On Corvala's instructions, Irimar and Vincent had circulated a proclamation explaining her father's injury as an unfortunate accident, a hazard of the sport, from which he was recovering well thanks to the timely intervention of the three visitors. Despite this, the party atmosphere of the day was rather punctured, and most of the villagers went home.
With dinner completed, Corvala circulated among her guests. She'd invited the party to move into Arenlor's manor for the duration of their stay in Sebril, and sent a boy to settle their bill at the Queen and Giant and collect their belongings. Sir Dorosend, standing nearby with his heart in his eyes, would clearly have loved such an invitation, but with her father incapacitated, Corvala's reputation would suffer if she were to do so. Taking pity, she saw him to the door with whispered words that sent him home with a spring in his step, then bade the companions goodnight.
Settled in her comfortable room, Caitlin was just preparing to turn in when there was a diffident tap on the door. When she replied, a young maid in a mob cap, whom Caitlin recalled serving at the dinner earlier, poked her head around the door and bobbed respectfully, to say Lady Corvala had requested m'dm's presence, please m'm, if it's convenient m'm? Caitlin, though puzzled, smiled at the girl and followed her along the hall to Corvala's room.
Corvala greeted Caitlin warmly, and let her maid go off to bed. She poured a glass of wine for her friend with her own hands and explained why she’d asked for her. “Velran’s attempt on my father can’t be proved,” she began. “Yes, we have witnesses that something happened but I fear even your word carries no legal weight here. In any event, Velran will simply turn robber-knight, mew himself up in his castle and dare anyone to make something of it. My father may challenge him – but Velran will either refuse or do something dishonourable to beat him – he knows he can’t fight him and win. If he can, Velran may try and trick Dorosend into challenging him; and he would lose. I couldn’t bear that! Father may try and siege Caran Gehir, but he couldn’t storm the place in a year.” She set down her glass.
“My father is a knight, and his honour is his life. He wouldn’t countenance any underhand or covert means of dealing with this threat to our family. He will be out of action for a few days, however, and the decision comes to me. Ah me, it seems we women are more practical and less romantic about such things! You and your friends have proven yourselves people of skill, resource and discretion. I would be eternally grateful were you to … make something happen to Velran, if you would be willing.”
Caitlin considered for a moment. Her generous instinct to help her new friend was strong, but the natural caution her adventuring life was teaching her presented other considerations. Success would leave them with a firm ally and patron in this region; failure or exposure could leave them outlawed or exiled. None the less, she rather liked the idea of "happening" to Velran, and - subject to her friends' agreement - agreed to aid the young noblewoman. Corvala hugged her gratefully, and Caitlin went thoughtfully off to talk to the others.
As expected, Yoshin wasn't keen to begin with. The idea of risking his life on this - against a man wealthy enough to keep a castle and thus almost certainly retainers - appalled him. He had to admit, though, that Corvala had been a good friend. While her declaration of "eternal" gratitude was far less impressive to him than the others - her entire nation's existence was less than a fifth of his lfe so far, and it would probably be dust before he died if he was lucky enough not to be killed early - he finally agreed once it became clear that Krizzen was determined to go.
The next morning, the three wandered through the village, picking up a few necessary items. Sebril was small, and not much was to be had, but they made the best of it.
Caitlin, having taken directions, found herself at the shop of Sebril's best tailor, Yswug. The tall, thin man was polite enough as the Tellaran explained what she was looking for in a dress, and was in the process of requesting a deposit on the thirty gold piece price when Caitlin casually mentioned, "I'll be away for a while - just drop it off with Corvala and I'll pick it up from her?" Yswug stood for a long moment with his mouth open, then shut it with a snap. The concept of deposits vanished from the conversation, replaced with profuse assurances of best possible service, and topped with directions to Anorcal, the best of the village's four shoemakers. This worthy assured her that some matching red shoes would be ready the next day.
|DM Note: As written, the 3e rules don't allow for the recharging of staves and wands. The given reason is that PCs can make their own anyway, but that doesn't sit well with me. Hence I've worked it this way, which is to calculate it the same as adding the charges in the first place. That boils out at 120gp per charge, and either 60xp or another 300gp if the caster/merchant provides the permanence. The process takes 0.12 days per charge, but with a minimum of 1 day.|
Krizzen headed across the village towards the tiny shrine to Aderra, the goddess of wisdom and magic, and he felt the most likely to look kindly on a priest of the Scales of Steel. The shrine, though tiny, was typicically Aderran - neat, ordered, and lined with books. A short, middle-aged human in the robes of Aderra approached him, making the open-book sign of his faith and asking what he could assist with. Krizzen, very careful to show respect as a visiting priest of another faith, negotiated the recharging of the ash staff from Hightower, and left it with the priest to be reinvigorated with healing magic.
