Below is the story of the Party’s first encounter with Yonder, the Lord-in-Name of Marikest. It is by way of Yonder that Argos latter became the Lord of Marikest. For more information about the characters, locations, or events before and after this story please check the Game’s Notes. This story reflects the events of Chapter 6, “Meeting Yonder”.
His high tanned leather boots were still wet. It didn’t matter how many times the wizard cast Prestidigitation. Argos simply could not keep ahead of the stinking, wet misery of the forest. He trudged along behind Laucian and Bertilak, thinking of the warm, dry common room of the Steel Hearth Inn, thinking of Emma.
Ahead, Laucian raised an arm. Argos held close to his staff, his fingers twitching with restrained magic. Bertilak slid into the shadows, like a snake into weeds, and all but disappeared. The party moved into a clearing in the woods; tall grass, then a manicured lawn and finally a woodsman’s lodge, brand new and fresh in the rain. They were not expecting this.
The opening in the forest cover allowed the heavy, misty rain to pass through the trees unimpeded, obscuring sight. Those attuned with nature crept forward smoothly and unseen. Argos had no such training. He kept his head down and hoped he would be inconspicuous; that Krusch in his mud-tarnished armor would draw more attention than the thin enchanter.
Argos moved further into the stand. A moment later, as he waded through the tall grass he felt a deep stinging pain in his arm, followed by the warm trickle of blood. He took a moment longer to realize that an arrow had pierced his arm near the shoulder. Bertilak was quicker in response. His training and heightened acuity tracked the arrow back to its source. Bertilak’s own arrow arrived at the hunter’s stand at nearly the same moment as the one which had hit Argos. A warning shot. Krusch drew his mighty battle worn sword, rain flowing down the blood line. Agros was beginning to recover from the stun of being hit. He started the weave of a new spell to respond to his assailant. Just as his fingers clenched, and the final utterance was about to leave his lips…
“Stop! I surrender! Don’t shoot. I’m sorry!” A young man scrambled down from the deer stand, hidden amongst the overgrowth. He held his hands aloft in surrender, dropping his fine hunter’s bow to the ground as he did. Krusch lowered his sword; Argos swallowed his spell.
The man approached the party, apologizing profusely as he came forward. “I’m terribly sorry for shooting at you!” he pleaded, “Thought you were some beast come into the camp!”
Laucian looked incredulous, as dirty as Argos was, only a fool could mistake a wizard dressed in blues, blacks, greens and crimsons for a wild beast.
The finely dressed young man continued to apologize. “I’m always on the hunt for greater beasts”, he said proudly, “a few weeks back I finally bagged and Owlbear”. Laucian’s stomach turned. “He was big too! And aggressive! A rare and powerful beast. I’m sure a group such as yours have seen many strange beasts in the woods. Displacer beasts, Tendriculous… a Dragon?” He asked excitedly. The party was stoic.
“Oh my, my, my, what have I done to your arm?” He said finally seeing the damage he had done to Argos. “Fillas! Fillas, bring bandages and water. I’ve injured this poor soul! Quickly, all of you, you must get out of the rain. Come inside with me.”
Argos’ arm was bandaged. The natural powers of Laucian had taken the sting away and Argos could move his arm freely. He felt at home in the warm, dry, pine scented lodge, especially now. He had something in common with the young hunter’s manservant, Filas.
Filas brought in the tea as the party settled around the warm hearthstone. Filas’ arm was in a sling and a large bandage covered his left eye and cheek; a consequence of his employer’s overzealous hunting attempts, no doubt.
Laucian again felt a wave of primal nausea as he looked above and mantle to see the mounted head of a majestic white stag; the white stag was the blessed spirit-children of Pandec forest itself.
“I don’t understand it.” Laucian began, “What brings a young noble like you this deep into my woods.” His words dripped with contempt, but the young lord seemed unaware of it.
“Oh, you know, the politics of court. Politics are so dreadfully dull and bureaucracies, so tedious. Especially compared with the thrill of the hunt!,” he said, regarding Bertilak for support. Bertilak wouldn’t give it.
