Chapter 01: Killing Two Spiders With One Stone

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Session Number: 72
Date: Sunday 7 November 2010
Venue: Fergus'
PCs & Players:

Arrian Rog1/Clr8 (Fergus) (kills: none)
Emily Ftr3/Rog6 (Yeran) (kills: none)
Feren Rog9 (Yeran) (kills: none)
Rowaine Pal9 (Craig) (kills: none)
Troll Wiz9 (Densial) (kills: none)

XP Awarded: TBC

It has been three months since Fort Rannick was liberated, and summer rapidly approaches. With constant aid from both Kharag Monastery and Turtleback Ferry, the cleanup of Fort Rannick is complete and repairs are under way. A handful of the helpers from Turtleback Ferry have indicated that they would like to remain at Fort Rannick with the intention of becoming Silver Arrows.

Captain Sovark intends to honour the agreement with Prince Arthur to patrol the trade route through Kreeg Wood, but the fledgling Silver Arrows are currently in no position to guarantee safe trade. However, with the loss of dozens of Kreegs, trade is considerably less risky and will likely grow. Troll wonders about using Elondel as a transportation system in the interim, but is dissuaded by Rowaine and Arrian who argue that the risk to the tower and the imithrium cost is too great. Abbey proudly reports that a backpack is complete and she has commenced work on a second. Not to seem outdone, Elondel mentions that he is half-way through replacing his third backpack.

Rowaine has spent some time at Fort Rannick, speaking with Captain Sovark and Lieutenant Emros about their former captain, finding out what she can about the man who seems to have been her father. Vale has spent what little spare time he has had teaching wilderness lore at the monastery. Oddly, Kaven Windstrike, the only other Black Arrow to survive the recent horrors, has not returned. Inquiries with Turtleback Ferry's militia and mayor suggest he never turned up.

Lone elves have been passing through the monastery almost daily, sometimes staying the night. Their reasons for 'dropping by' are wearing thin. Rowaine suspects they come on the queen's orders, either to keep an eye on them or to provide gentle reminders as to the queen's outstanding desire.

With acute matters on the wane, the party ignore the visiting elves and spend the spring months researching how to free Krag. Troll devotes half of his time reading through his inherited library. Arrian considers his elven contacts. Rowaine asks the Silver Hand for guidance and prays to the All-Father morning and night.

After three months, Troll is fairly sure that he does not yet have the necessary skills and experience to help Krag. Valen? The enigmatic foreigner indicated that he might be able to help, but it would take further time and study. Rowaine wasn't prepared to leave the rod in his care then, and her feelings haven't changed. Sir Veketh brings news from the Silver Hand: they occasionally have dealings with entities with a special interest in magical containment, and are attempting to track down some of the ones they didn't have to kill. Sir Veketh himself once met a free genie by the name of Ali Adhoub who was very knowledgeable in this area. Where he is now, or even whether he remains free, is a mystery.

One early summer's morning during Rowaine's early devotions, she receives divine guidance: "It is not Krag's time to return yet." But why? Is it simply not the right time, or has Moradin's paladin not worked hard enough?

The wisest elf Arrian knows of is in fact not associated with his church. He is a venerable sage by the name of K'at who lives in the elven lands to the north. Even priests of Corellon Larethian are on occasion said to seek his advice. Arrian tells Rowaine and the others over lunch.

"Feren," asks Rowaine, "have you ever heard of someone known as K'at?"

"Yes," answers Feren. "An old, cranky guy. I know where he lives. He was always a bit weird and never had any time for kids - or anyone younger than himself. I didn't like him much. The queen has a soft spot for him, though. I have no idea why. Most of her advisors actively dislike him. He does not fit into normal courtly life - he is not religious or military, but still has the queen's ear. He does not play the politics that the others play."

"Would it be safe for Troll to return to the lands his family was banished from?" asks Arrian.

"I couldn't say," Feren replies. "As far as I know, it's the first and only time it's happened. The region is sparsely populated, however."

"Then might I suggest," says Arrian, "that we contact the next elf that happens to wander in, and ask him to guide us to the elven lands? That would serve the dual purposes of working towards activating the queen's tower and seeking K'at's advice about Krag."

"That sounds wise." Rowaine agrees. "I'll have to take the rod with me…"

Arrian turns to Feren. "What do you think?"

"Sounds OK with me," Feren responds. "I will just follow you."

"Feren, you owe us nothing," Rowaine says after briefly studying the elf. "You are welcome to be with us, but if there are other places you need to be, you must feel free to be there."

