After leaving Emmirus the Alchemist’s shop, the party made it’s way towards Crown Hill and the Palace of Ur. To their mild surprise, they were given passage through the gates, both to the Hill, and to the palace, with minimal bother. There seemed to be a great deal of traffic, due largely to the preparations for war, obvious all around. The guards seemed harried and couldn’t be troubled to attend too closely, making it easy to get by on the thin excuse of Pony’s letter and some dwarven antiques to sell. Though, to be fair, the latter was an earnest pursuit.
The Palace courtyard was in chaos. On top of the clanging, shouting, crashing, and hammering of soldiers preparing for war, there was obviously some additional ruckus involving the moving of much furniture, and luggage, and the fussing of many servants and seemingly important personages.
The guard who had escorted them in bade them wait, out of the way near the wall, while he summoned a page, who ran off with a promise to return with haste.
The party waited around for nearly 45 minutes before the page returned. As they’d waited, they’d managed to attract the attention of several people potentially interested in the ancient dwarven daggers and armor they’d brought back from the tainted Temple of Bafomet in Garr Gorran. When the page came back, he beckoned to Pony and told her to follow him to speak to Lady An’Ikar’s factor.
The rest of the party waited there for Pony to return.
They sold the dwarven antiques. They watched and twiddled their thumbs and listened and played word games. Eventually, Kaijo, out of boredom as much as a desire to gather information, started wandering about the courtyard, lending a hand where he could.
He learned a great deal, and did so without telling anyone his name!
It turned out that the hubbub on top of the wartime preparations was largely the Ikar family vacating the Palace. It seemed that Lady An’Ikar had taken the execution of her younger brother, Shepherd Aran’Ik, poorly, and was removing her entire household to their estate in the Northcrook. That explained the palpable tension between the king’s soldiers and the Ikar household guards, a handful of each having been glaring at the others since the party had arrived.
Kaijo also had the opportunity to meet Lady An’Ikar’s son, Baal’Ikar Az’Guzuur, who spoke to the great white dragonborn with an interesting blend of politeness and haughtiness, simultaneously showing off his knowledge of dragonborn culture and his own sense of self-importance.
Almost unnoticed, the party was approached by an unusually whimsical and capricious teifling, bearing herself as a noble despite being dressed as a bar wench, who turned out to be Lady An’Ikar’s sister-in-law, Ran’Imil Az’Guzuur. Lady Ran’Imil’s arrival was accompanied by a distinct and slightly awkward sense that the rest of the folk in the courtyard suddenly couldn’t see or hear anything that was happening around the party. Naturally this meant that everyone was paying very close attention. Lady Ran’Imil demanded to know…various things…from the party, and then asked them to please accompany them on a tour of the palace walls, so that she could show them the stonework…which she insisted was quite noisy.
They followed her up a stair, through some passages, and weaving between various columns, pillars and doorways. As she walked, she spoke by turns as though she wanted nothing more than their approval, off-set by imperious demands and declarations. At one point, Thala found her ramblings so amusing that she literally fell to the ground laughing. Ran’Imil seemed unperturbed by it, but did place her sharp-heeled boot painfully on Thala’s shoulder, inflicting significant pain on the orc while she expounded on other things. Thankfully, the party was able to distract her with questions about the business in the Courtyard, which took her away from Thala, before the orc was upset enough to become violent.
Only a few of Ran’Imil’s questions seemed directed at gathering information about the party, who they were, why they were there, and why they helped defend the Dead Falcon Mine the night before. Many of her comments made it very clear that she despised the “murderous, murderess; her disgusting sister-in-law,” Lady An’Ikar
As the increasingly uncomfortable tour continued, an voice abruptly called out to Lady Ran’Imil, commanding her to stop and account for her actions.
Lady An’Ikar had appeared to save them.
She made apologies for her sister-in-law’s behavior, asking their understanding as poor Ran’Imil had simply not been the same since her husband and son passed away.
For a moment it looked as though the two women might come to blows. But An’Ikar dismissed Ran’Imil (as well as her own two servants), and the madwoman departed, grumbling as she went.
Lady An’Ikar spent a few minutes speaking with the party, thanking them for protecting her interests at Dead Falcon Mine, and giving them a substantial reward for doing so. As she handed out the small pouches of gold (she had already had her factor reward Pony), she clasped each of their hands solemnly, asking their names as though committing them to memory.
When she reached Kaijo, last of all, she held contact longer. Unnoticed by any of the others, she reached her fingers gently up his sleeve, in a manner which, if not for the circumstances, might have seemed an erotic invitation. As it was, her fingers gently, but clearly, brushed the tattoo, still raised and irritated, that he’d taken as his token of allegiance to the Blood King.
