Shadows of the Rift

Session Fifty-Eight

Northward Bound

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16 Changewind 508

In one of Lord Cannach’s drawing rooms, the principals of the Crimson Cord gather to discuss the day’s activities. Rilka begins.

“It’s been an interesting morning. I did have a letter waiting for me from Mirka. She found homes for both of the children in Yrda.” Rilka smiles and adds, “And she sends her greeting to you, Savaric.”

Rilka passes around the letter.

Dear Rilka,

I am pleased to hear that you are doing well and that the Gods continue to work through you. Bruni has truly found a worthy servant.

I have spoken with two families here in Yrda and persuaded them to take on the children in question. Surna Brunosdottir is a fine woman with a strong backbone who will be up to the challenge. Kila Stromsdottir is another fine woman with a large heart who will also be a fine mother to one of these unfortunate orphans.

Fortunately for these babes, this village has had our example to lead the way against prejudice to allow them to have a home here. That, and Ulfethinn has lent thunder to my voice and squelched any doubts these women may have had along the way. Regardless, the deals have been struck and the children will have a home waiting for them in Yrda.

Will your group be bringing the children yourselves or will you be sending them another way? It will be good to see you. The village is thriving under Sigurd’s leadership. We are at peace—fortunately there has been no retaliation as yet from the Jörnites, but we are ever-vigilant.

May the gods bless your journeys. Say hello to Savaric for me.

With joy,

—Mirka

“Sounds like she looks forward to your next encounter, Savaric," Mõrvar says teasingly. “Perhaps we should stop by and see how they are doing in Yrda anyway.”

Surm says, “Well, thank you for sharing your letter with us, Rilka, I’m glad Mirka was able to make arrangements for the orphans.”

“While in the city, I was able to purchase two scrolls of ‘Greater Teleport’, it seemed smart to have a back-up. I assume see you and Mõrvar are without your swords that ‘flames’ are being added? Two day wait? When we pick up the weapons we can purchase more rations, we are not out yet, but I prefer to stock up before we head North.”

“One other thing for the group to think about, I’ve considered the option of not taking our men North of Jossia. Since, worst case scenario we cannot guarantee their escape, we should leave them behind. Perhaps we attempt to organize a raid and sign on with one of the raiding crews.”

“Yes, we delivered them to be worked on, however,” Mõrvar is obviously frustrated, “We had to take them to different shops, and I would not be surprised if I have issues with the shop I took Deathblow to.”

Rilka looks squarely at Mõrvar. “Well, as I gathered from the kinds of questions you had to ask to find someone who could even pick up your sword, you may very well have issues. What exactly have you done to Deathblow? Judging from the reaction of the first tradesman, it’s not pleasant. If one of us had accidentally touched it, would we have been harmed as well?”

“Harmed by touching it?!? What exactly happened at the shop?” Surm asks.

“Nothing any different than touching Savaric’s ring does to us,” Mõrvar looks offended. “My sword is aligned in unison to me, just as Savaric’s ring is to him, just as that miserable scabbard presumably is to that Paladin.” Mõrvar turns to Rilka. “Hold Savaric’s ring, and I’m sure that’s what the shop keeper felt. The magic and its tuning is too much for you to want to bear as Deathblow most likely was for him.” Raising an eyebrow at Savaric as if a thought just came to him, “Though, it probably wouldn’t bother Savaric.”

“Hmm, this makes me even more curious to what work has been done to the sword. Are you saying your sword has consciousness like Ilona or that paladin’s scabbard?” Savaric asks.

“Yes, he does, why?” Mõrvar asks. “This is the whole reason I constructed him; to serve me when blood is to be shed. He has multiple abilities to aid me. Soon, he better have flame as well. If we would have known we were doing this before we left Kalimsport, I would have had my contact take care of this there, and this non-issue wouldn’t be an issue.”

Rilka says, “The issue is that you didn’t tell anyone what you did. If you’ve created a sentient magic weapon that is aligned to you, for the protection of us all, we needed to know that. What if we needed to visit a Temple of Skondir to obtain more information about the Heart of the World? What if we needed to seek healing or restoration from priests of Halor or Cereth? We would have been taken completely unaware by their reaction to Deathblow. At best, that’s how trouble gets started, and at the worst, people get hurt.”

Mõrvar looks dumbfounded,“You mean to tell me that if there was an issue with me walking into the doors of a Skondor temple, it would be because of Deathblow? You don’t think it would be because of me? I am not sure how that makes any sense. The only way that Deathblow would be an issue is if A) they touched him, which won’t happen, or B) they do a detection of alignment of some sort, in which Deathblow would be the least if our issues. I really don’t understand why this is such a huge issue with you, and it’s very offensive.” Mõrvar looks hurt. “You act as if I don’t take things into consideration when in reality, I consider everything. I already took precautions if I need to conceal Deathblow. I already considered situations that puts me around those jackasses who think their holier than everyone else and their shit smells like roses. This is why several times I’ve said we need to be discreet with the Heart quest, and find inside contacts, not try and make a deal for it. They won’t give us the time of day anyway. It’s a fucking Dwarven secret we aren’t even supposed to know.” Mõrvar is getting frustrated, “What the hell has happened to you guys? Why the fuck do you care about all of these other people and how they might feel about us? Where were they when our parents turned their backs on us? Where were they when inns didn’t want to accept us because we were half-breeds? Where were they when Aeth and Yrda were taken by war lords? Who stopped the blood beast from murdering people? Who destroyed the lich? Sure, the Bronze Dragons helped with the rescue, but we could have done that without them. Hell, I would have preferred it that way. Then I could have gotten rid of that arrogant scabbard. Instead, one day it may become an issue for us, or at least me, if we ever cross paths again.” Mõrvar at this point is turning red with anger. “What fucking happened to us?”

