Unwanted attention … a blast from the past
Dovir And Beyond
As the Karameikans were preparing to leave town, the innkeeper chatted with his best friend Teldon and seemed sad that he had to go. Teldon gleaned two items of information. It seemed that the foreigners were attracting attention from a number of sources.
Firstly, as one of the serving girls had been leaving the previous night she was confronted by a strange man. He kept within the shadows so that she couldn't see his features but he sounded foreign and wanted to know about the foreigners staying in the inn. When she said she didn't know anything he became aggressive but fortunately some soldiers happened by and the man disappeared.
When pressed about about the man's description, the girl replied that she hadn't been able to make out his face. He was of average height and thin, dressed in a kihara. The girl professed to having encountered only a dozen or so non-Alphatians in her lifetime (including the three Karameikans). The man's accent was foreign but different from Teldon's. She guessed he might have been from Belissaria. He had asked whether there were three foreigners staying in the inn. She had said yes. He then asked whether they had been the ones at the Temple of Kagyar the previous night. She said she didn't know what he was talking about. He demanded to know whether it was true that the one dressed in blue had defeated a pack of zombies. She didn't know. On hearing this the man grew angry and demanded that she tell him everything about who the foreigners were and what they were doing in town. It was then that the soldiers came along.
Someone else had enquired about the Karameikans the previous night - a man in a white robe with a blue star on it. The innkeeper thinks the individual might have been a member of a new clerical order that came to town the year before last. Teldon asked the innkeeper where the Order of the Blue Star was to be found within Dovir. He shrugged disinterestedly, stating that he believed they had founded a shrine in the northern end of town. Their arrival had caused a stir at first but until the events of the previous night the innkeeper had completely forgotten about them.
The wizards spoke among themselves and agreed it would be worthwhile to pay the clerics a visit. Firstly however, Lana wished to collect the gown Alasylvel had agreed to alter for her. Karnus rolled his eyes on hearing that he would need to spend time in the presence of a "dressmaker", as he termed her.
Arriving back at the shop, Alasylvel was found to be wearing a pink kihara embroidered with the depiction of a man and woman embracing. The robe she had prepared for Lana was an excellent fit; its soft golden tones were a pleasant change from her usual green and went well with her hair. Alasylvel handed across a piece of parchment bearing the name and address of her representative in Sundsvall. Business concluded, the wizards moved on.
The streets were getting steadily more packed so the carpet was unfurled and took to the air. It sailed toward the north end of town, past the huge construction site that dominated its surroundings. A small but pleasant looking green area was passed - containing grass, flowers and a few trees. Beyond the northern walls it became clear that the town was being expanded. A second wall was being built and dozens of buildings appeared to be under construction, though few seemed close to completion and evidently nobody was working on them at the moment.
The Order of the Blue Star
Setting down, Teldon asked a group of locals where he might find the Order of the Blue Star. His request prompted looks ranging from suspicion to bemusement. The townsfolk were nevertheless able to point the way so that a few minutes later the wizards found themselves standing outside a small building which resembled a Thyatian shrine - or rather, what an Alphatian who had heard a description of a Thyatian shrine but not actually seen one might imagine one to look like.
Lana gazed at the single blue star which adorned the exterior on the otherwise featureless building. She informed her companions how years ago the Order had maintained a shrine in Threshold's town centre, back in Karameikos. That was until the town's overseer Sherlane Halaran had seen fit to expel the sect when it came to light that the Elders of the Order had been colluding to undermine the influence of rival faiths whose tenets differed from the Blue Star's own strict beliefs. After the expulsion, Lana understood that the Order had found it impossible to re-establish itself anywhere within the Grand Duchy, and was presumed to have been dissolved. Apparently not, it now appeared - the Order had actually relocated across the Sea of Dawn to Alphatia.
Entering the building, the interior turned out to be small and unadorned, devoid of statues or any detailing. The only feature was a broad stone altar in the shape of a five-pointed star. Above this was a star shaped opening in the roof however there were no other windows or light sources.
The only movement to be seen came from a woman in her mid thirties, with short neat, hair dressed in a simple white robe embroidered with a blue star. She stepped up towards the altar and calmly returned Teldon's greeting when he called to her.
The woman was happy to respond to Teldon's questioning about the origin and purpose of the Order. She explained that their intention was to bring order and the rule of law to the chaotic land of Alphatia, whose inhabitants they considered indulged whims and followed flights of fancy without any thought of the consequences. The Order's view was that Alphatian laws were inconsistent and not fairly applied. This they considered weakened the Empire in many ways - militarily, socially, politically and morally. The Order of the Blue Star was dedicated to halting and reversing Alphatia's decline into anarchy. They did not serve any particular Immortal or Immortals - only the higher purpose of Law.
