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.
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.
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.
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.
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