"Oh, it's not out of my way. I do intend to catch up with people while in the elvish lands."

We have no doubt!

Arrian and Rowaine join the watch atop opposite towers. Around midday yet another elf announces himself at the monastery gate, looking for directions. He wears forester gear and carries a bow easily in one hand. A variety of assorted knives are dotted around his frame.

Arrian descends to greet him while Rowaine gathers the others. Arrian extends a hand of friendship to the elf, who takes it. He notices something on the back of Arrian's hand and his handshake lingers.

"Hmmmmm… interesting." Arrian pulls his hand away.

The visitor appraises Arrian. "What's your name?"

"You first, stranger," Arrian counters.

"Caprian."

"Caprian, pleased to meet you. My name is Arrian. Welcome to Kharag Monastery. We have had a number of elves coming by recently."

"Hmmmm, that's strange. We are not normally seen in these areas, but still…"

"Now just in case you were interested…"

Caprian interrupts. "So you're from ahhhh…"

"I'm from here," Arrian says.

"You have the symbol of Corellon Larethian, rather than the symbol of Moradin, whom I understand is the patron of this place..?"

"You would be absolutely correct," Arrian blithely replies as the rest of the party approaches. "Well recognised. Now, Caprian, in case you happened to be interested, my party and I were asked by the queen to do a favour for her. Have you heard of that?"

"Hmmmm… maybe."

"We are interested in engaging on that task, and are interested in meeting someone that might be able to travel with us…"

Caprian's gaze lingers on Arrian's face.

"…as we return to the elven lands to take up her mission."

"Interesting."

"Always glad to interest passing elves," says Arrian with only the slightest waft of sarcasm.

"So, you live here?" continues Caprian.

"I grew up here."

"From a baby?"

"From my earliest memories. A lot of us here don't know the happenstance of how we came to be growing up here, as you might understand."

"Please forgive me if I seem a bit forward but erm… I was wondering how a person growing up in a monastery of Moradin might have learned the ways of Corellon Larethian."

"You are a follower of Corellon Larethian yourself?"

"Not really."

"Let me tell you about Corellon Larethian…"

Arrian evangelises Caprian, telling him his own story of abject sin turned into devoted service at the redeeming intercession of his beloved deity. In return, Caprian expresses somewhat of a pantheistic viewpoint.

"So you lived as a scoundrel in your earlier years?" Caprian asks.

"I have to say that I did."

"Were you any good at this?"

"I managed to keep myself alive, but it wasn't a good life."

Caprian takes in the group before him. "Hmmm… Pity. So you are looking for…" His sentence is cut short as his eyes fall upon Troll. He tries to cover up his surprise by coughing.

"Ahem. So, um, ah… You and your friends would like a guide into elvish lands?"

"Yes we would," Rowaine replies.

"I suppose I could be persuaded. Is this for all of you?" His gaze lingers on Troll.

"The six of us, yes," Rowaine confirms.

"OK, if I have to… Sorry, I would be happy to."

"How would you gauge our reception in these elven lands?" Rowaine asks.

"I know some quiet trails so you can continue your meditation on your wonderful god or gods… Some quiet trails that will bypass the usual crowds."

"Best not to be seen, then."

"Oh no, nothing like that. Elves are welcoming of all (nearly)."

"You are aware of who this gentleman is?" Rowaine asks, indicating Troll.

"I am very aware of who this person is," Caprian replies, not looking at Troll.

"If I may speak plainly," Rowaine says, "is Troll's presence going to cause trouble, in your experience?"

"I would say that the quieter trails would be easiest on your prayers. Sometimes it's nice if you don't let a flare off in somebody's face."

"When would you be ready to make your way?" asks Arrian.

"Any time… I could do with some food, though…"

"Come with me," Arrian says.

Rowaine smiles. "We will show you… DWARVEN hospitality!"

A pig and a keg!

Caprian walks beside Arrian. "So… how young were you when you came here?"

"As I said earlier," Arrian replies, "I don't have any memories before the monastery."

Caprian sits down to hearty fare.

"Excuse us," Rowaine says to their guest. She and Arrian leave to seek out Sir Veketh, explaining their plan.

"What might be the best way to get a message to Queen Raewyn that we are en route?" asks Arrian. "It might be wise not to surprise her…"

"The queen has already told me that word travels fast amongst the elves," Rowaine says. "If this elf is indeed following the queen's wishes, he may already have sent word."

