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Craghold and Onward

General Summary

Commitments

Novorum 21, 887 Af.

The group split up to take care of personal concerns around town, with all but Sharlot leaving the College. Sylan brought Sharlot to his study, to discuss the Song, and what she knew of it. He told her the story of the Canticum Canticorum, and played for her the small piece that he knew and the song that he had made from it. He called the song "The Forest Days", and it told of his life before he became a bard, when he lived a much simpler life. Afterwards, he brought her to the auditorium, where the various students of the College were gathering. Each had brought their instrument, and the sounds of horns, drums, lutes, and an unknown number of other instruments being tuned was filling the air. A few of them started to play, and at first, they were pleasant little tunes. But as others started to join, each tried to go in a different direction, and the dissonance made Sharlot wince. They would try to bring themselves back together, but often over-corrected, and never truly found their way. Sharlot left to find an out of the way room where she could think about the Song, and learn the song of the Dean.

Carta decided that their wagon needed to be made more travel friendly, and sought out a carpenter that would be able to help. His searching took him to the edge of town, where he found a carpentry shop and a visionary working there. Carta started by asking for improved seats, and the next thing he knew, he was being hard sold on rich Corellum leather over the down from a feasts worth of geese. When Carta asked about the possibility of something to hold a cup, perhaps a flagon, during the long rides, the man smiled broadly. He told Carta that if he got away from the bench and had two individual seats, he could put a central box he called a console there, with ample holders for cups as well as anything else he could imagine. When he went into a long explanation of something he illogically called a spoiler and magical lighting effects for the ground, Carta reeled him back in. He wanted the seats and console, but he would have to check with his fellows to see if they would need to leave in the wagon before then.

Sif sought out any bookstores she could find, hoping to gather more information about what was ahead. She was disappointed in the College, but she reminded herself that part of Kolero's bailiwick were bards, and that Sharlot was finding information she needed. Sif delved into what was known about the area to the north, and learned that there were extensive underground caverns set into that part of the continent. The dark depths stretched from the Dwarven city in Silverbeard Mountain across the continent to the west. She found some information about entrances to this underground realm in Silverbeard, but the extent of the realm was so vast she could not get much more of an idea about it than that.

A short distance south of the College, Kasret found a casino playing games he had never heard of before. He spent some time watching a game of Drunkard's Dice, determining that it was a game of bluffing, analyzing opponents, and drinking, and he could do all three. As the next game started up, he sat down to play. It soon became apparent that the idea of a minimum and maximum bet amount was pointless, as everyone at the table bet the maximum and were called all around. Kasret fed 10 gold into the pot with every round, and worried as his money was dwindling away. As the game wore on, Kasret got a few hand wins, but fell behind early. Two of the other players, both Dwarves, each had several dice left while Kasret and the rest where down to one. The most reckless player bombed out, and it looked like the leaders would fight it out. But the luck turned, and Kasret and another player held on, until there were four players each with one die. Each roll would eliminate one player at this point, so everyone had to focus. Luckily, when Kasret had lost a round, he had drawn either water or light drinks, and had felt nothing. The others had not been so lucky, and one was drunk enough that they were professing love to half the room and a desire to fight to the other half. They lost, and the next drunkest went immediately thereafter. The last roll of the game left Kasret as the first player, and after studying his opponent, he boldly called out a pair of twos. His Dwarven opponent's jaw dropped, and while she called, she knew she had lost. Kasret swept up the game and hand pot, and walked away victorious.

