Title: The Second Sons
Date: Mid Dalan, 1333 Avard
Synopsis: An alleged gold shipment is attacked under strange circumstances, and the dispossessed and spoiled sons of the nobility are eliminated by Merdian Explorations.
Morning of Dalan the 23rd, 1332 Avard.
Vristilistalamar the dragon often traveled by night. Like many of the dragons, she learned to keep her presence hidden from men, and flying by night was one of the many ways in which she kept herself out of sight. Navigating by night required using the reflection of starlight on the sea, the phosphorescence of the night waves, and occasionally the night fires of the very men from which she hid. The lights of Chasadan – the lighthouse, the temple, and the taverns – made for a distinctive pattern around which she oriented when she flew by it at night.
Vrist gently landed on her rear legs, her forelegs holding a fifteen foot long lizard-like draestrier barded in plate-mail armor. The draestrier was well-trained and well-behaved, and despite the massive bulk of the huge dragon, simply turned its head to glance up at the dragon's head. Vrist knelt down, extending a foreleg for its rider to get off. The rider was a dragonborn, also armored in plate. He had been good company on the long flight, and she wished him luck on his journey.
The dragonborn's name was Arkhan. He was the first paladin of Xynosalionisis, God of the Dragons, Father of Memories. Arkhan wore the three holbraces of a paladin proudly, each holbrace a sort of crescent moon tattoo that could be seen through clothing and armor. Arkhan had learned much of Rakore from his flight with Vrist, and knew that the people of the Janis Plains were former Inquisitors that had reknownced the Avard Accords, and were determined to protect witches and magicians, rather than hunt them and kill them.
If anyone with knowledge of the Inquisition would be willing to talk with a dragonspawn such as himself, it likely would be the Janissaries that were former Inquisitors. Arkhan, Protector-ranked paladin of Xynos, sought the ancient dragon-slaying weapons. He cared not if they were destroyed, so long as the magics and prayers that made them anti-dragon were removed. He had even been gifted a small bit of dragon's hoard to serve as recompense for those that could part with such dragon-slaying weapons.
Arkhan knew he had to succeed in finding and obtaining – or deactivating – the dragon-slaying weapons of the Janissaries. If he failed to eradicate the threat to the dragons, then the dragons themselves would take measures to eliminate the dragon-slaying weapons. Arkhan shuddered at the thought, for he knew the dragons would send in Shirastalak, the draco-lich, she who had removed her undead teeth and replaced them with the arms of those Inquisitors that had faced her and fallen; she who had augmented her skeletal body with parts of other fallen dragons; she who used the souls of the damned and powerful necromatic arts to bend death itself to her service. If Arkhan failed, then Shiras would succeed. It was not the kind of backup a paladin, sworn to protect and defend all life, needed on his conscience.
Mounted on Burgereon the draestrier, Arkhan rode swiftly in the direction of the lighthouse indicating Chasadan. The barding of the draestrier lizard and the armor of the paladin, coupled with the heavy steps of the lizard, sounded like a percussive symphony of purpose and power.
Perhaps two marks after dawn, the day's Guard stood at their posts around the city. The city's wall was an earthern rampart that a draestrier could easily cross, but not a horse or a wagon. Guards patrolled the length of the rampart both on horse and on foot, armed with glaives and crossbows, and wearing tabards of blue and white in the colors of Yatindar and Chasadan.
Arkhan slowed as he approached the gate through the berm, and the Guard were attentive and ready for him. The paladin was pleased to see alert and capable Guards. Arkhan was confused, though, when he was greeted as 'Nadar', and rectified the situation crisply and gently, introducing himself and asking to speak with Count Torak of Chasadan.
The Guard, realizing that the dragonborn was not Nadar of Meridian Explorations, assigned two men to escort the dragonborn paladin to the Swaddled Blade. The holbraces of a paladin, regardless of species or race, spoke loudly to men that had once been members of the Inquisition.
Arkhan and Bergereon drew considerable attention on the streets, even attracting the attention of Captain Aeron, Liaison to the Ducal Mage. Aeron introduced himself and fell in with the Guard.
Outside of the swaddled Blade, Bergereon was left in capable care – Captain Aeron's own mount being a minotaur lizard of comparable size to the draestrier, and other such minotaur lizards were in the stables.
Arkhan, in keeping with the traditions of his own temples, left his helm, shield, and hammer in the care of a keeper. The soldiers of Yatindar, however, had no such compunctions; weapons and armor were in abundance within the fortress of the Swaddled Blade. The temple-fortress was home to the High Priest of Yatindar for all of the duchy, as well as the temple for the city of Chasadan, home of the city Guard, and home of the feudal lord.
