Dragonrealm

Meeting at Melenne
10th Session

Meeting again at Moon on the Rise, the Party reunited. Borel had visited the woods, felling a bear and earning the respect of his totem animal. The stories were exchanged, and the Party went resting, waiting for Lady Ashinka’s arrival.

They needn’t wait long. On the next day, 28th of Sunburst, she arrived, and the negotiations for Dusk Coast’s future began. Lady Ashinka had secured the alliance of Lady Tuire and Winden. They had also sent out any militia they had scrounged near Duskport for the final approach to the city. She was also pleased with what the Party had done, and that apparently the entire endeavor was blessed by Mishra.

When the question of future leadership came up, Lady Ashinka’s suggestion was to make Sir Morgath Kuon, the leader of the Dragon Knights, the figurehead that the populace could rally around in the absence of a Dragon. This idea was received pretty much unanimously and allowed some of the party members breathe freely; Ashinka didn’t seem to push herself to a position of power. And when the conspirators named a secondary choice, since Kuon wasn’t a part of the group, her further choice was Lord Yaris. Though Yaris was hesitant and would have preferred Ashinka to take the proverbial crown, the Party agreed that he, as a non-dragonborn, would be the better choice. But still, there was some questions remaining for Ashinka Drusia’s motives that were left unanswered.

The next step would be the march to Duskport and the negotiations with Baron Marram. With the support of the Druids, their envoy would have to be taken seriously, forcing Marram to either launch an attack which would drive the region to civil war or to negotiate. Lady Ashinka, along with the Party, hoped for the latter.

So the next day, 29th of Sunburst Party prepared for their second return to Duskport. Dulkan pondered the nature of dragonic power with Carric, trying to find foothold for his theory about the Divines. While their meeting bore little fruit, the thirst for knowledge still existed. Althea visited the city, finding a seamstress to sew a new flag for the as of yet unnamed future Dusk Coast nation: Khariss’ banner of a Red Dragon over the sunlit evening sea, just with the dragon removed. Borel, in a quiet communion with Ochrana, determined that the Divine would approve the destruction of the Baron’s power… As long as blood was spilt.

Just before Althea was ready to leave, Anthea called her. Althea’s mother’s divinations had given her a troubling vision: When the dragon left his lair and brought himself vulnerable, it would end in blood. Armed with this glimmer of knowledge, the Party headed on, towards a fated meeting that would change the coast. It would be the 2nd of Reaping when they would reach the army Ladies Ashinka and Tuire…

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Sylvan meditations

It is vespertide. We retrace our steps through the Emerald Forest. All around the mighty arboreal columns stand, hushing the winds and capturing the waning light in their canopy. But the air is becoming chill, and even the highest leaves must shed their aureate lustre and cease their mute orisons by the advent of night. A moon-still night! — a long rest for us weary ones, but merely an exhalation for them, those blind sentinels who keep watch over the passing of centuries. Truly, here is a majestic fane of Mishra, and I, Dulkan, have seen her sign.

Roots and trails vermiculate the ground, working their ways among the tufts and hummocks, oblivious of aims, following no order save the instinctive filigree of nature. Borel too felt the call of the wild, and so he does not walk by my side now. I would judge his character with these words: what we, his fellows, view as delicately drawn lines of reasoning are to him strands of spider silk athwart his path. They tickle but do not bind.

I confess there is a thirst for freedom in me as well, a desire I have suffered with great ardour in my vigils at the battlements of Kolmhaag. Do not laugh, elusive woodland dryad, for I was never a thrall of my name. Hist! You may deem the dragontail unsightly and a sore, but you could not guess that, in the hands of an artful gardener, its sapling can be coerced over the seasons with saw and rope into a thing of noble beauty. And what would I be without the rigours of my rearing? Not much more than a roadside weed, though perhaps happier, in some way. Thus, I have always seen the world in these opposing shades: the austere light of discipline on one side and the alluring dark of caprice on the reverse. There is no easy balance between the two.

We come to a twilit glade, a pair of thrushes take wing — an augury! The feeling of profound revelation returns, the inner shiver that shook me as I saw the throne of Cantheon. There, by some transmundane power, craft and growth had been joined together without discord. Perhaps, then, a man may also grow into greatness in the gentle guidance of the divine forces. And if this be so for a man, why not for an entire realm of people? The blessing of Mishra is with us…

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Althaea's Journal IX
Session 9

Althaea’s journal entry for 25th of Sunburst continues

As I was waiting for my comrades to wake up, Jarvis brought me a note from Borel. Evidently he had felt an urge for hunting to appease his restless spirit. So it appeared that I had to have my earnest discussion with him some other day. I did not know whether to be relieved or vexed. However, I knew this would do Borel good, so I let my feelings subside.

