Sundered Lands 20

The Sundered Lands of Palladium

Session 20
July 4-14, 2016

Turmoil in Essanos

Saturday October 28

Meeting Lavinia

The Guardians make their way from the Fox and Hound the few blocks over toward Vanderboren Manor. The streets are crowded and the energy is high. Loud voices can be heard from all around, though no one is paying any specific attention to the traveling companions. In several places, gathered groups can be seen and heard shouting and arguing with one another.
SL20a.pngWhen they arrive at the estate, they find several workmen there, carrying boards and bricks and preparing to get back to work on restoring the stately residence. Moonscar finds Sings to Moon lounging under a trellis in the morning sun. Her ears perk up at his arrival but she continues lounging. Her demeanor quickly informs the Druid that Lavinia is here and safe. The workmen look up at the newly arrived group of strangers, including a nearly 10 foot tall Half-Ogre.

Lavinia’s servant, the Gnomish woman Kora, signals to the group from across the yard and leads them into a partially finished structure on the north side of the estate. She motions for them to sit on gathered benches and the brings out some fruit trays and some carafes of dry apple wine. After just a few short minutes, Lavinia arrives. She looks worried, exhausted and happy all at the same time. “Have you heard about the Harbormaster? The city is falling into chaos. There have been several fights down on the docks already!” She quickly switches gears, “what did you find out last night? Was your Vanthus ruse effective? Wait, you didn't have anything to do with the Harbormaster’s death, did you?” Her face goes white and she gasps.

The Kankoran chuckles ruefully as he shakes his head saying in Wolfen, “Ten minutes. At least she’s not waving a torch or a pitchfork. . .” He sighs and replies in Eastern, “Not unless he was slumming as a zombie underneath Parrot Island last night, in which case I hope we’ve managed to wash all of him off of ourselves. As for the ruse, it got results, resulting in the subterranean zombie bashing I referred to while tracking down one of his former business partners, who, although a fortnight dead by now, nevertheless had a few choice words regarding your errant sibling ready to hand.” He glances at the note bearer as a cue to pick up the tale.

Seeker looks uncomfortable as he begins to explain. “Well ma’am, yes, the ruse was effective. We met a young woman that said she was Vanthus’ fiancee. She told us that Vanthus was looking for an old friend, a man named Penkus. She last saw Vanthus two weeks ago. Armed with the name of his friend, we did some magic and got a lead. Val’s magic led us to a place called Parrot Island. There were tunnels under it, probably used by smugglers. We explored it and found it infested with evil undead creatures. Eventually, we found Penkus. He was dead. But he left a note.”

Seeker hands her the note. “I hate to say this, ma’am, but what we’re learning doesn’t leave your brother smelling very good.

The Note

Lavinia reads the note and shakes her head, “I can’t believe it. How could he sink so low. This is all so much to take in. Maybe he is being forced, or magically compelled. Maybe it’s just someone impersonating him, like you all did. If he was kidnapped by these Harpies or some other group, they could be using illusions to make it seem like him.” She sits down and starts to cry for a moment then stops. “I’m sorry. This is just a bit much to think about. I know you all had nothing to do with the Harbormaster’s murder and I realize that my brother has fallen into the depths of depravity. If you do run across him, though, will you try to bring him to me. I would like to talk to him, try to sway him from this course of action he seems to be on.” She gazes out through a nearby window opening into the courtyard of her destroyed family home. A cold gust of wind blows in from the north, rustling the trees and sending the early dead leaves falling to the ground. It threatens to put out the meager fire burning in the unfinished hearth then dies down. “I realize that may not be possible, though. Promise me this, at least. If you must kill him, please make it quick. Don’t make him suffer, poor Vanthus has already suffered enough in his life.”

The Ellyl looks around at the assembled companions. “We have much to do and many plans to make. Perhaps keeping a low profile until we are certain of our next move would be a wise idea.” Fortis glances at the ‘ogre’ in their midst. “I can keep that gossamer on for a long time, but it isn't foolproof. Eventually something will slip and you will be exposed. We should at least consider contacting the guard commander with the nice legs and the enchanted sword that we met on the Blue Nixie, what was her name? Commander Vilasek?. Anyway should we find her before things get too out of hand and explain our actions of last night and innocence in the matter of the harbormaster’s death? Waiting until we are found out might make that discussion more difficult.” Pausing for a moment to let that register Fortis then continues on. “Alternatively we could leave the city for a bit. I'm not sure where we would go, but it is something to reserve as a last ploy. A better solution might be to find the real perpetrator of his murder. He seemed certain that someone was out to get him. Perhaps that person succeeded. Oh, I remember who it was. Heldrath Kellani, who I believe is the matron of the Kellani faction.”

Fortis thinks for another moment. “There is something else we could try. What if we start spreading rumors? I could have Gaston wander into a few taverns and swear he knows what happened to the harbor master. We may even be able to point a finger at the Harpies.That should give Vanthus a little something extra to fret over while we perform a cautious investigation and refine our plans. What do you all think?”

Seeker listens to Fortis’ thoughts. The old man was indeed concerned about assassins. Kellani I think was the name of his enemy. We could share that info with Vilasek if we speak with her. But going to the authorities might cause more problems than it would solve. Moonscar and I would have to explain why we were at the mansion the second time. To check on a guard that one of our party had cast evil magics on in order to gain access to the Harbormaster. Yea, that would go over well. At least half the group in jail.

He shakes his head. “I think prematurely contacting the authorities would be a stupid mistake.If they ask, we haven’t done anything wrong, and can truthfully tell them that. Lavinia, you are a respected member of this city. We may need you to run interference with the authorities. Feed them the Kellani name if that looks to gain some value with them.”

