14 Chillwind 508
It is late. At Red Wolf Hall in Kalimsport, as Surm and Rilka come downstairs into the common room, Mõrvar, Savaric, and an obviously inebriated Halvor come walking in from outside.
Rilka spies a private room off of the common room. She goes to the front desk and arranges for its use. She sits down at the table.
Savaric asks, “Do we need to arrange for rooms?”
Surm says, “Mõrvar will, if he’s staying here tonight. Let’s sit and talk, things have come up.” Surm sits at the table and waits.
Mõrvar secures a room for the night and stabling for his horse. He will then sit alone at a table. He appears to be deep in thought.
Rilka comes and tells him that they’ve secured a private room and that they need to talk. Mõrvar rises and follows Rilka to the private room.
Surm stands nervously. Two issues have come up for you to consider. One, I have decided to separate from the group. Mõrvar, you seem unhappy with everything I do and say. You treat me as though I am the cause of everything that is wrong in your world, I don’t know how to get through to you, but you don’t seem to want me to anyway. The best solution I could reach was to take myself out of the equation. If I’m not part of the group, I can no longer vilify you, ignore your wishes, force you on quest you don’t want to go on, or any of the other selfish things you accuse me of. Where the group goes now and for what purpose is up to you three, I no longer have a say and will no longer stand in Mõrvar’s way.”
“Two, the sage we came to see has been taken from a dig site by orcs, reportedly to one of their islands. If we want the obelisk translated, he must be rescued. I have taken the lead on the rescue mission. I have been entrusted by the University to recruit a group of heroes to rescue the sage. Until I reach the city of the dig site and speak with the surviving guide, I won’t know how many heroes I need, but that is a seven day ride from here. That means this news is already a week old and by the time I get there, he will have been a hostage for two weeks at least. So, time is crucial, I will be leaving in the morning. I would like to hire your group to assist, I’ve worked with you all before and can trust you." Surm stands straighter to attempt a posture of leadership. “If you sign on, you will be working for me, I am in charge and decisions are mine to make. I will invite input, but it’s not up for a vote.” Surm sits down and breathes, slightly shaking from nerves.
“I’m all for helping you, but I’d like you to inform the university that two Orcs helped you in this mission. It’s hard enough on Rilka and I without this tribe making us look worse,” Savaric says.
Mõrvar stands up, tears in his eyes, and says with great pain. "Without you, there is no group. Why you can’t sit and discuss our issues I don’t know. I cannot let you separate from this group and go alone. If I am not there to protect you, then at least the only people I trust to are.” Mõrvar begins crying. “Now you force me away? I disgust you that much? You hate me that much? You need this group more than I, and they need you more than they need me. It is clear I’m the odd man out. I will leave you alone Surm, stay out of your way, never to bother or upset you again.”
Mõrvar pulls Deathblow from his back and places it, his ring, and his amulet on the table in front of Surm. “At least take these. If you no longer wish for me to protect you, then use these, too.” Mõrvar turns and leaves the room.
The group is at first left dumbfounded by the outburst. But then Savaric heads upstairs and talks to Mõrvar. He convinces him to come downstairs and take this quest as an opportunity to reconcile things with his brother. Mõrvar contemplates this and decides to follow Savaric downstairs.
The group, now Rilka, Savaric, and a very withdrawn Mõrvar, decide to accompany Surm on his quest to rescue the sage. Surm stresses that Mõrvar must vote to go because he wants to, not because Surm forced him to—that’s the point of him doing it this way and leaving the group.
Surm stresses that time is of the essence—they’ve already lost two weeks and it is a week’s journey to Asdari, where they will get more information from the guide that survived the attack. He is inclined to recruit more help once they get to Asdari. Also, he announces that Alasir and Mahgnus has elected to follow him out of the group, in order to help protect Surm and to ensure he travels with those he trusts. They have, however, indicated that they are willing to continue their usual duties for as long as needed during the transition. Rilka indicates that she’ll probably need to pick a new sergeant for the troops.
