Title: Lena to Lok Sadic
Date: Mid Trilan, 1332 Avard
Synopsis: The team wraps up at Mount Lavanor and heads home via Lena and Lok Sadic.
Afternoon of the 17th of Trilan, 1332 Avard.
The ME team took a moment to catch their breath. Deep in the bowels of Mount Lavanor, in the dwarven ruins of Gil Hala, the team had subdued Chert Stonehand and several of his toadies. The team had also netted a demon-possessed dwarf with the ability to dominate animals and dim-witted people.
The team rested for perhaps a quarter mark on the candle, and then opted to leave Gil Hala. Gril Bandylegs and his maps showed them a route out of the dwarven ruins, that would join with the main road winding its way up the mountain. They knew the trip would take time, but felt that the sooner Chert and his gang were handed over to the Rakanus Clan of dwarves, the safer the team would be.
Despite that, Aeron took a full mark to utter the prayers to Yatindar that would undo the werewolf curse from Chert and the were-dwarves. The rest of the group took the time to bind their wounds and prepare for the trip out, consulting Gril's maps and familiarizing themselves with the route in case something happened.
The silik Demon bound all of the gang up, and then kept a long drag line out to drag the demon dwarf at a distance, less Demon or another of their mounts be taken over by the demon's powers. The coccooned bundles of Chert and the other former were-dwarves were packed on the two giant lizards Justice and Bergeron. The demon-possessed dwarf occasionally stirred within his coccoon, at which time Greff would step back to beat the demon senseless, lest it escape the coccoon.
Four hours passed before the ME team reached the main door out of Gil Hala. The door had last been used during the ogran invasion, as the people of Kashin had fled up the mountain and into the safety of the maze of ruins. Many at the time had thought the ruins of Gil hala intended to ward off an invading army of orcs, purpose-built for the ogran invasion. The ME team had learned the truth – that the dwarves of Gil Hala had been demon worshippers, maddened by what they worshipped, building the mazes for the entertainment of demons and not the efforts of practical dwarves.
After the ogran invasion, when the last of the people of Kashin had left the ruins, the doors had been sealed and sabotaged to prevent anyone else from getting in. The ruins were dangerous, with many traps that still worked, and perhaps more demon-summoning statues. Corrin, a master locksmith, reenabled the mechanisms of the door so that the ME team could slip out. The repairs were temporary, and a one-time affair. Once outside in the dark starlight of early night, the doors to Gil Hala slid shut with finality.
Below the team, the Rakoran forests spread off into the distance, absorbing the starlight like a black sea. The only source of light, other than the brilliant stars overhead, were the streets of Kashin some two marks' worth of travel below them.
The party continued up the road, seeing no other souls until they reached the plateau near the top, some four marks later. Aeron's dwarf-crafted ring glowed at a simple prayer to Galgiran, and their arm bands marked them as friends and non-dwarves of importance. The dwarven guards ushered the ME team past the many waiting merchants and their wagons of the plateau, and back into Mount Lavanor.
The coccoons of Chert, the demon, and the other traitors were transported by a contingent of dwarven guards as the word spread. Chert's escape from Mount Lavanor had been assissted by defectors and sympathizers among the guards, and the mass of them now eyed one another as warily as they eyed the coccoons with Chert and the demons.
The mass of them were brought to Father Bryan, whom had been in deep discussion with Father Malachite, even at such a late hour. The ME team was leary of Father Malachite – Chert having been his strongest supporter to replace Father Bryan as the leader of the Church of Galgiran in Rakore. Father Bryan assured the team that Father Malachite was without blame in the machinations of Chert; that Chert's actions and those of his men were apparently the acts of fanatics determined to place dwarven loyalty ahead of loyalty to the nation.
A particularly scruffy kobold messenger that had been accompanied the ME team almost unobserved turned out not to have a message – or even be a messenger. The team realized with some fear that the kobold had ghosted with them since they left Gil Hala, observed and yet unobserved, mistaken for a coyote-mounted kobold messenger when seen and so hidden in plain sight, when visible at all.
The kobold identified himself as Dert, and upon questioning, turned out to be a survivor from the midden heaps of the Rakanus dwarves. The recent ogran invasion had been the largest – but by no means the first such invasion. Whole generations of kobolds had grown up in the bowels of Mount Lavanor, subsisting off of the midden heaps of the dwarves and surviving where and in what they could. The task of eliminating such scavengers normally fell to the lowest of the low-ranked dwarves. Apparently, at least one such minor dwarf had befriended the clan of kobolds and used them to help defend 'his' midden heap. Dert had grown up on the tales of a drunken dwarf 'lord', and had determined to see the outside world for himself. That, and Dert heard 'voices' – voices of the rocks, the waters, the air, and more. Aeron and Arkhan, recognizing a nascent shaman, were fascinated.