As Carric and Dulkan emerged from their chambers and joined me in the family room after having breakfast, I showed them the letter Borel had left behind. We all accepted that this was something he had to do, and we just had to make our plans accordingly. Next on the list of agenda was to contemplate on the druid issue and what possible ways we could have to try to negotiate them to our side. Dulkan was concerned that we should not oppress or extort them. I reassured him that no alliance is strong-holding if it is achieved through treachery or coercion. Be that as it may, there were likely some real benefits in the alliance for the druids, and we only needed to find out what those benefits might be. The best way to do that is to know your potential confederate. Thus, off to the library we went, Carric and I.

I do not know how Dulkan spent his day, but Carric and I made with our time at the large and well-equipped library of Moon on the Rise. Our large library did indeed – after some searching – contain as many as two books on such an elusive and obscure subject as the druids: they truly keep to themselves. From the book that I found I learned that the druids were involved in the Emerald Forest from its beginnings. An elven city had been built in the forest, and the druids had been named those who were to maintain a balance between the city and the forest, people and nature. Evidently they had failed in their duty, since the forest had gone wild with only ruins were left from the city. Another bit of information I was able to acquire was that while the druids were very independent, they heeded to an arch druid, and one at some point in their history was a druid called Mise.

After Carric had spent the whole day reading a book he had found, he had a stroke of luck; in this book were detailed accounts on some of the customs and rituals the druids adhered to. Firstly, apparently as visitors come, they are to perform a friendship ritual of sort by presenting a gift to represent themselves and a gift to represent their land. Second, while the druids were quarrelsome and discordant bunch, they all respected the ritual of spirit communion. It seemed to be a ritual where the fortuitous pledger might receive a signal from numen.

Whilst Carric and I were immersed in our studies, my father arrived. With father, Dulkan came back to the house from doing whatever he was doing. We passed intelligence, and I related him the idea of invoking the druids to our cause. He was surprised but pleased that I had thought of something that had not even occurred to him. My father, however, was the harbinger of alarming news: the Baron in his lunacy had sent messages to surrounding dragons appealing to them to take over our land; supposedly he believed they would allow him to remain the acting ruler of the district. What idiocy, what folly! The dragons are unpredictable at best, and perhaps the next dragon would not even be eager to let the people be, as Khariss had done, apart from the yearly tribute and an occasional kill. Maybe the next dragon would not want adulation but annihilate all inhabitants of the region.
Sense of urgency was upon us, and we made haste with our preparations for tomorrow’s expedition. We had to come up with appropriate gifts to present to the druids. I asked for the fish-pie recipe Carric had procured from the cook we met after saving the boatful of fisherman in our journey to Arry (so long ago it seemed now!). I borrowed the kitchen, and although I do not have the habit of making baked goods, I was able to rustle up a decent smelling and looking pie. This was to represent me as a guest. It required more contemplation to come up with something representing the land. Finally it came to me: I should bring them Anthea seeds! It would make a very appropriate gift. Carric’s gift to represent himself was some copied recipes of the potions and brews he had found in our adventure in Assarna; Dulkan decided to part from his halberd.

26th of Sunburst
In the morning, prepared well for the consignment, we set for the Circle of Spring and the hamlet of the druids. I knew the way as I had visited the place couple of times as a child growing up in Moon on the Rise.

The journey took a few hours but before very long we could see a clearing in the forest up ahead. We stepped out from the edge of the woods and in to the sunlight illuminating a forum and dwellings surrounding it. Some of the houses were burrowed in small mounds and hills, like little gopher’s nest. Some were built using twigs and branches, around growing tree, utilizing it as a support structure. Others had grass roofs, looking too like mole hills. The forum was busy and some druids were seen coming in and out of their huts, some hurrying somewhere looking self-important, and others locked in heated, almost vitriolic discussions. Apparently however bickering bunch they were, apparently liked arguing and disagreement so much as to opt to live close to each other instead of hermit-like life in abodings scattered farther apart.

As soon as we stepped out in to the forum, a druid hurriedly approached us. He greeted us, and we introduced ourselves and presented the gifts. This druid, called Zoon, was more interested in what we had to offer than our purpose of coming there, or who we were. He quickly accepted us as his guests; apparently the protocol was that the first one to accept the visitors under his patronage, or hosting their visit, that person would get the boons. We asked to meet the arch druid, and found that the current arch druid was called Cantheon. We were pointed towards a hut, but as Zoon as saw some other druids approaching he quickly retreated back to the hut he had emerged to greet us. Swiftly he went through the boons and abandoned everything but the fish-pie, which he hid underneath his robes as he bolted back to his hut. The druids approaching us next were somewhat vexed that, apparently again, Zoon had jumped to the opportunity to greet new visitors taking their gifts. I had been concerned how well we and our offerings would be received, but evidently there would have been no concern at all: apparently hosting guest was a task every druid seemed eager to undertake as it meant endowment. The next druid was also more interested in what of the presents Zoon had discarded, and selected Carric’s potion recipes from the pile.