With that, she took her leave. It was only later that Kaijo realized that she’d slipped a note into his pocket.
After that encounter, the party returned to the Courtyard to wait for Pony.
Not long after they’d returned to their empty barrow, a great, howling cry echoed across the Courtyard from somewhere up on the wall, above the party’s heads. The courtyard grew abruptly quiet as the shouting continued, along with a terrible crashing ruckus and clamor, and everyone strained to get a view of what was happening…
Soon enough, they all saw King Thuz’Ur, naked as the day he was born, roaring in rage, charging and bounding along the top of the walls, dodging construction, and staging, and piles of lumber and stone, swinging his truly enormous…greatsword…in a wild effort to slay a halfling, dressed in the livery of house Ur, who was frantically fleeing the king’s wrath.
The halfling ducked and dodged, zigged and zagged, his way between and through the various obstacles on the wall, while Thuz’Ur smashed his ungainly way through them, shouting all the time about GNOOOOOOOMES! The small man was lucky to be so nimble, as he was a hair’s breadth from bisection a handful of times in just the few seconds that the party watched the chase.
Things came to a crashing conclusion when the halfling leaped from the parapet, flinging himself out over the courtyard to grasp a rope being used to raise a palate of stone to the wall by way of a swiveling crane-arm. The halfling landed just above the palate, and the King, blinded with rage, flung himself out, swinging his sword at his foe as he flew.
The king’s sword severed the rope where the halfling’s neck would have been had he not dropped onto the palate. As the rope snapped, the King narrowly grabbed the end still attached to the crane-arm, leaving him swinging above the courtyard, his…sword…dangling in one hand as he roared for someone to catch the gnome!
Meanwhile, the halfling disappeared, and the palate of stones fell to the ground with a horrible, rumbling crash.
The Courtyard flew into chaos. Servants and soldiers hurried about, some attempting to help the king out of his predicament, others searching through the rubble for the halfling, who surely must have been crushed as the stones fell.
Only Thala (or was it Sardis?) noticed the tiny flicker of light and distortion that showed where the halfling—who was, by virtue of his turning invisible, almost certainly a gnome after all—fled beneath an archway to take shelter among a pile of unused construction materials a few yards from the ruckus he’d caused.
It took the party a moment to realize the gnomes predicament, but several of them gathered around to investigate the terrified little man. It took another moment for them to decide to help him escape the Courtyard, but no time at all for Akra and Kaijo to muster a loud and distracting tussle, which distracted the guards and servants long enough for Thala to turn the gnome invisible.
Gnome in tow, Kaijo and Akra apologized for their misconduct, and the group let themselves be escorted out of the courtyard by the palace guards, leaving word for Pony (who still hadn’t returned) to find them at the Mason’s Rest down on Crafter’s Row.
Which is where they went next.
Once there, they rented an entire room to themselves, paying handsomely for the privilege. Finally, in the private room Thala let drop the veil of invisibility in which she’d wrapped the gnome.
He said his name was Bangiziplitizikin, and described himself as an “explorationer” from the Gnome city of Ganitipantuperan (gan-EE-tee-pan-TOO-puhr-on)), which seems to be built inside the hill which lays in the Feywild parallel with M’ziir.
He explained to the party that the gnomes of Ganitipantuperan have been desperately working to keep the gates of their city open, which efforts seemed to lie behind the unclosability of The Gap. It turned out that the gates of the gnome city lay in the Feywild parallel to The Gap. When the Guzuurs attempted to close the Gap, it wreaked havoc on the gates of Ganitipantuperan. When the gnomes cleared their gate, it broke the Gap back open. Or…something like that.
In any case, Bangizi also asserts that the gnomes of his city have indeed been working to undermine King Thuz’Ur’s authority and sanity for quite some time, and seems delighted at how well it has worked. It was unclear to the party whether the efforts to drive Thuz’Ur mad were driven by frustration or some agenda involving the Gap….
…or perhaps the other way around?
Either way, it seemed clear that the gnomes did, in fact, not only exist, but that they were indeed bent on tormenting Thuz’Ur, which made his bounties seem a lot less unreasonable.
One thing was clear: the gnomes wanted Thuz’Ur out, and the Gap open, which made them, at least circumstantially, potential allies.
To that end, Kaijo and Ink drafted a letter to King Bevinigiangapilatini (beh-vin-EE-jiuhn-gap-ih-lah-TEE-nee)proposing an alliance between the gnomes of Ganitipantuperan and the Blood King of Azeth against their common enemy, Thuz’Ur Az’Guzuur.
After the gnome had departed, Kaijo reached into his pocket and read Lady An’Ikar’s message, which read:
I know of your master.
I know of your goals.
The churl should believe, with his mother, that benefits accrue to him with admission of the newcomers.
