Dragonrealm

Writings forgotten in a drawer

There is a room in the east wing of the Nailo estate in Melenne where, tucked away in an inconspicuous drawer of a great bureau, half a dozen sheets of writing wait for anyone with cause to rummage through that particular compartment. Should the discoverer be of intellectual inclination, well versed in languages and with a taste for trifling riddles, then perhaps she might be excused if she didn’t immediately realize the eminent suitability of the notes as kindling. A cursory analysis would reveal that the author, a man judging by the script, has attended a lecture on the fundamentals of sorcery, or at least he has endured the beginning of it. These parts are trivial and would be discarded outright. But then the text assumes a more private style, not as hasty, one which speaks of aristocratic erudition (observe especially the two references to Zorasshper’s poetry) and of familiarity with High Dragonic idiom. Most intriguing of all, passages of Miner’s Cant in dwarven runes appear sporadically on these later lines.

Here are the contents of that manuscript, including strikethroughs. Words originally in Miner’s Cant are set in boldface.


Quill, you shall be my confidant.

In this head of mine, in its moonless mere set astir by chimeric serpents of atramental deeps — therein I find my inkwell, poured to the brim by uncouth Fate.

Here it spills.

When in my youth I played with the stable boys, I was always branded the Fancy Talker. I did not mind. Besides, there are children in the nobility who intone in a much more courtly style than myself. Such is their nurturing, and they soon learn to take pride in their long sibilants and refined turns of phrase. I vacillate — is it proper or preposterous?

My companions seem so cultured. Althaea has her music and her journal. The scholarly disposition of Carric is apparent to all. Even Borel, my brother, whom I took for an ordinary man in terms of mental capacity — carefree and unpretentious yes but studious? — has to my surprise revealed a keen interest in literature and, most recently, a passion to learn the lute, at which Althaea has provided him patient guidance. And what of myself? I am now the sorcerer’s neophyte on a miscellany of arcane matters, primarily academic at this stage as opposed to practical. I try to follow his rapid cascading of thoughts, sometimes failing utterly, at other moments sensing a glimmer of reason, but how near my understanding hits the mark I cannot say. He splays his mind over books and parchments with delight. We are so unlike.

Actually, we share a common virtue, as I have discovered to my great excitement. How should I put it? He spoke contrastingly of sorcery and wizardry, the former drawn from a dragon-inherited inner potency — excepting wild magic? — whereas the latter may be unlocked by any adept who possesses its key. Could there be a more fitting metaphor for this venture of ours? The prevailing dominance of sorcery represents the rule of dragons, the old order. Hence the coming age shall herald the rise of wizardry. Alas, I am but a grain of sand in Sithrakh’s hourglass, and I cannot hope to see the Day that follows Dawn. Yet there is work to be done, here and now. Complete autonomy — that is the lofty ideal that unites myself and Carric.

Behold Dulkan the Philosopher! Perhaps I should grow a long beard and retire to a high chamber in some lonely tower. I wonder what new shade of red my appearance would conjure on Vulkan’s cheeks if he suddenly found me thus, rivalling his own venerable whiskers. I always take after you, my friend, eventually.

Here is another piece of wisdom: With my own hands, with my own mind. Those are the words I had engraved on this new ring. I have grown fond of the thing, I must say, though at times when my fingers play with it, as is their irremediable wont, they expect to find the Kiln signet. Then a deluge of memories. I wish I could have some assurance that I am going the right way, that what I am climbing is indeed a high peak on wide foothills. I see nothing but fog everywhere. Where am I to head?

There are the five Kiln precepts, which seemed sound enough when they were impressed upon me, and as they owe their origin to the hardships of the Age of War, they might be of some use at present. First, be true in your word and conduct. Bah! To my endless displeasure, all these affairs of statecraft require a rather oblique view on truth, so I have learned. One must be mindful of all facets of the gem. Let us consider the expedition to Assarna, for instance. On my part, it began with a sincere desire to help the locals, to instill in them some of that same enthusiasm that I feel, but now that the happy faces of Arry are not here to remind me of the direct import of our achievement, I see the dark outlines of a political stratagem. A dragonchess gambit — how cruel that the Sahuagin terror worked in our advantage, in the end. Timothy opened my eyes to Lady Ashinka’s machinations. Corrupt she is not, I would surmise, but I must fathom the depth of her principles. Question: directly or indirectly? Orc arse! Whose work is dirtier, peasant’s or his lord’s? Let Althaea figure it all out, she is the cleverest of us in such things.

The subject of the Dragon Knights also demands a subtle enquiry. Why did the appeals of Alexha go unanswered? I sense a clandestine power at work here.

The second rule: Master your craft. A respectable advice, without doubt. This more than anything distinguishes us the Kilns and the varied peoples who come to their service. Each is allotted a rightful position, not by name or by influence, but on a promise of future merit. All dedicate their efforts on the practice of their own skill, earning praise in proportion to their attainments, working concertedly, each a strong link in the chain. This is how I see myself now: a sword hand for the cause.

But unlike an exemplar of Kiln discipline, I must be my own general also. A lone ring. Along with three others.

Third: Honour the divines, your elders and the old ways. The dragon divines — if such forces truly exist, who am I to contradict their wills and whims? Mishra watch over us! However, I find it difficult to accept that such metaphysical beings would or could favour any particular form, dragonic or otherwise. The acolyte at the temple of Cruxis disputed this hypothesis, but clearly his spiritual imagination is fettered by the doctrine of his superiors. One day a new vision of the divines Borel is sensitive to heterodoxy. Perhaps I should discuss the theory with him. As to the elders, in all likelihood they have grown rich in knowledge, and they have proven themselves worthy by their works. For these reasons I bow before them. But as to their traditions, I do not see the value of antiquated mores in times such as ours. Verdigris may ennoble a monument, but who would ask for a corroded cuirass?

But the curse — am I truly bound by its mysterious portent of doom? I fear to learn the answer.

Fourth: Remember your duty. Agreed! My duty is this: to assist in drawing around this humble tract of coastal land a new line of demarcation. All who are willing to work for the common good are welcome within, all who seek to impose tyranny and pointless unjust hierarchies are to be driven out. Our realm shall parallel the Age of Splendour in prosperity and peace, and yet the citizens shall enjoy a degree of freedom without ancient precedent. This I swear on my word of in the name of Ashanti. For all my follies and shortcomings, I cannot see how I could possibly be on the wrong side on this point.

In the Age of War, the duty of every Kiln, and of every man and woman under their banner, was to defend Dusk Coast on its eastern ramparts. My own self-imposed commandment is hardly less weighty. On the contrary, have I not broken ranks for a higher calling?

Fifth and last: Remember the fallen. Oh, how I have brooded over them during these past days. And nights. You Kiln guard, who met your end by my sword, what was your name?

Heed me, Ashanti, I have committed a crime and the guilt torments me! But I cannot bring myself before your judgement until this work is done. I must keep my tunnels dark. My sole hope is that, by pursuing this cause to the end with all my energy, I may finally atone my transgression and have peace.

Vulkan, you were under this same yoke once. The passing away of young Duratha must have weighed heavily on you, I understand that now. And then you brought to your hearth a stray boy from some ravaged farmstead near Devil’s Needle, and you named him Dulkan. What was it in me that caught your sagacious eye? All those years you watched over me and crafted me into shape. Another treasure for the Covetous One, another living sacrifice — these were my thoughts when I learned the harsh truth, and so the bond between myself and the Kiln family was cut completely. No free soul should be made an unknowing stretched uopn a rack. If you claim you know my tunnels, Vulkan, you know they lead out, to daylight.

[An entire paragraph here is thickly crosshatched in ink. The text is illegible.]

I have disturbed the slumber of dust in curious rooms in this elf hall. What an eerie quiet. I feel as if I have trespassed outside of Time and its worldly rush.

Thuelach, white captain of the mountain watch, your words have echoed in my mind since I returned from the threshold of death in Assarna. I was but a lad when I last saw you, but the memory is pure and clear. “You have a place in the Hallowed Halls when your time comes,” Lord Uratha said to you in a low and solemn tone, one that I had not heard before. And this was your response: “A great gift, my lord, but I decline. My true home has always been in the mountains, on their snow-bright slopes, close to the sky. My request is that I may spend my last years there. When the infirmity of old age takes hold, I wish to be glaciated into the eastern face of Falconwail Peak, as is the custom of my bloodline. There I shall greet every sunrise until the world itself ends.” Never before or since have I witnessed such stoic acceptance of mortality. I was awed and horrified, and still am, to a degree. But I would wager that, with strength and vigour such as yours, you still live and have many more years left to roam your high domains.

I wonder how my own end will arrive, how my name Enough of somber thoughts!

Edessa, whatever comes, our paths are fated to join.

View
The Sands Are Running
8th Session

Festivities! The 20th of Sunburst was filled with joy and feasting, and the whole city of Arry got a piece. Wine flowed and everyone got a share, celebrating on the accomplishments of the Party.

Then came the speeches. After Alexha reminded that the populace would be in a debt of gratitude to the Party, thus laying groundwork to the eventual new nation, Borel capitalized on it immediately. He told of Khariss’ death and spoke of a new, dragon-free order. Thanks to his personal magnetism, Althea’s encouragement and the good feeling of the festivities, the message was well-received by the people. But not by Timothy, whose strong personality clashed with that of Borel’s. He was furious about the ramifications of this early reveal, which could lead to internal strife, splintering and Duskport blaming Arry for treason.

The next day, 21st of Sunburst, the Party met with Alexha, after discussing their options. The ruler of Arry and her aide warned them that message of their deeds was most likely already on its way towards the Marram, and suggested that they leave as soon as possible, still assuring that Arry would stand behind them when the time came.

Lady Drusia’s letter and Timothy’s poor view of the woman sowed seeds of doubt in the heart Dulkan, who started to question for whom the coup was orchestrated. In a moment of anxiety, he revealed the existence of the Kiln family curse to the Party as an explanation of why Lord Uratha Kiln had left. But since travelling to Kolmhaag would take too long, the Party had to find other options. They would still need to gather a show of force that would bring the Baron to the negotiating table.

