The Decline of Dragons

Fallbrook Part I: The Maester Arrives

Long has Bastian of Lime Crick awaited the arrival of a Maester. His wounds are soft, rank, and inflamed. Sometimes he wonders if the headaches and the red veins he can see when he closes his eyes will kill him. Sometimes he cannot believe it is his lot in life to be in constant torment of pain, and Death cannot take him, for his brother Agony already has. And all the while, they delay the arrival of his savior, as a jape. The heir to the house he has served and bled for derides him bald-facedly. Only the sweet nectar of the poppy can restore him to a semblance of life, instead of this shuffling afterlife he leads now. The gods are cruel, and should he meet one he might be inclined to show them his skill with a throatcutter.

Merrit is in no hurry to get to the manor. The trip has been long enough that a couple quick stops won’t matter.

The road from Oldtown has been long indeed, though not particularly dangerous. Your escorts are well-paid and well-equipped, and few highwaymen you do see steer well clear of your band. You are nearing Fallbrook, and think about things you know.

Merrit asks around once he arrives in the town for any local healers, herbalists, woodswitches, or any such thing.
Common maidens and knaves shuffle the streets of Fallbrook. It is not particularly crowded, but it is dirty. It has the feel of a red-light district, with drunks, louts, and whores readily apparent from windows and doorjambs. And this is the afternoon.
Presky is a rather normal-looking fellow, and seems to be willing to speak with you. He addresses your question with interest, as it is an uncommon one.
Presky: We had a Maester, while back. None since then, though… I don’t know aught about any witches… But Mera down on River Row can stitch a wound just fine.
River Row, if you ask, is the street just south of the main river that runs diagonally parallel to it
Merrit: Well then, I s’pose Mera’s gotta do me. Thanks for the info friend.
Presky: Right, see you.
Presky watches you leave with little interest.
Merrit: Oh, and looks like I’ll be sticking around these parts fer a bit, so if’n you see anything of note, mayhaps you could clue me in on it, yhear?
Presky: Eh, mayhap. Mayhap you’ll buy me a drink first! Har har har.
Merrit slips a couple of pennies into Presky’s hand as he walks off.
Presky smiles graciously.
You notice a gleam in his eye with how flippantly you doled out that money. He probably took special note of that.
Merrit continues on to Mera’s
It takes around 45 minutes of asking and knocking to discover and reach Mera’s. She lives in a fairly run-down two room house near the west end of River Row. It is still daylight out, and she welcomes you in.
Mera is around 35 years of age, usually with a dour expression on her plump, weathered face. She has brown hair that is tossed and disheveled. (She is like a mom that always seems like a bitch but really isn’t that bad.)
Merrit: Ah, g’day to ya marm, i was thinking p’rhaps you could help me out a tad.
Mera: Mayhap I might… I suppose them that’s around town told you I’ve a needle and thread I can work with? Don’t see you nicked… Suppose a friend of yours got stuck by some brigand on the road?
Merrit: Y’see, me dear ol’ mum, she got ‘erself cut up real bad and, well, she can’t make it to town, but the gash is oozing out this…stuff
Mera has a weird look on her face…
Mera: Aye, pus… continue on, ser…
Merrit: It’s…somethin nasty. But y’see I can’t get her here…so…well, was wonderin if you could gimme somethin to make her feel better.
Merrit glances around at the door occasionally, looking nervous.
Mera looks as though she doesn’t suspect a ruse…
Mera: Well, I could supply with you with some firemilk, for a fee… But the milk of the poppy, you see… She might have to bear through the pain, as all of the poppy’s milk in this city is spoken for.
Mera: Lord Hilton has much need of it for the war effort.
Merrit: Spoken for!? That damn Lord doesn’t need all of it, now does he?
Mera: WATCH YOUR BLOODY MOUTH in my house, ser!
Mera looks around far more nervously.
Merrit: Well, y’see, my mum, she had a bit stashed up, and seein as though she prolly won’t make it through this…
Merrit: [3d6 = 15]
Campaign saved.
Mera: Milord commands us we send him all the poppy’s milk as dispensation… And I already have this month… I know naught of how to make it, we have it sent in for a price. I could, perhaps, set some aside when next we do receive… But until then, I am at a loss to help you… We are to be receiving a new maester soon, though I know not when. Mayhap you could ask him.
(Merrit’s Empathy check reveals:) You can just tell she is terrified of anyone hearing you say “damn lord” in her house… People have died for less.

