24-25 Gozran, 44 NC
THE STORY SO FAR
Sergei Volkov and Smoot, both former Black Rose Society officers, have been waging a civil war against Duke Stephen Tyr for years, and gather a group of individuals together to help end the war by invading the city of Westergarde. They seek to rescue Jacob Mengst, the son of Kironius Mengst and Anastasia Altair (the heir of former Emperor Joseph Altair). Smoot assigns one of his specialists named Dan Strait to the team.
At the same time, Lord General Isaac Vane, commander of the Kisharan armies at High Guard Fortress, and Thane Ironfist (nee Gronk, nee Ari Stonehand, RIngwielder of Earth), conspire to take advantage of the Kisharan Waygate being buried to slay Aril Flambeau, Ringwielder of Fire and leave Khevoran in the hands of Cyan Marinetta, Ringwielder of Water, who, Vane claims, is willing to let the people of Kehvoran rule themselves in peace. To this end, he sends several spies into the North, including his apprentice Matten Rassk and house guard Nimue Levinsdaughter to insinuate themselves into Volkov’s army and eventually forge an alliance. Ironfist sends a Dwarf named Kagdir Throrson to Volkov to help, and to act as an escort for Matten.
Meanwhile, Shara Tev, who has been sheltering a Halfling named Sanorin Fafnir for several years, is assaulted and killed by Gideon Nell. Before her death, she sends Sanorin and their mutual friend Syl to Volkov’s care, notifying Jacob Dain, the Wizard of the Wilds of Sanorin’s value. It turns out that Sanorin is completely immune to the powers of the Ringwielders, and seems to be connected to the land in a very unique way, much like another famous halfling Peruppi Dentkettle.
Jacob befriends an extremely articulate and resourceful goblin named Snot (or Starry Night Over Trees) who has been named Stra’Chick by his people, which is somewhat of a cross between a king and a champion, and has been sent to deal with the surface peoples to help his people escape the denizens of the depths and aid in fighting the Kisharans.
After securing some siege equipment, the party invades Westergarde and slays Tyr. They secure the Ring of Spirit that had previously been won by Kironius Mengst and free Jacob Mengst and Ralben, the wizened chronicler of the Black Rose Society who had been acting as a ward and teacher of young Jacob during his capture at Westergarde. Here, young Jacob meets Delayne Muerdetta, the XO of the BRS, who had been accompanying Volkov’s army. By all accounts, the pair become smitten and disappear together with both the Ring of Spirit, and a book that was in Ralben’s possession. He indicates that his book would provide the Ringwielders with a huge advantage, and perhaps grant them greater control of the Waygate. Furthermore, now that the book is out of Ralben’s possession, he insists the Ringwielders will be able to track it.
At very nearly the same time, Vane’s army invades the North, scattering the BRS army defending at Everwatch, and slaying their CO Captain Tennyson. As this goes against Matten’s narrative of Vane’s intent, Volkov and Smoot send the party to meet with Vane in secret and deliver a communication device so they can parlay.
The party is ferried on a flying ship by Poppy Sokeldodge, a halfling of some renown who, halfway into the trip, changes course to go avenge the death of her friend Vladimir Korgammsen at Westergarde by slaying the ancient elf Leitus ar’Shamrael’Vin and his servant Gideon Nell. With Poppy’s help, the party does so, discovering on the way that Leitus was attempting to build his own Waygate and desperately wanted to take possession of Ralben’s book as well.
After disposing of Leitus and his Waygate, the party encounters a Kisharan airship and ends up securing it. In the captain’s paperwork, they find evidence that the ship has standing orders to seek someone looking like Mengst and Ralben, as well as a book matching Ralben’s description of the tome.
The party eventually comes into contact with Vane at the farmhouse where the Altair family fled to after the initial Kisharan invasion. Vane says he was ordered by Flambeau to invade and to find the tome at all costs. To that end, he’s scattered his forces into the North to seek it out.
Now that Vane and the party are together, the subject of ending the Kisahran reign comes up again. The window of opportunity will likely only last until Flambeau unearths the Kisharan Waygate in the South, which is likely to occur in weeks, not months. And Vane comes to the key problem facing them all:
“So…we need to kill Aril Flambeau. Any ideas?”