He shakes his head, “And no, Fortis, spreading lies and false rumors is not a good idea. If, of course, the hope is that the authorities will do their jobs and bring poor Master Islaran’s murderer to justice. If your goal is to sow chaos in the streets, then by all means, your plan is adequate, if villainous.” He growls. “If we are doing our jobs, Vanthus should have enough to worry about.”

“We also need to keep our focus on our mission, local issue notwithstanding.  If Vanthus is linked to the Harpies we need to learn about them and perhaps pay a visit, see if he’s there.  Surely this Taxidermist hall can’t be hard to find.  We’ll have to be subtle, of course, perhaps scouting until we can spot him.  Then we can make plans for a … retrieval.”

“Oh, Vanthus is connected to the Harpies all right. We’ve seen that from the Penkus note, as well as the conversation Moonscar and I had with the blue-furred Coyle shaman, Agrrath Bluehide, of the Crashing Wave.” He grins, remembering his trip with Moonscar to the Plucked Parrot. That went better than I had every reason to expect. Sometimes you just have to give people a shot, and they can surprise you. “So, looks like we’re to Plan C - the Sea Harpies.” He pauses. “Wait a minute. There was another part to plan B. Plan B was find Penkus or Wulda. Do we want to try and find this Wulda? Val, you found Penkus with just a name. Can you do that trick again?”

He pauses, “Or this Taxidermist Hall. That sounds simple, and unlikely to arouse notice. If we approach it subtly,” he looks around the room and snickers, then proceeds, “Okay, okay, anyway, maybe Val, Arn, and Silver approach and check it out. Fortis on high sentry, and Moonscar and I on the ground? We could rattle something loose there.”

He ponders again. “If not, then the Plucked Parrot would be my next step. Just the sort of folk who might know how to find the Sea Harpies.” He grins at Moonscar. “We’re  gonna start being treated like regulars there at this rate.”

Fortis shrugs off the misuse of the comment about villainy “Just to make sure we're all talking about the same thing Val, when you say mission are you talking about recovering the contents of the vault, exacting some sort of retribution on Vanthus, solving the issue of who, if anyone, has murdered the harbor master, or some other task?”
Thinking that others might have divergent goals as well he addresses the group generally “What do each of the rest of you think our first priority should be?”

Seeker watches the Ellyl struggle and succeed to maintain his ignorance, and shakes his head. He decides to humor the little guy and, musing the question for a moment, says "Why don't you lead off, Fortis? How are you prioritizing things?"

”Well, as best I recall, our information is that this family” He spreads his arms indicating Lavinya and, by extension, Vanthus “is the key to defeating the onrushing evil. At first I thought that meant securing Lavinya and rebuilding her estate, fortune and ability to provide patronage to the Guardians. While that is still a worthy goal, I’m not sure that is the crucial element any longer. Vanthus, or his obfuscation magic using friend, may somehow be in league with those very same evildoers. Perhaps unwittingly, perhaps willingly, perhaps even indirectly, but I suspect our primary goal should be to investigate Vanthus and his doings, determine what connection, if any, he has to the chaotic interlopers we are opposing, and then act to prevent his success. If we can recover Lavinia’s fortune and bring him to justice so much the better, but the continent’s interest in in stopping the Lords of Chaos. Howsoever we do that should be our focus. The harbormaster, the Harpies, the civil unrest… it is all peripheral to that concern.” Fortis looks around the room to gauge the mood. “As for specifics, the best lead we have is the Taxidermist. Anything we can learn quietly about that place or the people in it will likely be useful if we have to go there, which may be inevitable, but could possibly be avoided if we can draw Vanthus out. We know he has at least a passing fondness for a particular member of waitstaff at one of the local taverns. Perhaps if this person, or someone appearing similar, were to visit the taxidermists and draw Vanthus out Arn could ‘escort’ him someplace quiet for a chat. I’d like to gain insight into his activities without having to kill anyone. There may be other methods, or other considerations though. What do you think?”

Seeker listens patiently to the poor little alien. It must be so hard for him. Everything is strange and big and hard to fathom. Find one thing that you think you have a handle on and hang on for dear life!

Do I dare start down the rabbit hole to correct Fortis’ many misconceptions? He’s shown a strong resistance to criticism and attempts to guide him to the truth when it conflicts with his skewed worldview. It would certainly be a waste of all of our time.

Looking back over the previous few minutes, Seeker starts, then smacks his forehead. Idiot! He was asking for our priorities exactly because he was so lost. He can’t just admit that, so he makes it our job to explain it to him. And I missed it! By having him go first, I’ve exposed his ignorance. Way to go, Seeker.

First, we’re in Essanos because Colwyn told us that there were rumors of a shadow pearl making its way through here. We were tasked to come here and find out what was going on. A secondary task, since we were going to be in the neighborhood anyway, was to reestablish contact with the Vanderborens. They had been patrons of the Library in the past, and it was hoped that they could be again.

Seeker grumbles. From there somehow he got that the Vanderboren family were “the key to defeating the onrushing evil?” That is quite some leap, based on nothing like logic or sound reasoning, so I guess it makes sense that that’s where he would end up.

Fortis natters on. Wow, this little guy sure likes the sound of his own voice. You’d think he was getting paid by the word.

Seeker’s ears twitch, then cock forward. Wait, did he just mention the Taxidermist’s? Well, well, will wonders never cease. Don’t know how you got there, considering your wide-of-the-mark premises, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Maybe there’s a way to get things on track without damaging his oblivion.

