Wandered Roads 23.1

Wandered Roads of Varisia
Session 23.1

Outside the Gates of Magnimar

Oathday, 20th Lamashan

Calina heads out of the front doors of the Kaijitsu Estate and hears a loud wooden thud and a yelp from inside, followed by “don’t point that thing at me, Leela!” Calina smiles... crossbow practice. She heads to the carriage house and begins hooking two of the riding horses to the stolen wagon. She leads them out through the gate and closes and latches the wrought iron bars. Turning to the right, she heads down the wide avenue, now much less trafficked at this hour of the night, though there were still plenty of people about, heading to and from various drinking, dining and other less reputable establishments.

She remembered hearing that there was another gate to the outside nearer than the one they entered from so she chose to head toward that one. As she nears the edge of the city, the Arvensoar rose up high above her, easily over 100 feet high. This, she had learned, was the base of the Magnimar City Watch, the police and military force of the city. She immediately feels like she was being watched. Her palms got sweaty and she felt her breathing get a bit labored. She assumes that the City Watch was already aware of what had transpired at the 7’s Sawmill earlier that evening. Despite the fact that she knew that the cultists were evil and she did what was right in dispatching them, she felt a bit guilty about the way that she and her companions had gone about it. And the wagon. What if that wagon was not the property of those she had killed, what if it was the wagon of some unsuspecting mill owner. Her mind began to swim with the possibilities and implications of her actions. Where was Paka when she needed him, he always made worrisome things like this go away.

But Paka wasn’t here and the worrisome wagon was. “Alright,” Calina whispers to herself, “The decision is made. I will turn the wagon around and turn it into the City Watch officials.”
She sighs heavily because this decision didn’t help her feel any better. If she turned herself and the wagon in, she would most likely be locked up until someone could decide her fate and then her companions would wonder and worry. Even worse, they were relying on her to bring back supplies in this very wagon. How could she possibly let down her friends? She continues driving the wagon towards the city gates.
“How do things get so complicated?” she wonders to herself. The wagon keeps moving towards the gate as the horses slowly pull the empty wagon along the cobblestone streets. Calina takes a deep breath and clicks her tongue to the horses, encouraging them to move faster. She realized that she must first look for Paka, make sure he was doing well, then keep her word to her friends. She would then return to the estate, bringing firewood and food stuffs back as she had promised. Then she would seek counsel with her friends. She nods as the decision was made, and even smiles slightly. Spending time with Paka will make everything feel normal again, she hopes.

Calina continued down the street toward the nearest gates. She could see the dark, towering shapes up ahead of the twin statues known as the Guardians. These twin statues towered 200’ over the city of Magnimar, taller even than the nearby Arvensoar and stood over the gate leading out of the city.

Before reaching the Guardians and the gate however, Calina passed by a very interesting sight. In a wide area up ahead, she saw a bright, bluish light shining brightly in the Magnimarian night. She slowed the wagon and approached cautiously. What she saw was a stone pedestal holding a bronze bowl, out of which danced a large gout of flame, blue in color. Calina noted a single man silhouetted in front of the flame.  He was standing very still, crouched on one leg, arms held out at strange angles from his body. There were other people nearby, late night strollers, but none passed through the direct area. Calina reined in the horses and sat, transfixed, watching this man and the flame burning past him, which had now turned to a deep red color.  After a while, Calina noted that the flame cycled through several different colors, changing nearly noticeably.

“You enjoy the flame?” a voice nearby startled her. She shook herself and turned quickly to see a man speaking to her. It was the same man she had noticed standing in front of the flame earlier. She must have lost track of him as she had stared into the beautiful fire. “You see how it dances and moves? That is the magic of the city. It pulses through the flame.”

“Who are you?” Calina manages to stammer out, turning her eyes away from the man in shyness.

“I am Cyne Athelm, Pyrotheurge and student of the Arcane,” the man bows low and Calina hears what sound like tiny bells ringing from somewhere within his robes. “And this is the Founder’s Flame, said to be put here as a gift at the city's founding. The rumors of that I cannot verify, though I can attest to other rumors that say those who meditate here receive a boon to any fire magic they cast over the next day.” He smiles and snaps his fingers together, producing a small circle of white flame above his hands.