Mõrvar and Surm continue to argue. Surm stresses that what he’s doing is “giving you space—do with it what you will” and emphasizes that it is Mõrvar’s decision whether to come or not.
Surm offers 500 gold pieces in compensation plus “reasonable” expenses as payment for the quest. Savaric asks about the spoils of war and Surm indicates that the University makes no claim on the spoils of war. However, Surm does stress that there will be no reward until the sage is returned.
Rilka dismisses Surm, who goes to his room. He tells Mahgnus and Alasir what transpired and asks them to wait to tell the other soldiery about their separation until things get worked out.
Meanwhile, in the private room, Rilka, Savaric, and Mõrvar discuss the need for this “cooling off” period and the fact that family is important. Mõrvar brings up that he’ll need to see the armorer before he leaves as he’s got custom armor in the works. He also thinks that the party might be interested in hiring Beldis for this mission. Rilka is extremely dubious of that proposition and they end up talking Mõrvar out of that idea.
They also discuss the fact that Surm is currently handling their group funds. They’re prepared to allow him to continue to do so until the group (hopefully) gets reconciled.
What about Alasir continuing to control the troops? Rilka thinks that it would be best to keep things as they are for now. She also stresses the need to keep arguments away from the troops—to maintain a unified front. After they meet, she goes to find Sum.
“We accept your terms. Alasir will be nominal head of the troops. We won’t be informing them of the split,” she says.
“Alright,” Surm says. “That brings me to a touchy subject. Group funds. Do I cut myself out a fourth of them or do I keep them altogether but continue to have a vote on how they are spent?”
After a brief discussion, it’s decided to keep the group funds intact and that Surm gets a vote in how they are spent, erring on the side that, at some point, the group will come back together.
Everyone goes to bed after a long, emotional, day.
15 Chillwind 508
The group—and Surm, Mahgnus, and Alasir—pick and go as if everything were normal. Mõrvar leaves a message with the innkeep for Beldis, saying that he may be back in a couple of weeks. The entourage then starts to leave town, with Mõrvar stopping off at the armorer making a similar two-week arrangement. They leave the city along the Southgate road and leave out of the south-east gate.
Along the way, Savaric tells Alasir that there’s no hard feelings and that he appreciates him looking out for Surm. Alasir says he appreciates that.
The entourage passes through a manned checkpoint into Kuskar.
18 Chillwind 508
The eastward road turns south at the mountains. They pass through a guarded mountain pass of Acheran soldiers.
19 Chillwind 508
The road takes the party to the city of Zyend. They pay gate takes and decide to save time and pass through the city instead of going around it.
22 Chillwind 508
That afternoon, the entourage arrives at the gates of the city of Asdari. They pay their gate fees and make their way inside. Surm gets information on the location of the University.
The University at Asdari is not quite as grand as the one in Kalimsport, but it is not small, either. The monitors come by and help direct them to Rahin Noorasi. Noorasi is apparently a Fellow of the University, an administrator and donor, not a sage. They are taken a very well-apportioned office and introduced to a well-dressed man with a neat goatee. Surm apologizes for their road-dust but they are in haste and explains their purpose there. Noorasi seems very snotty toward the half-orcs but is otherwise helpful. He indicates that the guide, Achir, is recuperating in the temple of Azumazran. He arranges for a guide for them by the name of Halim, whom he places at their disposal.
Halim guides them through the streets. The young man is very impressed with their retinue and makes a great show of clearing the street for them.
The temple of Azumazran is a very ancient and well-apportioned structure. Large columns inlaid with gold and ivory adorn the entrance and many people are coming in and out. Inside are men and women in blue and white robes and long hair and beards, covering their hair with hoods and turbans, ministering to people as they come in. There are robed figures praying at a great flame in the center of the sanctuary. One of the turbaned priests approach Surm, Rilka, Savaric, and Mahgnus (who came inside) and identifies them as strangers. He asks if they need help.
