May 25, 2016 at 12:14 pm #1794
It’s been about 1/2 a years since you returned from Shenling as heroes. The time has not been idle.
Grey, you’ve have seen Threnody Manor through it’s most profitable season in decades. As the harvest season is drawing to a close the land has yielded a bumper crop that has helped fill the coffers and allowed you to provide an outreach to the needy that live in Yunshan’s poorer neighborhoods. Week by week, a portion of the harvest has been bagged up and delivered inconspicuously to random homes and orphanages by your agents. You have put the harp to great use. Threnody is fully remodeled, and the only parts that seem in disrepair are the parts purposely left that way for nostalgia or ambiance. Now as a chill grips the air and the leaves are starting to fall, Threnody is alive with preparations for winter. The soothsayers have consulted the ancestors, and there is word a heavy snow will come mid winter.
Caris, you have returned to Shenling and your whirlwind romance with Daijo has resumed right where it left off. You have been traveling the length and breadth of beautiful Shenling with the lord of the land and his ministers, taking stock of the damage done by Grimeye’s hordes, helping to repair, and bringing words of hope to the people. Now that all has been set to right and the land is well on it’s way to recovery, things have grown more idle and the pressure to marry has seemed to creep in from every angle. This is a land greatly influenced by elven sensibilities, so a long courting period is encouraged and even expected, but it is also a land looking for an heir, and eager to see you officially become their foremost lady. You will have to give an answer soon you realize, and you’ve decided to take one more journey back to Fanlu to see your companions again. You’re not sure whether you are looking for one last nod of approval, or if you are simply going to tell them you’ve made up your mind…You’ve sent word ahead to Grey, and he’s assured you he will gather everyone together for a few nights of celebration at Threnody Manor.
Grognak, your studies have progressed more than you could even have hoped. You have dug deeply into the libraries of The Pacified Shadows, coming to find that despite Yunshan’s general weariness and superstition towards arcane magic, this place was once a seat of some of the worlds most powerful displays of magic. From accounts in histories of magic and old journals, you have begun to piece together a greater understanding of Yunshan’s magical history, and the places you might wish to visit in search for relics from the past.
Hroth, you are local hero of the community and the six points ring. You have taken to randomly appearing in training rings to give six points lessons to young kids, only to vanish for weeks at a time. The mountain has changed you. You are still yourself, but from time to time you find an intense need for solitude, and find you must seek refuge in your stone home on Old Black Stripe. At times such as this, the cool windswept heights occur to you like a warm embrace. You have never felt so at home.
Stern, you too have used the magic harp to great effect and the orphanage is like new. You have become a pillar of your neighborhood. The boys have become a cohesive unit, and even the dissidents among them have learned to at least tow the line. You are at capacity. 36 kids now count on the orphanage for their lives. You have contemplated expanding but decided to put that choice off until next year. Aside from occasional vanity projects, the orphanage has paid for itself with generous donations from Lady Mensheng. She has become an advocate for the orphanage and become and avid fund raiser, throwing small parties in your honor to raise money. Things are good.
About two weeks before Caris arrives back in Fanlu:
For you guys it is just another day in Fan Lu, you road out from the manor at dawn to attend a morning breakfast with the Boys of the Anvil of Krom. After that a short stroll around that neighborhood, seeing and being seen by the people of that hood, occasionally Stern stops to talk with a local checking on the state of things before you all head up to The Hexegon, the huge covered market place of Fanlu. Fanlu’s six points ring lies at it’s heart, and your thoughts can’t help but go back to the many matches Hroth has won there, and the nights of celebration that followed. The Hexagon is a great Pagoda, at least 200 feet across. The intricate lattice of it’s beamed canopy is a geometric wonder of wooden beams painted bright green and turquoises, a masterwork of carpentry and construction, held aloft by hundreds of bright red pillars carved of pine. At its heart, over the six points ring, the vaulted ceiling is over 5o ft high, and large open skylights hung with streamers of green and red silk let in air, light, and even birds, which flit about and nest freely in the high beams above the maze of merchants stalls.
You spend a good portion of the morning wandering in and out of merchants stalls and kiosk’s, enjoying the variety of items for sale. Every now and then Grey stopping to haggle good naturedly with a merchant for various items, more often than not paying more than the items are worth. Occasionally you run into someone you know, a merchant from Littlemountain, a patron of a bar or tea house you have frequented, a grateful local who wants nothing more than to offer their blessings and thanks for your presence in their fair city.