The answer came to Althea. In the dungeons of the Sahuagin, Dulkan and Carric had contracted the rather nasty Scale Plague, which now manifested as lethargy, fatigue and aching. While Dulkan managed to fight it off, Carric was slowly slipping further away. Borel, along with Kerach, hunted down a herbalist to cure him. A herbalist who revealed himself to be a Druid. Seeing the antler-wearing sight brought memories to Althea; In the Emerald Forest, near her home in Melenne, lay a circle of Druids. This enigmatic group, happy to live in the woods, forgotten by the surrounding nations, commanded power over nature: A perfect ally for the oncoming march to Duskport.

So the Party decided to head towards Melenne, where the leaders of the coup would be gathering. For the next days they sailed peacefully, spending time among themselves, learning and teaching each other. And at the dusk of 24th of Sunburst they arrived to the elven-ruled city. Althea took them to the Nailo estate, a huge, if sparsely-populated, manor well off from the city limits. The Party greeted her family with a warm welcome and took in the sights. The next day Althea’s father promised to arrive, and they would take a stock at the situation…

View
Althaea's Journal VII
Session 7

Althaea’s journal entry for 18th of Sunburst continues

I felt I needed to reprimand Borel for his erratic behaviour. He was kneeling beside unconscious Dulkan as I approached him. With all severity and sternness in my voice and manor I told him what I thought of his behaviour; he had put us all in risk and now Dulkan had paid the prize. I had but just began reproaching him when I saw his eyes tearing up, and a single tear was running down his cheek. This immediately calmed my emotions and I felt sorry for him; he had grown very fond of Dulkan and was now equally worried for his safety as I was. I resigned my reproaches, and could only plead with him that he would consider his actions a bit more carefully the next time.

After my overwhelming fear for Dulkan’s safety had been assured needless, I could turn my attention to the men. All were in good health and high spirits; the spirits were only heightened by the return of those men who had pursued the fleeing Sahuagin. Only two men were injured, but luckily their injuries were not too severe which was a small wonder considering their fighting skills. I stabilized the two more seriously injured men and attended to some superficial cuts and bruises of the rest. I congratulated myself for preparing the men well for battle, as my spells, encouragement and leadership had saved the men from greater injury. I then made sure everyone had an opportunity to rest and that the beddings of the injured men were on higher grounds as the floor was ankle deep with water.

Then I turned my attention to Kerach. Carric and I were interested on the details of his capture and the information the Sahuagin attempted to gain from him. Kerach told us that he had been ambushed by some Harpies, and in escaping them he had fallen into a ravine. Severely injured after his fall, his affairs had taken a turn from bad to worse as he was then captured by the Sahuagin. The Sahuagin had questioned him relating with the strength of Arry’s naval defences, but courageously he had remained silent. Carric and I also asked what the reference to the Baron might mean, but Kerach could not provide us with more information.

As the night had fallen already some time ago, and everyone was tired from the fight and other excitement of the day, we then laid to a well-earned rest. We had to take our rest where we were as unconscious Dulkan and the two injured men were in no condition to be hauled up the well.

19th of Sunburst

Next morning Dulkan finally came to. I was heartbroken when I looked at his painful walking as he inspected the grounds, leaning on Borel. Was it only yesterday when I had seen him moving with such agile grace? Looking the way he moved and carried himself now was almost like looking at a stranger. I could bear it no longer: I had to do something to make him feel better, both physically and mentally. Once Dulkan had finished inspecting the location with the help of Borel I approached him and asked whether I could be of help. He accepted, lifted his shirt to allow me to inspect his wounds to perform my magic. By tapping into the music and harmony of nature, I concentrated the healing power of nature with my voice and guided it through my hands on his injured ribs, mending them so well as if there were never broken. Dulkan was visibly grateful for my aid, and I was only too happy to help.

Apparently this use of beautiful and natural magic for good – healing instead of destruction – had raised a question in Dulkan’s mind about magic, sorcery and wizardry. He was quite earnest as he asked Carric how the magic worked; he had a long standing distrust of mages and great magical powers. Carric answered to the best of his ability. As Carric’s answer was very academic, I wished to interpret his meaning to Dulkan: the power of magic is not good or bad, only the people wielding it are. Just like weapons are not dangerous or evil, but can do great harm in the wrong hands.

Then was the question: what next? Carric had expressed wishes to explore the travel chamber. We had only one day of rations left, so we could not take too long. However, while Dulkan was now fit enough to travel, but two of our men could not keep up with the rest, let alone be hoisted up the well. Thus we decided that Borel and Dulkan accompanied with the able bodied men should travel back to the little village we docked to fetch the ship and then us. There were still enough rations to make us do, even if we would need to wait longer than one day in case of some unexpected delay. Mindful that the telling the tale of our victorious adventure should take place as soon as possible, I took some time to teach Dulkan and the men the song I wrote of our quest. This is the song, called “The thirteen saviors of Arry”:

My good friends, do lend your ears:
in nightly breeze a voice comes singing
words of hope for all thus bringing
Hearken to dispel your fears

Know ye these companions four?
Althaea, bard, and Carric, mage
Dulkan, Borel great in rage
Brought by fate on Arry’s shore

Creatures of the sea, they learn’d,
scourged the folk who liv’d in fright.
Peace and calm the four upright
heroes yearn’d to see return’d

Humans eight, one dragonborn,
Arry seamen, fighters best
joined the party on their quest.
Swiftly they set sail in morn

Fables of the rocky isle,
Assarna, had these words to tell:
beneath the bluffs the creatures dwell
abyssal beings, villains vile

In Assarna more was told:
“Go back! unless ye know the ways
that shield against enchanting lays.
Harpies prey on rovers bold!”

Winged witches, fearsome fowl
little did concern the daring
thirteen who, their weapons baring,
dauntlessly went on the prowl

Mountains rose around their course
and in the wind a voice came vexing:
harpy’s lure of evil hexing.
They bent not for such a force

The hunt was raced up up a wall,
and perilous did seem the way.
At last the harpies came and they
met heroes standing proud and tall

Borel axe in hand then roared,
the air was fill’d with battle clamour.
Mightily swung Krüg his hammer
and off the coward creatures soared

Carric cast a potent spell,
and thunder clapped with lightning blast
upon a harpy flying past.
The she-fiend met her doom and fell

In their nesting place were still
two of that most wretched kin.
The chamber rang with fighting din
and harpy heads were cast downhill.

Lo! an ancient arcane stair
through the mass of mountain core
brought them long last down, before
a well into Sahuagin lair

Dulkan, leader, then did speak:
“’Tis the hour, worth or woe
shall be your lot. Ye men must show
who is strong and who is weak!”

“Lead us on! Pray, waste no breath”
said Arry men, so brave a host.
“The two we now desire most:
fame for us, to demons’ death!”

Battle raged in dark and deep
halls of ages past and where
steel met steel. That night in there
did Arry men much honour reap

Borel stepping forth thus cried:
“Piscine pest, I am unyielding!”
Brawny man, a great axe wielding,
multitude of foes defied

Through the melee Dulkan fought.
Nimble as a fox he paced
at their priestess deftly raced
and her heart his blade tip sought

“Water’s wench, thy days are done!”
Carric spoke and out he hurl’d
a storming sphere, his wrath unfurl’d.
Thus the battleground was won

Also praise Althaea, she
of crafty guiding, hands that heal
and songs that fill all hearts with zeal,
who help’d to win this victory

Dearest friends, now you have heard
of heroes thirteen and so learn’d
how glory at that time was earn’d,
immortal fame for those who dared

After the main party left Carric and I remained behind to explore the travel chamber. We had agreed that Krüg should remain with us as our protector as we might still come across some Sahuagin or Harpy, or some other danger might lay ahead of us. I made sure that the injured men as comfortable as possible, and then the three of us climbed up the well and returned to the travel chamber.

The book on astronomic observations Carric had found in the library proved useful. There seemed to be two constellations repeated in the book, and Carric made an educated guess that one of them might be the right combination to align the spheres. Constellation of the Unicorn seemed to be repeating a bit more often, so he chose that. Now all that was needed was the correct gem to activate the chamber. This is where I could be of help. I noticed that in the ledger cataloguing the precious items dedicated to Merexia good-quality amber came up more frequently than any other gem. Thus we decided that it might be worthwhile trying amber.

However, the problem was that neither Carric nor I possessed such a gem. I suggested that due to the preference – or even obsession – for amber demonstrated by the previous habitant of this complex, some amber could be found on the premises. As we were in an island where the culture had been developed on nautical associations, there was a good probability of finding amber, either occurring naturally or being transported there. Continuing to follow on this note, I also considered that the most likely place to find amber would be the rooms occupied in cult and worship. Even if amber was not used in the worship of Ochrana – although red hues in amber resemble the glow of fresh-drawn blood – some amber might be found near the altar for the Blood Mother, or decorating the statue of the deity. Carric conjured up light to help us search and we focused our search in the room where the statue of the Blood Mother once stood. Even though the floor was covered ankle deep with water, with the help of the light and the natural glow of amber I was finally able to find a piece, glowing ever so softly from a crack in the stone floor. Now we could test our theories.

Both exited beyond words, Carric arranged the spheres of the floor according to the alignment of the Unicorn. Then he placed the amber in the vessel, hands trembling with anticipation. As before, a flash – this time amber-coloured – went through the room, coupled with humming. I could almost hear the lock of the third door opening. It was a tumbler lock after all, and with correct combination of the spheres and the gem it now unlocked the door to a wizard’s treasure chamber. Now, with as much care as two academically exited scholars can muster in this situation, we reached for the door to open it. No danger lurked behind this door, but a considerable treasure. There were plenty of silver, copper and gold coins, but more exciting than this, Carric found three books: a magical recipe book, an almanac which was an ode to bosom, and a collection of poems on unicorns called “Radiance, grace”.

As Krüg was loading the loot away from the chamber, I noticed that one of the pouches emitted a magical glow. I had, according to my habits, performed ritual casting of Detect magic –spell just in case. The magic was clearly transmutation in origin. Alerted by this I cried out for Carric, and together we carefully took the pouch to inspect it. Our curiosity was too great not to take a further look. Inside the pouch we found a ring made of iron – an unusual but not uncommon material for such an object – with an inscription “Ranafi the All Father”. We were both puzzled as what that might mean. I was playing with this word in my mind, and a thought came to me that it might be derivative of Ochrana, further reinforced by the fact that Ochrana is a male deity.

