It took a few minutes, some apologies, some coin, and a quick repair by Ink to soothe the tavern owner (one, Marlow by name) and the dangerous-looking patrons of the Crooked Spoke Tavern. But soon enough, the party was on their way to an Inn called the Hidden Bier to find a private dining room where they could talk with the somewhat-mysterioius tiefling who had “rescued” them from the writhing shadows in the alley.
Once in the private room, with drinks and some food, the tiefling and Ink both began working rituals to guard the conversation from evesdropping and intrusion. Before either could finish, Kalyx abruptly grabbed one of the crystals being used, tapped it on the table sharply, grunted, and a rumble of thunder rolled through the room. Everyone but Sardis could tell, with certainty, that any effort to scry, spy, or enter the room would trigger a thunderclap and likely be impossible. Everyone but Sardis stared at Kalyx. She shrugged.
The sketchy tiefling finally introduced himself as Alzin. He was exceptionally ugly, and chewed sourleaf such that his teeth and gums were dyed a gross russet. He made what seemed to the party to be a fairly mediocre attempt at misleading them as to his affiliation, but they fairly quickly concluded that he was a member of the technically-disbanded Astrologers’ Guild.
To his credit, once he realized his cover had utterly failed, Alzin didn’t bother to prevaricate much. He carried on with his original narrative; to wit: that the party was concerning themselves with the wrong son of Tafel’Asiel. He was frank in that the Astrologers knew, and had known for some time, that the Blood King was the Bastard of Azeth, not, in fact, the legitimate heir Ra’Asiel. He suggested that the question they should be asking themselves was “What did Israfel Az’Nul do during the more-than-a-year between when he assassinated Kok’Abiel, astrologer of Azeth, and when he returned with an army and turned the City of Azeth against itself?” More, Alzin went on, “How did he successfully convince even most of the City that he was Ra’Asiel, and what might any of it have to do with how he managed to conquer six of the seven quarrelsome Cities of Mokiir in less than a year?”
He told them that, as far as the Astrologers could discern, the Bastard had fled through the Weilleren’rell, the waterroads after killing Kok’Abiel. He seemed to have taken the elemental ways to the Silverstream River near Dabin, then taken a ship to Rook’s Landing, and then to Beygin. Beyond that, nothing was known of Israfel until he’d appeared in the throne room at the Palace of Night on the evening of The Succession.
The party listened with moderate curiosity. Though they seemed at least as interested in why Alzin would help them, and in why he thought they oughtn’t just kill him? Alzin seemed surprisingly unconcerned, pointing out that they were in a crowded in and that the party couldn’t afford trouble. Still, he did halfheartedly seek an assurance from Kalyx that he would be allowed to leave unharmed in return for the information he shared. As for his motives in helping them, he pointed out quasi-enigmatically that different people or groups within a single organization often have differing agendas, beliefs, and methods.
They did let him leave unharmed.
And then returned to the manse of Zorin’Oze, only to find Ezra fairly bursting with news from the Court of D’kath.
Ezra revealed (interrupted briefly by a drunken Zorin’Oze, who confirmed Ezra’s tale and then awkwardly tried to get Eirlys to sleep with him) that there had been no audience with Kazzar Luran’Sulazin because the Aechellans had appeared at Court.
The Aechellan envoy, lead by Father Commander Martin Aulgrade, had come to “…formally reaffirm in these troubled times the ancient peace between D’kath and Aechell.” Several of the tiefling nobles had snickered at the use of the term “ancient” to describe the peace, as there had been war in their grandparents’ lifetimes. Regardless, the Kazzar had greeted the Aechellans courteously. There had been gifts, introductions, and the royal herald had announced plans for a feast to honor the Aechellan envoy to take place on the morrow.
Which, proclaimed Ezra dramatically, had been when Kaz’Kazzar Isra’Asiel had appeared. The High king, complete with ruby diadem and large, curving horns, had pushed his way from the back of the great hall and announced his delighted welcome of the envoy of D’kath. It had caused, needless to say, quite a stir, and the Aechellans had been downright stunned.
So, concluded Ezra, there was to be a feast on the evening of the 17th, and, well…if the rest of them wished to be invited, he supposed he could see to it. At least for Ink and Sardis, that was.