Lavinia, who had only been somewhat listening to the conversation, turns back around. “Taxidermist’s Hall? You are looking for the Taxidermist’s Hall? That isn’t too far from here. Just over in Sunrise District. Just two bridges over, I think. When you cross into Sunrise, take the first street, that is Crown Street, to the east until you get to Water Street, just before crossing another bridge. Turn right on Water Street. It should be on your left. If you cross the third bridge, you’ve gone too far. Of course, you could go by way of water too, just tell any pilot where you want to go and they will get you there. The gondola service is really very good here. But what does the Taxidermist’s Hall have to do with my brother and all this nasty business?”

Seeker quietly takes note of Lavinia’s directions and confirms that they coincide with his mental map of the city. That should be easy to converge on. Get Arn, Silver, and Val in there shopping for a new head to mount on a mantlepiece or something.

”Thank you for the directions Lavinya” Fortis replies. ”We’re not certain yet what part they play, but it seems likely that at least some portion of the Harpies is headquartered there. It was mentioned in the note Penkus left. Of course it could be a false trail, left to delay us by investigating something totally unrelated, but it is currently one of the best leads we have.” He shrugs “You know the city much better than we ever will. Can you think of any potential connection between the Taxidermists and the Harpies? Do they have similar political or economic goals? Share real estate? Have members in similar social groups? Have a common enemy?”

Lavinia looks flustered, “I can’t imagine what connections these Sea Harpies would have with the Taxidermist Guild, though clearly anyone can have dealings with criminals.” She changes gears for a moment. “After going over some more of the paperwork we recovered from the vault yesterday, I have determined that they are considerably more valuable than we initially believed. There are many contracts and deals outlined here that my parents have made with many other Houses and businesses here in Essanos, and abroad, that I should be able to parlay into working income and begin to truly re-establish the Vanderboren name. As you can see, I have already made arrangements to resume work on the estate. I will continue to remain with the Davendows for some time still, but I have instructed the workers to focus their work in one area initially. They should be done with the South Hall area by tomorrow, and I want to extend my favor to you and grant you leave to use that area as a base of operations. The work crews understand the purpose of completing the work quickly so it can be a temporary lodging for you. It will by no means be finished, but it will be structurally secure and private. The hearths will be working and you will have access to a well. You will have sleeping areas, though only a few private rooms will be available, most of you will have to bunk in the main hall. I will have Kora provide food and wine for you as well. I hope this is suitable for you, I know lodging can be expensive in the city and your current arrangements at the Fox and Hound are about at an end.”

“Thank you so much for your gracious hospitality. Your kindness is much appreciated. The swiftness of the rebuilding effort is impressive as well. Your builder must be very skilled. I think there will be a general agreement to accept your generous offer, but do not want to inadvertently speak for everyone. For myself I would be most pleased to lodge under your roof. So that you know a bit more about where some of us come from, the Maesters of the Ellyllon serve as ambassadors between the various duchies and counties of our race and, as we Maesters are often enjoined to travel to remote locations on missions of peace, prosperity and mutual benefit one custom when receiving what we call ‘guest-right’ is to deliver a gift to the host, or hostess, composed of our most expert talent. I have been considering an idea that I would like to use to provide that gift, in honor of the aforementioned mutual prosperity.”
Fortis concentrates for several moments and produces an extremely realistic illusion of a miniature Vanderboren manor, completely rebuilt. “Is this the way you intend to have the estate restored or are you planning any modifications?” After waiting for Lavinya to point out a few minor upgrades she intends to have to workmen accomplish Fortis nods. “Now, I hope this creation anchors to the gossamer like I had planned” Those watching the illusion of the miniature manor see it start to change character slowly, as though the very air were crystallizing onto the illusion itself. The effect accelerates and after a few seconds the illusion bursts and there, resting on the table where the illusion had previously been, is a small colored glass replica of the estate, rendered in fantastic detail. About the base is inscribed the Vanderboren motto and crest. Fortis wipes his brow to displace an uncharacteristic runnel of perspiration but appears to be eminently pleased with his success “I believe I have unlocked a mystery!, Please accept this offering of thanks and respect for your sublime hospitality and patronage. It is quite fragile, being made of very thin glass, but it should last indefinitely. I hope you can find some use for it and allow it to bring you joy when you look upon it as a reminder of your success in restoring your family’s fortune.”

Lavinia looks at the gift, then at Fortis then back at the gift. She stammers for a moment, at a complete loss for words. She then snatches the tiny conjurer up and hugs him tightly, pressing him to her chest and almost to the point that Fortis believes his eyes to be
popping out of their sockets. “Thank you, thank you, it is absolutely beautiful,” she exclaims while still holding on to him. Her soft blonde hair falls over Fortis and the scent of her usually subtle perfume is nearly overpowering at this close range.

Overpowered by her extremely welcome embrace Fortis breathes in the intoxicating scent and fights a quickly lost battle, more of a retreating skirmish really, with his conscience at the amount of enjoyment he receives from the voluptuous hug. If ever I were to expire by being crushed to death, please let it be just like this. Attempting to recover an iota of poise and not offend his patroness Fortis stammers into her bosom “Yooouuu ...hhaaarrhhh … mmooohhhssttt… wwhhheee...ccommm…” with the last bit of his remaining air before passing into blissful unconsciousness.

