Thursday, November 22, 2012

Shadowed Tower - 09 "A Pleasant Visit to Castle Talis"

That night, Ferg Wayfinder treats the group to a very nice dinner. Over the meal they tell Ferg the details of their adventures. Ferg tells them that he went to see the Captain of the guards, Captain Coll. Unfortunately, one of the merchants that Malis allegedly attacked, is near death from his injuries, and as such, Malis must remain in jail until the Laird's return.

The books are brought out and discussed, and Khabsha puts forth the idea that the alchemical mixture of Nightfire might be what was implanted inside Laird Jory Talis. When Ferg is told about the trouble with the Storm Crow, and the frame job for the sacking of Wheat Hill, he offers to switch rooms with the party, just in case word arrives from the south and the authorities try to arrest them. He also offers to go to the castle with them on the morrow, since he wants to offer money for Malis's freedom.

Of the supposed Tinkers, Ferg is still unsure whether to do business with them, especially after Graham informs him that the tinker leader was armed with a hidden short sword - something no real tinker would ever carry. They also discuss the dragon sightings, and whether the Dinari might be in league with such a beast. To this, Rowen adds her knowledge of the rumors of Dinari airships, and the possibility that a dragon sighting might instead be an airship sighting.

Despite it all, Ferg is still tempted by the prospect of a profit. He asks Taen if she would scout to the west for the tinker's camp, to see if she can verify their true purpose, in exchange for payment of course.

Taen flies west to scout, and after finding a few hunters, pete cutters and wood cutter's camps, she finds a small sheltered fire with three Tinkers gathered round, the same from the townsquare. There is no sign of tinker wagons, nor of other tinkers or any need for supplies. One plays a southern tin whistle while the others remain silent.

After a while. the leader looks over at the other two and one gets up to patrol the perimeter - also somewhat untinker-like. Of course he doesn't spot Taen, no one ever spots Taen. When he returns to the fire, they finish off their tea and settle into their sleeping sacks, apparently for the night. An hour or two pass and Taen, ever patient, waits to see what else might happen, rightly sensing that something isn't as it seems.

Sure enough, she spies armed soldiers creeping toward the camp. Watching but not getting involved, she watches the men attack, and the tinkers spring from their bedrolls, not nearly as sleepy as they appeared to be. Still, they are outnumbered by larger, armed men. Two of the Dinari escape with soldiers in pursuit, while the third is knocked unconscious by a sword hilt, bound hand and foot and stuffed in a sack.

As the soldiers prepare to leave, she recognizes them as Talis castle guards. A quick search for the other Dinari turns up nothing and she leaves for town.

In the morning, Ferg meets the group at his rooms, reporting that the night went uneventful. He supplies them with a hearty breakfast before joining them to pick up their armor and supplies from the town. Once that's complete, they make their way to Castle Talis.

Passing some more guards on the way to castle without incident, they state their business to the gateman, and are soon led into the keep, where they meet Captain Coll, a square cut fighting man with just the sort of no-nonsense attitude you would expect of castle captain of the guard.

The Captain informs Ferg that his orders haven't changed and no amount of money will get Malis out of jail before the Lord returns from Kaergot. To the party, he expresses his thanks in rescuing his lord and agrees to let them see Wicala Murin, the castle's healer, who has been taking care of Dags.

During this conversation, and perhaps from the very moment the group walked into the castle, Rowen's sword, Hawkwing began a very subtle, constant warning vibration, putting the group on guard against demonic influence, but not pointing out any particular culprit. Neither Khabsha or Cinder's detection spells show any signs of spirits or magic.

Captain Coll introduces Wicala Murin, a young, blonde healer of the Mistress, who leads them to her chambers on the second floor while telling them of Dags McRowd's worsening condition. Apparently he woke briefly after his return from the Shadow Tower, but quickly sank into a worse illness, that even began infecting the servants who were sent to take care of him. Every time the Wicala would heal him, he would get momentarily better, than worsen, to the point where she now fears to try any further healing.

After explaining the risks, she agrees to take Rowen and Khabsha into his tower chamber so they may attempt a more powerful anti-poison spell. Dags indeed looks much worse than last time they saw him. His skin is white, except for angry red blotches at his throat and ears, he is fevered with swollen glands, and unconscious.

