The Mistmarches

The Baron's Council
At Freeton

Baron Fengwyn Shea sat and listened as his son provided introductions and a very brief summary of most recent events – that is, the arrival of the airship and the specific claims made by the Black Talons and the Ranger. Credentials, what were available, were presented, and the leader of the western portion of the realm considered them one by one, moving his eyes slowly over each paper, and seeming to consider each word spoken in its own right.

Wearing a solemn expression, he finally nodded slightly, and addressed the Talons directly.

“Bring us news of Begglestar and the north. Leave nothing out,” he says in a deep, resonant voice, pronouncing ‘news’ as “nyooz,” betraying a slight eastern accent.

The Talons provided an account of having seen the army north of the realm, of retaking of Camp Belgrey, and of the battle for Begglestar, along with how they seized the airship, and the strange nature of the commander and crew. Genji explained, in vague terms, the functioning of the communications table, and how this commander was coordinating with other enemies, currently supporting, or perhaps manipulating, the goblinoid armies attacking around Narlford.

The baron nodded along, following the natural inflection points of the narrative, but said nothing until the Talons and Ranger were finished. Then he sat quietly, looking slowly at each of his aides, sometimes arching an eyebrow, sometimes nodding slightly, once pursing his lips. The room was silent save some some faint sounds drifting in from the outside, and for a moment it started to feel uncomfortable.

“I see. This is all very unfortunate, very much a grave threat to the realm. I have been in constant communication with ”/characters/king-jotwan-ii" class=“wiki-content-link”>King Jotwan and the seat of power, and our forces are taxed nearly to the limit by these attacks. Coordination between them provides some solace, perhaps, in that we know our enemy is one, or at least seemingly orchestrated by one. And yet we know our enemies are at least a step or more ahead of us," he spoke slowly, deeply, with crisply-pronounced s’s and t’s, and a slight ‘y’ sound following most n’s. His diction was of the nobility, of the educated and urbane, and his grave expression was in keeping with the steady emotional balance common to those of his station.

“Troops have been sent to Begglestar,” he began again, “and we have been updated by our sister-city’s Lord-Mayor. The realm’s thanks are on you all for providing such essential support there. I will ensure to record this account in my dispatches to the king,” he said, nodding with a slight smile at the last comment.

“And yet we are at war still, and must make plans for our move, to perhaps seize the initiative and find our foes’ weakness. Our plans are laid; and yet with your arrival and the possibilities you bring, perhaps we ought to reconsider some of them,” he said, looking to his military commander as he did so.

“Tell us of your ideas…what can this flying wonder do, and what do you propose to do with it, in defense of the realm?” he asked, brushing aside his silvery-grey hair.

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Searching the Ship
...then, maybe some sleep...maybe

Searching the ship takes a little longer than expected, given some stoutly-locked chambers on the two lower decks. One deck below the spar, to the aft, is a chamber separated into two rooms. One of them, the forward of the two, houses a pedestal-mounted device that emanates arcane energy and small crackles of light. It’s multi-sided, about two feet in diameter, and attached to the stand by copper wires and some finely-made leather straps. Nearby is another stand – more of a console – with a glass sphere of water, inside of which is a black shard of something — wood? obsidian? — that points in a single direction, regardless of the motion of the ship. There is also a large table with a map of the region on it, and trays to hold charcoal sticks, rulers, and other navigational tools. There are also a few ledgers and large books around this table, secured on shelves.

The aft-most room on this deck houses steering gears, pulleys, and some other mechanical contraptions that might have to do with flight. It’s pretty much an open question.

The forward chamber, at the bow and in front of the crew area, is a galley, with spartan food preparation tools and a kitchen.

The hold, which is the lowest full deck, is also separated into three chambers, aft, amidships, and forward, which are about equal in size to each other.

The aft chamber houses more equipment and mechanical things, in both wood and metal. There are connections laterally up the insides of the hull, attaching in the main chamber to beams that stick out of the hull (those are the things that stuck in the ground and dug those ruts you saw).

The main chamber is the closest thing to a proper cargo hold, and holds several crates, tied down, along with the aforementioned beam apparatus. Other than that there isn’t much around.