You witness the sedate but purposeful bustle of activity in the market place, a glaring difference to the few southern markets you have visited that were full of rude, smelly, arguing people. Fanlu’s brightly painted indoor market is devoid of hecklers and loud hawkers, you don’t even keep a hand over your money pouch. The whole vibe is just so different you never cease to be amazed by it. Or the strange customs as most people will move out of your way Stern recognizing your holiness. Even though your robes are plain and your manner unassuming.
These people just know and act accordingly. The few times Stern, you see something you like in the Market you cannot convince the seller to allow you to pay anything other than the lowest price possible, they will not haggle with you even in jest. This has come to grate on you so much that eventually you either do not purchase or have Grey go purchase it for you.
Stern, about half way through your market trip is when you first notice you are being watched, while you wait patiently for Grey to finish negotiating the price for a set of fine dishes. Ever alert you casually turn to take in the market place looking for the source of this uneasy feeling. Your eyes alight upon a figure, you make eye contact for the briefest of moments, the strangers eyes widen perceptibly before a trundling merchant cart passes between you laden with wicker baskets, when it has passed the man had vanished. You got a quick look of a well-built human male with a shaven head, an unknown symbol tattooed on the crown of his tanned head. You shrug and put it out of your mind.
A few stalls later you glance through a beaded curtain to see what you think is the same stranger in an alley way paralleling you. Now you are certain it is not just a coincidence. You are sure that this man in road worn robes, with a large satchel slung over one shoulder is paralleling you.
Now your blood is up, you like everyone else in the group, are used to being watched and scrutinized by the people of this wonderful land but this feels different. This is not the steady nefarious gaze of a would be assailant or the wide eyed awe of an admirer. No, this is something different entirely something very hard to place. You lose him in the crowd as you turn a corner.
A little while later Stern you see him again, following in your wake, slyly you spy upon him through a reflection of glass bottles at another vendor that Grey seems to have randomly decided to visit. While doing so, you make out the strangers most noticeable accouterments, a large variety of chains and strange trinkets dangling from his neck.
You follow Grey out of that merchant stall and down the street to another fully enclosed stall featuring fine bead work, heading in a vague way towards the Sacred leaf for a lunch with Evon deciding to point out the man to your companions as you are leaving the Beadwork shop.
Leaving the Beadwork stall Stern glances around for the peculiar fellow, to point him out, and do not find him, you spend another hour or so in the market and the fellow does not reappear. As your stomach begins to growl and you make your way to the Sacred Leaf, you put the odd fellow out of you mind for the moment, resolving to bring it up later.
2 weeks later:
Caris has arrived at Threnody Manor, and the lot of you have enjoyed two nights of celebrations on the estate. It has been interesting coming back together after so many months. True, you’ve all seen some of each other, but this is the first time in half a year all of you have been together at one time. The distance has been good. Grey has allowed his mischievous streak to crack his aloof persona. Hroth and Stern are jovial like teenage boys, and Caris, a high priestess and perhaps soon to be en-nobled lady adored by thousands, here plays the simple role of mother hen to the two boyish men. Grey and Grognak sip tea on the edge of the action, finding some common ground in sharing new lore and cracking good natured jokes about Stern and Hroth. One day you all take a day ride through the wild edges of Threnody valley, not as adventurers, but as friends. The whole thing has the feel of a vacation..something none of you are accustomed too, yet you all embrace it with an almost innocent enthusiasm. It’s mid afternoon on a lazy Sunday.
The strangely harmonious voice of Void echoes in your mind, “Please come to the study.”
Stern; stripped to the waist, you look up from your black smithing in the barn behind the manor, wiping a brawny arm across your sweaty scalp, dropping the red hot iron blade you were working on into the nearby barrel of oil. Smiling like a little kid as the flames flare up high swirling around your arm and torso without singeing even one hair on your blessed body. Leaving the blade to quench you grab a towel with one hand and your outer robes with the other.
Caris; you look back over your shoulder towards the manor house in the distance, barely visible through the woods. With a sigh you put the Black Feather token back into your pouch, the visions of a certain handsome lord fading to the back of your mind. Scooping up your treasured bow in one hand you drop lightly out of the tree you were day dreaming in and free fall the height of three tall men to the soft ground below. With a pat to the trunk of the ancient tree you head back towards the Manor.
Hrothgar; the voice distracts you for the briefest of seconds allowing one of the blunted blades wielded by the six eager young men surrounding you to slip through your guard and gently caress a spot just above your kidney. Rather than make excuses for you lapse or spin into a frightful full speed routine to lay the poor fellow out you compassionately decide to give this one to them and praise the young fellow greatly for slipping one through your guard, clapping him heartily on one thin shoulder. Watching the young man and the other all beam with pride. They all start furiously bowing to you and to each other in respect and admiration. Your thoughts already elsewhere you snap off a couple parting instructions to them and shedding the padded training armor you head for the manor.