Merrit: Well then, marm, I’ll be headin out, but if me mum’s still in pain here in a bit, p’rhaps I’ll try ye again.
Mera: Oh… Alright then… Have a good day, ser.
Merrit: And let us pray this new Maester has a heart in him and kin help out us poor folks.
Mera almost bought the man’s story… Needing medicine for his mum… But turning down the cure and requesting only the fix. A common addict, no different than that scum Bastian.
Merrit exits, and takes a roundabout way to the manor, waiting until he’s almost there to slip off his dusty travelling cloak and pull his chain out of his robes.

You arrive at Fallbrook Manor.

Fallbrook Manor sits upon a small knoll on the north side of town. It is magnificently appointed, though smallish. The gate stands before you, locked. A guardsman, one of about 4 on the premises, makes haste down from a small tower in the south and lets you in once he sees your chain.
Bastian: gm hmm I had them chargin in that thing I though……..if there are any left they are in the lil brown dresser in the kitchen…but they may be out.
Guardsman Norry: Hail, Maester. What are you doing here?
Merrit: Well, what do you think I’m doing here, you dolt!? I’ve been appointed to this backwater dump. Now show me to your Lord, so I can get settled in.
Guardsman Norry furrows his brow.
Guardsman Norry: Well, Maester of mine… OUR Lord is gone on the King’s business. Milord’s family is at Hollow Hill.
Guardsman Norry: Which is where YOU aught be.
Merrit: Ah…well, then, I travel a thousand leagues from Oldtown to have some idiot guardsman berate me because I’m a few leagues off!?

Merrit: If this is how you treat your maester’s around here no wonder you were in such dire need.
Guardsman Norry: Hold on but a moment.
Guardsman Norry flashes a false smile.
Guardsman Norry walks up to the door and opens it up.
Guardsman Norry: Master Nolan!
Emory Nolan , the Manor’s chamberlain, comes down to greet you. He is old, with a clouded, rheumy expression in his eyes. Looking behind him though, you see he has kept the house meticulously clean and orderly.
Emory Nolan: Oh… Hail, Maester… Merrit is it?
Emory Nolan: Yes, yes…
Emory Nolan: No one gave you the orders?
Merrit: Well, I have been on the road for QUITE some time, you must understand.
Emory Nolan: But of course. They should have sent an envoy, though… Or, or a raven! You are a maester… Goodness.
Emory Nolan: At any rate… Norry will be happy to escort you to Hollow Hill.
Emory Nolan waves toward the man.
Merrit: Well, you see, Ravens can’t exactly pick out just anyone walking down the road…maester or not, that’s just not how it works.
Guardsman Norry lowers his eyes in resignation.
Emory Nolan: Oh, I see. Well… It is no great loss. As you say you have travelled long. This shall not be much further.
Bastian: i forget just how Lawless this area is
Merrit: Well, then, just get me there and get this over with.
Guardsman Norry: Aye, let’s be off while there’s daylight.
Guardsman Norry goes off to fetch his shield, sword, and straps on his armor.
Guardsman Norry: Have you a healer’s kit? Bandages? Stitches?
Campaign saved.
Merrit: Well, yes, I do. Those fellows I was travelling with are to deliver it here, well, any minute now.
Guardsman Norry hands you a small leather bag with a few necessities, “just in case,” he says.
Merrit: Ah, well, thank you. Perhaps I was a bit hasty in judging the staff here, after all. I suppose this belonged to the late maester?
The two of you leave via the gate, Norry locks it, and you head the few miles north toward Hollow Hill, the ancestral seat of House Swain. The afternoon gives way to an autumnal dusk, and the road is well-beaten.
Guardsman Norry: Heh… No. We got about forty of those layin’ about. There’s no doing without them.

You notice Norry has more than a few missing teeth, scars about his face and neck, and thick, hard knuckles.
Merrit: So, the rumours say this is a right dangerous place around these parts. That can’t be true though, can it? I mean, I haven’t seen any bandits yet.
As you travel, Norry picks something out ahead of you. It is two men sitting about a campfire, wearing tattered, road-worn clothes. They snicker and chuckle to one another, a roasting pot on the spit.
Guardsman Norry: Speak of winter and it shall come….
Guardsman Norry points at the men.
Guardsman Norry: We need to get the drop on them. You seem them up there, at that campsite? We’re gonna have to ambush them.
Merrit: We? Oh no, not we. You, you’re going to ambush them.
Guardsman Norry: Stupid, are you? Bandits carry bows, else you’d see more dead bandits about the roads.
Guardsman Norry: If you don’t want a shield near you you suit yourself, but I’m not winding up a dead man tonight.
Merrit: Stupid? I’ve been called many things, but never stupid. I’m no good in a fight, is all. Never did learn how to swing a sword, or even a club for that matter…disgusting thing, fighting.
Merrit: I’ll just stick back here behind a tree or something
Guardsman Norry: Fair enough.
Guardsman Norry enters the underbrush. He is quite silent, and his soft leather boots aid his stalking through the underbrush.
The bandits laugh and cackle to one another. One has a well-crafted club, the other a mace and shield. They are not wielding them.