Durdeg left the College, a feeling of destiny overtaking him. Ever since Custone, where he had been given the meteor rock, he had searched for a way to unlock its potential. And now, he had finally found what he was looking for. He sought out the Temple of Fierte, called Fierte's Forge, and the priestess Hilda Brightforge. He found a few Dwarves challenging each other, and talked with them about the way of the crafter. He displayed V11, and they were impressed enough to invite him to a meal while they rounded up Hilda. Durdeg explored a bit, finding masterworks of various types displayed proudly - tapestries and topiary, bas-relief and basket weaving. On the roof, he smelled the food being cooked, and found it to be a masterpiece as well. Eventually, Hilda joined them, and appeared to know that he was coming. She was quick to offer him a place in their ranks in exchange for teaching him their secrets, and it was clear that she had had divine guidance in the matter. Durdeg considered, and accepted their offer. He was offered the ceremony at dawn or dusk, and said that he would find his companions to join him at the ceremony that evening.

Durdeg searched the city, looking for his friends. He quickly caught up with Carta and Kasret, and they all made their way back to the College and found Sharlot. They eventually found Sif, and with the afternoon dwindling, he explained to them that he had decided to join the church of Fierte. Carta was surprised, and brought up that if he had known that Durdeg was in the market, they could have discussed Adalci, but it was clearly banter between friends. They all agreed to come to the ceremony, and set off to the Forge. They arrived before dusk, and made their way up to the roof. There were several Dwarves and Daikini present, as well as a Nelwyn that Durdeg had met before, and Hilda in her holy garb. This consisted of leather boots and a leather apron over loose fitting linen clothes, appropriate to a smith at the forge. The holy symbol of Fierte, an anvil, was etched into the front of the leather apron. She welcomed the companions, and agreed when Durdeg asked her to make sure that Carta got a front row seat. With everyone present, and the sun just setting, Hilda began the ritual.

For an hour, she prayed for the guidance of Fierte to support Durdeg and to help him with his journeys. She moved from station to station, ritually striking an anvil with a hammer, smoothing a wood carving, cleaving a bit of stone, and carding a small amount of wool. As the ceremony went on, Durdeg connected with the Deity, getting a better feel for his Divine purpose. As it ended, he felt awash with energy, and was ready to learn more about the Steel. He thanked his friends for coming, and he and Hilda left to privately discuss new techniques. The others were invited to stay and enjoy the evening and the food, and they did for a brief time. Eventually they left for the night, with Sharlot sleeping at the College and the others finding a place at the nearby inn.

 

Onward and Upward

Novorum 22-23, 887 Af.

The next morning, the group gathered to discuss the plans for proceeding. They needed to get to the Grey Citadel as soon as possible, and to do that they need to get to the top of the cliff overlooking Craghold. They talked about their options, noting that they had been told that the quickest way was to take the stair path up the cliffside, and that the elevator system was too dangerous for people to go up. They also knew that there was an easy switchback road to get there, but they would have to travel farther overland. It seemed like the stair was the best bet, and the beginning was about half a day's travel to the west, then it would take around six hours in favorable conditions to make it to the top.

They spent the morning gathering supplies, making sure the wagon would be improved while they were gone, and preparing for the change in altitude. They left near mid-morning, and headed towards the stair. It was late afternoon by the time they reached the base, and they debated whether they would try to climbn that day or wait until morning. They finally decided that they did not want to risk climbing during the night, and they still had time, so the choice was to camp at the base. They spent a quiet evening camping, and were prepared to hike in the morning.

The woke with the dawn and broke camp. They could see storm clouds rolling in over the cliff, but with the rock face looming above them, they couldn't determine the extent of the clouds. They had to make the journey regardless, so they decided to risk the weather and climb. The first hour or so of the journey was uneventful, and they made it to a hollow in the cliff face where they could rest. The clouds were growing darker and moving over the cliff, and the first drops of rain began to hit. They continued to climb, as the weather got worse. They were reminded of the storm that hit them on the journey upriver, and were afraid that they could be in for another full days worth of driving rain. The risk was growing by the moment, so they decided they needed to change their plans.

