.:| Quote |:.
"In darkness, no one sees you bleed or cry..."
-- Kierath Ranamor
.:| Vornae Proverbs |:.
"I no naka no kawazu taikai o shirazu."
A frog in a well does not know the great sea.
"Ame futte chi katamaru"
After the rain, earth hardens
.:| Libraries |:.
February 23, 607 ER Gather - Near Manath, Tyrangel
The gather began with me arriving at the inn outside of Manath and settling in with Jade, Amaris, Alira, Riddle, and Iz. Thankfully there were enough beds in the room they had secured that I was able to claim a bottom bunk and array my things for easy access while still being secured.
His Highness, Prince Bane, arrived a short time later. Myself and the other nobles present met with him, at which point he asked us all to go to the Sutherlands with him and check out reports of the Duke being Sessuar. He shared with us the intelligence information he had on the situation and provided us with a map of the keep and a plan of entry. Patches ended up leading the group that were to enter via stealth. Their objective was to enter the keep undetected and secure several key objectives while Prince Bane would lead the other group to the front gates and attempt to gain an audience with the Duke. It turned out that all of the nobles, including myself, chose to travel with His Highness.
Preparations made, we followed Bane and Amaris to the docks and boarded a ship that had been . A short ways out of port, we entered a fog bank, and soon found ourselves weaker...our skills diminished. It was during this time that our ship was attacked by another, and we found ourselves fighting on the decks of both ships as they attempted to board us. Thankfully we were able to repel the attack without much difficulty, but we found that all of the men on the attacking ship were wearing strange metal collars that upon closer inspection were found to be lined with a series of needles that were injecting enslavement elixirs into them. Several collars were collected before we shoved off and our captain continued in his attempt to navigate through the fog.
A short time later...much shorter than we should have reached land in...we ran aground. As we disembarked, all of us with ties to the land through our noble title felt ill effects via those ties. This was almost as disturbing as Amaris's ill feeling of a dark wind swirling about her. In the meantime, Prince Bane had determined that we had landed on the Sutherland coast not far from the Duke's keep. Our location ascertained, we set out for the keep to gain entrance.
We reached the front gates of the keep with no incident, but found our way barred by closed gates and a pair of guards. At his request, I formally announced Prince Bane's presence to the guards, along with that of Countess Amaris and myself, and informed them that His Highness wished an immediate audience with the Duke. The guards would not allow us to pass, but one finally agreed to go and speak with his superior when Prince Bane stepped forward and spoke further. When the guard returned, however, I overheard him whisper "Kill them. They're not to get in." to his companion, which was quickly followed by their attack.
Entering the outer keep walls, we encountered several groups of soldiers as we made our way towards the inner structures which gave way to Sessuar and their hounds as we reached the doors. Our efforts were somewhat hampered by the increasingly debilitating effects that myself and the other nobles were suffering from. The hounds were particularly problematic, as we were not able to kill them directly and had to search out their handler or master. Even with Sir Wolf and Tevlos joining us at this point, with five of us suffering ill effects and some of our resources beginning to run low it was no easy task.
Eventually, though, we fought our way to the doors themselves and attempted to enter the inner keep, but found ourselves facing just under a dozen Sessuar and the Duke himself in a corridor that was barely wide enough for two of us to fight side by side in. For quite a while we were held in stalemate just at the entrance, but slowly Wolf and Alira's spells whittled the opposition down with Sir Ian, Amaris, and Prince Bane holding the front line. When it became clear that we were making progress, the Duke made a quick retreat through the door at the end of the corridor and left his men to their fate.
Once we had cleared the hall, we proceeded to the doorway the Duke had retreated through. I made a quick sweep for traps visible from our side, and finding none slowly opened the door to enter. To my shock, I saw a huge circle and the group that Patches had led milling around. As the rest of our party filtered in and we began to investigate the room, it became clear that this was a Sessuar blood ritual room that the Duke was using. There were three large stone tables whose tops had been carved and enchanted to be formal magic scrolls. Alira and Wolf identified two of them as Open Gate and Create Sessuar, but the third was of unknown nature. We also found a large cistern measuring roughly 3' by 6' that was filled almost to the brim with blood. Wolf was barely able to reach the bottom without his shoulder and side entering the blood, but nevertheless he searched it for bodies and found none. Disturbingly, though, when he withdrew his arm from the blood, he found that he could not remove it by any mundane, magical, or alchemical means.
As the search was being carried out, the other nobles began confirring about whether to try and locate the Duke and how to get out of the keep alive. It was finally decided for Alira to attempt to use the Open Gate scroll to return us to Manath, even though she had no knowledge of the cost or the power required to cast that particular formal. Still, all were gathered within the circle and the ritual was successfully cast. I was among the first to return through the gate, and eventually all but a handful did so as well. Once I was back on the mainland, I found the ill effects I had been suffering through the Duke's corruption of the land in the Sutherlands fading, and after a few brief discussions with Sir Wolf and other nobles I chose to retire for the night.
I woke up an hour or so before noon from a restless night of sleep. I'd had constant nightmares of an evil black wind all night that had been quite disturbing. As I dressed and prepared to venture forth, I found that my magic sword and necklace felt uncomfortable against my skin...almost as if there was something trying to prevent me from attuning to them.
I was soon joined in the main room by Jade, Amaris, and others for breakfast. While we ate, others spoke of having similar dreams to my own, and several commented on a similar discomfort with their own magic items. The only common element to all of this was that all of us who had these dreams and were experiencing the discomfort had slept in the same room as Amaris. This seemed to disturb the Countess greatly, but she did not seem willing to share the reason for her distress.
