible, put the first to sleep. Meanwhile, Kinter began picking the lock of a nearby door. Unfortunately, this set off an alarm. Thinking quickly, Cade surrounded the party with a field of silence. Inside the room, Kinter discovered crates full of treasure, potion ingredients, scrolls listing the rolls of the Order of the Wolf, and a single crate full of decaying human body parts covered in flies. Several party members vomited.

Continuing their search, the Hilltoppers reach the other room, presumed to be a prison. After picking several of the locks, a guard inside the room was alerted. Eldon cleverly persuaded him to open the door, and was promptly put to sleep by Jarvis. Jaymz, only twelve years old, was filled with joy at the sight of the adventurers and began to weep. Eldon quieted him before the guards could be alerted. Meanwhile, Kinter searched the prone guard and found a key to the prison cell. Unfortunately, the guard was awakened by a second ham-fisted search for coin.

The guard saw the adventurers and tried to stand. Knowing that he would then be able to identify them, Jarvis dashed to the guard and plunged his sword into the guard spilling his blood and entrails. The adventurers had hoped to escape without discovery, but now they had killed.

To Kinter’s joy, they quickly devised a plan to make the prison break look like a temple robbery. Cade and Eldon moved to find the other guards, at the main gate and the other lying asleep, where Jarvis left him. The first, Eldon dealt with: a sliced throat. The second fell to Cade: mystically held, and cleanly beheaded.

After dispatching the guards, the Hilltoppers eyed the prize of the temple: a large wolf idol made of silver, standing on an altar at the temple’s center. The idea occurred first to Eldon, and the others quickly agreed. They removed the idol and piled the guards atop the altar instead. Thus robbing and desecrating the heretic temple at the same time. Then they made their escape.

Knowing that this raid would bring suspicion down on Bramsen, Eldon and Jarvis rushed to his home to warn him and deliver his brother. Knowing that they must also flee, Jarvis and Eldon gave them gold just stolen from the temple. Bramsen quickly fled with his little brother to the docks to begin his new life. Though they had begun as enemies, Bramsen and Eldon had now become friends. The man gave the Halflings the needed information and asked them to send word whenever the Order of the Wolf is abolished, that he and his brother could return. And after bestowing the Blessing of Aslan, they departed.

Meanwhile, the others stashed the loot from the temple raid before meeting at The Black Cat. While there, men rushed in to the tavern and reported that Bramsen’s house was ablaze (a fire started by Bramson before he left). All the patrons, including the adventurers, hurried to put out the fire. Surrounded by guards from the Order of the Wolf, the blaze was quickly extinguished. Once the area was safe again, all of the party returned to Dnulper’s house to retire for the night.

While in the dead of night the Order of the Wolf did make a fruitless search to murder Bramson and his brother.

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