Day of Praise
Shortly after making camp on the first day on the road to Lake Besmus, they caravan is approached by a stranger from the South. The sentries reacy quickly, sounding the alarm, and before long the intruder is surrounded by a small forest of blades. It’s not until Deldund and the rest of the party arrive and realize that this would-be interloper is actually a very bedraggled Cocolongo.
They sooth the fears of the halflings, particularly regarding the horrific tales told of southlanders in the northlands, and ease Cocolongo to a place at their fire. The intrepid southlander is bedecked in a midling-quality benninite robe, and is travelling with nothing aside his trusty spear and a crate of hardtack. He relates how Sahm’el found him after his daring escape from Cuthbertian custody, and warned him that Port of Isles is no longer a safe place for anyone associated with Variel or Hobbes Spizzlecog.
Cocolongo is also sure that he can help the party with their mission. He’s gathered enough over the last few weeks to know that stopping the events that appear to be in motion should be as important to him as avenging his brother’s death at the hands of the mad-man who began them. He wants to join the expedition. After a short discussion with Quartermaster Hedgewhistle, Cocolongo is a part of the team once again. Deldund and the others’ first task is to educate him on the wilds and nature of the northlands, far different from anything the southlander has seen thusfar.
On their second night on the road, after setting camp, sharing more stories for the insatiable halfling caravaners, and having a lavish dinner compared to their usual fare, the party beds down. Halfway through the night, Deldund, Ishrana Swaythe, and Variel all awaken, unsure of what has stirred their slumber.
After a moment, Ishrana and Variel realize that the ground beneath their heads seems to be trembling. Ishrana recognizes the sound of hundreds of hooves pounding the earth…a stampede! The fog of sleeps clears instantly as the veteran horsewoman leaps to her feet, bellowing a warning. Surviving a stampede is about getting out it’s path, and by the sounds of the growing thunder, they don’t have long. She starts rousing the confused halflings, shouting warnings to befuddled sentries, none of whom seem to realize the imminent danger. Deldund hears the rumble, too, and recognizes what is about to happen. It’s happened too many times lately. As Variel leaps toward the heavens, lifted by some unseen raft of arcana, Deldund calmly awaits what is to come.
Variel watches in horror as the biggest herd of deer he’s ever seen bounds into sight, running at full-tilt directly toward the helpless caravan. A family of halfling is trying to restrain Ishrana as she desperately tries to save the children, thinking her mad. Even Quatermaster Hedgewhistle is shouting for reason. Ishrana, noticing that the herd is deer and not horses or bison, stands in shock as the beasts leap and swerve around each other, the wagons, and every other obstacle with grace.
Deldund cathes her gaze, standing still as a stone as deer twice his size sprint straight at him, only clearing him by inches, or landing directly in front of him and narrowly swerving to the side, the dwarf’s beard and hair flying from the wind of their passing. He remains miraculously untouched, not even having drawn his axe.
The herd disappears as quickly as it had begun, the halflings are still staring at Ishrana, in total ignorance as to what just occured. Not a single halfling, nor Cocolongo, seem to have witnessed what just occured. Once they establish that the knight in their midst has calmed and is no longer a danger to them, the halflings uneasily return to their tents & wagons. Even [[:larrel] seems concerned for health of his companion.
Variel, still floating easily above the camp, notices something else quite strange. The field of hoof prints left in the earth by the deer are not a random pattern. There is a distinct image stamped in the mud, some kind of building. Closer inspection seems to reveal only some manner of temple, built long ago, and into what appears to be a cliff-face. None of the party recognize the site, though there is undoubtly some significance to their quest. Variel copies down a detailed replication of the stampede drawing, and shows it to the hafling quartermaster. Quartermasters are the most travelled of a well-travelled culture in halflings, but even he can only say that there are few places where such a flat perspective of a cliff-face could be seen: the northwestern deserts of Benin on the edges of the Flats of Sadiz, and the broad ice cliffs of the Nordvelt. Given there’s a structure built into the face of the cliff, Quartermaster Hedgewhistle suspects its in the desert.
After an uneasy remainder of the night, they arise and once again set off toward the Jewel of Osil. They arrive in two more days, entering Lake Besmus through the Eastern Gate in to the Drindee Bridge quarter, passing by the towering statue of Cassius, a famed general during the Kenoran Uprising, and founding father of the city when he settled on the shores of the beautiful lake those centuries ago.
Variel is in his element, overjoyed to have returned to the city in which he spent so many inspiring years. Hedgewhistle lets them know he and small party of his caravan will be travelling upriver to trade with the dwarves, and the caravan will be stopped in Lake Besmus for a couple of weeks before the set-off westward towards Garrenburg.
With time to spare, Variel wastes no time in giving Ishrana the local tour of the city’s beautiful neighborhoods and art quarters. Meanwhile, this is the closest Deldund has been to home since the great betrayl of Mountain’s Gate Hold. His emotions are powerful and difficult to contain…after so long and confusin a journey, the dwarven priest is desperate for guidance. He makes all haste to the Temple of Moradin, carved deep into the stone of the Hulletoe Market smithing district. Lorechanter Caveduin is glad to see the lone survivor of Hammerfel’s betrayl still lives, knowing that it means the traitor is dead.