Grognak; Your thoughts are elsewhere, the book held open before you unseen as your thoughts whirl around combining and recombining the latest spell formulae in your mind. Comin back to you sense you realize it is no longer morning but midafternoon. Closing your book you get up from the shaded chair on the back porch of the manor, stiffly rubbing your back, you see Caris in the distance gliding out of the tree line and across the grass coming from the barn a mighty Stern striding your way.
From behind you can hear Neff cheerfully greet Hrothgar at the front door. You wait patiently holding the back door open, tapping your foot as Stern and Caris hustle up and into the manor. Letting the door swing closed behind you as you are drawn along in their wake.
You all enter the study as one, silently nodding to each other and taking up your now traditional places with in the great room. Caris at the built in window seat admiring the riot of ivy outside, Hroth at the small bar in the corner “whiskey anyone?”, Stern at the reinforced chair across from Grey’s mammoth desk, and Grognak on one of the comfortable couches with a bowl of fresh oranges at hand.
Grey stands patiently behind the desk with His back to you all, gazing up at the map of Yun Shan dominating the wall behind the desk. He turns to face you all placing his hands on the back of his chair.
Smiling he speaks “I have some news of interest. Mainly for Stern” with nod towards the seated man,” but also for myself for reasons that will become apparent.” He pauses for a moment eyes shifting from one person to another gathering everyone’s attention before continuing.(Context changes depending on who was actually in the market but continuing as if it was just Grey and Stern)
“Roughly two weeks ago Stern and I were being followed in the Market Place.” Grey pauses as Stern’s head snaps up from his perusal of the knock knacks on Greys desk.
Stern sits back in the heavy chair slamming his right fist into his left palm “I knew it.” He says.
“I know you knew it.” States Grey flatly. “When I became aware of his interest in us and then more specifically in you My friend, that was when I started making random detours and stopping at strange places to see if he was truly following us. Which he was indeed.” Grey moves around to sit in his chair as he speaks.
“Once I was sure he was following us, I directed my people to pick him up for questioning. Which they did. The Fellow told my people such a strange story that I had them bring him here the next day to tell me in person.” Grey swivels in his chair to the left motioning with one hand and speaking to the empty space beside his desk, “Void if you will.”
At which point the doors to the study slide closed and the shades draw down over the large windows plunging the room into shadow as Void phases into to view beside the desk. With a questioning glance to Grey, answered by an affirmative nod from the Lord of Threnody, Void spreads her arms wide and a silent image of a Shaven headed, tattooed man in heavy robes and a vast array of trinkets and what nots encircling his neck and wrists appears in the air before her.
Grey declares “This is Brother Tak, He is a messenger. A swift and brave person who runs, literally, messages from town to town, city to city. Brother Tak had a remarkable story to tell, a tale Void will kindly replay for us now.” With a wave Grey motions Void to begin.
The image of Brother Tak begins to move, his expressions, hand motions, and body language clear to see but his voice is emanating eerily from Voids open, motionless, mouth.
“As I told Them” Brother Tak says, with a gesture towards unseen figures. “It was a little over three weeks ago. My companions and I were on our way west from the Ji Jiang Shrine. A pretty uneventful run until one of my friends got randomly sick and we were slowed down. As such we didn’t make it before sunset to Tsurui village. So we had to make camp outside the village. Which is nothing really new to us but still we took all the proper precautions and camped in the designated place at the edge of the woods to the east of the village’s high walls.”
The image pauses as if Brother Tak is listening to someone speak to him out of sight and he continues hastily “ Ok ok, So later that night a little after moonset, I was walking my watch, just outside the dim light of our campfire. When suddenly the whole forest lit up in reds and oranges, I could see everything as if lit by the fire of a steady burning forge, even deep into the woods beyond our camping spot. I looked around and saw that the source of this strange light was coming not from anywhere near the forest floor but from the sky above. There was a giant beam of red orange light spearing down from the heavens piercing the clouds, arcing down into the woods not far from me. A flaming axe clearly detailed upon the clouds above,” Despite the eerie nature of the play back, Tak’s awe is clearly discernible in his cadence and his excited body language.
