Approaching the Citadel
Encounters on the Road
Novorum 24, 887 Af.
With Sif and Carta both needing to recover, the party stayed at the top of the Cliff that night. The next morning, they considered their options. They agreed that going by road would ultimately be the best choice, and they could make it to the citadel in six days. That would put them there a few days before the equinox. Following the road was uneventful at first, and several days passed.
Decerta 3, 887 Af.
As the group came upon the camping area for the night, they found a caravan had already begun to set up camp before them. There was plenty of room in the clearing, so Carta and Kasret continued to build their camp, while Sif, Durdeg, and Sharlot approached. They crossed paths with a few young men whose clothing and attitude marked them as minor nobles given their first taste of command. They shouted orders that the caravan workers made a good showing of following while being watched, them promptly ignored for what the caravan master was saying.
Durdeg and Sharlot spoke with the caravan master, and found that they were carrying bulk goods and didn't have anything worth trading, but they'd be happy to share a meal around the fire. Since they had been living off of what Kasret could scrounge for them the past three days, they decided it would be a good change of pace. As they sky grew dark and the workers built a cook fire, the nobles went into a large vardo, upon which they closed the door and did not come out again that night. Sharlot played a few songs, and got the crowd of workers singing along. They taught her a jolly tavern song, Beware the Dark, and the evening passed quickly. While they sang around the campfire, Sif and Durdeg talked with the caravan master about the Grey Citadel, and what they could expect. It didn't take long for the caravan master to let his feeling about the place out - he hated it with every fiber of his being. It was constantly under mist kicked up by the waterfalls, so the ground was slick and covered in fungus. The buildings were mostly made from the same grey stone, which is why it is called the Grey Citadel, rather than the proper name of Dunhaven. He didn't say too much about the people, but he made it clear that they would be in for a miserable trip. And to top it all off, bandits were starting to get bad in the area - just a few months ago they had been mostly safe on the road, but things were back with a vengeance. Durdeg and Sif thanked him for the information, and shared it with the others as they bedded down for the night.
Decerta 4, 887 Af.
The group rose early, although the caravan workers were already starting to break camp when they did. The nobles had turned out to be the children of the owners, being sent to get some experience. Things were clearly not going well, because by the time the party left, they had still not come out to see the state of the caravan.
Later that day, shortly after the midday meal, the party saw a shape on the road ahead. As they came closer, it became apparent that it was a dead body, partially eaten by some type of large animal. They searched the area, and found indication that some type of bear had eaten part of the corpse, but there was no clear indication of why the bear would have left it partially intact, or why no further scavengers had come along to do anything to it.As they looked closer, they found evidence of some wounds that were clearly made with an edged weapon, and likely what killed the man. Finally, they found a note under the persons clothing, mentioning that the messenger was attempting to bring warning of an evil cult leader that had fled to the north. The party decided to bury the body, and then take news to the next town they passed in hopes that they could help someone learn what had happened.
Although they did delay slightly to bury the body, Sharlot turning into a giant ape to dig faster certainly helped speed them on their way. They would need to make up a little time, but they had the afternoon to do so. Continuing on their way, they made decent time along the road as it wandered through the forested hills. As the sun was starting to creep down the sky, they were still several hours out from their planned stopping point. But as they came to a bend in the road by a clearing, it became clear that they would not make it to the planned area that night.
From around the bend, a few hundred yards away, came a massive horse carrying an equally massive rider. From the distance they were at, all they could tell was that the rider was completely bald and going shirtless, even as the weather was starting to turn a bit colder. The man paused briefly, as he looked over the people in his path. After a moment, he shouted out at them, "Little Man!" and spurred his horse into a charge.
With the exception of Kasret, who had not been with the group at the time, the heroes instantly knew who was coming and who he was yelling at. They waited with no concerns as the enormous being charged them, because they remembered him from Willem's Wondrous World Carnival as the strong man that worked with Carta to put on a few shows. He rode up to the group and leaped from his horse, putting him closer to their level, although still nearly two feet taller than the biggest of them. He and Carta clasped hands, and each of them tried to show their strength by forcing the other's arm down. Carta struggled mightily, but after a few moments, Vonmar was able to force his arm back. He shouted mightily, and clapped Carta on the shoulder. "Little man!" he shouted, "It is good to see you. And song woman, and little girl," indicating Sharlot and Sif, "and metal arm!" He clapped Durdeg on the shoulder, the metal ringing with the blow. He then turned to Kasret, and said "Who is beast man?" Kasret introduced himself, and held his arm up, ready to match strength with the Goliath. They clasped hands, and began to push against each other. In a few moments, Kasret began to get the upper hand, and Vonmar's arm began to bend back. Vonmar reached out and cuffed him on the ear to give him a chance to bring his arm back, but then laughed and gave up. "Beast man! Strong like Vonmar and Little Man!"
