Saturday, January 27, 2007

Dorben, entry 31 ---30th Flamerule thru Midsummer Day--- Icy discoveries, negotiations for a life and preparations for the coming storm

Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
30th Flamerule, Year of the Haunting – Evening addendum

---Things have turned out somewhat differently from how I had thought when I ended my last scribing. We have returned to our rooms in Bloodstone city for the evening and most likely a bit longer. This decision was arrived at on the river bank after only a short discussion. We had thought that one of us would take Sa’d back to the city while the rest remained behind to strike at the void wraiths upon their return. But we soon came to the conclusion that there was no guarantee the creatures would actually come back. In retrospect I do believe that in future I shall reserve attempts to Turn the incorporeal undead for a last resort and simply pummel them with spells instead.

While preparing to depart we happened to make quite a discovery. None of us had been terribly surprised that Aedron had found little difficulty in hauling the sheet of ice holding the remains of the paper monster from the river. It was when it slid so easily up onto the shore that our curiosity was piqued. A few of us lifted an edge of the ice sheet and saw that the bottom had taken roughly the shape of sled runners. When we mentioned this to Aedron he made to lift the ice sheet as well and thus we ascertained the true depth of our discovery. Only part of the ice sheet lifted at his hands, bending near the middle of its mass without breaking or even cracking. Aedron seemed as astounded as the rest of us. We encouraged him to further explore this new found talent and before long he had folded a roughly forty foot long triangular sheet of perhaps two fingers’ thickness into a solid block compact enough to fit in a large bag.

I can only hypothesize as to how Aedron came by this newfound ability. Only recently the pelt of his fur armor seemed to take on a somewhat different texture. Also, only recently, he has taken on a somewhat more “frost giantish” cast to his features. His hair changed from the palest of blond to snow white; the iris of his eyes has changed from pale blue to truly the appearance of rings of ice and his skin has taken a somewhat more bluish cast. I can only hazard a guess that his latent frost giant bloodline has somehow matured further, possibly awakened in some way by interacting with the Soulforge items gifted to us. Considering the general weather patterns of these Damaran lands, his abilities could be very, very useful in the future.

Whatever the case may be, it is only a part of our ongoing story. We wrapped the still slightly melting ice block in blankets and then into a bag and got on our way. No hazards crossed our path during the short journey and Bloodstone was soon around us once again. Aedron and Illandria made their way immediately to one of the local icehouses to put the monster’s remains in cold storage. The rest of us made our way soon enough to the Tymoran temple. Unfortunately, their healers were as vexed as we as to what to do at that point. Even as we examined Sa’d for some clue, the creature was rewriting text in unknown script upon Sa’d’s body. This brought to light an idea. Since those of the church of Oghma cleave strongly to the path of discovery and recovery of the written word, we thought they might have some idea as to what this creature was that we were dealing with.

And so, we made our way to the Oghmite temple with our bundled up halfling. It took little more than a glance at Sa’d’s arm as text erased and scribed across his flesh to convince them to grant us audience. More high ranking members of their learned church gathered to scrutinize Sa’d from head to toe, literally. I was informed later that Nia and Sa’d were able to overhear a few of those gathered speaking of a creature known as a Binder. It seems that this creature is some sort of extraplanar construct and the Oghmites seemed eager to examine it.

See as how the Binder was currently inhabiting Sa’d’s skin, it seemed right that it was he who negotiated a deal with the church healers. After some haggling they came to an agreement whereby the church of Oghma would remove and take possession of the Binder, healing Sa’d and returning him to us whole and healthy and in exchange, they will provide any members of our party with what research assistance they may proffer at half price for the next three years. A contract to that effect was soon drawn up and the parties involved signed and sealed. We did have to leave Sa’d in their care since they believe the process will most likely take them the better part of two to three days. Sa’d did not seem concerned and I believe he was in the process of arranging a card game as we left. I wonder if the Oghmites’ readings have taught them how to beat a halfling at cards?

Nia and I made our way across the city to the ice house. It was just as Aedron had described it, quite large and thick walled. We found Illandria and Aedron making themselves comfortable within. It hadn’t really occurred to me until then that none of us had been bothered by the quite brisk temperatures of our adopted land. Even the interior of the icehouse was not terribly uncomfortable. It was obvious to me that it was freezing cold, and yet, I did not find myself terribly anxious to leave. I believe this must be some aspect of the Soulforged items once again. And I must say I am glad to have it.