He will admit them if you convince him. Offer the madwoman as a bride.
When I ascend, your service will shelter your people,and mastery shall fall as you will.
They decided that this meant that Lady An’Ikar knew they were working for the Blood King, and that he wanted to find an ally within the City that would let him in without a fight in return for his support taking the crown.
It seemed that An’Ikar felt that Chur’Aal and his mother, Lady of L’Ekar, should be convinced that Chur’Aal would be made king if he simply…let the Blood King in through the Pale Quarter and The Gap. And that the party should take on this task, using Lady Ran’Imil as a carrot if need be.
Considering this, the party decided that, on the morrow, they would journey to L’ekar, a mere few hours ride away if they used their last magical steed scroll, and seek audience with Lady Sheraz’Aal Az’Zoran of L’Ekar.
That afternoon, Pony, who had been kept waiting, and then held in a long meeting with Lady An’Ikar’s factor, caught up to them at the Mason’s Rest, and the group caught her up on what had happened.
NEWS AND RUMORS
- The Blood King wears a glowing ruby diadem on his brow which enslaves the will of those who look upon it.
- The Blood King of Azeth is actually a changeling posing as the heir to House Azil. The true heir escaped and is behind Aechell’s aggression.
- The Blood King of Azeth is freeing the slaves in the cities he conquers, and is ending the tyrannies of the Elder Bloodlines.
- The Blood King of Azeth has taken D’kath, and Okorian.
- The Blood King’s army marches on M’ziir and will arrive within the week.
- The armies of M’ziir are not likely to be able to withstand more than a day or two of assault by the armies of the Blood King. Thankfully, the armies of Queen Ren’Raatha Az’Ebbezuur should be coming from Darakor any day now.
- The armies of Darakor are never coming. Queen Ren’Raatha has allied with the Blood King already.
- King Thuz’Ur has gone utterly mad, seeing gnomes everywhere, and blaming them for M’ziir’s questionable readiness for war.
- The work being done to block The Gap is not finished.
- King Thuz’Ur has increased the bounty on gnomes to 500 gold pieces
- King Thuz’Ur is executing his family, friends and advisers on a daily basis.
- King Thuz’Ur executed his cousin, Shepherd Aran’Ik Az’Guzuur, for treason a few days ago, and plans to execute Aran’Ik’s sister, An’Ikar Az’Guzuur.
- Edur Bennigan, king of New Cormorell, has been executed by Aechelleth, who, through some unknown magic, projected the king’s death into the sky for all in the Blessed Lands to see
- The hills and mines all along the Gandoran range are overrun with goblinoids and giants. The Shepherds are hard pressed in the South and West Crooks.
- The late Queen Amra’Ur’s stillborn child was not a monster, but a bezoar.
- The late Queen Amra’Ur’s family, the Ebbezuurs, are pretty unhappy about her being executed.
- King Thuz’Ur has shut M’ziir to all trade from Azeth, D’kath, and Okorian. The Shepherds’ Guild is not pleased
- The Pale Quarter is being converted to a defensive bulwark, with an earthen rampart running north to south along it’s eastern edge.
- Conscriptions in the Pale Quarter have enlisted nearly every healthy adult into service as defenders of the city. The consripts are called “Mules”
- The King’s distant cousin, Chur’Aal Az’Guzuur, was given command of the Mules.
- Sheraz’Aal Az’Zoran, lady of L’ekar and mother to Chur’Aal Az’Guzuur is withholding her troops from the defense of M’ziir so that she can join with the Blood King when he arrives in return for her son being made King (or at least Regent) of M’ziir.
- Palers who did not enlist in the Mules and who aren’t otherwise possessed of useful skills are being made slaves.
- The Shade has been driven into hiding by the militarization of the Pale Quarter
- Members of the Shade are being executed on sight.
- The Ix’iil are actually running the Mules
- Danae, former leader of the Shade, has joined the Mules and is now hunting down her former associates as a lieutenant of Captail Chur’Aal.
- The Mules Headquarters is set up on what was once the Stalls of the Pale Quarter. Danae’s tents are set up directly over the secret passage to the Grey Manse.
- There has been a huge uptick in goblinoid raids in the Westcrook and Northcrook, outside the City. The Blood King Isra’Asiel is implicated.
- The Shepherds are planning a coup, having decided that all the nobility of Mokiir is corrupt (in a bad way).
- A small band of half-orc warriors has been asking around after an orcish Wizard.
- King Thuz’Ur’s Court Astrologer, Martesse, has prophesied disaster for M’ziir, and all of Mokiir, should Isra’Asiel take the throne.
- The Blood King has slain the Court Astrologers in Azeth, D’kath, and Okorian.