“Hunting is a means to survival, not a sport. Those of us who track and hunt for real respect the woodlands. And the never fire at an animal they have not perfectly identified.”
“You mentioned you were of the court? Which court and what was your place before you came here,” said Aramil, finally breaking his reserved silence. He was eying the tapestries across the fine, fresh walls.
“Oh, oh a minor lordship… I suppose I never introduced myself. I am Yonder… House of… of Oakensheild.” Yonder stumbled over his words.
Aramil wasn’t fooled. It took a liar to see a liar. Aramil secretly motioned to Argos. Despite their differences, the two could always seem to communicate when they needed to concea; something from others.
As the others talked, Argos twisted the sweet word of his charm into the air. It filled Yonder’s breath, turned his eyes to smiles and his demeanor to friendship. It had worked; Yonder now trusted Argos closer than a brother friend.
“Yonder”, Argos began smoothly, “I don’t recall the House of Oakensheild. Where are yours from and what is your lineage?”
“They are from…” Yonder began, “We hail from… oh, I can’t lie to you, my dear friend.” The Charm had taken full effect. “The truth is, my real name is Yonder kel’Marikest. I am the son of Bruin kel’Marikest, the Lord of that city.” The party was flabbergasted.
“When he died Lordship of Marikest passed to me, but I’m not suited to live amongst the high and honorable court. I am a man of the woods and springs, a hunter. Like you!,” he said to Bertilak hopefully. Bertilak scoffed.
“Besides”, Yonder continued, “I’m sure the great counsel is doing just fine running the town and the new logging operations without me to get in the way.”
Bertilak rose to his feet, darkness swirling around him in eddies of shadow. “‘Doing just fine!?’”, he raged, “Idiot! Do you have any idea! Any notion in that thick skull of yours, what has become of Marikest! It is being run by a madman, a dictator and oppressor who holds the whole of the town and the counsel under his thumb. He tortures and murders at the slightest provocation! The town is in ruin and the forest is dying! You must return to your seat. It’s your duty! Your duty, damn it!”
Yonder cowered in his great leather chair. He seemed weak and pitiful. "But I can’t return!” he whined, “I’m no good at politics. And if this dictator you speak of is so powerful, what do you think will happen to me if I return and declare myself the long-lost son of Bruin, returned again? You think this new Lord will so easily abdicate to me, a common huntsman of the woods?”
“Coward!”, Bertilak roared, “It is not for you to decide when to obey your oaths and birthrights and when to let them pass. Innocents are being killed in a prison of darkness and shadow. People are afraid to leave their homes for fear of arrest. You could end it all! Only you and your title. But what? You cower in fear in your vacation home. You defile the wilds and bully the weakened animals who haplessly wander within bow shot!”
Yonder was in tears, sobbing in his chair. He couldn’t bear to look at the darkened Shadowtouched ranger towering above him. “I didn’t want this,” he sobbed, “I never wanted any of it. I can’t help I was born to a Lord. I didn’t ask to be born a coward. I know I am. I can’t go back, not now. Please, I beg you, don’t take me back!”
“Lordship must be returned to Marikest!” Bertilak started again. Argos broke in, his words sweet and coddling.
“Yonder, dear friend,” Agros intoned, keeping the sweetness of his charm going. “What if you were to pass your title of Lordship over to us? We intend to depose the tyrant, Hever. Though we worry that without a strong Lord to take his place one as bad as he, or worse, will rise to take his place. Why not write your Title of Lordship over to us, to me, your dear friend.”
“We will depose Hever and then take Lordship of the city. I can rule in your stead. It is your right to do so, is it not, dear friend? After the matter is settled, dear friend, you can live out your days in quiet, anonymous harmony. This is your wish, is it not? Dear friend.” The party all eyed Argos, suspiciously.
“Yes…,” Yonder stared at Agros, captivated by his proposal. “Yes, I could write my title of Lordship to you. You would take all the troubles away… I, I could live quietly with the woods as I have always wanted.” Laucian groaned quietly, then sighed. “Yes, I will do this thing for you, friend Argos. My man, Filas will draft the papers this very night and I will sign them.” Argos’ eyes caught the light.