Provided then only with Dulkan’s halberd and my Anthea seeds we approached the arch druid’s residence. There were two druids making their case before their arch druid, with heart-felt offence in their expressions. Our approach went unnoticed, so engaged they were in their debate. After a while, however, the arch druid noticed us, and asked what it was that we were after. We presented ourselves, indicating that we were the guests of Zoon as he was the first one to greet us and take us under his hospitality. We then offered the little we had left for the arch druid. He took them paying little notice on the artefacts. But, we had heeded to customs, and now we could present our case.

With all my eloquence, every perspective of profit I presented for the arch druid that an alliance with us would bring, he remained unmoved. Dulkan attempted to negotiate with him as well, but to no avail; the druids just were not interested in joining us, no ideals pleaded with them. They considered themselves independent already, and possible dragon oppression did not concern any of them. Finally Carric found the answer: the only things all druids believed in, the only thing joined them, were rites and rituals they performed, especially that of the spirit communion. Thus, Carric proposed that we could go to their Tree of Ash to perform this ritual to seek a sign of approval from numen. Some snorts were heard in the audience; voices of astonishment and even reprehension that a non-druid should know of such a thing, and daring to suggest performing the ritual. However, the arch druid gave us permission, as he considered the ritual was free to be performed by anyone who knew how – and thus others had to conform.

Next, we needed to find the place where the ritual was to be performed – the Tree of Ash – and find five herbs required for the ritual. Three paths led into the forest from the forum – eastern, southern and western path – but we had no way of knowing which one led to the Tree of Ash. As we selected one and ventured into the woods we could hear snickering from some of the on-looking druids. The path forked several times, and what there was seemed to me almost like a maze. We decided to keep heading south; however the paths forked, we would choose a path leading to south, allowing retracing our way back to the druid hamlet.

We came to a small glade, where we found the ruins of the fallen civilization: a broken obelisk. The glade was bordered from the south by a brook and on the other side of the brook was a rock-face and the path continued there. This was the path we should take, should we wish to remain taking the southern turn of the road. Dulkan suggested that he should cross the brook to get a quick look what would be up ahead along that path. He needed to cross the brook, and nicely he did it too. His clothes and boots got wet, of course, from crossing the water. Not much of interest was to be found there, so he crossed the river back.

As the walk to the druid hamlet and negotiations had taken quite long, dusk was already settling. We were not sure whether to press on or to camp for the night. However, we were tempted to see if there would be a better campsite on the path continuing on our side of the brook. We decided not to cross the brook as neither I nor Carric were too keen on getting wet, but keep walking the path a while. As we continued forwards, a mist begun to form, and soon the road up ahead was covered in thick mist. Suddenly we heard someone sobbing. As we all strained our ears to hear better whether it was someone truly in trouble, or whether it was just a rouse to lead as into a trap, I saw a form gliding in unnatural way in the mist, apparently looking for something. Alarmed by this I whispered Carric and Dulkan that we should retreat and go back to the glade where we had found the broken obelisk. Quietly we retreated back, and fortunately both the mist and the creature in the mist did not follow us back.

We opted to camp there that night; Dulkan had to dry his wet clothes as not to catch pneumonia. I did not have a bedroll, so I suggested that, to keep warm, I should lay by his side underneath the same bedroll. Luckily Dulkan did not let false modesty to restrain him from this prudent and healthy choice, and he accepted.

27th of Sunburst
Dulkan’s clothes and boots had dried up during the night, and neither I nor Dulkan had caught a cold for we had kept warm sleeping in the heat generated by our bodies. After we had breakfast Dulkan suggested he should climb the cliff to get an overview of the area, as we had no idea where the Tree of Ash could be. Carric casted a spell which would allow Dulkan to walk the vertical surface of the cliff as if it was horizontal. First he had to cross the brook again, of course.

As we were peering to see Dulkan against the rising sun I suddenly saw a form in the sky. With a head of a deer and the body of a raptor it was species called Peryton, as Carric later identified. It was clearly about to attack Dulkan, so I cried out a warning. We could see the foul fiend over a hundred feet away, but neither the spells of Carric’s nor mine could reach that far. We had no alternative but to watch helplessly as the creature flew closer to Dulkan. But as soon as we got it in our reach, we hit it with everything we had! It was not long before the creature spiralled down, dead. But our triumph was short-lasting; two more of the same species came not far behind.

As we could not concentrate all our arcane might this time, this round of fight was considerably tougher than the first one. While our spells were successful, there were two creatures we had to divide our attacks to, and they reached us quickly. I had a successful spell, which fixed their sights on me. The one in point took a dive straight towards me. I could fend of its attempt to ram me with its antlers, but then, both of its claws got me! It took a firm grip of me with its left claw and its crushing grip prevented me from breathing; I could feel my ribs cracking under the relentless pressure. While holding me still with its left claw, it had a firm hold to lacerate me with its right, leaving behind four gushing wounds cut through my flesh on my right side. My consciousness blurred in visions of red, pain and pulsing lights before blissful unconsciousness overtook me.