Mõrvar looks at Surm as he calms himself, “Who stopped Father from killing you for something that wasn’t your fault? Who has been there EVERY time you have been in trouble?” He then looks at Savaric. “Who put their life on the line with no help when the lich polymorphed you, to protect you from what he might do next?” He turns to Rilka. “Who stood with you while you buried your stepfather wishing his own biological father loved him even half as much?” Talking to all of them, he says “Who always puts themselves between you and danger, regardless of the odds or threat with no regard to his own well-being?” Looking a little detached, “Yet you constantly question my motives and intentions and now even care more about what others might think or how they might react to you than you do about me.”

Rilka holds up her hand. “Before you start yelling at everyone in this room, I was the one who said there was an issue. Not Savaric. Not your brother. If you have a problem with what I said, then lay it at my feet. Don’t attack them because you’re angry. I strive very hard to protect our group from danger. It is my calling and I have been blessed by Bruni to have some talent in this matter. So, I am concerned when I believe that our actions, or even inaction, threaten that protection. What happened today was a shock. The situation was one that could have caused problems for us all if that sword came in contact with the wrong person. You said you’ve already taken precautions to conceal Deathblow, so you also knew that possibility existed. Why didn’t you then think to mention its existence to anyone else? To us, the very people who fight side by side with you?”

Mõrvar replies, “We went to see a tradesman whose job includes the same making items such as Deathblow. I didn’t break any laws, I didn’t threaten him, I didn’t rob him, I wasn’t even rude to him. It’s not a crime to have a difference in beliefs. I did nothing to harm him, and Deathblow did nothing to harm him either. In what situation would any of this get us ‘into trouble?’ There is no reason to have to tell you what I do or how I spend my money, or what abilities my weapon has. Someone else coming in contact with Deathblow is not different than if I were to have come into contact with that stupid fucking scabbard, or Savaric’s ring. Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean I have anything against the person who owns or wields it, unless of course that item or weapon is a holy item that’s purpose is to destroy me and my kind. Deathblow isn’t a holy weapon and has no specific purpose other than to aide me when it’s time to fight. There is nothing about him wrong, or unethical regardless how you may feel. Now, if the time comes I decide to give Deathblow a purpose, then, yes, I believe I would have an obligation to alert you before I did so because then his chosen purpose could potentially impede us on something we may be trying to accomplish. For example, if his chosen purpose was to kill all paladins, then you would need to know that so that it would never be a good idea for me to walk into a temple full of paladins, unless of course we were there to kill them anyway. However, that isn’t the case, he doesn’t have a specific purpose, there is nothing wrong, unethical, or even harmful about him unless of course he’s being wielded in combat, then the harmful part is a different story. Rilka, I love you. You are my sister. You are my family, more so than any other bloodline relative other than Surm. I trust you. I have no idea what you have spent your money on to better prepare yourself for combat, and I don’t believe you need to tell me either, unless what you have done has a similar affect to what I just described about an item or weapon with special purposes. For all I know your falchion could be an intelligent weapon, and I could care less unless it had a specific purpose. I trust you and trust that you would understand that, just like I expect you to trust me. Never have I put us in a situation that put this family into harm’ way, at least not that I know of. I still haven’t either. The paladin from the Bronze Griffons and I have very different views on life, morals, and values, yet we worked together. I don’t have a problem with him, unless he makes me his problem. I hate his scabbard but that doesn’t make me hate him. And I would like to point out the only reason I hate that stupid fucking scabbard is because it’s an ungrateful, disrespectful, mouthy asshole. So, again, I don’t really understand why you are so upset. Would you feel the same if I was a paladin and he was a holy weapon? Would we be having this same conversation?” Mõrvar stands waiting for an answer.

Rilka returns his look. “You didn’t answer my question. You took precautions to conceal your sword. You knew it could cause trouble for our group. Why didn’t you say anything to us?”

“I did answer you! He is only an issue because you are making it an issue. There is no reason for him to cause us trouble. Again, he isn’t a holy or unholy artifact. He doesn’t have a special purpose to kill or destroy specific people or religions. He is no different than any other magical item we have other than he has awareness around he and I that benefits me in combat. When I say I took precautions to conceal him if needed, I am not talking about his abilities, I mean him, all together. Never will I have to walk into a place that wants us to hand over our weapons and be without mine again! I could be carrying him right now and not a single person in this room would know or be able to detect him as long as I was alive. As a matter of fact, once I earned a bit more coin, I was going to surprise you all with weapons that I could keep concealed for you in the same event that we enter an area that doesn’t allow weapons so that none of us are ever without the ability to defend ourselves again. Now, you haven’t answered my question: if I were a paladin, and he was a holy sword, would we still be having this same conversation? Or, is the answer no, because that would be the acceptable status quo as to where I am not?” Mõrvar is staring a very daring stare right into Rilka’s eyes.

Surm interjects, “How exactly are you able to conceal him? I would like an explanation of that especially in the scenario you describe – we are ordered to hand over our weapons – and you plan to disobey that order, then you put us all at risk. Now my safety is contingent on your ability to conceal your weapon, so, I want to know exactly what magic or ability you claim to have that I am putting my trust in.”

Mõrvar will smile, at Surm, turn to Savaric and say, “Savaric, I think we all would agree that your ring being an intelligent item, would give off a very powerful magic radiation, agreed? Will you allow me to use her, and your powerful magic bow, for a very quick demonstration? I promise on my life nothing ill will come to either one of them.” Mõrvar stands holding his hand out.