The druid listens to his comrades council (sic) silently, sometimes nodding, sometimes appearing puzzled, then stands to share his thoughts, “I don’t know why Uncle Colwyn thought Lavinia to be key to the more urgent matter, I don’t think he could really say for sure either, but he believed very strongly that she is. Now, as to our actual enemy, while this is not enough to declare them to be behind the harbormaster’s death, I note that chaos, as in “Lords of. . .” is already a growing result of it and further that they first introduced themselves to the world at large by means of a Night of Long Knives where they managed a great number of similar assassinations in nearly every known land. Therefore I can’t disregard the possibility of their hand at play in this. I don’t know what it may have to do with their goals but could at least suggest that it may make it much easier to move something into the city which might be turned away by honest officials. I recall that we have absolutely no idea what this “Pearl” actually looks like, not even how big it may be. They might well need to employ smugglers to get it in. They might better employ smugglers to get lots of things in at once, making it harder to spot their actual package. Uncle Ironfist, perhaps you might have some professional insight regarding that sort of business and stopping it. I think some inquiry in that direction is in order, at least since we are so woefully shy of good clues still. On a different tack, perhaps some of us should employ our other skills to see what we may divine. They may have stolen many tools, but they can’t steal our songs. That is all I have to say.”

He pauses a moment, then addresses the hostess, “Thank you ma’am for your hospitality. I would not wish to seem ungrateful by this request but rather would be more grateful if you would permit me to simply set my tent out in your courtyard. Quite honestly I have lived all my life outdoors and feel rather cramped inside four walls. The greatest comfort I could find in a city would be in such open air with my companion who kept watch here last night. Thank you.” He stops himself as he begins to sit and offers a somewhat awkward bow, clearly recognizing the sense of “manners” but still not quite getting the actual manner of it.

She chuckles a bit at Moonscar’s attempted at social graces and tells him happily that he can camp out in her courtyard as he pleases.

Valinya followed the conversation closely, though seemed to get lost at one point during a soliloquy of Fortis, muttering something about the differences and similarities of unwittingly and unwillingly, wit and will and why.  After Brother’s comments she bestirs herself, wondering as she does what “bestir’ really means anyway.  “He’s right.  If we’re to keep our focus on the goal we need to know what we should be doing and, perhaps more importantly, on which member of the family to focus.  Lavinia or her brother … we can’t afford to chase the wrong butterfly.  It may be time for me to seek answers from a higher plane … are we to somehow assist Lavinia - or more so than we have already - or seek her brother and answers to some mysteries.  I suspect the answer is that both are intricately interwoven into the fabric of this mystery but we want to pick the correct thread to follow.”  

Seeker’s voice rumbles from the corner where he has been quietly keeping his own counsel. “Okay, this has gone on too long. We need to get something straight before we course too much farther down the wrong track. Miss Lavinia, ma’am, no offence, but the role of your family in our mission is likely peripheral. We were sent to look into the situation here, as the Enemy is rumored to be active here and likely to be bringing some sort of powerful weapon to or through the city. As a side mission, we were to look in on your family and see if we could reestablish a relationship between ourselves and you.” He smiles. “In light of your most gracious hospitality, might we assume that we’re moving positively in that direction?”

He continues, “So, while it very well could be that you or your brother have some connection with the problems or solutions to the situation we were sent here to deal with, we can’t use that as an assumption from which to base our strategies.”

He looks around at the team. “The assassination of the Harbormaster seems to me to have the biggest impact on the area as a whole. It might be dangerous to try a direct approach to that at this time. Mayhap it is the Sea Harpies behind it. We have other angles to explore to get a grip on the situation here. We may need to split up.” He looks at Lavinia. “And we may need your help to assess how what we find out fits into the bigger picture of Essanos.”

He sighs. “To go back to the start of the discussion, what do we do next? In the light of a lack of options, we should probably stick with Fortis’ plan for the Taxidermist Guildhall as obvious low-hanging fruit. We can check it and either prune it from our list of potential avenues of action, or learn more to guide our next steps.”

He looks around, “Sound good?”

Valinya looks slightly, well, pouty.  “That sounds fine … but the mission is about the … um, “pearl” … and in my vision that was clearly linked to Lavinia.  We don’t know how and perhaps I could divine more about next steps but clearly her role isn’t as peripheral as one may think. It would be worth my time, I believe, to seek a vision about our next step.  It may end up being another image that is nebulous and difficult to decipher at best but if you don’t put the fishing line in the water you’ll never catch anything.”

Seeker nods. “I appreciate that, Val. Since I can’t do the magic that you and Moonscar do, and see what you guys see, I rely on you to interpret them and feed us the clues they provide us. I was just going off what I saw and heard and remembered from our handler, straight from the horse’s mouth, if you will.”

He looks at their lovely blonde hostess. “Miss Lavinia, ma’am, if I could have a word?” He leads her to a quiet corner. “Again, thank you for the offer of hospitality. I hope our association continues to be a beneficial one for both of us.”

“Now, about the Harbormaster. We saw him yesterday, and last night he was killed. Our enemies like sowing chaos when they can. You are the most likely person here to be plugged in to the politics of Essanos. Can you ask around, see if there are any front-runners who aspire to take over his position? Is it this Kellani woman? Would that give her a position of power in the city’s hierarchy? And is that public knowledge?”

Lavinia nods. “Oh, yes, it would elevate House Kellani to a position in the Inner Council - the top seven houses in Essanos make up that body.”

Seeker continues, “And it may well be that there is not going to be anyone angling for this job. After all, the previous Harbormaster was assassinated. That leaves this city wide open to smugglers and graft, like that Vark fellow using his position to help himself to your boat.”

“Ponder the possibility that you, with the favors you have been discovering in your papers from the family vault, may be able to seize the position for yourself. That could increase the position of the Vanderboren name in the city, which I imagine would be good for you, and decrease the chaos and chances for the criminals to act freely.”

