May 24 2008

Chapter 29

Jeremy @ 10:13 pm

Summer, Day 20, 6050

6050.3.20

Mid-Jaiman Map with routeThe players have passed through the regions (from north to south) of Boeltarica, Calthos, Jhoernagh, Lathornia and Nolgara on the way to Lethys and they and their Elven escort are welcomed more and less warmly depending on the region.

The duchy of Boeltarica (which lies to the east of U-Lyshak) is ruled by Duke Korian.  The duke covets the Elven Forest (as do other  Rhakhaanian lords) and the relationship between him and King Liras is strained.  He hopes to ally with Kier – though Kier seems determined to reform the kingdom of U-Lyshak and is openly friendly with the elves. His son feels differently and is more interested in an alliance and consequently holds Price Kier in high regard.

A number of rumours reached the party that the Duke of Calthos – Bariel and the Duke of Sanaria – Tovinak (who is Jerrin’s half brother) have been assisting the Pretender by providing information, some gleaned from court and some gleaned from the battlefield as well as a constant supply of gold.  The rumours primarily come from the people whose taxes are at an all time high.

Currently the region of Nolgara is officially held by Frelik, though with his treachery the Emperor has revoked even recognition of the region.  Frelik has been away from Nolgara for some time and the Emperor’s displeasure has manifested itself by an occupying force of imperial troops.  The rest of Frelik’s family – his wife and his son – Zurin are under house arrest.

As they approached Lethys, their Elven escort bids them farewell and the Wing Brothers wish them well in their quest and urge them to reach Nomikos as soon as possible.  They must return to the forest as King Liras has other missions prepared for them but they request that the players send word of Lionar as soon as they discover anything.

There are a number of elven gifts, granted by King Liras which are handed over at the last minute with little explanation as to their powers.  All the elves warm to Prince Keir and will take word back to King Liras that the young man will be a valuable ally in the troubles ahead.

Lethys is one of the largest harbours all over Kulthea and located on southwestern Jaiman it is a perfect spot for travellers. It is the port of Rhakhaan and a very active city with over fifty thousand inhabitants. The city is built close to the Lethys bay a perfect wavebreaker from the dangerous sea outside.

From Lethys to Hoeneydar – they pass through Quendara and the region of Hoeneydar without too much incident.

From the mouth of the river Yardaen where Hoeneydar is situated the northern coastlines of the huge, twin islands of Ormian and Calaermian can be clearly seen situated in the Bay of Ormian.  Hoeneydar itself has developed a bustling trade shipping travellers across the calm waters of the Bay of Ormian, to and from the two islands.  The haunted isle of Dalov Mur (or The Watching Isle) is not mentioned in polite conversation, though for a couple of coppers local story-tellers will recite gruesome tales of missing crews, witches and swamp-beasts aggressive plant-life.

Lysar, Asheren, Sira and Ulrich left the way-station that morning.  They had walked all the previous day and were hoping to reach Hoenydar by lunch time.  The previous night had been sweltering and oppressive, this far south the low cloud seemed to have settled in for the week.

Hoeneydar (R:  Hidden Coves ) is a southern Marquessate, ruled by Lord Gyles Kondiis. It is encompassing the north-eastern coast of the Bay of Ormian and the land around the river Yard n, which empties into the bay. It earns its name not because of the vast caverns under the western knees of the Grey Mountains, but because of countless grottoes carved out of the cliffs which dominate the coast. Also inside the Marquessate is the isle of Cal rmian (R.  Singing Sister )

Hoeneydar is considered the gate to Meluria by many and is a busy trade port.

The fort of Hoeneydar (Arx Yard n) is the strongest fortification in the entire bay of Ormian; it was built in 5.912 after a Melurian attack.

When they enter Hoeneydar, the gate guards have a sketch of the prince and a rough description of the party. “The prince, a beautiful Elven ranger, an armoured behemoth, a wasted mage and a Kytaari rogue.”

