Chronicles of Bael
Marst 15, 5991 (Game Date - 5/15/10)
The candles flickered fitfully each time the door opened, letting in the brisk spring evening air. Twin hearths mirrored each other on opposite ends of the large room, each filled with a fire large enough to be uncomfortable if one sat too close. People were packed cheek by jowl.
Bael, an ambassador from Skara, sat at a table in the common room of The Shimmering Sword, one of the many inns to grace the Imperial Road in the center of Ophio. She carefully studied those around her over the edge of her wine glass. The wine was cheap, and just short of vinegar. Around the room was a misfit bunch of traders on their way through the forest, their escorts, and those dedicated to the Arch-Druid Ilastrea.
Between sips of wine, Bael poked at the meal before her. She recognized a few of the people around her as she had been at the Ophio Tower now for a couple weeks. Across the table was Oskari, an outcast Shifter with a look of purpose and poise that did not overshadow the familiar way that he wore the spiked chain at his hip. Next to Oskari was a winged Tiefling by the name of Avari. Avari had a glint in her eye and a scowl every time her gaze passed over an elf in the room. Floating at her side was an odd lantern that seemed to glow without burning.
A commotion at one end of the room took her attention from the lantern. A large man was raising his arms for attention, and people slowly quieted down and turned heads. "My name is Imrallion. I am in charge of the escorts of the Ophio forest. For anyone interested, please present yourself outside my office in the morning."
There were some murmurs from the crowd as a pair here and a group there visibly considered the proposal.
Bael stood and called out above the din, "Sir, what would the compensation be for such employment?" She was not really that interested in money, but often followed where fates took her. If she happened to pocket some coin along the way, all the better.
"If you show up to my office, Anya will provide you with all the details. Thank you for your time." Imrallion started to turn away and then addressed the crowd again. "I almost forgot, I also have some other opportunities for the more adventurous among you. If that interests you, please see me after dinner on the balcony."
With that Imrallion did turn and the conversations that had been cut off began again with renewed vigor. Bael carefully considered the second offer. In her experience, more adventurous meant more coin, more excitement, and more knowledge. Since the recent death of King Hastein, Bael had a little more flexibility in her schedule and planned to make the most of it. She continued to pick at her food and consider the possibilities that Imrallion had mentioned while half listening to the conversations around her.
When the meal was finished, the serving women cleared away the dishes and the room filled with the bluish haze of pipe smoke. A flute player started playing a lively tune and a number of people cleared a small space and started dancing. Those watching clapped along or tapped their mugs to the beat. Bael saw Imrallion head out to the balcony and started up in that direction.
As she stood, a human with a pair of blades at his hips stood and followed. Bael had seen this man before and knew that he was connected somehow to the spirit of Ophio. Thane was quiet and reserved socially and his eyes never stayed long in one place. He often looked like he was constantly expecting an attack and thought he was the only one that could deal with it.
Bael took her wine glass from the table and handed it to an elvish waitress as she walked to the balcony and noticed Thane following quietly. She resisted the urge to look over her shoulder and confront him even as she felt tingles down her spine from the feeling of being watched.
As she walked out onto the balcony, Imrallion was sitting in a weather beaten rocking chair holding a lit splinter of wood to the bowl of his pipe to get it lit. Bael took a seat across a small table from him and folded her hands across her lap. Thane leaned up against a railing with an awkward conspicuousness. Once the embers in Imrallion's pipe were glowing brightly, he said "So, you are interested in some tasks that I have."
Thane shrugged his shoulders, looked around and stated "Meh, I am just standing here."
Bael glanced at Thane and then turned her attention to Imrallion. "I could be interested in a little bit of adventure. I make a habit of keeping my eyes open to information and opportunities."
Leveling a stone cold glare at Thane, Imrallion said dismissively, "You can leave now, boy. I have nothing to discuss with you." Then he turned to Bael and stared to exchange pleasantries. There was nothing of substance in the conversation and after a while Thane grumbled and went back to the common room.
After he left, Imrallion took another deep puff of his pipe and began laying out his offer. "It has been reported, from a reliable source, that north of Ophio, near the coast, something of interest may be in the ruins of Wharram. We know that Wilska is interested in the ruins, and that interests us. The journey should not take long, but it will take you through the domain of a crotchety air spirit by the name of Varrina. The spirits here in Ophio have been blessedly helpful, but we hear that Varrina can be mischievous and has been known to lead travelers to their demise when they haven't made a proper tribute in her demesne."