Once this room was explored we went back to the underground dock to wait for our friends to pick us up. We did not need to wait long, as we had apparently spent quite a long time getting to know the secrets of the chamber. We were warmly greeted by our friends from the boat, and we boarded the ship without delay.

Once everyone had boarded and the loot was hauled to the ship, we embarked. The four of us retreated in the cabin to discuss what had transpired. Dulkan and Borel told us that they were given hero’s welcome at the village. I inquired how the song had been received and I was glad to hear it had been received well, and that the men performed it too, with the help of Dulkan.

We presented our findings from the wizard’s chamber to our friends, and I suggested that part of the loot should be given to the men. As they were sailors, after all, they had suffered loss of income during these five days our adventure had taken us as it was five days away they spent from work. I had decided the four of us should take a bit larger share, as we still needed to do some work for the united Dusk Coast, and also Krüg should be provided with somewhat larger share. Borel insisted that his share should be equal in amount as the rest of the men: apparently he considered himself one of the men, not one of the leaders. My opinion of him was greatly improved by this unexpected act of solidarity and selflessness.
As we came out to the deck I asked Dulkan and the men to encore their performance of the song they sang in the village. What a beautiful performance it was! My heart swelled with warm feelings of pride for the men, their bravery and dedication. After this performance we lined the men up and provided them with their shares of the loot. I gave them a little speech and expressed my gratitude also in words for each and every man. Teary-eyed and thankful, the men accepted the money and then spontaneously hailed us as the saviours of Arry. I addressed the men again, reminding them that they should take pride of themselves: they were the true saviours of Arry.

As we reached the port of Arry we were all remembered things that lay ahead. I could see distressing thoughts gathering in Dulkan’s mind as he was acutely aware of the severity of punishment for manslaughter. We all had a fear of the Baron: we had no way of knowing whether he had been alerted by the plans of the coup and our involvement in it, or whether he would still feel vindictive against the tributaries bringing the bad news. Kerach had observed us keenly and asked what the matter was. We told him the details of the current political situation, and he immediately appreciated the ramifications; Kerach was Alexha’s favourite spy for a reason. As we discussed on how to proceed, Kerach told us that whatever the situation at the harbour was, we could be sure that we were safe in Arry town hall with Alexha and Timothy. At this moment Borel and I shared a knowing glance and unanimity in thought: neither of us truly trusted Timothy.

We reached the harbour late in the evening, and as there was no suspicious looking activity, we dared to dock. The men left for their homes whereas we went directly to the town hall. Greeted there by Alexha and Timothy we gave them a short description of what had transpired. As we were thinking what to do next, Timothy presented us a letter that had arrived from Lady Ashinka a few days ago. In the letter Lady Ashinka told us that he had been negotiating with lords of the southern realm. Lord Erinak of Tallbridge was loyal to Baron Marram, but would join in the dragon-free, united Dusk Coast should Marram yield power. Lady Ashinka was now heading towards Winden to negotiate with Lady Tuire. My father had suggested that we should meet at our estate near Melenne, to regroup and consider our next move. We were also given authority to plan what the next move could be. Could we think of a way to make Marram yield, what kind of show of power could we present and were we comfortable for the strength of the ties made with the northern realm or would they need to be fortified. Securing Arry should be enough to secure the northern realms, so we should thus think of what the show of power or what other deterrent could we use to make the Baron yield from power. Furthermore, neither Lady Ashinka nor we had heard any word from the Kiln house; as Kolmhaag forms the eastern realms, we need to be sure that the Kiln family also supports the cause. United Dusk Coast cannot be achieved unless all parts of the realm are unanimous.

But, for this evening we were all too tired to do much more. We all just had a glass of wine and some refreshments. Alexha planned a feast for tomorrow to celebrate our victorious return. The night to come was time for well-earned rest, and any distressing thoughts for the future could wait until we had had some sleep and then a proper celebration of a job well done.
Althaea Nailo

View
A Victorious Return
7th Session

After defeating the Sahuagin and rescuing Kerach, Alexha’s favourite spy, the Party set camp, taking time for themselves and each other.

The next day, 19th of Sunburst, the Party split up, sending everyone well enough to travel, bar Althea, Krüg and Carric, to fetch the ship, while the mages would investigate the magical chamber. With the ledgers and time, the Sorcerer and the Bard managed to discover what the point of the room was… It was the Wizard’s treasure chamber! A huge pile of coins, a ring glowing magic, some books, one of which contained recipes for brewing magical potions. With the treasures secured, the party returned to Arry. As they rewarded their soldiers for their hard work, the cries of “Heroes of Arry” rang in the air.

Their return was welcomed warmly, and Alexha pledged loyalty for the Party’s cause. She was especially grateful for Kerach’s safe return, and decided to hold a feast the following day. Timothy relayed a letter that had arrived before the Party:

Greetings,

I hope your negotiations are proceeding well. To get the northern settlements to our side, we need Arry and Alexha’s support. You can promise her whatever she might need in the future, if the need arises. Within reason, of course. I trust your discretion.

I write this letter from Tallbridge, where I have negotiated with Lord Erinak. He feels that the binds of honor between House Erinak and Marram are too strong for him to openly oppose the Baron. But if we manage to get Baron Marram to submit, he has promised to join along. I would have hoped for a stronger commitment, but at least we know how deep his loyalties can go.

I will head to Winden come morning to convince Lady Tuire. After I am done, I will head towards Melenne, where Lord Nailo suggested we gather before heading to Duskport. I’m starting to be convinced that we need a proper show of force to bring to the gates of Duskport in order to get the Baron to listen. This will be problematic, as raising any militia will take too long for my tastes. We might need to… improvise. If you have any suggestions, I would be glad to hear them.

I have dispatched emissaries to Kolmhaag to negotiate with the Kilns, but I haven’t heard from them yet.

Zariss’ blessings,

Lady Ashinka Drusia

This message in hand, the Party would need to decide upon their next move. Would they trust that only their presence and the written declarations from the coast’s nobility would be enough? Would they seek a “show of force” for Lady Drusia, either conventional or unorthodox?

But this was a decision that could wait. For the 20th of Sunburst, two tendays after they began their journey, they were the guests of honor at a huge feast. This day they took for themselves, making merry, recuperating, studying and reflecting. The future could wait. But not forever.

View
Althaea's Journal VI
Session 6

Althaea’s journal entry for 18th of Sunburst continues

When the worried Dulkan re-entered the travel chamber, we came to know that the same time had passed inside and outside of the chamber, although our physical presence might have been someplace else. Carric attempted again to move the spheres of the floor – after some protest from Dulkan. Now, for some reason, the spheres would move. Perhaps the room had been out of use for so long that it needed to warm up. As they now moved, a discussion ensued of what alignment the spheres should take relative to the three doors and the vessel holding the power-generating gem. The doors and the vessel formed four ends of a cross while the middle sphere – around which the rest orbited – was at the centre of the imaginary cross. Carric noted that while the central sphere could represent the sun and the second sphere could represent our planet orbiting the sun, the third sphere could not represent our planet’s moon as the orbit was not correct; also what would be representative of our second moon. Therefore we had no knowledge what the third movable sphere could represent.

As Dulkan had some knowledge on dwarven craftsmanship, he suggested that we should attempt sliding the spheres along their tracks to see if we would feel a clicking or some disturbance in the sliding of the sphere. We did not: apparently this was not a tumbler –type lock.

We re-aligned the spheres, and again Carric placed a piece of tourmaline in the vessel. As before, there was a flash of light going through the room, and a distinct humming. After this powering, or activating, of the chamber we decided to inspect the doors. Carric chose to open the door which had held the spear trap the previous time we had activated the chamber. Mindful of possible danger, we all stepped aside as not to directly face the opened doorway– should something be hurled in none of us would be in harm’s way. The moment Carric opened the door, there was a sudden feeling of shift, and we all lost our balance, slid and fell against the wall where the opened door was. Gravity had changed in opening the door, and the doorway now led to a deep, dark pit. Unfortunately, as the door swung open outwards and not inwards, we could not just pull to close it. While I was still thinking what could be done with the door, could we perhaps lower someone down with a rope to pull it shut, Borel acted. He made a valiant effort to try and reach for the gem to deactivate the room to return gravity to normal. But his leap was unsuccessful and alas, he failed and fell out of the doorway. Luckily he had been caught by his belt buckle on the hinges of the door. He was now fighting for his life, trying to hold on. We threw some rope down, and this was the opportunity to try to close the door altogether. Borel thus tied the rope to the handle of the door and with an extraordinary effort Dulkan, Carric and I were able to provide enough muscle power to pull both the door and Borel back up and shut the door. As soon as the door was shut, gravity was returned to normal. Carric then lifted the gem away, deactivating the travel chamber and the magic of the room dissipated.

The third door that had been sealed when we first came to the chamber and when we first attempted to activate the room, was now open. This doorway led to a room, apparently formerly occupied by a wizard. All furniture had been broken and their remnants were scattered across the room. In the wall opposite the door was a small niche, containing magic scrolls. Scrolls immediately attracted Carric’s attention. As Carric and Dulkan advanced towards the niche, a trap in front it was triggered. Part of the stone floor slid from its place and flipped, sending Dulkan trapped beneath the stone slab. I could see a glimpse of the tragic that was inside; the floor was littered with the bones of those unfortunate souls who had previously sprung the trap. We could hear Dulkan’s voice underneath the stone slab, telling us he was all right apart from hurting his posterior on the fall.

We now considered how we might save Dulkan. Carric suggested we should spring the trap and jam the stone slab to prevent it from closing. As the room had broken furniture, I suggested we might use some of that debris to jam the trapdoor. Surely enough there was remnants of a sturdy table that could possibly do the trick. Carric then went ahead and sprung the trap. I had but just exclaimed that should he tie a rope around his waist for security, but I was too late. Fortunately enough, no such measures were necessary, as we were able to jam the door and Carric was agile enough to jump away from danger, being now aware of the danger. So, we fished Dulkan out, no worse for wear.