The guards ask the party to accompany them as Lord Kondiis is expecting them. As they make their way through the town they can see that, despite the oppressive heat, the town is doing a brisk business. Different cultures and languages can be heard throughout the town. Some of the ships have mini-markets in them and the goods on display in the town square have an impressive range. Some trade from Emer is even present with some traders from Sel-Kai with exotic plains spices and cloth from the northern Emer states.

When they reach the impressive-looking fortress, Lord Kondiis himself comes to greet them with his wife. They seem a little nervous, blaming the Rhakhaan troubles – and fair enough too, his two neighbours have been open in their support of Frelik’s claim. He makes them all welcome and Keir explains that this is merely a stopover on the way to Nomikos. Lord Kondiis offers his personal barge to take them but advises it is undergoing repairs but should be ready in the morning. There are other vessels available but he would consider it an honour if they were to use his barge.

Keir suggests that the other party members head down to the docks to advise the barge-captain of their departure and that he will remain in the fortress, Lord Kondiis wishes to hear the prince’s story.

Kondiis advises them that there are agents of Yaarthrak all over the place and to watch their step. Though he does not allow official military or religious representation in the city, he can do little about the various agents and spies.

Minus the prince, the party make their way to the docks as suggested and they see a myriad of boats, ships and barges tied up. Though the town is small, being the Gateway to Meluria means a big dock. Finding Lord Kondiis’ barge is no problem as it is the only one in dry dock at the far end. They pass a whole range of boats, people, goods, animals and smells.

A dwarven knight is arriving from Emer where he has found the Sacred Eye of his order. He is attacked as he steps from his ship by disguised dock-workers who are actually assassins. The dwarf-knight’s name is Henrik and though the party acts quickly he is only just able to tell his story before he dies. He asks that the party get the Sacred Eye to Lord Kondiis who is a retired Knight-Marshal from the order and will know how to get the Eye back to the order’s headquarters in Saralis. He is the last of twelve knights who journeyed to the Ash Lairs of Emer in search of this artefact.

Sira lay on the docks, staring disbelievingly at the stump where his hand had been. Ulrich had kindly moved the hand out of sight while he performed some rudimentary first aid. Sira had tried to ignore the pitying looks they gave him, it wasn’t their fault, he had given the same looks to the leper beggars in the streets. Still it was hard to see it on the faces of your friends. His Changramai dream was gone, the skill and grace that Shaal had granted him wasted in one reckless charge into a fight that wasn’t his.

Ulrich, Lysar and Asheren discussed the battle with a few of the town-guards who had finally arrived. A crowd was gathering, watching the boats burn and demanding to know what was going to be done about it. Lysar requested that one of the guards search for a healer and pretty soon he returned with an elderly gentleman by the name of Mr Westerbury. He had booked passage aboard one of the ships, bound for Nomikos and was happy to help. He looked over eighty in human years, his white beard reached down to his knees and his robe was slightly patchy.

He wanders over to Sira’s prone body, currently bleeding at one hit per round.

“Nice bandaging.” He inspected the wound and the severed hand.

Sira woke up muttering a prayer to Shaal and pulled his bloody stump from the old man’s grasp, cradling it to him as the pain returned.

The old man sounded wistful and his voice took on a musical lilting quality.

“Ah, you pray to the Sea-God! The Destroyer some call him but he does not harm those who accord him respect.”

“Here Sira, let me give you a hand.”

Sira’s hand was re-attached.

Ulrich sees this amazing feat of limb reattachment and realises quickly that the lack of a proper healer in the party has always been an impediment to us.

That bandaging was my handiwork but alas it is about the best any of us can muster as far as healing goes

He takes the druid aside and further explains their mission, all about the prince and the sword and the pendant and the dancing clowns

So..I wonder if you might want to join us, we re heading to Nomikos  it s for a good cause

Mr Westerbury explains that he is too old for that sort of thing and that he is going to the library in the hope that he will be able to identify a rare flower that has so far been beyond the ken of many experts he has taken it to in the last year or so.