Reading between the lines, Bael replied, "So, you would like me to head up there and have a look to see what interests Wilska so much. Then bring that object back if possible, and information if not. I have noticed that you have not made any comment on the compensation for success."
Blowing a ring of smoke into the air, Imrallion said, "Very astute, Bael." A quick flash of surprise crossed her face. "Yes, I know of you and your position. You will be well paid for return with information. If you bring something back with you, we will discuss additional rewards."
Bael stared deeply into his eyes searching for any sign of deceit. After a moment, she found none. "I will return in a week then with the information you require" she said.
"Not so fast there." He chuckled. "There are bandits and worse out there. It might be better if you were to gather a companion or two to assist you with this. I would, however, appreciate it if you would keep it discrete. I don't want to be seen wasting time and resources chasing rumors."
"I will think on it."
"See that you do." Imrallion stated with a tone that brooked no further discussion of the topic. In her services as a Bard to the King and ambassador, she was very familiar with this behavior. She made a few more comments on the weather and trade in Ophio before excusing herself to retire early so that she could be prepared to leave in the morning.
Upon returning to the common room, Bael was thinking about who to recruit for this job. Most of the room has cleared out, but Avari and Oskari caught her attention. They were sitting alone at a table and talking to each other, so Bael went over and sat down across from them. She ordered another glass of wine and smiled at them. "Were you two interested in a job?" Bael inquired.
Oskari asked what exactly she had in mind and as Bael started explaining about exploring some ruins for information Avari appeared to suddenly become distracted. "Did you need something, Aella?" Avari interrupted.
Bael looked over to where Avari was talking and was surprised to see a faerie dragon sitting at the next table.
"Well, it looks like I am extending the invitation to you as well, Aella," Bael said. "My name is Bael, and as I was saying, we are to head north from Ophio to investigate some old ruins. Our trek should not be long, but it will take us through the domain of an ornery air spirit."
Bael noticed Avari's eyes perk up at the mention of an air spirit. "So, are you guys interested?" she asked. "The payment promised is dependent on the information returned and payable when we do."
Oskari and Avari looked at each other. Avari said, "You can count me in, but we should make some time to meet this air spirit," as she flexed her wings.
"I will also join you in this," Oskari accepted.
Aella thought for a moment and spoke, "That does sound more interesting than sitting around Ophio. I will also travel with you."
Bael recommended that they meet outside the stable early the next morning to maximize travel time, and with that, Bael finished her wine and retired to her room for the evening.
The next morning, Bael packed her belongings and had a quick meal in the common room. When she went out to the stables, she found her three new companions already there and ready. Next to them was Thane on a unicorn that was prancing nervously in place.
Imrallion was also outside the stables. "Thane here will be joining you on your trip. His mother suggested he get out and see a bit of the world. His knowledge of the area and skills with his blades may come in handy. This is non-negotiable."
Bael recognized the tone in his voice as that of a man that was following orders that he wasn't completely comfortable with. "We would be delighted for a guide and an extra hand. Since we have a journey ahead of us, Imrallion, I was wondering if Ophio may be able to supply some rations and salt for our journey."
"Of course, Bael. Please let Sharle know that you have my permission to the provisions that you require," Imrallion replied. "The blessings of Ophio and Ilastrea be upon you." With that, Imrallion turned and went down the street back towards his office.
Thane looked around while his cloak rippled in the breeze. Avari glared at any elf passing the group down the street, and Aella seemed to disappear into the shadows every time Bael took her eyes off of her. Bael gathered her new companions together and headed towards the kitchens of Sharle.
Walking into the kitchens, Bael saw a number of assistants running around slicing vegetables, turning spits, and stirring pots. She grabbed the nearest worker by the arm and asked after Sharle. The scullery maid pointed in the direction of a large woman brandishing a wooden spoon like a scepter and using it on those that were not up to her speed. Bael let her go on with her work and walked across the room to Sharle. "Good day, mistress Sharle. My name is Bael. Imrallion said that I should come to you for some supplies before we head off on a task for him."
"Well, if Imrallion said that it is ok, who am I to argue?" Sharle chimed. "But I don't have all day. What is it that you are needing?"
"There are five of us and we need enough travel rations for each of us for eight days. Also, we will need one pound of salt," Bael said.
Sharle turned to one of the assistants and whispered a few things into her ear. Sharle then turned back to Bael, "The things that you need will be ready for you outside in a few minutes. Now, if you will excuse me, I have duties to attend to." She went back to chastising the help and tasting the pots before adding seasonings.