My consciousness shifted like waves undulating against the shore, towards awareness and back in unconsciousness. I could hear – at least I think I could hear – both Carric and Dulkan calling for me, pleading for me to fight, to come back, not to give in. I do not know how long I was unconscious, but after some time floating somewhere beyond conscious mind I knew that I was coming back in this reality, and the pain from my wounds surged over me. Barely able to think, I reached for my flute to sing my spell for curing wounds. To date I still believe that the first spell I performed was my music resounding inside my mind rather than being something I was able to sound outside of me.

As soon as I could focus my mind and I could fix my eyes to something beyond the capsuling pain surrounding me, I could see the troubled looks on Dulkan’s and Carric’s faces. I was able to articulate that I was all right; and after performing a few more spells to cure my wounds I truly was. We did not have much time for rest, as we were pressed for time. Actually, I was almost myself again anyway, as I had cured the worst of my wounds with my magic. We decided to follow the path continuing on the other side of the brook, so Dulkan crossed it yet again. As it was his fifth time crossing, he knew the best place for crossing it. Carric at my left elbow and Dulkan in the other, I was able to cross it too, without any mishaps. At that moment I felt blessed to have two such concerned and caring companions to be by my side in this adventure.

Carric had been able to locate all five of the required herbs for the spell along our walk down the paths towards the Tree of Ash. Finally providence was on our side; at last this path was the right one and it led to the glade where we found the Tree of Ash. Carric set up the ritual and lighted a fire using the herbs he had gathered. I was sitting with my back against a tree and I felt a sense of tranquillity inside me. The herbs were smoking in the fire and their pleasurable and mellowing scent was in the air, while leafs were rustling from a slight breeze and occasional bird sang its song in the trees. After the exertions of the day, this serenity and calm of the glade aroused a feeling of happiness and gratitude, and I wanted to join the music the fabric of being was resounding, and I lifted my flute again to my lips. I played a tune which was that of my hearts; or maybe it was the music from the surrounding forest that formed into sound through me. The silvery notes from my flute, the breeze in the trees and the song of the birds seemed to make the smoke coming from Carric’s fire to dance; it made swirls and curls beautiful and enjoyable to watch. As I looked mesmerized at the smoke dancing to my music, I suddenly saw it form a familiar shape: an eight-pointed star behind an eye of a dragon. Behind the sign of Mishra was the shape of a large dragon. I knew we had been blessed: this was the sign we had been looking for. After the smoke cleared, caught in the branches of the Tree of Ash was a loose sprig blossoming with the most beautiful white flower formed from eight pointy pedals. I picked it up and drew its scent, and it was the most pleasurable fragrance.

We all knew that we had to leave this enchanted place, so we took our leave. The serenity of the glade and reassurance of mind did not leave me for long, and I could not begin to trouble myself too much with things to come. We retraced our steps to the forum outside the druid hamlet to show them the sign we had been given. Our party again stepping from the woods, now to campfire-lit forum, with me in the lead, holding the branch put the whole druid community in an uproar. It had been ten years since anyone had had a sign, so this indeed was a token that the spirits were favourable to our cause. We presented this to Cantheon, and now we were able to begin negotiations.

While there was some discord among the druids on the level of commitment, we were able to negotiate some help from the druids. Cantheon could not agree to an alliance equal to the position that Arry agreed to take; we were given a pledge that when we should call for aid, we would receive it. To cement this treaty, we were introduced a druid called Vex, who was to be our envoy. Thus, he joined our party as we walked back to Moon on the Rise.

Althaea Nailo

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The Vision in the Woods
9th Session

The Party began their plans at getting the help of the Druids by research. They scoured the Nailo estate library for any information on the Circle of the Spring, as they were called. They discovered a book about the subject, one that Carric immediately started poring over.

At the same time, Yaris Nailo arrived to the Moon on the Rise, along with Anthea. Both brought ill tidings; The Baron was tightening his grip on Duskport, and had probably already sent messages inviting some dragons to take over the region. Anthea’s divinations had too failed, both because of the chaotic times, and because of magical shields preventing scrying on the Marram. Time was indeed running short.

Still, there was hope. The Party found a particular quirk of the druidic circle; While the group was bickering and dissimilar, they adhered to their ancient rituals, a few of them which were described in the book. The Party prepared themselves and set off in the morning, bearing gifts in order to placate the druids. Borel had however went off hunting on his own, and was absent for the upcoming trek.

The next day, 26th of Sunburst, the Party arrived in the druid encampment. Soon they learned that the druids were difficult to negotiate with, as they liked to bicker with each other. But the gifts and proper guest rites brought them access to the Archdruid Cantheon, an impressive, scarred dragonborn.