Asheren, overhearing this asks.

“Mr Westerbury, If I may distract you for a moment I was wondering if you could tell me more about this rare flower that you found. Myself and Lysar here share a fascination with floral and herb material and would much like to here more of this flower or perhaps even see it. We may know its common uses and could perhaps be of some assistance”

Westerbury PoppyMr Westerbury pulls from his cloak a thin, wooden box.

The flowers look similar to poppies but the stamens are shorter and the petals themselves are more pale than a normal poppy. He discovered the flower growing high in the Grey Mountains.

“In that cold, windswept and desolate place I came across this flower – an oasis of beauty in a rugged landscape.

I have been to see herbalists all over Jaiman but no-one recognises it. I’m thinking of naming it the Westerbury if it has not been catalogued before. It would make a nice legacy.”

An angry crowd gathered at the end of the pier, demanding to know what was going to be done about these crazy out-of-towners and their boat-burning ways.

Ulrich stepped forward and delivered a rousing speech explaining the facts of the matter. That it was the ogres what done it and so forth. The crowd began to believe him and Ulrich used this to his advantage as he continued to blame ogres in general for much of the world’s ills. In fact, he informed them, there are more ogres in the fortress! They have captured Lord Kondiis and his family and are planning to eat them at midnight!

“To the fortress, people and death to ogres!” shouted he.

While Ulrich had been successfully inciting a riot in the normally peaceful town of Hoeneydar, Lysar and Asheren had been quizzing the guardsmen about alternative routes into the fortress. A grizzled, one-armed and veteran stepped forward and looked Lysar in the eye.

“Whores.” he said.

“Excuse me?” says Lysar bristling.

“Aye, we get ‘em in through the culvert. They don’t smell as sweet but I get by.” he smiled revealing a largely toothless grin.

Armed with that information, the party set out in parallel to the main crowd who surged up main street, picking up friends and relatives along the way.

“Filthy ogres, I tell ya – come on! And bring yer pitchfork!”

That sort of thing.

As Sira jogged along behind the rest of the party he was rolling his wrist, far more effectively than he had been able to at the docks.

“This hand losing business is a doddle!” thought Sira.

Using the crowd gathered at the front gates of the fortress as a distraction the players enter the fortress. After Lysar, by far the most agile party member ends up giving herself a skidmark, Asheren opens a portal through the castle wall. Asheren also took some time out to persuade some curious townsfolk to concentrate their efforts on the gate.

Figuring that the logical place for the Prince to be held was in the main tower the party makes a break for the main door. Meanwhile, the villagers have got themselves a tree trunk and are battering at the gates, trying to rescue Lord Kondiis.

Biryn heard the commotion at the front gate but his orders were clear. They were even clearer now that troop leader Draag had repeated them three times. The whole situation is a bit strange, thought Biryn. He had been part of an escort for the priest, Daryen Choy after Biryn had been posted to the Melurian States, ostensibly to keep civil order in some of the towns. The knights themselves took no political sides in the larger battle between the Emperor and his half-brother but the common folk were unsettled by the thought of civil war. Biryn was beginning to suspect that there was something rotten in the upper echelons of his church but so far he had not shared these suspicions with anyone. They had arrived at the fortress this morning and while the Paladins liaised with the fortress guard, establishing rules of engagement and the like, Daryen Choy, Lord Kondiis, his wife and two children disappeared inside the north tower and had not been seen since this morning.

The Messenger, with his bat-like helm, remained aloof as usual. He had disappeared soon after they arrived to organise something at the docks and the paladins had been left on guard duty since then.

But now, with what sounded like a full-scale attack on the fortress, his orders seemed a little more challenging. He briefly channelled the magic within him, reassuring himself that he could still access it and checked his armour straps for the fiftieth time.