“I don’t know if that’s something you’d want, or not. I wanted to mention it in case you had not considered the possibility, and to give you my assurance at least that I would work hard to support you in that decision.”

Lavinia stutters for a moment, “H-h-harborm-m-master? Me? I have no skill or knowledge in such matter. Yes it would help the family name, but right now, I am the family. I am not sure such a move would be good for me. Remember, I was seen there with Harbormaster yesterday under auspicious circumstances as well.” She ponders for a moment, “I will see what I can find out politically with my newly found stack of favors. I will plan to meet you all again tonight at supper. The Davendows are leaving the city for a day or two and they will not be home. We shall dine there, if you all do not mind.”

Deliberately calming himself after regaining consciousness from Lavinia’s exuberant reaction Fortis sits up from the table where he was laid, smiles at her, and decides to seek his entertainment in a less exciting form and with less exciting people, like the ones he only faces death with on a regular basis. “I’m planning on running an errand or two this morning, is anyone else interested in going out? We have some spoils to dispose of as I recall. Arn would you like to take part in a mercantile excursion? I’m also thinking of calling on the Witchwardens. Val, if you are not otherwise occupied do you have any interest in investigating their society?”

“Thanks for the offer but I think I need to get moving with a divination as soon as possible”

“Aye there little one.   I need to acquire a new sharpening stone, some oil for my weapons and armor, and I would like to see if we can acquire some potions, that may help me in our journeys.”

Fortis And Arn Go for a Stroll

“Well, that makes the decision on the first stop easy, I should probably let the Witchwardens sleep in anyway.” Nodding at the dwarf, whose eagerness seems difficult to determine, Fortis asks Lavinia to allow him to borrow a wheelbarrow from the construction crew then summons a hulking servant with an amazing set of musculature to collect the captured weapons, put them in the wheelbarrow  and wheel it along after him. “Brutus, please take care to not drop any of those goods, we will need to sell them at our destination. Arn, are you joining me? I thought I remembered you saying you needed to look into a potion. We can do that on our way back if you like. Did anyone else want anything from the apothecaries?”

Arn grumbles a bit and says he will join Fortis in his shopping excursion. He says he will count and distribute the money to everyone after the loot is sold, reminding everyone that he still holds the coinage scrounged up from the crew of the Blue Nixie.

“Come Brutus.” Fortis moves abreast of Arn as they leave for the door. “Would you like to pick the first merchant or shall I?” After waiting for Arn to grumble something almost unintelligible Forts heads out into the merchant district looking for someone to deal with over the captured weapons. We should probably shop around a bit, we can time the sale for just before lunch time when the merchants will be anxious to close a deal and get to their mid-day meals, or perhaps are just returned from an early lunch and are leaden with full bellies.

The excursion is pleasant and Fortis does his best to keep Arn happy along the way, even going so far as to stop into a local grog-house for an after breakfast nip of ale as they make their way from knife sharpener to adventuring outfitter to weapons-maker to blacksmith and back along the market avenues haggling for prices with anyone who might be interested in using or reselling the knives, axes, javelins, cutlasses and crossbows they had captured from the pirates. An occasional good deal and a few questionable exchanges leave them with a respectable haul, which quickly disappears into Arn’s lockbox.

Once the last weapon is sold Fortis instructs Brutus to bring the wheelbarrow back to the construction site. “Brutus” he nods and acknowledges before moving off at a moderate clip towards the manor. “And now, Arn, we can get a bite to eat and discuss the potions you wanted to shop for. Were you looking to cover a specific ability of did you intend to just browse and see what ideas struck you?”

“Aye there lad.” the dwarf blurts out.   “I’ve given thought, and I would like to have at least one healing potion, but would be open minded to nearly anything out there that could help us.  Something that could allow me to fly or levitate, or even swim, or become resistant to fire, or climb walls or something, even breathing fire like a dragon.”

Seeker Gets To Work

Seeker watches as folk wander off to their various tasks. Sounds like we have a few hours until lunch. Don’t want to go wandering off, so what to do? I need to think, but I can do that anywhere.

At that moment, the sounds of banging and sawing assault his ears through the window. Of course! It’s like Mother said. There’s always housework!

Seeker wanders out into the courtyard where workmen are tackling the South Hall. Just think of it as a grander version of making your bed. Now you’re just making your bedroom.

He watches for a moment the workers. Truly a motley bunch, but they seemed to know their business. Mostly Humans, a few Dwarves. He grinned as he saw a stout female Dwarf with red hair and beard and a big voice yelling at one of the workmen.

“No, I said I wanted that stack of bricks over there!” The Human male she was staring up at shrugged and started to walk towards the brick pile. “Where do you think you’re going? You now have to move this stack of boards back where you found it! And get a move on - the Lady wants something serviceable by tomorrow!” She glared at the worker until he turned and grabbed some lumber.

Seeker clears his throat. Gotta remember that I’m still an Ogre.”Uh, you need an extra hand? I’m really strong…” He lets his voice trail off, sounding underconfident. The Dwarf lady turns.

“Whoa!” she exclaims, as her eyes track up and up. And up. “What are you doing on my site, big boy?”

Seeker shrugs, “I’m working for the Lady, but there’s nothing for me to do inside, and I like to keep busy. You are building a place for me to sleep, so I thought I’d see if I could help.” He flexes, not so subtly. “I could get those bricks moved back for ya.”

She eyes him suspiciously, then smiles. “I’ll never turn down help. Name’s Alda Brandystone. You can call me Red.” She sticks out a calloused mitt.

“And I’m Se.. uh, S’ker, er, Scar. Yea, Scar.” He stumbles over the deception. There is an awkward pause, then “Okay, so I’ll get to those bricks, okay?” Red points out where they should have ended up, and Seeker gets to work.