Surm identifies himself as representing the University of Kalimsport, presents his letter from them, and indicates that he understands that they are caring for a guide named Achir from an expedition that was set upon by orcs. They would like to see him. The priest reads the letter and agrees to let them see Achir.
The priest leads them to a back-room where a hospital has been set up. Several cots are laid out with wounded people and priests are tending to them. One such person is a man who looks like he has suffered from exposure and from being beat about. He looks up at the party in confusion and the priest says, “Achir, these people have come from the University. I believe they wish to speak with you about the sage that was taken.”
Surm introduces himself and the others and says that, indeed, he’d like to hear what happened. “They came in the night,” Achir begins and describes the raid of the orcs on the camp. Apparently there were about twenty orcs altogether, and 5 game riding in on Gortheks, great beasts that are crosses between rhinoceroses and buffaloes. Kerendal only had a guard contingent of 6, so they were vastly outnumbered. The other survivors were a guide named Azura Mirasi and a guard named Angelet Nyweth. Apparently the leader of the raid, Balug, was impressed with Kerendal because he wouldn’t back down and took him. Achir saw them get back on their boats and head out. There was also drumming with the orcs as well. They flew a standard with a red flame on it.
After questioning Achir, Surm asks Halim if he knows any experts on Orcs. Halim says that he knows of one, but he sounds a bit dubious. Surm asks him to tell him who it is and he says she’s a bit notorious. Apparently her name is Noor Khandasi and she can be found at an inn known as The Hydra. “Is it on the bad side of town?” Surm asks. “Well, it’s not on the good side,” Halim says. Surm wants to be taken there, so Halim agrees.
The Hydra is a dilapidated inn in an impoverished part of the city. It bears a sign with a multi-headed reptilian beast over the door. Raucous laughter can be heard from within. Surm, Mahgnus, Rilka, Savaric, and Mõrvar dismount and head inside. Mõrvar immediately heads to the bar and orders a bottle of whiskey. Surm, infuriated, goes over and tells his brother that they are on the job and to put the whiskey back. Mõrvar is sullen and doesn’t respond very well to Surm’s demands. The two go outside and argue, with Surm insisting, as his employer, for Mõrvar to fall in line with everyone else or to quit the job. Mõrvar looks for support from Rilka, but Rilka says that Surm is acting like an employer. Mõrvar sullenly falls in line. They reenter the common room and Halim points out Noor Khandasi sitting at the back of the room.
Noor Khandasi is an Acheran woman with a long scar across her face and outlandish clothes. She looks up warily as the party approaches her table. “Are you Noor Khandasi?” Surm asks.
“I am,” she says.
Then Surm makes introductions and indicates that he represents the University of Kalimsport and needs an expert on Orcs for a rescue expedition he’s heading up. He gives a brief rundown of what’s happened and what he needs. Noor indicates that her information doesn’t come for free. Surm counters that she may be compensated if it turns out her information is good, but not before. Noor doesn’t seem to like that proposition. She brings up that the University probably has deep pockets and that there is probably a reward for participation. Surm allows that there is, and that he’s prepared to offer 500 gold pieces for participation in the expedition. Noor likes that proposition better than the thought of “maybe” being compensated for her information at a later date. She’s in.
The red-flame standard that Achir spoke of indicates that this is the Bloodflame Clan. They are based out of Karsk, a orcish settlement on one of the Islands of Urkhan. They are known to take slaves for their own purposes (labor, breeding, etc.) and for sale to the Tarsians. They are apparently led by a Orc called Gorruk. Noor has not heard of Balug. Karsk is a settlement carved out of an old set of ruins. She has never raided Karsk itself—she usually hunts in smaller groups.
Surm feels like he need to recruit more help. Noor doesn’t really have any recommendations—she usually works alone. She keeps eyeballing the two half-orcs warily. They’ll also need a ship to sail over to Karsk. Noor has a small craft that can make the journey. Surm intends to rescue whoever the orcs have—not only Kerendal and the two women, but anyone else enslaved. That means the ship may be overrun. That means they may have to have a specialist force—small, but elite. And not bring the soldiery.