Lysar, the stealthiest of the party stepped out from the shadows of the pig-pen that provided some cover from the rampart above the main gate. As she did so, there is a mighty crash from the main gate and a huge roar from the crowd! The soldiers, on the rampart above the main gate are shouting themselves hoarse, exhorting the crowd to go home. As Lysar concentrated on making herself invisible, she heard one of the soldiers say

“Fetch Lord Kondiis, my wife is down there and she can remove a man’s spine at twenty paces with a single blow from her tongue! This crowd’ll be through soon.”

As Lysar was halfway across, Asheren tried a multiple Leaving spell on himself, Sira and Ulrich. It almost works and Asheren and Sira appeared before the door.

The guards descending from the main tower spot them.

Daygar, the senior paladin, heard the commotion and orders Biryn and Wodga to investigate. Naturally they split and go around either side of the central tower. Biryn to the left and Wodga to the wight.

Lysar dropped to her knees and pulled out her lockpick kit. Ulrich decided that this door is no match for him and gave it an almighty kick. Lysar glared at him.

“Do you mind, Ulrich?” she sighed and gets back to work.

Soon, they had the door open, even as the guards crossed the courtyard. They piled in and slammed the door shut behind them. Ulrich leaned with his back across the door to hold it.

“Shrak” says Asheren and with a complex wave of his hand, the door locked.

Biryn and Wodga arrived about the same time. Church training keeps you fit.

Biryn was sure he recognised the voices bickering inside. It couldn’t be.

He projected his voice.

“Come out my friends, there’s no other way out of the tower. There is no need for us to communicate through closed doors when we could be out here catching up on old times!”

Biryn’s voice filled the small room they were in, echoing from the supporting beams and rattling the pikes in their racks. They did their best to ignore it and, looking around the armoury, realised that they were in the wrong tower. Exploring the upper floors, they found what looked to be the Lord’s family chambers. A well-appointed bedroom with a double bed is on the second floor with a similarly comfortable kids’ room above.

At this point they decide to leave but Asheren realised that he couldn’t remember the cancel spell to unlock the door, so they must wait until the spell wears itself out.

Wodga reported back to Daygar at the door to the north tower and the soldiers remained with Biryn. Another crash from the main gates accompanied by a splintering of wood and rending of metal as the mighty fortress gate hinges are torn from the wall. At that moment the door unlocked and Ulrich, nodding at Biryn, stepped out to face the oncoming crowd.

“My people!” he begins, which got their attention.

“You are all brave and loyal citizens who have stormed this fortress to free your Lord of the ogres which have beset him and his kin.”

Most of the crowd had gone quiet, but a couple of hecklers at the back were clearly not impressed by this warrior in lime-green armour.

“Yeah, well where are they, ya big tin can?” said a voice from the back of the crowd.

But Ulrich had been trained in the art of public-speaking, trained to control a crowd and no idiot peasant was going to lose him this moment.

“That’s what your momma said!” he shouted back and the crowd roared their approval.

Now he had them.

“Do you wanna kill some ogres?” he asked quietly.

“Actually, yes.” said one person up the front, a couple of others nodded vigorously.

Ulrich’s voice rang out, amplified by his helm.

“I SAID, DO YOU WANNA KILL SOME OGRES?”

“YES!” came the unanimous reply.

“Well, they’re in the north tower.”

The crowd surged forward. Lysar, Asheren, Sira and Biryn remained at the back of the crowd – this was Ulrich’s party.

The two paladins, Daygar and Wodga, their armour glinting in the afternoon sun, drew their two-handed swords and shouted

“You shall not pass!”

The crowd stopped, dead in their tracks.

Daygar stepped towards Ulrich but addressed the crowd.

“We do not want to hurt anyone but we have our orders and a holy warrior never fails in his duty to his gods. You are good people but you are clearly looking in the wrong place, there are no ogres here.” he raised his hand placatingly then pointed a finger at Ulrich.