Valinya's Vision

PhotoMeanwhile, Valinya goes outside to take some breaths of fresh air before singing her airy tune.  Her body magically transformed into air, she float upward, reaching a height at which the winds are calmer and the world below begins to look more like a map that terrain.  Floating there she closes her eyes, listening to the wind and letting her mind free as she holds forth the question about what the group should do here in Essanos.  She sings her magic softly and as it wells up it fills her with a sense of oneness with all that is.  As she waits and the magic flows a vision comes to her.  Afterward she descends and quickly finds Seeker, Silver and Brother to share it.  She says, “Good news I think.  I had a vision.  In it I saw … well, let me show you.”  Singing quickly she conjures an illusion of what she saw.  “There were these two family crests floating in front of me.  You will recognize the one for Vanderboren - the other I believe is the Islaran family.  They both fluctuated, moving forward and backward, becoming blurry as each moved away and more clear as they moved closer.  Then the Islaran crest floated away, becoming a misty cloud before disappearing.  The Vanderboren crest filled my vision … then two shadowy figures appeared in front of the crest. The figures then did the same back and forth dance as the crests until finally only one of them moves forward. It looks like a person, but I saw no discernible features.  The other shadowy form disappeared. A third crest appeared, faint and smaller, but it seemed to circle around the shadowy form … like this, see?  In addition to the crossed swords in the middle I think that symbol at the top may be a wave or splash and the bottom one a sunburst maybe?  This crest remained small and transparent as it circled around the shadowy form standing in front of the House Vanderboren crest.  The whole image then appeared to be falling, faster and faster, from high up in the night sky. Then they  come down and land on top of the Vanderboren manor … however the manor appeared to be made of Fortis' magical glass and the entire thing exploded in a shower of sparks and fire.
Photo… and that’s what I have.  Obviously I couldn’t see which Vanderboren prevailed, Lavinia or her brother.  But obviously it means that there can be only one in the end.  We’ll have to research the third crest but clearly there is a relationship to the surviving Vanderboren … one that I think ultimately will destroy the family … as shown by the manor’s violent destruction.”  

After a short, dramatic pause she looks at them expectantly.  “Well, what do you think?”

Moonscar nods, smiling. “In that case, I think finding Vanthus could produce some answers. While that’s been a problem so far, I suspect very strongly that the sing which Moon has taught me may well ignore whatever magic is hiding him. It can be blocked, she has taught me another sing to do that, but my impression is that these are one of the areas where the Ways of Wisdom and Power run more parallel than convergent. It’s worth a try. However, to keep the torches and pitchforks at bay, Sis do you know a song that can keep sound inside a small area? I’m likely to disturb the neighbors otherwise, especially if Sings to Moon decides to join me.”

The grey-skinned, slightly sweaty ogre looks on carefully at Valinya’s presentation. “Yea, Vanthus seems to be a reasonable target for further investigation. This third crest - it smashes Vanderboren Manor? Can we get someone to do some research on who or what it might represent? Maybe the Kellani’s? We could ask Lavinia when she gets back. Or find some scholar nearby.” He thinks for a moment. “Brother, why don’t you finish your attempt to surf the aether or gaze the navel, then we can add that intel to what Valinia came up with.”

“Agreed,” Valinya says in response to Seekers comments.  “I’m going to take some time to myself, do some spell ‘research’ to solidify that awakening melody I made up on the fly last night.”  Preparing for her work, Valinya breezes through the kitchen to pick up some “snacks” to nourish her during her hard work and staggers under the load to find a quiet place in the yard to work.  She settles herself down and settles in for the long hours and intense focus it will take to add that melody to her ready repertoire.  

“I’m gonna get back to work. Let me know when something changes - I’m out in the courtyard or near the South Hall” Seeker says and heads back outside and returns to work on the brick pile. At some point he starts chatting up the other workers, trying to get a feel for the working class’s reaction to the Harbormaster’s assassination. Maeve is a sturdy Human female, brown hair, thick eyebrows. Brill is a Dwarf, who seems to be more of a craftsman than a laborer.

The bricks clack as Seeker dumps yet another wheelbarrow-full onto the pile. He pauses in the shade of the South Hall before venturing across the courtyard to get the next load. He finds some other workers there, also taking a break as the sun rises higher in the sky. He picks up the conversation from earlier. “So, Maeve, Brill, whadda ya think? I heard the Sea Harpies are behind it all.”

Brill and Maeve, both friendly enough if not very talkative about the Sea Harpies or the other gangs but do have some to say about the Harbormaster situation. Maeve says it's about time that the Islarans relinquish their hold on Azure District and the harbor while Brill is appalled by the rampant criminality growing in the city. They argue with each other about Master Islaran and the cause of death. Maeve says he died in his sleep while Brill says he was assassinated by a squad of thugs. Alda, hearing the conversation comes by and says she heard Old Islaran was poisoned. Maeve says that the Kellani family would be much better caretakers of the District and harbor but Brill counters with the fact that the current matron of House Kellani was in fact a pirate of the Inland Sea before marrying old Marshall Kellani. “Before you was even born, Heldrath Maeorgan was a name that would strike fear into many a captain's heart,” the older Dwarf explains. Alda nods her head in agreement. “Kellani used to be a noble house, but not with that hag at the helm.” Brill and Maeve begin to argue and Alda has to separate them.

“Now what's with an Ogre like you interested in House politics?” Alda asks Scar when the other two are back at work on opposite sides of the area. “And just how do you know Lady Lavinia?”