Carric and I then inspected the niche. There were three scrolls: two were written in a language neither Carric nor I could read. One scroll was legible to me and it was “Feign death” spell, to be used only once. I carefully placed the scrolls to my case, as there could be later use for them. After removing the scrolls, Carric noted that there were magical words inscribed in the wall behind, roughly translating into something like “curiosity killed the cat”. Very nearly indeed.

We then continued exploring this structure inside the Spire. We found a room that had apparently functioned as a gallery showcasing statues and other works of art judging from empty pedestals and showcases in the room, but there was not much else there. The objects and artefacts likely furnishing and decorating the room had now been burned – deliberately, as the ash was in piles in centre of the room. Furthermore, someone had been camping there, not just burning the stuff, as there was indication that a campfire had been kept in the room.

After completing the inspection of the gallery we found a staircase. As we descended down the stairs I could feel a sense of magical transport, and as I had ritual casted “Detect magic” spell I could tell that indeed there was a magical passage in the staircase. The others felt it too, but we still continued.

In the bottom of the stairs we found a door leading to a room that had apparently functioned as a library, as there was a book case with books and parchments in the shelves. I also detected magical glow in two of the rugs and two hanging armours in the room. I was reminded by my blunder with the tapestry and of Dulkan’s sufferings with the other trap; I remained carefully near the door of the room. As I informed the others of my observations, to caution them to take care when handling those artefacts, Borel’s following actions were inconceivable, placing us all in jeopardy. He wished to agitate the magic in the objects and decided – I cannot believe I am writing this – to take a piss on one of the rugs! Had he not learned to at least to be careful in dealings with magic, if not respecting it?

The objects promptly animated and attacked. Unfortunately I had positioned myself close to one of the armours that I had to quickly “Blade ward” myself; this choice proved most useful in the following combat. I had my hands full trying to combat the armour with “Acid splash” so I had little time to pay much attention how the fight was going for my comrades. I was taken off guard to this battle, stunned by Borel’s behavior and I was still a bit perturbed by my previous encounter with the magical trap that my acid splashes did little damage. From what I could observe, Carric’s magic was also a bit awry today, and he did almost as much damage to the surrounding structures as he did against the rug attacking him. The book case was unfortunately too close by, and many of the parchments were ruined in the collateral damage. The rug Borel had pissed on was now attacking him, trying to smother him. Dulkan leapt to his assistance, and was able to help him before the other armour attacked him. Dulkan then decided utilize higher ground as he jumped on a table, and with precision strikes of his rapier he dismantled the armour by cutting leather straps holding it together. The others defeated their adversaries much sooner than I, so they could come to my assistance. I was indeed in need of assistance as the acid I was able to conjure did little to slow the armour down.

As the fight quieted, I found myself in a really poor shape. For the first time, I had to perform “Cure wounds” on myself. We all needed a short rest. During our rest we had ample time to inspect the book case with Carric. He found a book that could be useful when attempting to use the travel chamber, although its cover and bindings had been dissolved by collateral damage from his acid spell. I found a series of ledgers, where the most recent one was from 73rd year of the reign of Merexia. When consulting historians, this could be used as an indicator on how long ago the structure had been in use. The ledger held little other interest at the moment, as it was not much more than a catalogue of the tributes given to Merexia. Another parchment I found dealt with the worship of Quirion.

Carric, on the other hand, found a book describing the worship of Ochrana. Borel showed quite keen interest in the book and asked Carric whether he could have it. Surely enough Carric agreed, and immediately Borel took a moment to read. He then asked Dulkan for his dagger; took it, and went away. Coming back he had a fresh injury on his hand: as my mother had educated me well, I knew that the worship of Ochrana can involve blood sacrifice, and the most valuable blood one can sacrifice is their own. However, Borel chose to be secretive about it, and I saw no reason to confront him on his choice of worship. But what I did consider confronting him for was his reckless behaviour with the magical items, which had placed all of us in perhaps unnecessary jeopardy.

After this hour of rest, we continued. We passed a very ornate hallway, which had apparently been decorated with some works of art, but none prevailed. Common all the rooms we investigated were traces of fire, with furniture of the room piled, and burned. Then we came to a great hall, which was a lounge area of sort. The floor was at a higher terrace along the walls and at a lower level in the middle of the room. But the most dominant feature of this room was an impressive oak tree growing in a big pot in the middle of the room, although no light was coming from anywhere. It was not lush but not scrubby either. It apparently grew thanks to some magic. After the short rest I had to recast my ritual “Detect magic” spell. As it took effect I was alarmed to find that the type of magic the tree was gently glowing was the same magic that had taken a palm’s width out of my height! I was alarmed and in a hurry now to warn my friends; Carric is always interested in things – magical or natural in nature – and Borel expresses a very childlike enthusiasm with little regard of repercussion or personal safety. I cried out a warning, just in time as Borel was apparently preparing to climb on the tree. After the shock had worn off, I suddenly realized that my clothes fit me better again. Dulkan noticed this and came to me to confirm of my feeling to be true. He attempted to lighten the mood by telling some clumsy but endearing joke about me not having to shorten my name again to fit my shortened height. Dear brother, what a nice gesture!

Onwards again we went, passing through a dining room. As we entered a room that had apparently functioned as kitchen, I immediately smelled the ocean and, when listening carefully, could hear muffled voices carrying from a distance. I saw that there was a crack in the floor at the corner of the room, and instantly realized that the smell of ocean and the voices were coming from there. Carric identified that as oceanic and luckily he could understand it. Apparently a Sahuagin Priestess was speaking; rather chanting to agitate bloodlust amongst the Sahuagin. This was a mass of some sort, for the worship of a deity called the Bloodmother, likely a Sahuagin name for Ochrana.

We understood that no time could be lost as they were preparing for a major manoeuvre; having captured an important landwalker, as they expressed it, for interrogation and the arrival of someone called the Baron.This meant that we were close to Sahuagin activity. Apparently the staircase had magically transported us closer to the sea than we actually were supposed to be. The crack was too narrow to lower anyone down for inspection, so we pressed forwards, but carefully as voices carry both ways. I also detected magic again. Thanks to my mother’s secret study, I was able to identify the magic in question: it was an arcane door with an arcane lock. We took a brief moment trying to open the door, but as there was little to go on how the door might be opened, and as we were pressed for time (rations grew fewer with each day passing), we continued forwards.

We passed barracks and reached an armoury with weapons and protective gear; Borel was interested in what it had to offer. I voiced the idea that we could perhaps upgrade the men’s armour and weapon. In this room there was a well, which could be our means to get to the lower level where the Sahuagin were. We decided that Dulkan should fetch the men without delay. Dulkan shot of with speedy, light-footed run. We decided to utilize Carric’s spell of invisibility to gain intelligence of what lay ahead. We came to the conclusion that we should send Borel down as he had the best fighting ability and, by the stealth of his invisibility, he could swiftly capture the Priestess for questioning, or kill her if capture was not an option.
As soon as Borel reached bottom of the well we realized we had made some miscalculations. First of all, Borel could not see in the dark and had to light a torch, which was a serious handicap against the invisibility. Second, Borel is hot-headed, and could ruin our changes for surprise attack by impulsiveness. We definitely needed the element of surprise as we had no way of knowing if we were to be outnumbered, even when fortified with our nine brave men.

But, we had no other option but to wait for Borel and Dulkan to come back, as we could not very well shout at him that we had changed our mind and needed another reconnaissance man. I think I had never heard so much splashing, shuffling of clothes and clinking of armour when Carric and I were listening intently on Borel’s procession. Luckily the chanting continued uninterrupted, indicating that the noises coming from Borel’s movement did not carry but were only seemingly amplified in our ears.

But, alas, it seemed that I had been premature in my relief; there was a discord in the chanting, and then sounds of quick-paced movement and scuffling were carried up the well. Luckily Dulkan and the men arrived at the same moment, and without delay Dulkan jumped down the well, eager to get to Borel’s aid. Carric went down next.

It was up to me now to give a motivational speech for the men and encourage them for the coming battle. This is what we came in for, this is what you were destined for, and now the fight is on. I poured a sense of pride and belief in ability in them in form of bardic inspiration. I bound my spell in encouraging lyrics of my song, and my notes followed the men down the well. I wished to aid their belief in their ability, and so I cast a curse of “Bane” against the enemy. This allowed greater injury by the men’s blades on the Sahuagin. I hoped this motivational speech and my abilities as a bard would help the men follow my orders in the battle.

I was the last to go down, and I could hear the sounds of the battle, making me anxious to participate in the fight as well. Once I was finally down I could see that the well opened into two passages, and that a fight was going on at both passages. The corridors were very narrow; only two men had room to stand side by side. To the left were Borel and Dulkan, fighting against five Sahuagin. Towards south, so in front of me was a hoard of Sahuagin attempting to corner us. The men, encouraged by my words and spells, were holding their ground steadfast. To my right was a sturdy wooden door, which Dulkan jammed using his halberd. It was in the nick of time, as the door soon began to tremor from the blows when yet another group of Sahuagin attempted to open it. Had they succeeded, they would have completely surrounded us.

Borel and Dulkan came victorious from the fight on the left corridor; they had slain the last Sahuagin. Borel and Dulkan then joined the men fighting in the passage leading south. I could see the Sahuagin Priestess in the southern corridor, aggravating the Sahuagin to attack us. There would have been no need for that: each time the Sahuagin drew blood from us, the smell of it made them frenzied. The Priestess summoned a magical trident, and it made a massive hit on Dulkan. I was concerned as I could see that Dulkan was in very poor shape, but I could not help him by curing his wounds as I was too far and I needed to assist the men. I felt torn, but I knew that Dulkan, even in his injured state was a trained fighter whereas the men needed encouragement and supervision: they were now on my responsibility.

Borel and Carric were in close combat with the Priestess, and soon they managed to overpower her. We by no means had upper hand of the fight and therefore we had to forego the idea of capturing and interrogating the Priestess. When the echoes of Carric’s words for the spell of “Chromatic orb” ceased and the Priestess was dead the Sahuagin suddenly lost all courage and cohesion, and they scurried away. Emboldened by this triumph the men began pursuing those Sahuagin who fled. I commanded them to come back, as there was still a group of Sahuagin behind the wooden door, attempting to break in. The first wave of men had been too enthusiastic and could no longer hear me, although I had made sure before going in the battle that they were accustomed to hearing my voice and obeying my commands. The second wave of men did hear me and I could lead them to flank the Sahuagin that were left. It was no feat to conquer the remaining Sahuagin. Carric had come with me, but Borel needed to stay with Dulkan as he attempted to stabilize his condition.