The forward cabin, which was locked, is the most unusual and disturbing, as it apparently served as the quarters for the Illithid. The room stinks powerfully of cloves and oil, and inside it are a pair of large wardrobes, one to port and one to starboard, against the bulkheads, a table near the door, and a vat of greasy liquid way up in the forward-most edge of the room. The vat is oblong, about three feet deep and around six feet long, and has a what looks like a thick fluid in it. Chained to the port bulkhead is a dead girl, her eye sockets empty and blood drying on her face.

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Fight AND Flight

“It’s coming back! The ship’s coming back!” shouted a guard from the south wall, his voice almost drowned out by the growing din of battle. The alarm spread somewhat, but given everything else that was going on, not as many saw it until it was practically over the keep. Those that did felt a sense of dread – of final defeat looming. The ship had heralded the arrival of the barbarians, and rumors had spread of captives being brought to it, and not returning. Death and darkness rushed forward, threatening to take a bit from the walls.

A sudden blast of flame erupted from outside the walls, blasting a group of attackers, scattering and torching them. Another blast followed, perhaps 100 feet beyond that, then another. These were followed by jagged streaks of lightning streaking out of the sky…from the deck of the airship. Confusion held the attackers and defenders in its grasp for some moments as the ship circled the keep once, raining death down on the barbarians, and descending as it did, until it passed between the tops of the towers on its second pass. The battle slowed visibly as it floated over the central yard of the keep.

OOSHAH! OOSHAH!” bellowed a ragged, familiar figure, waving a stick in one hand and a great axe in the other. Completely overcome with battle fury, Ti’Un was yelling the war cry he’d heard from his grandfather Garshon would told young Ti many stories of great battles. Next to him stood the strange sorcerer, his hat pulled down, blue lightning crackling from his hands, forming a nimbus of light around him, and arcing downward on the attackers.

“Steel your backs, men! This battle has only just begun!” cried the man who’d been imprisoned here only a week or so before, standing in full view on the poop deck, his left arm wrapped around the rigging to steady himself as he waved his sword over his head.

Only those in the towers could hope to see Korrigan, steering the ship while laughing like a loon.

Cheers, yells, and screams rippled across the yard as the ship passed over the east wall and toward the merchants’ quarter, where so many of the townspeople, trapped outside the keep, were making their last stand in pockets out in the open or in clusters of barricaded home and businesses. The airship left in its wake a swath of dead attackers, whose latest assault had been broken for the moment.

Meta
Remember, you’re all 9th level now. Which does mean your HP and spells are recharged. You’ve got a town to save, after all.

The battle had just begun.

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"It's exciting and new...come aboard...we're expecting you..."
where are we going to park this thing?

The ship jerked and pitched violently as Korrigan tried to drive it, but it seemed somehow anchored at the rear. Genji gripped the port rail as Sarrick tumbled over before stopping himself on the base of the main mast. The illithid’s body rolled over, leaving trail of mucus as it slid toward the aft of the spar deck.

Korrigan fell backward, letting go his light grasp on the wheel, while Ti’ held fast on a bench starboard of the wheel. The hull creaked and strained, and from within the cabins and below decks came the sounds of crashing, caused by the rapid smashing about of whatever was inside the ship. The bow jabbed at the night sky, perhaps 20 feet higher than the stern, while turning lazily to starboard and wavering back and forth.

Korrigan, shouting a string of obscenities as pulled himself back to the wheel, tried to regain – or, more accurately, gain – control of the vessel, while Ti’ took advantage of gravity, pulling him toward the stern, to see if there was something physically holding them in place.

Finding a pair of levels and a stout cranking mechanism built onto the stern itself, Ti’ looked down to the ground and saw a claw-like anchor gripping deeply into the dirt. Thinking quickly, he pulled at the levels, which each had only two positions, and hearing a pair of loud, metallic blows from below, grabbed the two-handled crank and began turning it for all he was worth.

“Go! Go!” he shouted as he saw the anchor release from the ground and swing outward. Korrigan held fast to the wheel as the ship jolted suddenly and shot forward, up into the sky, almost tossing Ti’ overboard. Genji and Sarrick held their positions on the deck, unable to move anywhere safely given the violent motion.