Bael went back outside and waited for the provisions to be delivered. After a few minutes, they were brought out by two cooks. The group stowed away the rations. The five companions headed north out of Ophio, Thane leading the way through the forest. Taking paths and game trails, they made good time.
At the edge of the forest, Bael grabbed a handful of salt from her pack and offered up a silent prayer to Varrina, the air spirit, for safe passage. She noticed Avari doing the same with a handful of dust from the ground. After a moment, Avari looked up and said, "Varrina is pleased and will allow us passage through her domain. I heard her voice upon the winds."
They continued to travel north, guided by Thane. The wind grew stronger without the shelter of the forest. As the sun was setting, Oskari suggestd that they find a place to camp for the night. Thane scouted around the area on his unicorn for a short time and came back to the party to lead them to a gully, protected from the wind.
"We should setup watches through the night," suggested Aella. "I don't need much sleep, so I will keep two watches."
In the early hours of the morning, Oskari and Avari were on watch. They sat on opposite sides of the camp and huddled in their cloaks against the wind. Avari noticed a fire off in the distance. After a quick discussion, they both decided to keep an eye on the fire, but not to approach. When shift change came, they woke up Aella and Thane, pointed out the fire, and went to sleep.
Thane huddled in the darkness, nearly invisible while keeping an eye on the flickering light off in the distance. It was far enough off to not ruin his night vision. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Aella flying circuits around the camp while the others slept. A low rumbling snore came from Oskari's blanket. Beyond that, the camp was quiet.
As the seconds drug into minutes, and the minutes into hours. Aella alerted Thane to a noise that she heard. Prying his eyes off of the distant fire, he focused all of his attention in the direction that Aella pointed and eased his blades out of their scabbards. He stepped quietly with his swords at the ready. His eyes searched the moonlit area around him, but didn't spot Aella. At that moment, his skin began to tingle and he heard a scraping noise and saw the face of a reptilian creature heading towards him. Springing into action, he closed the distance with the creature, and where before there was one, now there were five. Thought left his mind as he let his instinct take over. Swinging both blades with seemingly reckless abandon and dodging out of the way of the lizards' teeth at the last moment.
Aella rushed over to the slumbering masses on the blankets near the now extinguished campfire and began to shake and kick at the bodies. "WAKE UP! ATTACK!" she shouted. Avari was up in an instant followed quickly by Oskari. Bael was the last to rise and as she did, Aella flew back to Thane. The sounds of rustling and silhouettes in the moonlight were the only beacon that they all had to find Thane.
Oskari rushed strait in swinging his spiked chain above his head and suddenly letting it lash out. It connected with one of the lizards in the torso with a crunching sound as bones were broken. Avari could see a dark trickle of blood running down Thane's thigh as he was surrounded by three of the attackers. She landed behind one of them and unleashed a Divine fury that staggered the monster.
When Bael joined the fray, she quickly sang out a Staggering Note at the nearest lizard, causing it to wince in pain and move away from her. Oskari took the opportunity to hit this enemy with a glancing blow that opened a gash in it's shoulder. The lizards began thrashing, clawing, and biting. Thane took another wound, to his arm this time. Oskari was bitten by two of the creatures and cried out in pain. One of them closed in on Bael and tore a hole in her flesh with it's teeth. Aella was chanting quietly as Storm Magic leaped from her to the monsters causing them to shriek in agony.
As the battle continued, Bael managed to call out a Majestic Word to Thane to revitalize him shortly before one of the lizards knocked her unconscious. Thane slashed the head off of one of them and continued his flurry of blades on the others. Avari cut another one down as it was lunging for Oskari.
After a few minutes that filled hours, only the sounds of heavy breathing remained as the lizards had all been dispatched. A gentle breeze belied the chaos that so recently had taken place. Oskari moved over and tended to the rend in Bael's leg and awakened her. Once everyone's wounds were attended to, the group posted guards once again. Each made a silent prayer for a safe slumber.
The rest of the night passed uneventfully and the group slept past the rising of the sun. Thane was attending to his unicorn while the others were packing up their sleeping rolls. There were a few billowy clouds moving slowly across the sky when Avari stopped tying her pack together. Bael noticed the sudden change and followed her eyes to the direction of the distant fire from the night before.
"Hail traveler," Bael called out to the approaching figures. "What is your business?" Thane puffed up his chest, taking on a powerful stance while Oskari leaned against a tree and ran his finger across one of the spikes on the end of his weapon.
