“So there’s something on your mind, then? We’re friends, here.” She smiles warmly. “And we’ve already told our embarrassing stories. What’s yours?”
(Literally all my skills relate to this, so I assume Staff? As that would give me knowledge of the final product needed.)
Simon is careful and asks the help of another former ships carpenter to aid him in the work. The two of them work into the night telling stories.
Jarek knew this moment would come. He looks around to make sure that that they are alone. Seeing no one in earshot, he squeezes the cube in his pocket as he begins quietly.
“I had a mission to steal something. So I got it. While I was leaving, I was seen somewhere that I shouldn’t have been. Kasia took me on because her brother told her that I needed to leave town and that she owed him a favor. The person I stole from is probably looking for me now. The only real question is how far he will go to find me.”
(( Not wanting to interrupt the conversation, I’ll just describe where you spend the night, but do carry on, this is only so you can incorporate details if you wish ))
As the evening draws in, the Exile Guide brings you to a strange site, a ruined village in the middle of the Silent Forest. The houses are collapsed from time and vegetation growth, and they are now roofless shells, the wood long rotted, the street now hosting trees and shrubs. Strangest of all, the houses are tiny, as if for children or the hobbits and halflings of legend.
The doorways are difficult to duck under, but the Exile leads you to one of the larger buildings. It was some form of a village hall perhaps, it’s stonework was once ornate and there is easily enough space for everyone. The Exile ducks through the doorway with grace.
Inside is the trappings of a regular stopover point, supplies of food, medicines and firewood, a working fireplace which is clearly frequently used and a stone roof which looks to be original.
“We will be safe in here from the silent death so long as the fires are roaring. It’ll be uncomfortably hot, but we’ll all wake in the morning. Bring the animals in too, herd them into a corner.”
She proceeds to set about carrying firewood to the central pit, and starts to build a large bonfire, directing anyone who looks inclined to help to do the same in each corner of the building, which each have a firepit and a hole carved from the wall to allow smoke to escape.
Once all lit, she is not wrong, the building heats up quickly - yet the Exile shuffles any who lay their bedrolls out near the open doorways in further, away from the fresh air from outside “You are not safe here” she tells them. Whoever made this knew how to work stone, the thick walls are superb insulators and carved with terrifying murals depicting seemingly angry giants emerging from the ground bearing swords.
Simon works carefully with the strange wood. Although conditions aren’t perfect the feel of the wood in his hands calms him in this strange location…
7d6: 2 + 2 + 6 + 6 + 2 + 3 + 2 = 23
(The actual opposite of what I needed)
Tell us about why Simon fails in this task
“That wasn’t so bad, was it? I’m a little surprised you were caught, though. Do you know who it is who’s after you? We’re your crew, er, companions, Jarek, you can tell us!”
It’s not surprising that Jarek got in trouble. Sometimes one has to get in trouble in order to get things done. She guesses that Jarek’s impulsive curiosity might have been the source of the issue - a powerful asset in certain circumstances and a fatal flaw in others. She’ll have to look out for him.
((sorry for slowing things up with chitter-chatter! Once Aulexis feels more confident with everyone she’ll be less nosy!))
Aulexis helps with the fires, and far from being bothered by the heat, she quite appreciates it. Blood and body have been cold since the ordeal. As soon as the heat hits she feels sleep rushing quickly towards her, but she tries to make one final effort to get to know the party. She’s still hardly said a word to Kaelin, and sees him carefully working on some small object by the fire. She sits next to him, a little heavily, if an elf can sit heavily. Her cheeks and nose are pink from the warmth, and she sighs contentedly.
“What are you working on, Kaelin?”
(( Nothing to apologise for, I’m deliberately keeping things gentle to allow everyone to feel out their characters and relationships, new game rules etc ))
The question is met with silence. Just as it reaches the point where Aulexis wonders if Kaelin has simply not heard, or is perhaps even ignoring her, he makes a swift and deliberate final cut on the hook and then holds it out to her.
“Just a fish hook. I would have thought that one with the sea in her heart should be able to recognise one, even if she had no cause to use one herself.” He smiles to show that his words are meant as gentle teasing.
He gazes into the fire and his faces becomes more serious. “My hands seek comfort in something familiar. I would prefer to find solace in fishing, but there is a distinct lack of water hereabouts.”
He sighs “The last few weeks have taken some getting used to. Culture shock I think I heard someone say. This is a far cry from my home. Take Fryestpool for example. The number of people living there would represent a great gathering of my folk, reserved for special occasions. Even this caravan - to have 50 marsh folk together for a number of days would need a notable event to bring so many together, and likely everyone present would know all the others there, bar maybe the odd one or two. The differences are disquieting, hence falling into a small routine for comfort.”
“I nearly made it. I…” Jarek pauses slightly thinking of the cube, “I hesistated a moment when I shouldn’t have. He’s a wealthy noble with a coat of arms with three jumping fish on it.” Jarek feels relieved that Aulexis did not react to his failure with derision.
“It looks like we are going to make camp in that… that village? Let’s go get a better look.”
Warran helps with carrying the firewood and the building of the fires. The heat is not unfamiliar to him and does not cause him much discomfort, as working at a forge produces quite a bit of warmth. The biggest difference is the sheer number of people in the building adding to the heat of the flames. He decides to remove any excess clothing and pack it away to make sleeping more comfortable. He then looks at the stonework looking over the details of the murals and sees if there are any written words he recognizes.
After a few hours of work the staff shatters in two, a strange honeycomb of wood nestled deep inside. Simon laments the faliure, but marvels at the many chambers. Quite beautiful, with a fine layer of beeswax polish…
Jarek helps with the fires. This kind of work is familiar to him, but not on this scale. He settles into sleep amidst his companions. He checks his fife and moves the cube from his pants pocket to an inside pocket. He curls up around his pack and falls asleep muttering something like “stupid poison fruit.”