The second day after dropping off the excess people, we found the army. Or parts of it; it looked far too small to be an invading force. The idea was to get to Volkov and meet with him, somehow. Obviously, walking into the camp with a tail of halflings sounded like a Very Bad Idea. Even pretending they were prisoners would be far too risky; all it would take was a greedy officer, and we might have to fight. So, caution. We decided that Matten and I would go to the camp to find Vane and ask him to meet us at a farm nearby. The way Poppy mentioned it, it sounded as if it should be spelled with a capital F; it was clearly an important place, or a historically important place. The rest would drop off near the Farm and keep an eye on the place, and join us when we got there, while the airship would continue on to Volkov’s forces.
I was not sure how Matten would want to play this; he had been in regular touch with Vane, it seemed, while I hadn’t spoken to him, or communicated with him, for years. Also, I wanted to keep a low profile. It would probably be safe, but I had gotten into the habit of keeping my cover at all times, no sense in breaking it now. Besides, there was no way to know for certain who might be listening.
We got to the picket lines without trouble, and were taken to his tent, where we were told that Vane wasn’t there. The soldiers there were obviously in awe when they realised who Matten was; that suited me well enough, it kept the attention away from me. Not that I thought it very likely that we’d run into anyone who’d recognise me here, and even less likely that they’d end up talking to any of the others, but still. And since I knew Vane had people inside Volkov’s forces, I wasn’t going to assume Volkov didn’t have anyone in Vane’s forces, so the less attention I drew, the better.
I have to admit, I was also looking forward to see Vane again. It had been less than four years, but it felt like forever. Sometimes, all those years I spent in the South seem like a dream. I suppose part of that is because I have to keep it at a distance, to avoid making mistakes. Trying to not even think about those years; thinking about it too much would bring it too close, and might cause me to say the wrong thing, react the wrong way. Most likely, I was being paranoid, but considering how popular Vane was in the North, I thought it best to err on the side of caution.
At Vane’s tent, the guards there told us, or rather, told Matten, that Vane wasn’t there, but that he had left Matten a message should he show up. An coded message, telling Matten where to find him.
Poppy had been right, in that Vane knew where the Farm was. Because that was where he told Matten to meet him. So chances were, the others might run straight into him. They were supposed to land away from the Farm and check it out first, but considering how things had worked out so far, they had probably landed at the Farm itself, and might end up killing, or being killed by, Vane. He would have no reason to trust them, they would probably not trust him either. But hopefully, they would refrain from killing each other until we got there. They had to know we would join them sooner or later.
Given Matten’s effect on the soldiers there, getting a couple of horses was fairly easy. Hopefully, getting a visit from Vane’s apprentice wouldn’t be that much of an oddity. Most likely, his current mission wasn’t widely known. We just had to hope that no one important knew that he was supposed to be in the North, working with Volkov.
It took longer than I liked, but we did get to the Farm eventually. The first thing I noticed was Vane, chopping firewood. The second thing was Syl, yelling to Matten that they’d found Vane. Obviously, no one had killed anyone, and they seemed to be on friendly enough terms, so it seemed our mission was on tracks. I saw no sign of the airship, so most likely, it had left and headed towards Volkov’s forces.
At Syl’s shout, Vane looked up and spotted us. Or rather, he spotted Matten. He roared and rushed over, grabbing Matten in a great hug. I might have been imagining things, but I thought Matten looked a bit uncomfortable. Perhaps he hadn’t been quite ready to show the others how close he and Vane actually were.
And then he spotted me. He shouted “You! I didn’t see you!” and gave me a hug as well. Instict as much as anything made me try to salvage the situation, stammering something to make it seem as if I was confused about his greeting. He looked at me and told me that if he and Volkov were going to work together, there would be no more secrets. Which was a relief; I really didn’t want to make up some thin excuse for this group. They would probably be pretty angry with me anyway, and I suppose I can’t blame them. They will probably see this as a betrayal, though I’m pretty sure I never actually lied to them, except from lies of omission. Except, I suppose, the small, usual lies that everyone makes. You know, the “this tasted great!”, “you look good” and “it’s gonna be ok” kind of lies.
Still, I was expecting an interesting chat with the rest of the team.