Merrit finds a nice safe spot and peaks through the trees at the guardsman.
Maester Merrit crouches behind a tree and lays his cloak over him. He is nearly a ghost, he feels.
Mace Bandit: What the fuck is that!
Mace Bandit points at Norry.

Mace Bandit: Get out here afore I lay you down, craven!
Mace Bandit draws a bow. The other a throwing axe.

Guardsman Norry: Very well! Here I come!

Guardsman Norry charges out of the underbrush, his steel glinting in the campfire’s light. He tries to run the bandit with the throwing axe through on a full charge.
The bandit is barely on his feet when Norry strikes, and so Norry does succeed in delivering a nasty cut on his stomach.
Mace Bandit: Drop him!
Mace Bandit nocks and fires an arrow without meticulous aim.

Mace Bandit: The arrow leaves no mark on Norry, his shield fending it off with little effect. The second bandit, however, cracks him in the jaw with his club, and Norry grunts in pain.
Something terrible happens. Men emerge from the brush, from the north and south. They also have bows, and are more well-equipped than the two men by the fire. The two men were sitting ducks… This was all a set-up… Maybe even down to fake laughing.
The man not twenty feet away from Merrit has his bow firmly drawn on Norry. A man with a hammer sneaks through the southern brush. Another man with a crossbow comes from the north.

Merrit is wishing he was back in Oldtown. This place needs a lot of cleaning up.
Guardsman Norry sees his life flash before his eyes.
Guardsman Norry: Stop this instant! I am a man of Lord Hilton Fallbrook on his business!
Guardsman Norry: His most righteous justice will be visited upon you if you harm me!

Mace Bandit: Heh… Fuck you, and your bastard Lord. Even he couldn’t take on all six of us, and mayhap we’d try a turn at that wife at his, too.
Mace Bandit cannot count, evidently. There are not six of them. At least that you can see.
Mace Bandit: Kill him, and we’ll see if he’s got some of the Lord’s silver stags.
Guardsman Norry takes another swipe.
Guardsman Norry: [4d6 = 20]
Guardsman Norry shocks the bandits head clean off with a downward swipe. He visits his Lord’s justice upon the bandit himself, and awaits the cold bite of death.

Guardsman Norry has his body rocked by two projectiles as the bandits close in for their final assault, a man with a huge hammer takes his time in getting there. He is a massive foe indeed, scarred and muscled. He has killed many before, and is most evidently unafraid of death, for he wears nearly no armor.
Merrit wishes he could help, but isn’t gonna get himself killed over some dumb guardsman

A phantom appears in the firelight. A pale, sickly man appears briefly before smoke obscures him. He has thrown a handful of leaves into the fire, and they give off a nauseating black smoke. He has a knife brandished, around a foot in length, that you only catch a twinkle of before the blood starts to spill.

You hear the briefest second of a scream cutting through the clamor, then it is gone, and there is less clamor.

Merrit tries to take advantage of this new arrival, and finally do something useful.
Guardsman Norry finds himself inspired by the arrival of Bastian, and springs at the evident leader of this crew. His sword again finds purchase, wounding him.
Merrit charges out of the brush, running around the perimeter of the camp and making as much noise as possible.
Guardsman Norry: Bastian! How many men ave you?
Guardsman Norry is bleeding badly from multiple wounds.
Merrit: Alright, boys! time to teach these boys what the Lord’s Justice feels like!
Bastian: Myself and two farmhands.
Guardsman Norry: Gods…
The bandits cannot see to fire their bows, and so move into better position, where they now see they are up against only two men.
Bastian should have kept that to himself
Mace Bandit finally swings his namesake weapon.

“Gods” was the last word Norry ever said, as the mace knocks his brain into blackout forever. He meets the Seven.

The ghost called Bastian is not a quiet one. He takes three shuffling steps toward his target, tucks his stiletto into his neck, and drives it deep. The bandit goes down gurgling blood.

Merrit can’t quite tell what’s going on, and moves closer to investigate.