“I can understand feeling out of place.” Aulexis’ head is nodding lower, but she props it up on her palms, and sets her elbows on her knees. “What brings you so far from home? I gather that marsh elves aren’t frequent travelers.”
He gives Aulexis an appraising stare “I’m not the only one out of place I suspect.”
“None of the wilderness elves, be they from marsh, forest or mountain, stray far from home. Do you know of our history, why some elves chose to walk away from their kin and seek out isolation in the wilds?”
“Mm. You suspect correctly.” She flicks one of her pointless ears. “Didn’t retire with distinction, but I’ve been on corsair ships for most of my life.” She smiles a little sadly. “I’m trying to settle in to this new path, now, wherever it leads.”
“I’ve heard various things about the wilderness elves. No real account of their history, but I do think I’m beginning to understand. A return to the earth, to the simplicity and peace of the old ways.
Peace and craft never appealed to me before, but elves like that Exile give me second thoughts. I am still but a youth in comparison to her age, yet I feel as though my life is already half over. This must be how humans feel.”
She gazes at Kaelin, studying him. She’s surprised that he spoke so much, after so long without speaking.
“Yet you have departed from your people, and are seperate from your way of life. Are you an outcast as well?”
Kaelin nods, seeing that Aulexis has grasped part of the nature of Wilderness elves.
“You are older than I, and likely have a better idea of how regrets and sorrows are easily accumulated over our long life spans; easy to gather, but harder to lose, becoming a greater burden the older we get.”
“And that is the key to our history, or so I have been told. Sometime ago there were those among our race who decided to seek a more simplistic life, shunning a living characterised by conflict with others, thus hoping to reduce the gathering of cares and woes to be borne thereafter. These elves sought out places far away from where others lived, both their own kin and the other races, where the challenge of survival and a balance with the natural world allowed for their souls to rest more easily. Some journeyed to deep forest, others to high peaks. Those who could still hear the song of the sea in their hearts choose to settle along coastlines, in fens, wetlands and marshes, and I am descended from those folk. All of these places have one thing in common - their relative isolation from the world.”
“That is not to say that outsiders are not welcome, and indeed there are some of other races that have come to join our settlements. Most struggle to grasp the fundamental nature of why these communities exist, but some do, and others are happy to live a life more connected to the world around them.”
“Which brings us back to your real question – if Wilderness elves seek to avoid the cares of the world, and thus do not travel, why would one have joined the Paladin’s household?”
“Even in our isolation, we are not ignorant of the turning of the world. Our oracles have recorded many signs over the last few years. The omens and portents all tell the same – a time of great upheaval and change will soon cover the land, and it will threaten the very existence of my people. The exact nature and timing of this fate is not known, but yet we have chosen to try and take action. Preparations and contingencies are being made, and some of us have been sent out into the world to seek aid for those skills we longer have. The Paladin’s reputation is well known, and joining his household seemed like a sensible place from where to learn more of the world, and to see if his influence and connections could lead me to meeting those who could help my folk.”
“I am not an outcast, but I do fear that whatever happens along this path I take may mean that I cannot eventually return home. But to such is a risk I am willing to take if it helps save my people and their way of live.”
He rubs at the fish hook. “Thank you for lending an ear; it feels better to have spoken about this to someone. Being around so many strangers makes it hard to know who to trust. But I guess we must start somewhere.”
Day two comes and your journey continues, leaving the strange abandoned village behind you. Until about midday, very little changes, and then after lunch, the route you are being led begins to climb. By the afternoon, you have left the Silent Forest behind, and looking back over it, you can’t see the Old World settlements anymore.
You keep climbing up the volcano until you reach the rim of the crater.
Looking down into it’s depths, you see another world. There is no lava, but a brilliant, azure blue lake, and right next to it, a smaller turquoise lake. The air rising from the crater is warm, but the first time it catches your breath, it is choking. Something about it is impossible to breath, and you note the Exile walks as close to the edge of the trail leading down the slope away from the crater as possible. You all soon naturally do the same, as beautiful and strange a sight as it is, the suffocating air drives you back.
Ahead of you, the Orcish city of Ur-zitz squats in the landscape, it is not as sprawling and big as perhaps you imagined, but it is high. It seems that the years when the orcs constrained themselves with the wall were years of explosive growth, and they built upwards. Orcish architecture is solid, beautifully functional and strong, and the city looks much the same. There are the occasional hints of the slender, strong and beautifully decorated elvish towers, like a poisoned rose, covered in barbs and spikes that seemingly serve no purpose but for looks. There is even a bannered, windowless dwarven hold. Humans have built here too, but nothing that can be seen from such a distance.
Night falls and the sunset is glorious from up here. All around the Mainland of Karlifell, and it’s hundreds of other surrounding islands, there is just flat, featureless ocean. Flat and featureless that is, to the untrained eyes. The sun dips into the ocean, the clouds in the sky reflecting gold and red, before the sun disappears and the light fades fast.
You press on in the darkness however, torches are passed back and forth while the wealthier caravanners light candles inside ornate glass lanterns, and you start to descend the volcano to the other side of the island. This is the Exiles territory, these nameless ones live both in harmony with and domination over the land. They have twisted the forest to work to their ends, great trees grow steps made from their boughs, twisted branches from living fences and great archways. You are not led into the trees, however, and it is mildly perturbing to hear the highways above you being used night and day. You instead are taken along one of the trails on the ground, and you can camp freely, away from the sudden death of the Silent Forest.