Journey to Khariss
1st Session

Our tale begins at Duskport palace, where on the first morning of Sunburst Baron Goran Marram gave a farewell speech to the Tributaries. The nobles and their servants betrayed a slightly indifferent attitude to the Tribute heading out to meet Khariss, while the people on the street met them with awe and trepidation.

The first day went quietly, as the party reflected on themselves. But in the evening, in the first stop of Riverbank, the party showed kindness to a hopeless man, Mitts. He claimed that his scarecrow was tormenting him at night, something that the locals would disbelieve. Refusing to not investigate for their own reasons, the party sneaked out at night and confronted the scarecrow, which provided to really be possessed. After a frightening battle, the scarecrow fell and the party, now united in a common battle, carried on.

The second day of travel went well, and the party rested and had a merry time in the Golden Caravan, where they would leave their horses and carriage to continue on foot. After a restful night the party entered the rainy Emerald Forest. Under Borels’ guidance they made good way, settling near the base of the mountain for the night, keeping their spirits up with the songs and tales of Althaea

In the night, however, they were attacked by a large group of sneaky, dragonbornlike-creatures. The knights assaulted the creatures in the night, their fate unknown. While waiting for their protectors, the party was beset by a few creatures more, which they defeated swiftly.

While pursuing the last straggler, Dulkan fell in a hole, which led to what the party later found out to be an ancient temple of Quirion, now a home and a lair to the creatures. After investigating the trapped dungeon, the party learned that the creatures had gone mad and became agitated at the name of Khariss. The party looted the treasures the beings had collected and left via a secret tunnel. After a long trek through the dark underground and a long stairwell, they emerged into the stench of sulfur in a small balcony in the mountainside. The end of their journey was near.

Sore from climbing the stairs and tired from their interrupted sleep, the party decided to press on. Under dawn’s first rays, they journeyed through the sulfur-laden air and cracked and fissurous cliffside, discovering a staircase hewn into the stone.

The first thing of Khariss’ lair they saw was a huge balcony, with deep claw marks on the edges where the dragoness had taken to her wings. As they went closer, they could see other claw marks where she had landed her massive self. Then they saw the cave entrance, carved with impressive craftsmanship. The edges of the cave itself were laden with piles and piles of gold coins and jewels. From the walls hanged broken pieces of armour and weapons, along with torn banners of the foes Khariss had defeated. Gold statues and art objects stood on pedestals, laid out so that the inhabitant of the cave could behold them while looking at the majestic view of the Emerald Forest and the Dusk Coast in the distance.

And in the center of all that wealth was a gargantuan red dragon, ruby scales glimmering in the fading firelight coming from golden braziers. Amongst scattered gold coins she lay, head against the floor and tongue out from her open, terrifying maw, displaying a gruesome wound in her chest, leaking a pool of crimson blood to the floor.

Khariss, the ruler of Duskport, was dead.

Althaea's Journal I
Session 1

Althaea’s Journal
1st day of Sunburst

The day when the tributaries were to be send-off had arrived. I felt strangely at ease walking the familiar halls and going through the ceremony meticulously practised in weeks before. Khariss’s prize was to be a large painting of her, with gilded picture frame. I felt sort of out of my body during the celebratory speeches and the traditional send-off ceremony. Only when we were settled in the carriage had I time to look my to-be comrades more closely. I had seen Dulkan in the court on earlier occasions, and had of course heard of Borel, the wrestling champion. I had not met Carric in any other context besides now during the preparations for the tribute. I decided to withdraw from making any kind of fixed character assessments of my travelling companions for now: I knew they must also feel their duty weighing heavily upon them, as I did.

We reached the first inn called the Mysterious Dog at Riverbank late in the evening, and as we approached the Inn there was a commotion by Nissha’s shrine. Apparently some drunk had fallen asleep whilst praying for better things to come, the poor creature. Locals had begun removing him heavy-handedly, out of our way, and Borel, apparently anxious to flex his muscles after the long journey, wanted to go help the locals to violently remove the poor man. I reached for his arm and calmed him down; I felt sorry for the poor man, putting his last hopes on Nissha. Carric was of my view; Dulkan did not exhibit feelings one way or the other. While a strong opposition rose from our guarding knights that the tributaries should not allow such trivial matter to detain them, I heard something of the drunk’s rantings that invoked my curiosity. Apparently there was some mystical business with a scarecrow on the poor man’s farm. The immediate situation was handled by appointing a place for the drunk called Mitts to sleep his night and sober up. We went inside the inn, and I promised myself that we would look into this matter as it had aroused my curiosity. While having refreshments, I discussed with my party members what to do with the situation. Knights guarding us were not inclined to allow us to do much else than to fulfil our purpose as tributaries. I offered to distract the guards by song while others would have a chance to sneak out, but Carric suggested we should all participate in investigating this mystery. I did a nice little musical number fitting for the occasion; I did not sing songs about Borel this evening, as I did not want to invoke any unnecessary attention or lengthy discussions that would postpone our window of opportunity for sneaking out to investigate.

Finally people began getting ready for the night. By chance the window of our bed chamber gave to the stables, and its roof allowed easy climb down. Although a stable boy was waken by our descent from the window, no other people evidently noticed a thing and we were able to reach the farm uneventfully. In the pitch dark we attempted to find the scarecrow. Dulkan and Borel came upon it first, and it animated and attacked them! Happy I had chosen to learn “Detect magic” spell, I was able to find out that it was indeed a question of magic, not a demon. We were able to kill, or rather burn, the scarecrow, and its magical possession dissipated. Unfortunately I was not able to detect the source, or the type, of magic involved. Even happier was I for learning “Cure wounds” spell: our party had been in a fight and looked like it. Not eager to allow our guards to see us in such a state, I performed my spells on heavily injured Borel and Dulkan.

As we got back to the inn, we told the stable boy to inform Mitts the farmer that his problem had been taken care of, by courtesy of the tributaries. Our climb back up alerted the guards, but luckily Borel was the last to climb in, and he was able to persuade the guards that there was nothing amiss.

Althaea’s Journal
2nd day of Sunburst

This morning broke with a surprise: we were handed a bronze necklace illustrating a trout as a gift from the local peasants. Carric was interested to see if it had any magical qualities, but I was more interested in learning whether the trout had any symbolism with the peasants. Our next overnight stay was to be at the Golden Caravan inn in Kolmhaag. Our journey did not take as long as the one on the first day, and we reached the inn in the afternoon whilst it was still light outside. As the Golden Caravan inn was at the outskirts of the Emerald Forest, I could not help but think that it would have been nice to meet with my brother who lives at our estate in northern parts of the Emerald Forest. Unsurprisingly for an inn, there was a storyteller there, and I was interested to learn about other possible stories on any unusual phenomena on the area, and also about the trout as a symbol. I learned that the river running from the Whispering Mountains brought with it some curious debris, sometimes quite mundane wooden agricultural artefacts, sometimes something more valuable. Folklore was that people had buried their dead in the mountain with artefacts, and now the artefacts came slowly trickling down the mountain carried by the river. But that was all I could find out. I was very tired after a long carriage ride the day before, and from our excursion in the field and encounter with the possessed scarecrow. Also, I was not that accustomed using my magic and two “Cure wounds” spells would have taken a toll even from my mother.