Together the two healers work their spells. The magic functions, but Dags doesn't improve.
While they are working, Cinder finds traces of a powerful rune painted onto the archway in the hall. Investigating his books, he learns that it is a secondary warding rune, linked to a more powerful primary rune somewhere nearby. The warding appears to prevent scrying and detection spells within the castle.

When Rowen and Khabsha return with Wical Murin, they wait for the healer to leave before discussing what they found. Before she will let Rowen try a more powerful healing, she wishes to get Master Olifson's approval. Master Olifson is the Seneschal in charge of the castle while the Lord is away. When she leaves to get him, Cinder fills them in on what he found about the rune, explaining that this is probably the cause of Hawkwing's weak and inspecific warning.

Rowen and Khabsha go to meet Master Olifson, an older, well dressed man who decides that before they can attempt the healing, he must send word by Messenger bird to Lord Talis, asking his permission to try the dangerous healing on his friend.

Rowen and Khabsha are led back to the guest chambers and bade to wait, after Master Olifson insists that the group stay for dinner.

Very soon, Master Olifson returns to tell the party that someone has released all the pigeons from the aviary. While he is looking into the matter, he allows Rowen, Khabsha and Cinder to take a tour of the castle, led by his scribe, Kaylin. Graham seeks out some guards to talk with, but is distracted by a pretty servant named Rosy. Taen, who has been posing as a child, takes the opportunity to sneak about the castle.
While on the tour, Rowen, Khabsha and Cinder notice several more secondary runes, but see no master rune. Graham doesn't learn much new from Rosy, but does learn that it is only since the Lord left that the guards have been on an arrest binge. Taen finds the dungeons and finds that they are indeed quite full. She almost gives up on finding the Dinari, but gets lucky and spots some guards leaving a separate smaller dungeon in the outer wall.

Inside, she finds Captain Coll lightly torturing the Dinari, asking him who he really is and what his business in Neued is? The Dinari isn't talking. When the Captain is interrupted to deal with another visitor from town, Taen returns to tell the others what she found.

Master Olifson tells the group that he must carefully consider what to do concerning Dags, before leaving the group to prepare for dinner.

While the group is discussing things, Taen notices a strange delay in Graham's shadow. When she mentions it to Rowen, she quickly casts a light spell and everyone tenses as Graham's shadow separates and flees the room, sliding through the crack in the door.

With this clue in mind, Taen decides to quickly explore the royal quarters, hoping to find the master rune. On her way up the stairs she sees Wicala Murin leaving Dags room with a small box in her hand, and looking suspicious. Taen decides to "shadow" the healer, and watches her enter a small unassuming door in the hallway. Following her further, she sees Murin kneeling by a big black chest in a small storage room.

When Murin begins to leave, Taen quickly flees, and then sees Murin stop in the hallway. A shadow separates from the healer, much like from Graham and flits off down the hall, quickly disappearing. Murin seems to shake her head before walking off in the opposite direction. Storing this tidbit away, Taen returns to her earlier mission.

After picking some locks and sneaking past some guards and servants, Taen finds a secret compartment in Lord Talis' bedchamber, but inside are only precious jewels, which Taen refrains from taking.

On her way back to the guest quarters, Taen checks out the small storage room. She notices a light dusting of powder on the lock to the chest. Gloved, she picks the lock but hears a scritch scratching coming from within and decides not to open it. Searching the rest of the room, she finds a secret door but isn't tall enough to open it. She returns to the others with lots of information.

The scribe, Kaylin, comes to announce that dinner is served in the great hall....

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Shadowed Tower - 08 "Intrigue in Neued"

Tying a rope around Khabsha's waist, she swims down through the tunnel, which descends a short way before coming back up into a half submerged cavern roughly twenty paces across and thirty long. One fitfully sputtering oil lamp gives light and she can see across the chamber two stone columns with bodies tied to them. One body appears to have a large boulder lying across it's lower half, as if the ceiling collapsed. The uneven floor lies about four feet below the sea water, and Khabsha carefully approaches, aware that just because the chamber appears empty of enemies, looks can sometimes be deceiving.

Sure enough, she realizes the truth at the same time that the boulder moves, revealing itself to be a rock shelled crab the size of a small pony. With lightning quickness she brings her shield up just in time to avoid it's massive claw. from across the chamber she sees another crab approaching and quickly retreats toward the entrance, but not quite quick enough.