He also provided Krizzen with a note of introduction to the head priest of Aderra in Minensal, one Bastable.
As Krizzen was preparing to leave, Dalimas stopped him. "Do you know one Caitlin, Countess of Tokaroth?" he asked. Krizzen nodded cautiously. "I thought so. A paladin of our faith is seeking her, something about an owed debt. Where can she find you?" Krizzen gave directions to the Queen and Giant and left, wondering what this was all about.
Yoshin had sought out the village's solitary alchemist, one Heysan. The shop was open, and the elf wandered in, looking around at the brass instruments, crackling scrolls, strange dried things and bundles of obscure herbs hanging from the ceiling, and the apparatus which looked as if it had been made by a glassblower with hiccups. Heysan himself was hunched over a workbench at the far side of the shop, oblivious to the possibility of customers, so Yoshin walked stealthily up behind him and spoke quite suddenly.
With a loud cry, Heysan leaped from his seat, sending equipment and materials flying with an expensive-sounding crash. He turned to see the tall, dour-faced elf gazing down at him with a raised eyebrow. "Isn't it shocking when a customer speaks to you?" he said dryly. "What was it you were making there?" Heysan sighed. "Hair tonic," he said regretfully. "Hopefully I can sell you something else?"
"I was looking for Alchemists' Fire," said Yoshin. Heysan brightened. "You're in luck. A company of adventurers ordered a load before heading north to check out some ruins near Lanrath. They never came back, so I need to shift it." Yoshion struck a deal for five and some information on the luckless adventurers' objective in return for thirty gold per flask.
Krizzen, Yoshin and Caitlin were enjoying a pleasant lunch with generous drinks at the inn to round off their shopping, when the entrance was darkened by a formidable figure. Looking up, they were slightly startled to see a massive female half-orc, heavily armoured in bright mail decorated with the symbols of Aderra - not a common faith for orc-kind. A heavy warhammer dangled from her belt and a mighty greatsword stuck up above her shoulders. Despite her kind, there was a look of stern kindness and honour to her face. Her eyes focussed on Caitlin, back in her mail and leathers, feet up on a chair as she raised a glass. "I can see I have my work cut out here," she said in a gravelly but faintly amused voice. "Oh good," muttered Yoshin to himself, "another ape. What a good start to the morning."
Monsarana, paladin of Aderra, had been graced by the Goddess herself with a task; to guide and protect the Countess Caitlin and any companions she had acquired, until such time as an opportunity arose for her to perform a service for Aderra's cause in repayment of the assistance she'd received under Hightower. This solved the mystery of who had responded to Caitlin's scattering of prayers that day, but Caitlin couldn't avoid a sinking feeling that her repayment might be more than a few gold marks in a collection box...
After some trepidation (mostly on Yoshin's part), the three companions explained their current plans. They'd half thought that a paladin might have serious doubts about their objective, but as it turned out, Monsarana had heard plenty about Sir Velran's character and activities, and was quite in agreement that he needed to be removed.
As they spoke, Krizzen was eyeing the burly paladin with some admiration. Nice muscles, he thought, be interesting to see what she can do with that hammer... With that in mind, the four retired to the field used in previous days for the tournament and sparred for a while, getting used to each others' style of fighting and working off the drinks.
Most of the journey between Sebril and Tarokan was across the wilderness dotted with ruins still so common in the northlands, but halfway through the third day these gave way to farmlands. Unlike the well-cared for commoners Caitlin was accustomed to, or Arenlor's, the peasants who lived there were truly wretched, ground-down villeins, and at the sight of armoured riders deserted their crude shacks and fled into the fields and forests. Evidently, Velran was not the kindest of liege lords.
Skirting the village, the party made the final approach to the castle with as much stealth as they could muster, until they could see it more clearly. A dour structure of three round towers connected by a circular wall, it perched atop a crag and was approached by a curving ramp which wound around the hill, exposed to fire from the castle every step of the way. The castle had an unwelcoming and ill-favoured look to it, and alert-looking guards were visible here and there on the walls.