Althaea’s Journal
3rd day of Sunburst

Having a well-rested and refreshing night, the morning found us leaving our carriage behind and we continued our journey on foot, accompanied by the guards. I had now time to sing some songs I had learned about Borel, and my musical magic helping him, he was able to find his way in the old, beautiful forest. As we were camping for the night, we were suddenly attacked by mangy creatures, resembling dragon-born. As I am no fighter, I poured my “True strike” spell on Dulkan, and he was able to slay one of the three creatures attacking us. Borel was able to finish off one too, while the third started fleeing. This was the first time I saw Dulkan exhibit any passion or follow an impulse: he began chasing the third creature. Soon we heard him yelp, and we rushed to see what had happened. The ground had sunken in, and he had fallen inside the formed hole. After asking whether he was alright, we learned he was anxious that we should come down as well. We heard sounds of fighting in the distance as the guards and the creatures were locked in battle. Also, I was happy to promote Dulkan’s new found enthusiasm. We decided that the safest place for us might actually be down there. We had brought the painting with us, and lowered it down so that we could keep an eye for it. Dulkan had injured himself in the fall, and so I performed yet again my “Cure wounds” spell on him. Just as our eyes, rather mine and Carric’s, had adjusted to the dark, we saw that the ground had given away over some sort of a well. The well had a doorway on its western wall. Luckily I was able to detect, before anyone entering, that it had been booby-trapped. After considering, we decided not to deliberately spring it but to step over the trip-wire. In the room behind the door we saw two of the same breed of creatures asleep as we had fought on the surface. I sneaked close and was able to disarm the creatures. I was aiming for peaceful communication with the creatures after they had been disarmed, but Borel was too quick to act: he straight out killed one of them! We, as well as the surviving creature were surprised of what had happened. Trying to shake out from the stupor caused by Borel’s sudden and violent behaviour we attempted questioning the creature. It had gone too far round the bend: it became very agitated even for the mentioning of Khariss, and was not clearly in control of his mind. We could not get any information from him. I felt very sorry for the creature, as it was so lost and confused, and Carric suggested we let the poor creature go.

We began exploring this underground structure, mindful that there might be more hidden traps. Some parts of the passages were not accessible as the ceilings had fallen down. After exploring the passages for a while we came to a room that had been apparently dedicated to Quirion as it had Quirion’s symbol carved to the stone floor. I was happy for all the lectures my mother had insisted I should partake, and I was able to recognize the symbol at once. In a room adjacent to it was a shrine, and in front of the shrine were again three of the same dragon-born –like creatures. As we had the element of surprise we planned our attack, hoping it would be pre-emptive show of strength and they would yield to us without much bloodshed for either side. As we planned our attack non-lethal, we were able to capture one of them alive while the other two were allowed to escape. Carric was severely injured in this confrontation. Again I could be of service to my comrades by performing “Cure wounds” spell, this time on Carric. Questioning this creature was no more enlightening than interrogating the one we came across near the well: it became agitated by the mere mention of Khariss and was not able to form any coherent answer to any question. Borel took pity on the creature as it also had suffered from Carric’s “Magical projectiles” and my “Acid splash” in addition to its shaken mind, and killed it. In the shrine the creatures had gathered offerings: precious minerals and an elaborately decorated fan. We took those with us to add to the tribute. When we explored the underground temple further we discovered that it led straight to the foot of the mountain and Khariss’s lair.

Althaea’s Journal
4th day of Sunburst

It had taken us all night to explore the underground structure of Quirion’s Temple. Once we got to the surface, we waved rest and began climbing up as our goal was so close to us now. After a truly arduous climb, we finally reached Khariss’s lair, with impressive proportions and treasures at every corner, only then to find that Khariss lay dead in front of our eyes.

Althaea Nailo

The Blade and Rage
2nd Session

As the initial shock of seeing Khariss dead dissipated, the party investigated the lair. It seemed that she fought something… or someone. This someone managed to slay her with apparently a weapon strike to the heart. The only other clue of the killer was the tip of a weapon, made from silvery, brassy metal. Nothing else. Nothing was taken, nothing was left.

The party, worried that the event would attract attention of something larger than themselves, claimed some of the treasures for themselves, for various motives, and left the lair. Everyone took a scale from Khariss’ as a proof of her death, Borel going as far as filling a waterskin with her blood, which he also tasted. They hid a lot of gold and some valuables beneath a lightning-struck tree and made a map of it.

Now became the question of the next move. After an evening’s worth of speculation, the party decided to head to Kolmhaag, in order to secure a faster transport back to Duskport. On the way they noted that no-one was any wiser of the fate that had befallen Khariss. After a tiring and dangerous journey through the night the party finally arrived to Kolmhaag. As Dulcan belonged to the Kiln family, securing a boat was of no trouble.

Before the party left Kolmhaag, however, Althea decided to spread what they learned to the local nobles, in order to combat rumours and as a safeguard for whatever might happen. The nobles of Kolmhaag, excluding lord Uratha Kiln himself, had a rather sudden change of heart as they thought about the ramifications of Khariss’ death. Borel also managed to divulge the information, though his subjects were the employees of a local brothel.

On the long, restful boat journey the mages of the party examined the fan they had found among the Kobolds. It had inscriptions in an unknown language, albeit with a translation to Dragonic. A command word that would activate the magic inside, and also something that seemed like a code. Carric didn’t know the language, but from the city far to the north from Dusk Coast, Bowmeet, they would probably find someone who knows.

On the 8th morning of Sunburst the Party returned to Duskport, as discreetly as possible. They arranged for an audience with the most important members of the Council of Duskport: Baron Goran Marram, Lady Ashinka Drusia, Lord Uratha Kiln, Sir Morgath Kuon and Yaris Nailo. The meeting did not go well: Despite Althea’s best efforts, after learning that Khariss had died, Baron Goran flew to rage, imprisoning the Party to the dungeon and assaulting them with sorcerous magic when they resisted!