They agree to meet Noor at her craft, the Azure Dawn, in two days. She says she’ll have her ready in one day. Then the party leaves to make plans to recruit more help. They also decide to have two soldiers volunteer to stay behind with the ship so that they have someone they can trust there with Noor’s crew.
Halim leads them to a reasonable inn, the Arrow of Lightning. Halim is then dismissed with the request to meet them back at the inn in the morning. Then they get the retinue situated into rooms. Mõrvar buys a bottle of whiskey and heads to his room. Rilka calls for two volunteers to stay with the boat during the mission. Tarben and Sorcha step forward. Seemingly unsatisfied with the results, Rilka offers a raise in pay of 1 gold per day for the duty. Then everyone volunteers. Surm asks Alasir to pick from the volunteers. He chooses Sorcha and Einar. Tarben looks frustrated and Surm claps him on the shoulder, telling him that his initial volunteering did not go unnoticed.
Mahgnus, Tarben, and Rilka are sent out to look for recruits, as are Surm, Alfhild, and Savaric.
Surm’s group gets a lead on someone called Scarlatta the Quick. She is apparently a capable adventurer that fits the bill for what they are looking for and is trustworthy. She apparently travels with a group calling themselves the “Bronze Griffons.” She is staying at the Copper Flagon. They head in that direction.
At the Copper Flagon, they ask the barkeep to point out the Bronze Griffons. He points out a group of four sitting in the common room. One is a large human male wearing a holy symbol of a set of scales with a sword as the fulcrum. Savaric points out that this is the symbol of Barthal, but Surm disagrees. There is also a petite Acheran woman and an Elven male. Finally, there is an athletically built female with a wicked smile who is apparently telling a joke. As the party approaches, she finishes the joke and the Griffon’s all laugh.
Surm clears his throat to get their attention and asks if they are the Bronze Griffons. The elf allows that they are. Surm says that he is looking for one of their number, a Scarlatta the Quick. They all look to the woman who told the joke and she protests that they only just got into town, that she didn’t do anything to get them into trouble. Surm assures them that he is not with the Watch. He represents the University of Kalimsport and is here to inquire about her interest in a job. She invites him to sit and assures him that anything he has to say can be said in front of her friends. Chairs are brought for the others as well.
Surm explains the parameters of the mission to Scarlatta and she seems thoughtful. She indicates that she does not work alone and he assures her that there are others on the mission and he lists them off, including Noor Khandasi. The other woman, the Acheran, indicates that she’s heard of Noor Khandasi, and that she collects Orc ears. Surm takes this in stride and says that she apparently knows the area and a great deal about Orcs and that is why she is on the mission. He was unaware of that habit.
Throughout their conversation, he is aware that the paladin (who may or may not be of Barthal) and the Elf have been having a “conversation” of their own, with the paladin nodding “yes” to the Elf and the Elf making signals of reluctance to the paladin. Finally, the Elf relents and says aloud, “We may be willing, as a group, to take on this mission.”
Surm demurs, saying, “Alas, I have room for only two on my boat.”
The Elf sighs after another look from the paladin. “We can provide our own transport. We would still like to join in the rescue.”
Surm brightens. “That’s excellent. I can offer you 250 gold as reward, payable on the return of the sage. Of course, we plan on rescuing all we can.”
The Elf looks pained. “That is acceptable,” he says.
Surm asks what they have to offer, as he was lead to believe that Scarlatta offered stealth (which was why he was there). The paladin, whose name is Alban, is a paladin of Barthal. Surm seems shocked. The Acheran woman, Prana, is a “master of illusions.” The Elf, Jalynel, lists himself as a fighter that can provide “air power”, but doesn’t elaborate.
Arrangements are made for the Bronze Griffons to meet the group at the Azure Dawn tomorrow morning and Surm, Savaric, and Alfhild take their leave, quite pleased with their results.