After looking at this and arguing about approach for a few minutes, Monsarana and Caitlin - neither of whom Velran knew by sight - elected to ride up the road and try to bluff their way in, whereas Krizzen and Yoshin chose stealth and faded into the trees at the foot of the crag.
Caitlin waved cheerily at the guards staring down from the battlements at her, just as if she had a perfect right to be there, but the most reaction was that one disappeared into the castle, presumably for instructions. Hunching slightly against the tickly sensation of being out in the open under many missile weapons, the pair rode on.
|DM Note: Critical Wilderness Lore from Krizzen!|
Krizzen's swampland heritage stood him in good stead this day, as they ghosted through the trees to the base of the crag undetected. Initially, they worked over to where they could see the others, in case they needed to assist.
Caitlin and Monsarana heard the distinctive thump of a drawbridge dropping, then the sound of pounding hooves on the roadway above them. "What shall we tell them?" asked Caitlin slightly belatedly. Monsarana considered. "The village has plague?" she suggested. Technically, it was sort of true - the inhabitants of this castle were a plague on the village below. Seven riders came into view around the corner, most armoured in light leathers except the leader who wore mail. All bore the insignia of Velran's service, and carried swords and short bows. Caitlin straightened in her saddle as they fanned out to surround the pair. "The village of Tarokan is smitten with plague, most deadly!" she declared. "You should leave the area, or maybe help them." The lead rider nodded. "Thank you," he said, "we'll raid elsewhere for a while. You can leave now." Caitlin and Monsarana moved towards him, and he began to look anxious. "Don't come any closer! You'll be carrying it. If you come any closer, we'll -" he cut off as his eyes closed and he toppled off his horse, to the considerable confusion of his men. Yoshin had cast a Sleep spell on him."Everyone must evacuate, or the plague will get you all!" cried Caitlin. Monsarana took up the theme. "We're here to help you prepare," she called, slipping off her horse and bending over the "plague-stricken" patrol leader.
At this, the other riders started firing missiles at the two interlopers. Caitlin whipped up her crossbow and shot one, then hurled a javelin to glance off the helmet of another. Monsarana scored with a couple of javelins, then bent and pretended to heal the leader, adding a slap around the chops to break the Sleep spell. "It's a miracle!" cried Caitlin, but the patrol leader was sceptical. "Miracle this, bitch!" he grated, stabbing at Monsarana with a dagger. Infuriated, the paladin siezed him, lifted him bodily and hurled him over the parapet and down into the dry moat between the roadway and the castle. Bouncing and tumbling down the sixty-degree slope, he struck the bottom with a cry of pain and his men turned and fled towards the castle gates.
Accepting Caitlin and Monsarana's distraction, Krizzen and Yoshin had moved around the crag under cover of the trees. Yoshin checked his new Alchemists' Fire as Krizzen glanced up the sheer side of the tower above and selected a window on the top floor; then the elf cast his Fly spell and the two of them soared upwards, hugging the wall to keep the guards from spotting them. In moments, they were through the window and standing in a small hallway. Two doors each side led to rooms of some sort, and at the far end was a spiral staircase leading up and down.
A single guard stood watch near the stairs. He was probably prepared to open the door for his master, and maybe to prevent him being interrupted by unwanted messengers, but nothing could have prepared him for the onslaught of Krizzen and Soothslayer. The mighty axe carved almost completely through the hapless man, scattering his innards across the flagged floor in steaming piles.
Krizzen came to a halt, his axe ready across his chest. "So much for that," he muttered - and then the door to his left opened and he glanced across at it just in time to see Velran's rapier coming at him point-first. Eyes widening he remembered the still-active Fly spell and rocketed backwards away from the black knight, Velran's strike missing him completely. As he passed Yoshin, who was perched on the windowsill, the elf released a Fireball to burst at the end of the corridor almost exactly where Velran was. With superhuman speed, the knight hurled himself aside as the flames erupted, flowing back into the room from which he had emerged. Wary of his reputed skills, Yoshin and Krizzen fled up to the roof of the tower, where they roped together before Yoshin drifted back down, this time to the window of the room from which Velran had emerged. Peering in, he saw the remains of what had probably been quite a nice bedroom, now badly scorched. Aside from a pair of blackened, empty slippers near the remains of the bed, there was no sign of Velran to be seen.
Session Date: 14th Dec 2013