The brigands are paying absolutely no attention to Merrit’s clamor, as they are focused on what appears to be their certain death… Perhaps if they had seen better the fate of their comrades they would have fled already.
The smoke is dying out, the leaves all burned up. But their job was done, and done well.

Maester Merrit looks the new arrival over.

This man is very sick; both of his nature and of his lifestyle. His feet drag and bite at the dirt except for at the moment of assault, when they move like a dancer, perplexingly both flawless in technique and exuberant in creativity. He is broken, beaten, and scarred, both from war and from the poppy.

Bastian does not move. He stays perfectly still. The bandit from the east charges him, finally moving with vigor, stirred from fear. He raises his hammer high, to bring down upon your savior’s head.

Bastian does not move! You are certain he is a dead man. At the height of the hammer’s backswing, the sickly man’s long dagger lashes out three times whik whik whik and the huge warrior gasps as his blood drains from his thighs and stomach. The hammer comes crashing down, but Bastian is not there, nor anywhere near, and is then right back in front of the man his dagger threatening the huge man’s summary death.
A crossbow bolt whizzes by.
Merrit simply watches, knowing his help isn’t needed.

Bastian steps on the long iron haft of the hammer. With one hand, he cocks his arm back and drives it deep into the huge man’s chest, as if laying a seal upon wax. The man’s chest parts as hot wax would before Bastian’s knife, and the sign it makes is unmistakable. The crossbow-wielding thug turns tail and runs, looking behind him to be sure his pursuer is not after his death too.

Bastian looks over the scene
Merrit: Well, then, you made quite the mess.
Merrit examines the guard’s corpse, knowing what he’s going to find out, but feeling obligated to check.
It is quiet. The men with the mace and hammer have the majority of the share of loot among these men, which in total amount to around 34 stags.
Bastian ‘s calmness begins to fade….and his nerves are shot.
Bastian wasn’t hurt but doubles over and starts dry heaving a little.
Norry is too far gone to save. His brain is surely dead. The only one with a chance at living is the one Norry first killed, who was cut deeply twice and is bleeding out.
Bastian: What about him
Merrit: Which one? the dumb one, or the brigand?
Merrit starts binding up the bandit’s wounds.
Bastian loves over Merrit…no sense in asking who you are.
Bastian: No need to bandage him.
Bastian: He’ll just be killed back in town..and gives us one less thing to bring back

Merrit bandages up the bandit’s wounds despite Bastian’s warning.
The bandages are enough to stop his bleeding, and he may live if given time and later care… His chances here unattended with simply bandages for care are about 40-60%.
Bastian: The Fallbrooks will most likely try to send him to the wall then
Merrit: Or, we can just leave him here.
Campaign saved.
Bastian looks at the bandit.
Merrit: Either he’ll die anyway, or he’ll live and get all the bandits hereabouts so scared of you and that knife of yours they’ll never mess with the Lord’s men again.
The Maester doesn’t realize it is far too late for that.
Bastian: That’s what the one that ran away is for.

Merrit: Ah, but this one knows how it feels.
Bastian: Can he walk?
The man is unconscious.
Merrit: Maybe…he’d have to wake up first, and that might take a while.
Bastian: If he isn’t dead ..I can’t let him go.
Merrit: And I can’t have you killing a wounded man.
Bastian: Lady Fallbrook will find out and I’ll pay the price for it…..either he dies or comes with us
Merrit sighs.
Bastian coughs
Bastian: Wait here.
Merrit: This Lady Fallbrook will be the death of me, I can feel it already.

A thin, brunette woman with slack breasts, crooked teeth, and a decidedly lowborn accent pulls up on the cart, just like Bastian said to.
Bastian: You’ve not even met her yet Maester…so don’t get your hopes up
Lady Merelda Fallbrook grows impatient with her manservants.
Lyda Bottoms: Awright, milords, shall we be off?
Bastian: give me a hand with this man
Bastian: both of you …if you would
Merrit: Is this your transport? this…wench?
Bastian goes to pick up the man
Petyr Bottoms helps his mother load the man onto the cart.
Bastian: this wench and her bastard…yes
Merrit: Well, I suppose it’s better than walking.
Campaign saved.
Bastian: better than riding as well……now lets get him up
Merrit dusts off his robes as he watches the others lift the man.
The road to Hollow Hill is short and sweet, and the bandit doesn’t even have a chance to wake up before you arrive in the Swain’s ancestral house, which sits further north, nearer the source of the falls, near a still mountain lake they have channeled into a reflecting pool in the west side of the manse. This house is older, more well-appointed, and more defensible than Fallbrook, and it is difficult not to be more impressed with it.
Bastian has skin that looks like a pale oil painting and lips that are slightly chapped. He has a full head of long hair but is so thin it moves as the slightest breeze. He is tall and thin with attractive almost feminine features….but looks as if he hasn’t slept for days.

