After completing our errand of extermination against the heretics, we decided to leave Lorut and travel to Protence. Lahktar and Coronatum seemed intent upon rescuing the young whelp whose lack of manners had gotten him detained in Protence. Hilde, for her part, seemed to relish the opportunity to slaughter new, exotic opponents on the field of battle. Aislynn seemed quite reluctant to travel back to her homeland, which seemed to be home no more to her. As for me, I was rather looking forward to my first foray into Protence. Despite my heritage, and Protence’s well-established arcane history, Meros never saw fit to take me there. Perhaps he had his reasons. But then again, doesn’t he always have his reasons? For what it’s worth, perhaps it is best that I did not cross into the Violet Lands until now, when my grasp of mystic power is more confident. In Protence, I am told, power is everything. If that is the case, then I am glad that callow lad sitting around the campfire outside of Hallowdwell stayed far away.
Crossing over into the mountains, we encounted a band of birdmen who fancied themselves bandits. They were accompanied by hawks, but these sorry creatures were no more than vultures. Nevertheless, they had with them a mage. Not one of any particular school, judging from his elemental knowledge, crude and base…but also very effective. However, this band I have traveled with has survived an onslaught from this continent’s greatest wizard and lived. These bandits, though they had clearly been at the business for some time, were no match for us. We soon found ourselves picking through their leftover goods, a just and fitting conclusion to their misbegotten career.
Coming into Tal Kazat, the border outpost town right outside of the mountains, I could see the landscape of Protence. I have seen many things in my time. I have seen the sturdy walls of unconquered Hallowdwell. I have seen the polluted plains of Arktfar. I have beheld the verdant splendor of Greenwood, and taken in the soaring arches of Varancyn, mingled amongst the teeming mass of Port Nottrick and survived the merciless sands of the great desert. And yet, nothing could prepare me for the desolate majesty of Protence. The land seemed bathed in purple light, a tableau of empty spaces and broken only by dry brush that clung to life in this harsh place. This is a land that breeds survivors, a land where both strength and cunning are not needed so much to thrive as to survive. Here is a land for those who reflect, and for those who act. I feel that here, I shall do both, and in great quantity.
Once in town, we took some time to grow accustomed to our surroundings. We went about town, finding contacts amongst the disparate groups of Centralia that we never cease to cajole, threaten and convince to band together as one to stop the doom of all. Not long after we arrived, however, it seems that Coronatum and Hilde ran afoul of a group of slavers. It would seem that Coronatum had “released” a slave from his bonds through the offer of a proud death before a life of servitude. I do not disagree with the paladin on this; certainly, given the choice, I would rather die before giving myself body and mind over to someone else. However, slavery here is a function of crime, what must be an effective deterrent to those who value things like their own freedom. And yet, often entire families are damned for the actions of one. Of course, in Protence, what is sought is not justice, but vengeance. In that way, they have succeeded wildly.
However, faced with the prospect of losing two of my strongest companions to a slaver’s crown did not sit well with me. Neither did one of the slavers trying to take the Valkyrie away from Hilde. Unsurprisingly, she immediately began to tear apart the slavers, with Coronatum joining in just as fast. Noticing guards atop the parapets, ready to snipe away at my comrades, I managed to catch one off guard. She toppled from the parapet and landed with a heavy thump, not dead but certainly sore. Aislynn then stepped forward and proclaimed herself the “Lady Maelstrom”, not a bad ploy here in Protence where even the servants of a powerful noble fear to cross another one, lest they draw their master into a bloody conflict. They released Hilde and Coronatum, and even managed to call the matter of reimbursement even by pointing to the dents in Coronatum’s armor. And so, to these miscreants, life is cheap, armor is not.
Having created this persona for Aislynn, we quickly honed our story. The Lady Maelstrom was a noble from Bal Tehnrot, come out into the hinterlands to personally check out potential investment opportunities at the many dig sites at the foot of the mountains. Lahktar went out amongst the bars, taverns, drinking establishments and public houses to spread the wealth of the “Lady” around, with Coronatum keeping an eye to make sure no one got too greedy and decide to take off with the bard’s entire purse. Meanwhile, I sought after Deftblade, who was in town on Wander business, and found a bruised Elhazra with him. It turned out that she was the woman atop the tower, disguised through a clever use of a polymorph potion. I apologized for my action, but hoped that she would understand. What I did not understand was the familiarity between Deftblade and Elhazra. When did this alliance form, and to what end? How long was she hiding this from me, and why? And more over, how dare that randy little cutpurse slap her bottom like she were some common whore? He disappeared before I could lay into him, but I remain committed on giving the halfling a full lesson in manners the next time we cross paths.
The end to all this chicanery was to attract the attention of the Lady Varya, who Aislynn bore a particularly potent grudge against. Considering that she did much of the dirty work in the intrigues that led to her family being led to ruin and her into slavery, I cannot find fault in her feeling sore toward the woman. But Aislynn, taking victories where she can, was actually quite thrilled to find her quarry in Tal Kazat. Having fallen out of the graces of the Archmage Vorpat, whose graces she gained during the treachery that Aislynn seeks vengeance for, she had now fled to this border town to either lay low, or to make a discovery that would put her back in the graces of the Archmage. Hearing of another noble, one of apparent largesse, in this town would put her on the defensive…and believing in the principle of keeping one’s friends close and enemies closer, she invited us into her manor. No doubt, to size up the competition.
But it was us who were the victims of a ruse, as the Lady Varya had been scrying, peering into our adventures. Yet she did not seem to recognize Aislynn, which we turned to our advantage saying that we had merely been hired by “Lady Maelstrom” as trusted bodyguards and advisors. I expected Aislynn to strike while we had the chance, but Varya had the one thing that Aislynn wanted even more than vengeance—information on her long-lost brother, separated from her during her family’s downfall. But the Lady was shrewd, honed by years of playing the Great Game of Protence. She demanded we delve into her dig site, where her workers had not yet found anything of worth, and bring back the relics she was certain laid within.
And so we delved into the mines, taking with us a few journeymen thieves from the Twilight Wanderers who had plenty of experience with looting ruins, finding the entrance to a hidden chamber but no way in. Luckily, what we could not find, time provided. The floor, weak from age and neglect, caved in and we were dropped deeper into complex. The fall was not as bad as what we found when we landed, which was a room full of ogres. How they survived, sealed underground, I did not know. Then again, when having to dodge the tree-trunk sized clubs they were swinging, I did not put much effort into finding out. The Wanderers did their best to repel their attacks, but the end results were messy and unfortunate for these erstwhile second-story men. We perservered, and when we fell the ogres, they melted into nothing. Whatever force we found here, it was powerful, and very angry.
As were the spectral ogres. As we fought another roomful, the massive impact of their clubs caused the room to begin to cave in. We fought until the entire ceiling fell, crushing our foes but also separating our party. After a bit of tunneling through the rubble, we were able to reform and press onward. Entering into the final chamber, we faced an undead ogre mage, feeding off a column of necrotic energy. I dispelled the energy, but it returned. While our party valiently fought off the undead horrors, I noticed disk in the back of the room, glowing with malevolent energy. I ran to the other side of the room, teleporting when an ogre’s fist threatened to crush me into pulp, and began investigating the icon. It was well-crafted, and strong, but it was no match for the arcane flame I conjured. It melted, and with the source of their power removed, the ogres fell to our swords.
And so our quest is complete, and truths are to be told. After that…we shall see what quality of mercy Aislynn possesses. I suspect that depends heavily on the truths that are told.