While they had been waiting for us, Aedron had been experimenting further with his new command of snow and ice. The most amazing to me was his ability to seamlessly close the gaps between blocks of ice to form one solid mass. He had put this to good use in sealing the Binder’s remains, which were now within an insulated box, in the center of a huge block of solid ice. He assured us, and then demonstrated that he could just as easily render the mass back down to blocks suitable for distribution.

And Aedron had not been the only one making interesting use of the time. Little Dunno had made a miniature sculpture of our Keep; not as a ruin but as a fully built fortress. I am no expert but I believe she may have the proportions in all but perfect miniature scale. She had roughed out the basic shape quite well with the miniature greataxe Nia had had crafted for her not too long ago but seemed to have come to a stalling point. Illandria cast a spell to speak with our furry little friend and soon related that Dunno felt she could not proceed further since she did not have small enough tools to finish the details. Nia chirruped that she believed she had just the thing and retrieved a set of fairly fine picks and files in a soft leather case from her décolletage. Dunno was thrilled and set back to work.

While Dunno was finishing her project Nia and I took care of a few errands. I simply drafted a short note to the General to inform him that we were in the city for the night and to ask if he might wish to send a scribe tonight. It seems most assured that the dreams are occurring during the nights of the full moon once again and I thought it best to have a trained scribe ready rather than trusting only to my meager scribblings.

Nia set out to replace the fine picks and files she had just donated to the cause of art. I can hardly see Nia’s great-hearted and giving nature demanding the small tool set back from Dunno after it had so obviously made her so happy. I am fairly certain that Aedron will have to carry the tools for her though. It seems hardly likely that she could take flight with that weight. I do not know where Nia went to make her purchase and I am not wont to ask since she did not offer to tell. She returned quite a few coins poorer but obviously VERY happy with her purchase. She did not simply procure replacement tools, oh no. What she found herself quite the tool, for it is only one item. When we had both returned to our friends at the icehouse, she proudly displayed her find. It appears to be simply a metal cylinder of perhaps five inches in length and only one in breadth. But when Nia held it and concentrated, the cylinder shaped itself into tool after tool. Nia said she was sure her new “multitool” was well worth the money and we were certainly inclined to believe her.

The quest for her multitool had not been a short trip for Nia and by the time she had returned, Dunno was putting the finishing touches on her sculpture. It really is quite a lovely work of art. We did not test it but the front gates appeared to have a functioning portcullis. Aedron’s little friend certainly seems to have the eye and imagination of an architect. Through Illandria, Dunno explained that this was how she thought the Keep is supposed to be; how she sees it in her mind. Again, I must say that her work is quite well done. I only hope we may find some way to make her little sculpture immune to melting. That is one thing that is beyond Aedron’s new talents. For now, her wonderful work is safe and secure within the icehouse. Aedron gave the proprietors enough gold to more than pay for the ice put to use for his enclosure and Dunno’s sculpture, so I think there is no problem there.

Again we have taken rooms at the Silver Stallion. Ah, I have just been informed the General has indeed sent a scribe to attend me this evening. And it is creeping up on my time for my bed. By my Lady’s grace I shall write again soon.

*****

Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
Midsummer Day, The Year of the Haunting

---It seems the events shown to Aedron and I in our dream visions have taken a turn for the worse. I awoke in such a lather to take the news to the General that I neglected to record my memory of the vision. I shall remedy that now.
The visual focus of the dream vision began in the middle of the blizzard. I could still see the gaping hole in the side of the mountain, snow, ice and wind pouring out at an unprecedented rate and volume. The view turned downward and I could see the silhouettes of a myriad of troops flowing ever onward from the gate, seemingly unperturbed by the tempest. The group of robed figures I had seen earlier seemed to be fewer in number. For some reason I had the feeling that this was not the only such group; that it was in actuality simply one example of many. As my vision focused upon this group, one of the robed figures began to sway and then swooned and fell limp to the ground. It quickly became evident that the loss of that one individual had been the breaking point for the invisible barrier. The winds began to tear through in one place and then another and another until the barrier was finally torn completely asunder and the blizzard blew freely. And the force of this blizzard was even stronger than the first I had seen in my dreams. As the dream vision slowly turned, it became clear that there was some twenty-five feet of snow accumulated on the ground in the span of only a day’s time.