The Party presented their ideals valiantly, but their message did not find roots in the Archdruid’s heart. The druids had lived for centuries alone in their woods, not disturbing and not being disturbed by anyone. Joining a grand upheaval would set a troubling precedent for their political independence. Just as the hope began to fade, the subject of the want of the nature spirits was brought up. The Archdruid sent the Party on a mission to commune with the spirits of the nature in the nearby sacred tree, clearly hoping that this doomed quest would discourage the envoy and send them back home. The Party accepted, hoping that this act would buy some trust from Cantheon.

So deeper into the woods they went. Adeptly navigating their way in the twisting pathways of the Emerald Forest, the Party eventually discovered a clearing with a totem overlooking a river flowing through and an impressive cliff face. After gathering the herbs needed for the communion ritual, the party traveled further as darkness fell. They happened upon another clearing, covered in unnatural mist. A faint sobbing was heard in the mist, giving the heroes a difficult choice: To investigate or to ignore? Eventually Althea’s keen eyes spotted an unnatural character in the fog, and the Party retreated, avoiding a potentially hazardous confrontation.

Afraid to further explore the dark, imposing forest, the party camped in the river clearing, eagerly awaiting for some sunlight. And as 27th of Sunburst dawned, Dulkan decided to climb the cliff to get a better view of the situation. Aided by Carric’s magic, his ascent was short. But at the top, he found only a path deeper south… And apparently garnered the ire of three flying creatures. With the body of a great raptor and the head of a stag, these Perytons descended upon the party. Only by the barrage of magic brought on by Althea and Carric were the creatures defeated, but not before they gave the Party a fright by nearly killing the elven bard. However, Althea proved to be stronger than what she seemed, as she rose up a couple of hours later, no worse for wear except for torn finery.

Meanwhile, Dulkan had braved the path behind the cliff alone, and found their goal: A serene circle of stones underneath a great tree. After Althea’s recovery, the Party arrived to the circle and performed the ritual. Despite every source being pessimistic about it working, the Party encountered a vision: Mishra’s sign, along with a great, white dragonic silhouette. After they woke, surprised at the shared vision, they also found a branch bearing the tree’s flower that had appeared as they dreamed.

The Party brought this branch back, utterly surprising the druids. Bound by the rites, the Archdruid stated that the Party had Mishra’s blessing. And while he was still uncertain whether they could join the new order, the druids promised to help. With this promise, and a druidic envoy, the Party returned, wondering about the significance of the vision…

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Memo from Borel

My fellow comrades,

It been such a long time i feel the excitement of battle and primal survival instinct in my veins. I feel rusty and less agile days without action. I hear the call of the wild within me, therefore i must head to venture in the forest if lucky find a prey. This is not farewell, our path will cross yet till then, farewell and take care my friends. I will come back with epic adventures to share and maybe some artifacts from the hunt. Hope to see you in couple of days.

I made a painting for all of us, a reminder of our epic adventures.

the_team.jpg

Borel

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Althaea's Journal VIII
Session 8

20th of Sunburst
This morning was busy for me as I needed to rehearse my song “The thirteen saviours of Arry” with musicians in order to make it a performance to remember. I also wanted to prepare few other songs to perform at today’s festivities as well, as it had been a long time since I last had an opportunity to entertain people with my music. I was able to find three musicians who could play instruments that were most suitable for the composition, and had a singing voice complimentary to mine. Indeed, our voices combined together allowed multiple layers of harmonious singing to fulfil all senses.

Just before the festivities, Dulkan approached me. He had wanted to give tokens of appreciation for the men. He had prepared medallions, of sort, to give to the men for their valiant efforts. I was very happy that Dulkan had thought of that, and was now asking me if I wanted to join in distributing those tokens to the men at the festivities. I was wondering how he could get nine medallions prepared so fast, but when I looked more closely, I understood. They were fashioned from spoon baits; how appropriate as the men were sailors and fishermen turn into fighters and combatants! But when I saw the words he had chosen to be inscribed inside the spoon bait, my heart was about to burst from pride, joy and affection. It simply read: “_Defender of Arry – In Year 1 of the New Reckoning_”.

When it came time to open the festivities, I was well-rehearsed with my fellow musicians. Although I say it myself, we gave an excellent and moving performance. I was glad to see that our nine men were singing happily and proudly along when it was time to perform the song I had thought them only some days ago. Then it was time for the speeches. Alexha gave hers, congratulating and thanking us for taking care of those pestilent creatures, the Harpies and the Sahuagin, which had plagued their seafaring people. After Alexha’s speech Dulkan and I gave little speeches of our own whilst distributing the medallions to the men. It was very heartfelt and earnest moment, the men being so grateful and humble, while bursting with pride while accepting them. This to me felt like the true main event of the festivities.