The ship sailed upward, perhaps 100 feet aloft before Korrigan adjusted the wheel, causing it to swing hard to port, toward the town, much of which was on fire and under attack. This change in attitude was immediately followed by sudden dive, then another hard turn to port, leaving them now heading directly east, and away from town, about 70 feet off the ground.

“I can do this!” shouted Korrigan a few times. “Really I can!”

Ti, having steadied himself, stood in a crouch, protected with a hand on a heavy rail, and watched Korrigan for a moment as he tried to make sense of the wheel and lever, and the ship mostly sailing in a lazy turn to port, rising and falling on the wind, sometimes punctuated by sudden jerks or turns.

“The wheel controls direction, but it’s touchy,” Korrigan shouted a little too loudly over the whistle of the wind. “I think this lever has something to do with how high we go,” he yelled, pointing to the thigh-high metal shaft to his right, now set at about the middle position. “I thought it was one way or another, but it’s not!”

Ti’ watched some more and noticed that his friend was paying most of his attention to the wheel and lever, but had not seemed to notice what looked like a pedal on the deck, to the left of where the wheel was attached on its swivel.

“What does that do?” asked Ti’, hoping to coax the very excited Korrigan into noticing it.

“No idea!” replied his friend, smiling wildly as he moved a foot onto it and tested it a bit.

Meanwhile, Genji and Sarrick were carefully making their way aft, moving from rail to rope to fixed handhold, staying low to the deck in fear of another jerking turn, climb, or stomach-turning dive.

Still benefitting from his Detect Magic spell, Genji could sense the layers of magic weaved into the ship and surrounding it, holding it aloft. Throughout, he could feel a really freakin’ bizarre nature to it all, in both how the magic operated and how it acted on the ship.

Sarrick, almost to the ladders at the base of the poop deck, found himself face-to-face with the dead illithid, which had rolled to the base of the cabin under the poop, and was facing him, blank, watery eyes staring at him and flaccid face tentacles drooping. The thing, covered in a sheen of now-dirty oil, smelled of….cloves and cheap lamp oil.

By the time Genji and Sarrick pulled themselves onto the two ladders, it seemed that Korrigan, with the advice of Ti’, had gotten the ship under some degree of control, and were able to fly it reasonably straight, and reasonably level, with turns gradual and wide within their ability, as well.

From the poop deck the four teammates could see Begglestar in the distance – a mile to the northeast, they thought – much of it engulfed in flame, and the keep illuminated in what was probably a great battle for its walls.

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Belgrey: Defended
a barbarian attack repulsed

The sun rose over the eastern hills, illuminating first the still-smoldering carnage outside the front gate, then soon after the charred remains of the brave, but foolish attack from the west. Some 60 barbarians lay dead, a few from arrows; the rest from fire. Shields and ladders lay, also charred beyond serviceability, scattered outside the camp. Nothing of the attack was left intact, nor useable. The air around the camp was sour with the stench of burnt flesh and fur, and the eyes of the wall sentries stung from the lingering smoke.

Throughout the night a dim reddish light could be seen, just above the tree line, to the south, towards Begglestar, and by morning two more smoke trails were visible to the northwest, in the direction of the Oornothi hold. What was happening there, no one could tell. No news had reached Belgrey from anyone, save the three brave riders from Third Herd, who’d brought news of battles to the northwest, and then broke for Begglestar, presumably to deliver the same news, and an update on what had befallen Camp Belgrey. There was no way for them to get inside the camp, and so they made for a place they thought they could reach.

Soon after sunrise, a few things were apparent. There were some sounds from among the trees to the northeast, from where the barbarians had emerged the day before. No sight of them, however, could be found.

Two smoke trails lingered to the northwest, about the same distance as the single trail from the day before.

A haze – perhaps dispersed smoke – hung over where Begglestar sat, but distance and terrain prevented any clear view on the town.

The sun has just cleared the eastern horizon, and it looks like it’s going to be a warm (40s) day – perhaps winter is finally releasing its grasp. What do you do?