After the fights had quieted, and the men who went pursuing the fleeing Sahuagin came back, it was time to address the men and praise them of their bravery. As Dulkan was not able, I did this task – and quite happily, I might add since I had been the one actually leading them in the battle they had joined our quest for.

We had now ample time and opportunity to inspect the structure further. It had apparently been some sort of temple for Ochrana. There was an indoor harbour, allowing access from the sea. Finally, in a raft in the middle of a shark tank we found poor Kerach, who was the captured landwalker, as we all had suspected when we heard Carric’s translation from the Priestess’s words.

Now that things had settled down, I got anxious of Dulkan’s wellbeing. I remembered that his injured condition was facilitated by Borel’s inconceivable behaviour with the magical rug. It had been quite an unnecessary fight with little to gain from it; but when considering that our aim agenda was to fight the Sahuagin, agitating the magic rug had been selfish and reckless.
Althaea Nailo

View
The Bloodmother's Disciples
6th Session

Now again reunited, the Party, led by Carric’s curiosity, again tested out the Spire’s teleportation chamber. And again the chamber sent them into danger; Beyond the mystery door was a deep tunnel… one which turned the gravity around, forming a deep pit. With ingenuity and strong muscle the Party managed to rescue themselves from the pit trap and get back to the Wizard’s lair.

Postponing the research into the chamber, the Party found a few of the wizard’s scrolls, also behind a magical pit trap. After disabling the trap and saving Dulkan in the process, the party investigated the rest of the upper floor and descended downwards through a magical staircase they found.

At the bottom they found a library full of moldy tomes on a few different subjects of varying mundanity… and several objects that shimmered magic. Borel, suspicious of the rugs and armour, decided to provoke them into betraying their aggressive nature. And they did. A pitched battle against the ancient, animated guardians of the library followed, a battle that the party won. Despite the massive collateral damage Carric’s spells caused, he and Althea managed to save two more tomes, one of which held interesting observations into stellar phenomenon. Now the party had a clue with which to crack open the mystery of the teleportation chamber.

Another room finally allowed the Party to continue on their actual mission: A crack through which they could hear the Sahuagin. Somewhere on the lower level, a Priestess of the Sahuagin gave an explanation to the Sahuagin activity: A cult, worshiping what they called the Bloodmother. The Priestess gloated over their discovery of an “important landwalker”, and the imminent arrival of “The Baron.”

The Party, alarmed by this Sahuagin, sent Borel, made invisible by the sorcerous powers of Carric, to find more in the lower level. He rappelled down by the only known entrance: A well. In the dark, damp bottom floor he sneaked to the big audience chamber… and blundered to an entire company of Sahuagin warriors and their Priestess! Still, being invisible, he managed to lure the sea devils to the Well, where the party descended to face them.

What a battle it was! Sea devils pouring in from all directions, the Party and their band of sailors held their ground. It would be only a moment when they would be completely surrounded, as only a wooden door and a propped halberd stood in the way of a group of Sahuagin. The Sahuagin Priestess joined the fray too, a summoned trident striking at the party and their mass of soldiers.

But as defeat crept nearer, it seemed that Zariss intervened. Emboldened by Althea’s inspiring words, and the curses she threw at the enemy, the sailors managed to gain the upper hand and started to push the Sahuagin back. Dulkan, Carric and Borel took the fight directly to the Priestess. Dulkan ducked and weaved his way to lunging distance and Carric and Borel hurled magic and javelins. Despite Dulkan being struck down by terrible blow from a magical trident, they managed to fell the cultist leader.

This show of force was too much and the Sahuagin routed. A handful managed to escape to the sea and the reinforcements waiting behind the door were flanked and crushed. A victory that Althea immediately praised by song and speech.

As they took stock and saved their fallen comrade from Sithrak’s grasp, the Party found Kerach in a dungeon, surrounded by sharks and barely holding to life. With their spiritual leader dead, hopefully the Sahuagin would cease their raids. This thought, along with the thrill of victory, was the light that saw them to rest in the Party’s camp.

View
Sword and sorcery, lessons in

The four of them were gathered in the nest of the slain harpies, a chamber of too sophisticated construction to be the make of any half-intelligent thing of the wild. A long forgotten place left behind by an ancient civilization, evidently. Beneath the litter on the floor they had discovered designs of astronomical nature.

“An astrolabe!” Carric exclaimed, and his curiosity for the thing was lit instantly. The others helped in cleaning the grime of untold years from its intricate grooves while the sorcerer’s hands were busy in taking notes.

As Dulkan ploughed along a planetary orbit with an arrow point, he cast an inquisitive glance at Carric. The sorcerer was already lost in contemplation. Though those eyes were transfixed upon the astrolabe, something else entirely appeared to be moving in his mind. Was the majestic play of the heavenly bodies inscribed into the floor somehow too mundane and limited for him, merely a hint of some deeper truth? Dulkan tried to decipher the meaning of that intense yet absent gaze. Then, with the suddenness of a flash of lighting, he remembered seeing those very same eyes on another face years ago…


The day had been long anticipated, the day of meeting Sir Gorholt of House Kuon, the famed swordsman and cousin of Sir Morgath. It was all part of a greater gathering of Duskport nobles at the Marram palace, but the only thing in young Dulkan’s mind was the bronze dragonborn knight. Moreover, there was to be a private lesson in the art of the rapier, a weapon with which Dulkan had quickly developed a personal bond since he had begun practicing it for less than a year before.

To Dulkan’s pleasant surprise, Sir Gorholt had turned out to be a very different character from what he had expected. He was nothing like his imposing no-nonsense cousin Sir Morgath, but instead a very amiable and charismatic fellow who didn’t care about decorum. All of Dulkan’s apprehensions melted away.

Vulkan was there too, smoking a pipe and watching from the shades as the rapier lesson began on the courtyard.

“I prefer to use sharp blades in practice,” Sir Gorholt told Dulkan. “It teaches one to respect the blade. Fighting is a matter of life and death.”

Dulkan saw the dwarf give a nod of approval.

“Don’t worry, we shall start at a slow pace,” the knight said. “Now, show me some attacks.” They began their sparring. The apprentice tested the master’s defences with some basic strikes, which were easily parried. Then the roles were switched. “You seem to have a grasp of the fundamentals. Let’s try it a bit faster.”

Thus they continued, until the fighting turned into a blistering fury of thrusts, cuts and counter attacks unlike anything Dulkan had experienced before. Still the master was in total control, and there was no chance of accidental injury. Dulkan decided to add a feint into the whirlpool of exchanges.

“Nice try!” laughed Sir Gorholt, who avoided the trap. Amid the sparring he began lecturing. “Guile is a necessary aspect of a mature repertoire. But you should concentrate on the basics: footwork, positioning, clean execution, awareness of the points of the blades.”

“Great peaks stand on wide foothills,” Vulkan shouted from his bench.

“Exactly,” said Sir Gorholt. “Now let me show you something.” He launched an offensive that forced Dulkan into an uncomfortable stance. The sudent found his blade entangled with his teacher’s and then twisted out of his grasp. The sword clanked on the flagstones at the master’s feet. Both laughed. “You will learn clever tricks such as this in time. But first you must put your efforts into cultivating the fighting instinct. Conscious thought moves too slowly, so clear your mind of calculations. What a true fighter must do is to create and exploit opportunities, and that requires instinct. When two men cross swords, the victor is he who has done his thinking in advance and whose hand doesn’t wait for orders. There is something liberating about it, don’t you agree?”

“So don’t think, just act?” suggested Dulkan, still trying to catch his breath. Perhaps Sir Gorholt offered something more nuanced in response, but his own simple maxim was the lesson Dulkan took to heart that day.


In the evening, after a stately banquet, Dulkan was resting on a divan, staring at the ceiling, his mind mostly absorbed in the precious memories of Sir Gorholt’s tutoring. Still feeling a bit peckish, he decided to pay a visit to the kitchen and see if there was any of that pheasant left.

He met two chambermaids engaged in a heated conversation near the dining hall. The dwarf he recognized as belonging to the Kiln household, whereas the human wore the livery of the palace.

“Lady Yagasha’s strictest orders!” said the human woman in a piercing tone. “They are not to be disturbed.”

“But she hasn’t had a morsel since breakfast,” the dwarf argued.

“I don’t care. The order stands. Take it back,” demanded the palace servant, her hands waving away at the platter of food and drink carried by her colleague. With great reluctance the dwarf finally went her way towards the kitchen.

“What’s this?” asked Dulkan from the imperious maid, who seemed somewhat pestered at having to explain herself again.

“Lady Yagasha and young Lady Edessa, they are not to be disturbed.”

“Edessa? So she is here as well. Where?”

“In the library. But you are not allowed to go there, young master.”

“No, of course not,” said Dulkan and the two departed. But, of course, that’s where Dulkan now headed. Not through the main door, but instead towards the vacant hall directly above, and then through a window, climbing down the rusticated masonry, dropping on the balcony just outside the forbidden room. The dark curtains were drawn, but a faint strip of light between them indicated that someone was indeed there.

Lady Yagasha. He had heard the name before, but only in passing and only in the most distinguished circumstances. She was somehow involved in affairs of governance — a diplomat or a counsellor perhaps — and she had intimate connections to the Marram family. Apparently she was also a potent sorceress.

Ah, that was it. She must have been hired to teach Edessa. Dulkan’s heart raced as he approached the windows of the library. How many weeks had it been since he had last seen her? Too long, he thought.

Dulkan peered through the slit between the curtains. There she was, standing near a table. Her back was towards the window, but the long, wild, black tresses were unmistakable.

She seemed to be doing something with her hands. There was a momentary iridescent shimmer emanating from an object in front of her. Then she turned to her right, and Dulkan could not suppress a gasp of shock and dismay as he saw her silhouette: a bloodshot eye, a track of dried tears running down her pale cheek, her lips quivering.

