Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Akwamu's way, pt. 7

Under escort by five or six guardsmen of the Shadow King, Bakari and I were taken eastward from the smouldering ruins of Koidarra to the great stronghold of Chaelhelm. We soon overtook a small group of refugees traveling in carts. One of them was Aaron, the innkeeper befriended by Devlin. He and several others told us what happened: a strange organ cloud appeared in the sky and suddenly buildings began to burst into flames. Some saw shadows that looked like demons. The townsfolk fled in panic. Many seem to have perished in the conflagration. Their tales were heartbreaking. Rowan, a young paladin amongst the refugees, feared the loss of his family.
      We continued our journey through the night. One benefit of having met the refugees was that several of them were able to vouch for Bakari and me and, as a result, the guardsmen removed our manacles after receiving our oaths not to escape. Bakari engaged in some Cuthbertian proselytizing (when he wasn't seeking the hero-worship of pre-pubescent boys) among the civilians. Soon we arrived at Chaelhelm. With Bakari insisting upon getting some sleep, it was left to me to make a report to the Lord Inan, the High Commander of the North. Rowan, representing the refugees, came as well. 
      I found Lord Inan to be a wise and competent leader. His story of the reports he had been receiving from Koidarra matched our tale of the Nerull cultists' infiltration of that town's civil authorities. He was understandably concerned that our party members — Devlin, Synast, and Meliusine — had evaded his guardsmen and remained at large. He feared they were in fact involved in the attack on Koidarra. He was particularly concerned at Devlin's flight and by a detail that I had not thought too closely about: Synast's recognition of the Mysteriarch based on our description of the figure who had appeared at Oeridien's tomb. How, the Commander asked me, could Synast have recognized such a powerful and shadowy figure if he were not already in cahoots with him? I sought to reassure him on all accounts, although I could not provide an explanation for Synast's ability to recognize the Mysteriarch. In the end, Lord Inan agreed to release me provided that I bear a request to Meliusine, Devlin, and Synast that they all meet with the Commander. Rowan accompanied me as an envoy of the Commander. Bakari, on waking, insisted on yet another audience with His Lordship who was concerned by reports from the south of violent disorder being sown by a man of Bakari's description (red dragon armour, etc.). Our good cleric managed to reassure Inan somewhat on that score and arranged for a meeting on neutral ground between our cautious party members and the Commander.
      So it was that we finally all met on the plains outside Chaelhelm. Bakari cast Holy Storm, ensuring that no evil could intrude upon our negotiations. Lord Inan created a circle of silver powder within which a zone of truth would prevent deception by any party. So it was that most, if not all, of our respective cards were laid on the table. There was much palavering, posturing, and protestation. In the end, however, the Commander seemed satisfied that we were not his enemies. He suggested that we seek answers to our questions in AlassiĆ«l and so it seems it is there that we must turn our path. The road is long, but happily I have a magical ever-full feed bag for our horses! I am sure that despite his grumbling Bakari will come to value the wisdom of this purchase. And there is more good news: it looks like the young paladin Rowan will accompany us. His will be a welcome presence and an exemplar of virtue for the others.