Almost as soon as the Party were taken to the dungeon beneath Duskport, Lady Ashinka Drusia came down to meet them. She heard their tale and apologised for the Baron’s behalf. She told them that she smelled an opportunity and that she would have use for the Party. And, true to her word, the Party was soon transferred to her manor, their possessions returned. The Party set down, awaiting for what next day would bring…

Althaea's Journal II
Session 2

Althaea’s journal entry for 4th day of Sunburst continues.

Yes. Khariss was dead. Unbelievably but assuredly dead. We all stood amazed. Our whole purpose was to pay tribute to Khariss and now she was no longer. After the initial shock, however, we all began to react to this fact all in our way. Dulkan and Borel inspected the wound whereas Carric and I were looking for clues around Khariss’s body. Dulkan and Borel found a glimpse of something glittering inside the wound struck straight to Khariss’s heart. Borel, our heroic fighting champion, was hesitant when we asked him to pull it out. Only after coaxing him and accompanied by Dulkan did he have enough courage to reach inside the cooling body of Khariss. What they pulled out was something none of us had seen before: a broken tip of a blade of some sort, made of an alloy also unbeknownst to us, resembling closest a combination of silver and brass. Carric and I discovered that Khariss had been dead for a day or two at least, but definitely no longer than a week. Furthermore, there was nothing suggesting that another dragon had slain her; indeed, the use of weapon spoke strongly against it. Her assailant was something big, but not as big as Khariss herself. This raised a concern in me that there was an entity capable of attacking and slaying a dragon, but apparently had not taken credit for it or, more concretely, had not looted her treasures or claimed her territory. What could an entity with those qualities be after, and would it pose a threat to our existence?

After these inspections were made Dulkan scoured the area and did not find anyone, or anything, lurking in the shadowy corners, nor did he find any hidden passages. A question then rose regarding the treasure. Dulkan was eager to take enough of the treasure for himself to secure his future happiness: in an unusual moment of candor he told as quite bluntly that he wished to sever all ties with the Kiln house, to create a future with another member of the Kiln house, Edessa, who was to belong to the tribute but Dulkan took her place instead. Borel also began looting the place for gold without any qualms. Even Carric was considering that he owed nothing to Duskport nobles and would do with financial independence. After dealing with matters of conscience, as I was not in need of wealth thanks to my family, I reconsidered my position regarding looting when I found a string of beautiful pink pearls. This invoked in me the feeling of independence from the support of my family; perhaps I could bring mementos or gifts to my family as well. Being the youngest of a family blessed with long life it is easy to forget that even their youngest has now grown up, too. Few other exceptionally exquisite artefacts were found, of which, in addition to the pink pearls, I was interested in a bracelet and an anklet. Also I found six precious gems which would be helpful should I want to go and explore the world beyond Duskport and the Emerald Forest. I did not wish to be too greedy, and it would also be difficult to carry the new wealth around with me. I decided to partake in looting for gold, but decided that I should bury the heavy gold coins instead of hauling all that with me across the difficult terrains of the forest. The others were of my view, and we all decided to bury the heavy gold coins and other objects too difficult and conspicuous to carry. Carric was interested in the actual body of Khariss as any substance coming from a dragon is potent with magical powers. Borel jumped at this, wanting to fill his water-skin with dragon blood. He even went so far as to taste the blood and wanting to eat Khariss’s flesh. The rest of us reacted with pure disgust to this idea, so Borel did not pursue it much longer. Dulkan pried out one of Khariss’s scales, and so did Carric. I did not like the idea of desecrating Khariss’s body, but after considering I decided that when we must eventually tell about Khariss’s death, a scale of her body would undeniably testify our words.

We discussed whether to camp overnight at Khariss’s lair or to descend from the mountain top. I believe none of us actually wanted to stay overnight next to the dead body, with unknown dangers possibly lurking around to surprise us. So down the mountain side we went. I had found a piece of canvas to put the coins in, and we combined our loot in one big pile, to be divided equally at a later date. Carric and I drew a map of the spot, so that we could find our way back to the treasure, with Khariss’s gate and a lightning-struck tree as landmarks. Carric was kind enough to share with me his rations as I had none with me. Then we had a much needed rest after long and arduous day in the underground dwelling, fighting the creatures, climbing the mountain, and yes, also from the shock caused by finding Khariss dead.

Althaea’s Journal
5th day of Sunburst

After a good night’s rest, although we took turns in standing guard, we discussed our next move. Where to go, who to tell and what to tell. I was keen on going to our family estate; I was sure we could get assistance from my brother. However, this journey would have taken several days’ worth of walking in difficult terrain and dangerous surroundings. Carric raised a point that we were expected in the Golden Caravan and later in Duskport. None of us was too eager to release the news in such a relatively small and unimportant place as the Golden Caravan. However, we had no food, water or method of transport. Kolmhaag was close and there we could share the news with persons of power and influence, and perhaps get a ship allowing a faster and more comfortable travel to Duskport. But we still needed immediate supply of food and water, also walking a day-and-a-half to Kolmhaag was not a tempting idea. So, we headed towards the Golden Caravan.

This journey was not completely uneventful. As we headed straight towards the inn under Borel’s navigation, we came across some white, sticky substance. Soon after we noticed something above us; a giant spider ready to make a jump on us. I cast a spell of “Dissonant whispers” and the thing retreated briefly as his tympanic membranes vibrated with agony as his mind was torn apart by vicious noises. This brought only a momentary reprieve and the spider attacked again. The spider had spewed its web over poor Borel. Carric threw “Magic projectiles” at the creature. I was able to cast a “True strike” spell to help Dulkan direct his hand’s mighty blow. The blow hit the spider square to its abdomen and with unnatural shrieking sound and twitching its legs the spider fell down dead and we were safe. Carric was interested to collect some of the spider’s venom, and I could be of help to him as I borrowed him my ink bottle after cleaning it with water from my water-skin.

When we finally reached the inn I volunteered to go purchase food, water and horses as well as listen to local gossip as I had mastered “Disguise self” spell. I was keen to hear had any news of Khariss travelled there yet, were the guards there and what was the general atmosphere regarding the tribute. When I reached the inn I found people eagerly waiting for the return of the tributaries, although when I placed a bet for the return of the tributaries I found that the odds were against it. A group of men were sitting front of the inn and were annoyingly inquisitive. They were surprised to hear that I had not come as my business to greet the returning tributaries. Finally I had to say that I was reconsidering to stay the night and meet the tributaries as they seemed to take great interest in my affairs and were quite vocal in their amazement and warnings of hazards to a traveller after nightfall. While I was able to buy some food and drink from the inn (and it would have been a very strange inn indeed had it not food to sell to customers), I was not able to procure horses. I did not wish to press the matter as not to attract too much attention. Fortunately I remembered that the carriage and horses from our tribute caravan were still there. I chatted up the storyteller, but he had not much to tell to counter my current interests, and again did not wish to press the matter too much to avoid unnecessary attention. Had it been another occasion I would have been quite interested in the little story he told me of the folklore about beautiful young women in distress along the road, where helpers would find themselves dragged to the woods only never to be seen again. I bought the man a drink as a way to say thanks, as is customary.