"My name is Inantes," the leader began. The other two were larger and armed with maces at their hip. Both had the look of men that were not strangers to a bar fight, but they did not carry themselves with the formal discipline of someone with military training. "We heard some commotion last night from our camp over yonder." He pointed back to where the fire was. "I certainly hope that you are all well. We were too far to assist."
"We had a bit of trouble last night with some reptiles," Bael nodded her head in the direction of remains. "Thank you for your concern, we are well. If I may ask, what are you doing out here? We have heard of that there are bandits in the area making travel dangerous."
Inantes said, "I search the area for an inscription in some ruins. I believe that this inscription may be the last part of a puzzle I have been completing. If you would be kind enough to search and make an etching of this inscription, I would compensate you well."
"What language is this inscription in?" Bael asked. She had a bad feeling about this request and about Inantes, but could not place a finger on it. "What does the inscription mean?"
"It is just some poem written in a language from before the cataclysm. Really, it is just a personal curiosity started from an old family story." he answered as he dry washed his hands at his waist. Noticing the hesitation in Bael and the group, he continued, "If you find the inscription and make an etching, I will pay 200 gold pieces."
Bael considered a moment, then looked back at her companions. Avari seemed a bit uncomfortable with the vagueness, but made a small nod of her head. The others also made very small motions of assent. "We will look for this inscription and make an etching. We will require you to provide the etching materials, as well as a small amount of alchemical reagents.
"Very well." Inantes then began to describe the ruins that contain the inscription. Once he finished, he handed Bael a small bag, two sheets of parchment, and a small bit of charcoal. Then, he and his guards headed off to the east.
They finished breaking camp and when they were ready for travel again, Inantes was out of sight. Thane mounted his unicorn and let it prance for a few steps before starting off to the north. The others followed behind. Bael made a slight shudder as she passed the corpses of the reptiles from the night before.
It was near mid day when Avari called for Thane to stop. "I think that we have just entered Verrina's home. We should all stop and pay a homage to the Spirit." She went to her knees and grabbed two handfuls of dirt and threw them high into the air with a silent prayer. Bael grabbed another handful of salt from her pack and repeated the gesture. Thane dismounted his unicorn, then he and the others also grabbed some dust on the ground and tossed it into the air. As the last handful went into the air, the wind picked up and began to swirl around them gathering the dust and salt.
"Who is it that comes into my home?" hissed a voice from all around. The swirling wind began to localize on a spot in front of the group, and in a few moments a form of a beautiful elven woman stood there watching them.
"Oh great Verrina! I offer myself up to you and the greatness of your Spirit." Avari exclaimed as she threw her arms out to her side, baring her chest to the spirit. The others dropped to a single knee to pay respect to Verrina. "I seek the boon of your blessing and to worship you as I fly upon your winds."
A smile crossed the unblemished face of the elven maiden as she spoke, "Your worship is welcome, but you must prove yourself if you wish to recieve my blessings."
"Name the task, great Spirit. I will prove myself to you." Avari professed.
"Avari, I approve of your enthusiasm, but do not rush blindly into dangers you do not yet understand. There are some souls in a ruin near here that were not properly laid to rest. The chamber of these ruins are walked by these restless souls. My task to you is to clear the undead from these chambers and lay these souls to rest. Take great care, however, as there is a skeletal king among them. You need not defeat, or even face this foe to gain my blessing, but if you were to achieve such a feat, I would be deeply gracious. The ruins are a short distance to the west of here. The building has crumbled over the ages and the chamber is reached by a shaft that lies in the middle of three stone columns that have fallen as such." Verrina draws a roughly triangular shape in the dust. "Please make haste. It pains me to have undelivered souls roaming in my realm." Verrina called upon the winds once again and as the swirled around her, she faded. As the winds subsided, she was gone once again.
"I am sorry, but I must complete this task before we go further," said Avari.
"I agree with you, Avari. We will divert our attentions to this task before returning to our scouting mission. Appeasing the Spirits is good for the soul," said Bael. She knew that the powers of the Spirits were great and hoped to make use of them in any way that she could. Besides, if nothing else, perhaps Verrina could help make the weather a little more pleasant and keep the spring rains away for a few more days.
Oskari said, "Then I am in as well. You will need my protection if success is to be achieved."
Aella fluttered nervously. "I am not a fan of the undead, but nor do I wish to continue traveling around here alone. It seems that there will be more adventures with you than I planned."
Thane merely nodded his head, mounted his unicorn and started off to the west.