The first crab reaches out with it's serrated claw and grabs hold of her lower leg, eliciting a cry of pain. She holds her shield up to defend herself from the second crab while slamming her warhammer down on the first, but it's rocky shell deflects the blow. With sharp, urgent tugs she lets the others know that she would most emphatically like to be hauled back to safety.... NOW!

Feeling the tugs, and knowing what they mean, everyone on the other end of the rope pulls. Together with Khabsha's efforts they manage to drag her back to the chamber entrance, with the stubborn crab still holding on to it's equally stubborn meal. Another tug and she is wrenched below the surface and through the tunnel, slamming hard against the underwater cave walls as the crab finally relinquishes it's prize. Gasping for breath, bruised from her rope trip, and nursing her throbbing leg, Khabsha is pulled to safety.

While Graham guards the tunnel, the Oroka shamaness tells the others of the crabs, the bodies and the chamber. She notes that the bodies appeared to be just that, dead bodies, though she couldn't be sure. As Rowen sets to healing her leg, they discuss the science of the tides, and how it probably meant that there was another exit to the chamber. After the healing, they decide it's worth dealing with the crabs and moving forward.

Once more, they take a breath and swim through the tunnel, this time Graham taking the lead. One by one they pop back up in the chamber. The crabs have returned to their meal at the columns. Khabsha, taking advantage of the chance, casts a spell to befriend the creatures. Though she feels a resistant magic already binding them, she's able to break through it and establish her own magic. Eerily, the giant crabs leave off their dinner and scuttle toward Khabsha, apparently ready to protect her now, as opposed to eat her.

Carefully skirting the giant crustaceans, the others check the bodies and the chamber. The bodies turn out to be beyond saving. Pierced through with spears to the chest, the Storm Crow and Ian are somehow glued to the stone. Rowen is able to find a narrow passage beneath the water, that by the push and pull of the current, appears to lead to open water somewhere beyond.

Flanked by her crabs, Khabsha takes a bit of the tongues from both bodies in preparation for her Death Whispers spell. First she asks questions of the Storm Crow, who tells her that he was hired by a masked and cloaked noble in the town of Neued (btw, this is pronounced New-eth). He also tells them that the Nas Kudra mage hid their gear in a secret tunnel a few feet away.

Ian tells Khabsha how they were captured, explaining that their boat crashed on the rock, injuring both men. Soon after, the sea goblin's arrived and their Nas Kudra mage grew incensed, sure that they had stolen his precious Head of Shulheen. In a last, faint whisper, Ian asks Khabsha to save his family before the lips fall silent for good.

With a short search, they find the slab of heavy stone covering the hiding hole. Taen swims down and returns with a large, seal hide sack. Inside the sack they find the Storm Crow's gear, including his leather armor, a finely crafted shortsword, a pouch with much coin and a smaller pouch with a small handful of shiny gems. They also find a strange silver chain of very fine quality and tipped with small clasp-like hooks. Last but not least are a pair of witchwood daggers with arcane runes engraved into them. These Taen takes most eagerly, glad to finally have found the stolen items she sought.

Unable to do anything with the bodies, they then leave the crabs to their meal and swim out through the exit tunnel, emerging in the deep open waters of the sea. After carefully making their way back to shore, they hike back to Kaerig and his boat.

Here they make a decision to go back with Kaerig to see to the welfare of Ian's family, and possibly face the Nas Kudra mage before he can do any more harm. Kaerig warns them that the weather could grow worse and delay their travels to Neued even further, but the group decides to travel south anyway.

Upon reaching Ian's home, the party waits by the boat as Kaerig breaks the news of Ian's death to his wife and daughter. To pass the time, they lay out several snares and traps along the beach, hoping to give any sea goblin raiders a surprise should they follow through on their threats.

When Kaerig returns with Ian's family and sacks full of their belongings, Khabsha offers the woman a sack full of the Stormcrow's coins, offering her the party's condolences and regret that they were unable to save Ian.

Together in the now crowded curragh, they make their way south to Kearig's home. After getting the family settled, and helping the fishermen prepare a defensible camp further back from the shoreline, they offer Kaerig Cinder's armor and the Stormcrow's shortsword, along with several of the sea goblin's spears.
The next morning, they set sail for Neued, unable to put off their mission any longer. Taen, after hearing the story of the Shade demons and the party's quest to stop whatever demonic plot is in the works, decides to accompany them, both in repayment for their help, and because she REALLY hates demons.