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Belgrey: Liberated
crooks caught; creepy stuff discovered

The sun came up on a different Camp Belgrey, with (now) Holly’s squad still on watch, Belkar Ahtur tied up and under guard, and some kind of scrying pool, and fungus-sprouting corpses, in a cave adjacent to the root cellar under the supply building.

22 Scouts and others were present, and the Black Talons were, it seemed, firmly in control of the camp and troops. There were five or six who were firmly on their side, and perhaps only two or three who seemed to grumble under the new management; the rest were okay enough with things and generally warming to the idea of not being under Ahtur and his increasingly autocratic and…strange…behavior.

By a little after breakfast the following additional information was learned through conversation and unsolicited admission:

  • Three squads headed out over the last week, two headed north and one to the west. All three were loaded down for a long patrol, or so it seemed. Typically squads’ patrol areas are known by everyone, but these went out under a cloak of secrecy, with cryptic comments and orders about “operational security” and concerns over the southern invasion as justification for the strangeness.
  • Folks had been feeling physically off for about a week, and it seems clear that while individuals were a little concerned, the overall vibe at the camp was so increasingly oppressive that there wasn’t a lot of conversation about it – nothing really open, that is, until now. They’re feeling better now, as if a haze has been lifted from them.
  • There’s enough water and grog for 2-3 days for everyone, and that’s if you’re really conservative. They were obviously keeping the clean stuff for them only.
  • If you mention anything about the scary cave, no one knows a thing, and it seems they’re telling the truth.

What else do you do at the camp, on that first day? Remember that you only did a cursory, initial search of some of the key places at the camp; you’ve got Ahtur on ice, and the two guys you killed laid out in the stables. In addition to your four horses there are six others, and the close-in patrol is due back to the camp by sunset on that first day.

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A flying rider, Rangers, and a return home

Sarick held the writ and considered what he’d been through over the last few weeks, going from would-be hero of the Scouts to accused of murder, jailed, an attempt made on his life, and now a release as if nothing at all had taken place. The cognitive and emotional whiplash he felt left his heading spinning, and at a time when his focus was required, it seemed, more than ever before.

’I’ll have to consider this later,’ he thought as he and his team mates – no longer ‘squad mates,’ as their future in the Scouts was certainly in doubt – made their way to the Oornothi inn for some food and celebration, which while nice, itself seemed oddly out of place. Their lunch, as he in retrospect expected, was interrupted by news of the return of the griffon rider and his gargoyle friends, circling Begglestar and dumping pamphlets again.

He was glad to leave Begglestar, in search of the Rangers, and yet all of them felt that they were somehow leaving the town behind, defenseless. Such is the burden of the decent and competent, whose desire to protect and serve others is always greater than their immediate ability to do so. Nevertheless, they worked their way north, in the general direction of Camp Belgrey, keeping off the roads, and searching for both the Rangers, whom they’d “not” been informed might be found there, and in an attempt to avoid contact with whatever Scout squad was on close patrol. Successful on both items, they spent a few hours conversing and planning with the Rangers, named of Gulow, Dayell, and Baerlyle.

Nearing midnight, they’d formulated the beginnings of a plan, promoted by Dayell: take back Camp Belgrey that very night. Subdue the crooked leaders of the camp and determine who left there was on the right side of things or would follow the right side when given the opportunity. Belgrey’s secondary purpose was to serve as a forward garrison for Begglestar’s militia, once activated, and some of those orders had already probably been delivered. After taking back the camp – quickly, stealthily – the Rangers would head north and east to determine the state of the foreign army, and of Camp Amol. Dayell and Baerlyle would return to this area, while Gulow made for the central kingdom to warn others. Time was of the greatest essence, along with success at whatever cost.

And now to planning the details of the attack, Genji created a tiny mote of light, and the seven men gathered under blankets pulled between boulders and trees, huddling tightly around a crude sand table of the fort, constructed of lines drawn in the sand, twigs, and small rocks.


Meta
I will draw a map of the camp and will post a link to it either today or tomorrow.