As I returned from my trip I had to bring the bad news about the horses. I suggested we steal the carriage and horses belonging to the tribute, as they belong to us, in a way. I was not too keen on stealing horses from the farmers, as it was soon time of harvest and their livelihood were completely reliant on horses. Carric pointed out that stealing from the tribute would cause great alarm and distress in the locals, and so in the end we decided that we should walk to Kolmhaag. So, we began our march into the night.

Althaea’s Journal
6th day of Sunburst

We walked the whole night. Dulkan and Carric begun feeling the strain of the walk and became exhausted. I was very worried about them, but knew that my magic would not help now; the only thing that would help would be rest. But rest was something we could not do until we had reached Kolmhaag. After the night’s march we finally reached the gates of Kolmhaag just before mid-day. Dulkan seemed to liven up when we got Kolmhaag on our sights, but Carric was feeling even more poorly. Entering the gates Dulkan waved a guard of the fortification closer and asked that we would be taken discretely but quickly to the Chamberlain, who was in charge of running the everyday business of the city now that most of the more high-ranking noblemen were at Duskport. The guard showed great respect to Dulkan and acted on his request quickly and efficiently, although he was clearly puzzled on the event of seeing his master here. We were taken to the Chamberlain’s quarters and granted an audience. We asked for privacy and privacy was granted. The Chamberlain expressed his disbelief to our news, though he finally accepted it. His initial objection raised a concern in me that when only one person in town knew our intelligence, others would be equally sceptical. As us, the tributaries were seen in town as we did nothing to hide or conceal our identity, rumours would most likely be generated and then the persons in charge would be happy to have true information on the matter. I also feared that this might cause the matter to be quieted down and nothing would be done to prepare whatever is to happen as a result. Furthermore, power struggles are bound to occur, and the more people new about the truth the less danger there would be for any underhanded actions. In my opinion this outweighed the need for secrecy. None of my party member was of my opinion of sharing the news more widely, although no-one clearly opposed it either. Carric just wished to rest, for which I could not blame him. Indeed, I had grown greatly concerned on Carric’s health, and rest would be the right choice for him now. Borel disappeared somewhere; later I found out that he had felt the urge to visit the brothels by the docks. Well, we all have our rest in our own way. I was happy to find that Dulkan was willing to meet the city’s remaining nobles with me: a testament from only one member of the party would have seemed suspicious. But hometown tributary giving his testament, that should have some weigh in the matter! The Chamberlain was not happy at my request to call an emergency council meeting; indeed, as I was able to persuade him otherwise, I had to invoke my noble rights to call a meeting of my peers. I did not like having to resort to point to my noble lineage and not being able to persuade him with my diplomatic abilities, but I felt the matter was too great to let my own feelings of independence get in the way. However, as a member of Nailo family my request was granted and soon we were surrounded by four very annoyed lesser ranking nobles. However, their vexation soon gave way to disbelief and strong opposition against our news. I presented the facts and evidence with Dulkan, the broken point of strange alloy and the dragon scale. My eloquent flattery broke the most violent opposition and I got the council members to hear my case. Although at one point Dulkan lost his cool because of the stubborn council members, we were finally able to make them see the urgency of our news, and the need to prepare accordingly. Dulkan asked for a ship to take us to Duskport. He also asked that they should keep the news to themselves if possible as not to increase panic in the peasants. For a final request I asked for intelligence: should they have any idea of the unknown entity or other mysterious phenomena occurring in the area I plead they should let us know by courier. Dwarf lord called Zerin was particularly interested in our tale, perhaps we are to hear from him at some point.

Ship was prepared by the afternoon, and Carric, Dulkan and I went to the docks having sent a message to Borel to meet us there. Then we set sails.

Althaea’s Journal
7th day of Sunburst

Having all day to do as I pleased I practiced my flute and my singing. I also sat with Carric, and to my satisfaction I found that he was feeling a lot better. We studied the fan at length. Although I was eager to try how it worked, as it promised to cause a great wind, I did not dare as there were markings there written in a language we did not understand. Borel wanted the rowers and the seamen to wrestle with him, but none were eager.

Althaea’s Journal
8th day of Sunburst

Our calm and restful journey down the river continued. I was glad that my singing had encouraged Dulkan to share a song he knew with me. I had to coax him at first; for some reason he had gotten to his mind that I only mingle amongst nobles, and that my repertoire consist only of songs worthy of high courts. I was happy I could persuade him as the song was of dwarven origin, of which I knew only a few songs. It was called “The Song of the Rockhead” and it was about a man chasing a golden flicker of light down a dark passage, ever deeper, forgetting his own safety in his pursuit. I write it down here, so that I would always remember it perfectly:

The Song of the Rockhead

“Down, deeper down in the underground
that’s where the greatest wealth is found
Onward, journey onward in the Underdark
chasing ever after a golden spark

Up or down the mining shaft,
what does his old nose smell in the draft?
Left or right as the passage forks,
does he even spot all the footprints of orcs?

In the blink of an eye he would trade away
the heat of the forge or the light of day
For a good strong vein of the noble ore
left untouched by the dwarves of yore

Down, deeper down in the underground
that’s where the greatest wealth is found
Onward, journey onward in the Underdark
chasing ever after a golden spark

There, over there he spies a glow
at last the old rockhead knows where to go
Here, somewhere here was a glint of yellow
but now it is gone, my dear stubborn fellow

Again and again around the bend
along the dark tunnels that never come to end
Searching evermore for the noble ore
left untouched by the dwarves of yore"

Today Dulkan also finally let Borel out of his misery and agreed to wrestle with him. I must say, that was not a match worthy of Borel, the wrestling champion! Dulkan actually won the match. Borel may have pulled some punches, so to speak, as Dulkan is not a professional and was lately suffering from exhaustion. Be that as it may, it was delicious to tease Borel about it.

In the afternoon we finally docked at Duskport harbour. Immediately after we disembarked, we asked a worker of the docks to help us get to the Palace as quietly and discretely as possible.