Ilona says in Savaric’s mind : I don’t want to go! I don’t like him and I want to stay with you!

Savaric hands over his bow and says, “Ilona doesn’t want to be apart of the demonstration."

Mõrvar, with a bit of frustration, says, “Very well, doesn’t really matter, I just wanted to demonstrate that it matters not how powerful of magic the item is.” Mõrvar removes his masterwork leather backpack bearing the Ulrich sigil.

Mõrvar opens the backpack, then reaches inside as if opening something else, and then simply slips the entire bow into the pack. Mõrvar follows that up by taking off his ring of protection, Belt of Giant Strength, and Cloak of Resistance and places every bit of it into the backpack. He then seems to seal something in the backpack up, closes the pack, and with a huge smile on his face says, “That should be enough magic to make it highly detectable.” He then tosses the backpack to Surm and says, “There, brother, find the items, or even just detect the magic of the items that are in the bag. If any of you can, I will give you 100 GP each. Go ahead, detect magic, search it.”

He then states, “As long as I am alive, only I can access it’s contents. Detect Magic and Identify will not even penetrate the bag. All items I just placed in it are completely undetectable, even if somehow in some way someone actually finds a way to detect magic on the actual backpack, which is very unlikely. I have tried to find a way for all of us to be able to access the contents, but so far, I haven’t found a way yet.”

Mõrvar then sits, crosses his legs, and just smiles.

Rilka, who has been observing the demonstration, just shakes her head. “Mõrvar, you were the one who began this entire conversation by saying that there may be trouble because the nature of your sword required you to take it a disreputable shop. By your very words, you prove my point.”

“But to answer your question. If you were a paladin and you created a sentient holy sword without telling anyone, I would still have an issue. We were just in an city of drow. An entire civilization of evil creatures. Carrying around a powerful sword that radiated good could have easily caused trouble for us.”

“You are the alignment that you are. As am I. These are things we know and can account for when deciding what best course of action we should take. What battles we should fight. What paths we should choose. But even now, your very attitude about this conversation makes me wonder if you intentionally disregard the potential impact of your decisions or you really just don’t understand.”

Mõrvar says, “If Saveric took his ring to the half-orc that has my sword, he would respond the same way as the tradesman responded to my sword, yet we don’t seem to have a problem with Savaric’s ring. My sword does not radiate holy or unholy, even in a temple of paladins or antipaladins. It is no different than I am, probably does not even radiate as strongly as I would. The same tradesman we took your sword to may even react the same way to Savaric’s ring. I know that both Surm and I did. And it bothers me that you call the entire underworld of drow evil. That is a very generic and blanket statement. I am willing to bet you that the majority of those people are not so different than us. Born into circumstances and adapting to survive in them. This thought of Good and Evil is just really fucking stupid to me. What makes some ass wipe who worships some god that the general public thinks is some goody two-shoe better than someone like me who sees no “god” worth following in my eyes? Does that make them better than me? Because for some reason they are put on a pedestal as some great person who stands for the people, they should get better treatment than someone like me who thinks their shit stinks like everyone else? I’m fairly confident in making the statement I have had more than my share of playing hero and saving people. All four of us here have. Just because someone claims to be a good guy doesn’t mean they are any better than me. Hell, half of them probably were not born in the same circumstances Surm and I had to deal with. I am willing to bet that the “Good Guys” in the north where we are from are more in tune to yours and Surm’s beliefs than many of these people here. Does that mean these “Good Guys” are better than the North’s “Good Guys?” It’s all a matter of perspective, beliefs, values. My values and beliefs which Deathblow is in tune with are obviously different than the guy we went to first. In another area of the world, the half-orc may be the norm, and the other guy might be the shady guy we have to find. Does that make these people here better than those people there? If you start talking about religious practices and beliefs, then I could see a valid argument from you, because now you’re aligning with deities. If I come across someone from Jörn, you can bet your ass I am going to kill the evil slimy bastard. I trust your Bruni more than I would ever trust those fucking pricks. Why? Because they tried to fuck me. The Bronze Griffons religious practice, no idea, and could care less. I’d work with them again, have no problem with them, and understand that they most likely have a different philosophy than I do. Now, might have problems with them because of that fucking scabbard. it would probably push me past my boiling point listening to his fucking BS. Hell, I rank that scabbard right there with Jörn as my favorites to hate – ungrateful piece of shit. My point is, if anyone is going to have a problem with my sword, then they already have a problem with me. I am willing to bet we have more items between us than my sword that could cause us just as many “problems” or “hassles” that we don’t even know or think about. So, again, why this is such a big deal to you is beyond me. Just because someone doesn’t like it doesn’t make it wrong, illegal, bad, evil, or give cause for someone to have to “take action” or put us in a situation. If that was the case, everywhere we went we would have issues, because I guarantee you that every inn we go into, every tavern we visit, every city we enter has many more people and items with much more extreme philosophies then us, and they seem to live side by side every day."

Rilka speaks very slowly, choosing her words carefully. “Mõrvar, as much as you want it to be otherwise, this is not a conversation about good, evil, or valuing one person’s beliefs over another. This is about protecting the group. This is about knowing what may put us in danger in any particular situation. This is about understanding that decisions made by one of us might impact everyone. Clearly, this is not what you want to hear right now. I can only pray that you will take what I’ve said to heart.”