Meanwhile, Mahgnus, Tarben, and Rilka follow a lead on a stealthy elf by the name of Tarquinn who frequents a tavern by the name of the Bloody Unicorn. When they arrive at the rough-and-tumble tavern, they are directed to a very rough-looking elf sitting at the back of the room. As they approach, the elf keeps his eyes on Rilka while addressing Mahgnus, who does all the talking.
Mahgnus introduces himself as representing his employer, who in turn represents the University of Kalimsport. They are hiring for a rescue mission into Karsk. The reward is 500 gold pieces and reasonable expenses for a being of his talents. They were wondering if he would be interested. Tarquinn continues to stare at Rilka and says, “I don’t work for Orcs.”
“Aren’t you cute,” Rilka says.
Mahgnus looks back and forth between the two of them and says. “I have obviously wasted your time, sir. This is not the job for you. Good evening to you.” They make their way toward the door, with Tarben and Rilka forming a barrier between the elf and Mahgnus.
“Wait a minute, I am interested in your job!” the elf says, indignant.
“No, I don’t think you’re right for the position,” Mahgnus says, bustling out.
As they make their way out, the elf calls out, “You’ll be sorry you didn’t hire me, lousy Orc lover!”
Rilka and Tarben remain on high alert as they make their way back to the Arrow of Lightning. Mahgnus comments that he thinks he got some bad information.
When everyone returns to the inn, they compare notes on their relative successes and failures. Rilka goes upstairs to inform Mõrvar of what has transpired and to see if he wants to meet their recruits. He seems disinterested and smells of whiskey. Rilka leaves him to it.
23 Chillwind 508
Arrangements are made for the majority of the soldiery and the porters to stay at the inn. After breakfast, Rilka kisses Kortash goodbye, and everyone heads to the docks. Einar and Sorcha will accompany the rest of the party to the docks. They head to the slip where the Azure Dawn is docked. It’s a fairly dilapidated little ship. They are met on the deck by a swarthy man without a shirt who gruffly asks them their business. “You must be the northerners then,” he says when Surm introduces them. He lets them on board. Noor comes up and welcomes them on board as they see the Bronze Griffons approach. Introductions are made all around.
The Griffons will be sailing in a ship called the Ivory Horn. Noor gives them coordinates for their captain to follow as to where to weigh anchor off the coast of the island where Karsk lies as a rendezvous point. The Griffons wish everyone safe journey and head off to their ship. Noor pulls up the anchor and ships out.
1 Harvest 508
The week of sailing is cramped, sweaty, and uncomfortable, but otherwise uneventful. Noor’s two crewmen keep to themselves and are never introduced. Land is finally sighted and the anchor is dropped off the coast. When Surm expresses dismay that the ship is harbored at the island, Noor is sharp with him about not wanting to run her ship aground. They’ll have to take rowboats from here. That’s going to slow down the rescue operation considerably.
After some thought, Noor sails around to the other side of the island, with the Ivory Horn following, and puts in at a lagoon, a natural harbor. It’ll mean more hiking through the jungle, but at least they won’t be sitting ducks in a rowboat. They all disembark from their respective ships and begin hiking through the jungle, with Savaric and Scarlatta taking point. Mõrvar and Noor believe that it will be 10 to 15 miles to Karsk from here. They start heading southwest through the jungle. Savaric has Ghost guard the ship along with Einar and Sorcha.
As they hike through the thick vines and foliage, everyone questions Jalynel about his choice of weapon—a lance. He says that he has a mount—a griffon. The rest of the party is a bit incredulous. He explains that he can summon it twice per week. Still, the party is a bit dubious of his claim.
At the end of the day of hard hiking, Savaric finds a clearing in which to camp. He finds signs of tigers, Orcs, and Gorthek which have traversed through the campsite in the past day. He decides to find another campsite. As the sun sets, he finds another clearing that seems less well-trafficked.