Chapter Four—A Terrible Feeling of Deja-Vu
Some two hours after dawn on the morning of the 23rd of Planting, 589 C.Y., the famed Dawn Watch gathered themselves and their retinues to begin what was to be the first step on their long quest to retrieve the pieces of the shattered Staff of Law. Almost as an afterthought in this great procession, the Fellowship of the Eternal Flute began their own quest, in search of a solution to King Lynwerd’s fourth decree. Mounted on their elven steeds, all save Haolden, who rode his own troublesome mount Trinen, they rode off into the cold and misty morning, taking their place behind the Dawn Watch and some important olve.
The city was swiftly left behind, and with it thoughts of the farewells said the previous day to the Lord Berenn Longblade and the Lady Dyrdrae Kinaegis, two companions of the Fellowship who had travelled north on their own errands. The Fellowship discussed for a time the problem of the Tenha people whom Berenn and Dyrdrae would hope to help in their travels. All were uncomfortable as they rode, for they well knew that in solving one problem, another just as vital could be unfolding far to the north. However, the road was crowded that morning, and as the Fellowship passed beyond the village of Anneven, their thoughts were distracted by an upended merchant caravan, driven by one Earnas of Greyhawk. The wagon full of earthenware was righted with the help of Kermorvan and Karyistyne’s knights, and the wheel fixed with the art of one of the olve. Then all passed on south again, the wagon heading north.
At Installin, a few miles further to the south, the procession halted for lunch, the olve and men-at-arms spread on the ground for they outnumbered the spaces in the inn, the Galdas Door. The Fellowship, for their part, sat by the well and discussed Eyheh, Cora and the Tenhas, Haolden playing his harp so that they would not be overheard. Although they were briefly interupted by Rhigonne of the Dawn Watch, who had passed the journey in the shape of a large hound, they discussed much by the well. Kayben was greatly disparaging of the Lady Cora and attempted to persuade the others that the conflict ought to be settled in favour of Eyheh, but the rest of the Fellowship could not agree so readily. Some were suspicious of Eyheh, and where his moneys and mercenaries had been found, and others of Erigen, his nephew, who had commanded a Tenha infantry unit called the Atherstone Bladesingers in the war with the Fists and escaped though his men were slaughtered. More, it seemed odd to some that Eyheh’s mercenaries, being medium infantry, were almost chosen to stymie Cora’s medium cavalry.
No agreement could be reached on the matter, and as the Fellowship rode off again, the discussion turned to the matter of their cover story in their pursuit of the fourth decree. Haolden suggested that he might play the part of a playwright seeking to compose a play on Duke Korenfloss, who was known to have been enmeshed in the plot to kidnap Lynwerd. However, before this could be discussed in detail, a rider approached the column, seeking out the Fellowship. Identifying himself as one Beornas, an apprentice to Alaric, a smith whom the Fellowship had found, along with his son, when they had rescued Lynwerd from beneath Carolan Keep some years before. Alaric had sought out answers with regard to a name of Halloran, supplied to Kermorvan by Brancas as the maker of the crossbows which the fallen knight had attempted to use to slay Lynwerd so recently. The name in full was Halloran Vanthildyr, who was the proprietor of a shop in Anuren, three days east of Rel Mord.
This news received, the young man was sent back to Installin to rest his lathered horse. The Fellowship, for their part, continued south, discussing this information carefully among themselves. For a time they talked to Oberend and Karistyne, both of whom seemed in higher spirits than in recent times. Oberend, in particular, related details on the group that was to scout Pirrmanthyr, the old Loryiaelorian fortress. The company in question was known as the White Ravens and was led by a dwor named Manthar, a relation of Dunathur, whom the Fellowship had met in the company of Royal General Myariken a few days before. Oberend also said that he had sent other scouting parties to check on the progress and status of the Legion of the Black Death. Among other things that passed between Oberend and the Fellowship were Kayben’s assertion that Vollper, an olve known to Kalinrand, had lived in Pirrmanthyr; the support that Oberend had given to the young war company known as the Star Wolves; and Oberend’s assertion that the Fellowship should stay in an inn in Mithat known as the Hearth and Hound, take a day off and get themselves some wine and women.
