It takes more than a few individuals to run a keep of any size. The small cadre of dwarves from Hammerfast have outdone themselves rebuilding the former Keep on the Shadowfell, its ten mighty towers rising up above the village of Winterhaven in the northwest reach of the Nentir Vale. A few volunteers have come to support, maintain and defend the Keep, which is now held by four known throughout the Nentir Vale as heroes: Andrasian the elvish warrior, Krillorien Brightsong the eladrin priest of Pelor, Melanie Good-Melons of the Arcane Tower, and Lyria Thorngage of the Junction Thorngages.
The sun rises above the westernmost Frostjaw Peaks. There is a light coating of snow on the ground, a testament to the odd weather of late. While much of it will melt even as more falls, it adds an extra layer of chill to the men and women standing at uneasy attention in the courtyard in front of the main hall. As the sun’s light spills over the walls and across the assembly completely, the doors open. Instead of the castle’s masters, four unfamiliar individuals emerge. Leading them is a tall, broad-shouldered dragonborn, clad in a suit of plate and carrying a sword at his side and a shield across his back. His scales look as if they were hammered out of pure mithril, the way they catch the dawning light. Cool, emerald eyes look from one face to the other amongst the volunteers before him. When he speaks, his voice is rough and heard easily in every corner of the courtyard.
“All right, recruits, listen up! My name is Silverscale, and you will refer to me as ‘Captain Silverscale’, ‘Captain’ or simply ‘Sir.’ I have been given the great honor of putting the defense of this Keep in order. You may be here because of the heroes who made this Keep their own, or because you’ve heard of the snow orcs or frost giants or the Winter King to the north. Frankly, I don’t care why you’re here. What I do care about is your performance as guardsmen, your dedication to the defense of this Keep and your willingness to die to defend those that dwell within it and in Winterhaven below us. If you don’t believe you can do that, the gatehouse is immediately behind you. I’d rather see your backsides now than see them running away from us on the battlefield!”
After a moment, Silverscale nods and looks down. Directly in front of him, arms crossed, is a dwarf in a very fine suit. His beard is immaculate, with a number of braids containing delicately-spun gold thread. He is, if possible, even less impressed with the would-be guardsman than Silverscale.
“Immediately in front of me in Bensun Stonecarver, the Keep’s seneschal. His dwarven crafts and craftsmen made this Keep what it is today. I’m sure a couple bards you might have heard may refer to Seneschal Stonecarver as a ‘butler.’ But he is in charge of the Keep when its masters are away, so when he tells you to do something, YOU DO IT.”
Bensun nods solemnly. Silverscale gestures to his left, where a young human stands, his face the only sympathetic one the recruits will find. Dressed in a smith’s apron, a roughspun shirt and dark gloves, he looks like he was pulled away from either a hot forge fire before his work was done, or his bed at too early an hour.
“His apprentice, to my left, is the young man who will be tending to your arms and armor when you go and get banged up. He comes to us from the Harkenwold, as do many of you. His name is Alton Gramath. He’s also joining us on the Guard, but don’t take it easy on him just because he’s our smith or because his father died for defending your homes. You should be so lucky to leave this life the way Dar Gramath did!”
Alton looks a bit sheepish at the mention of his father. He runs a hand through long-cut dark hair and manages to smile a little. On Silverscale’s otherside is an older human, his grey-white beard spilling down to the embroidered breast of his arcane robes. He leans against a tall staff topped with a faceted crystal and decorated with runes another eldritch symbols.
“To my right is Quillion of the Tower. He’s a mage, a scribe and our Keep’s local herbologist. He’s here to study the interesting phenomena in the Keep’s bowels, which brings up another point of order. The subterranean levels of the Keep are off-limits for those not on duty to guard the mage or any of his guests. If any guardsman is found below ground afer hours for any reason, you will answer directly to ME. Is that understood?”
There’s a murmur from the assembly. Silverscale scowls.
“I didn’t hear that.”
“Yes, sir.” The response is half-hearted. Silverscale roars.
The dragonborn crosses his arms and nods.
“Welcome to the Tower Guard. Your training begins NOW.”
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