After distributing the medallions, Dulkan and I cogitated on the matter of divulging the information about Khariss to truly promote our main agenda. I was of the opinion that whatever we do, we should consult Alexha first, as she is the ruler of this domain. There was no point in stepping on her toes in such a matter, which was concerning, after all, giving sensitive information to her subjects. We had but begun our communion when Borel, who had apparently had one too much to drink, overheard us and in his impatient and impertinent manner overtook the floor and revealed everything by himself. I was in shock of his wilful action by which he ignored us all in the decision making process. We had gotten this far together, discussing and negotiating and taking every viewpoint into careful consideration. But now, he had acted on his own behalf. However, for once, when Borel opened his mouth he did not put his foot in his mouth. Indeed, his words were well-chosen and eloquent, and I do not believe even I could have made the speech more heartfelt and convincing. Be that as it may, the damage had been done and we had to face the consequences. I could see that especially some people among the merchants and artisans were not as easily accepting this news as the common folk to whom Borel so easily appealed to.

But the worst was yet to come. I could see Timothy storming towards us, furious. He began to reproach us, Borel in particular. I attempted to appease Timothy and calm the situation. But I did not even have the chance. Disregarding every measure of good manner, Borel waved me quiet, boasting me that he would handle this situation, and attacked Timothy. I could not believe my ears! I was speechless in the face of such ill-mannered behaviour. I could not but stand back in horror as all my efforts towards dragon-free rule, all the good work we done and all the lives we had put at stake in our adventure, were now going up in smoke, thrown in the furnace of Borel’s inflated ego. The things he said to Timothy! I cannot even repeat it, there is no point. The conversation did not proceed beyond machoism on the other side and anger on the other. As Carric and Dulkan were indisposed, I could not get their aid in my futile attempt to silence Borel and appease Timothy. For a moment I felt sorry I had not learned any spells that would render their objects mute. Having had this thought I immediately regretted it, feeling like I had fallen short for fulfilling my duties as a diplomat as I was not able to negotiate the two viewpoints closer together. How could I face my father when he would know how I had failed! I had no choice but to wait for them to run out of steam, hoping that at least some of the delicate stands of the new-formed alliance would survive. Every diplomat’s nightmare!

After Timothy stormed off, Borel returned to his drink, conceited as if he had won something. He had won nothing, but possibly lost us, and our cause, everything in a single fit of machoism. I returned to the festivities, talking to people and attempting to bring the benefits of a dragon-free rule to their minds, so that people would see the possibilities and not the threats and difficulties of the situation. Carric had long since retired, but Dulkan was still there, asking what had transpired. I could only say that Borel had acted like Borel; I was too upset to state anything more, my mind in wild turmoil with possible ways to mend things. There was nothing else to do but to retire for the evening. Hopefully tomorrow will bring me piece of mind, and maybe things had not turned as dark as I feared they had.

21st of Sunburst
In the morning Dulkan was feeling better, but Carric was not. I went to Carric’s bedchamber to see what the matter was. Apparently Dulkan and Borel had come to this conclusion, too as we were soon all gathered at Carric’s bedside. He was indeed feeling very poorly, barely able to lift a glass of water to his lips. It became evident that herbalist’s skills would be needed, to allow Carric’s recovery. Yet again, when a fried was feeling poorly, I was not able to help a comrade in their sickness: I had no skills that would be of use here. As none of us could be of any help, Borel went off looking for someone with required skills.

Dulkan and I remained with Carric, as we needed to take stock of the current situation. Northern realm was now in an alliance with us. Southern realm, as ruled by Lord Erinak would not stand to oppose Baron Marram, but he would join us if the Baron could be persuaded to our point of view. There was still LadyTuire to consider of the southern realms. Western realm was still, at least in name governed by the Baron, although his rule was dependent on Khariss’s favour. Half of the members of the council were on the side of the dragon-free rule. Only easterd realm had not yet stated its opinion in the matter: actually we had not heard anything from Kolmhaag, or from the Kiln family, since the news of Khariss were first delivered. Thus, the power balance between Baron with his old ways and the new rule was hanging by the stand-point of the Kiln family.

As I saw it, we had three options. We could stay in the northern parts to reinforce the alliance; we could go to Kolmhaag to ask the official opinion of the Kiln house; or we could go to Melenne to meet with Lady Ashinka and my father to discuss the current situation and to think of a show of power to allow the Baron to hear us and see reason.

Dulkan seemed a bit agitated as I spoke of Kolmhaag and Kiln house. The reason soon manifested. He opened by stating that if we were considering going to Kolmhaag, we should be aware of something. There was a curse in the Kiln family line, where their fate was joined with that of Khariss. It seems that if a member of Kiln family was born with a mark of Khariss, it meant that they needed to send someone along the tribute to be sacrificed to Khariss. Current Lord Uratha bears the sign and Edessa was originally chosen as the sacrificial lamb. Dulkan volunteered in Edessa’s stead, and he joined the tribute knowing he would meet a certain death. So, when we discovered that Khariss was dead, he was given a second chance. However, things were indefinite: what was to become of the Kiln house and members of the Kiln family, those born to it and those adopted, now that Khariss was dead.