Towards the end of the day, Oberend seemed determined to prove his point by volunteering the Fellowship for escort duty for the wagons of a landowner named Lierdor of Bellnar. This worthy had had his horses affrighted by the hound-form of Rhigonne, and in restitution, Oberend offered him the services of the Fellowship as far as Installin. Although Nedeal grated on the farmer’s arrogant manner, the others in the Fellowship submitted to the task, escorting the farmer, his six daughters and the two wagons of rope, earthenware and wooden goods to Installin. Lierdor proved himself a hearty, if abrasive soul, albeit rather too fond of the sound of his own voice and regretful that the deaths of all but one of his sons had left him with a surfeit of daughters to be wed off.
Upon leaving Lierdor and his daughters at Installin, the Fellowship discovereed young Beornas deeply in his cups in the Galdas Door. Unwilling to leave the young apprentice at the mercy of any unscrupulous souls, Kermorvan saw that his horse was stabled, a room was paid for and that he would be sent back to Rel Mord on the following morn. Then the Fellowship rode off in an effort to catch up with the procession before dusk fell. They reached them in the village of Ventharyl as they set camp within and between the inns the Giddy Guardsman and the Hippogriff. Alaysis among the Dawn Watch took herself a room, and Evan took himself away from the Fellowship to rest in a peaceful place. As the others practiced, he retreated in meditation, emerging to find himself surrounded by 13-15 olve in the branches of nearby trees. Unwilling to disturb their slumber, he crept away silently to sleep with his companions.
The next morning, the 24th, the Fellowship arose to find Kayben once again practicing. After he had completed his work out and Evan had aided in conducting the dawn ceremony of Pelor, all continued south. The morning was quiet, with occasional company on the road in the form of merchant, soldiers and some dwor from the Principality of Ulek heading north. After a brief stop for lunch, the Fellowship found themselves heading into harsher lands come the evening. Late on,the procession reached Arneven, where the road split, one branch going to Mithat, the other to Oldred. Gathering in the Green Lobster inn, the Fellowship were joined by Karyistne and Oberend. After reminiscing over old journeys, the duke was persuaded to ask Alcas Wirritgonne, Margrave of Midmeadow, to send mercenaries or a war company north to check on the Phostwood and the Legion. After this grave matter was closed, talk turned to lighter things and the Fellowship was left briefly alone.
Briefly, for a tall man soon joined them, asking if he might speak with them. Taken to one of the rooms being occupied by the Fellowship, he revealed that his name was Regaine, and that he had been appraoched in Womtham by a tall man who had paid him to carry a message to the Fellowship, whom he had been told would be travelling to Mithat. The message, it turned out, came in the form of a pouch that held a piece of parchment wrapped around a miniature shield. The shield, made of gold, had upswept points and in shape was somewhat similar to an Olidamarran symbol. On one side it bore the name “Kenvarn,’ which Haolden recalled as a district of Mithat renowned for its delicate glasswork, among them crystal swans. The other side bore a symbol that reflected elements of both Rao and Hextor, identical to one seen by the Fellowship in Mowbrenn at the time of their search for Lynwerd. The parchment said simply, “Be swift, be silent, be brutal,” the same message that Lynwerd had given to the Fellowship when he had laid the fourth decree upon them.
All of these items appeared, from Haolden’s perusal, to bear no enchantments, so the bard stowed them safely away. Of more interest was the nature of a man who would send them such messages: Regaine said only that this man was tall, red haired, well dressed and bore a fine sword in a scabbard with platinum links. If the Fellowship had ideas as to who this man might be, and he seemed in some ways to resemble their old comrade Garak, they kept such thoughts to themselves as the bade thanks and farewell to Regaine and took to their beds.
The next morning, the 25th, all gathered once more at the south gate to take the road to Mithat. The Dawn Watch and their retinue were only to follow this trail for a short time before turning off for Entrall’s lands, and indeed, as afternoon began to turn to evening, amid the broken land of that part of Nyrond which drew near to the burning plains of Almor, farewells were said and paths were parted. Oberend, offering what aid he could, passed on to Kermorvan a letter for Gendaine, the provost marshall of Mithat. Then both parties rode on, each to their apportioned tasks.