The weather holds, and Kaerig delivers them all to Neued that evening. He recommends the Cat's Cauldron, an inn known to him for its fairness and hospitality. He once again thanks them for their help in preparing his home then sets off to sail back toward that home, using what's left of the daylight to get start on the return trip as quickly as possible.

Hiding their Syvani features with hoods and headwraps as best as they can, and disguising Taen as a cloaked child, they make their way into town, unsure of what welcome they may find. At the Cat's Cauldron, Graham pays for rooms. Over dinner in the tavern, they learn that word of the massacre at Wheat Hill has not reached Neued yet, and no one appears to be looking for them. For the moment content, they retire to their rooms for their first night of actual "bed" rest in weeks, even availing themselves of a tub and brush, to wash away what stink of battle, travel and crab the sea could not.

In the morning they split up to accomplish many different tasks. Rowen takes clothing and armor to be mended, finding a Fimar craftsman who, though he apparently shares the Fomish dislike of Syvani, offers to fix the gear for a large sum of coin. Graham and Cinder seek out an apothecary, hoping to purchase some alchemical supplies, picking up what rumor and tales they can on the way. Khabsha and Taen walk the town, gathering what information they can about Laird Jory, the bard Dags and anything else of interest.
Khabsha and Taen find the following:

- Laird Jory and Dags MacRowd returned more than a week ago from the south, after an extended absence. Dags was sick with some strange illness, and the Laird himself was unwell, but Jory has since recovered, and left five days ago to attend the Princess's ball in the capitol... in two days.

- Dags is still in Castle Talis, laid low by whatever illness he is fighting and tended to by the castle healers.
Khabsha, Taen, Graham and Cinder all hear the following information from different sources:
- Woodcutters returned yesterday from the forest to the west, spouting tales of seeing a dragon. No one really believes it, but the sensational nature of the story means its being told alot.

Rowen, Graham and Cinder all notice frequent groups of guards patrolling the town. From the talk of the townsfolk the law is being unusually strict of late, throwing lawbreakers in the stocks or keepin them in the town jail for even small infractions.

Rowen meets up with  Graham and Cinder near the town square. Shortly thereafter, she hears a familiar voice coming from the seat of a nearby wagon. It's Ferg Wayfinder, the Fimar trader. He's in an argument with the leader of three Dinari tinkers, who, by what she can overhear, are looking to rent his mules.
When the Dinari depart, promising to come back in the morning to get his answer, Rowen steps up and makes her presence known. Ferg is delighted to see her. In their ensuing conversation he informs her of the following:

- Upon leaving the Shadow Tower with his caravan guard Malis, they bypassed Wheat Hill and came straight to Neued. He is just about ready to take a full wagon north to Kaergot, but Malice was arrested last night for some unknown reason. He suspects it might have to do with Malice's mixed Syvani blood.

- The Dinari tinkers want to pay Ferg a great deal of money for the rental of all of his mules and ponies. They insist that the exact nature of their need can't be discussed, but promise him the animals will be returned in one day. Ferg is weighing his suspicion and fear that the tinkers will steal his animals and prevent him from making his northward trip over the prospect of quick and easy profit.

Regardless, he wants to treat the party to dinner in hopes of starting to repay them for his rescue from his possessed caravan guard, Geordie. Rowen gladly accepts and the three adventurers walk back toward the Cat' Cauldron. Graham mentions to the others that he spied what looked to be a secreted sword strapped to the Dinari tinker leader's back, and that none of the Dinari seemed very "tinker-like," being far to serious for the usually fun loving gypsies.

Back at the Cauldron, everyone discusses the days events and what they might mean. Dag's continued illness worries them, and the fact that Laird Jory is to attend the princess's ball in two days worries them even more. Any horse or ship travel to Kaergot will take nearly a week, meaning they may very well be too late regardless of what they discover between now and then.

Who the masked noble is that the Stormcrow whispered about is also on their mind. They feel that he would have mentioned the noble's size, if it were Jory Talis. Graham only knows a little of the nobles in town. He believes there are three or four noble families that live in estates around Neued and owe fealty to the Laird.
Some in the group feel the the Dinari might have some connection as well, though no one know how.

