After resting at the spiraling marble tower for the evening and packing things up in the morning, our group of Boudreaux, Ogg, Alanea, Lucius, and Dox were once again ready to continue exploring the wilderness of their new homeland. They had yet to run into the rumored ‘Forest Drake’ that was said to be somewhere in the southern Narlmarches forest, and really who knows what other weird things might be out here? This is Xen’drik after all.
Our travelers headed southeast from the marble tower and further into the forest, coming across a solid 1/4 mile or so of the local area that seemed to be covered in spider webs throughout the forest canopy. Lucius had Aurum take the long way around to get a look at this part of the forest from the air to get another perspective…after a half hour or so the man-sized bird returned and thanks to Lucius’ Mark of Handling he used his Speak with Animals to discover that the webs were indeed visible from the tops of the trees.
It was at about this time that our heroes noticed that it looked like there was some kind of gray ash beginning to fall through the forest. Lucius, and Dox however realized there was something else going on here…this wasn’t some kind of “natural” (natural for Xen’drik anyways) phenomenon. The tiny motes flowing through the air were actually tiny spiders each clinging to a small thread of webbing. The wind had picked up moments earlier and it seemed as if dozens if not hundreds of tiny spiders were now flowing through the forest – and that meant trouble for our heroes!
As if in response to the tiny spiders having found food, four man-sized spiders quickly started climbing their way towards the group and battle was joined! Albeit without Ogg or Alanea even realizing it for the surprise round! There were spiders…spiders everywhere! Inside Ogg’s helmet, crawling over his warhorse, hiding in the thick arm hair of Boudreaux, absolutely everywhere. And they were biting! While this would be a hazard capable of heralding the doom for a group of unwary travelers the Ruling Council of Valdrik would need a stronger opponent than these vermin to be a serious threat. (Oh the difference that is made between Level 1 and Level 6 characters)
Some Flaming Spheres from Boudreaux and a Fire Trap from Lucius made quick work of the Spider Swarms while the rest made quick work of the man-sized spiders, and all without managing to set the forest on fire. With the threat dealt with the webbing in the forest should slowly degrade on its own and return to normal…time to continue heading east from here!
But as they do…we find ourselves traveling back in time a number of days, shortly after our current group of explorers left Waterview. Septim Garess had called for a meeting of the other half of the Ruling Council of Valdrik to bring some items to their attention. A couple of requests by the townsfolk had made their way to different ruling members respectively which should be assessed and dealt with…and thus they reviewed the new quests they had been given.
(Quests Received! Shamblesap, Where’s Tig?, That Damn Turtle!, I Swear I’m Sober, and A Lady’s Desire)
Book 2 Quests
There was also other issue that had started up a couple days ago…a newcomer in town that had started having public speeches about the state of Valdrik in general, and it wasn’t all good things. In fact it seemed to be questioning the decisions of the leadership of the country which while not illegal was causing some trouble with the general populace. The man’s name is Grigori Tulsa a somewhat heavyset man in moderately fine clothing.
Cassie: Hmm…well we’ve been fairly accepting of all kinds so far. Why don’t we send him an invitation to the castle to air his grievances directly to us?
The others agreed save for Korin who wanted nothing to do with this rabble-rouser causing problems in his town. A letter was penned by Valerie the CEO herself inviting Grigori to come and speak with them. A return letter was received the next day politely declining the request. Valerie decided it was time to walk amongst the people again and try to catch one of these speeches to see just what was going on. Tarvis arranged to have some of his spy network spread out enough to guarantee he would have someone that could catch the next speech but decided not to make a personal appearance.
It wasn’t too long while Valerie was out and about that a small crowd had begun gathering outside a nearby tavern where a heavy set man that matched Grigori’s description stood atop a couple of wooden boxes that had been pressed together to being speaking to the crowd. “Thank you citizens for listening to the humble yet troubling words of Grigori.” spoke the man.
“I wish to continue my discussion today on the dangerous choices of the ruling council of this wonderful country of Val’drik…and how over half of the ruling government decides to go galivanting off into the wilderness heedless of the important roles they are supposed to be heading within the kingdom itself! While yes it is true they are managing to still ensure their duties are fulfilled…for how long can they keep such a gamble going? If they were to fall prey to The Traveler’s Curse and get lost in the wilds? Or killed by bandits, monsters, or worse and never found again?” There were murmers of agreement amongst the crowd…it did seem sometimes stupidly dangerous to send out the rulers of a kingdom to go exploring…
Grigori held up a hand to the crowd, clasping a letter in it. “I have here a letter written by the ruling council themselves inviting me to join them in their newly created grand castle…but I was forced to politely decline! The voice of dissenting opinion should not be given the chance to be silenced, regardless of how polite the invitation! It is here that the words of Grigori belong…among the people!” There were a few cheers at the mans skill of swaying the crowd and even Valerie had to admit there were a few good points the man was making. But she was here to observe, not to make a spectacle…she was even speaking softly with an older woman next to her, a mother she had met a few times out in the farmlands of the kingdom. Her son had been injured in some foolhardy attempt at a new game the youth in town were playing – Gur’kash tipping. The fool boy had injured his leg running through a field in the middle of the night but should be back in the fields by the end of the week.