As the sun began to set, a different glow became apparent in the south. The burning plains of Almor were drawing nigh, and Evan, who hailed from that ruined land, wished to look upon them. The distance was as yet too great, but all rode to the heights of a ridge where the southern sky could be seen pained a sullen red. Evan lingered for a time and finally joined his comrades in the ruins of a town hall where they camped for the night. On the second watch, taken by Kermorvan, the paladin witnessed the strange sight of what seemed like lightning playing over the ground to the northwest. This was also noted by Kayben, who took the next watch, but by the time of the dawn watch, taken by Nedeal and Evan, it had dissipated.
After a breakfast in the old style—in that it was cooked by Nedeal—the diminished company arose and continued on its way. They had not gone overly far when, approaching a small cluster of ruined houses, Haolden was suddenly struck in the chest by three tightly-packed arrows. Falling from his horse, his shoulder broken, the bard was tended to by Kermorvan, who he had been speaking with but moments before. In this effort, Kermorvan too was struck and his steed bolted, though it did not go far before he recalled it with a word. As he and Evan sought cover with the stricken Haolden, Evan was struck twice before they could lock shields and protect themselves. At length, Haolden was healed of the most grievous hurt of his wounds and began to weave his magics.
When the Fellowship began their retaliation, it was swift and instantly deadly. Nedeal, who had taken a single arrow wound, arose from his advanced position and loosed two arrows that flew unerringly to strike a figure in a window. Haolden arose as well, and, protected from arrows by a magic of his, enmeshed the house from which the first assault had come in a sticky web. In doing so, he also espied a sniper upon the roof of a second house, loosing an arrow that struck Evan. At the first house, Kayben had worked his way around and found himself confronted by an olve who had escaped from the webbing. As those two engaged in furious combat, Nedeal leapt through a window of the webbed house, protected from the entangling effects by the ring that granted him freedom of movement. There he found his first target dead with a single arrow in his forehead, the first arrow having been splintered by the second. A second figure still struggled to escape the webs, and this Nedeal dispatched swiftly.
Outside, Kayben struggled against his foe, who seemed to possess exceptional skill with the sword, and for all that the Lyranthir could do, luck was not with him and he suffered several grievous blows. Haolden, meantimes, had turned his attention to the sniper, first staggering him with an array of magical darts and then striking down both he and the roof he stood on with a bolt of lightning. However, as he sought to move closer to the house, a second bolt of lightning stabbed out towards him, searing his good shoulder and just avoiding serious harm. In response, he wove a mist around the house so that none within could see to attack beyond. Further than that he could not do, for all his companions had worked their way around the first house and found Kayben falling in combat against the elf. As Kermorvan stood before his stricken comrade and Evan sought to heal him, Nedeal struck from behind and that fight was shortly over. Then all that remained was the second house, which Nedeal and Haolden eventually discovered to be empty, with no sign of either the sniper or whoever it was had loosed the bolt of lightning.
As they recovered under Evan’s healing powers, the Fellowship discovered that their attackers had all been olve, and that there were no tracks to be found in the ground thereabouts. Indeed, Nedeal, ranging into the lands nearby, found no signs of their attackers or their passage. Haolden did discover two pouches and a small box under the floorboards of the house that he had webbed, the pouches containing untouched food and the box containing a beautifully crafted mirror, a flute, a set of dragontiles and a parchment that bore fine representations of all the Fellowship, save Evan, with Berenn and Dyrdrae also added. As for the olve, the one slain by Kermorvan and Nedeal seemed well built and tall, at three inches over six foot, and was clad in well-made quilted armour with a black leather gauntlet bedecked with olven runes stating “Guide the hand of Aenaylar.” This one wore a golden chain with the symbol of Corellion while the other wore a chain with the symbol of Solenor Thalandyr, huntress and markswoman of the Seldarine. Their dress was akin to that of the olve of the Highfolk, far to the west, and as the Fellowship laid them out in a nearby grove, they were felt to have markings in their left armpits, which Kermorvan’s shield revealed as green smudges with red centres. However, they could not been seen clearly, so it was decided to retain one of the bodies and wait until dawn, when the magics of Haolden or Evan could more clearly reveal this.