Calina climbs down from the wagon and takes a step towards the strange man. She stares intently at the mesmerizing light of the flames then up at the man's face. "Stronger magic? If this is true, I have friends who would be interested on this knowledge. I, however, have no magic powers. But it is good and helpful information and I thank you.”

He stares back at Calina, the light from his magical flame making his eyes sparkle in the dark, “Ahh, but you are wrong, my friend. We all possess magic, though it often looks different in each one of us. He smiles and holds her stare as the floating ring of flame shimmers into nothingness.

As Calina stares into the man’s beautiful, intelligent eyes, she feels her cheeks burn with embarrassment. Calina is torn between leaving and staying to talk more to the student. Indeed, the pull of the forest is quite strong. She quickly lowers her head and steps back toward the wagon. She turns and smiles briefly at the man, amazed by the wondrous and sometimes frightening sights and sounds of this vast city, “I must ask your leave, as now I must continue on my mission, kind sir.”

Cyne Athelm bows low as Calina climbs back into the wagon. As she takes up the reins, she turns to wave goodbye to the mage, but is surprised to see that he is now gone. Just the flickering, now green, Founders Flame casting strange, dancing shadows across the flagstones of the circular plaza.

She flicks the reins gently and the horses respond quickly, resuming her journey. The wagon moves slowly through the street. The steady sound of the wheels moving along the pavement starts her to daydreaming about what the man at the fountain said in regards to magic. “Really? Magic in everyone?” she thinks to herself, “I suppose it’s possible, but what could be ‘my’ magic. How would I know it? Very interesting man. I bet Vexeron would enjoy meeting him.”

She continues on toward the gate, passing through a nice green park and under the outstretched staves of the towering Guardians monument. At the gate, she notes several members of the City Watch, standing around a large watch fire burning at the edge of the road. The gates are open, but only barely so.

“Halt, who goes there? State your business!” one of the Watchmen calls out to her.

Calina stops the horses and nervously looks at the Watchman. She remembers that her people are not well liked in this city and for one small moment she is tempted to run away, charging through the slight opening and escaping this too-large city, this overpopulated growth of human-created extremes of wealth and poor, good and bad, pampering and suffering. Instead she pulls back the hood of her cloak and looks the man straight in the eyes and relies on the truth.
“My name is Calina. I am on a mission for my friends, who are staying in the city for a while. We have need of supplies from outside the city. I will obtain those supplies and return hopefully within a day,” she smiles warmly at the man. Inside, her stomach turns as she realizes she just gave the man her name and she is sitting on the wagon taken from the lumber mill.

The Watchman glares back at Calina, then nods his head toward her and calls to one of the other Watchmen to open the gate wide enough for Calina to get the wagon through. As she passes, the Watchman hops up to the running board of the wagon and leans in, “Be warned, moth, if you travel out past the camps. The roads and lands surrounding Magnimar are not safe to all. Bandits, wild animals... or worse.” He hops down before she can reply and waves her on out the gate.

Unsure of his intention at first, Calina arches an eyebrow at the term. Hopeful that he meant no harm, and even if he did, she was in no place to deal with it, she smiles cheerfully at the young man and nods to him, “Thank you sir. I will keep your words close in my thoughts,” and she urged the horses forward through the open gate into the unfamiliar areas beyond.

The Watchman pulls the gate nearly closed as she passes.

Once out of the city, Calina sees that the wide road is lined with metal cages on poles holding burning masses of sticks and brush, keeping the road somewhat lit. A little further on, Calina sees what must be a very large encampment, just over the rise and near the eastward curving banks of the Yondabakari River.

As she passed the last of the torches lining the entryway to the city, but before she reached the campfires of the camp up ahead, Calina slowed the wagon down just a bit to allow her eyes to adjust to the darkness of the night. The sky was clear, odd for this time of year, and the moon and stars shone bright. Looking to her right, out across the river, she saw the beginnings of the Mushfens stretching away. Faint flickers of light shone here and there, either shining off of patches of water, or more probably, wisps of ghostly spirits or will ‘o wisps, ready to lead unwary travelers to their deaths in patches of quicksand or bottomless bogs!