When we reached the palace and the great council hall all the council members were already there, sitting over a semi-circular table, my father included. Carric addressed the Baron and gave him of our news, presenting the broken peace of blade as he spoke. To say that the news was poorly received is an understatement. He flew into a frenzy. He accepted no further information or explanations and accused us of being liars and traitors and what have you. I attempted to clarify our situation, but he threw me and Carric prone on the floor with his spell. Dulkan presented the dragon scale as further evidence, but Marram incinerated it with one of his spells. Getting up, I once more attempted to reason with him, but all I got as a response were two great stings from fire spell attack. I collapsed to the floor and remained silent after that as I in great pain. I was only hoping that my presentation and disregard of my own wellbeing over conveying the full and truthful narrative of the whole affair had made an impact on other less fanatic spectators of this event. I could not look at my father so that I could help him remain his neutral position. Guards were called to take us to the dungeons. Dulkan made some final efforts to reason with the Baron, but to no avail. We could see that the other council members were not as reluctant to accept the news, and were now just eager that we should go before Baron Marram would do something he would sorely regret later. Although I had understood that Baron Marram was in his position only because of Khariss I could not foresee his adamant reluctance to even hear us.

We were stripped off of weapons and spell casting instruments along with our trunks, rucksacks and belt pouches. The dungeons were dark, moist and drafty but atleast we had the comfort of each other’s company as we were held in the same cell. I was also able to get some rest to recover from my wounds caused my Marram’s fiery attack.

To our surprise Lady Drusia paid us a visit. She was explaining Baron’s behaviour, and it was, as I had anticipated, very difficult for Marram to except the news of Khariss’s death as it would greatly affect his position in a court, as the court as such would no longer exist after Khariss’s demise. Lady Drusia was eager to hear every little detail of our adventure. In return Dulkan requested that we would be captives in a more appropriate location, more in reflection of our position. I was surprised to hear this; Dulkan had declared his wish to disassociate himself from the Kiln family and I had grown to know he did not greatly appreciate people of rank just because they were born to it. Be that as it may, I was happy to get to a more comfortable place for imprisonment.

Soon after Lady Drusia’s visit we were let out from the cell and our belongings were returned to us. We were taken by a carriage that carried Lady Drusia’s signet to a house, which we later found was Lady Drusia’s town castle. After we settled in we found ourselves in nicely although somewhat simplistically furnished rooms where we could wander as we wanted. The only sign that we were “visitors with restricted privileges” was that we were not allowed outside, and guards were standing watch at the door. As soon as I was able I wrote a note to be sent to my family to inform them I was alright and well for the moment. To think only this afternoon we disembarked from our ship. I could not help but wonder, what is next? What are Lady Drusia’s motives? Althaea Nailo

Seeds of a Nation
3rd Session

At 9th of Sunburst the party could rest in the care, or captivity, of Lady Ashinka Drusia. Despite their apparent incarceration, the Lady provided books, food and lodgings, and in Althea’s case, a quick parental visit. The party in general managed to be in higher spirits than after last day.

The 10th day of Sunburst was a significant day, for it was the first meeting where plans for the future of Dusk Coast were created. The party joined Lady Ashinka Drusia, Yaris Nailo and Sir Morgath Kuon to discuss the events of the tribute and Ashinka’s plans for the future.Lord Uratha Kiln was not present, for he had left urgently back to Kolmhaag, reasons unknown.

Ashinka argued that since the response from the surrounding major dragons would probably be slow, there was an opportunity to forge a new nation for Duskport. The Marram would probably hang to their power for as long as possible, which would mean that if the nobles would make a coup, they would need a unified Dusk Coast. She suggested to send out the Party as a diplomatic envoy to negotiate with the larger towns dotting the coastline and persuade their nobles and people to join the new, dragon-free nation. Yaris agreed that Nailo would support the decision, and Sir Kuon, being a pessimist, decided to at least not oppose Ashinka’s plan.

After being promised handsome compensation for their efforts, the party agreed, becoming the emissaries for Ashinka’s vision of a truly free nation.

The party used the rest of the day to prepare for their first mission: Arry, one of the northernmost towns still under the rule of Duskport. They would head over there and negotiate with its leader, the dragonborn Alexha. Carric, wanting to learn more of the properties of dragon blood that Borel was carrying, searched for a Wizard. Althea helped with this, arranging a meeting between her mother and the rest of the party. Anthea informed them that dragon blood indeed had a lot of potential, and the party would find someone who could use it.

During the night, Dulcan left to see his mentor, Vulcan, at the Kiln guest manor. As he was sneaking in, he was spotted by a guard. The heated conversation went awry and in the end Dulcan had to escape to the streets, leaving behind two angry guards… and one dead one.

The next day the Party boarded the Cloud Lily, a fast cutter to reach Arry by sea. The journey went well, and the sea air cleared heads and gave a fresh start to their next operation.

On the 12th of Sunburst, after one day of sailing, the party spotted a wrecked ship and some stranded halfling fishermen. As they approached to save them, a group of vicious Sahuagin attacked the ship. As providence was on their side, the party defeated the shark-people and rescued the grateful fishermen and -women. On the evening they arrived to Arry’s port and made themselves known in the local gambling tavern, the Golden Goat. On the next day, they would visit Alexha, and hope that the negotiations would bear fruit…

A letter to Kolmhaag, 11th of Sunburst

A solitary candle lent its soft light to Dulkan’s chamber well before the early rays of the Sunburst morning. His mind could find no peace, being still smothered in the horrifying atmosphere of the nightmare that awoke him: a vision of absolute power and corruption, a taste of the tyrant’s authority to decide the life and death of lowly subjects… A sweat-drenched shirt was tossed to the corner.
A thing lying on his desk wrested his attention. A golden ring, quite ordinary in appearance given its surrounding scene of restrained luxury. But for Dulkan it had a weighty significance, for it was his family signet ring he had carried for so many years. How odd did it felt to see it sitting there, abandoned, as if staring back at him, and suddenly Dulkan realized the degree of pride and honour he had felt in wearing it. The incident of the previous night at the Kiln residence, shedding the blood of the dutiful guard, came back to him with a bitter pang. “Whatever honour I am due,” he reflected, “I must henceforth earn with my own works.” The ring was no longer his to hold.
Dulkan sat down with the intent of writing letters. But to whom? He yearned to receive the advice of Vulkan, and he bit his thumb at the thought of Edessa waiting for news at Kolmhaag. However, he was in no position to engage in idle correspondence with his dear companions of house Kiln as if he were still living in the happy old days. His obligation was clear. On the envelope he wrote “Lord Uratha, Kolmhaag” in his characteristic unornate style. The rest of the words came slowly:

My Lord,

Many things of great significance have come to pass since I was appointed a tributary, matters of political nature and also of mutual personal importance. I have chosen my path, and however much I regret the thorns upon it — of which you shall learn soon — I am adamant in my resolve. I must go my own way.

