Things in this life are often much, much stranger than the books I read in Meros’ tower could have prepared me to encounter. I write this by campfire, surrounded by a paladin, a barbarian, a bard and a terror, on our way to infiltrate a tower to rescue an Elven ambassadora. That’s how this journey began, so long ago, around a campfire. But from here to there…how strange seems the tale.
Following my illness, we heard that an attempt was to be made on Prince Donovan’s life. Though I have my own opinions of the man, the success of such a plot would serve to greatly destabilize Allandria, thus undoing a great many things we have worked so hard to achieve. Thus, we decided to attend a banquet being held at Castle Hallowdwell to prevent the assassination.
The situation in Hallowdwell has grown increasingly tenuous. Refugees from Arktfar, and even southern Allandria, have come to seek the protection of the thus-far impregnable walls of Hallowdwell. However, food production has sharply decreased, since the farmers flee the Deathwind and crops fail under its pestilence. Tent cities of people with no more than the clothes upon their back have sprung up around the city, resources have grown scarce, outbreaks of disease have arisen more frequently. In this scenario, it is unsurprising that there is a palpable tension brewing. To host a feast, in the midst of this misery, is a poor tactical choice. But as my dealings with these Allandrians have shown, clearheaded thinking is not one of their strong suits.
Thus, Coronatum loaned himself out to the Royal Guard to help keep the rabble protesting at the gates from erupting into a full-scale riot. I made plans with the dwarf Ironstone, to coordinate security. Hilde infiltrated the kitchen to be on the lookout for poisons, a method for the deed we deemed most likely. Aislynn, unsurprisingly, took to the shadows to watch the banquet hall unobserved. Lahktar and I decided to impersonate ambassadors from Lorut and Protence; we hoped that our presence might find its way to the heart of the Deathwind and make it appear that Allandria had more allies that it truly had, as well as giving us a clear view of the hall should an attacker make a brazen move.
I spoke with the Arktfarians, those ancient enemies of Allandria, my most likely suspect to want to destabilize the nation. The Arktfarian noble I spoke with was a proud man, and abject in his misery over his fallen homeland, but he held no guile. I took the opportunity to warn the ambassadora that there was a plot that might affect her too; she has proven a capable warrior and might be able to fend off an attack, given warning of it. I sat back at the table, only to be bothered by Lahktar, who noticed that the ambassadora was wandering off with the prince. We followed, mainly because Lahktar swore something was amiss.
And I will be damned to the many hells if he wasn’t right. As we entered the garden, we discovered the prince not in a passionate embrace, but being attacked by a shapeshifter. Allies that had managed to slip through ambushed us, and battle was joined. Coronatum and the Royal Guard prevented the assassins from escaping, and we dispatched the ground with great efficiency. After winning the battle, we tried to get some information from the shapeshifter, but only learned that the Crimson Brotherhood, that infamous guild of assassins, was behind it. Having no use for him and knowing that an attack on the royal family was a capital offense anyway, I let Aislynn dispatch him. One less mouth in the dungeon to feed, and one less ally of the Deathwind to focus upon.
Upon the assassins, we found a few useful items. The shifter wore a black cloak that not only fit my wardrobe but contained many pockets. Even better, these pockets were actually portals to quite literal “pocket dimensions”, that would allow secure storage of items without weighing me down. Lahktar found an unusual die, with pictograms upon its six sides. The very idea of chaotic magic disturbs and distresses me. The path of magical study that I find appealing is orderly magic, reliable magic. Magic that requires great focus and willpower to shape the world around you, to bend the laws of nature to your command. I know that there are those, particularly in Greenwood, that practice the magic of the feywild, and those that would act as mere conduits for the power of the Elemental Chaos. But I am no mere conduit, and I prefer to know exactly what my powers are and what I can do with them.
Unsurprisingly, Lahktar has become mildly obsessed with the die.
Once we were done with the shifter, we placed the prince in the care of Bohm and the clerics of Pelor. The assassins had poisoned him, proving one of our predictions to be true. The poison was a crafty one; too much would kill Donovan, but withholding it from him entirely would also kill him. The antidote would be difficult to create, and without a full understanding of the poison we might do more harm than good. We decided to leave the prince at the temple, and hoped we might discover the poison’s origin by discovering the origin of the poisoners.
We spent the rest of the day acquiring information on the whereabouts of the ambassadora; the Crimson Brotherhood may be a tightly-run organization, but even the tightest ships have leaks. It took a few hours, and a parade of savage, wholly unexpected beatings from Hilde, Aislynn and Coronatum, but eventually we found that leak. Turns out that the Brotherhood had already delivered the ambassadora to Arktfar; they may have planned on placing the shapeshifter in her place to even further infiltrate Allandria once the ransom had been paid. In an overall bad mood, we decided that we were going to take her back; we had escorted her to safety once, and I daresay it was a point of pride that we were going to take her back once again.
Before we left for Arktfar in the morning, I indulged Lahktar’s fascination with his new little bauble. I had made him swear to not roll the die until we discovered more about it, lest he wind up destroying half of Hallowdwell with the thing. We used the library of the Order of the Nightshade to try and find the history of this die. Though we did not find anything on this particular die, my personal curiosity was piqued by finding mention of Lilandra, one of Meros’ first two apprentices, who it has been rumored disappeared into the feywild. It mentioned her having one of these items in her possession. Needless to say, I was not comforted by this discovery, and made Lahktar swear to wait until we had left a populated area to try the damned thing out.
And so I find myself sitting by a campfire in a forest clearing, on the way to rescue an Elven ambassadora, itself highly unlikely, with four of the strangest people I could have met along the way. Perhaps some kind of feywild hex has been placed upon me after all. That would explain…hmpf. Some kind of shadow just passed over our campfire. Something tells me that things are about to get even stranger very soon.