Time For a Decision

At the dwarf’s rebuttal Maruc laughed with delight despite the macabre scene. “Take no offense. It is his way. We ourselves are turning aside from our journey to satisfy a yearning of his. These are dangerous lands…”

“A yearning!? Bah, speak not of what you know little of priest! A duty to family is not a yearning. And that duty has been delayed far too long while I travel with this accursed group” Feldard’s words came out harsher than he intended. The dwarf scowled, and turning away he stomped to the bow of the boat and kept watch.

Stephan’s brow furrowed at the blistering retort of the dwarf. His eyes narrowed in anger but he fought to banish the clouds of anger.

“Understandable, my good fellow…Felgard, I mean.” He turned from the dwarf, clearly concluding that any efforts to sway one of the dwarvenkin in this matter was futile.

After the awkward exchange, the priest returned his attention to the corpses. “I wonder…” Maruc studied a tattoo. Absently he asked, “Nicolai, is this the emblem of the Iron Ring?…ohh.” No Saeth to ask either. He stood up and turned the new warrior and offered his hand. “Maruc. Curate to the blessed Lord Halav. He who graces the throne of the Duchy and guides us in corporeal form. Blessed are these days!” he grinned.

“Aha! My lord Abbot did not foresee this! Or perhaps Blessed Halav seeks to test my resolve? Nevermind, you have aided us Stephan. Halav has placed you here for a purpose.”

Stephan’s eyes widened at the words of Maruc. He genuflected the sign of Halav.

“You speak with the wisdom of Halav. And I tremble at the prognostication! My path is as Halav wills it! He truly leads me ever to my well being! If it is with you fine adventurers I am cast, then it is the good will of Halav and is truly where I belong!”

Maruc struggled to keep the smile from his face at the obsequeous nature of Stephans’ genuflection. “Stephan, you are a true son of Halav Incarnate.” he lent closer and lowered his voice, “But He will not be upset if you fail to fall to your knee’s every time you mention Him. All things in good measure…even piety!” he grinned reassuringly.

He was still sore and feeling a little faint. The arrow had been removed but he had many shallow cuts and the heavy lifting had drained him. He checked aroung for Feldard and hasan but they had taken themselves off somewhere. The oarsmen were busy with the boat and Miklos was buried in his book again. No one was in clerical need so he endulged in a prayer to cure his scratches.

Maruc gazed up the river. “I fear our road may wind much to Threshold. But we are not a fortunate group Stephan, troubles dog our steps and we seek to unseat a great evil. If you would ally yourself to our cause then do so with open eyes and a mind clear of the deceits of others.”

Seeing an opening, Stephan implored, “Perhaps I was not clear. My brother is a horse trader. At his homestead, in addition to the Dorian steads, we have a number of other horses. Of course, I’d like to offer a reasonable number of these to you as compensation for their safe transport.”

Stephan found himself now mimicking a sure-tongued general he once had the privilege to overhear negotiating a surrender with enemy Valdukin warriors. It was not his natural bent but at times he found himself employing the cloying verbiage to meet some end…usually some carnal goal on a late night in some tavern…

“These steads”, he continued, “may greatly enhance your travel time. We are but a short distance from them now and given the demise of this river boat, they may well afford you swifter transport to Threshold. Surely, the remains of your fallen companion can easily be ported via horseback as well. And if all is in order at the Sukiskyn homestead, I will accompany you to lend whatever support I can to the safe travels of your fallen brethren.”

Maruc pulled out his roughly drawn map on the river and roadways. ““Thank you for your offer of transport Stephan, I am sure this will be acceptable to Hasan, Miklos and myself. You may have trouble influencing Feldard!” he grinned. “Naturally, I am keen to return Nicolai to his mother, and all the more so with the light she might shed on the tattooed men and their purposes. Unless you can help us? Have you seen this mark before?” the priest indicated the mark of the closest corpse.

Stephan could not contain a gasp at the markings on the flesh. He again genuflected. “Blessed Halav! This be the mark of the Iron Ring! I did not know they be active in these lands! We must take extreme caution. These are folk twisted to deviltry! They are hideous thieves and worse–slavers! They’ve no regard for morals and will abscond with women and children, even!, to sell them into utter despair! Nay! Their actions have also swayed kings with fell extortion, ransom and assassinations! These are a lot to watch carefully!”

With that, he peered into the surrounding foliage and setting sun. “Soon, we must away from here! Surely we are watched!”

“Prince Hasan, did you perchance see from whence the …ahh for want of a better term and in light of Maruc discovery… slavers came from? Any tracks that might lead to their lair? They must have come from somewhere.” Miklos’s mind characteristically raced voicing his thoughts as they popped into his head.