It was at roughly this point that the Fey King from the lands to the west arrived again, and spoke of helping us to close the gateway that was centered around the ley stones. A number of us went with him, including myself, and listened as he outlined what he intended to do. He then took volunteers from among those with ties to dragons or the celestial magics and instructed them in what he needed to do. They formed a circle around him and began, as he plunged his sword into the central ley stone. Before the “ritual” could be completed, however, a crazed Smolder ran up and interrupted it causing a backlash. As we all recovered, we realized that the Fey King was gone and a strange looking man was standing there in his place. Amaris looked pale, as if she was seeing a ghost, and seemed rather rattled when he began speaking to her. They walked off together and spoke for some time, and I later was able to gain a little information about who he was.
According to Countess Amaris, the man in question was Quenton Blackwind. As she told me, “Quenton Blackwind is my father-in-law to the Nth degree. He created the Blackwind, though by accident, not design. From him comes the Blackwind line of the Quentari.” A little additional digging netted me the fact that Amaris was briefly married to Mal-havoc Blackwind who is also the father of her child. The white sash she wears was one of her former husbands possessions and is spirit locked to her, and likely contains a piece of the Blackwind which is what we had unnerved her the night before and had caused our nightmares and discomfort. Mal-havoc perished when he became one of the Wraithlords (Dark Riders).
The early portion of the afternoon was mostly quiet, giving me several opportunities to speak with Jade and others. With Smolder's arrival, I took advantage of the chance to bring him up to speed on the previous night's events as we sparred. As the afternoon began to grow long, the quiet was interrupted by several groups of soldiers arriving in green tabards from the Sutherlands. They claimed that they had been sent by Duke Westmire to inform the citizenry of a declaration that Prince Bane was a traitor and demanded all of the Westhaven nobles present to either renounce their titles or be declared traitor alongside His Highness. Unfortunately for them, they could provide no writ or proclamation from King Mykel to back up their claim, and when we refused to relent to their "authority" they chose to attack. Each group was quickly subdued and questioned, but the only useful information gleaned from this was that apparently the Duke was claiming to have a proclamation from the King regarding Prince Bane but that it had not been shown to any of the soldiers, and the Duke was using those same claims to spread propaganda amongst the commoners in the Sutherlands to secure his own base of power and undermine Prince Bane's. Following the questioning, at Countess Amaris' orders, each of the soldiers was executed and caused to resurrect. From what little we were able to glean, it became clear that between the propaganda and causing dissenters to simply "disappear", the Duke was being quite successful.
Following the attacks, Sir Ian and Sir Wolf suggested we have a meeting of the nobles present to discuss these attacks and ensuring His Highness' safety, especially during the open court that was to be held that evening. Sir Wolf asked that Tevlos join us to present the ideas that he had on the subject. In order to discuss this all privately, we retired to Amaris' room so that we would not be overheard. I was holding the ward opened while everyone entered the room, when Kylou attempted to walk in with the other nobles. I stopped him, and after a second attempt to push past me into the room was rather brusque, with Squire Smolder's aid, in barring his entry and sending him away. The entire time, he offered no explanation for why he was attempting to enter the room; he simply tried to push his way past me in the doorway.
After passing the rest of the afternoon speaking with Jade and several others, feast came and went without any real incident. Just prior to feast, Prince Bane arrived and the nobles present carried out our plan of swearing our oaths again to restore his tie to the land, and it was indeed successful.Following feast, however, things quickly heated up. Sir Cooper, one of Duke Westmire's knights, had been quietly sitting and observing us all throughout feast. As Prince Bane was holding open court, Sir Cooper stepped forward and ordered Prince Bane to turn himself in to the Duke on charges of treason. When His Highness refused, a challenge was issued for a duel to determine who was telling the truth...His Highness or the Duke. The Prince's station would not allow him to duel Sir Cooper himself, but Countess Amaris knighted Smolder as a Knight of Marentha and allowed him to fight the duel as Bane's champion. I stood second for Smolder, who rather handily defeated Sir Cooper in the duel. As a result of this, Goodman Cooper renounced his ties to Duke Westmire and was inducted as the seventh member of the Order of the Alabaster Blade by His Highness. As such, he chose to go by the name Seven in all communications with the people of Westhaven, and returned to the Sutherlands to do all that he could to help bring the Duke to justice.
Following this, Sir Wolf, Tevlos, and myself left on a scouting mission to determine if the Duke's forces were planning an attack. It turns out that they were, but not via conventional means. While we were gone, Sessuar spirit walked into town via a circle of power that was cast during the feast and attacked. From reports I received, the fighting was fierce and the town was pretty much defeated with Smolder, Amaris, Riddle, Sir Ian, and several others taken captive.
When we returned from our respective scouting missions and learned of the attack and prisoners that had been taken, Wolf, Tevlos, and myself quickly began formulating a plan for a rescue mission. Saroth offered to aid us by clearing the camp and providing a distraction, which in the end worked to perfection. While he had the majority of the forces engaged, Wolf and I led the rescue party to where Amaris and the others were being held. We were able to swiftly subdue them and their captors, and had just enough enslavement antidotes to counteract the effects of the collars that had been used upon them. We then quickly retreated back to Manath by the same way we had traveled while the rest of the camp was still attempting to chase down Saroth. After returning with those who had been rescued, I retired for the night.