Nobody was interested in the feast, but they did question Ezra closely about the size and shape of the Blood King’s horns in a manner that would have made any respectable tiefling blush. The smiling bard, understanding their interest once they’d filled him in on their discoveries from the evening, clarified that the Kaz’Kazzar’s horns had not been ram-shaped, but more like a goat. Still, from the description, it was clear that they were now substantially larger than Ink and Sardis recalled, and moreso that could be accounted for by the simple passage of time.
Everyone went to sleep shortly thereafter, but not before Ink sent a brief, magical message to Kaijo back in M’ziir. “Can you confirm the location of the Kaz’Kazzar,” asked the wizard. “Expected to arrive here day-after-tomorrow,” came the reply. Plenty of time, assuming the High King traveled through the mage guild circles.
The morning passed with more discussion over breakfast, and the party decided, somewhat halfheartedly, to investigate the likely Weilleren’rell entrance beneath D’kath, in case they decided to pursue the mystery of the Bastard of Azeth. To that end, after confirming that Eirlys didn’t know where it could be found, Sardis and Kalyx left the manse to see if they could discover anything.
Meanwhile, Ink and Eirlys gathered their things and set off to the Queue for their midday meeting with Lobbus Lighttouch, head of the Explorers’ Guild.
Sardis and Kalyx explored Kathazan Square, the great central plaza of the City. The busy square was lined mostly with municipal government buildings, great stern, stone structures entirely function over form. Outside several of the buildings stood rows of stocks complete with prisoners serving out their sentences, which, in the chill of the D’kathi winter, seemed to consist largely of exposure. Several permanent gallows stood nearby, currently empty.
Scattered across the square were five large, ice-rimed public fountains where people from around D’kath came to gather, trade gossip, and fetch water. At the center of the Square was a sixth fountain, larger than the others, in the center of which stood a great, bronze statue of a bold looking tiefling noblewoman, with a crown of swept-back horns, hand outstretched as if summoning the fountain’s water from the depths below the City.
Somehow, even in the frigid Penilan air, the fountains still flowed. Sardis and Kalyx tasted the water, felt it’s energy, sniffed it. They listened and breathed at the drain grates that peppered the icy square. They got a lot of stares.
In the end, they concluded that the City’s water must come from an elemental font, likely connected to the Weilleren’rell. Curious, they returned to Zorin’Oze’s manse to see if D’kath’s Lord Az’Zoran could point them in the direction of the public utilities building.
Meanwhile, Ink and Eirlys returned to the Crooked Spoke to speak to Lobbus Lighttouch, Head of the Explorers’ Guild.
When they reached the tavern, the barman, Marlow, greeted them as old friends, commenting that Ink’s repair had rid his doors of a squeak that had troubled him for years! Business at the Spoke was moderate around lunchtime, but the music was good, with the halfling bard who had been there the night before strumming way lazily on a lute by the fire.
To Ink’s mild surprise, Eirlys strode purposefully towards the halfling whose face broke into a wide grin when he saw her.
Guildmaster Lighttouch was fair-haired for a halfling, with exactly the sort of roguish charm one would expect. The sur’maga and the bard clasped arms in greeting, as Lighttouch exclaimed that he’d thought he’d seen her with that bunch of ruffians last night! And that he knew Artoss was a new face, but why wouldn’t she have said something when she was at the Guildhall yesterday?
Ink learned that Eirlys was not only a current member of the Explorers’ Guild, but that she’d been a well known and successful Guild Ranger until a few years back. As they all sat down for a drink and meal, the two Explorer’s exchanged news and stories, though not, Ink noted, without a healthy dose of mutual, cagey evasion.
Once things had settled down a bit, Lighttouch grew more somber. It was, he said, bad out there. He asked if Eirlys would consider coming back. She declined politely, and conversation moved on to Ink’s interest in introducing the The Waaz Ora’adz model to D’kath, particularly in the queue.
Lighttouch seemed…perhaps suspiciously bland on the idea, pointedly noting that currying favor with him personally wouldn’t prove the value of a Fight Club to the Queue or the Guild. Ink was somewhat nonplussed by the blunt display of apparent uncorruptability.
Into the break in conversation, Lighttouch pointedly noted that, right now, the Guild was struggling and not in a position to help much anyway. It turned out that when Lighttouch had said it was “bad out there,” he meant that the Guild had lost a number of Rangers and Waystations in the past few months. Wyverns, allegedly. But fire-breathing ones, which, everyone knew, was simply not a thing.
