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.