Mõrvar says, “Rilka, what you’re saying is that everyone of us should know every thing each other is carrying. As I stated before, something you think may have potential harm to the group I, or the rest of the group might not. Likewise, something I, or the rest of the group might think is harmful to the group, you might not. Therefore, what you’re saying is that we all need to know every little thing that everyone of us is carrying at all times.”

Mõrvar looks at the other two. “So, does anyone else agree with this? Do we need to take a vote that we all need to share every single item we are carrying with us at all times and have absolutely no secrets about it from each other, ever? This would even include exactly how many coins and what variety of coins we are carrying. If someone knows that one of us is carrying a large amount of platinum, it could cause us trouble with a bandit raid.” Mõrvar then pauses, “I guess this would include all members of the Crimson Cord, including our soldiers. Does anyone here know what they may have bought with their money that might cause us trouble?”

Meanwhile, Surm has cast detect magic on the backpack and discerned no magical aura. Looking inside, he only sees a Water skin, 2 smooth waxed stones, 50 feet of knotted rope, a grapple, 4 days of trail rations, a bedroll, and a blanket. No sign of the items that his brother has just placed inside the pack.

Rilka glances at Surm and Savaric and shrugs. “If you wish to continue this conversation, then I will do so. However, I believe that it has gone as far as it can.”

Mõrvar again turns to Surm, “Any luck there brother? I didn’t think so. So, to answer your question, yes, I totally plan to be prepared when someone won’t let us in somewhere armed, or asks us to hand them our weapons. Of course, if it’s city watch or something that takes all of our stuff, that’s a different story, but I have been considering doing the same thing to a pocket in a pair of pants. It’s just terribly expensive to do what I had done to that backpack.”

Surm says, “I guess I can see Mõrvar’s point of everyone not needing to constantly update each other of every little thing we do. However, I don’t understand your reluctance to explain what was done now that you’ve been asked? Why is it still such a guarded secret?"

“Whether or not you, Mõrvar, think we should be concerned about what was done, whatever happened at the Craftsman shop and the subsequent Craftsman of questionable ethics (even you suggested he may cause you problems when you go to retrieve the sword) has given Rilka reason to worry. But rather than explain what you had done, you continue to keep it a secret and just get angry because you feel like she doesn’t trust you. But, you display your unwillingness to trust us by not divulging the information when requested. It makes me concerned that if you feel the need to keep it a secret when asked, and you felt the need to develop a special backpack to hide it, that it is something we should be worried about, otherwise, why hide its abilities from us?"

“You keep comparing it to Savaric’s ring, but we’ve met the personality of the ring and are aware of its capabilities. Savaric also doesn’t feel the need to hide her abilities from us. Make your ‘its the same thing’ argument ring true, and let us know what Deathblow’s abilities are and pass him over so we can meet this new personality that is traveling with us. Because, if he is sentient as you say, he has a personality. I don’t think its unfair to ask to meet a new member of the group.”

“Also, what did you do for this backpack, or is that a carefully guarded secret as well?”

Savaric says, “I agree with Surm, I don’t feel it’s necessary that we all update each other on everything we are doing, but it’s obvious why Rilka is concerned about it. I’m just tired of all the secrets. Why are there so many side bars between individuals in the group. If we are family, when is anyone hiding secrets, why is it such an issue to be open and honest about what’s going on in our personal time? No, I don’t want to hear about the gooey details of Rilka and Kortash, that’s reasonably personal if she doesn’t want to share; but you did spend a large amount of coin to keep this a secret from everyone, including us.”

“Deathblow very much enjoys the thought of blood running down his blade. He is still learning that there is more to surviving than just killing whoever is in your way, or who you don’t like, but at this early point in his awareness, that’s what he looks forward to. His conscience is his newest ability, so he is still really in his infancy of the learning process. Because of this, I was careful when constructing him not to allow him to have such an ego that he could wield himself. Therefore that is not an issue. He isn’t strong enough to just lunge out and hit someone, unless of course a mindless zombie is wielding him I guess,” Mõrvar chuckles.

He continues, “I only allowed him the ability to communicate telepathically because you do not know what kind of personality you’re going to get, regardless of how you’re aligned. You can thank that arrogant scabbard for that. I didn’t want to create something that could cause us problems by voicing opinions or threats for all to hear, so that isn’t a problem.”

Mõrvar begins to grin, “And though I find conversations with him….mmmm…rather enjoyably humorous, once he became aware, it didn’t take me long to come to the conclusion that until he does learn, conversations with you (looking at Surm) and Rilka would probably not be pleasant experiences for either of you (referring to them and the blade). I have no issue with you meeting him when I get him back, at this point, though, I believe that neither of you two will want to be in contact with him for very long for two reasons. The first, because I believe you will feel the drain such as we did with Savaric’s ring. Secondly, because he is very blunt, and will most likely tell you that you are not worthy to wield him and demand you put him down. Until he learns more, I can see him being a bit abrasive toward you. For this reason I figured it wasn’t time yet. As far as Savaric, I doubt there will be any issues between the two of them, though I am not sure how good of an idea it would be for Savaric to possess both the ring and the sword at the same time. But, again, for these reasons I didn’t say anything as of yet, and still, not an issue. I mean seriously, when is the last time anyone of you ever even touched him? Wait, I can answer that, never.” Mõrvar says with the very slightest sarcasm.

Mõrvar then describes Deathblow and his various abilities.

Mõrvar follows up by saying, “I will say that you would appreciate Deathblow doesn’t want anything to do with the Dragon Orb either. And I have been considering all that was said in our last conversation about it. That’s all I want to say for now about the Orb. Just let me think on it some more. Good points were brought up and I just want some time to consider them.”

