Twilight of the Kai

"Onward 'Til Morning"

  • On their way out of the city, the Initiates are stopped by Corporal Jordun of the City Watch. Spotting their distinctive green Kai cloaks, he rushes over with a request: he has a letter from an associate, one Lieutenant Perle, in outlying Searsheld. The letter reads:

‘We are beset by wickedness and we’re in dire need of help. The morale of my men is suffering greatly. Several have disappeared. I am sure they have deserted their posts and run away. We all feel like running away. If we are to hold the fort and keep Searsheld safe, we are going to need some help. Jordun, my old friend, please do what you can to persuade someone in authority to come to our aid. I’ve sent messages to the Court Guard Captain requesting reinforcements, but he says he can’t spare any men. He told me to pull myself together and do the job I’m paid to do. He just doesn’t appreciate the situation. I fear that, by the time he does, it will be too late.’

  • Our heroes agree to go look into the matter. Corporal Jordun provides them with two fine steeds from the Watch stables. (Fierce Strider bonds with his mount instantly.) And so, instead of taking the King’s Highway north back to the Monastery as intended, the Kai take the West Road towards the Durncrags, a route that will eventually take them back around to their home. They cross the Holmgard Pale, a large no-man’s-land between the capital’s mighty walls and the outer defenseworks that ring the city, then press on under leaden skies, cloaks drawn tight against the chill north wind.
  • The wind seems to carry a charnel odor. A passing farmer hurries along without hailing his fellow travelers. There is a feeling of ominous doom hanging in the air. Fierce Strider, consulting his map, sees that they must be near the Graveyard of the Ancients and wonders if this may be the cause of the dark portents. He also recalls from his studies at the Monastery that the herb Malavan is said to grow around the tombstones of this ancient necropolis.
  • As the two Kai approach a junction where a weed-choked path splits off to the north, they hear the sound of a girl’s voice crying out for help. Wise Fire can sense that someone is genuinely in trouble, but also feels a great sense of supernatural danger lying heavily over this area. Nonetheless, the Kai elect to see if they can help whomever may be calling out. Leaving their horses hitched by the side of the road, they venture up the decaying trail, soon reaching a crumbling stone archway. Beyond, all is mist. Grimly, they press on into the necropolis.
  • The trail, barely visible through the mist and bracken, is paved with an ancient, faded mosaic bearing strange glyphs in an unreadable tongue. All around, tombs and mausoleums loom up out of the gray fog which presses in at all quarters. More screams can be heard from up ahead.
  • The Kai enter a walled and grassy courtyard. A young boy, not much younger than the Kai themselves, lies in a faint up against a crumbling wall. A girl a couple years younger than the boy crouches over him, screaming at the menacing figure advancing towards them. A great black cloak hangs in tatters from its shoulders, and it raises a chipped and rust-pitted sword, ready to strike.
  • Fierce Strider’s hands fly to his throwing knives, and one leaps out, flying straight into the back of the menacing figure. He turns around, chuckling hoarsely. Facing the Kai, they can see that its face is a grinning mask of rotting flesh and bone, strands of hair hanging down from the rim of its rusted helm. “I intended to take revenge upon these two grave robbers and hew the flesh from their bones. But I will gladly hew your flesh in their stead!”
  • Another knife flies from Fierce Strider’s hand, burying itself in the dead knight’s chest. Then the knight is upon them, but with a quick flash of steel Fierce Strider has dispatched his foe, his twin daggers glinting in both hands.
  • The two children, Loren (11) and Pol (13), are overwhelmed with gratitude. They explain that they came here from their farmstead (about an hour up the road) to search for some of the legendary treasure said to lie buried under the necropolis. Their father has been unable to work for months, and the family has hit upon hard times. They thought that they could perhaps reverse the family fortunes by finding some grave gold, but instead they only managed to awaken the wrath of a dead knight in his tomb below.