“Hey! Lady Valerie is right here!” Shouted someone next to her in the crowd. The people around Valerie parted to reveal her presence in the crowd. Grigori noted her presence with a pleasant smile. The man didn’t seem phased at all to be speaking ill of the country and ‘caught’ red handed doing it. While it wasn’t illegal, it was still in poor taste.
Valerie waved to the crowd and re-emphasized the council’s desire to take the troubles of its citizenry seriously and wanted to once again offer not only a meeting with Grigori but that any of the citizens here could accompany him to a public room within the castle to share their troubles with Valerie and the others.
“I must once again politely decline Lady Valerie” said the orator “I cannot risk the opportunity to be spirited away into another room of the castle…while the kindness of some members of the Council are publicly known there are also many citizens that could speak of the temper of Valdrik’s head Accountant.”
Somewhere in the back of the crowd two metal objects tinked together in agreement.
“And should I step out alone for but a moment and fall prey to subterfuge the ruling Councilor of the kingdom is a publicly known Changeling. While Lady Dox has been forthright in her nature the same can not be said for all members of her race.” Valdrik has been a fairly egalitarian society so far, and yet there are still the murmurs of racism…a distrust of changelings as thieves and liars, and deceptive by their very nature.
It seemed this was not a matter that was going to be resolved with a simple request for peaceful understanding. It was time for a debate. Valerie and Grigori battled with words, each scoring two victories over one another but each step towards victory was not gained easily (Even with Valerie’s Rogue Talent that allowed her to roll two d20s for a Diplomacy check twice a day at this point, Val’s player had to use the Plot Twist Card – Black Mark to give Grigori a -20 on one of his Diplomacy checks, specifically his statement about Changelings). Grigori’s accusations hit home with many of the villagers regarding the dangerous aspects of Xen’drik. The creature known as ‘Wolf’ that was sentenced to death only a few months ago was a wild beast…and who is to say that such a dangerous creature would never have come to this place if the Dragonmarked Houses had not tried to bring civilization to Xen’drik in the first place? That the encroaching kingdom on its territory may have forced its hand.
Valerie retorted. The council was doing the best they could, and while yes the Dragonmarked Houses initially funded the expedition all of the people in this kingdom (or as far as folks know anyways) were not forced to come here. They came to this strange new land knowing it would be full of opportunities, but also dangerous. This is Xen’drik, the Stolen Lands, the Untamed Lands, the birthplace of the Elven Race, remnants of the ancient Giant Civilization…and by the Twelve it will be protected.
While Valerie was countering his argument Grigori could barely take his eyes off of her. She was a master orator – there was rarely a person living or dead that he had encountered in his life that could match him in an argument. (It was at this point that Boudreaux’s player decided to complicate the situation by playing the Plot Twist Card – Lust on Grigori…towards Valerie). The orator found himself unable to meet his rival’s eyes (And yes there were “I Hope Senpai Notices Me” jokes around the table) acknowledging that she had made some points that Grigori was going to have to consider and calmly excused himself from the public eye. Things seemed resolved at least temporarily.
AND NOW WE RETURN TO OUR HEROES IN THE WILDERNESS…
Once again we join Lucius, Dox, Alanea, Ogg, and Boudreaux as they traveled into a swampy portion of the Narlmarches forest. At a particularly swampy part the discover that the river parts around a small island barely 150 feet in diameter…surrounded by a ten foot high palisade with sharp wooden spikes pointing outward with a single wooden entrance on the eastern side of the island. The tops of small mud huts could be seen just above the palisade with a bit of smoke rising up from the inside of the island.
As the group passed by they could hear the distinct voice of a child, a human child screaming. It wasn’t the kind of screaming you would hear from someone being hurt but it was the kind of screaming you’d hear from being scared.
Seeing a couple of Lizardfolk waiting on top of the palisade near the one gateway into the island, Ogg called out to them in perfectly accented draconic – dropping his usual façade of monosyllabic speech. “Hello! Do you hear that screaming?”
The two lizardfolk guards waved from the island. “Yes of course. Are you friendly?”
Ogg: “Yes! Though we are concerned, is that a human child making that noise?”
The lizardfolk cringed in acknowledgement, as if they weren’t entirely comfortable with the idea of having a human child in their midst but they weren’t willing to give it up either.
Ogg: “Can we come visit? We would like to speak with you!”
Lizardfolk 1: “As long as you leave your weapons outside the village, you are welcome to come inside.”
The group agreed, leaving the various animals on the shore of the river as well as the majority of their weapons. Dox made a sleight of hand check to slip a Sap inside her dress in the hopes it won’t be noticed…
Boudreaux: “Donkeyxote, you’re in charge until we get back.”
dramatic closeup of Donkeyxote with a solemn nod
The river was calm enough that the group could swim across…Ogg not making a big deal of his swimming across in his Full Plate. Once at the front gate the two guards seemed satisfied with their lack of weapons and opened the door. Inside was a small collection of mud huts with a single leather flap covering the entrance to each one, a small hole built into the top of each mud hut where smoke slowly filtered out. Lizardfolk families traveled about the small village…there were young lizardfolk here as well. There were maybe 30-40 of them in all but it would be hard to get an exact count just from the entrance.
The source of the screams became apparent as the groups focus was brought towards the very center of the village. Tied to a wooden staff and buried up to his shoulders in a mud pit was a young red-headed human child screaming his lungs out. This could quickly become very complicated….
Clashing Cultures…next time on Kingmaker!