“Now, as far as my backpack,” Mõrvar begins to stretch a large grin across his face. “Intriguing isn’t it?” He says as he looks at Surm. “So to answer your question brother, yes, I have full intentions on being prepared and the ability to be armed even when we enter a place that wants us to be disarmed, or anytime anyone asks us to hand our weapons over. Of course, if it is a city watch or someone else taking all of our stuff, that is a different situation. I have actually considered having a pair of pants made with a pocket that does the same thing just in case of a situation such as that, however what I did to that backpack is extremely expensive to do.”

With a victorious, “point-proven,” smile, Mõrvar begins to explain, “Outside of being a masterwork backpack that perfectly centers the weight of the bag, it also has concealed within it another pocket, very hard to find. It is called a “Bag of Concealment” and even if the concealed pocket is found, it appears only as a concealed pocket. Only I can access the pocket and retrieve the true contents. Even if by some measure, someone was to figure out the bag itself was magical, they could only detect the magic of the bag, and the contents within would still be undetectable. Therefore, regardless, no one but I could, or would ever know, what contents are hidden within the pouch.” He continues, “I have searched for ways to allow more than one person to be ‘keyed’ to the contents of the bag, however I have been unsuccessful. As long as I am alive, only I can gain access to the contents. There is not other way for anyone else to do so, unless I willingly gave up the connection to someone else, but then I would lose the ability to gain access. The only other way is if I were to die, then the next person to claim the bag would be the one connected to it.”

Mõrvar then states, “What is amazing about this concealed space is that, much like Surm’s bag of holding, it can hold a lot of stuff. The mouth of the concealed pocket can expand up to 4 times it’s size to allow large items to be pushed in. I may have picked a bad location for the pouch, not considering whether or not I could access the hidden compartment and utilize the expanding ability. The space within however is 70 cubic feet and can hold up to 500 lbs. of weight.”

Mõrvar continues, “This allows us to greatly increase our carrying capacity, and have whatever we are carrying completely undetectable by anyone else. I was waiting for the right time to show you guys, and as the situation presented itself, here it is. If I had the coin, I would have made one for each of you, however, this is the most expensive thing I have ever purchased—even more so than the 9,000 plus I have put into Deathblow.”

“So, what do you think?” He asks with confidence.

Surm says, “I am confused why you think Deathblow would be a ‘drain’ on Rilka and I, but not to Savaric. Last I heard, you and Savaric were not in tune, unless Ilona accepts you as a wearer and I didn’t realize it? Seems strange that Deathblow is tuned to you and Savaric, but Ilona is only tuned to Savaric.”

“Two, based on the information you just gave us, you would’ve been smarter to share from the beginning. Now Rilka’s concerns are legitimized. If there were a situation in which you fell unconscious and someone, me for example, had to pick up your sword, then felt the drain and the telepathic verbal assault. I may have tossed it aside as being cursed, since the experience would have been unexpected and I would have expected that you would have warned me of the changes. Without warning of what to expect, there is no way to predict my reaction. It would have been molded by the situation. You may have taken other people’s reactions into consideration, but you did not consider every possibility. More than putting the group at risk, you risked losing your new precious sword. Just understand, keeping big secrets like this is risky. Its impossible for you alone to predict every circumstance, that is why we are a group. If you are going to keep things from the group, don’t be surprised when we are unprepared to help with whatever situation may arise simply because we were uninformed. In my theoretical scenario, I may have caused you to lose your new sword simply because I didn’t know you made the changes. Keep us out of the loop, we can’t help you.”

Surm also reflects on his knowledge of the arcane and comes to the conclusion that such a bag would have been constructed through the use of spells like magic aura, fabricate, and secret chest.

Rilka speaks up again. “Mõrvar, I do appreciate you sharing this with us. My hope is that you are upfront about such things moving forward. Right now, it feels like we are only having this conversation because you got caught.”

She glances at the backpack, “I would also advise against putting your sword inside if someone asks us to hand over our weapons. At that point, if we’re not turning our weapons over, we’re preparing for a fight. And if you decide to magically hide your weapon while the rest of us are turning ours over, it will go poorly for all of us.”

Mõrvar says, “To answer your first question. You and Rilka tend to be very structured. Without structure and whatever sense of code you go by, you both become edgy. Also, you both tend to try to maintain a sense of balance in everything we do. I on the other hand, see structure can be beneficial at times, but there are other times where that structure is a hindering, and gets in the way of efficient progress. Unlike you, I don’t have patience for a lot of the stupid shit people do. I realize I am a bit more temperamental then you two are, but some shit just gets annoying. Savaric on the other hand, well, he seems to just go whatever direction the wind is blowing. Have you ever seen Savaric not get along with someone? Of the four of us, I believe Savaric may be the only one of us that would fit in with whomever he is around, regardless of their beliefs. Deathblow may not be super excited to be within his possession, but I get the feeling he wouldn’t mind it either.”

“To answer your second thought, what is the likelihood we would ever be in a position where I fell unconscious, and we were in a situation where you couldn’t get me up then and there, and had the safety to grab me and my belongings? Let’s be quite honest, if we were ever in a situation in which I fell, and you couldn’t get me up there, then there is probably more to worry about then whether or not you recover any dropped items. If I fall in combat, and you can’t get me back up and we are in a situation where you have to grab me and run, you’re not going to have time to grab my sword, and there is a good chance I, or we, are dead anyway.”