Thus all rested in the first house, their minds astir at the strange nature of their attackers and how they could strike so swiftly and so accurately and yet fail to slay any of the Fellowship. More, of how they fell so swiftly under the blows of the Fellowship, being less hardy than other elves the Fellowship had encountered. all these things were, however, forgotten as sleep stole in. It was during the second watch, kept by Nedeal and Kermorvan, that a strange thing occurred. Footsteps were heard approaching and a thumping without. Nedeal, who went outside, encountered a being that he could describe only as something approximating to Nerull in the olven scheme of things. This being demanded the body of the olve the Fellowship had retained, and departed when it was given him. When the Fellowship awoke the next morn, they discovered that not only had the bodies disappeared, but so too had all of their effects and possessions.
Thus, Nedeal was somewhat disturbed when the last shadows of the night were dispelled by the sun. The strange visitor had not only taken but had given—the Fellowship’s arms and armour were as good as new, and all of their wounds had vanished, leaving nary a scar. Kermorvan related that Imyrus had perceived the olve as being empty and that their souls had departed their forms swiftly, in a manner most unusual. The Fellowship, knowing not what to make of this strange encounter, journeyed on along the road to Mithat, once more falling into old habits of watchfulness and proper care.
Some five miles further on, they came within sight of Dioras’s Dyke, a huge earthenwork defence raised by the citizenry of Mithat in 584 C.Y. as a final line of battle in the event of the fall of the Blazebane. Although it had never been needed for its ultimate purpose, it remained as a silent reminder of the need for due care. Closer still they came to Mithat, which had walls bedecked with the colours of the royal house and of the city. A mention of Oberend’s message to the provost marshall at the gates earned the Fellowship passage and directions to the Sea Keep towards the south of the city. Kermorvan noted that the walls of the city were dwor work, without mortar, upon older human work that served as foundation for the stronger outer. In the harbour, they saw many ships of the royal navy at rest, with 8 galleys and 12 caravels making up some four tenths of the navy’s strength.
Passing by the city’s brothels, which not all the Fellowship were appreciative of, they came to rest at the Temple of Zilchus and its market, where they received directions for the Sea Keep. They passed from thence to the docks and came at last to the Sea Keep, which flew no banners of the royal house. There they were questioned by a guard who at length let them through to see Gendaine, the provost marshall, a tall, dark haired man who was sketching as they approached him. The message from Oberend was duly passed on, and Gendaine offered his thanks along with his certitude that he would meet the Fellowship again.
That task completed, the fellowship chose now to find the Hearth and Hound, recommended to them by Oberend. This, they soon discovered, was on the other side of the river that bisected the city. Crossing that river, they came to the inn in question, though a delay occurred when Nedeal, accompanied by Kermorvan, took himself to the harbourmaster’s office to inquire as to whether his ship, the Sun Tzu, had been in the docks in recent days. To his relief, he found that it had been in Mithat some five weeks before and had returned south. Leaving a message for its captain, he returned to the Hearth and Hound and his companions.
The Hearth and Hound turned out to be a somewhat atypical inn, being clean and quiet and largely unoccupied. The proprietor, a man named Falnayr, at first stated that he had no rooms, but when the Fellowship related that Oberend had advised them to take lodging in this establishment, he not only provided them with lodging, giving Kermorvan a room in a corner tower that contained a shrine to Pelor, but offered them strawberries as well. Their fine rooms, much larger than they were generally used to, impressed the Fellowship, as did one of their fellow lodgers, a stunningly attractive woman who introduced herdelf as Tanalasta of Niole Dra.
After food had been taken, Evan removed himself to the Temple of Pelor, where he sought peace and solitude with prayer and meditation in a cell. Kermorvan sought to ask whether there might be a temple of Mayaheine in the city, but that edifice, it was revealed, lay in the Blazbane, some miles to the south and east. Those remaining in the Hearth and Hound discussed the matter of their task and how the church of Hextor could be related to it. However, a more disturbing thought, related to the Tenhas and the threat to the north, also occurred to them, and the rest of the night was passed in deep and involved conversation of where the future was leading and what might be done about it.
Drawn from the writings of Haolden Greatheart.
Quote of the Week
John & Steve: “Transmuters, mages in disguise…” (Sung to the theme tune of a once-popular TV show.)