While everyone was watching the display, a string of wagons began to come around the corner. The lead wagon, a garishly painted one extolling the wonders of the carnival, puled up, and the party recognized Willem and Wanda Wiles, the proprietors of the carnival. After a moment, the Wiles recognized them as well, from the sale of lobstrosities. They greeted the party, asking how they had been, and said that now that they had stopped the caravan, they might as well set up camp for the day. While hours of daylight were left, it would take them almost that long to set up camp. The heroes were welcome to join them, and they would even be willing to break out some of the famous sausages they had stored away.
As the carnival began to break up for camping, Durdeg asked about Fizban, and Carta asked about Fizban's assistant. Sharlot immediately wanted to know where the fortune teller might be found, and Sif jumped on that with her. Vonmar told them that the magic stuff was all at the far end, as far from the animals as they could possibly get. The menagerie was setting up camp at the front, near the road, so the Wondrous World section would be at the far end, and as close to the tree line as they could be. Vonmar and Kasret decided to drink together, while the rest went to look up old acquaintances.
Carta and Durdeg found the vardo of Fizban, and knocked at the door. Fizban instantly recognized Durdeg, as the mechanical arm is hard to forget. He welcomed the two of them into the wagon, and asked Durdeg if he had come to join the show. Durdeg demurred, saying that they just happened to meet on the road and he wanted to say hello. Carta, meanwhile, asked about his assistant, so Fizban knocked on the door to a sleeping nook. After a few moments, the door slid open, and the Nelwyn popped her head out. She had clearly been sleeping through the journey, and her fiery hair was sticking in every direction. She pulled her blanket up to her chin, and started muttering about one night stands knowing their place, especially when they didn't even get the night. She slammed the door closed, and Carta resigned himself to not getting much more of a talk with her. Durdeg, however, was able to have a long, pleasant chat with Fizban. They passed the afternoon away discussing the adventures that the heroes had been on, until it was time to go and eat with the others.
Sharlot and Sif arrived at the fortune tellers vardo - it had bright colored paint and a diviner's eye, so it was obvious which one was hers. They tried knocking, but no one responded, and eventually they grabbed a passing worker and asked. He told them that she had left shortly after they camped, going looking for something she knew was nearby. She should be back before dark, he told the two. When Sharlot said that the fortune teller should probably know when someone is there to see her, Sif responded that perhaps that's why she isn't there, since the two of them had been cheated the last time they saw her. They waited for a while, until Sharlot finally decided it to send to her and find out if she was ever coming back. In a return message, the Seer told her that she would be back to meet her at nightfall, and that she always gave people what they needed. Sharlot did not pass along the message to Sif, as at this point she just wanted to talk to her without Sif jumping in and casting a command of "refund!"
As Sif wandered away to look at other areas, Sharlot played a bit on her lute. Some people stopped by and listened briefly before going back to work, and the afternoon wore on. As darkness fell, and the workers were done with their tasks, the seer came back to the vardo. Sharlot asked her about what she sold them, and what she meant by only selling what people need. The fortune teller told her that she and Sif were in desperate need of a lesson in trusting people too readily, and that is what they had actually bought. Sharlot accepted the answer, and asked if there was anything else she should know. The seer took to her cards, and began to flip them over. The death card came up early, showing a hooded skull leering out at them. The seer talked about how most others would talk about how the card really means change, but that was flat out wrong - it means death, and if it was supposed to mean change it would be called the change card. When she followed that card up with a card painted with the fires of the abyss, the fortune teller said they were done. Demons and devils were in her future, and she would be lucky to make it out alive. Disturbed, but thankful, Sharlot moved on. She spent a good part of the night playing with various musically inclined members of the troupe. She had hoped for Vonmar to join her, remembering back to his participation in the battle of the bands, but he wandered up carrying Kasret over his shoulder. The Goliath dropped the Bugbear by the fire, and drunkenly told them that he loved this guy, then collapsed beside him. Within moments, the two were snoring in unison.
