Orhayen, 35 Orhan 1, 6045
A week of sea has the Lost Horizon coming into Gravesdale under the light of a full Orhan, though the ship keeps out to see thanks to Captain Kleason’s fear of hidden water hazards. Rowboats bring you to a dockside not built up to support more than their own fishing industry, and whatever they do with that they are unlikely to send it out by sea. When you put to, Vandir tells you that the Erlandi Tap is your best bet for getting your bearings and finding a local who can point you in the right direction. He also reminds you that the Talath of the Dales simple folk, rustic, salt of the earth types. You know, smarter than they let on and with strong opinions about strangers looking at their daughters funny. Oh, and Mr. Half Lugrok? That’s half a Lurok more than any of these people have seen. They don’t care if their clothes don’t make a statement, Bartholomew. They do make a statement. The statement is “Underestimate me. I can find my way home through the swamps at night.”
Do this job, they said. It will pay well and you need to be far away, they said. It’ll help your reputation. You know coming to a Dale would mean crossing swamp. But they didn’t quite nail down just how much swamp that would be. It’s nearly enough to make a fellow wish the River god had risen up and thrown you back south.
But the swamps do have their points of interest, even if most of it is out to serve you with mud scones and bark tea. Even if there are a thousand pretty plants, each deadlier than the last. At least there’s cranberries. In everything.
But you trudged and trudged, arrived in Gravesdale – really someone named this place for the cemetery? You’ve been paid, paid someone to clean your leathers, and with a final meal and drink at the Erlandi Tap you’re going to quit the fine Talath hospitality of Farmer Yebecha and head back to Tovor where people can give you reasons to be gone again. Wait, new plan. A group of four just walked in, and you start to wonder if you could get a pool going if it’s the Half-Lugrok, either Murlog, or the fucking Blue Guy who freaking out the locals…
The road that connects Artha to the Bodlean Dales is long, bespeckled with farms, and largely civilized. Bibi has tales of past trips when she had to find a caravan with for fear of bandits and Lugrok, but that was years ago. The King and Senate have held to an agreement for some time that internal security from internal threats was worth maintaining taxation, though the rest of the aristocrats carry on as if they were paying in blood rather than gold.
Bodlea itself is new, which is itself exciting, you having never seen a swamp before. It took control to heed Bbii’s admonition not to stray from her side, let alone the path. Not even to investigate the lights at night. Especially not to investigate the lights at night. Days turned into weeks, but soon enough the walk was ended with your arrival in Gravesdale. “Food and drink first, our work comes in the morning.” Just as your order came in, the strangest group of people entered…
Revealing Each Star While The Moon Plays The Fool
As the Bodleans barflies stare openly, Kurimudal mindspeaks to the room as Bartholomew zips to Ravasz to shriek, “Hey! Nice hat!” The bulks of the newcomers flock to the Stroani’s table, Anieta watching until her Bibi tells her, “Ignore every rule. Join them.” Shocked at this new attitude from her grandmother, Atiena does not pass up the opportunity.
The party soon establishes that they need to go into the Bodlean swamps to find Malak, a not uncommon mold with basic herbal qualities. Further discussion reveals they need a particular cultivar, as well as Anieta’s need for some other herbs. The group agrees to travel together, and Bibi decides to remain in the Dale and conduct business while the rest of them travel. A local, Stiller Felvris, offers to give the group through the swamp. Ravasz sees value in a path that observes his religion’s stricture against being eaten, nor does the party dispute him.
The group agrees to set out at first light. The Bodlean hospitality industry proves to be very hospitable, but not even a little bit industrialized. Separately, the group find space in the barns and bedrooms of cranberry farmers. Ravasz finds warmer accommodation still in the attentions of Mareschen, one of the bolder daughters of the Dale.
How Can We Cherish Our Inner Demons
The first day was largely uneventful, though the evening camp was marred by a run-in with a small handful of Zombies. On the second day, though, 37 Orhan 1, Atiena’s training allowed her to notice subtle differences in a patch of Malak that turned out to be a sizable find. Further inspection revealed that the mold was growing on a Barrow, the door cracked open by the elements. The group’s initial reflex was to take what was on the outside and go, but deliberation soon led to the conclusion that there might not be enough of the mold to make enough cure. Ultimately, they decided it was worth the risk to enter the Barrow.
Inside, the Barrow was a shadow of its initial splendor. The swamp had entered in the form of roots and water. The water in turn must have carried in Malak spores that found hospitality on many tapestries that once hung about the place in honor of whomever was buried in the granite and marble sarcophagus in the room’s center. At the foot of that was a chest with a holy symbol of Zanar carved on it.
The group began harvesting as much Malak as they could carry. Mere minutes into the operation, though, a shadow rose from the grave and attacked faster than the could track! Ravasz, the two Murlog, and the guide seemed fixated on the being as it struck the swordsman and tried to lodge teeth into flesh. The party was fortunate in that the creature was affected by non-magical weapons (but not the Zanarian holy symbol). But it was Atiena who saved the day, laying on spell after spell to force the Unliving spirit into quiescence long enough to destroy it utterly.
The chest, smashed open during the fight, contained a gold-seeming holy symbol of Zanar that turned out to be painted iron, ancient Priestly Vestments, and a book in a language not recognized by any in the group. The party returned to their task, but astonishment from Felvris convinced them to open the sarcophagus and see if additional treasure lay within. No additional wealth was found, but there was a false bottom spotted, and under that a stairway leading down. The party decided this could wait for another day, for there was a city to save.
Returning to Gravesdale, Bibi told Atiena she had a choice: to return with her, or to go with the strangers. She asked her mentor to divine for it. The counsel of the bones was that stability lay in Artha, but possibility lay in Sel Kai. Atiena chose possibility. The party soon returned to the Lost Horison, which got back under weigh for Sel Kai.
The Games Still Go On With A Warning To The Bishop From The Pawn
En route, Thog presented Kurimudal and Captain Kleason with his plans for Zinvar. They agreed it was ambitious, and would require backing from major powers, such as the Merchant Baroness Dasai Marai-Tasaka, or as Thog likes to call her “Auntie.”
On returning to Sel-Kai, the party saw signs that the plague had begun to make itself known. There was less travel about, but enough of the city’s diverse population to form a sharp contrast with Tovor, Orian, or even Artha. Several lives had been claimed, as evidence by the heavy business the South Commons Clinic was providing the Sel Kai Undertakers. (Motto: “We Don’t Want To Know”).
The cure proved an effective treatment as well as inoculation. Ravasz discovered the Cold Barley Soup Kitchen and fit himself right in. This chapter in the party’s life concluded on 55 Orhan 1 at a dinner of one of the Kitchen’s private rooms. Over that dinner, the group regaled Ruven Keleneor with a full account of their doings, bringing the newcomers into their confidence regarding Zinvar.
There were also partings at this time. Emerald announced that this was far more excitement that any self-respecting Murlog would want in their life. It was also a bit much for Bartholomew. Henceforth, they would stay in the city and partake of Pokings Day at the clinic.