Though given over to worship services on the holy day, the pews and galleries of the main temple were given over to claimants and lawyers and Guard and merchants on regular days. The ceiling was a vaulted dome some three stories up with stained glass depictions of Taeloss, Patron Saint of Chasadan, and Saint of Yatindar. Taeloss had ever been the supporter of Androgenae, and long after Androgenae's fame had dwindled, many began to believe that the powerful knight and paladin of the Inquisition had only ever been able to carry on because of the quiet and dutiful work of his squire Taeloss.
The head of the Swaddled Blade was both a Cardinal of Yatindar and a Colonel of the Guard, and often referred to only as 'Mother'. Mother Kalia was a strict, no-nonsense, iron woman that wore the twin longswords of Yatindar – and sparred with them quite often. Mother Kalia interrupted a court session to hear Arkhan's words and his request for help in finding the dragon-slaying weapons, and having them removed, destroyed, or nullified.
Mother Kalia knew of three such weapons, and recommended the protector talk with the Ducal Mage, given Captain Aeron's presence and the Ducal Mage's ability to perhaps nullify or modify such weapons such that they were no longer dragon-slaying.
After speaking with Mother Kalia in the Grand Temple, Captain Aeron took Arkhan up to meet the count. Count Torak was on his balcony with the Chaplain of the Guard, apparently target practicing with his crossbow. The Chaplain of the Guard, an older man with snowy-white hair, had taken a vow of nonviolence in his role as a magistrate for Yatindar. Torak's twin longswords hung from the chandelier's in his office, the chaplain's effect on the count somewhat obvious. And yet, hunting for sport or using crossbows seemed not at odds with nonviolence to the two..
The count indicated that Mother Kalia's family had a dragon-slaying spear, but again recommended Arkhan talk with the Ducal Mage about how to recompense or modify such weapons. The count gave his support to the operation, and made available the full might of Chasadan's Guard and temple grounds to assist the dragonborn. Of course, just finding the dragon-slaying weapons would take time, and Meridian Explorations was ideal for finding lost artifacts and items – including dragon-related items lost to time.
From the Swaddled Blade, they remounted and moved to the Ducal Mage's tower. Arkhan got a good feel of how things worked in Chasadan from Captain Aeron, and felt a companionship with the war-priest and cleric. Along the way, they met a friend of Captain Aeron's, the halfling woman Corrin. Corrin was fascinated by the dragonborn and his mount, and also quite friendly. Despite a warning from Aeron to watch his purse, Arkhan helped the halfling up to his saddle, where she enjoyed the view much as any child might, despite her adult appearance.
At the Ducal Mage's tower, there were several of the Guard on duty, and they knocked upon seeing Captain Aeron. Inside, Arkhan was introduced to Hershel Kavris, Ducal Mage of the Janis Plains, and Master of Meridian Explorations. Hershel's brother William, a scribe for the Stamp of Peace monastery to Lul, was also present.
Arkhan presented his case to the Ducal Mage for finding and retooling or destroying dragon-slaying weapons, as well as other items of interest to the dragons. William pointed out that Meridian Explorations was investigating something known as the 'Dragon's Bones', and it was enough to draw Arkhan in, hook, line, and sinker.
Unfortunately, Hershel and much of the court was going to be travelling north to Fasra the very next day. Hershel was already waiting on word from Lok Magius, and William would be in charge for the week or so the court was up in Fasra attending the duke. Meridian Explorations would, of course, do as William requested in the meantime. William and Hershel both had several leads on Valen's old contacts and treasures and travels, and were narrowing the list down.
In the meantime, everyone was free to wander about or assist Ryviik in managing reconstruction of the Meridian Manse, but things were well under control.
That statement changed much later that afternoon, when a runner arrived from the North Gate. One of the Mallean coyote-mounted kobolds had arrived at a run with information that Hershel's gold shipment had been intercepted and ambushed. The runner was specific in that, and Hershel reacted by summoning all of his explorers he could get ahold of.
Greff arrived, mounted on his trusty steed Buck. He was met by Arkhan on Burgereon, Captain Aeron on his steed Justice, and Corrin on her translucent silik-spider Demon. They were told to meet the kobold runner further out along the road where he rested, and to find Hershel's gold immediately.
The kobold was nervous, but ready to remount and get back to the caravan and his duties. He had a scroll case for Hershel alone, indicating that magical wards protected the case from anyone else getting it. But the gold was more important than the case, and so they headed north at a good clip, trusting to their mounts to see by the light of the setting sun and into dusk and evening.