“As for putting my sword in my bag if someone ask for it, Rilka, I don’t think you understand what I mean. If we are going to enter a temple or we are going into an place where we expect that, my hammer will be all they see me carrying. It would be completely ignorant for me to do something like that in front of them. Where would that make sense? The point is for them to not have an idea. Otherwise, everyone and their dog will know my backpack is magical. Not what I want.”

“As for your comment Rilka, this is a prime example of having to have this structure, or control over knowing. The time would have eventually come, however I didn’t feel the time was now. His awareness is still pretty new, and I am still trying to help him adjust, and learn there is more to life/awareness than hack and slash. Sometimes those whose views we don’t agree with can still be allies and help serve our own interest. Likewise, sometimes those whose views we agree with are sometimes the very ones that need to be disposed of because they are the ones who are impeding us. He still has to learn and understand that. Regardless what you think about me not telling you, the fact is, I didn’t think it that big of deal and saw no reason to bring it up at this point. In the future, perhaps once his reasoning begins to take shape, sure. If the time came I decided to give him a special purpose, then definitely. Now, with what he is, not a big deal. You say the only reason we are having this conversation is because I got ‘caught’. I really don’t give a shit that you were there to learn. I am frustrated that I had to go find someone else when I could have easily had this taken care of in Kalimsport with no trouble at all if we had known we were going to do this to begin with. I understand plans were not prepared then, but I am not one who likes to just find someone to toy with something I have put a lot of time, money and effort into without knowing who the fuck they are. Truth is, the only reason why we are having this discussion is because you had an issue with something I still believe isn’t an issue, for all of the reasons I have stated previously."

Mõrvar then looks sternly at all three of them, “I have never lied to any of you. I have never tried to deceive you in any way. I would like for any of you to think of one time, just one time where I intentionally lied to you. No doubt there are times where we have had miscommunication or misunderstandings in which we gave each other corrupted or completely wrong information by mistake, I think we can all agree those things happen. What I am saying, is name ONE TIME I have ever intentionally and maliciously lied to any of you. When I say this whole situation to me, in my mind, was a non-issue, I fucking mean it. Name just one time, and I will remove myself from ever having a vote again in the Crimson Cord because then obviously I am just a lying son of a bitch who hides important information like items I possess from the rest of the group with the least care how it effects them, thus I don’t have the best interest of the Cord in my heart and shouldn’t have the right to vote. Hell, I’ll even remove myself from the Cord if that’s what you want.” Mõrvar’s voice, obviously frustrated and angered, begins to rise, “PLEASE, JUST NAME ONE FUCKING TIME!”

Surm says, “Mõrvar, this behavior, right now, is where the concern comes from. You are currently standing there, angry and cussing us, your family, over what? An imagined slight! Nobody called you a liar! The conversation was quite calm for a moment. I gave an opinion that you rejected. Rilka an opinion that you rejected. Nobody yelled at you, got angry, or cussed out. And nobody called you a liar.”

“Yet, somehow, that’s where you’ve taken this and have become irrationally angry. So, I think the concern for us is not lying, it’s questionable judgement on your part. When you act like this, unprovoked, over some insult that only exists in your mind, it shows you do not have a level head that thinks things out completely. So when you’ve made mysterious alterations to your sword and are acting secretive about it, but then demand that we trust you, that you’ve taken all precautions, I think of the way you are acting now and have so many times in the past. You show time and time again that calm, rational thought is not your strong suit. And as much as you claim to have our best interest in mind, you are quick to lash out in anger against us.”

“Everyone has flaws, and two of yours are rashness and arrogance. Two qualities that have lead you to make bad decisions that have created problems for the group as a whole in the past. If you’re honest about the past, then you should easily understand why we’re guarded.”

“So, you have a choice; accept that we have different opinions than you and recognize nobody made any demands of you, only made our preferences known and you have the option of respecting them or rejecting them. Or, stubbornly stand your ground now, and challenge me to ‘name one time I caused the group trouble’, and deal with the fallout of that conversation. But we don’t have to go there. I’d rather not, but I will if you want me to. I prefer we end this conversation before it gets worse.”

Mõrvar, who is visibly upset, returns all of the items that were in his bag. Looking at Savaric, he says, “As I promised, no ill would come to it.”

Looking at the group, he then states, “If you have a weapons or gear you want stored in my bag for one of those occasions, it would be a good idea to get it to me before we leave the confines of our ally to head North on our journey.”

Mõrvar then simply gathers his things and heads towards the door.

No one stops him and he leaves.

Surm turns to the others and says that something that Savaric said earlier stuck with him. About not having any secrets. So reveals that he had the sages at the University there in Aldasar working on family trees for himself and Mõrvar. They trace their lineage back to the lich, Ulrich of Barth, whom the Crimson Cord killed her some months back. Surm was embarrassed and ashamed to admit the connection.

Rilka reassured him that no one can choose their bloodline or their progenitors. But you can choose your family. And that who are is dictated by what you do, not by your blood. So Surm shares the large parchments mapping out the bloodlines of the sons of Ulrich and some of the highlights of the information he has learned of their lines, such as the tragedies that have befallen those of his own line and the fact that it also spawned a legendary paladin.

They also discuss whether or not they wish to take the guardsmen to the far north to face the Frost Giants and how they want to handle the escort of the half-orc orphans back to Yrda. After some debate, they decide to leave the guards behind after they know where to go to find the Frost Giants. The guards could work with Lord Cannach or find other work until it is time to pick up the babies in the month of Ardor. Then they’ll travel to Kalimsport and Asdari to pick up the children, with or without their mothers, to return to Yrda. Mahgnus will see to all the arrangements and Alasir will command the troops.