“Scar” shuffles uncomfortably a bit. “Um, well, I’m here helping some troubleshooters Miss Lavinia hired.” He grins a lopsided Ogre-ish grin. “I guess you could say I’m the ‘muscle.’” His brow furrows as he thinks hard. “I don’t know much about polly-ticks. I just heard some folk talking about them Sea Harpies. They sound like rough customers. Usually if there’s fightin’, I help the team out. Just wondered what sorts they were.”
Seeker learns some about the Sea Harpies from the Dwarf woman called Red. She explains that since the “liberation” of Essanos from the Western Empire, many different gangs and thieves guilds have tried to seize power. These power plays generally revolve around shipping and trade since most of the city’s wealth comes from that area. The Sea Harpies seem different though, more organized and controlled. The are heavily involved in the illegal animal trade. Red believes that while the various District Watches are aware of the Harpies and other gangs and their illicit activity, they do not always actively pursue them since most of their activity is isn't “harmful” to the general population and most violence only occurs between the various groups. When the violence does spill over, the Watch will step in but many believe they are just too ineffectual to put a stop to these organizations. The assumption is that most of the gangs, at least the more successful and long lived ones have ties to one or more of the noble houses.

“Scar” nods along as he listens to Red. “Huh, sounds like nasty business.” He stops and thinks for a while. “Hey, the smart guys told me to keep my eyes open for something.” He grabs a brick and scratches out a shield with crossed swords above a sun and below a cluster of leaves onto a flat stone in the wall. “Somethin’ like that. You ever seen anything like it?”

Alda laughs, “Yea, you're real funny, Scar. That's the House Kellani crest. Get back to work. I need to go make sure those idiots are getting the mortar mixture right.” She heads off to find another part of the work crew. Seeker sees Moonscar setting his strange little tent up on the far side of the courtyard and Valinya sitting near the little pond, humming quietly to herself. I wonder where Silver is, Seeker thinks.

“Scar” nods slowly and turns away to his pile of bricks. “Yes, Red.” So, we’ve got the Kellanis all over this. Great. Now, how can we destabilize the Kellani position. I guess first we need to determine what their position is. Hopefully, Lavinia can help with that. I get the feeling she doesn’t understand her potential power in this battle. Her ‘favors’ could be just the leverage we need to apply pressure to move the queen where we want her.

“Scar” keeps working, but after a short time makes his way over to the small pond where Valinya sits humming a tune. “Uh, Miss Valinya? Do you know where Miss Silver is? I’d look myself, but I’m working moving that pile of bricks over there.”

He stands patiently as Valinya continues her reverie. He waits. And waits. Just as he is about to say something, he is startled as Red bellows across the courtyard. Her rough voice echos off the stone wall. “Scar! You working or not?” Scar looks sheepishly at Valinya, still humming to herself, and then lumbers back to the brick pile.

Deeply immersed in learning her new spell, Valinya becomes peripherally aware of Seeker seeking, his words floating gently across the surface of her thoughts.  Without losing her focus, though she senses it isn’t anything urgent at all and lets that go, turning her mind’s eye inward fully as she merges music and imagination in her inner world.  

As Seeker turns to leave, he notices Silver’s Elf form sitting in a remote corner of the courtyard, seemingly lost in thought, or brooding over something.  She seems to notice him about the same time he notices her, and stands up to dust herself off.  “What’s up?” she asks.

“Scar” leans wayyy over and murmurs “Val did a seeing. Ilsaran taken out by Kellani, then Vanderboren taken out by Kellani. Moonscar is doing something similar to try to track Vanthus. I’m schleppin’ bricks.” He grins his lopsided Ogrish grin again.

“Scar! Quit jawing and get back to work!” Red bellows. She really has a way with people, doesn’t she?

“Gotta go, okay? See you at lunch.” He lumbers back to the brick pile.

Red walks up to Silver. “Can I help, you, missy? This is a work zone. You got a good reason to be here?”

Silver looks at Red for a long moment, then responds “I’m a guest of Lady Lavinia.  This was a quiet spot, up until the big guy decided to come looking for me.  Suppose I can find another quiet spot.”  She turns and wanders off towards the exit of the grounds, thinking to herself Now who the hell is Kellani?

Red grumbles as Silver glides out. *mumble*mumble*namby-pamby elves*grumble*grumble*. She looks up to see “Scar” shuffling back to the brick pile keeping an eye on her interaction with Silver. “WHAT?”

“Uh, nothing.” Scar mumbles as he makes his way back to the brick pile.

Red sidles up to him. “You have to deal with Elves on that team? How do you put up with it? ‘Oh, I need a quiet spot to be all tranquil and tree-huggy. Oh, I’m a guest of Lady Lavinia’s so I can go anywhere I want.’ Yea, and then I get hell to pay when she chips a nail.’” She glares up at Scar. “See if you can keep ‘em outta my work zone. Oh, and it’s lunch. If you want to work this afternoon, be back at seventh bell. If you finish the day, you get paid, okay?”

Seeker ponders. Seventh bell. Okay, it’s about quarter past sixth now. Plenty of time to check in with the team. Scar nods slowly. “Okay, Red. I’ll go eat. Maybe I’ll be back. Thanks for letting me help.”

Red shakes her head and chuckles. “Yer a strange one, Scar, that’s fer sure. Okay, see you later.”