The ME team was moved to the Temple of Galgiran, where Chert's supporters rallied as Mount Lavanor came alive. Father Malachite performed the exorcism of the demon, and all of Chert's cronies were placed on trial. Immediately a great deal of dickering and lawyering began. Father Bryan, knowing of Aeron's training, called upon the barrister to aid them in dealing with the issues of law. The Prior of Yatindar's status as outsider would help those dwarves beholden to Rakore, and help feed the frenzy of those beholden to the Galgiran above Rakore. As the incriminations and accusations increased in a tone of stone, without heat but with great deliberation and the use of archaic laws, the rest of the ME team nearly slept on the pews.
Father Bryan, during a break in the deliberations, arranged for the ME team to rest in suitable quarters while the debates went on. Corrin took the opportunity to return the lost beard hairs of the bloodstone, further aiding Father Bryan's defense.
On the morn, ME team decided to Continue Mission. The bloodstone had been returned, and Aeron would remain as a representative of Meridian Explorations. But Greff, Corrin, and Arkhan knew they had to finish their mission and report back to Hershel in Chasadan. The ruins indicated on Hershel's map, and the Dragons Bones, needed to be explored for the Master of Meridia.
Father Bryan was grateful to the team, and had them well-provisioned – as well as paying them each a purse of 100 gold pieces. For Corrin, and her part in returning the bloodstone of the Rakanus Clan, there were three solid gold bricks of Rakanus-stamped gold, 100% pure dwarven smelting. Corrin, interested more in coin than bars of gold, swapped the rewards – gifting the bricks of gold to Arkhan, Greff, and Aeron, and taking the bags for herself. Money seemed to mean little to the halfling that could accrue anything she wanted, anywhere she went.
The team spent six hours quickly travelling the road down the mountain to Kashin. Once in the city, Arkhan took time to try and explain economics to Dert, for the kobold had no understanding of currency, only an understanding of barter and scavenge. The kobold was approached several times by various peoples, and mistaken as a courrier for Malleah's Mercantile, an enterprise that specialized in using coyote-mounted kobolds to ferry letters and goods. The approaches sparked quite a few encounters, and sparked more talk of currencies and exchanges.
The rest of the day was spent in rest, with the team visiting the fabled Barb's Brew of Kashin.
Corrin lasted four hours before she passed out in an alcoholic haze. Greff made it another hour before getting so hammered on shots of leadgutt that he could barely walk. Arkhan and Dert escorted them at a distance, making sure they were all right, as Greff carried Corrin back to their tavern.
In the morning, the team set out to catch a ship heading south to the town of Lena. Greff found that his gold bar had been stolen somewhere along the way, perhaps while he lay passed out in his room. Corrin was offended that another thief had stolen anything from her, and was ready to stab someone – anyone – in the kidney.
Dert was apparently fascinated by dragons, and formed a strong attachment to Arkhan. The fascination led him into confusion when he saw his first tomanth. When Arkhan told Dert about tomanths and their near addiction to chickens, Dert stole one of the chickens off the deck of the sloop they were on and hurled it in front of a passing tomanth. The explosion of feathers and a stoned tomanth entertained Dert considerably.
The sloop Eigenhart took the team downriver and south under clear skies. Dert, at home with the spirits wherever they were, had no agoraphobia despite a lifetime underground. The kobold scampered up the mast and spend most of the trip as close to the sky as he could get.
The town of Lena was located where the Slav and Galanath Rivers joined, creating a swampy, muddy, mosquito-laden mess of a backwater. Beggars filled the streets, gambling was common, fights spilled out onto the muddy streets, and the hum of mosquitos filled the shadows in daylight, and filled the air all night long. Arkhan and Dert seemed immune to the mosquitoes, their thick scales protecting all but their eyes and nose. Greff was nearly eaten alive, while Corrin seemed invisible even to the mosquitoes.
The only 'good' part of the town seemed to be the Gideon Enterprises enclosure, separated from the rest of the town by a wooden palisade and guarded well to keep outsiders away. The rest of Lena seemed a miserable slum, where the nobility ran rough-shod over all but the all-important traders that were the life-blood of the town.
The Eigenhart was to stay at the docks and await another ship's cargo, and so the ME team would have to find another way further downriver and up to Lok Sadic on the Tumas River. Only Greff seemed willing to stay at an overpriced inn and catch fleas. The rest of the team decided to sleep in the stables with their mounts. The wary eyes of opportunists eager to eat their mounts, steal them, or just stab them in the dark filled the team with dread.
In the morning, Arkhan's bracers of paladinhood helped the team find a ride out of Lena. The ship Splaywind was going to Tikira, and Lok Sadic was along the way. A group of dwarves was traveling from Kashin to Tikira, and the Splaywind was under contract to them. The dwarves, after a brief exchanged of names and information, were willing to pay for the team's travel, provided the team paid for their mounts.