“Well except for this…thing.”

Some of the crowd proved how easily crowds could be manipulated and muttered amongst themselves. After all, the trouble had all started down on the docks and this armoured figure had been covered in blood. Although it seemed unlikely, maybe they had been duped by an ogre?!

Not all of the crowd were so easily swayed from their Ulrich-worship and demanded the paladins bring out Lord Kondiis.

Daygar decided that this was something that the priest could deal with and turned for the door, sheathing his sword as he said

“Very well, now you shall all see how foolish you have been and after you have cleaned up the mess you made at the gates, you’ll be wishing you never heard about ogres.”

Asheren, now in the middle of the crowd, flicked his hand. “Shrak-el” he said. Daygar reached for the handle and turned it. Then he turned it the other way. He jiggled it a little. Locked! The crowd surged in, Ulrich put his shoulder down and charged across the gap. “Bugger.” said Daygar.

Ulrich sent the paladins flying like skittles and set to work on the door. The crowd had, by now, begun to get a bit out of control. Five or six of them grabbed Ulrich in his suit of armour and began battering the door. Ulrich, trapped within the confines of his suit and unwilling to lay waste to these simple, country folk, put his arms out to protect his head and gritted his teeth.

Sira saw all this and sprung in to action. Vaulting up onto the nearest set of shoulders he sprang lightly across them and landed on Ulrich’s horizontal and armoured torso. The crowd dropped their makeshift ram and battered at the door with their fists. Sira, buoyed by his successful rescue, focused intently and struck the door with his fist. It shook in its hinges but remained in one piece.

Biryn, from his vantage at the rear of the crowd could see what the others could not. A brilliant, flashing light from the top floor of the tower. Suddenly the thick, opaque glass of the window blasted outward, showering the crowd. Biryn could not see what was going on up there, but he knew it was nothing good.

“I’ve had nearly half a year of regular trouble” thought Biryn.

“and within minutes of meeting back up with my friends, there’s a riot and a dark, evil magic making windows explode.”

Eventually they got the door open and found themselves in a simple room, sparsely furnished. No-one was in there but Lysar immediately smelled smoke and looking up, could see it wafting through the gaps in the floor above her.

Sira charged up the steps to the second-floor door. The hinges were glowing.

“Fire!” he cried and remembering that discretion is the better part of not burning, headed back downstairs.

Ulrich lumbered in and clanged his way up the staircase. He threw open the door and quickly kneeled behind his wall-shield.

As she raced up the stone stairs Lysar was confronted with the shape of Ulrich and his massive shield silhouetted by licking orange flames. Reflecting back on her day which started with a face plant in poo and progressed to being magically locked in a castle tower, she thought it couldn’t possibly get worse. She had been hopelessly wrong.

Biryn still on the ground floor was about to try and explain what happened to his group captain who would like a ‘word’ with him in private.

Asheren attempted to analyse the powerful magic he could sense in the tower above him. He was also mentally rifling through the Water Law List. “I know it’s here somewhere” he muttered.

The two Paladins could sense the evil but had decided that anyone battling the feeling of palpable evil can be a temporary ally and have decided not to attack the party.

Biryn glances outside and sees that the eight fortress regulars have split and are heading for the connecting towers, The Lady Kondiis has been brought from the east tower and has taken charge of them. She orders them to collect ladders and try and reach the roof of the tower from the second floor rampart.

The castle servants and some of Hoeneydar’s finest are clearing away the wreckage from the main gate.

“I’ve found it, I’ve found it!!” Asheren exclaimed.

He stared towards the open flame licked doorway, eyes fixed as droplets of water formed at his fingertips, magically skipping from hand to hand finger to finger. The droplets of water began to increase in mass until just moments later a globe of water hovered an inch above the palms of his hands, sustained by the powers of The Essence.

“It’s ready…”

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