I see dark clouds in the horizon. We must settle our affairs after the storm.

Along with this letter you will find my signet ring. I bow before you and bid farewell, for now.


Althaea's Journal III
Session 3

9th day of Sunburst
This morning the night’s sleep had refreshed our body and spirit. We knew not yet what was to become of us: would Baron Goran still feel vindictive, and what Lady Ashinka had planned for us. After breakfast I had visitor, whom I was allowed to receive in the library. My heart leapt with joy as I recognized the visitor’s tall and magnificent form as that of my father, Yaris Nailo. I enquired whether my message had reached him and how my mother was feeling. Father assured me that Anthea was quite well, not worrying too much about my present situation. I inquired should my father have any knowledge of our future, but he knew not, or was not allowed to tell. Still feeling that I should meet with my mother to reassure her of my wellbeing I asked father whether he could arrange me to meet with her.

That afternoon I was happy to get back home with my father, even if it was only to visit. He pointed me towards the garden to look for my mother. She was not in the garden, but I knew where to look for her – I went to the secret gate leading to my mother’s study, and spoke the word that allowed the arcane lock to open. There she was, in her study, surrounded by opened books and scrolls and parchments. I called for her, and absentmindedly she looked up from her work to respond to my greeting. After declaring that I was alright and was taken good care of, I inquired whether she could shed any light on the particulars leading to the current situation. Mother was notably irritated and frustrated at herself. She replied that she did not have any information to give, reproaching herself for not foreseeing these important matters. I knew that any attempts to calm her would be in vain; therefore I merely changed the topic. I introduced Khariss’s scale to her as well as the other spoils I had taken with me from Khariss’s lair. Perhaps they could be of help to allow clear her visions for the future. She took them and absentmindedly placed them somewhere on the table. Knowing my mother, I feared that the items would be forever lost in the nooks and crannies of her study. As I had the opportunity to consult my mother, I ask her guidance about learning a new spell. Current events had made me anxious to be prepared for attacks, and I wished to learn “Cloud of daggers” spell. She said I should listen to my inner music to tap into it for the spell, as I usually do. As I was leaving mother had not apparently forgotten the items I had given her, as she said I should hold on to them as she had no use for them herself, and they belonged to me. So I took them with me.

I was happy to have my parents to fill the day with activity to keep me occupied as by the evening we had not heard of Lady Ashinka nor given any information of our fate. It was, of course, very thoughtful of her to allow us to rest after yesterday’s events. I knew not how my companions had spent their day; I was just hoping they had taken this opportunity to rest to full advantage.

10th day of Sunburst
We were informed at breakfast that we were to meet some of the council members at Lady Ashinka’s manor. We were met there by Lady Ashinka, Sir Morgath Kuon and my father. Lord Uratha Kiln had apparently been call to Kolmhaag with some urgent business. Baron Goran was not there, of which I was grateful. We were invited to give a full disclosure on the events of our adventure. Dulkan raised a concern whether guards had been dispatched to protect Khariss’s treasure from looting. Sir Morgath assured that it was taking care of. As soon as this matter was settled I once again told the story of our journey, and this time the story was given full attention and consideration it deserved. I expressed my wishes to gain information on the broken spear point and of any speculations on what kind of a creature could be responsible of Khariss’s death.

Now we finally came to know of Lady Ashinka’s plan. Her vision was to form a single, a dragon-free alliance joining Duskport and other major cities of the coast line. We agreed with Lady Ashinka that it would take some time before the older dragons could react to the new situation and we could use this to our advantage. She produced a map illustrating territories of major dragon and lesser, younger dragons of the region, and all of us leaned over to study it with eager interest. As a dragon’s lair usually locates at the heart of one’s territory, the dragons of the region may not even be interested in taking over this area as they were contently ruling their own domains. Some of the younger dragons, while perhaps eager to conquer Duskport and the surrounding areas, did not hold enough power to do so.

The idea of a new, dragon-free nation for Duskport and the surrounding areas was revolutionary but exiting. My father was obviously of Lady Ashinka’s opinion. Sir Morgath was more conservative and cautious, but when pressed, he admitted that he served first and foremost the interests of the people of Duskport rather than its ruler, whoever it might be. Dulkan was very elated at this prospect, and his feelings were met by those of Carric’s. Borel is clearly used to feeling strong and invincible, so being free of the rule of someone mightier appealed to him. As I had not yet presented any strong feelings one way or the other, Carric asked me directly. I had had time to consider and thus I expressed my opinion: I too was interested in the dragon-free rule, based on the will of the people rather than the whims of a dragon. However, as the Baron was likely to attempt to hold on to his power as long as possible – and the news of Khariss’s death would not perhaps be well received by all as I knew only too well – my condition to joining this coup was it should be done with diplomatic finesse and with minimal bloodshed. I also pointed out that while Khariss’s treasure was now at disposal of Duskport and its citizens, it was possible to pay for guards and knights for protecting the people of the realm and thus it was not necessary to aquire protection of a dragon against demons and other dark forces.

Lady Ashinka suggested that we as the victorious tributaries should use our newly gained glory to become a diplomatic envoy negotiating with the nobles of the coastal cities to persuade the people to join in the alliance; a nation ruled and defended by its people. We were to work both among the nobles and common folk as Lady Ashinka’s emissaries. I realized we had a difficult task ahead of us: to negotiate and persuade people to join our movement by exploiting our reputation, but at the same time maintain secrecy of the coup and deal carefully the news of Khariss’s death as it could cause panic. I also feared feelings of betrayal of the public if we present ourselves as victorious tributaries, when we even did not finish the tribute due to Khariss’s death. We need to find out a diplomatic way to come around this obstacle, should it arise.

Arry was chosen as the city to start with: we were to negotiate with its ruler, Alexha. We discussed at length whether to approach Arry by land or by sea. Sea route won, luckily, as I argued that as secrecy would be the key, slow and cumbersome travel by land with many layovers on the way would attract more attention than subtle preparation for sea voyage and quiet departure.