It was at that point that I awoke, bolted upright from my bed and insisted that the scribe assist me in donning my armor. I felt that what I had seen was too important to trust to interpretation through writings. I felt I must take word to the General myself. It was the snow piled upon the ground of that mountain pass that lent speed and urgency to my actions. Where as the first dreams had ended with approximately five feet of new snow piled upon the ground below that mountain gate after three days, this new storm had apparently dropped some four times that amount in the span of only one. It is unclear if the storm’s force had been somehow concentrated by the interference of the invisible barrier or if this was simply a much more intense storm. But the last time this happened, the valley of Bloodstone was blanketed with three feet of snow within two days and most of their summer crops were threatened. I shuddered to think what a second such blow might do.

As I said, the scribe helped me don my armor fairly quickly we made speed to the General’s offices once more. I believe Illandria may have accompanied me as we left the inn but I am not sure. I do remember speaking to her in passing in the hall or common room I believe but I must admit that I am a bit fuzzy headed on whether or not I noticed her again while I was gone from there. Admittedly, she is another of our masters of stealth and I would be hard pressed to notice her if she did not wish to be. Anyway, be that as it may, we made good speed and were taken to the General without delay.

I once again related the entirety of my dream visions to the General and my feelings about the intensity of the coming storm. Knowing him as a military man, I made sure to describe the troops I had seen as best I could and mentioned that they did seem to be continuing on the trail which had led the initial blizzard army into northern Vaasa. The General assured me that preparations for the coming storm were already underway.

Unfortunately, I again made somewhat of a spectacle of myself while relating the dream visions to the General. We had been speaking for some minutes before a service of tea was brought in for us. The General helped himself and I was about to do the same when a well dressed gentleman entered. He was unarmored but very well dressed. His strong bearing left me with an almost certainty that this older gentleman must be another of the paladin’s in the General’s service. I say ‘older’ because I felt sure that he must be older than I by at least two handfuls of summers, if not a bit more. If I had only known. Since I was pouring anyway, I offered the gentleman a cup of tea and asked how he liked it, which seemed the polite and proper thing to do. It was only at that moment that it registered in my immediate thought processes that the General had just referred to this gentleman as “Your Highness” and I realized I was speaking so cavalier to King Gareth himself. The tea all but forgotten, I dropped to one knee as I had been taught was the proper thing to do in the presence of the King of the land. I am sorry to say that my actions embarrassed King Gareth somewhat. He asked me to get up and thanked me for the efforts I and my companions had been putting forth to help his kingdom. He remained only a few more moments and then took his leave.

When King Gareth was out of polite hearing range, the General advised me not to act so with the King in private in the future. He reminded me that King Gareth had begun as simply another adventurer in these lands and much of the “bowing and scraping” really puts him off. He is still after all a humble paladin of Ilmater at his core. The General said to save any such courtly reflexes for just that, formal courtly events. He said that the “rule of thumb” as he put it, was that if he was not wearing the formal robes and crown and such, that it would be best to simply treat King Gareth with politeness and respect as one would any gentleman. I thanked the General for his advice, asked him to pass on my apologies and then retreated from his offices and back to my bed for what more sleep I could garnish before the rising of the sun.

Nia went off some time after breakfast to check on Sa’d’s progress. Upon her return she related to me what had happened at the Oghmite temple. She had been directed to the infirmary and thence to the recovery rooms. She found Sa’d somewhat different than last she saw him. He was, and still is at the moment for that matter, bald as an eel from head to toe and likewise his skin is pink as that of a newborn baby. He is quite tired from whatever ordeal they put him through, although he says he actually remembers very little. They gave him a potion, whether alchemical or purely magical he was unsure, and was told to drink it all at one gulp for he would not care to taste any more of it if given the chance. He remembers only vaguely being moved around somewhat thinking at one point that something was hurting, or at least should hurt. But in truth, he was so out of touch with his body at that point that he didn’t really care at the time. I believe that I may have twigged as to what happened, although I think I shall try to not mention it in mixed company. Nia and Sa’d said the Oghmites seemed quite pleased with the procedure and they had the Binder in their possession. I think the concoction Sa’d drank most likely was something akin to a controlled poison or some other means of feigning death. The Binder creature is apparently some sort of parasitic construct and if its host were dieing, it would need to assure its further survival. It was the texture of the parchment that I recalled from our fight in the Gatehouse that gave me the clue. Upon finally binding with Sa’d the creature had become nothing more than writing upon his skin; all the pages of parchment had subsumed into his body and left no trace. Well, if the creature were to assure its further survival it would need new parchment pages through which to make its escape. I believe the creature flensed Sa’d; flayed his skin from his body to make a nice little stack of parchment pages so it might seek a new host. His body was literally laid bare to the world and yet they were able to regenerate his skin. I must say that the Oghmites have proven themselves clever and able healers. I am sure that my little friend would have been lost without a good deal of ready healing spells and assistance. I know I could not have done it.