Surm calls Mahgnus and Alasir in and explains the plan to them. They agree to it and Alasir vows that it will be done as they say.

Surm, Rilka, and Savaric then go to Mõrvar’s room to explain the plan to him. Mõrvar’s only concern is that if there is a land-born way to access the Frost Giants, then they should keep the guards in play. Surm says that they know this isn’t the case, but does agree they need more information before they cut ties with the guards just yet. So, the Cord is in agreement that they will set the guard loose before taking on the Frost Giants.

That night at dinner with Lord Cannach, Rilka asks about the young survivor of the attack at the mining community the last time they were in Aldasar. Lord Cannach reassured her that the young lady was doing fine, being raised by one of the temples and would move on to an apprenticeship and a good life.

Surm broaches the topic of the guards coming back to Aldasar and taking up work with Lord Cannach after they head to the far north. Lord Cannach says that, of course, they may. Their Captain Alasir can coordinate with his man and work it out at the time.

The jovial proceedings are interrupted only once by Lord Cannach himself, who addresses the table.

“My friends, please forgive if I overstep my bounds and speak to something which is not my concern. But I could not help but notice a measure of strife in my drawing room. Is there anything I can do to ease it?”

This pronouncement is met with an embarrassed silence that is broken, finally, by Rilka, who states that sometimes even families have quarrels.

“Too true,” Lord Cannach agrees. “I mean no offense. It is only because I consider you friends that I wish to mend it. We will speak no more of it.”

He calls for more wine and the dinner progresses.

After dinner, everyone settles in for the night after a very long day.

17 Changewind 508

The party spends the day in quiet ease on Lord Cannach’s estate. Ilona manages to get Savaric to play with her out in the trees, going invisible, and then visible again, for a while.

That evening, they have another pleasant dinner with Lord Cannach and adjourn to their rooms.

18 Changewind 508

Rilka and Mõrvar head into the city to pick up their respective weapons. Rilka asks Mõrvar if he wants her to accompany him to get his weapon back from the disreputable dealer. If he’s expecting trouble, he might could use the help. He seems indifferent and says that she can if she wants to. She says that she’ll meet him back at the manor and he seems just as fine with that idea.

Rilka goes to her dealer and picks up her newly enflamed falchion and then she returns to Lord Cannach’s manor to await Mõrvar’s return.

Mõrvar heads into the ramshackle part of town where he found the half-orc weaponsmith that he left Deathblow with. He finds the half-orc at his makeshift forge. The craftsman spots Mõrvar, smirks, and rises to meet him.

“I’ve come for my sword,” Mõrvar says.

“You got my money?” the half-orc asks.

“Yes,” Mõrvar says.

“Let’s see it,” the half-orc says.

Mõrvar pulls out the money and shows it to him. The half-orc nods and heads back to a shack and returns with Deathblow in his hand. He looks at the sword, then at Mõrvar and says.

“I tell you what, keep your money. I’ll keep the sword.”

Mõrvar then proceeds to tell the half-orc what he’s going to do him in no uncertain terms and how he’s not even going to pay him the rest of the money for the sword and how the half-orc is going to turn over the sword right now.

The half-orc pales and hands over the sword. “Get out of here and don’t come back,” he tells Mõrvar. Mõrvar hurls another epitaph at him as he leaves.

Bah. I was hoping for a bloodletting, Deathblow says in Mõrvar’s mind.

I was hoping he would stand his ground. I would have ended with you chopping his body into small enough pieces to feed his furnace. Mõrvar says.

Mõrvar heads back to Lord Cannach’s manor to meet with the others.

Once everyone is reunited, the Crimson Cord loads up and heads away from Lord Cannach’s manor and from Aldasar, following the road north through Leilior toward Jossia.

That afternoon, the troupe encounters the town of Kivley. They opt to save their money in gate taxes and go around rather than through.

Later that evening, the troupe pitches a camp on the side of the road. Mõrvar calls Surm over for a private conversation. Surm admonishes him, stating that in light of recent discussions, he may not want to have yet another private conversation away from the others in the Cord. Mõrvar states that this discussion is between brothers. Surm says that supposedly they are all family and that, again, what has gotten everyone in trouble lately is keeping secrets. Mõrvar insists that this is nothing hurtful, and Surm insists that this isn’t the point—it’s the perception of it that makes it hurtful. Mõrvar then invites Rilka and Savaric over to the conversation.

Mõrvar then proceeds to “introduce” the party to Deathblow, offering to let each of them hold the greatsword. He offers it to Surm first, who declines, citing the fact that “he’s already heard that he’s a jerk.” So Rilka takes the sword. She instantly pales and feels weaker and hears a male voice speaking Joslac in her head stating that “if this is what family feels like, he wants no part of it.” He also states “I thought your kind were more bloodthirsty.”

They then pass the sword to Savaric. He, too, pales and feels weakened. On top of that—Ilona is having none it—screaming in Savaric’s mind to drop the sword. Deathblow is roaring at him to take off the ring. Deathblow calls him puny and unworthy to wield him. Savaric is unimpressed and hands the sword back to Mõrvar. He again offers the sword to Surm. Finally, Surm takes it. He, as the others, is weakened by the sword. Deathblow again bemoans that if this strangeness is the bond of family, he wants no part. He demands that Surm hand him back to Mõrvar, who seems amused at the entire affair.

The party doesn’t have much to say after this demonstration of Deathblow’s personality and they all head back into the camp.

The night passes quietly.

19 Changewind 508

That morning, the troupe bypasses the city of Skeene. They travel on toward Braith along the road throughout the day. That evening, they break for camp and Mõrvar spends the evening mingling with the troops.