The weather the next day was a sodden mess, as a river's worth of cold rain fell straight down out of the heavens with only hints of thunder. The damp and cold conditions only added to the misery of Lena, and the team was happy to board the Splaywind and get away.
The ship sailed southwest from Lena along the Galanus River, before reaching the whirlpool where the Galanus and Tumas Rivers met. The captain was well familiar with the rivers, and his crew sailed the whirlpool without difficulty, using its momentum to sling the ship up the Tumas River.
The captain and his crew were none too eager to stay at Lok Sadic. They arrived towards evening, and dropped the team off quickly, before continuing on. They preferred to sail on through the night rather than stay at Lok Sadic.
Dert could hear the spirits – some of the spirits being the souls of ograns and others that had fallen near the massive fortress. The rumors among the crew were true: the baron of Lok Sadic was one of the undead. The ME team knew that Rakore tolerated a great many kinds, but tolerating the undead seemed an affront to the team.
Two quite-alive drow met the team at the docks as the Splaywind quickly sailed away upriver in the rainy downpour. The drow, one male and one female, asked the team's intentions. The Splaywind had made good time, and a mark or more's time remained before darkness. Eager to continue on, the team opted to cross the river and move on into the forests and towards the ruins rather than remain in a fortress ruled by an undead baron.
Dert, surprising everyone, leapt off of the docks and onto the water. The kobold raced away through the rain, running on the water with surprising speed. Not much later, the ferryman's lantern answered the lanterns of the drow, indicating that he would soon be moving. Dert rode the ferry across, enjoying his newfound understanding of currency – if not understanding that gold was well enough too much a fee for the travel. When the ferryman saw Arkhan's holbraces of paladinhood, guilt ate the man enough to make amends for taking Dert's gold.
Once across the river, the team started into the lands of the Alsavier Duchy. The duchy was created but recently by the king, as sylvan elves from Banoc'bae had moved in just after the ogran invasion. The kingdom was increasing its population of non-ograns as rapidly as it could, offering duchies to anyone that could bring in enough peoples. Duke Itaeleran Hireyesiye had been a minor noble among the Banoc'bae elves, but the lure of a duchy had convinced the charismatic elf to bring along as many others of his kind as he could lure from his kingdom. Itaeleran had managed to bring over close to five hundred elves willing to make a new start in the strange dwarven-led kingdom of Rakore. The creation of the duchy had funneled another five hundred sylvan elves from throughout the continent and other areas, as well as humans and others willing to submit to a sylvan duke.
Rumors indicated that the sylvan elf Duke Therinol Navaillo had originally been tapped to rule the Alsavier Duchy, but he had declined. Therinol was the first sylvan duke, but ruled a hodge-podge of races and cultures in Teras, and deigned to give up the duchy that had once enclosed the elven city of Terrace. Itaeleran absorbed many of Therinol's family that had been upset by the fall of Terrace some decades earlier during the War of the Undead. Despite the familial bonds, tensions between Teras and Alsavier continued – particularly because Itaeleran ruled the duchy as though he were a sylvan king.
The King of Rakore was already having difficulty with one of his newest dukes, and travelers were warned to beware the Alsavier Wood for Rakoran law might not hold much sway there.
Despite such tensions, Meridian Explorations had a writ of warrant signed by the Duke of the Janis Plains. The writ would serve as a shield, or so the team hoped, against any formal problems. Informal problems were another matter entirely.
The team had barely gone into the forests before they realized they were being watched. Two sylvan elves parleyed with the team from the high branches of a tree. The sylvan elves did not seem hostile, but were officious, wanting to know where the team was headed, and why.
The ME team took a chance, and told the truth – that they were headed to the ruins described on the map, on their way out of the duchy through Cairne's Pass up through the mountains.
The elves granted their permission to go to the ruins, but warned the team of the trees in that region. The elves of the duchy stayed well clear of the ruins, for there was ancient magic there that had gone awry. The trees were twisted by the magics left in the ruins, it was dangerous to go there. The elves warned the team that they would be watching from the trees, and then ran off deeper into the forest, out of sight in the downpour and the fading light.
With less than an hour to sunset and cold rain falling all around them, the team trudged through the dense underbrush of the riverside forest and into the relatively clear boughs of the old growth forest.
Near sunset of the 19th of Trilan, 1332 Avard.
Dinner was 'pizza meatloaf', and it was good – and very filling. Sommer and I were surprised to have leftovers.
I'm not sure where Dave is going with his Dert character, but it will be interesting to see what happens, and explore both Dave's motivations and Dert's motivations as the adventure unfolds.
RPG System: Dungeons and Dragons, 4th Edition.
All characters have 49,000XP (14th level).