Dulkan could barely make out Edessa’s words: “I just cannot control it.”

“We try again,” a deep, feminine dragonborn voice responded from out of Dulkan’s view. “This time with the white one.”

Without any signs of protest the young sorceress made her way to the other side of the table. Dulkan noticed several curious crystalline orbs of various colours sitting there on silver tripods: red, blue, green, black, white and many of different metallic hues. Was it just a trick of light or did Dulkan see something move languidly inside some of them? He could not understand the purpose of the things, but evidently they were magical devices of some sort, and certainly ominous.

Edessa rubbed her weary eyes and set her fingertips on the surface of a milky white orb. Something indeed moved in its centre, as if translucent layers of nacre were coiling and twisting in there.

Those eyes again. Edessa concentrated on the movements inside the crystal shell. The gaze struggled to focus not on the material object itself but on some hidden phenomenon beyond Dulkan’s senses. He too was spellbound by the mystery of the event. The flowing and whirling currents under Edessa’s fingers grew erratic and acquired a flame-like aspect. Her gaze kept searching.

“Concentrate,” adviced the deep voice. “Maintain your calm and keep the motion slow.” Then, after a pause: “I shall return shortly.”

Dulkan pressed his nose against the glass. He noticed a shadow disappear from the room. Now was the moment to save Edessa from what appeared to Dulkan a pointless exercise in cruelty. He was about to tap on the window when something suddenly appeared by his side. A scaly hand gripped him firmly by his neck and pulled him backwards. He found himself flying through the air, carried by the hand and by some irresistible force. He screamed, struggled and flailed his limbs uselessly, but soon he was dropped down, and he landed on his knees on the grass of the garden below the balcony.

“Nosy brat!” he heard the same voice speak behind him. “Your presence is not required here, young master Dulkan.”

Turning, he saw the purple-robed figure of Lady Yagasha descend on the lawn, floating softly like a feather. He was still trying to comprehend what had just taken place, as his anger and awe left little room for clarity in his head.

“Do you have anything to say for yourself?” asked the Lady.

Dulkan stood up. His voice wavered as he spoke. “Why are you torturing her like that?”

“Such insolence, such ignorance. It is unbecoming for a Kiln,” she said and stepped towards him. “I could show you what torture really means. I could do it right now, with the snap of my fingers. But no. You should instead be chastised by the elders of your own people. Go at once and confess this escapade of yours to Lord Uratha.”

There was little else Dulkan could do but to acquiesce and head towards the garden gate. The humiliation! And to end such a great day on such a sour note. He was not going to let some trickster order him around. He had no intent of speaking a single word to his Lordship or to anyone else for that matter. And why should he? What authority could be founded on reading some dusty old tomes and playing with fancy faerylights?

“Halt!” There was a strange commanding tone in Lady Yagasha’s voice. Dulkan found his body freeze in place. He could not tell if this was another spell or a subconscious fear of the Lady taking hold of him. “Turn around. Come here.”

His body obeyed again.

“So, you do not respect me,” she continued. “Nor do you respect the arcane arts. This must be corrected without delay.” She wrapped her hands around the boy’s face. “You shall learn your place, human. Behold the true nature of reality unveiled!”

Of what followed Dulkan could never form a clear picture as he tried to reimagine it, not even when he regained consciousness in his guest room the morning after. First there was a sensation of passing through a membrane of icy water. On the other side, the world was a luminous ocean where every speck of dust held within it a galaxy of stars. He remembered discerning a shape like the face of the sorceress, but it was a vast nebula on the far side of an infinite gulf of space. She spoke to him, her voice a choir of millions, and he felt his own material form disintegrate into a hive of vibrating particles. Then a scream of terror. Nothing more could he remember.


“Are you alright?” Borel’s hand on Dulkan’s shoulder gave him a start.

“Oh, I was just thinking… But why bother. We have Carric here for that.”

View
Althaea's Journal V
Session 5

Althaea’s journal entry for 18th of Sunburst continues

After Dulkan’s stern talking-to, Borel looked a bit queer. The reason soon became evident as he quickly retreated behind some bushes where he vomited violently. Apparently during the night more than just passing of knowledge had taken place. As he seemed to be well after this purging, we began our march towards the Spires. I was relieved to notice that after having spoken his mind, Dulkan as well as Borel seemed to be fine and our party was once again united.

By high-noon we reached the immediate area north of the Spires, which was barren area littered with large boulders and streaked with ravines. Wind howled in our ears – at least for those of us that could hear it – as the forested area had given way for the barren, jagged rock area where the wind could blow with all its might unhindered. The men seemed exasperated for wearing the earplugs, as understandably artificial deafness was not the best of state for keeping good spirits. Ironically, the earplugs also prevented any encouraging speeches or marching songs to lift the spirits. Dulkan suggested that I would remove the earplugs from the men. However, this was not as easy a feat as I had imagined, especially with the circumstances: the wind howling and no shelter to use a lit candle to warm up the wax. So, after some futile attempts, I resigned. Also, we had not yet reached the Spires and there was a point in using the earplugs, anyway.

Almost as soon as I had made the decision to let the earplugs be (of course, after consulting with Dulkan to maintain the chain of command for the men), the decision proved correct. We had continued approaching the Spires and had divided our party in four groups to cover more grounds. I wanted to keep an eye for any disturbances in the nature as a sign of Sahuagin or Harpy activity. Carric and two of the men formed the far left group; next to Carric was Dulkan accompanied with two of the men. I was on right side of Dulkan with two of our men, and Borel was on the far-right with Krüg and the rest of the men. Suddenly a song was carried in the wind, seemingly coming from right of Borel’s position. It was very compelling and alluring song, but thanks to vigorous training of my mind against being charmed I was able to understand that this was now the Harpy attempting to mess with my mind. We had agreed in signalling with lit torches, and as I turned to give Dulkan a yell to warn him, I saw his lit his torch as he was leading his men towards left and Carric’s position. Apparently there was something amiss on that side as well. Quickly weighing the pros and cons I considered it was important to keep pursuing Harpy we had set our sights on. Thankfully Borel had agreed wearing the earplugs so he was alright, not affected by the Harpy’s song. However, poor Krüg had not wanted to wear the earplugs and was now under the influence of the Harpy. The men had apparent difficulties in constraining Krüg, who was squirming in their grip. Borel was on top of the situation and took Krüg’s head between his hands and grounded Krüg back to reality by looking into his eyes. I then persuaded Krüg to wear the earplugs, and apparently startled from this experience he grudgingly accepted wearing them.

Although annoyed that the song had had no apparent affect, the Harpy was now taunting us as we begun pursuing it. The Harpy could take great leaps from rock to rock aided by its wings whereas we had to circumvent larger boulders, which made it difficult to follow the Harpy’s pace. I could see that the Harpy was heading towards the westernmost Spire, whereas we had a joint intention to head towards the wider passage between the easternmost and middle Spire, though we had not stated this aloud. I had to make a quick judgement call again, and decided that as we had no idea where Dulkan and Carric had gone to, it would be the most sensible decision to keep following the Harpy as we had already committed to it. Perhaps it would lead us to its nest. That would increase our possibilities of killing it.

We followed the Harpy to the foot of the westernmost Spire and saw it climbing up the Spire. Luckily we had prepared well for our quest, as we had equipped ourselves with metal spikes and rope. We had originally considered that this gear would be needed for descending down the cliff face towards the sea, but the climbing gear is as suitable for ascending as it is for descend. Climbing up took some time, of course, but the Harpy was in no hurry; apparently it was just toying with us. A bit vexed that its singing had not disturb us but smug enough to consider we would not pose a threat. Then it circled around the Spire and we could see it no longer. Regardless, we continued our ascent.

After some climbing we saw a ledge of a sort, just few meters away. From this height I could see Dulkan and Carric, and decided that we should light a torch so they could see where we had gone. Then we saw the Harpy again; this time with a clear intent to attack us. Alarmed by this we hastened our climb. We were all tethered for safety in case someone was to lose their footing. Borel was in the lead followed by me, then our four men, with Krüg holding the rear. Then, a double attack! One Harpy attacked Borel and another Krüg, so both ends of the line were under attack. Luckily we had a level ground under our feet, and with a few swift blows from the axe of Krüg and the sword of Borel, the cowardly Harpies sent of flying, badly injured.

We continued inching our way forward on the ledge, and finally we came to find some stone-cut stairs leading up. We decided to wait for Carric and Dulkan here, which would also give the men a short rest from the climb and from the fight. The other Harpy had managed to wound Borel with its claws so I cured his wounds with my spell.

Soon Carric and Dulkan reached us as the lit torch had grasped their attention. We came to know that Carric had surely but killed one of the Harpies with a mighty spell of the “Chromatic orb”. As the other Harpy was badly injured, I considered that the threat posed by the Harpies might be over.

Dulkan and Borel decided to climb up the stairs to get a better view of the surroundings and to see what was at the end of the stairs. Carric and I were catching our breaths and keeping the men in good spirits. We saw Dulkan and Borel ascending, and then finding some sort of stone-cut room at the end of the stairs as we heard them exchange a few words.

After a while, as sound of conversation between Dulkan and Borel had ceased, I sensed there might be something wrong. So, leaving the men to rest Carric and I climbed up to see if there was something wrong; and surely they were. Atop the stairs was indeed a room carved in the rock, which now apparently held the nest of the Harpies. Having let our guards down too fast, there were yet two more Harpies in the area; an older one and a younger one, both now attacking Borel and Dulkan. Quickly judging which of my spells would be the most useful in this instance, I used my “Acid splash” spell to attack both of the Harpies. The splash missed the older one but squarely hit the younger one. This was aiding Borel’s sword and Dulkan’s rapier, which were swifter than the wings and claws of those of the Harpies’ and we were victorious yet again; Borel and Dulkan had not suffered a scratch.

In a moment of blood thirsty triumph Borel hacked off the head of the younger Harpy. This made me think that it would be very uplifting and encouraging for the men to see that they had been a part of a feat where a Harpy had been slain. I attempted to persuade Borel to lend the head to Dulkan so he could give a motivational speech (of sort, as they were still wearing the earplugs) to the men. Borel acted as a selfish child and refused. Dulkan was amicable and yielded; he hacked of the head of the older Harpy to show to the men. So, Dulkan gave his “speech”, then revealing the head of the Harpy from behind his back for victorious glory. Then Borel followed performing the same thing, as he apparently did not wish to be left out from the moment and to flaunt his fighting skills. Then he gave the head to Carric.