In closing the deal with the brothers at the church of Oghma, Sa’d had promised them all but one sheet of the remains of the Binder. And so, our party made our way to the icehouse where Aedron extracted one lone page from the ice block. We left the block of ice locked in the insulated box Aedron had bought for its security upon our arrival and delivered the whole package to the Oghmites. The lone page we have sealed within a scroll tube for delivery to Zolven. We thought he might be interested, being a sage and all.

From the ice house we made haste to the market. In sharing our dream visions with the others and my concerns about the coming snow storms, it occurred to us that the Snow Tiger tribe were out at the Keep and ill equipped to weather any kind of storm, let alone what would appear to be a quite intense and possible unnaturally strong blizzard. If it hadn’t been for Illandria we might have only bought perhaps a dozen sets of winter clothing and blankets, rather than the thirty or so needed for the tribe’s true numbers. We also made purchase of some livestock to help tide over the tribe’s food needs for the next several days since it seems likely that warm weather creatures such as themselves might have trouble hunting in the coming weather conditions. Considering the amount of goods we were currently needing to haul, we also acquired a cart able to receive runners which are carried quite handily with the cart itself. The two shaggy oxen we procured seem content to draw the conveyance for now.

A few last things before I close my writings for now. This first is simply a note of another romantic gesture from Nia’s secret admirer. As we were packing the long winter cloaks Nia found one significantly different from the others. The rest were of good wool and fur but this cloak was of lovely manufacture and not of the same colors. This cloak was shaded to go well with Nia’s armor, trimmed in fine fur, ermine or mink perhaps, and the hem is worked with embroidered roses. Really a fetching cloak I must say. Nia was quite happy and donned the cloak right off. I do hope this secret admirer of hers makes him or her self known before Nia perhaps grows tired with the waiting. She seems intrigued with the pursuit but I do not think she is the most patient petal upon the rose.

The last, but certainly not the least observance for right now is that I must say that the forethought of King Gareth and the General are proving wonderful. There will be no profiteering from the woes of the coming storm. Agents of the King have been sent out with proclamations and agents are visible throughout the markets, assuring that prices do not become inflated and that needed goods are not hoarded. We have seen little if any disagreements with the policies. All seem to be striving to support one another through the looming crisis. I have seen more than one older citizen nodding in what seems to be wizened acceptance and approval. These are people whose faces speak of sufficient age to remember well the wars against the Witch King and the community support that was needed to survive those ordeal laden years. I think Bloodstone city and its vale will weather the coming storm well enough. By my Lady’s grace, I shall write again soon.

*****

Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
Midsummer Day – Addendum

---We have returned to the Keep but it is unclear for how long. I should make note that the Keep has continued to grow in our absence. The Gatehouse and a few of the wall towers are completed to their rooftops. Most of the outer curtain wall has risen at least to the second story of the towers, some twenty or more feet high although I did not notice crenellations atop all of those walls. Meg cast the Tongues spell again so that we might explain to Argo about the storm that is soon to arrive. His people have NO concept of snow although they did understand that frozen moisture falling from the sky with great winds could be a bad thing for them. Once again we ran into a bit of a cultural blockage. Argo’s people seemed more than a little hesitant to accept the equipment and livestock which we had brought for them. It seems their culture has no concept of receiving something for nothing in exchange. Aedron explained that many tribal cultures do not and some cannot accept the concept of a gift. If something is given then they feel that something else must be given in return.

With that in mind, we have begun negotiations with the tribe for an exchange of goods and services. We will help them through the storms and shelter them within the Keep grounds and hopefully help them to return to their lands of origin and in exchange, they will help us to explore the Keep and reclaim it from the creatures and things stuck in time within its walls. It is unclear exactly how these negotiations will play out. Perhaps they cannot even enter into such an agreement without their shaman present to oversee it. I do hope he and our friends will return to us soon. I believe that is all for now. By my Lady’s grace, I shall write again soon.

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