Durdeg pulled three syringes from his bag, and told the others that he could get three of them to the top of the cliff in minutes. Since two of the group, Carta and Sif, had mystical mounts that would more easily traverse the rest of the stair, he suggested that he use them to imbue the other's horses with the ability to climb straight up the cliff side. That way, they could reach the top and set up camp, while the other two could move quite a bit quicker without them. The group decided this was a good plan once they added having V11 join them for a bit of extra protection, and they implemented it. As Durdeg, Kasret, and Sharlot pointed their horses at the cliff face and spurred them on, the other two watched them go. In minutes, they had cleared the top of the cliff about 800 feet above them, and Carta and Sif continued on their ride. The others saw the extent of the storm when they reached the top, including the lightning strikes, and decided they had chosen wisely. They made they way to where the others should meet them, and set up a camp to get out of the rain.

Sif and Carta rode on through the driving rain, their magical steeds moving with sure footing over the rocky ground. The rain came down in sheets, obscuring their vision, and lightning began to crash nearby. They passed another nook on the way, but continued to press on. They continued to climb, and as they got to the point where they thought they were close to making it through, the dangers of dividing their forces became clear.

As they approached a narrow section where a rock bridge spanned a crevice, they saw movement in the storm. The fury of the storm had coalesced into three figures, moving over the path towards them. Lightning sparked from their bodies, and the two held back, remaining where they could have a wall at their backs. As the elementals approached, Sif summoned a flaming sphere, and Carta called the power of Adalci through his sword.

The three moved in, two attempting to overwhelm Sif and one attempting the same to Carta. They were both able to hold fast, and though it drove them back, they did not get caught up in the storm. Sif started to use every bit of magic she could draw on to attack the creatures, while Carta threw everything he had into assaulting the one that ended up next to them. Between the two, with help from Sif's owl and V11, they quickly put the first of the elementals down.

Unfortunately, the remaining two had figured out their enemy, and switched tactics. They began to swoop in and out over the dizzying drop, touching the heroes and channeling lightning into them. They almost casually destroyed V11, the gem powering it dropping to the ground, and followed up by destroying Sif's familiar. Sif's flaming sphere became useless, as the creatures darted far enough away that it couldn't reach them, and they inflicted enough damage to eventually shatter her concentration. She continued to fling magic across the void at them, but her most powerful spells were not as effective on the creatures of the storm. The two tried to overwhelm her again, and miraculously, her strength held and she fought them off.

Carta realized he would have to go to extraordinary lengths to give them a chance to win, and he unleashed the divine energy within himself. His eyes began to glow brightly behind his visor, and a pair of luminous wings appeared from his back. He launched himself into the air and quickly struck at one of the elementals that had come too close. He struck hard, and channeled the power of Adalci to destroy the thing. For the first time, Carta felt a resistance to the power, as though something was fighting to stop it. Adalci quickly overcame it, and the strike destroyed the elemental, but Carta was concerned that something would dare to interfere. He swooped towards the other elemental, and it began to fly ahead.

Even with only one left, the two were not out of danger. Carta could not fly fast enough to strike at the elemental, while it could swoop in and shock Sif almost at will. Sif fought well, burning through everything she had, but it wasn't enough. Eventually, one of the shocks from when the creature touched her was too much, and she fell to the ground, her heart fibrillating. With the elemental briefly stopped, Carta charged in and lashed out. His sword bit deeply, and he delivered another blow from Adalci, and again. Each time, the resistance to Adalci's power was present, but it flowed surely in the end. With the last blow, the elemental seemed to short out, dissipating into the cliff side. Carta quickly knelt beside Sif, and channeled life force into Sif, calming her heart and bringing her back to consciousness.

The two rested briefly, and as they did, the storm began to lessen. Carta felt sure that the hand of Procellas had acted upon them today, although he did not know why. When they had calmed down enough, they set forth, making it to the top, and their camping friends, as the sun was going down.

As they staggered in, Durdeg, without looking up from his work, said, "What took you guys so long?"

Report Date
17 Apr 2021

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Cover image: by Chance Rose

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