“My only condition is that this dictator be truly removed from power before I give the papers over to you.” Argos was deflated. “I can’t have a powerful Lord accuse you of a forgery, or worse find out where I am. He would come looking for me, and would surely find me. No! When this Hever you speak of, has lost his claws and been denied his reach, then you will be Lord of Marikest.” Argos was defeated.
“We accept!” Aramil chimed in cheerfully, “These terms are satisfactory. Draft the papers, Argos will be happy to sign immediately. Won’t you Argos?” Argos was speechless for the first time anyone could remember.
“Good,” said Yonder drying the tears from his eyes with a velvet sleeve. “It is late and you have wondered long in Pandec. You must rest. I’m afraid the lodge is too small to accommodate my guests properly, but I can give you a dry place to unroll your bed cloths in the trophy room. Filas will draft the papers through the night and you can sign them in the morning.”
Yonder lead the party to a side room. Laucian gagged and choked as he entered. Inside the “trophy” room was every manner of wild beast, great and small, dangerous and meek, stuffed and positioned around room. To the druid, it was a gallery of horrors. He was speechless. How many innocent and harmless animals had this idiot killed? As the rest of the party unrolled their bedrolls in the shrine of death, Laucian went back outside. He found a place high in a tree and endured the rain. Better cold and wet than to endure the fool hunter’s prize room.
Argos awoke in the night. The first thing he placed his eyes on was the taxidermy form of an Owlbear, Yonder’s self-claimed greatest prize. Even in the dark, Argos could see the beast was young, only a few months old when it had been killed, and sickly at that.
Argos sat up in the shadows. The party need not know his plan. He would get the papers transferring lordship to him and make off with them in secret before Yonder even awoke. The party would understand in the end. He was sure of it.
Argos grabbed his staff and crept over the sleeping bodies of his comrades, and amongst the dead animal bodies. Aramil stirred but did not awaken from his trance. Argos moved as silently as he could back into the main room. All was dark, save a flickering candled in the walkway above. He made it to the stairs. He crept forward.
“Master Argos, what a surprise! Is there anything amiss? I’m sorry, but the Master has turned in for the night.” Filas was sitting in front of Yonder’s door. He put his book down and regarded the wizard.
Argos whispered a spell under his breath as he approached. “My dear friend, I must speak with your Master about the terms of our agreement.”
“I’m terribly sorry; no one disturbs Master Yonder after he has gone to bed, not even me. Never fear though, the contract is all settled. Master Yonder will go over it with you in the morning. I’m sure.” The enchantment had failed.
“That’s too bad that you say so,” said Argos. “I guess I should return to my sleep. Good eve to you, Filas.” Argos went back down stairs. When he was safely out of sight he whispered the secret words which made him unseen by all. His hands faded from view, then the rest of him. Argos was totally invisible.
He crept back upstairs, holding his staff with both hands. He crept up behind Filas and with a crack brought the staff down on the poor man’s skull. “Sorry,” said Argos.
Argos reached for the door and tried to open it. It was locked. He cursed and turned to the helpless body of the butler. Argos checked his pockets, his belt. Nothing! There was no key to the door, and it was locked from the inside. Argos pulled on the handle in frustration. “Damn it!” He thought to himself.
Argos cursed, and sighed in defeat. He returned sullenly to the trophy room for a night of disappointed sleep.
He had forgotten to prepare " Knock ".
The DM Note:
The party went on to have many adventures after their first encounter with Yonder. Yonder turned into a character the Players loved to hate. He was such a spineless, coward. A person who by birth should have been a hero in his own story. He wasn’t. His cowardice and stubbornness not helping the party made him one of my favorite characters in the game.
When I first wrote Yonder I wasn’t sure what part he would end up playing. Like so many of our great scenes he was mostly improved at the table. He became a villain in his own way. The spineless coward. Evil wins when the people with the ability to stop it do nothing. Yonder was that character. He had all the power and right to usurp Hever, but wouldn’t. This allowed the party to move forward to their own stories of heroism and adventure.
Although the specifics of the encounter were changed. This encounter was taken almost whole cloth from a free adventure setting published by WotC for a Vicious Venues for the D&D 3.5 rules set. You can find the original here.