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  • Before departing, the Initiates discuss the feasibility of venturing into the Graveyard of the Ancients themselves, and make a mental note to perhaps return here one day. Fierce Strider cuts several bunches of Malavan as well.
  • The Kai take the children and return to the West Road, carrying on over the Daune River and reaching the aforementioned farmstead in less than an hour. The thatched cottage does indeed look much degraded; in the pens out back can be seen an emaciated cow, two scrawny chickens, and a pig. The children, who have shaken off the trauma of their trip to the Graveyard, now beg the Kai not to tell their parents where they were found.
  • The parents, Tomas and Fara, are much relieved to have their children back, and Fierce Strider honors the kids’ request and does not mention the whole bit about the Graveyard and vengeful dead and such. Tomas, who hobbles around on a homemade crutch, insists on slaughtering the pig and laying out a fine meal for the Kai by way of thanks.
  • The dinner is delicious, and Fierce Strider uses Fara’s kettle to brew up two bottles of Malavan tea, which he gives to Wise Fire—the tea is known to boost the powers of the mind. Fierce Strider also uses the powers of his Healing discipline to set aright Tomas’s bad back, which he had injured working at a local quarry.
  • The next morning, the Kai leave the grateful household and hit the road once again. They reach Searsheld around noon. The town proves to be a trading post and garrison point, home to perhaps 500 souls, if the outlying farmsteads are counted. The arrival of two Kai Lords in this distant outpost is the cause for much excited chatter among the townsfolk. The Kai talk to some of the men of the garrison and learn that Lieutenant Perle is actually posted at Fort Durnspa, a day’s ride away. Very well.
  • The Kai are welcomed by the mayor, a gruff man of middle years by the name of Treynor. He respectfully invites them to stay as long as they wish in his town, but also asks them if they could help with a troubling matter of local concern. Some weeks ago, the mayor explains, a caravan of “Palers” (poor folk from the Holmgard Pale) came to town. They are an extended clan known as the Bognors, and they have been nothing but trouble. Fights, theft, and general disruption of daily life came with them. The mayor finally banned them from town a fortnight ago, but this hasn’t stopped some of their number from continuing to sneak over the palisade wall and cause trouble. The mayor is concerned that the townsfolk are on the brink of forming a mob to roust the Bognors from their campsite on the banks of the Daune, and beseeches the Kai to see if they can’t get the Bognors to move along of their own accord first.
  • Wise Fire’s psychic senses detect that the mayor is motivated as much by his personal hatred of Palers as by any sense of civic duty or altruistic concern. When confronted, the mayor doubles down and says that the Bognors have laid a curse on the town and captured the comely daughter of a local farming family.
  • The Kai spend a bit of time at the town’s market and tavern, confirming the mayor’s tale and ascertaining that he spoke the truth when he talked of the townsfolk being on the brink of mob violence. They set out at once for the Bognor camp. Along the way, Wise Fire, citing an old story of a rich girl from Holmgard running off with a rough miner from Ruanon, opines that the missing farm girl no doubt disappeared after meeting a Bognor boy that she liked.
  • At the foot of a bridge spanning the river, the Kai find a junction and signpost. Leaning up against the signpost are two young men, both dressed in gaudy and ostentatious fashions. The men play a strange prank on the Kai, answering questions only in the form of meaningless aphorisms (“A little knowledge can go a long way.” “Confusing yourself is a good way to stay honest.”). Exasperated, the Kai flick their horses’ reins and head off up the road junction that leads towards the banks of the river.
  • Round a copse of trees, they find the Bognor encampment: three dozen or so men, women, and children, all dressed in similarly outrageous garb, loafing about amidst their wagon lager with no apparent aim or purpose. At their approach, a fierce-looking woman with raven-black hair and tarnished earrings intercepts them. “Whaddya want?”
  • Dismounting, Fierce Strider politely requests they be taken to see the head of the family. The woman leads the Kai into the camp, to an old man sitting in a large chair positioned near the largest campfire, a grandchild on his lap. The man is called Ziloch, and he tells his family’s side of the story: they wish to leave too, as they know when they are not welcome, but his aged mother, Tsura, is sick and he doesn’t want to start moving until she recovers. Fierce Strider chooses not to confront the patriarch with any of the accusations leveled by the townsfolk, asking only to be led to the wagon where Tsura reposes. There, he finds an ancient woman, her eyes blinded by cataracts, wracked by fever. The administration of a bottle of Laumspur potion is sufficient to cure her of her fever.
  • The Kai now question Ziloch on the matter of the missing farm girl, a certain Clarys. Ziloch admits that the girl is in the camp, but says the situation is more complicated than a mere kidnapping. He calls for the dark-haired woman, Nadja, to go fetch Clarys.
  • Wise Fire’s prediction comes true, as Clarys turns out to be in love with Ziloch’s son Stelan and does not wish to return to her parents. She has written a letter telling them this, but had not known how to convey it back to town without risking the life of one of her adopted family or risking her parents taking her back against her will. She asks the Kai lords to take the letter and deliver it for her, and they assent.
  • Ziloch, grateful for all the Kai have done, presents them each with a small leather pouch on a thong to be worn about their necks. These Bognor Talismans will bring them luck, he claims, and also signal any Bognor that the Kai are friends and may be trusted.
  • The Kai depart even as the wagon caravan begins pulling up stakes to move on. Hiding their new talismans beneath their clothing, they return to town and give their report to the mayor. They also deliver the letter to Clarys’ parents, who are devastated by the news but are nonetheless forced to accept that their daughter left of her own accord.
  • After an overnight in the town hall, the Kai depart for Fort Durnspa. After riding across the Holmgard Plain for most of the day, they reach a junction, and follow the one marked for Fort Durnspa. Crows wheel overhead, cawing in the chill autumn wind, ill omens of what lies in wait for them ahead on the road…

Comments

We’ll see who hews who…

"Onward 'Til Morning"
sirlarkins sirlarkins

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