Her gaze is quickly drawn back toward the camp as the old familiar sounds of Varisian singing, music and laughter can be heard traveling up from the camp. The smells from the numerous cook fires travel to her nose and begin to replace the stagnant stench of the city.

Calina brings the wagon to a complete stop and looks longingly at the campsite in the distance. The horses stomp and whicker slightly with impatience, their breath blowing out wisps of steam. It would be wonderful to spend the night in the company of her people, Varisian folk like herself. She is eager to join the families surrounding the fires; her stomach rumbles at the smell of the food cooking, and she sighs quietly. She has nothing to offer as is customary when visiting other family groups. Her mind races as she mentally takes inventory of her belongings. No food, no wood, no … wait! She knew exactly what she had to offer. It would not be easy for her, but a true gift should never be an easy task.
Calina flicks the reins over the horses, urging them forward towards the encampment, trying to make as much noise as possible. She did not want to suddenly and quietly appear among them and spook her soon-to-be new friends! At the outside edge of the camp, she pulled the horses up quickly, stood up and began waving her arms in greeting, “Hallo, brothers and sisters!”

Calina is greeted heartily by the nearest family and invited to the circle around the fire. Calina looks around, the camp is indeed large, probably 100 people or more, made up of several tribes and multiple family groups. Everyone was friendly and accepting of her, happy to have her join them, as was the Varisian way.

Calina attends to the horses first. She unhitches them from the wagon, leading them to the other horses’ tie-lines. She accepts the offered oats and hay from several of the young men, and sets the feed down for her horses. Two of the men pick up brushes from a nearby bucket and begin brushing down the horses’ coats. “Please,” one of them said, “Go rest yourself by the fire and join us for dinner.”
“Thank you for your kindness,” Calina replies as she walks towards the open area in the middle of the campground.
An older man dressed in a colorful shirt with wide, loose sleeves steps towards her. Calina bows her head and greets the man, “Good Evening, Uncle. The moon brings a friend to your fires this night.”
The man tips his head slightly and responds, “I welcome the moon’s offering, daughter. Please, sit. Share with us.”
He motions to a flat stone nearest a group of women and nods to one of the younger women, “Bring our new friend some dinner. She looks too skinny.”
Calina smiles at the young woman, “Thank you. I welcome your kindness. My bones will also thank you. I have nothing to offer in return for your meal, and for that I am saddened.” She turns to address the whole group, “I have recently traveled from Magnimar and previously in Sandpoint with my friends during interesting times. And if you allow me, I will share stories of my recent adventures for your pleasure. I only hope my poor story telling will do the tales justice.”
As she begins her stories, the young woman hands Calina a bowl of stew from the communal pot bubbling over the campfire. Calina tastes the stew, and realizes it contains meat, but without hesitation she smiles and nods her approval, while inwardly her stomach churns. It would be rude, and definitely bad form to reject the proffered meal.
Therefore, she continues to nibble the warm food and for the next few hours, Calina shares many of her friends’ adventures beginning with the first one during the initial goblin raid during the festival in Sandpoint. She relates how they met, joined forces and continued to explore the areas in and around Sandpoint. She tells the sad tale of Zursat death; the frantic time Ehlyna turned against Daellin and the loss of Ehlyna’s axe and then the subsequent recovery. She includes stories about Ellie finding things, then losing them again, and ends with the hilarious story of the bridge to the strange island fortress leading up to the trip to Magnimar.

The gathered Varisians listen intently to Calina’s tales. Some ask questions, some ooh and ahh, while others scoff. Eventually, Calina has told all the stories she has planned on telling, leaving some of the more sinister parts out, especially not mentioning some of the events regarding the cult of killers and the events at the sawmill. Many of the folk hold up their mugs in toasts to Zurzat, Calina and the rest of the Heroes of Sandpoint. All the attention makes Calina feel quite hot under the collar. She can feel her cheeks burning and she has to keep her head down, avoiding the direct stare of anyone nearby.