Eirlys and Ink understood. Eirlys asked if Lighttouch would like her and her companions to see if they could do something about the problem. Or, at least, learn more about it. Ink figured aloud that if the Guild could be returned to its normal, thriving business, perhaps the issue of the Waaz Ora’adz could be made more of a priority.
Lightfoot, apparently surprised and overwhelmed by the generous offer of help, accepted gladly. Though standard Explorer’s Guild contract rates would apply, of course. He invited them to stop by the Guildhall and sign off with Artoss if the rest of their companions decided the job was worthwhile.
Back at the manse, Kalyx and Sardis found Lord Zorin’Oze in his sitting room with Hallendra, the Blood King’s elvin advisor who Sardis had known back in Okorian.
At Hallendra’s request, Zorin’Oze excused himself. Hallendra greeted Sardis warmly (for an elf), but was rebuffed to mere politeness by Sardis apparent mistrust and caution. Nonetheless, though she had hoped to find Magistrate Pendred with them, the elvin mage put forth the High King’s request for Sardis and his companion’s assistance.
King Isra’Asiel was, she said, concerned about the rumors of unseasonal wyvern activity in the Greybane Mountains. The wyverns had ever been creatures of the Jade Queen, and any change in behavior warranted attention. Hallendra stated frankly that though this request could not be made officially at this time, for political reasons, her King would be very grateful to the group, who had done him excellent service in the past, if they would investigate the situation.
She departed politely, leaving the two most awkward members to discuss the situation. Kalyx was eager to investigate anything touching on “Mother.” Sardis grudgingly admitted that, though he did not trust the elf, King Isra’Asiel had done well by the Grauberg in the past.
When the other two returned to the Manse, Eirlys confirmed that she knew exactly where the public utilities building was, but all four of them agreed that investigating rogue, firebreathing wyverns sounded like more fun than trudging through sewers searching for secrets about the High King’s past.
The word in the streets and taverns is…
- The Kaz’Kazzar wears a glowing ruby diadem on his brow that allows him to influence the minds of those around him.
- The Thieve’s Guilds has been infiltrated by a dark menace from the Shadowfell that seeks to control Mokiir.
- The Blood King Isra’Asiel Az’Aziil is secretly a worshiper of a dark menace from the shadowfell that seeks to control Mokiir
- The Blood King is able to see, hear, and even appear anywhere in Mokiir at will. He knows when anyone speaks his name.
- The cult of the dead god Khalipanofax is seeking to find a foothold in Mokiir.
- The mountain towns and holds around D’kath are being harried by wyverns much more than is usual for this time of year.
- The Grauberg orcs have wiped out the goblinoids in the hills outside M’ziir.
- The touch of the Shadowfell on the dreams of the godless is growing stronger. Night terrors have turned murderous and things grow worse as Nemidahl approaches.
- There will be no truce with Darakor, and Mokiir will find itself at war with all the other nations of the west.
- Beaten, the Kaz’Kazzar will bend a knee to Ren’Raatha of Darakor, who will be the new Kaz’Kazzar.
- The Astrologer’s Guild has been abolished by the Guild Counsel at the insistence of the Shepherds
- Undead plague the hills and mountains north of D’kath.
- The orcs of Maelechar have departed, en masse, to the north, leaving their dark homeland empty and unguarded.
- In the fell wastes of Maelechar, a group of heroes have prevented a dark cataclysm from starting in the cursed orcish city of Ur Ta Shaal.
- The ancient primordials stir in their slumber and will soon awaken to make war on the gods.
- The Mules are setting up a chapter in D’kath.
- The Wild Hunt haunts the highways of northern Mokiir, preparing to carry away the souls of those who fall in the impending battles with Darakor and Aechell
- A diplomatic envoy from Aechell reached D’kath on Penilan the 15th, the day before a dimplomatic envoy from M’ziir.
- The Wild Hunt followed the envoy from M’ziir all the way to D’kath
- A powerful sorcerer has come to D’kath with plans to take over the mage’s guild.
- The Kaz’Kazzar has come to D’kath to treat with Aechell and forge an alliance against Darakor and the rest of the nations of the Blessed Lands
- The fisherfolk of Laketown north of D’kath have been losing people to the Wild Hunt the last few nights.