Then Borel came back, bringing with him a man clad in elk antlers: a druid. It seemed that both Dulkan and Carric had contracted Scale Plague whilst sleeping in the damp conditions a few nights ago during our adventure in Assarna. Dulkan had been able to fight it off, but Carric’s constitution did not allow him to recover as quickly. Even in his weakened state Carric expressed academic interest in the druid’s healing methods, using both herbs and magic. The druid concocted some sort of lotion for Carric, which was to be applied to the skin at regular intervals. I offered to help Carric in this matter, but perhaps out of shyness, he opted to use “Mage hand”.

We had received summon from Alexha in the morning. No doubt to discuss about the things that had transpired yesterday, and what we were planning to do next. After we had attended to Carric, we headed for the meeting room. There was Alexha, looking solemn and Timothy, looking very austere. I waited for them to begin and set the mood of the discussion. As soon as Timothy begun to speak, Borel again engaged him in very offensive altercation. Timothy’s anger immediately flared up, and he was warning us for the far-reaching repercussions of Borel’s announcement and behaviour yesterday, quite legitimately I might add. Spies of every major family in power were now quickly distributing this news all over the realm. All this was arrogantly dismissed by Borel. I was helpless, powerless to stop further agitating Timothy. Thankfully, Carric, who was now feeling a little better, assumed the role of the mediator. For some reason Carric now succeeded in which I had so miserably failed yesterday: to get Borel to control himself. After Borel finally held his tongue, I was able to attempt some form of reconciliation between our party and theirs. In no uncertain terms, Alexha stated that we should leave Arry, the sooner the better. I could very well understand that. I reiterated my wishes from yesterday that our alliance would remain strong, regardless. We agreed that we should leave as soon as possible, and Alexha was gracious enough to prepare our ship for us.

I was not at lost at what to do next. Seeing the druid I had remembered something. Druids inhabit the Emerald Forest, and Melenne is in the northern outskirts of the forest. This was a group of people usually opting themselves outside politics and power struggles, and we reciprocated by leave them be. However, these peculiar circumstances where we were without a ruling dragon to oversee the realm, the druids might wish to promote dragon-free rule as well as. Zathare, the dragon who ruled the realm before Khariss, had inhabited Emerald Forest, and there was no way of knowing what domain the next dragon would choose as the location of its lair, or indeed what kind of havoc it would reap before settling to power. Druids would definitely be a formidable force, perhaps enough to allow the Baron to reconsider his maniacal behaviour. Even the fact that druids, which are considered free spirits, would join under one banner of dragon-free Dusk Coast should make a statement. I shared this information with my comrades, and we reached a consensus that we should make our next destination Melenne.

22nd of Sunburst
In the morning we set sails to Melenne. The captain estimated that it would take us two to three days to get to Melenne, depending on the weather. This meant that we had again free time to better ourselves and to share information. On the subject of sharing information: Dulkan and I had had a confidential discussion about Lady Ashinka’s motives yesterday. Dulkan was concerned by the contents of Lady Ashinka’s letter and he was also anxious because of Timothy’s words regarding Lady Ashinka’s ambition. So, I arranged that when our meeting with Alexha and Timothy was over, the rest of us would leave, allowing privileged discussion to ensue between Dulkan, Timothy and Alexha. Dulkan now shared his opinions. He had gotten the impression that while Timothy’s opinions were coloured with prejudice and pessimistic worldview, Lady Ashinka was a woman who made things happen and was eager to seize an opportunity when one should present itself. I was no stranger to this idea, as that was exactly what we had done in Khariss’s lair, to name one occasion.

On the matter of bettering oneself: Borel had expressed wishes to learn to play some instrument. He had bought a guitar, and hopefully I was able to teach how to play a guitar. He was not too quick a learner, but he would have plenty of evenings and leisurely days to keep on practicing. I estimated that it would not take even a year for him to master the guitar, or even at least to be able to amuse himself with his talents.

23rd of Sunburst
It seemed that it would take more than two days to get to Melenne, as the weather was not very favourable. Carric had used this time to study the fan and the iron ring. The fan was indeed used to raise a great wind to blow the sails full and expedite journey. However, we dared not to try it as of yet, since there was no room for any mishaps in instrumenting the fan.

24th of Sunburst
We continued our guitar lessons with Borel. Dulkan had wanted to learn about sorcery, and Carric was teaching Dulkan some basic things about it.

The evening was late when we finally reached the port of Melenne. As I had docked to this port several times before, I instantly knew where we would be able to hire a coach to take us to our family estate “Moon on the rise”. I was looking forward in seeing my brother Bade and his wife Maria together their twin daughters, Rhodonna and Valeriana.