As the storytelling time winds down, a young man comes rushing up calling for help. He tells of a  young boy who has gotten himself caught under a wagon while some folks were attempting to repair a wheel. Sensing her abilities could come in handy, Calina hops to her feet, grabs her pack and follows. When she arrives, she sees a young boy,clearly with Orc blood in him, but no more than 11 or 12 with a badly bruised and bleeding arm. Calina sees that the boy is in great pain and that much of the skin on his arms and legs are covered by old scarring. The men had been able to lift the wagon off of him, but were having trouble stopping the bleeding. It is explained that he was born of the unlawful union of an Orc raider and his mother, who died at childbirth. His older brother, the one who ran for help, takes care of him. Many of the others in the tribe think he should be cast out and the healer of the tribe will not heal him.

Calina kneels down beside the boy, who is moaning in great pain. She calls out to the gathering crowd for a blanket, which is quickly brought to her. There is much chattering among the people and she catches a few phrases here and there. “Best if he dies.” “It is the gods’ will.” “Unnatural.”
She looks up to search among the faces for the community’s healer and sees her standing further back in the crowd. She calls to the woman, “Please, if you cannot help this child with your hands, at least help me. Please, bring me some poppy milk so that I might ease this boy’s pain.”
Calina doesn’t wait to see if the older woman left to do her bidding. She wraps a thin strap of leather around the upper arm and tightens it slowly using a piece of wood as a lever. She watches the wound carefully as the blood begins to slow to a trickle. Someone hands her a small jar of thick grayish white substance. She holds the boy’s head and carefully pours a small amount into his mouth, then waits as he swallows it. Soon, the effects of the fermented potion would ease his pain.
She looks up she hands the jar back and finds the face of the woman healer. Calina nods her thanks to the older woman, then rises to her feet. She looks around at all the people staring at her and at the small boy on the ground. She steps closer and says out loud, “My eyes are blind so that I cannot see.” Calina points to the child on the ground, “I am blind and I cannot see his heritage. And because of that I also cannot see his people stand idly by while he would die. And sadly, I also cannot see who loves this child. I was blinded by family that taught me to care for everyone and anyone. For this, I am grateful and ask that you indulge me. Please, would someone take the child to my wagon? I will care for him tonight.”

Calina cares for the boy, tending to his mangled arm using her first aid kit and her herbal poultices. After some time she realizes that she has set dressed and set the wound properly but the boy is running a high fever, probably from an infection. She mixes up a concoction from the available herbs, but it does not seem to be doing the job. It is now late in the evening and most of the the clan has fallen to sleep. As the night draws on, the boy’s condition gets worse and worse. Calina is frantic and nothing she does seems to help the boy, then she sees the group’s healer come up. The woman does not say anything, she merely offers Calina a bowl with some medicinal concoction inside. She nods to Calina then walks away.

Calina considers the healer’s actions and smiles to herself, “Interesting development.” She holds the bowl up to her nose and inhales slowly while trying to identify the smell. She recognizes one or two of the herbs had been used in its making but not the complete recipe.
Calina eases the boy’s head onto her lap and gently slips the edge of the bowl between his fevered lips. She pours a very small amount into his mouth, stroking his neck muscles and waits for him to swallow the concoction. He splutters slightly and continues to suck down a little more of the liquid. She sets the bowl aside, leaving the boy lying on her lap. She strokes his hair and looks at the features of his face. She sees racial similarities to her friend Kallin. She also notices facial features of his mother’s race. She sighs as she remembers how the members of this community shunned and mistreated the young boy. Except for his brother who is currently sleeping under the wagon, not wanting to leave his brother’s side. Calina realizes that she didn’t even know the young child’s name.
She draws the child closer to her and covers them both with the blankets supplied by families of the encampment. The day’s adventures, the evening’s festivities and the tension involving the boy’s health descends upon Calina, and her eyes begin to close with exhaustion.

Calina’s world faded to black as sleep took her...

She awoke with a start. It was dark and she was running. She felt the sharp blows of branches and tall grasses whipping her face and body as she ran. Her back and sides hurt from painful blows of rocks slung by her pursuers. She could hear them behind her, croaking and calling out in the darkness behind her. Below her, the marshy ground squished and splashed under her feet.