“There may be further information,” offered the mage, as he helped Maruc unload the corpses. “One might suggest that these folk where hired to stop us. Which raises some unpleasant questions like who, and more importantly how. How did they know we would be here at this time? I’d not like to have more slavers on our heals all the way to Highforge and beyond. Perhaps Feldard might join you in case of trouble? Sadly I must remain here, as I need to rest after all that magical exersion! When you return I can appraise you of what I learned in Specularum, now I think Stefan is trustworthy I can voice my concerns.””

After Feldard had time to cool down some, the dwarf assisted the priest in hauling the corpses off the boat. The priest arranged a pyre, and placed the bodies on it he ensured there were on further clues to be gleaned from them before reciting the funereal edict and lighting the pyre. “May the light of Halav Incarnate cleans your souls and receive you.” He intoned the final words. Then turned his back on the gathering gloom of evening to see if the boatmen and finished their temporary repairs.

He sat at the bow of the boat pulling his traveling cloak about him against the early evening chill. He pulled his new spellbook from its oilskin bag and opened it. He was about to light a lantern when the blaze from the pyre shone across the shoreline. He absently hoped that it wouldn’t draw more foes to them as he started to read, listening to the lapping of the water.

Remembering Miklos’ suggestion of checking for tracks, the dwarf nodded readily and looked to Hasan. “Come Hasan,” the dwarf would never dignify the elf by calling him Prince, “before daylight is gone altogether.”

Feldard began his search where the bodies had dropped, and began tracking back into the wood. How difficult could tracking be? If elves could do, so could he! Ah see there a definite footprint, Feldard thought to himself. Oh wait, that print was much too small for a man’s. Oh curse it all it was his own! With little chance of actually tracking them himself, Feldard followed Hasan; the elf might need help if he ran across anything.

Hasan followed the dwarf’s lead, away from the boat and into the forest. He watched, bemused, as the dwarf scrambled — hip deep and wayward — through the lush, ferned underbrush, and then led him back to the clearly marked trail to the ambush point he had discovered earlier that day. Both rearmoured and rearmed, Feldard had insisted he would go no further without his armor, the two demihumans trudged forward along the trail, with every dwarven step punctuated with the odd jingle or curse. We certainly won’t sneak up on anybody, Hasan laughed to himself.

As he walked forward with Feldard, Hasan pondered Miklos’s obscure reference to things learned in Specularum, wondered what they would find at trail’s end, and hoped that he wouldn’t regret not bothering to rememorize any of his spells. Then he saw the flash of a young deer. The sight, so common in a wooded walk at dusk, relaxed the young elf immeasurably, and he walked forward untroubled with his companion.

Track the ambushers’ trail was child’s play for the elf. It continued through the forest, following the river along the direction they had been heading in the boat. At this point, it was time to make a decision—follow the tracks, or take the boat to Misha’s Jetty and from there to obtain horses at the homestead of Stephan’s brother.

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22 responses to “Time For a Decision

  1. Maruc: +10xp
    Miklos: +10xp
    Feldard: +10xp
    Hasan: +10xp
    Stephan: +5xp +10xp

    TOTAL:
    Maruc: 17,265/24000
    Miklos: 17,330/20000
    Feldard: 17,375/34000
    Hasan: 16,685/32000
    Stephan: 16,180/32000

  2. Maruc and Miklos each have time during the last post to regain one spell. Which ones?

    Maruc regains 4hp.

  3. Feldard

    Feldard looked to Hasan. “This trail could go on a while. If we are going to follow it to its source, we should gather the group together first.”

    Back at the boat, Feldard proposed their two options – continue on to Misha’s Jetty or follow the tracks.

    “I think we need to follow the trail. If Miklos is right and this ambush was laid in wait for us specifically – then we need to find out exactly who we are up against this time.” Feldard reasoned.

    In the back of Feldards mind was that he couldn’t risk seeking Hernane while someone was actively hunting him and his companions down. With her adventuresome nature she would likely wish to join along. Something he would not tolerate. No, not in the least.

  4. Hasan

    Hasan listened to the dwarf’s argument. “I think the idea that the Iron Ring was looking for us is crazy. We cannot inflate our own self worths. The Ringmen certainly were not prepared for what they found — that encounter was little more than a slaughter, I’m afraid to say. No, I think they will look for softer prey than us.” Hasan turned to Stephan. “I would like to help you, but as an elf, my price is a Dorian. Come friends, let us take this quick trip. These steeds will serve us well as we seek to cover the ground to find the Sons of Darkness. For it is they that are our enemy. For now, the Iron Ring is not. Let us not seek this new trouble.”

  5. Hasan

    (use this one – first one had some terribly constructed sentances.)