It was within the last few years that the Order had appeared in Alphatia. A small group of clerics from across the Sea of Dawn arrived in the sea port of Eagret and began recruiting new members to their cause. The Order quickly took root in the kingdom of Greenspur as its people were more open the Order's teachings than in other kingdoms and already had some appreciation of the truth of the Order's ways. Two years ago it was decided that the Order should spread to other Alphatian kingdoms. Haven was the first target and - in the woman's view - just as well for with hundreds of thousands of refugees having fled the burning of Aasla, the kingdom had become more chaotic than ever before.
The woman admitted that she knew little of the Order before its arrival in Alphatia - however the Elders were of the view that the past was not important, and only the future mattered.
Without much further ado, the wizards thanked the woman and took their leave. As they exited the shrine she appeared to be annointing each of the five points of the altar with what the party presumed was holy water.
Teldon muttered, "Well that may or may not prove useful. We still don't know why one of her fellows was asking after us in the inn last night but I'm not convinced we would have been satisfied by any answer she might have given us. Better we appear unaware of any interest they might have in us for the time being. As far as she is concerned we only came by because Lana remembered the Order from her days in Threshold, had heard they had a temple here and was curious. Meanwhile, if we see any more signs of this Order on our journey, we will be alert for any interest they may have in us."
The man who started the War
Lana set about unfurling the carpet once more, however Karnus was about to seat himself when he saw a figure exit a nearby alleyway. The figure was dressed in a knee-length, unadorned, deep red kihara with its hood drawn up shadowing the face. He (for Karnus felt fairly certain it was a man) was striding purposefully and had clearly been heading toward the shrine until after raising his bowed head for the briefest moment, he had turned sharply to one side and begun walking away from the wizards and their carpet. Lana noticed the direction in which Karnus was looking and followed his gaze in time to see the man turn a corner.
Teldon had also seen the stranger. "Well, that wasn't suspicious," he said in a low voice.
Karnus gave his companions an almost amused glance, winked, then transformed into an innocuous bird and flew after the hooded stranger. He did not have to go far. The man had stopped just around the corner. A group of soldiers were coming down the road in the opposite direction doing their best to get through the crowds. The hooded individual calmly cast a spell then, as the first of the soldiers broke free of the crowds and shouted out, cast another and vanished.
Lana guessed that she knew what had happened and cast a detection charm. Just a few yards above and behind Karnus, Lana saw the air shimmer as to her eyes the wizard's Invisibility melted away. He glanced over his shoulder at the advancing soldiers who by had slowed and were looking at one other in a mixture of frustration and uncertainty. Those with their short swords drawn put them away. The invisible magic-user flew a little higher but was otherwise making no obvious attempt to leave.
Unsure of the man's intentions, Lana thought it might be wise to invoke a further enchantment. As she began a spell of holding, the wizard seemed to realise he had been detected and flew away over the rooftops. Lana completed her incantation but had no idea whether it achieved any effect. Without further ado, and ignoring shouts from the guards below, she directed the carpet up and after the invisible stranger. In bird form Karnus alongside the carpet which, with its two passengers, was unable to match his speed or indeed that of the red-robed stranger.
Upon rising over the roof of the nearest building, Lana noticed that the man had not gone far. He was hovering, apparently waiting, about seventy yards off. As the carpet came into view he turned and flew swiftly northwards.
The invisible magic-user flew over the town wall, outdistancing the carpet but remaining within view at all times. Keeping the carpet on a steady course, Lana again saw the man hovering around a hundred yards away. He had set down on top of a half completed building at the very edge of the outer town. There appeared to be nobody else around.
Following Lana's directions, Karnus set down and reverted to human form before calling out to the stranger. "You can show yourself, the guards have not followed. I get the impression you wish to speak with us."
"Showing myself may yet be dangerous," replied the man's strangely accented voice. "First, I wish to know who you are and what your purpose is in Alphatia."
Lana responded with cursory introductions and to explain that the party travelled from Karameikos on a diplomatic mission to meet with the Empress in Sundsvall.
"A diplomatic mission? Those can get you arrested and thrown in Eriadna's dungeons," the man replied bitterly. He continued in a tone that was a mix of anger and resignation. "So it is true, the Thyatians are withdrawing their forces from the Isle of Dawn and now you are here to tell the Alphatians that Emperor Thincol will lie down and roll over like a dog before them. We should have expected no better from Thyatis. There is nothing further for us to discuss."
"Wait!" Lana said. "You haven't even told us who you are."
The man, who had turned away and begun to lift from his perch atop the wall stopped and span around. He glided over to be but an arm length away from Lana. "I am Komughan Krinagar," he said in a voice that was flat and emotionless but so soft as to be barely more than a whisper, "the man who started the War."