“I was just about to turn to wake my companions, when I perceived movement in the woods only a short distance away. The fantastic beam brightened a small clearing in the woods, a rustic log cabin to one side of the clearing and a good sized garden opposite the cabin but my attention was captured most by the Man standing there in the center of the clearing. Radiantly illuminated by the heavenly ray. The obvious focal point of the beam, the unknown symbol in the clouds mirrored on the breast of his white robes. Then just as suddenly as it had appeared it was gone.” Tak lets out a sigh, letting his shoulders slump.
“I didn’t know what to do after that.” He admits with a shrug. “In the morning….”
“That’s enough, thank you Void.” Grey Interrupts the great spirits play back. With a barely audible sigh Void vanishes and the window shades roll up slowly.
“A fantastic story yes?” Grey questions. “Though uncorroborated. And before you ask Yes, I have had Brother Tak checked out. His credentials, like the man himself, are impeccable. Though I was still skeptical and wary of a trap or some such nefarious scheme. I dispatched one of my people to retrace the route of Brother Tak and his friends to the village of Tsurui. A village right here” Grey points up to the map behind him where Black Stone is now hovering a ghostly tendril streaming from the sentient crystal and pointing to a spot on the map a little north of Fan Lu and east, about seven or eight days away. “I sent her with the specific instructions to find that clearing and assess the man there in”
Grey pauses putting his face in his hands for a moment, raising his head he carries on “that was two weeks ago. She has not returned, nor has she used her abilities to make contact.”May 25, 2016 at 1:32 pm #1798
“Curious, Obviously the symbol is that of Krom, that I have no doubt.
Stern pulls out his own holy symbol..
“I have sent word to my order in these past months to send missionaries my way to help with the orphanage and such. I dont find it to Coincidental. However this I am sure you know I connot ignore.”
Stern looks to Grey and his comrades for assurance.May 25, 2016 at 5:05 pm #1799
“Exactly,” Grey says snapping his fingers and smiling,“Thus did i take upon myself to test the authenticity of this story. By dispatching one of My Black Jackets to check the veracity of this story, this village near the Ji Jiang shrine and find out has much as She could about this man in the clearing. This could at worst be a trap, a diversion, or just a hoax. Which is not to say that this might be not be the real deal.” Grey puts his hand out to encompass the room “You have lived here in Yun Shan long enough to know that simply strange things happen.”
Grey pulls his hands back resting them one atop the other on his desk,
“There are, however, a few t hings that bother me about this. First and foremost one of My own has not returned. Not usually something for alarm given the world we live in but still I personally sent Chayn for a reason and she has not made contact or returned, I am responsible. I would know here fate.” Leaning back in his chair Grey finishes “Second, Yes, it is know that you have sent for assistance from the followers of Krom in the south.” Grey purposefully repeats himself “In the south.”Leaning forward to regard Stern.“This strange occurrence is North and east of us. Closer to the heart of Yun Shan and correspondingly further from the influence of foreign gods. Thus making this event even less credible or even more portentous depending on your view.”May 26, 2016 at 3:29 pm #1805
So lets piece this together a bit more we have the facts:
Blazing Battle axe in the sky, and on the unknown mans chest.
Man vanishes but no harm to the messenger.
Messenger stalks myself in market yet doesn’t make himself known until he is caught.
Messenger seems sincere in his story.
Bad ass grey agent goes to investigate and doesn’t check in at given times and has yet to return.
Grey you feel certain this messenger was telling the truth and no sense of coercion?May 26, 2016 at 3:36 pm #1806
Brother Tak was honest.
No signs of coercion.
If anything he was just in awe of what he saw that night, then seeing the same symbol on your robes. Recall that many of your southern gods are unheard of here. So that flaming axe just plain freaked him out.
As for Chayne(chain) well…May 26, 2016 at 5:11 pm #1808
Grey holds up his hands, counting out the days on his slim fingers,
An easy Seven days away, three north and four east.
From Fan Lu up to The Former Fire pine Pagoda, i am sure you all remember that momentous place.
From the Fire Pine to the Four Warlords ruin is another day, after the ruins we stay on the white road of only about a half a day before we turn east and across to the town of Injuki. A small settlement.
After Injuki we continue east to the bustling town of Blue Bayou. A swamp town built on stilts, famous for its parties, jambalaya, a great stone bridge and and its great ferries that take people across the waters north to Barter Town.
After that though it is two full days and night in the wild before we reach Tsurui village.
This all of course barring side tracks, weather and other issues that may slow us.May 26, 2016 at 5:41 pm #1809
“This IS an elaborate trap. If someone wanted to draw us out then they have succeeded. I for one have lost track of too many days in study, and could use an outing with friends, but let us not jest…this is a trap. I always think everything is a trap, that’s why i’m still alive.”
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