Wednesday, February 13, 2019

#19: Longsaddle (Finally!)

The next morning, we decide to settle in and await the return of Helder’s group.  With the aid of Wyardt’s mother and father, we talk to the Anaithnid about helping around town with tasks in preparation for winter, the kinds of things that aren’t language dependent.  It is small price to pay in return for shelter while we recuperate.

As we wait, Selben and I turn to our training, each studying our respective spellbooks in preparation for the next leg of the journey.  Our wait is not long, however, and the next day the bells hail the return of Helder, though his group is much smaller than the one that originally departed, and one man is being carried.  There are calls that the fallen man is diseased, and I send Selben to fetch Klaighos, who comes slowly but tends to the man’s wounds.  When help is required, Audric and I step forward to carry the man to his home.  Helder acknowledges the gesture with a grunt.

Later, we learn that Helder’s group lost five men in skirmishes with the bugbears, as the creatures trailed them for a day and a night, but in the end his group slew eleven bugbears—a truly mighty number, though the price paid by the townsfolk of Xantharl’s Keep was steep.  Helder learns of our encounter as well, of the five bugbears slain by our group, and considers our debt settled.

Helder approaches our camp that night, offers condolences for the losses suffered by the Anaithnid, and extends his blessing on sheltering the tribe as long as we desire to stay.  The discussion is short, but the terms are mutually agreeable.

As the days pass and our training concludes, the unrest of the Anaithnid becomes clear.  Our ability to communicate with the tribe is greatly facilitated by Selben’s newfound ability to magically comprehend their language, but the inability to effectively communicate anything but the most rudimentary words back to them remains a frustration.  On the final evening before our departure, we share our plan to depart with Helder, who holds no ill will against us on the matter.

Oreiron knows the way to Grunwald, the next village between us and our ultimate destination, Longsaddle.  Grunwald is a long day’s travel from Xantharl’s Keep, and Longsaddle another day and half journey from Grunwald.  Wyardt will travel to Grunwald in seven days and wait three nights for us to return.  He has offered to escort us to Griffon’s Nest from Grunwald after our business in Longsaddle is done, and we give him a modest stipend to cover his expenses.

The morning of our departure, however, the Anaithnid have decided to press the issue of leadership of the tribe, specifically of our intention to travel to Longsaddle first.  Selben, having spoken with one of the Anaithnid youth, Hershon, explains.  “Hershon believes there will be a mutiny, if the group does not set its eyes for Griffon’s Nest.  He says, the tribe has endured too much to be led further astray, and that Nazag and Omgrath would challenge you openly for rulership of the clan.”  I reply that either of the warriors are welcome to the mantle of leadership of the tribe, but that if they want our help getting to Griffon’s Nest, it’s via Longsaddle or not at all.  That seems to satisfy them, at least for the moment—they will continue to travel with us—but the threat of mutiny will not be easily forgotten.

Travel is miserably cold, but our passage is uncontested, and after a long day we reach the road to Grunwald.  We intend to skip the village on our journey, as Grunwald lies far off the road to Longsaddle, and taking Audric’s advice we offer the tribe the option to camp in or around Grunwald and await our return.  I call upon Selben to use his magic to translate, and the tribe indicates that they are not particularly amicable with the people of Grunwald, so they are not interested in staying there.  That settled, we camp for the night.

Our rest is undisturbed, and the next morning we press on for Longsaddle.  After a discussion about the possibility of conjuring mounts for the group to cut the journey in half and potentially make Longsaddle in a day, we decide it’s too risky and continue south on foot.  The terrain begins to open, light forests giving way to more open plains.  Near midday, we hear the call of a single figure running towards us from off the road to the west.  It’s a boy in distress, and he explains that his father’s cart tipped and trapped him, and that he’s been waiting for a day for help to come.

The boy’s name is Flin Kromlor—he explains that he and his father were fishing a stream a half day from their house, and that the cart hit a rock.  The cart was laden with salt to cure the fish, the mule’s legs were broken, and the cart tipped.  His story seems legitimate from the boy’s frantic nature, and it looks as if he’s been out in the cold for a day, which lends credence to his tale.  Audric and I, as well as Selben, decide to break from the group to help the boy and his father, leaving Bonie and Oreiron to watch over the tribe as they break for a midday meal.

The boy runs fast but we keep up, eventually reaching a ridge which looks down upon a stream.  At the bottom, we see the cart from the boy’s tale, as well as the dead mule and blood.  The barrel of salt is burst open upon the ground nearby.  I take point, leaving Audric and Selben on top of the ridge.  When I reach the cart, the father is semiconscious, and it appears as if he’s severely wounded.  If this is an ambush, it is elaborately staged, and we’ve bought in.

I call upon Malar’s blessing to heal the man as best I can, though his injuries are indeed grave.  We decide to remove the mule first to see if we can move the cart.  We accomplish that and free the man from being trapped.  I tell Flin to gather whatever he needs from the wreckage, which he does, and together we carry his father to the top of the ridge.  By the time we get back to Bonie and the others, over an hour has passed.  The men of the Anaithnid rush to meet us and help bear the burden back to our camp.  We tell Flin of our intention to travel to Longsaddle, and he issues no argument, clearly traumatized from the ordeal.  I tell Selben to watch over the boy.