Perhaps a mark after midnight, halfway to Fasra, they found the remains of the caravan, and the remains of many guards in the ducal colors of yellow and white. The coyote needed to rest, and the explorers took over the task of finding the gold. None of the four company members were good trackers, but they managed to trail the big carts several miles to a low bluff, where the carts were abandoned. Over twenty sets of horse prints tore off together towards the east, and the company followed, using the light of Captain Aeron's holy symbol to see by. The beacon of blue-white light was quite bright, providing ample illumination for the company to follow the trail.
As they rode beside another low bluff, the light from the holy symbol reflected off of a bit of cross brass. The ambush began, as bolts hailed down from off the bluff. The attackers main target was the heavily armored Arkhan and his mount, but few of the quarrels could penetrate their armor, and those that did had trouble penetrating thick dragon-designed scales.
Greff did a spinning flip onto Justice, and then Justice and Burgereon both were climbing up the bluff, much to the surprise of the ambushers. Corrin slid off of Demon and began peppering the ambushers with darts from her tiny hand-crossbow, while Demon shot a line of silk at one ambusher, and began dragging him off of the bluff and towards the intimidating spider.
There was a bolt of lightning from the very heavens themselves, and a blast of divine fire, and a skull – hit so hard that the flesh peeled off of it – bounced down the bluff. And then there was only whimpering silence as one of the bandits threw himself at the company's mercy, and another was bound and muffled by Demon.
Two of the bandits survived for questioning, and were more than happy to tell all they knew to the company. They were the second and third sons of nobles from throughout the Janis Plains. Pampered and used to easy living, they knew they would never inherit any lands, and so could only join the clergy or go to sea to make a name for themselves in Rakore. When they heard word of a gold shipment, they couldn't resist, and attacked it.
Only, they were deceived. The only gold had been some bullion and coins on the merchants in the caravan. The massive carts that had supposedly held quite a bit of gold, were empty. The explorers let Demon excavate a mass grave, into which the dead bandits were placed, and Aeron read them their last rights.
The company arrived back at the road around dawn, in time to see a cloud of dust from the north. The explorers had with them the horses of the bandits and the wagons that had been stolen. The cloud of dust from the north turned out to be more of the ducal guard, who had apparently been sent to check on the gold shipment.
The timing of the guards' movement was odd, but the company escorted them to the caravan none-the-less, finding them easily enough by the circling buzzards and the crows.
The bodies of the merchants and the ducal guard were placed on the carts to head back north, when a great plume of dust was seen from the south. The court from Chasadan, including the Ducal Mage, Mother Kalia, Count Torak, and close to forty others, were coming up the road.
Mother Kalia was quickly informed of the situation, and everyone caught up to speed on the events of the night prior. The ducal guards would escort the much larger court up to Fasra, along with the carts for the bodies, which Mother Kalia's priests tended to for preservation and identification.
The kobold gave Hershel the scrolls intended for him – scrolls Corrin had already innocently read, the arcane preventions on it meaning little to her skillful hands.
Hershel presented one document to Greff, identifying him as a long lost member of the ancient people known as the Githzerai – none of which had been seen since the First Wars over ten millennia since. Another document indicated that the repression stones had been delivered and that Lok Magius would, indeed, make recompense at the indicated amount, delivery to be determined at a later date. The final document seemed to be a personal correspondence and missive from the Headmistress of Lok Magius and just a check-up on how he was.
At Hershel's urgings, the company moved out of sight of Mother Kalia, and then went back to Chasadan, leaving much of the puzzle up to Hershel.
Midmorning of the 24th of Dalan, 1332 Avard.
Ross has been waiting for several months to bring Arkhan in, and I enjoyed meeting the Sean Connery-accented paladin. The mounts of the group are fantastic. The juvenile minotaur lizard that Aeron rides is outside of the norm, and yet well-respected in Rakore. Arkhan's mount seems a variant of such to many, but the truly fantastic mount is Corrin's Demon. Wow, but it's fun to see in action! I find it highly ironic that the group threatened me not to bring in any spiders to use against them (because of my research on spiders), and yet Sommer did it! Ha!
All characters have 17,750 experience points and are 9th-level.
I changed where it said defender in some places, three holbraces is Protector. If you'd like to gimme that fourth holbrace, I'll gladly change it back.
We'll leave it at Protector, for now. I'm sure the fourth holbrace won't be long coming. :)