Calina awoke with a start. It was dark and she was laying in the Varisian camp with the Half-Orc boy still curled up next to her. She was sweating and her heart felt like it was beating out of her chest. Just a bad dream, she thought, but then the realized that she had not been dreaming of herself, she was dreaming of Paka. She closed her eyes and immediately felt the fear and pain of her firepelt companion. He was being pursued through a swamp by something dangerous!

Calina gently ease the boy’s head off her lap and onto a folded blanket. She climbs down from the wagon and wakes the brother, who is still curled up under the wagon. She tells him that she has to leave and asks him to take care of his brother while she is away. She entrusts him to the care of the wagon and the horses, “I promise to come back. Soon. But my friend is in trouble and I must find him.”
She hoists her backpack on her back, her bow across her shoulder and heads quickly in the direction that she had felt Paka’s fear coming from. Her feet landed lightly on the ground as she ran through the night landscape. She knew he was in a marsh, she had sensed it. She’d heard a few things about the Mushfen during the first couple days in Magnimar including horrible beings that live there and a few stories about unpleasant happenings to travelers. She still didn’t know much about the place, but Paka was in trouble, and she needed to reach him as soon as possible.
It’s not long before she reaches the banks of the river. “Blast it,” Calina cries out, “I hate swimming!”
She walks up and down the bank for a few moments, her mind racing. The light of the moon reflects on the river’s smooth surface, but Calina still hesitates, too wary to jump in the water yet.
But the pressure inside her head and heart is tremendous, urging her to speed forward towards Paka. She removes her cloak, places it in the backpack, secures her bow tightly to her backpack then replaces the pack on her back, adjusting the bow across her shoulders carefully. She walks slowly away from the edge of the river for a few feet. Calina stops walking and sighs deeply. In a flash, she turns and runs for the river, leaps forward into the water and begins swimming to the other side.
Calina takes aim by the light of the moon
The river is wide and swift close to the near bank and it carries her down stream quite a ways, back toward Magnimar,  as she makes her way across. The far side of the river was considerably different, though. The wide, deep river slowly gave way to shallow, swampy marshland. The river was an indeterminate width here and dry land was almost impossible to find, though in most places the water was no more than knee deep.

The Mushfens are a wide and dangerous place, from what Calina has heard and she takes great care to be careful, moving slowly and carefully through the area. While the land is low, there are occasional rises and small islands that jut up out of the water, though these prove to be made up of fairly soggy, wet ground anyway, not providing much insulation from the endless water under her feet. Mangrove, cypress and other swamp trees cover the landscape, and often the numerous roots of these trees provide the only stable places to step.

After getting her bearings in the swamp, Calina starts to look for signs of Paka. She knows the type of places he would stalk and checks those places first. Though Paka has never been scared of water, he tends to avoid it when he can, so Calina is somewhat surprised that he is in the swamp anyway, though she assumes there is a plethora of game for the big cat to hunt and eat seeing as Paka does not share her same outlook on eating meat.

Not finding many signs of paka on the occasional patches of drier ground, Calina realizes that Paka probably has been moving about through the swamp ABOVE ground, using the widespread branches of the swamp trees as an elevated path. She finds some good big trees and climbs them and quickly finds the tell-tale signs of firepelt claw marks.

The feelings of fear and hurt she had been experiencing coming from Paka have subsided now and she knows that Paka feels calm at the moment. Whatever that means, it is good. Calina tracks through the wet swampy land for several hours with only occasional signs that she is still on the right track. She is beginning to feel the exhaustion of missed sleep and she decides that she must find someplace to get some sleep.

Climbing up into the bough of an old mangrove tree, Calina wedges herself in a little nook and covers herself with damp blanket to keep the nasty swamp bugs off of her while she slept.