After reaching an agreement on mode of transport we were did some preparations for the travel. Lady Ashinka equipped us with some money and travel equipment as well as provided and prepared a ship. Carric was interested in the properties of dragon blood and was seeking a wizard. I knew that even the most sensitive inquiries could easily spread rumours. I decided that I should ask my mother’s help, as she would definitely not let slip that the tributaries possessed dragon blood. Even though we had endured a lot together, I was still hesitant to tell Carric and Borel that the wizard I knew was my mother. Ever since I was a child I knew that the society judged my mother’s interests in wizardry scandalous and that this matter should be a kept a secret within the family. But consulting my mother was the best way of keeping matters involving the coup secret as not to endanger our mission. After careful consideration I sent for my mother to meet us in the garden adjoining Lady Ashinka’s house. She was not able to tell much, but she could inform us that she had foreseen that we are to meet with someone who can tell us what dragon blood can be used for, and could actually make use of it. Carric was very appreciative of my mother’s help; he obviously could not care less that she was someone who was not supposed to know wizardry. I was amazed of his reaction as I had always thought that it society considered a non-wizard engaging in wizardry so blasphemous that people would always react to it with disgust. As it happens, Carric was merely academically interested in meeting such a person, also possessing a gift for foresight. Borel was not as tactful: he had apparently noticed some family resemblance, and enquired about that. I was annoyed with him, as I thought he should have been appreciative enough with the help I provided as to leave these uncomfortable questions unasked.

Some final preparations included Carric substituting some of his gems for a diamond, which he needed as a spell focus. Borel changed some of his gems into money, and some of this money he used to buy better armour. I was not too happy to hear about this exchange of gems for money, as subtlety would be the key and it would not look good if the tributaries were suddenly flashing a lot of wealth around. It could raise too many questions.

11th day of Sunburst
I am concerned about Dulkan. He did not look well rested in the morning; actually he looked rather ill. However, there was no time to enquire after his wellbeing, and the last ten days had educated me that when a member of our party looks poorly, it is best to enquire the reasons when alone.

We boarded a parry called the Cloud Lily and set for Arry. As soon as we had departed and had settled to our quarters, I sought Dulkan to see how he was and if he required healing of the body or of the mind. I found him inside the cabin. He was deep in thought, fingering the silver crown with aquamarines he had taken from Khariss’s lair as his share of the spoils. After noticing that the person entering was me, I think he was happy to see me and asked me to sing him a song to comfort him. I sang a sweet, slightly melancholic song about two young lovers. This allowed him to settle a bit and allowed him confide in me: he had seen a terrible nightmare of corruption sometimes coming with great power. He continued in telling me of his dealings last night. He had attempted to discreetly visit his mentor Vulcan in the Kiln family home in the darkness of the night, but had been intercepted by a guard. Revealing his great torment he confessed he had in vain attempted to reason with the guard and had had no choice but to kill him as not to attract attention to our mission. As the guard had been able to call for aid before Dulkan could silence him, Dulkan had to forego his plans to meet with his mentor. I felt his pain and attempted to comfort him by reassuring that he had had no choice: as horrible as taking an innocent life is, a greater cause had been at stake. I am not sure how much I was able to help him in his torment. With resolve written all over his appearance, he wanted to give me his aquamarine crown, and I was only to give it back to him once he had shown he was worthy. As I respected his feelings and decision I accepted this responsibility; however, I was not sure whether I am able to assess his worth. I already knew the man I had grown to know during these past few days was a carefully considered man who would not have taken a life lightly. Now that I knew what troubled him, I could choose a more fitting song for his comfort. It was a song of an ordinary man who can achieve greatness through conviction and appreciation of things larger than himself.

12th day of Sunburst
We were faring in good weather, making a good time for the journey when the captain informed that a group of halfling fishermen had stranded on a reef. Our party was eager to help, and we navigated closer to see the situation, mindful not to get shipwrecked on the reef ourselves. As we got closer Carric noticed that while the halflings were indeed in trouble, they were equally concerned for us, trying to warn us of something. Carric soon noticed what it was: a group of shark-people, Sahuagin, had apparently attacked the halflings and were now attempting to attack us! Five of these nasty creatures soon engaged us in battle, one assaulting Borel, one Carric, one Dulkan and one attacking the members of the crew. The fifth creature coming behind the others launched a spear at me, hitting me directly at my right shoulder. I was able to deter the creature after his attack with “Dissonant whispers” which allowed me enough time to regroup myself to try my new spell “Cloud of daggers”. This spell was able to hit the creature hard enough to send it back to the sea. I noticed that my companions had been successful in their own battles. Although Dulkan had managed to kill two of the creatures, we were able to send the rest scurrying back into the ocean. Understanding that this event would be quite the story to tell, it occurred to me that as our mission was to persuade people to join us under a dragon-free rule, an image of invincible tributaries would be beneficial to our cause. Thus I healed the wounds of my comrades’ right after the battle, seemingly then coming unharmed from battle. The halflings were then rescued and their gratitude was most heart-warming. As they were from Arry, we had no trouble taking them back to their homes as it took us no effort or time at all.

Carric was interested in looking at the anatomy of the creature: I was interested as well, especially on how these creatures breathed; with lungs, gills or both. Both, it seemed.

When we reached Arry harbour I wanted to thank the captain and the crew for their courageousness in battle and gave them 15 silver wings to have a drink to our health in the local tavern. I truly wished to thank them, but this would work for our benefit as well: if we were to present ourselves eventually as the emissaries of a new rule, it would be crucial to get the stories going that we could protect the people, especially the peasants, from the attacks of demons and any other unholy creatures, and that protection of a dragon would thus no longer be necessary.

As we were discussing where to take lodgings the next night, one of the halflings kindly offered his hospitality as a form of thanks. I was mindful that a poor fisherman giving lodgings to four people would be quite taxing to his household, so I was thinking we should find some other lodgings for the rest of our visit. When we came to the house of the fisherman his wife kindly served us fish pie for supper. After being fed we were all tired from the day’s events, but felt that a drink or two at a local tavern would still do us good. Borel and Dulkan went ahead, Carric and I followed.

When Carric and I reached the tavern called the Golden Goat, we found Borel gambling and Dulkan entertaining a group of locals with the tale our today’s adventure. We listened to local gossip and heard that the attacks of the shark-people and other strange events had been increasing lately. Carric and I did not seek company actively, but as I had expected, the captain and the crew had taken my 15 silver wings and put them to good use. As the captain noticed us, he waved us closer and loudly greeted us as heroes and told our story, as I had intended. It is always better to have someone else tell of your heroic actions rather than to tell it yourself: the crowd listening to the tale would not as easily consider it coming out of vanity or exaggeration. Happy my little scheme had worked and that we were already the buzz of the town I hoped it would help our case tomorrow when we were to meet with Alexha. Unfortunately we were too tired after the day’s events that I completely forgot to send a brief message to Alexha so she could be expecting us. My father would have been very disappointed with me.

Althaea Nailo

Saviors of Arry
4th Session

On the 13th of Sunburst, the Party prepared. Not wanting to barge in and demand audience, they sent a letter explaining that they would like to meet Alexha, the leader of Arry, on a matters of grave importance. While they waited for her answer, the party spent time and some coin in the local temple of Cruxis, where Dulcan also asked whether the Dragon Divines shaped the world after themselves, or whether the dragons shaped the Divines after themselves. A question where he received a swift answer: The former.