    Hasan listened to the dwarf’s argument. “We cannot flatter ourselves. The idea that the Iron Ring was looking for us defies reckoning. Those Ringmen certainly were not prepared for what they found — that encounter … it was little more than a slaughter, I’m afraid to say. No, I think they will look for softer prey than us.”

    Hasan turned to Stephan. “I would like to help you, but as an elf, my price is a Dorian. Come friends, let us take this quick trip. These steeds will serve us well as we seek to cover the ground to find the Sons of Darkness. For it is they that are our enemy. For now, the Iron Ring is not. Let us not seek this new trouble.”

  6. Maruc

    Maruc started out of his prayer at the shout of an oarsman next to him. There was movement from the trail. Squinting into the gloon of the forest he recognised the oddly matched duo. “Aha! our scouts have returned.” He pulled on his over-tunic and roused Miklos from his book.

    ***
    after Hasan’s comment

    “Noble Stephan has already offered his steads in payment. No need to make demands old chap!” a smile playing across Maruc’s face. “As far as I can gather from Miklos’s paranoia he sees enemies at every turn. What little I know of the Iron Ring is that they are not to be trifled with, thusly Hasan’s feeling that we should move on and put some miles between us and these waylayers has merit. However, if these men, who I believe were employed (and not on some personal mission or we would be in trouble!) by agents of the Sons of Night then we are obliged to follow them lest the trail run cold.”

  7. Miklos (Mu 3)

    Miklos looked up and snapped his book shut. He was eager to here the news and guessed that there onward jorned would not be by boat. Miklos finished attaching the tack to his horse and lead it off the boat

    ***

    Miklos listened carefully and then eye’d the boatmen suspiciously. “Come over here a ways my friends I wish to discuss some things way from unknown ears. Come Stephan, if you would learn more of what Maruc alluded to earlier.”

    When they were out of earshot he turned to Stefan. “So that you night know what we are trying to do I shall explain somewhat for our discoveries. In our travels we can across a dark book that proficied an event called the Dread Night. As you can imagine from the title it is not an event that we wish to endure. We have taken it upon ourselves to thwart those that would bring this about. So far we have battled the undead, evil magi, priests of death and witches. The one connecting factor betix them all its the prophecy. Sevastian used the book to extend his life after death, the Magus Denetiata actively sort to begin the prophecy with the help of and evil priest by the name of the Rahib. But as soon as the Rahib discovered our intention he sort more powerful allies in the form of three evil spirits that sort to dwell in the bodies of elf maids.” Miklos cast his gaze about ensuring they were alone.

    “There were clues that pointed in the direction of the dwelling of the sisters at the Temple of the Grey Mountain but this does not make sense now.
    The very first line of the Dark book reads ‘The Breach of the Lost Temple’ yet that Temple was known to many. I concidered Denetiata’s Tower, but that was a new construction. So we have yet to discover the place.” Miklos brightened, “If my theory about the Iron Ring proves true then that is the best evidence that we are on the right track!”

    “The Sisters already possessed the Black Opal Eye as was mentioned in Sevastians tomb, Denetiata had aquired the Dark Book from Sevastian and was in the process of aquiring the Opal when we interviened. Thankfully the Opal is now destroyed and the spirits with it. I rather hoped that would be an end to it. I fear now this is not the case.”

    “I have made a further discovery, it gives me an odd feeling of puppetry. As if we are being manipulated in some way. But I discovered something of the Elvenstar. It is a powerful artifact in the possesion of the Wendarian Elves north of here. I fact not far off our road. It could be the key to undo the plans of our foes. But it is said to protect the boarders from invasion, aquiring it may prove fruitless unless we have a black hoarde of our heels!”

    “Now to a decision! I’m sorry Stephan but we must follow the Iron Ring. To do otherwise would be folly. We do not know for sure that all the assailants were involved in the strike. Some may even be now hastening to their Masters to report the defences we can muster. They will come at us with more strength, guile and cunning lest we strike back swiftly!”

    “Let us not tarry here any longer!” Miklos heaved his backpack on to his horse with the final remainder of his gear.

  8. Stephan

    Stephan listened intently as Miklos told the group’s tale. His eyes widened several times. But more so, his brow furrowed as he tried to comprehend it all.

    “Nay, sounds to be a grave quest. Where these “Denetiata” and “Sevastian” companions of you at the first?

    “You speak of many things I’ve not heard. This fell book, do you still have it? And did you destroy the other Eye?”

    [OOC: I don’t believe the horses on the boat with the group. Stephan was to go get them and bring them to Rifllian.]

    Stephan cast his gaze to the setting sun.