Seeker ducks back into the relative cool of the manor house from the bright sunny day in the courtyard. He sees Valinya at the sideboard, with a plate already piled high with slices of meats and bread, as well as a few pickles. How does she keep her girlish figure? Must be an Elf thing. Hmmm… Have I ever seen a portly Elf? Moonscar and Sings to Moon are playing in the courtyard now that he has his tent set up and the work crew has retired to the shade for their midday meal. Silver preparing to go out, probably bored with a morning of idleness. One that he had avoided. He looks around. Arn and Fortis are not back from their little shopping trip. How long does it take to sell a bunch of second-rate weaponry? Ah well, they’d no doubt be back soon. Free food and all.

Seeker takes a plate of the meats and a mug of cool water. “Anything on your navel gazing, Brother? I managed to identify the third crest. It is indeed Kellani. So keep them on your radar as a threat to Lavinia and her House.” He pauses, “But it feels like,” and he nods to Valinya, “and correct me if I’m wrong, Val, but these signs and portents seem to indicate that Vanthus may be a link between the two.” He growls, “Or Kellani is going to take out Vanthus.” He chuckles humorlessly, “But when have we ever gotten that lucky?”

The team continues lunch, shooting ideas back and forth, strategizing and also just enjoying each other’s company. Seeker starts getting a little antsy, though, as Seventh Bell approaches and there is still no sign of Arn or Fortis.

He sighs as a distant church chimes the hour. He adopts his lumbering Ogre-ish gait and makes his way back to the courtyard. “Uh, Red?” The Dwarf stops yelling at Brill and turns around. “Yeah?” Scar shuffles his feet. “Uh, I gotta go run some errands for the other guys, so I can’t work for you this afternoon. I’m sorry...:” Red scowls, “Yea,, yea, if you’re not working, get off my work site.” Scar turns dejectedly back to the manor. Red calls after him, “But come back tomorrow if you want.”

Scar’s gait seems to lose its shuffle as he leaves the courtyard.

Once inside he checks the gang again. Valinya seems to be eating and thinking. Moonscar is making his way back out to his tent, Sings to Moon at his side. I didn’t know he could do this stuff during the day - thought he needed moonlight. Bah - magic. What do I know? Silver is nowhere to be found.
Seeker throws a quick note on the table letting folks who might care know that he off to look for the missing team members. Probably just Fortis blowing us off, but Arn knows we were intending to check in at lunch. Let’s see - they were heading out to sell off the weapons we grabbed off the Nixie. So, first stop, Merchant District.

He leaves the Vanderboren Manor and turns his muzzle into the wind, then takes a left. He moves more slowly than Seeker would, but then Seeker would jog. “Scar” shuffles along, which gives Seeker a better opportunity to scan the area. He crosses a bridge and makes his way up Travellers Street past the Fox and Hound. He sticks his head in, just to check. It looks like they are cleaning up after the lunch rush. No one at the bar, and, *sniff*sniff* Arn hasn’t been here lately. Check.

After that he headed east, across the bridge, then north across Potion Street Bridge, then Pale Street, then over to the open-air market. It felt good to move. Working in the yard was good. But getting out, stretching out, that was where it was at. It was hard to remember to shuffle like “Scar” the Ogre. Folks tend to give him a wide berth. Sigh. Not so different than when I’m a Wolfen.

He raises his muzzle into the wind, scenting for the smell of super-heated iron. Let’s see. Fried fish, spices, the must of old paper. He sneezes at a very strange odor, and looks around. Ah, a stall full of spell components. Eye of newt or something.

He very methodically makes his way through the marketplace. I know they were going to sell the weapons, but you never know what might distract Fortis, or catch Arn’s eye. As an Ogre, he keeps quiet.

And finds that taking things slower, almost leisurely, lets him notice things he had missed before. How the history of the city as a seaport gets reflected everywhere. Stalls with charts and pens and inks. Gotta remember that for me and Moonscar. Many folk with tattoos (a phenomenon unheard of in the Empire.) A dizzying variety of foods based on seafood, including spices that his nose had never smelled before.

Maybe I should take some time each day to wander. Without purpose or plan. Seems I miss a bunch when I’m focussing on something. Hmmm…

He turns a corner and finds a smith. True, he’d been angling this way since he heard the clang clang of hammer and anvil. Human smith, three assistants. The forge smelled of sulfur and *sniff* singed fur? His eyes flick around the room, until he sees a young apprentice wince, favoring an arm with a red welt. Even as he watches, the lass fumbles the bucket she is carrying. He reacts without thinking and grabs her and the bucket before either can fall. “Here, uh, lady, there you go.” She starts to smile and then shrinks back when she gets a better look at her benefactor. She looks confused. “Kin I help you?”

Scar nods enthusiastically. “My friends came to the market to sell some swords. Have you seen them? A Dwarf and a Human and a very little man.” He holds his hands out, one over the other and six inches apart.

She looks at him, then behind him. Scar turns and sees a Human wiping his hands on a leather apron, obviously the owner. She starts talking, “He says he’s looking for some friends. A Dwarf and a wee little man.” The owner nods, slowly. “Nope, I seen some Dwarves earlier today, but didn’t see any tiny little men, not that small at least. Sorry, can’t help ya.”

Scar looks dejected and heads back to the manor.

Arn and Fortis Return

A little bit before supper time Fortis returns to the manor and looks around to see if Arn and Fedik have made an appearance. I'll let Arn handle that introduction.

Cast of Characters: 

+Arne Jamtgaard plays Seeker, a teenage Wolfen Warlord
+Ben Zittere plays Fortis, an Ellyl trickster and Mage
+Stephen Kolmetz plays Valinya, an Elven Wildsong Mage
+Mike Biancone plays Arn, a surly Dwarven Warrior
+Amergin O'Kai plays Moonscar, the esoteric Kankoran Druid
+Daniel White plays Silver, a young and curious Dragon
and +Jason GURPS as the GM

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