We loaded our trunks and other belongings to back of the carriage, climbed in and of we went. We soon reached the outskirts of Melenne, and the town with all its lights, sounds and smells was left behind. Moon, though not full, shone bright with stars in the refreshing cool of the evening air as we proceeded down a wide dirt road leading to “Moon on the rise”. Lining the road beyond wide shoulders was a forest of lime, ash, beech and occasional oak trees. The lit lanterns of the coach also lend their light inside the coach. We were all in pensive mood, perhaps also somewhat tired at each other after several days the small confines of the ship’s cabin. No-one spoke and all we could hear after passing the busy sounds of the city in the evening was the creaking of the leather seats and rhythmic but slightly muffled clop sounding as the hooves of the quadrigram pulling the carriage made contact with the dirt road.

Reaching the gates of “Moon on the rise” our coachman stopped the carriage, and I climbed out to greet our gatekeeper Alfred. I was so delighted seeing him after so long. He was surprised to find that it was me and my friends coming: he had been expecting us but not this soon. After I had had a chance to greet him properly, I climbed back in the carriage and Alfred opened the gates. The road now changed from dirt to gravel for the distance of our driveway, and at the end of which I could already see our family home, lights lit in the family room. The garden on either sides of the driveway, trees, flower benches and statues standing in the garden, were all the same as the last I had visited, and a sense of familiarity, calm and ease permeated through me; I felt as if a weight had been lift off my shoulders.

The coach pulled to the main door. I was already running up the stairs to the door as the rest of my company stepped out, stretching their legs. I had not time to knock as the door already opened and a familiar voice asked me: “Is that you miss?” As the door fully opened, I saw Jarvis our butler standing in the light of the hallway behind him, and seeing his face my heart shrank a bit: I had forgotten how long it actually was since I had last been to “Moon on the rise”. The last I had been there Jarvis was a man in the prime of his life; now, although still in good health and with evident vitality, he clearly was an older man. I sometimes forget the frailty of the human race and how evanescent the human existence is. I quenched the impulse to embrace him: my emotions towards Alfred, Jarvis and their families – practically members of the family – were intimate and private, and I was jealous not to let any intruders to tarnish the moment to express our feelings of rejoice after meeting again, expressing our mutual devotion and attachment.

Jarvis led us down the hall lit with sconces, all the way towards the door behind which I knew I would find my brother and his family. Opening the door to the family room Jarvis did announce us, although usually we do not care for such formalities. Approaching my brother with extended arm, and then offering a cheek to my sister-in-law Maria I greeted them with appropriate affection to be shown in public towards family members. I inquired after the girls, and received news that they were in good health, pursuing their respective interests. There would be plenty of time to introduce the party to the girls; members of the Nailo family are introduced to the world at a relatively younger age than is usually the practice among non-elven members of the nobility. As my brother had quite correctly assumed, this evening we would not have much time to talk about diplomatic issues or family matters due to late hour of our arrival. We only needed to get a round of introductions, have some light refreshments and then appoint everyone to a room where they would get some rest.

Receiving news that Bade was expecting our father to arrive, if not tomorrow then most likely the day after, we decided to retire for the night. Bade asked me to show the guest to their rooms, and I knew the east wing would be available for the use of guests. I was wondering whether to remain in my room or one of the guest rooms as a gesture to be one of the party still, even though at my family’s estate to express comradery. After Dulkan, Borel and Carric had settled to their rooms, I visited Jarvis and his wife, and then Alfred and his family. We had a lot to catch up and I did not know how much time I would have for myself tomorrow or whenever father and Lady Ashinka were to arrive. We also needed to initiate discussion between the druids and us as the emissaries of the new rule.

25th of Sunburst
Very early in the morning, when morning dew was just misting leafs and flowers in the garden I came downstairs after my nights rest to wait for my comrades to wake up. I could use these early hours of the morning before my human friends would wake up to play the piano with my niece. Rhondonna was very keen on music; an enthusiasm which I shared. Valeriana was more inclined towards botany and herbalism; how to use plants in healing. So this morning Rhodonna and I were in the family room, having fun together with music.

However, I could not be completely in the happy feelings of playing with my niece. There was a weight in the back of my mind. Now as the first comforting feelings of getting back to the house that I had spent most of my childhood had abated, the troubles and realization of the needs for discussions, clarifications and negotiations came crashing back in. We had plenty of things to discuss within our party, most pressing of which was definitely Borel’s erratic behaviour, and between the harbingers of the new rule. I was of Dulkan’s opinion that the framework for the new rule needed to be drafted in paper to be sure towards what end goal we were actually working for. As soon as my comrades would wake up and come to breakfast, we could gather in the family room, or to the library if it suited better, to discuss matters at hand.

Althaea Nailo

View
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…

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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

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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.

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