Deldund shares his story with his brother in faith, amazed at how the telling of the last months to another dwarf eases his mind. Caveduin is surprised to hear the scale to which the betrayl has grown, but in his dwarven mind, the news of a conspiracy to rebuild the Kenoran Empire punches with the same weight as Hammerfel’s orignal betrayl…it just means they will need more dwarves to finish the job.
The Lorechanter sends his pages immediately to spread word through the mountain clans. War is brewing, the day the dwarves have been preparing for will soon be upon them. It was foretold by the Clanlords of old that the evil of Kenora would one day return, it would once again fall to the Children of the Mountain to stand against it.
In the mean time, Caveduin serves his beleagured friend traditional, soul-warming goat stew and lagermead. Deldund eats his fill before retreating to the temple’s prayer chamber. He begins to pray, letting the low rumblings of Rol reverberate against the carefully carve walls.
Finishing the tour at one of his fondest memories of Lake Besmus, Variel takes Ishrana to the infamous Rainy Day. The tavern hidden in the caves behind a waterfall, where the most prominent artists and their entourages mingle, drink, and find inspiration…but mostly just drink. The pure debauchery inside smacks the Kard knight like a tidal wave. The various expanded pockets of the cavern each hold a lobe of the party, distinct yet blending together in chaos of music, colors, dance, and food.
One group, seated in a booth near a flutist, waves to Variel, recognizing him from years gone by. They’re older than the elf remembers, but they haven’t mellowed with the years. After brief introductions, where in which they realize Ishrana is an _actual knight_ and not just dressed as such to be ironic, they share a meal and drinks with the artists. It’s not long before one of them opts to celebrate the occasion with a drink they call “Faerie Fire”. Soon, the table is lost in border-line hallucinations and far beyond drunk.
In an effort to escape their temporary insanity, Ishrana begins wandering the cavern tavern, observing live sculpting, body painting, percussive performances, and miming. She stumbles into a group painting and posing a live model, they summarily place Ishrana next to the model, positioning her arms this way and that. After a few moments, they stand back, awe taking their faces, and a strange phrase on all of their lips: “There it is.”
Others passing their corner stop and stare, before long half the establishment has gazed upon Ishrana and the nearly-nude, multi-colored model, saying “there it is” reverantly. As quickly as the bizarre moment began it’s gone, and of these artists promises Ishrana a room in one of the best houses in the city.
Seeking to escape this visibility, she approaches one of the only sane looking people in the tavern, and be-stubbled man leaning against the far wall, watching over the scene alone. He introduces himself as Captain Aeilron, an officer of the guard but far from in charge. After a brief conversation that reveals little other than that he’s not here of his own volition, Ishrana leaves the beleagured captain and returns to a very altered Variel. She survives until midnight, at which time, as if signalled by some unheard chime, the entire establishment empties out on the ridge top from which water tumbles over the falls from Kettlebough Creek. A gathering the gifted assemble in the stream, and proceed to put on a dazzling light show for the crowd of drunken on-lookers.
From there, the grand party begins to splinter as it stumbles back into the city, and Isharana is whisked along with Variel to a mansion overlooking the lake shore. They’re each given a separate room, lavish in its comforts. Far more luxurious than anything Ishrana has ever experienced. With hundreds of soft pillows, floral waters in which to bath herself, and a stunning view of the lake and Castle Duloch. It’s the most refreshing sleep of her life.
Far into the night, with hours of careful, monotone chanting reshaped by the holy walls of the prayer chamber into the Word of Moradin, Deldund pieces together the message of his God.
<bq> “Beware the youthful who deine to be gods. Seek your western brothers, for they know how to fight your foe. The betrayer is fallen, but the betrayl remains to be fought.”
The next morning, all of them refreshed, their clothing washed, their bodies cleansed, their bellies filled with good, hearty food…the party prepares to journey westward. They track down Cocolongo, seperated from them the day before, in a free-wheeling camp erected in the courtyards of the Concert Hall near the lake. They find him in a tent with four women, in a state of utter confusion. As he tries to wriggle from the tent, one his tent-mates follows, quite in the nude, decrying the false uniforms the party is wearing.
She insists that she’ll join the party, having sworn something called a Rose Pact with Cocolongo. Even the southlander has no idea what that means, but Variel translates: they are bound togther until the blooming of the rose bushes. Given it is now autumn in Osil, she will apparently be travelling with them for several months. At the insistence of the more holy members of the party that she put on somethint to protect herself at least, the woman dons well-fitted leather armour and a rapier from within the tent.
With their begrudgingly accepted new companion, the party sets off west on the North Loop. The woman refuses to give them her name, claiming she has none, and that they are merely crude constructions of the closed-minded. Deldunds peace with his task that dawn is quickly returning to a state of constant disgruntlement…
Experience: 500 xp to each character
Awesome Points: 5 xp to Ishrana Swaythe for becoming an instant art sensation. There it is.
Pity Points: 5 xp to Deldund Stonefist for once again having to travel with a individual “freed from the contraints of convention”.