We then re-entered the room to inspect it. There were carvings on the floor, resembling those one might find in an astrolabe. High up was a nest where some silver wings and copper claws was found, which I took to add to the petty cash used for the men’s upkeep. Dulkan found a pipe made of bone, which he gave to Borel.

I asked the men to come inside and take a rest as evening was now approaching. The men climbed in and I began removing the seal wax from their ears. It was not easy, as seal wax is definitely not intended to be used as earplugs, texture-wise. But now without the wind it was easier to use the candle to warm the wax, and I could use the hollow stems of the feathers of the Harpies to create negative pressure inside the stem which then sucked the warmed wax out of the men’s ears. This process took a while, as it needed to be repeated 20 times, but luckily by patiently explaining and showing how to do it, I was able to teach one of the men how to continue the wax removal. I was then able to join Dulkan, Carric and Borel in further exploration of this structure.

A door led to a room immediately adjacent to the room the Harpies apparently used as their nest. It had a foul stench due to corpses in varying degrees of rotting. This room led to a corridor with two doors, a fancy one and one less adorned. Borel was hacking at the fancy door to open it, but to no avail. I suggested that I could attempt a modified acid splash spell to the lock, as the acid of my spell is powerful enough to corrode metal. The room behind this door had apparently served as a bedchamber. As the great room at the entrance had functioned as an astrolabe, probably during the Age of War, this was the private room of the astronomer working there. No-one had been to the room for quite some time as everything was covered in thick layer of dust and cob-webs, and textiles and wooden furniture of the room had begun to decay. I performed a ritual casting of “Detect magic” spell. This helped me identify that a tapestry depicting full moon over mountain peaks glowed lightly with magical residue. I could not pick up the type of magic, but the tapestry clearly was not the origin of the spell but rather its magic had rubbed onto it from something else. I was wondering would there be something behind the tapestry, in itself or on the wall. As I touched it, a feeling of electric current ran through me, and suddenly I felt a bit strange. I felt as if I had shrunk! Dulkan came to me and took me to his arms to give me comfort and solace as he had apparently seen my alarmed state. Comforted by the embrace of his arms, indicating to me thusly that all was well, I calmed myself down and was able to continue exploring the structure. I could not express my gratitude for his understanding and I left it for later when circumstances would be more favourable and calm.

Borel lifted the tapestry with his axe, but there was nothing there. We left the tapestry be so no-one else might accidentally be harmed by it, and continued our exploration.
We then opened the less adorned door, which led to most peculiar of rooms. It was round, floor carved with symbols that apparently could be moved, and with my spell I could detect that the whole room gave a magical glow. We entered the room to inspect it. Indeed the floor was structured so that the three small spherical stones in the floor could be moved along the lines carved to the floor. We attempted to move the spherical stones, but they did not budge.

The structure of the room triggered a memory of my mother reading a book about interdimensional, or astral, travel that could be done using two identical rooms. Carric suspected that the room, or “travel chamber”, could be powered by gems; and indeed there was a vessel where a gem could be placed. As Carric placed a piece of tourmaline, a semi-precious stone, to the vessel, Dulkan stepped out of the room. As soon as Carric dropped the stone to the vessel, all three doors of the room went shut and we could feel, or sense, a hum or vibration going through the walls, and indeed the air, of the room. Borel tried the doors, but two did not open and the opening of third door triggered a spear trap, so he quickly shut the door. Again Carric and I attempted to move the spherical stones of the floor, but to no avail. I suspected that we would need coordinates of sort, and wanted to check the magical fan in Carric’s belongings as both apparatus were intended for magical travel. The fan did not prove useful. Apparently we either needed some other combination of alignment of the spherical stones and the gem used to power the “travel chamber” to actually get somewhere. What an intriguing conundrum!

As soon as Carric removed the stone from the vessel, the humming ended and the glow dissipated, and very amazed Dulkan opened the door from which he had just moments ago left.

View
Flight of the Harpy
5th Session

Harpy.jpgThe 18th of Sunburst started poorly for Borel. The dragon blood he had drank came back up as black, sulphuric retch. No worse for wear, he and the Party spent the morning and noon to reach the Spires, a group of bluffs. The wind proved strong that day, howling in the rough, broken rocks leading up to the cliffsides. The Party, aware of the Harpy threat, spread out in small groups and headed for the coast.

If not for Althea’s preparations with the waxen earplugs, the Party could have been in serious jeopardy, for two Harpies ambushed the group. Staying well out of sight and out of their reach, they began their alluring songs, trying to lure our heroes to deep and sharp ravines. But with the greater resistance possessed by Althea and Carric and the inconveniencing but life-saving earplugs, the Harpies’ attempts were in vain. As one of them left towards one of the Spires, half of the Party, including Althea and Borel, gave pursuit.

As the chasers climbed the steep cliff faces, the Harpies harassed them with singing and attacking them on the narrow ledges. With their overwhelming show of strength, Borel and their berserker follower Krüg drove the Harpies off again, with Carric slaying one of them with a pinpoint accuracy-spell.

Finally the party found an entrance into what seemed to be a cave high up the bluff. Borel and Dulkan investigated and were ambushed by the remaining inhabitants of the cave: Two more Harpies. Pushed to the corner, the Harpies were no match to the combined strength of the Party and were slain.

Victorious, the Party brought their followers in and began the arduous earwax removal process that would continue deep into the night. The cave proved to be an ancient, ruined observatory of sorts, and the place contained a pathway deeper into the mountain. Two nearby rooms shed light to the nature of the dungeon: It apparently was a home to a person of great Arcane knowledge. In a dank bedroom the Party found an interesting and potentially dangerous piece of magical curio: A tapestry that managed to shrink Althea by half a hand’s width.

After the elf diplomat found consolation in Dulkan’s misunderstood embrace, the party left the tapestry alone, moving to a much more interesting and potent chamber: A magical room that the magically literate part of the party identified as a teleportation chamber. With three rotating rings embedded on the floor and a slot for a gem, the still-functional chamber had innumerable addresses where it could lead. After finding one that led to a trapped door, the party decided to take stock at their situation and investigate the rest of the dungeon…

View
Althaea's Journal IV
Session 4

13th of Sunburst
In the morning we gathered at the breakfast table of the fisherman halfling’s kitchen. Borel fetched Dulkan, as he had evidently overslept. I was anxious to discuss the matter of presenting our case to Alexha, and what information we should divulge. We agreed that information on Khariss’s death should be given as otherwise there was no reason to discuss of an alliance. However, we considered we should emphasize that the matter should be kept a secret for few for now. I wanted to make a favourable impression on Alexha right from the start and suggested that we should ask for an audience instead of just barging in and demanding it. So, I wrote a note signed with Nailo seal. This was also a subtle way of hinting that, should I want, I could also demand an audience of nobles due to my family position, but that out of courtesy I kept things on voluntary basis. I asked that Alesha would address the reply to the fisherman’s house we were currently staying. I could have chosen the Golden Goat tavern, but I decided that while I was waiting for an answer I would have time to thank the couple so kindly accommodating us for our first night in Arry.

After breakfast Dulkan wanted to visit the nearby temple of Cruxis, and we all decided to accompany him as it would take a while before any answer could reach us. The area adjacent to the temple was filled with stalls selling nice, quaint little things made by local artisans. Dulkan and Borel wanted to by some silver rings. While there were some really nice things for sale and I was playing with an idea to purchase something myself, I decided that I would save my money for greasing the diplomatic wheels when necessary. Also I did not want a lot of extra stuff to carry with me as I had no idea how long it would take us to finish our tour of the Dusk Coast. Dulkan had a very intelligent discussion with the acolytes of Cruxix on religious matters. Borel took a moment to pray; this surprised me as I had never considered Borel the religious – or praying – type.

I then got back to the fisherman’s house to wait for a reply whereas Carric, Dulkan and Borel took this opportunity to entertain themselves. I used my most eloquent words to let the couple know our appreciation for their hospitality whilst also subtly letting them know that as thankful as we were and by no means wishing to offend them, I understood what trouble it would be for them should we continue to enjoy their hospitality – especially when they had just lost their livelihood and might be short for money – so we should find lodging elsewhere.

I received Alexha’s note in the afternoon inviting us to town hall. In the note Alexha kindly offered us board in the town hall whilst we were to stay in Arry. As soon as we arrived at the town all, our belongings were taken to our quarters and we were ushered to a council room where we were met by Alexha and her assistant, Timothy. Now was the time to present our case, and what delicate diplomacy it did require! I began on the issue of the Sahuagin problem, of which we had intimate knowledge thanks to our encounter with the Sahuagin yesterday. Once our appreciation of local problems was thus established, I continued asking what was being done on the matter. Apparently help had been requested from Duskport but so far to no avail. In the meantime they had sent a spy called Kerach, an ochre-coloured dragonborn, to find out the extent of the problem but little intelligence had been received from him. Now that the ground was set – establishing a problem requiring help and indicating that we had ability and willingness to resolve it – we presented Alexha and Timothy the information on Khariss. The news was received surprisingly well; they had actually considered something might be wrong as the Sahuagin attacks were getting bolder and more reckless. As Khariss no longer protected the realm, the underworld creatures were not in check anymore. This provided a platform to discuss how the protection of the realm might be achieved in the future. We argued that as it would take time for the other dragons of the region to react to the situation – if they even were eager to react to it – this was the opportunity to create a dragon free rule of Dusk Coast and its cities, an alliance of the people. I led Alexha and her assistant to understand that now also considerable wealth was available where it was possible to build and maintain troops and fleet for protection of the realm as the yearly tribute to the dragons was no longer necessary. I was surprised at how difficult it was for Alexha, and especially her assistant Timothy, to grasp the bigger picture. This made me appreciate Lady Ashinka’s quick thinking even more. Alexha apparently could only consider matters at hand and close to home, and the most pressing problem for them at the moment was the Sahuagins. Timothy was eager to dismiss the whole proposition as Lady Ashinka’s vanity and ambition. I was able to argue for the benefits of an alliance, for protection if nothing else. Alexha and especially Timothy were mostly concerned for keeping the city treasury untouched: I was informed they could not spare any material support for other members of the possible alliance at the moment as their fleet and troops were already in full use. I assured them that at the moment only the show of support – and interest to be part of the dragon free alliance – was needed. I considered it best to give concrete evidence of the benefits of what such an alliance could do as for safety of the people by offering our assistance to their Sahuagin problem. Alexha was at a loss on what to do on the matter, and her take on our offer of help was conflicted. Alexha was confident that Kerach would come back with a solution. Timothy was more pessimistic on Kerach and his help, which led me to understand that we needed to take charge here. Alexha’s undecided manner to deal with their problem was less than convincing of her character and her ability to act under pressure: what help could they give in possible future conflict. However, we were asked to make a treaty with the people of Arry, and by Zariss we would achieve it! We asked for troops to accompany us to the quest, but this was met with reluctance. I then suggested that we could recruit volunteers from the city; I considered that the people of Arry should be quite fed up with the Sahuagin problem to which the city rulers were doing little about. At least this was acceptable to Alexha. We decided to host a tournament where volunteers could be drafted. We decided to have armed and unarmed combat categories, where the winners were given a chance to fight with Dulkan and Borel, respectively. I used my wits to come up with posters advertising the event, and we went to Golden Goat to further promote the event.