Our travel is slowed by our new companion, but eventually we start to see outlying farmsteads and begin to relax a bit.  We decide to eschew the farms and instead camp on our own, building a fire and tending to the wounded father.  Fortunately, another night of rest is undisturbed, and early the next day we approach a cluster of cottages that herald our destination—Longsaddle.  The cottages are dwarfed by a huge manor in the middle of the village, which we presume to be the Ivy Mansion, home of the Harpells, leaders of Longsaddle.

We are greeted by folk who know the Kromlors and we’re directed to bring the father to one of the buildings, a festhall called The Night Cloak.  Workers help us carry the man inside, and we get the indication that the boy and his father will receive the care that they need.  We are greeted by Alastra, a half-elf who seems to be the proprietress of the establishment.  We negotiate a rate for shelter and meals for the group, and tell her our story.  I also hand her a small handful of gold, so that a mule can be purchased for the Kromlor family—surely, they are not wealthy, and losing a beast of burden could be a terrible loss.  Plus, small gestures such as this could lend us a lot of credibility in such a small village as this.

You get a mule!  You get a mule!  Everybody gets a mule!

Oreiron seems to know Alastra, and the two share words.  As this is technically the end of his service to us, we plan to talk to him tonight to let him know that he’s free to pursue his own ends.  In the meantime, we decide to call upon Malchor Harpell at the Ivy Mansion.

The Ivy Mansion is an impressive building and seems altogether out of place for such a little town.  We are greeted by an older woman, and Audric takes the lead, announcing our names and intention to seek an audience with Malchor.  She apologizes, but explains that Malchor is away at the moment, and is not expected to return for a few weeks.  Audric recounts our meeting with Abbé Lira, his advice for us to consult Malchor on a magical matter, and she asks more directly what specific help Audric seeks.

Audric dodges the question, and the woman further explains that Malchor would need to authorize any access to the Ivy Mansion in his absence.  “Do visit The Fuzzy Quarterstaff on your way out.  It’s a very fine place for food and beverage.”  She seems to understand Audric’s urgency, even if she doesn’t seem particularly interested in immediate action.

The Fuzzy Quarterstaff is an odd establishment.  There are handful of patrons, but more notable is a cloaked man apparently conducting an invisible orchestra, its music filling the common room.  We decide to come back at a later time, instead heading back to The Night Cloak.  Audric pulls Oreiron aside, asking what is next for the dwarf.  He indicates that he might remain in Longsaddle for a while, unsure of where his path may lead.  Audric invites him to accompany us to Griffon’s Nest, but Oreiron explains that he has little desire for such a journey.  No harm in asking, and Oreiron has been a stalwart companion.

On our third day in Longsaddle, Audric receives notification that his presence has been requested at the Ivy Mansion, so we hastily complete our breakfast and head back.  We greet Cartisan, the maid servant, and she informs us that Master Malchor has returned early, and that he will see us.  She leaves to fetch him, and returns with a tall, cloaked man, perhaps nearing fifty, who introduces himself.  “Malchor Harpell, at your service.”

He leads us into a second sitting room deeper into the mansion, one with no windows yet many portraits on the wall.  Despite the lack of windows or discernible light source, the room is well lit, probably by magic.  A crystal ball sits upon a podium in one corner, and the room is adorned with extravagant couches and chairs.  He asks Audric to explain his purpose.

Audric tells the tale of the ring, and hands the simple pewter band to Malchor.  There is gravity to the gesture, as if a great burden is being passed from one hand to another, and the man examines the ring.  He begins casting a spell, focusing on the ring.  “Indeed, it seems a powerful artifact, and you were right to bring it here.  To fully understand and unravel the intricacies of a piece like this will take time.  Would you be willing to leave it with me?”  When asked how long, he replies “Return again before the new year.  Allow me the next three weeks, and by then, I will return it to you with full knowledge, or if I cannot, I will explain to you why.”

Audric also shares his crisis of faith over Arkhen’s petrification, revealing that Abbé Lira seemed to indicate that Malchor Harpell might be able to offer some advice on the matter.  Malchor offers a few solemn words.   “Trust that your craft may have effects and results that a man cannot fully comprehend at the time—but as long as he acts with responsibility and with goodness in his heart, Mystra will not abandon her faithful.  Sometimes, the life or death of an individual pales in comparison to the greater purpose.”

Audric asks that Selben and I be granted access to the Ivy Mansion’s library, and the mage assents, seeing as he has collateral in the form of the ring.  His business with us concluded, he excuses himself, walking a few steps before vanishing from our sight.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

XP awards for sessions 12-18

It's been a very long time since XP was last awarded, and over the course of these sessions, Audric and Zeb have several noteworthy achievements, including helping Jent's family in West Tower, usurping Crahdorn's control over the Anaithnid, and saving Nurué from the Black Rot (at great personal risk to themselves).

Story awards for the above items comprise the majority of the total for this stretch, which is 7,500 XP per character and 2,500 XP for Selben. While henchmen normally receive a half-share, Selben has been withheld from some of the party's more dangerous endeavors, so I think it makes sense to limit him to a one-third share for now. That's still enough for him to attain 2nd level, and I'll begin tracking his XP in the sidebar going forward.

This also boosts Zeb to 5th level as an abjurer. Updated totals:

  • Audric - 26,000
  • Zeb - 3,000/22,575
  • Selben (h) - 2,500