Flawed Creation

Game 9: Back on Track

Provided with the name of a sage and a letter of introduction, the adventurers depart Byrnehold on horseback, traveling the road which parallels the Taralandar River. On the way to their ultimate destination of Bale’s Retreat, they stop at the walled community of Nulray to rest and reprovision. Nulray is open to travellers, but like many other places, they record the names and places of origins of those who pass within her walls. The character all freely give their names, and then their origins as either Irongate or a protectorate of that great city.

They enter Nulray and take rooms at the one only respectable inn, and while they are there, they meet an elderly gentleman named Roderick the Sage. They engage the individual in conversation and find him to be amiable, though somewhat scatterbrained and rambling. It is learned that a splinter community broke off from Nulray in the past year or so, after the new town rulers took power, and have erected a fledgling community on the fringe of the Plainsedge Woods, about two days to the west. He mentions that his former aide is one who had moved and that his research is now taking much longer, since she was more familiar with some of the more exotic languages than he. The older man excuses himself and ambles out of the establishment.

Shortly thereafter, the door opens again and in walk a pair of individuals from the rain. The first is a tall, lean human male, who pulls back the hood of his cloak to reveal aquiline features and long blond hair, which he frequently combs his fingers through. The second is a large, muscular orc, whose carriage suggests the ability to snap into violence at any time.
The orc strides directly to the table where the party is sitting and takes immediate notice of the two female members, showing particular interest in the Kesriel, the breelan warden. He makes a comment which is not understood by any of the party, and his human companion chuckles.

The human softly introduces himself as William, known to many as William the Vain, and the orc he identifies as Ruhk. He states that the party are obviously the recent arrivals who hail from Irongate, and mentions that the town leaders wish an audience. When the party asks when, he tells them that now would be an opportune time. Wanting to clean up from their travels before meeting with any officials, the women leave to freshen up first, and when they return, the men follow suit. When the leave the in, the party is led by William the Vain and tailed by the imposing orc.

They cross the footbridge high above the river to the west side of the river, the area recognized as the slums, and through a series of narrow roads which end in a cul-de-sac. A tavern dominates the muddy cobblestone courtyard, and it is into this that the group is led. The atmosphere is rauckus, and the party seats themselves at a table while William goes to fetch the village leaders, leaving Ruhk to look after their guests. After a few moments, the door to a back room opens and William returns, accompanied by two others. The first is a large tiefling woman uses a gnarled walking stick to aide in moving her considerable bulk. The second is a wild-eyed, hunchbacked dwarf, wearing a holy symbol about his neck which identifies him as a follower of Asmodeus.

They approach, and the tiefling lowers herself into a chair while the others stand a short distance away. In a harsh, raspy voice, she introduces herself as Mother Zubota, and the other recent arrival as Broken Korvis. The dwarf’s appearance and introduction prompts a comment from Elhara, the usually demure priestess of Pelor, who makes some remark about serving an evil god. Korvis bristles, replying in a wheezing, high pitched voice that regarless of his god, his faith is no less valid thatn hers.

Mother Zubota rolls a cigar and produces a flame from her red-hued fingers to light it, before coming to the reason for her summons. Bluntly, she says that a diplomatic envoy from Irongate came to Nulray several months ago, speaking sweetly of the benefits of allying with Irongate. She tells the party that she wasn’t interested iny any such arrangement, and that the diplomats left here with her foot planted in their backsides. Now, there is the arrival of another group hailing from Irongate, and she finds such coincidences disturbing. She mentions her desire for the characters to prove that they are not spies by paticipating in a simple ritual to be performed by Broken Korvis. No one in the group finds this agreeable, and they refuse, at which time Mother asks thenm to confine their activities to the inn itself, and not step outside except to leave the town. This was obviously more than a request, and the players agree.

They accompany William and Ruhk back to the inn, after which the orc soon departs. William, however, takes a seat by the door, where he remains until the party leaves the following morning. On their way out of the community, Kyden strikes up a conversation with William, who himself had always been soft-spoken and had never shown any hostility. Despite the conditions of their stay, William says that there was never animosity, and that Ruhk had indicated a willingness to become more familiar with Kesriel. Kyden, excercising discretion, decides not to share this information with his breelan companion.

On the road once more, the group make their way north to Bale’s Retreat, a city nearly as large as Irongate, which also sits in the Northern Rim and is protected by a stone wall. They pass an inn and several shops which lie outside the walls and proceed to the gate, where they learn that horses are not allowed into the city. They return to the large inn, an establishment with the somewhat whimsical name of {The Outside Inn]], run by a woman named Rosalind. They take rooms and board their horses before returnin, by foot, to the gate. They learn that Bale’s Retreat is a closed city, and that travellers are not allowed inside unless on official business and vouched for by the concerned party. They inform the guard of their desire to meet with Keltos, and will return in a few hours after a runner has been dispatched and returned with word.

Again, they go back to the inn to relax for a few hours before returning to the city gate, where they learn that Keltos has agreed to meet them at the gate at six bells that evening.
Eventually, they meet Keltos, a stocky, well-dressed dwarf who admits them into the city and invites the characters to his favorite alehouse. They accept, and find the chosen establishment to be higher end, offering ale and wine to the more affluent and well-learned. Over drinks, they tell Keltos of their interest in ruins, and that they had heard that he was a person knowledgable in such things. He admits that it isn’t his primary field of study, more of an interesting hobby. Ragardless, he promises to provide them with what information he can.

The following day, the characters go to the Eternal Order of the Quill, the organization to which Keltos belongs, to meet with him. They find that both he and his colleagues are preparing to attend a dedication service, to which Keltos invites the characters. It is at this time that he explains the history behind the city of Bale’s Retreat. Elhara is somewhat mortified to learn of this arrangement.

After the ceremony, Keltos presents the party with a map of several ruins, and explains to Vindurinn, whom he recognizes as an intellectual, that the Eternal Order of the Quill, an organization dedicated to preserving records, offers opportunities to become honorary members. All that is needed is to make a somewhat arbitray sounding “contribution of note” in the form of some lore or artifact which the Order finds useful. In return, membership allows greater and easier access to rituals, spells, and other such services.

Keltos tells the characters that they rode past the nearest ruins when they came from Nulray on the way here. There are the ruins of an ancient, if small, temple west of the Taralandar in the Plainsedge Wood. The party thanks the dwarf and retraces their route in search of the old temple. The discover a relatively new community surrounded by a wooden pallisade fence, which they assume to be the splinter community which had left Nulray. There was no one to be seen in the watchtower, and the gates were closed and their was no response to their hails. Kyden scaled the wall for a look, and saw signs of an epic struggle but no dodies. Dried blood coated the ground and had splashed upon the walls of the small dwellings. The hin lowered himself to the inside, followed by Lucan, and together they opened the gates for the others.

A further search revealed more evidence of violence, and they found an old, weathered ruin in the rear of the community, worn nearly to the ground by time and the elements. A stairways leading underground had been revealed when the stones clogging it seemed to have either been removed or cast aside. With caution, the adventurers descended into the darkness. A cacophany of wailing, sighing, and screaming came to their ears, though seeming without source or direction. At the bottom of the stairs, several dozen corpses had been piled, all with their hands removed as if by some sharp blade. The party made their way further along, to encounter several undead creatures accompanied by a carnage demon. Battle was joined, and while the heroes suffered appreciable damage, they were able to best their adversaries.

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