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Summary of events at Begglestar

Juicy prime-cut meta…

  • All four teammates ended up giving extensive sworn statements to the Lord-Mayor’s legal liaison, and Genji, Ti, and Korrigan were ordered not to leave town, pending more interviews and a trial.
  • Nothing about the mystery assailant has been mentioned
  • Ti’ confessed to killing Dale and the others, and their bodies were recovered by the Lord-Mayor’s guards. Self-defense is a viable reason to kill, and that act didn’t seem to phase anyone.
  • Ti, Genji, and Korrigan all told the entire story, to include the corruption, graft, and drugs. Everything is on the table.
  • The three mystery men turned out to be high-ranking Mistborn Rangers, who interviewed the whole team together (a first) and were only interested in the mystery army.
  • The next morning, before dawn, the entire keep quietly went on alert, and by breakfast the team had learned that it was the result of an attack on the realm’s southern border, and the stand-to was part of a standard realm-wide reaction to the attack. The town remained, it seemed, unaware.
  • Everyone but Sarick, who’s still more or less locked up, has been allowed their weapons and has been put onto the wall, standing guard as if the lowest recruits – but contributing.
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A fortuitous move
In the war room at Tuskwater Castle

King Jotawn II was pleased, if still concerned. The decision to move troops south from Freeton and Burmovton a few weeks earlier had been right, and the timing seemingly providential. The heavy infantry from Freeton and cavalry from Burmovton – reservists called up, no less – had arrived in the area of the southern Narlmarches only days before it turned out they were needed.

The invaders, a goblinoid host that probed with bugbear assassins and goblin skirmishers before committing their vanguard of hobgoblin foot, seemed surprised by the additional troops, and the attack was blunted at the southern edge of the great forest. More troops were needed, as the monstrous forces pulled back to regroup, but vital time had been saved by the presence of those forces.

It was now the war council’s job to determine what other forces to commit, reserve units and individual reservists to activate, and how to balance this attack against border defenses elsewhere.

Master Scout Tomlyn was confident that existing forces could protect the northern and western borders, if there were reserve uits put on alert for activation in those regions. “We know what’s beyond our borders, or at least what’s within a reasonable distance. We are okay in those regions,” she stated with a tone of certainty. “And to the west of the Dunsward? That’s a lot of open land, and easy to keep an eye on,” she added.

Warden Enlay, the head of the Mistborn Rangers, snorted and shook his head.

“I think we may only have that option; however, I do not share your certainty about the north,” he said, looking directly at Tomlyn, albeit without any speaking as to attack or deride. She grimaced, her usual response to what she saw as Enlay’s overly pessimistic view of affairs and, she suspected, his irrational distrust of her Scouts. He’d trusted her when she was a Ranger, but now seemed to hold every one of her conclusions as suspect. It made her want to dig her heels in and show him that her work – her service – that she was good enough.

The battle had gone on for only a day and some, and the kingdom-wide alert had been well-received. If nothing else, the various garrisons and reserve depots were getting a good shakedown of some procedures and routines they’d not used under real circumstances in a long time.

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Early morning at the Magistrate's Office

The three cloaked figures, appropriately dressed for the cold morning, continued their quiet conversation and moved away from the team, seeming to head down the street as if they were headed that way already. Their heavy cloaks and padded clothing made it difficult to see exactly what they were wearing underneath their outer clothes; however, they were armed: one with a longbow, another a crossbow, and the last a axe. Such equipment was no uncommon, but it seemed a bit…martial…for so early in the morning Perhaps they’d only just come into town, or were headed out. Regardless, they were strangers, and only glanced at the team for a moment.

The magistrate’s office was four-story stone building, strongly built and with a stout wooden fence surrounding it. A main gate, wide enough for two men to enter side-by-side, faced the cobblestone street, and there was another, even larger, entry on the opposite side, facing the yard where the constabulary’s stables were. More a compound than a building, it was an impressive structure near the center of town, and set on a low hill, which added to its height and prominence.

Smoke rose from the building’s several chimneys, blending with the light fog that enveloped the rooftops of the town.

A single guard stood next to the main gate, one door of which stood open, the formal work day having just begun.

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