Durdeg was making his way back to their camp, when Sif caught up with him. She stopped him, and told him that she had passed through the menagerie and looked at several of the beasts there, when by a covered cage she lost touch with her magic. Durdeg asked her to show him, and they headed towards the wagons. As they neared one of them, Durdeg's arm suddenly stopped working, and he could feel what Sif meant. They began to look around for someone to talk to, and happened to find the show's beast master sleeping under a wagon. They woke him, and when he finally came to enough to understand them, he was willing to answer.
He pulled back the curtain on the cage, and at first all they could see was a large tree growing there. The beast master pointed to a low branch, where a cute little creature was wrapped around a branch. He called it a sessiloth, and while they were close to it, they were completely cut off from any magic. Durdeg checked, and stepping back far enough restored his arm, so he was not worried about anything permanent, but he was fascinated by the creature. Before going any further, he asked what it would take to buy one, and was told that the problem was that they really couldn't survive if they left their trees. He explained that their long claws were buried deep inside the tree, and that it got most of its water that way. He also pointed out two more of them hidden amongst the leaves, and said that their auras seemed to reinforce each other. Finally, he took them into the cage, where he showed them how he fed them. They would pretty much eat anything edible that came into their range, but they didn't move much more than a few feet at any time, sometimes lying motionless for months. He offered up a few carrots, and the little creature enjoyed them, although when it grabbed a stick it ended up dropping it to the ground.
After satisfying their curiosity about the creature, the man asked if there was anything else they needed since he had been dragged awake, but Durdeg noted the sarcasm as he said it, and thanked the man for his time. With that, they headed off to bed, and slept well that night.
Decerta 5, 887 Af.
The next day saw the group making up for the time the lost visiting with the carnival. They hurried along, and were able to reach the village a dozen or so miles from the Citadel before dark. They asked around about the dead man, and none had ever heard of him. They did, however, know of the woman the note was addressed to - the leader of the local church of Rosarum, and sister of the current lord of Dunhaven. They wished the party luck, and the group turned in for the night, planning on reaching the Grey Citadel the next day.
Decerta 6, 887 Af.
The heroes woke early, and continued on their journey. The road wound through the hills, and as they approached the city, the roaring of the falls could be heard echoing across the land. As they entered a valley, the noise actually lessened slightly without the hills causing it to echo, but they could tell that it would be a constant noise for as long as they remained in town. In addition, the entire valley was enshrouded in mist kicked up by the waterfalls both entering and leaving the valley. They could barely see the lake from where they were, much less any of the city. The beginning of the causeway was the only clear thing they saw, and they proceeded to march their horses across the slick stones.
As they came to the end of the causeway, they could see the grey stone of the gatehouse looming out of the mist. They began walking up the slope, and made out a number of guards standing around, and one higher ranked man who waited for them to arrive. They stopped when the man approached them, telling them that he was the customs officer on duty, and would have to take the fees to allow them in. After first mistaking Durdeg for a Dragonborn, then questioning whether Kasret would count as a beast or a man, they finally agreed on a cost. The customs officer was a bit put out when Carta made his steed disappear, but he adapted and adjusted the price for only four creatures.
The group then started to aska few questions about the city itself, such as directions to find Caela, as well as how the man felt about the ruling nobles. The sergeant, who introduced himself as Dobra, seemed very happy to answer their questions. No one else was coming, so he felt like he could take the time, and take it he did. He gave detailed directions how to get to pretty much anywhere they were looking for, in the end essentially providing them with a labeled map. He explained the inns available in town, including both the preferred pronunciation of the Moose and Squirrel Inn, and how the 'Hole Tavern got its name. As the man droned on, Durdeg began signalling to the others that they needed to get away from him, while Carta decided to indulge the lonely man. Dobra brought up his rock collection, and how he would love to meet with his new friends at the M&S to talk about them, and Carta showed the rocks he used to stack on Sif's head. With that, Sif and Durdeg finally broke up the party, and got everyone to move into the city.