    “Regardless of you decision, I recommend you overnight at Misha’s. We are not far but should be moving soon while whe have light. You can come back to the ruffians’ tracks at first light. Of course you must do what you must. Just as I must. But I tell you, these attackers were swayed by dark magics.”

    Looking to Hasan, “Hasan, are there any additional markings or items on the one who was slotting his fellows?”

  9. Miklos (Mu 3)

    “They have been defeated along with the Rahib and the Sisters.” replied Miklos, “But it seems our actions have not gone unnoticed. We must act swiftly. But I see a way to confuse our trackers. If we travel North we could lead our pursuers into beliving we have fled. We could then double back and put them on the wrong footing. But this depends on the weather – should it turn rains would wash the track away. So I leave it to Hasan to make the call, would the tracks be too difficult to follow if we delay?”

  10. Stephan

    “I wish to stay with you as far as I can. But I must fulfill my promise to Pytor, my brother.”

    Gesturing with a nod and look, “His homestead lies in that direction. If you would have me, I can stay with you for a time before having to part for Pytor’s.”

    [OOC: I forget, who is left of the riverboat crew? Is the boat moving?]

    Stephan examined the make of any of the enemy arrows to see if he could tell their origin. He then made a survey of the boat to see if there was any cargo that the attackers may have been after.

    When asked about his searching the boat, “I just wondered if the attackers were after something in particular. Mayhap this boat carries some secret.”

    [OOC: If the boat captain is still around….]
    To the boatman, Stephan asked, “What is your cargo? Can you figure why these robbers were after you? Or did they attack because such boats are always plentiful?”

  11. Hasan

    Hasan heard that his companions would not go on without investigating further. Thinking on it, it made some sense. But it made even more sense to do so with the big manfrom the boat alongside. “Stephan, I would go to Rifflian with you. But Miklos is right. First, we must clear the way. To do less would be folly. I do not know this Ring beyond what we have seen today, but it is clear they will threaten your family’s trade until they choke it to death. Why not ally your purpose with our’s? Let us overnight at the ferry station, and on the morrow, we shall take up the trail anew.”

  12. To clarify:

    The horses were left at Kelvin while the group took short side journey to High Forge (see Maps page which I just updated). Horses can be obtained at Pyotr’s.

    The boat’s crew is mostly dead and wounded, and the boat is too damaged to continue all the way to High Forge, but can take them on a very short trip up river to Misha’s Jetty. The boat is ready to go by the time the group returns from following the tracks. It is going to travel there regardless of whether the group goes with.

    Pyotr’s homestead is near Misha’s Jetty.

    The tracks from the ring come from upriver, the same direction as Misha’s Jetty/Pyotr’s homestead.

  13. So, do you want to follow the tracks on foot, or go to Misha’s? It seems like following the trail is the consensus?

  14. Hasan

    DM – I think you can plan on the trail.

    Hasan wants to go to the Jetty, rest up, memorize Protection from Evil, Magic Missle, Levitate and Web, and then hit the trail the next day. I think that’s what Miklos, Maruc and Feldard are willing to do also.

    While we waiting on Stephan, since we want him to join the party, I assume he’s going to be persuaded by Hasan’s wonderful commercial argument and agree to join the party to protect his family’s horse trading business.

  15. Not sure, sounds like they may want to go immediately. (There are a few hours of daylight remaining – the boat departed from Kelvin in the early morn)

    Conveniently, both the jetty and the trail are on the way to his brother’s homestead. 🙂

  16. Stephan

    Stephan eyes what he can of the trail, noting the direction from which Hasan and Feldard returned.

    “Aye, the jetty is close and in that direction,” he gestured to the tracks. “Just as is Pyotr’s.”

    The realization is visible on the fighting man’s face. The words of Hasan must have sunk in…

    “They may be heading to the homestead!”

    And with that he started up the trail.

    “Havlav has provided us a clear sky. The light will last but we must show our appreciation of His grace and start our journey!”

  17. Stephan

    [OOC: Well….not “heading” from us since we slaughtered them all. But Stephan is afraid there are more in the area, as Hasan suggested.]

  18. Maruc (Clr 5)

    Maruc will replace the Cure he cast on himself

  19. Miklos (Mu 4)

    Miklos will revise another Sleep spell

  20. Miklos (Mu 4)

    Maruc finished recladding himself with his armour for the journey ahead. He didn’t relish the idea of travelling in platemail but he could risk further arrows, and by all accounts the distance wasn’t too far. He shouldered his shield and pack and followed the others down the trail.

  21. Hasan

    Hasan fell in next to Miklos and watched poor Stephan lead the way. The elf admired the man’s obvious earnestness and devotion to family. Not a bad traveling companion, he thought, and he wondered at how long their paths would be joined.

  22. Maruc (Clr 5)

    *couldn’t risk further arrows…

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