Later in the evening the Party’s humility paid off and Alexha invited them to stay in the diplomatic suite, embarrassed and impressed that the Tributaries chose to stay in their humble lodgings. She met them, along with her direct and stern halfling assistant Timothy. The Party explained Lady Drusia’s plan and asked for her to sign a declaration of allegiance to the new, united Dusk Coast. While Alexha was on board, seeing the benefits of a new leadership free from dragonic rule, Timothy expressed concern that Arry could offer any concrete aid when and if Lady Drusia would seize Duskport.

For indeed the Sahuagin had increased their presence on the coast significantly, raiding the fishers and other defenseless ships, straining the patrol fleets. Alexha’s requests for more ships from Duskport or help from the Dragon Knight Order had gone unanswered. The Order had requested for evidence of anything major enough to warrant a full mobilization. To find it, Alexha had send out her favourite intelligence agent Kerach to find out what the Sahuagin were doing. The last thing he had found out that they were seen around the southern tip of the island of Assarna.

The Party decided to hold this as a precedent of mutual assistance and take care of the problem. To foster solidarity, and get some backup, they suggested for a tournament, the winners of which would be given the chance to help the Tributaries to defeat the Sahuagin threat. The next two days the Party spent organising and holding the battle of brawn, eventually scoring a solid number of warriors to aid them in their quest.

On the 16th of Sunburst the party left for Assarna. They landed in a small coastal village where an enthusiastic half-elven trader told them that the Sahuagin were seen at the southern tip, but that they kept their distance for now. Wishing to learn more before heading into the Spires, as the locals called them, the party headed to a village deeper inland that would contain more information. The next day they heard that lone wanderers disappear in the Spires, and also a remark that the place was supposedly a site of a great battle a long time ago. They also learned that Kerach had come this way and headed to the Spires a week ago.

Sacrificing time for information, the party, now a proper band, waited for a woodcutter who supposedly knew about the dangers of the Spires. As night fell, the person still hadn’t shown up. As the party rest in the warm hospitality of the village, Borel sneaked off to the cottage of the woodcutter, believing that the big, armed group could have scared the man off. And it had. Borel found the nervous man and with an offering of drink, heard his tale. A horrid creature had almost lured the man to a trap with a beautiful singing voice: A harpy had almost killed him. Armed with this knowledge, the party used Althea’s sealing wax to make earplugs for their troopers.

As the 18th of Sunburst dawned, the heroes of our tale set off to the Spires, hoping to find answers for their questions and Sahuagin for their blades…

Fourteenth adventurer
and a marching song

It was the morning of the day after they had docked at a small village on the coast of Assarna. They were marching west across rough terrain where stunted bushes and thin wisps of grass fought over little islands of turf on a sea of stony ground. The day was growing warm and pleasant, but the bare landscape had something sullen about it that made the company reluctant to disturb the silence of the place with their usual banter.

They were thirteen in number, with nine venturesome recruits from the town of Arry. But, in the uneasy imagination of Dulkan, another one suddenly appeared by his side: a short, stout and wide-shouldered figure, an aged man who somehow managed to match Dulkan’s brisk gait despite the difference in statures. The grave face of the dwarf was webbed with scars though not much of it could be seen from among the steel-grey bristles of his beard and bushy eyebrows. Or so the vision presented him.

“Greetings, friend,” started the imaginary dwarf in Miners’ Cant. “Or should I address you as Commander Dulkan now?”
“Ah, Vulkan. It was Althaea’s idea,” replied the other in the same tongue.
“Don’t sell me fool’s gold, boy! I know this is precisely what you wanted all along. I know your ways.”
“And what if it is so? Someone must lead, and I have the skill and learning for it.”
“Do you indeed?” grumbled Vulkan. “Your chief skill resides in skipping on merlons, and your learning comes from reading those fanciful, romantic adventures with jewel-adorned endings.”
“The sieve of your memory is so coarse. Remember that I have also studied Arazur’s Manual of Strategy and the Kolmhaag military annals. And I have seen how you lead the soldiers. Trust me, old man, I know my way through these tunnels.”
“Hmph! The squealing of the smallest goblin may sound deep as it wells up from the chasms. Your steel is yet to be hardened. You don’t know what it’s like, and you don’t know where you are leading them.”
“You always pound with the heaviest hammer,” thought Dulkan with frustration. “We’ve encountered the sea devils once before. They’re not so tough. I felled two of them without suffering a scratch on my skin.”
At this reply, the dwarf turned his gaze on the group of sailors walking behind them. “And what about this dross? What do they weigh? Could they achieve the same?”
“They’re spirited enough. And while they are light in technique, they will show weight in commitment. Under my leadership they will prove themselves rich in worth.”
“And when the hour is darkest, do you have what it takes to send them to die? When the fire of your enterprise is about to go out, would you throw these men under the furnace?”
“It won’t come to that.”
As the vision of his mentor kept quiet, Dulkan’s response echoed in his own mind. “It won’t come to that,” he tried to assure himself. Then he turned back to Vulkan with what confidence he could gather. “People shall tell tales of our great deeds, and when they reach your ears you will learn to respect my abilities. Now begone, you hounding little shadow!”

The image of his mentor stepped away and evaporated. Returning to reality, the rustle of gravel made Dulkan aware of the silence of the others behind him. The time was ripe for a gesture of leadership and camaraderie.
“Alright, good fellows. How about a song?” Dulkan said. “I know a fine one from where I grew up, a marching song that fits the occasion. Here’s how it goes, join me when you get the hang of it.”

In the ruby light of early dawn
over mountain’s height, through valleys low
go men of might and men of brawn
March right left right left right left, ho!

White land, black land, Red Castle band*
goes marching sword and shield in hand
Pride and honour and duty demand
we defend our home, we make our stand

Our banner I sight, it calls me to don
a mail shirt bright, to string my bow
to join the fight and fight until it’s won
March right left right left right left, ho!

[Repeat chorus]

The answer to our plight is the blast of clarion
and our fires ignite to strike fear in our foe
We rise to smite them and see their host gone
March right left right left right left, ho!

[Repeat chorus]

\* Explanatory trivia: The first line of the chorus is a reference to the Kiln coat of arms. It depicts a red castle, a symbol of the fortress of Kolmhaag. The left half of the background is white and the right half is black. In the jargon of heraldry this would be described or “blazoned” as “Per pale Argent and Sable a castle Gules”. Dulkan had a mark of cadency in his personal coat of arms, namely a white five-pointed star in the upper right corner, or “a mullet Argent in sinister chief”.

Althaea's Journal IV
Session 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Althaea Nailo


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