Lana's mouth opened in shock, as she took a moment to digest the enormity of the man's statement. Karnus meanwhile had stepped forward and was bowing graciously before Komughan who remained invisible, offering a cordial greeting in the name of Rad. Unseen by Karnus, the man's eyebrows rose and his forehead furrowed on hearing a familiar greeting in alien surroundings. Karnus sought to assure Komughan that he could trust their party and that they wished him no harm, only to speak with him further. Komughan replied:
"I consider it unseemly to continue our conversation in this manner but although you greet me courteously in the Light of Rad, I have no reason to trust you. Furthermore, you are three and I am alone. Therefore, I propose to drop my Invisibility in favour of an Anti-Magic Shell. It will allow us to speak face-to-face and will provide the security I require."
None of the Karameikans objected to this proposal. There came words of magic and the man appeared. He was of average height - perhaps an inch shorter than Karnus. He was however extremely thin. He drew back his hood to reveal gaunt facial features with sallow skin and drawn cheeks. His narrow eyes were dark and sunken, his hair long and dark but tangled and unkempt. His beard and long moustache were missing - in their place were a couple of days' worth of growth. Lana was not sure she would have recognised this man from the picture she had viewed in the government building but it did seem to be him.
"So I ask again," he said, "what is your purpose in Alphatia? What does Karameikos seek from the enemies of Glantri and Thyatis?"
And addressing Karnus specifically:
"And what does Karameikos know of the Light of Rad or indeed Bramyra. I find it difficult to believe that my cousin has built the fame and fortune of his little outpost to such an extent that it is common knowledge beyond our borders."
Lana tackled the first issue, …
[details of conversation to follow]
Komughan was asked to recount the story of his party's journey to Sundsvall - his tale can be read here.
Lana and Teldon waited patiently for Karnus and Komughan to conclude their conversation, having put several hundred feet between them and the half-finished dwelling lest they be suspected of eavesdropping. Half an hour passed, by which point Lana and Teldon's patience wore out and they returned to find the structure empty. Taking out her crystal ball, Lana called forth a vision of Karnus and observed him standing upon a dock, waves crashing behind him. Karnus remained calm and extended a hand, casting a spell of some sort. A ray of blue light shot out to strike something outside Lana's field of vision, then Karnus was seen to morph into bird form and take to the skies.
Moments later as Lana and Teldon were preparing to mount the carpet and go in search of their companion, the bird appeared in the sky overhead, settled in their midst and resumed human form. Karnus stood grinning though his companions were unimpressed, thinking some harm might have befallen him. In a distinctly guarded manner, Karnus explained that Komughan had wished to take him to the dock in Dovir to show him something, but that he had been recognised by guards and needed to flee - leaving a distraction... Lana's eyes widened when it transpired Komughan had summoned a water elemental to cover his retreat. Karnus had been wearing his elven cloak, and felt certain that the guards could not have seen him conversing with Komughan until he used his magic to banish the elemental.
While she had found Komughan credible and honourable in some respects, Lana felt moved to express her disapproval of his efforts to undermine morale within Dovir. His plan was evidently to weaken the town's ability to support Sundsvall and the greater War effort though his choice of methodology was questionable to say the least. Lana considered that Komughan had instigated the zombie attack at the Temple of Kagyar (involving the slaying and re-animation of innocent civilians) and Teldon shared that view. Teldon for his part was dismayed that Komughan had disappeared so suddenly, as he had wished to learn more about the Erewan elves and the burning of Aasla. All three wizards agreed that their paths might once again with Komughan Krinagar.
There seemed little point tarrying so the wizards brought out their maps and reviewed the way ahead. They agreed to follow the trail to the town of Lesir before rejoining the main road from Aasla which would lead them through the Aasla Spur mountains past the town of Fifeton then on to the Haven Wall and into the next kingdom.
The carpet departed along the trail through picturesque countryside. The road was well travelled and caravans were seen going in both directions. Nobody seemed to find the spectacle of a flying carpet surprising or unusual. Villages proved few and far between; those few were as pretty and colourful as was to be expected but were otherwise unremarkable. Throughout the morning the terrain remained flat - consisting of fields, pastures, flowering hedgerows, bubbling brooks and small stretches of woodland. The lack of distractions permitted the carpet to make good progress. Shortly before noon the occasional gentle hills the wizards had seen thus far became steeper and more rocky. Not long after, mountains loomed in the distance. A few hours later and the wizards reached a town built on the slopes of a mountain, pressed against a great cliff face. It looked to be roughly the size of Dovir but its streets were much less crowded. Some of the town's most imposing towers had a rough hewn look as if they had been drawn from the very earth like giant elementals. Overshadowing every structure in town however was the cliff which had been carved with a series of colossal faces, male and female alike - all finely detailed and each around a hundred feet high.
They had reached the town of Lesir.
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