Bastian: Almost makes you wonder why Lord Hilton didn’t just take the Swain name instead.
Merrit: Hah, have you ever suggested that to his face?
Bastian is lying down next to the bandit with his eyes closed.
Bastian: No. I haven’t…….

Merrit: Oh, I am Merritt, the new maester for Lord Fallbrook.
Bastian: I gathered as much….I was wondering why you and Norry hadn’t arrived
Merrit: Well, I suppose I should thank your impatience, because it quite possibly saved my life.
Bastian: don’t thank me…Master Brannum is the one who was growing impatient
Merrit: Brannum? The boy?
Bastian: Terrence is the boy…Brannum is man enough at the moment.
Merrit: Ah, then it is time he learned patience anyhow. I think I might have my hands full with those two, from what I’ve heard.
Bastian: You come from oldtown?
Merrit: Do farts come from your arsehole?
Bastian: There are alot of people in Fallbrook lands..i hope you brought plenty of supplies
Campaign saved.
Bastian: Fights ..break out everyday….people getting cut…stabbed. Beaten.
Merrit: I’d noticed that this place is a bit…violent, but why don’t the Lord’s men do anything to curb it?
Bastian: The Lord’s men are with the Lord….and the Lord is a King’s man…and he goes where Aegon says.
Bastian: The rest of us….look after the family
Merrit: A sorry state of affairs…but I suppose it’s not my place.
Merrit: Well, anyhow, we should be heading in…it’s been quite a long road.

The double doors of Hollow Hill open to a fabulously adorned foyer, with silver candlesticks, red-stained wooden floors, and tapestries in gold, dark brown, and reddish-orange. The autumnal motif is palpable. Before you can fully appreciate anymore, however, a cacophony of yelling, cavorting, and stupid, leering laughter comes your way. There is a fool, dressed all in red, approaching you. He walks with a hunched gait, a false belly and arse bulging from his front and back. He crooks a finger at you, accusatorily, and starts spitting foulnesses.

Red Bastard: I know who this man is!!!
Red Bastard points at Merrit!
Campaign saved.
A smattering of courtiers and guardsmen take heed of Red Bastard.
Bastian walks away from Merrit….knowing well …where this is going
Red Bastard: He’s a thief!
Red Bastard gets very close to you, hopping around you.
Red Bastard: And actually…
Red Bastard raises a finger.
Red Bastard: A raper!
Red Bastard hops around.
Merrit keeps walking and does his best to avoid the jester.
Red Bastard: I seen it!
Red Bastard: OOh… He thinks to ignore me! He knows not that I am the chamberlain!
Red Bastard: How else should I get so… plump?
Red Bastard presents his plumpness to you.
Red Bastard: In Braavos they make rapers into septons, you know!
Red Bastard: Not maesters, never no!
The courtiers chuckle a bit at his gadding about, but they clearly pay his accusations no credence. He follows the both of you relentlessly into the Lady’s chamber, which is actually a decent enough court to hold audience, rather than the Lord’s meager hearthhall.
Red Bastard: Boop-ah, boop-ah, boop-ah.
Bastian: I"LL FUCK YOUR MOTHER!!!!!!….just starts stabbing himself in the fake belly haha
Merrit continues to ignore the fool, and approaches Lady Swain.
Campaign saved.
Lady Merelda Fallbrook: FINE! I’LL FUCK YOUR MOTHER!!!!
Lady Merelda Fallbrook: hahahaha
Red Bastard pulls a false knife from his asspatch and starts jabbing himself in the chest with it, spinning out of the court, flopping like a fish into the foyer again.
Lady Merelda Fallbrook is not in her seat at court, on the court’s right hand side. Rather, she is through two sets of doors and into the reflecting pool. Bastian shows you the way.
Bastian: Welcome to your new home.
Merrit: Somehow I keep regretting that fact more and more…I’d say it couldn’t be worse, but I’m sure the seven will find something new to torment me with…

You exit the doors into an open balcony, with marble pillars and railing overlooking the pool, which looks out into the western waters and the russet and gold of the altitude’s magnificent taiga. The pool is not fully still, in truth, but the view is gorgeous, especially since there is Lady Swain, facing the western portion of her demesne, a low-backed southern dress revealing more than a Maester should grow accustomed to. She has not yet turned around, but something in her suggests a beauty vast and a presence bold.



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