Sif told the others that Rosarum was about as far from Kolero as it was possible to be, and thought it would be best if she spent the time looking for rooms while they went to the temple. They stabled the horses, and then left Sif at the 'Hole, then walked to the temple. On the way, they had a quick look at the Ironworks and the Artisan's Guild, although the time was not yet right for stopping at either. They reached the Temple and went inside, and were pleased to find that the thick stone did a good job of muffling the roar of the waterfalls. They enjoyed being out of the wet for a minute as an acolyte helped them to find the high Priestess, Mistress Caela Haven. She seemed to have some insight into each of them, recognizing Carta as a follower of Adalci and Durdeg as a newly minted follower of Fierte. She looked askance at Sharlot, spitting out the name of Kolero, then stopped to stare at Kasret. While he was becoming used to this, for once it did not seem to be about his appearance, but something about his connection to a Deity. She saw him as encompassing the entire Jewel, and asked him to speak with her later.
Finally, they began to discuss the reason for their visit. She identified the messenger as the son of her old friend, Father Grom Billig, although she needed to see the note to be able to make the connection. As a tear fell at the loss, she reviewed the note, and her face grew hard. "This could explain some things," she said. "There has been a resurgence of criminal acts here of late, after we had felt that we had all but eliminated the criminal element. If this cultist has arrived, he may be responsible for both the thefts in town and on the road."
"But more importantly," she continued, "this may be related to the other issue we are facing. There have been some attacks by fiendish creatures, and we have experienced some deaths. Please, speak with my brother, and he can tell you more." With that, the heroes turned to leave and seek out Arb Haven, the lord of the town.
They left the temple, and the noise and mist hit them hard again. Not knowing if they would ever get used to it, they made their way towards the keep at the southern end of the city. As they got closer, they heard a commotion coming from down the street. They looked, and saw a crowd gathered, and a creature of some sort being held up on an improvised crucifix. The creature was clearly dead, and the townspeople were celebrating the fact. The group that was carrying the creature were clearly adventurers, and all of them wore red as some part of their outfits. A Daikini man dressed nearly head to toe in crimson was apparently the leader, and he boasted about their prowess while soaking up the adulation of the townsfolk. A woman in black robes with a crimson mantle over scale mail looks at the goings on with a bit of disgust, while a scrawny man in a filthy red toga twitches nearby. The other two members of the band seemed to be warriors. They could not get a clear look at the man holding the creature, although Carta thought something seemed familiar about him. The final member was a Goliath, nearly as tall as Vonmar. His red hair was braided into his beard, and tattoos cover most of his visible skin. The two warriors both seemed to not care much about the proceedings.
As they reached the gate, they dropped the body of the creature they were carrying. The party was now close enough to see it, and it had the disgusting asymmetry found on many low powered denizens of the abyss or hells. From boils everywhere, to a mouth inside its hand, or skin that seemed on the verge of sloughing off, everything about the creature was revolting. A pair of guards came out of the gate and picked up the body, dragging it off to be burned, while a tall, robust man with a thick head of hair and a beard stepped up to the adventurers. He thanked them for hunting down the fiend, and with a salute where he touched the gold circlet of office on his brow, he handed over a money pouch. The leader of the group took it and whooped, then directed his group to the 'Hole where the drinks would be flowing.
The crowd dispersed, and the lord of the city walked toward the heroes. He asked them if they were adventurers, and whether they were there to help out the town. When they confirmed their occupations, the lord introduced himself as Arb Haven, and made them an offer. He was willing to pay 50 golden peaks for any demon they killed, as well as 2000 gp total if they eliminated the source of the threat. The heroes questioned him briefly, eventually learning of a magic user in town that had recently gone missing, and may be related to the attacks. He was confident that she was not responsible, as she had always helped the town, but beyond that he didn't know why she had disappeared at such a time. The party agreed to help out the town, and Arb thanked them profusely. They asked for any help they could get, specifically with a guide to the town. When Carta spoke up and asked for Dobra specifically, Durdeg nearly punched him, but decided that he was as good a choice as any. The lord sent for Dobra, and he came at a run to join his new friends.
Dobra offered to answer any questions they had, but the first order of business was ensuring that they had lodgings. With the equinox just days away, the sun was starting to set earlier in the evening, and combined with the mist it was starting to get downright hard to see. Dobra led them towards the Moose and Squirrel, where they were able to contact Sif. She was just finishing up negotiating for lodging, and suggested that they stay there rather than the 'Hole. The group soon arrived, and started over on room negotiations. Kasret wanted a private room, and was willing to let Dobra sleep on the floor with him (although no one asked Dobra, and he did have a home of his own to return to in town). The others all squeezed into a bunk room, after getting an extra cot thrown in. With sleeping arrangements taken care of, they were in the common room waiting on food as the nightly crowwd began to arrive.
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