The night passes without incident.

20 Changewind 508

That afternoon, the troupe arrives on the outskirts of the city of Braith. Rilka, Mahgnus, and Sorcha head inside to by a supply of rations before the troupe heads into Jossia. Mahgnus manages to talk the merchant into delivering the bulk order to the troupe waiting outside the walls.

The party also discuss their future plans. Surm recalls that there is a raiding clan, the Soodthyngs, that reside in a coastal village in northern Jossia called Soos. Mõrvar knows where the village lies. Between the two of them, they can guide the troupe there. It is entirely possible that the Soodthyngs have fought and raided against Frost Giants, according to Surm. The party decides to head north to Soos after going to Yrda. They load up their supply of rations and leave Braith.

That night, the troupe makes a camp and the night passes quietly.

21 Changewind 508

After traveling that morning, the party comes to the river Ros, where they must ford across to enter Jossia. Everyone but Kortash crosses with no problems—Kortash takes a tumble and ends up wet and cold.

The troupe camps on the other side.

22 Changewind 508

Shortly before noon, the Crimson Cord arrives in Yrda and are given a hero’s welcome by King Sigurd, Mirka, and the townsfolk. Sigurd reports that the village prospers and has actually grown a little since the party was there last. He also announces that there will be a feast in the longhouse that night. Rilka excuses herself to go to the temple of Bruni while Mirka and Savaric flirt with each other and Savaric gives her a pegasus feather, which she places in her hair. Townsfolk come forward and shake everyone’s hand and clap them on the back, offering to let the Ulrich brothers stay in their homes. Mirka tells Savaric to come up to her temple tonight. Rilka is determined to hold vigil in the temple to Bruni.

Later, Rilka and Savaric head over to the temple to Ulfethinn to see Mirka. Rilka explains the situation with the quest and the plan to send the guards after the orphans. She inquires about the wet-nurse situation and the adoptive mothers. One woman will be able to nurse the babe herself. The other will not and will require a nurse. Rilka says she’ll pass that information on to Mahgnus. Then she leaves Savaric to be alone with Mirka.

That night, a feast of meat and mead is had in the longhouse. Sigurd has the Crimson Cord seated on his left and right, places of honor at the table. Surm tells the story of their upcoming quest and Sigurd asks the gods to bless their journey, for Bruni to give them courage, Ulfethinn to give them thunder, and Yülthn to give them guile.

As the feast dies down, Rilka heads to the temple for her vigil and prayers, Surm and Mõrvar head to the townspeople’s homes, and Savaric is taken by the arm by Mirka to her temple.

23 Changewind 508

The troupe leave Yrda, heading north toward Soos. Over the next few days of travel, Savaric desperately tries to convince Surm to give him another pegasus feather, but Surm refuses. The nights are quiet, if cold, in the west-central hills of Jossia.

26 Changewind 508

In the afternoon, the party arrives on the outskirts of the village of Soos. They can men gathering, noticing the large entourage of soldiers approaching their town. Surm and Mõrvar ride forward, with the rest of the troupe following, as a group of warriors from the town step forward, their leader striding ahead in turn.

Surm hails the people of Soos and announces that he is Surm Ulrich of the Crimson Cord and that they are there to make a business proposition with the village. Village leader who came forward, a powerfully-built, grey-haired man with a double-bladed axe, says, “Ulrich? I’ve heard that name.”

The man, Kremlach, has heard of them and what they did in Yrda some months back. He is willing to listen to what they have to say. He invites them to come to their longhouse to talk. Surm asks for permission for their soldiers to come into the village. Kremlach says that that will be alright. Their reputation precedes them and they will be welcome.

In the longhouse, the main party is met by Kremlach, an old woman named Dorya, and an old man named Sigmun. Other townsfolk are also there to witness the meeting. Kremlach invites them to sit at a table and Surm tells them why they have come—about their quest for the Dead God’s skull and their theory about the Frost Giant’s connection to it. He wants to join a raiding party to the Frost Giant lands, taking the fight to them, and get this skull in the process.

Kremlach confirms that they have fought the giants that fly the banner of the viper skull—he calls them Jarlites. They apparently hail from a place called Jarlheim, a ruined city that they have made their home in the frozen north. The Soodthyngs have raided the Jarlites, but most retaliatory raids to retrieve goods and people, attacking the outskirts of Jarlheim or just Frost Giant raiding ships—not striking into the heart of the place, like Surm is proposing.

Surm proposes that they meet with the other village leaders and put together a coalition to attack the Frost Giants together. Kremlach says the idea is ambitious. The other area villages think that the Soodthyngs are mad for even doing what they do now. No one has proposed banning together to attack in force. Kremlach is for it. Dorya is tentatively for it. Sigmun thinks its foolhardy. But apparently, two out of three carries it, because Kremlach says that Soos is behind the endeavor and promises 100 men, a longship, and the use of auxiliary ships to carry others that are recruited that do not have their own ships.

Surm decides that he wants to go to Aeth and recruit his own people to go on the endeavor. Kremlach believes that, with his own reputation and the reputation of the Crimson Cord behind the endeavor, he can convince enough of the other villages to participate to make it a worthy showing. There are four other villages that he can think of that are regularly raided by the Jarlites and each can probably contribute as many men as Soos. If all will participate, that’s 500 warriors heading north against what they estimate is 150 giants.

The Crimson Cord make preparations to start heading west to Aeth while Kremlach sends runners to the area villages to send their leaders to a meeting at the longhouse in Soos.

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