The party collect their adventuring gear and assemble at Elondel while Caprian continues to eat. Shalélu carries Abbey's backpack. Elondel hands Rowaine the black rod containing Krag. They agree to cut down the journey by getting Elondel to transport them as far as he is able. Feren mentions a trading settlement within transport range called Holt, on what humans would describe as the nominal border of the elven kingdom. It is largely human-populated, roughly north-by-northwest of the monastery.

Elves consider all lands theirs, especially forests. However, distance being what it is, they patrol roughly two hundred miles from their largest population centre - an area that just encompasses Holt to the southeast.

Rowaine recollects her conversation with the elven queen. "Feren, the queen said that you knew of the tower. Is that true? Where is it?"

"I know it," Feren replies. "I journeyed there when I was a kid. It was referred to when we were growing up as the 'dark tower', but it is more recently referred to as the 'dark tree', or the 'darkness tree.' It lies half way between Holt and the capital city.

"You laid eyes on the tower?" asks Arrian.

"I think I did. I found a clearing with a tree in it… I didn't really see much more."

"You were alone?" asks Rowaine.

"No, I was with the queen's children."

"Do you think you could find your way from Holt to the tower?" asks Arrian.

"Yes, I think so. The woods are known to me. It's about four days journey on foot."

"If that's the case," says Arrian, "do we need Caprian?"

Rowaine's brow furrows. "Feren, do you know this Caprian?"

"No."

"Do we trust him?" Rowaine asks the group. "We have been taking a lot on trust at this point. Let's have a word."

The party return to the monastery and and find Caprian in the mess hall, finishing up. Arrian engages him in conversation. Rowaine doesn't sense evil about him, but both she and Arrian get the sense that Caprian is acting more under direction or duress than out of the goodness of his heart.

"We have a means of instantaneous transport at our disposal here at the monastery," explains Arrian. "If we use it, we could be in Holt in the blink of an eye. Would that be of use?"

"That would save a good couple of weeks," Caprian says with raised eyebrows. "In fact, Holt… Holt would be perfect. Let's go."

"'Perfect'?" Rowaine asks. "Why 'perfect'?"

"Two weeks," Caprian mumbles.

Rowaine's eyes narrow, but she figures if there is some sort of trap awaiting them in Holt, it had better be a pretty big one. The party lead Caprian beneath Moradin's temple, call the wing's portal into existence and step through. They appear in the woods outside Holt. Caprian gets his bearings and leads the group into the town.

Sounds and smells hint at the town before it can be seen. The trees dwindle and eventually stop at the bank of a small river that seems to encircle the town.

"Shouldn't we perhaps avoid this place?" asks Arrian.

"I suggest we have a drink," Caprian says. "Stop here for lunch."

"But we just ate…"

"I feel like a beer. It won't take long. There's someone I'd like to catch up with, anyway."

Arrian hears the words and doesn't entirely believe them. He thinks Caprian has an ulterior motive. "Who are you meeting?" he asks.

"An old friend that I haven't seen for a while."

"Someone who serves the queen?"

"Nothing like that. No, I just want talk to my friend. He knows things, his information might be of use."

Caprian's body language tells Arrian that this information somehow concerns him. More than that - this meeting is not to serve his own ends; rather, he believes the information might be of use to Arrian. Could this elf somehow know something of his background?

"Information is often useful," Arrian says, "but gathering it can cause problems."

Caprian flicks a glance towards Troll. "Your friend is unlikely to be recognised in this town if he keeps himself covered."

"Troll is accustomed to that," Rowaine says.

"I'm not surprised."

"What do you say, Rowaine?" Arrian asks.

Rowaine weighs the benefits and risks. "Let's go in," she says.

"Very well," Arrian says. He turns to Caprian. "After you."

The group jump over the river and climb up the other side, heading towards the town. Pockets of buildings become streets. Caprian leads the party into the high street. The town is reasonably busy. Traders with goods-laden horses and carts lumber everywhere. Dozens of people are buying and selling all manner of wares. No one seems to take any particular interest in the seven newcomers. Their guide leads the party along boardwalks to a tavern called the Twisted Turnip.

"I know the proprietor here," explains Caprian. He'll give us free beer. Not up to dwarven standard, but still pretty good."

The tavern is mostly empty. Behind the bar stands a short man with a large beard. In the right light or after a few drinks, he could be mistaken for a dwarf. He sees Caprian and greets him warmly. Caprian introduces his companions, then excuses himself and disappears out back. Feren orders elven wine from the proprietor; Rowaine orders berry tea. Arrian looks at Rowaine, askanced. The man returns with an ornate metal container, then calls for someone called Marion out back to boil water "for the lady." The proprietor then approaches Arrian for his order.

"Have you got any elven… Oh, fuck it, got any dwarven beer?"