Fireday, 21st of Lamashan

An annoying, prickling sensation slowly wakens Calina and she tries to brush the insects away from her face. She turns her face away, not wanting to completely awaken yet. Her body still aches a bit from the strenuous swim and climb through the trees during the night hours. The nearly feathery tickling across her face continues until she opens her eyes and looks upward at a shadowy figure sitting between her and the morning sun. She sits up with a start then grabs the cat in a huge hug. “Paka, you crazy animal!” she cries out, “You nearly stopped my heart.”
Paka answers with a lick across Calina’s face, then sits back on his haunches. With his tongue lolling out between his large fangs, it appears that he is laughing at her.
Calina remembers her earlier dream about Paka being chased. She runs her hands over his body, kneading her fingers into his fur. She checks thoroughly for any lumps, cuts and sensitive areas. She finds a few minor scrapes, a couple of superficial cuts and only one area that needs further attention. He has a rather nasty cut along one hip, which she cleans and applies a soothing ointment that holds healing and anti-infection properties. Through the entire examination, Paka closes his eyes in complete contentment.
“Well, my furry friend,” Calina says after the treatment, “I’d like to know how you got in trouble” Seemingly in answer, Paka jumps down to a grassy knoll near the mangrove tree, then turns to look back at her.
“We are going sightseeing then, I assume?” Calina laughs as she hops down from the tree. No sooner had she hit the ground than Paka bounds forward passed a few more trees, jumping from hillock to hillock and obviously attempting to keep dry. Calina takes a deep breath and shakes her head with amusement. She carefully folds the slightly damp blanket back into her pack. “Slow down, you big alley cat!” she yells out, “I only have two legs. She grabs her bow, adjusts her quiver within reach, then runs carefully following Paka.

Calina is not able to keep as dry as Paka as she follows him as the big cat can leap 50’ in one bound, easily avoiding the deeper sections of swamp and sticking to the branches of the trees above most of the time. After following her companion for a short distance, Calina stopped to to get a drink. As she reached back to grab the waterskin, she felt something wrong with her pack. She quickly took it off to check it and realized that she must have ripped a seam when she was packing it that morning and the strap holding her coil of rope had fallen off. She scanned the ground around her and behind her, but did not immediately see the rope. Calina looks up and sees that Paka is no longer in her sights, though she is sure she will be able to track the cat.

Calina lets forth a low whispered curse, “Blistering oak rot!” She shakes her head slowly and sighs, “That must go on my list of things to purchase when I get back to Magnimar.” She rearranges and double checks the remaining items in the pack. She inspects the stitching of the pack and finds a few more worn areas, but nothing seems in imminent danger of tearing or ripping apart.
She tops off her water skin in the cool stream and stands up, looking for any sign of where Paka headed. She lets out a low whistle in the hopes that he will come back. But after a few moments, she realizes he is nowhere near or simply chooses not to respond.
She considers her choices and decides to follow his trail a while longer, but she also knows she must return soon to the camp site and check on the injured young boy. She also needs to collect fire wood, get back to town, purchase her supplies and rejoin her companions before they begin to worry.
As she strides quickly in the direction of the cat’s faint tracks, Calina promises herself that she will be extremely careful with belongings in the future. As she reflects on the age of the old backpack, Calina considers that perhaps it was a blessing in disguise and it might be time for a new pack.
“Packs cost money,” she contemplates. “This will need much thought.”

Eventually, Calina catches back up with Paka. She sees him perched up on a narrow crag of rock that thrusts up out of one of the many earthy rises in the marsh. He makes a very sad sighing sound and lays his head flat on the rock shelf he has crammed himself onto. Calina climbs up the slope toward the outcropping of rock and immediately notices on the ground what looks like many broken sticks and scattered rocks. Upon closer inspection, the sticks turn out to be primitively crafted spear shafts, broken and discarded on the ground.  Calina then scans the surrounding area and in no time finds several sets of larged, webbed footprints.  She looks up at Paka perched on his rock shelf, only his head visible from below and she realizes that he must have been cornered here by something out of the swamp. There could easily be 5 to 10 different sets of prints here and judging by the number of broken spear shafts and loose rocks, they were here for some time, throwing weapons at her companion.

When Paka sees that Calina has figured out what had happened to him, he hops nimbly down from the rocks above, rubs against her leg then pushes his face into her open hand. After a moment of affection, Calina feels Paka tense up and sees his ears and the long hairs along his spine stiffen and stand up. He lets out a low growl, then looks up to Calina with pleading eyes and bolts off back the way they had come.

Trusting Paka’s instinct on this one, Calina hurries off after her friend and back toward the relative safety of the city.

Characters Present:

Calina - Varisian Human archer and scout - played by +Carol Coburn
and +Jason Woollard as the DM

No comments:

Post a Comment