14th of Sunburst
We were all working together to get the tournament going. I suggested we should give prizes to the winners. As a bard I can appreciate the function of songs and mementos as reminders to people of more glorious days and victories giving hope to people when facing adversity. This would help strengthen the idea in peoples’ minds that no dragon is needed to protect people of Dusk Coast as they can do it by themselves. We visited the stalls near Cruxis’s temple again to select the prizes. We found a bronze belt buckle with wave ornament embellishment to the winner of unarmed combat and a similarly decorated bronze dagger to the winner of armed combat, both with an appropriate inscription. We sprang for the prizes collectively; Timothy as the person responsible for the city’s treasury seemed unwilling to part with a coin.

15th of Sunburst
So, Dulkan was to fight the winner of armed combat; Borel was to fight the winner of unarmed combat; I was to give prizes, and Carric was to host the tournament. I was concerned how the short notice might affect the attendance of the event: would anyone be there? Nervous as I was, I asked our captain and crew to participate so that people would have at least some fights to see, and thus have positive associations with the capability of us tributaries; it would be embarrassing indeed if no-one was to show up for the fight but everyone to see it. In the end nine willing fighters signed up, and these coupled with five of our sailors we were able to provide a spectacle worth seeing for the town’s people. And a spectacle indeed it was: I had no idea that Carric was such a show man! I admired his performance how he inspired people to get excited and involved, cheering for their favourite fighter in the tournament.

By the end of the evening all nine combatants were willing to partake on our quest to help the city and its people. All the better: heroism of someone coming to help you is all fine and good, but no story is told more enthusiastically when than when a person you know has participated in the adventure.

We agreed to meet at the docks in the morning to head for the island of Assarna.

16th of Sunburst
This morning I went to see Alexha and Timothy to take care of the final details. Most important of which: I went to collect a signed copy of the treaty. No need to state things aloud, but we would not move until I had a signed treaty securely in my pocket. Fortunately Alexha had had no objections to the draft of the treaty I had left for her to study, and now we both had signed copies of mutual agreement of help and assistance. Alexha had promised to provide us with a ship and rations for four days for us and the volunteers. However, this was all the assistance we were to get in official form from the city of Arry. I attempted to negotiate for more equipment, but to no avail. No armour was to be lent from the city; thus Dulkan searched the town to equip our eight men with light leather armour. This took some negotiation from Dulkan to get the men – who were mostly fishermen after all – to agree to wear the armour in battle. One of our volunteers was a dragonborn, who would not take our offer as he considered had enough protective gear of his own. We had to pay for the rent of the armour ourselves. I was happy to do this, as I had seen the fighting skills of the men: the armour would provide them some protection and balance the situation in battle so they would not instantly get killed. As I considered that lowering down from the cliff face would be a far safer route to the caverns than sea approach, we also needed some rope. But the city was not to equip us with rope: instead Timothy suggested that we could buy our rope – albeit with 50percent discount – from a local shop. By this time of the negotiation I had grown weary of these people: like spoiled children they were complaining about their problem but not willing to do much about it, even when other people were willing to take care of the problem for them! Before our negotiations would have failed to a case of ropes costing ten silver wings, Carric intervened. As my most courteous diplomacy had taken a short leave of absence, Carric said he would pay for the rope himself. I had raised this issue as a matter of principle instead of small trivial annoyance it truly was.

As we were waiting for the men to arrive at the docks Dulkan approached me and with a low voice he was wondering about leadership during this particular adventure. Although we four had worked as a team of equals, now with nine other people to consider it would be easier if someone was clearly in command. In the passing I remembered Dulkan’s concerns about ultimate power and how corruptive it can be, but quickly brushed it aside: I believe anyone can be tempted by power, but I had faith in Dulkan’s resolve. He would not be alone as I would be there for him, had he any qualms or problems. I judged that Dulkan indeed was the best choice for a commander as he was more level-headed than the impulsive Borel, and due to Dulkan’s noble background he would have had practice in giving orders and being responsible for other people. Carric, while having the ability to encourage, had fighting skills reliant on magic making it difficult to lead a party of armed men used to mundane forms of fighting. For that reason I knew that also I could no perform this duty, no matter how inspiring I could be.

It was a delight to see how Dulkan drew himself up and took charge of the situation. He had the men fall in line and addressed them with authority and command I had not seen in him before. I knew how vitally important it was to have the unwavering allegiance of men and that we would need to be unified as leaders as well. In combat the ability to follow orders could save many lives and indeed be crucial for the success of the mission. This is why I was slightly concerned when I saw that Borel’s attitude was not in alignment with our agenda, and that he was clearly undermining Dulkan’s authority as I saw him gesturing with our dragonborn volunteer, who also apparently had authority issues.

We set sails for Assarna after Dulkan’s commanding speech. We only had one problem: where to navigate. Luckily one of our volunteers had once visited a small village close to the southern tip of the island, which was our end destination. We had also considered at least attempting to contact Kerach but I suspected this might be difficult as, like all spies, he might be suspicious and not reveal himself to us: he would have no way of knowing that we had made an agreement with Alexha.

In the evening as we reached the village, a welcoming party of sort were meeting us at the dock. Like in all small places, people were quite inquisitive. They seemed surprised that we had come to take care of the Sahuagin problem: for them the Sahuagin had presented no problem. Be that as it may, we and our nine men needed a place to stay the night; the sailors were to stay at the boat to guard it. I decided to pay for the lodging for our men as Alexha had not provided any petty cash for them, and it would be quite a demand the poor fishermen forming our volunteers to pay for their keep. In the evening a towns gossip – or trader, as he called himself – approached us, eager to sell us some moonshine and even more eager to get new material for his gossip. Carric took this opportunity to enquire whether an ochre-coloured dragonborn (as these were the descriptions we were given of Kerach) had been to the place. True to form, as these town gossipers usually do, no relevant information parted his lips before Carric parted with some silver wings from his purse. But the bit of information thus gained allowed us to know that this ochre-coloured dragonborn had headed to a close-by hamlet inland. Thus, that is where we should go.

17th of Sunburst
After breakfast we headed for the hamlet inland – or cluster of houses as even a hamlet might be too pompous a word to describe this lot. We were unable to find Kerach in the hamlet, but we did get to know that people sometimes went missing near the Spires – the name the locals had for the sharp, high peaks near the cliff face which was our destination. We could apparently get more information from a wood-cutter called Barrak, who lived at a short walking distance to the woods nearby. So, we decided to exchange some of our precious time with the possibility to receive information so we should not head blindly into a battle. We went to the house, the whole lot of us. Dulkan took this opportunity to train the men: hopefully he would be able to give them some advantage in the battle ahead. I had not sung for a while, and was missing the feeling of unity with universe through singing and playing a musical instrument always gives me. I also wanted to entertain and encourage the men, as I knew this seemingly aimless wondering around might be boring or confusing to them; we did not need questioning of our manner to lead at this point. This was apparently a valid concern: again I saw Borel chipping away Dulkan’s authority and lowering the moral of the men as I saw him discussing with the visibly displeased dragonborn volunteer. This man clearly was the fighter amongst our volunteers, but apparently had not been involved in any organized combat: any trained soldier would know that over half of the time spent in battle is waiting as the logistics involved in manoeuvring a large numbers of people are not easily achieved. I was not happy about this situation with Borel and the dragonborn, but could do little about it.

As the night fell we had to give up and take lodgings in the hamlet. Dulkan suggested that I should visit the wood-cutter in the morning alone as it might be that the sounds of weapons training and the large number of people had scared him off. We all agreed to this plan.

18th of Sunburst
In the morning, as a I started heading for Barrak the wood-cutter’s cottage, Borel stopped me. He had snuck out in the night to meet with the wood-cutter himself. Apparently my singing – my singing! – had scared him off. He had had dealings with a harpy, who had almost killed the man. But that my singing could be mistaken for that of a harpy’s – what an insult! I was happy my good nature and diplomacy were not tested in having to deal with this sort of insult straight to my face. So, now we knew that there was at least one harpy to consider in addition to the Sahuagin. I was happy I had my diplomat’s pack with me – most importantly the sealing wax of the pack – as was able to issue makeshift earplugs to men. Rather, eight of the men as the dragonborn did not want any. I had thus extra two pairs of the earplugs, and could use them for Dulkan, Borel or Carric, should the need arise. Or, for myself.

Before we began our hike towards the Spires, Dulkan had a stern talking-to with Borel, asking what he meant by wandering off alone without informing his intentions to anyone, and going against the proposed plan. We of course were happy to get the information, but this kind of impulsive and egoistic behaviour was not in the best interest of the group morale or cohesion. Also, had he fallen into trouble, no-one would have known what had happened to him. Dulkan also asked Borel about his chat with our dragonborn volunteer, but Borel admitted to nothing. I was now concerned how well we could work as a group and decided I needed to do something about it.

Althaea Nailo

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.