The proprietor looks at Arrian and his face goes white.

"Um, I'm sorry, er… um… I have some whiskey, I have some fine… I have THIS!" He disappears behind the bar.

"You seem to have the man at a disadvantage," observes Rowaine. The proprietor returns with an earthen vessel.

"Do you recognise this man?" Feren asks bluntly.

"…Of course not, sir!" The man's manner leaves no doubt that he is very scared.

"It might not serve us well to draw too much undue attention our way," she whispers to Arrian. "Just try and keep a low profile."

"I didn't think I was doing anything particularly unusual," Arrian replies in hushed tones.

"You swore at the man…"

"I didn't swear at him!"

Marion emerges from the back, her face bearing a radiant smile. She carries a steaming metal jug. She notices Arrian; her smile melts away and she drops the container. It clangs harshly and scalding water spills onto the timber floor.

"I'm terribly sorry sir, I… Um… Errr…"

"It's alright," Rowaine says in soothing tones. Marion squeals and disappears out back.

"These people think they know me…" Arrian says, mostly to himself. He allows his thoughts to return to his painful past. He has been in this town before, albeit many years ago, and only briefly.

Marion returns with a mop, visibly shaking. She starts hurriedly cleaning up the spilt water.

"Lass, it's alright," Rowaine says placatingly. "We are very sorry if we have troubled you in any way…"

"No, no, no trouble…" Marion does not meet Rowaine's gaze.

"Do we owe you an apology?"

"No, absolutely not, is there anything else I can do for you ma'am?"

"No… You are free to go."

"I think it would be better for me to leave," Arrian says.

"I'm inclined to agree, Rowaine says. "I don't want to cause these people unnecessary stress."

"I think my family is from here, and I suspect they may not be very nice people."

Caprian returns from the back of the tavern. "Let's get a move on," Arrian says. Caprian raises an eyebrow.

"We seem to be creating a stir amongst the staff," Rowaine explains.

"Hmm… Interesting."

"What do you know about my family?" Arrian asks the elf.

"Well, I don't know anything."

"What do you suspect?"

"It's ahhh… Let's go take a table in the corner." Caprian leads them all to a secluded spot.

"Let me see your hand…" Arrian holds out his right hand, the one Caprian held earlier.

denz_holds_fergus.jpg
karan_symbol.jpg

"This mark here," he begins, indicating a mark on the back of Arrian's hand by his wrist. "This is often mistaken as a birthmark, but in reality in some places it is used as a brand to show allegiance or family ties. In this case, ties to a particular group of mildly unsavoury people. When I first saw it I suspected this, and the reaction you have described supports my suspicion. I believe this brand was given to you at birth by this group. Its placement and tone suggest you are a family member. The colouration and signature aren't perfect, but I think it unlikely that it is counterfeit. I do happen to know that a particular branch of this family did suffer a loss of a child some time ago. Should he still live, he would be about your age."

"Marion and the proprietor seemed to recognise me," Arrian says.

"Could it be the symbol that they recognised?" asks Rowaine.

"Your features are not particularly unique, Arrian. They probably saw the symbol on your hand. Not a good thing… I would bandage it if I were you." Arrian's hand disappears under the table.

"What is the family name?"

"Karan. It is not known for being the nicest family in the world. They were less of a family and more of a guild of elite assassins. They were decimated in an inter-clan feud, but survived. Assuming you are indeed a Karan, you are probably one of the last."

"Where is this family based?" asks Rowaine.

"Not here, but the family is well-known here."

"I think we should get going!" Arrian exclaims.

Rowaine agrees. "Let's move on." She gets up and approaches the proprietor, putting silver pieces on the bar top.

"That's fine, ma'am, not necessary…"

"I insist."

The party leave the tavern and the town, heading north. Caprian asks for their next destination.

"Do you know the Dark Tree?" asks Feren.

"What??"

"The Dark Tree."

"You're not going there, are you? I'm certainly not! It sucks your soul out! You can't go there - there are monsters and stuff. No one who has gone there has ever come back!" He looks very unsure of himself. "I can only take you so far…"

"May I ask," Rowaine says. "You and your fellow visitors to the monastery… What were your instructions?"

"I had no instructions. I am just helping out a friend."

Codswallop!

Passage through the forest becomes increasingly difficult. Rowaine considers the flying option - she has not yet called Harley - but Troll has not prepared enough Greater Floating Discs to bear five others, and Feren suspects the Dark Tree would be very difficult to spot by air. Eventually, Rowaine decides to get Caprian to lead them as far as he is willing.

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