It is agreed that they must try to see Dags first, both to cure him if he is indeed still damaged from the shadow poison, or to talk with him if something else is the case.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Shadowed Tower - 07 "The Lair of the Sea Goblins"

As the group speeds away under full sail, they begin to discuss what happened at the rock, and the poor fate of the fisherman, Ian. But not long after, Rowen spies a black cormorant with a strange plume approaching. With bows ready they watch the bird circle the boat before landing at the prow and changing into an airy shape of a Nas-kudra wizard. the illusory image goes on to spout what seems to be a pre-recorded message from said wizard:

"Defilers of the temple of Shulheen. Murderers of the Kudra No Shulheenan and blasphemous thieves. Your actions are unforgivable, yet I offer you one chance to check the tide and right the wrong you have done. Return the blessed Head of Shulheen and I will spare the lives of your two tribesmen. Do it not, and I will feed them their own entrails before giving their bodies to the red sharks. The boatman is known to us, and I swear by Shulheen's bloody tit that his brood will share his fate! ALONG WITH YOU, YOUR KINFOLK AND ALL WHO CALL YOU FRIEND!! Turn around and return the head or suffer the wrath of Shulheen and her servants..."

What could the message mean? Obviously the group doesn't have the "blessed head of Shulheen," whatever that is, but for some reason the sea goblins believe they do. The message also seemed to imply that both the Stormcrow and Ian are held captive, and if they don't have the stolen item, then where could it be?

Cinder comes to at this point as well, having finally shaken the last effects of the Stormcrow's poison.

After a short deliberation, in which the advantages of getting to Newydd ahead of the Stormcrow are weighed against condemning Ian to a cruel fate, the group decides to send Taen back to the sea goblin's rock to scout the lay of the land. Beaching the curragh, they build a small fire and set to drying out clothing while Taen heads down the coastline.

As it turns out, Taen's idea of reconnaissance has more to do with a one-faelinarie assault force than a scouting mission. After killing several goblins with well aimed arrows and searching a bit of the small tunnels inside the rock, she beats a hasty retreat, having stirred the hornet's nest but not found Ian or her assassin stepbrother.

Two candles later, after returning to the rock with the others, leaving only Kaerig behind with the boat, the group sees that the sea goblins are truly watchful now, with many lookouts upon the rock. Sneaking close through the heavy surf while in spider form, Cinder launches a truly impressive fireball that pretty much envelopes the entire rock and decimates several goblins.

Cinder then casts a levitation spell, ingeniously using Taen for the lateral push necessary to bring Graham, Khabsha and himself to the rock without the need of swimming in really heavy armor. Rowen takes the wet approach and almost gets attacked by the 12 foot red shark patrolling the waters around the rock. Thankfully, Cinder is able to Arcane tendril the finned menace before it reaches her.
Once everyone is on the rock, which has been melted to a smooth texture by arcane fire, they work their way quickly around to the submerged entrance. Asking who's to go first, Rowen volunteers Khabsha by giving her a push (Comedic moment on the character with a missing player). Graham and the others quickly follow, and after dealing with a couple more goblin guards underwater they are ready to enter the lair.

Our next comedic moment comes when they are deciding who will pop their head up into the lair first. Khabsha admonishes Rowen with a raised hand and warning shake of the head, conveying that she will not be pushed to the front again. Rowen looks over her shoulder through the water and sees the red shark approaching before shrugging and hurrying into the tunnel. Khabsha looks over her shoulder before quickly following.

Inside the lair they make short work of the goblins on the landing before moving off down the cramped tunnel, Graham in the lead. At the first junction, they spy a strange, spiked growth on the cave wall just before it expands and detonates, sending spiny missiles in all directions. Graham takes the brunt of them, and they burn with terrible pain where they pierce his skin, one coming so close to his eye that he thanks the Gods (and survival points) it didn't blind him. Those behind him are mostly shielded from the blast, but still manage to take a spine or two from the trap.
Following Taen's directions, they head left, up the tunnel passage toward the shrine she saw earlier. A second Exploding Urchin trap is disarmed with a well placed arrow and they emerge in the shrine room, where there are no enemies to be found.

With no other apparent options, they turn back down and ready themselves to enter the submerged passage to the right of the entrance hall, aware that the sea goblins and their mage have had time to prepare who knows what, but determined to see the mission through….