The flayed man clenches his fists and droplets of blood splash to the floor. His last words somehow seemed calm and aggressive at the same time. He clearly didn't seem to want to engage in battle, but seemed on edge to lash out with his feet and fists in a heartbeat. With Dorin, Rokester and Baba all in terrible shape after the battles with the Crimson Wolves, this fresh opponent did not bode well for the party. If only Fixer and Gaius were here...
The elemental engine blazed along the conductor stones at thirty miles per hour - the conductor stones below blurring to Fixer. Fixer had stayed aboard the engine of the lightning rail with the hopes of stopping this thing before it plummeted into the ravine ahead crashing, releasing the furious elemental bound to the rail. If the elemental were to be released, who knows what reaction it might make. It's possible it would fly off to freedom. But, it was just as likely to charge toward the large crowd of passengers several hundred yards back along the conductor stones.
Fixer quickly peered over the front of the rail. He guesstimated that he had maybe 30 seconds before the lightning rail plummeted into the ravine, probably killing him, destroying the rail and unleashing the elemental. He prepared himself with an infusion to enhance his attunement to magical items, and studied the lightning rail. He had heard bits and pieces about how these magical technologies worked - a dragonmarked heir could use their dragonmark and a focus to control the bound elemental, propelling the ship or rail forward. In this instance though, the dragonmarked conductor was dead. He would have to figure out another way. After examining how the lightning rail worked, he concluded that he would need to use the focus to will the elemental to obey him. It was his only shot. Another 20 seconds and he would be trying to leap from this thing.
Fixer latched onto the Khyber dragonshard which bound the elemental with his metallic, three-fingered hands and mentally tried to persuade the elemental into stopping the rail. He failed - the elemental resisted against him and he felt surges of electricity travel through his body, jolting him. There was 10 seconds now between the rail and the ravine. Fixer tried again, mustering his force of will to convince the elemental to do as he wanted. This time, the elemental seemed almost angered by Fixer's attempt and the intense surge of electricity that teemed through him caused his body to react violently. Now, 3 seconds left. Fixer, realizing this was his last shot, with all of what was left of his will pleaded to the elemental, begging it to stop the train...
Instantly, the lightning rail came to an abrupt stop. Fixer slammed forward almost damaging the Khyber dragonshard he was holding onto. It worked - he had stopped the rail. Behind him, he could hear footsteps and then Gaius' voice. Gaius made sure Fixer was not damaged too much and the two returned toward the caboose of the lightning rail where the emissary was.
A blonde-haired lady clothed in chainmail and a House Deneith tabbard was leaning on a longsword and speaking with one of the passengers when they arrived at the caboose. The blonde-haired Deneith warrior confronted Gaius and Fixer when they approached and ask them if their companions were the ones who chased off after the Crimson Wolf assassin. She introduced herself as Cliona d'Deneith, a dragonmarked heir of House Deneith and a lieutenant within the Blademarks Guild. She was escorting the Aerenal diplomat, Lady Taelira, when the Crimson Wolves ambushed her and her squad. She tells Gaius and Fixer the others haven't returned yet, and she is concerned. She shows them the path they took into the woods. Gaius and Fixer investigate and find an obvious path of broken and trampled brush through the forest.
Following the path through the forest, the cross a hillside and then the forest gives way to a valley walled on three sides by the Blackcaps. The sun has come up for dawn now, and they can see a small village in the valley. A building at the center of the village has smoke and people billowing out of it. Before they head down the hillside into the village, Gaius notices three horses nearby. One of them looks to be Tooka, Baba's animal companion. This village must be where the rest of the party went.
At the inn in the very same village, Rokester doesn't have a chance to respond to the raspy voice behind him before an explosion happens in the cellar of the inn where the ogre was trying to put out the ever-growing fire. The explosion knocks loose a massive floor beam and Dorin and Baba witness the floor collapse on the ogre, dropping him to unconsciousness.
Rokester called out to Dorin and Baba to get out of the basement. The flayed man draped in tattered brown robes called out to him to leave the emissary in his hands, and in exchange he would be willing to pay them the gold meant for the Crimson Wolves. Rokester didn't even respond, he just tried to haul ass out of there. Seeing this, the flayed man moved with incredible speed and leaped into the air to attack Rokester with his foot. The attack hit and nearly knocked Rokester and Lady Taelira to the floor. Rokester decided to continue to run, letting his guard down to try and escape. The flayed man tried to trip him up, but Rokester kept his balance and made his way toward the tavern hall, yelling for Baba and Dorin to get the hell out of there.
Meanwhile, Gaius and Fixer have made it down in the village, known as The Black Pit. People are clamoring to get out of the inn, so Fixer gives Gaius a boost and he climbs into the window at the side of the tavern. Smoke and wild drunkards fill this room and Gaius does a quick look around - he sees Rokester speeding up the stairs at the far side of the tavern. Someone is draped over his shoulder.
Dorin is near unconsciousness at this point and Baba tries to check to see if the ogre is conscious or able to be helped. While she is checking on the ogre though, the flayed man is moving forward with a purpose. He attacks Baba, knocking her unconscious with a single strike, then swiftly jabs his elbow into Dorin's shoulder knocking him unconscious.
Rokester tells Gaius to help Dorin and Baba and he moves across the tavern to fire a few arrows into the skinless man. Rokester hands Lady Taelira outside to Fixer who hides her in the dumpster, then tries to climb inside. Rokester, Gaius and Fixer do battle with the flayed man amidst the tavern collapsing and smoke filling everyone's lungs (well, except Fixer, who lacks lungs). Rokester, hurt from the night before, goes down after a flurry of blows to his nuts and face. Gaius and Fixer manage to fend off the flayed man's attacks and finally, Fixer sets Gaius up for a sneak attack. Gaius hits the flayed man in the back of the head, covering his flail with brains. Gaius and Fixer pull the rest of the party outside and the inn goes up in flames.
People outside the tavern start noticing the bodies in the alleyway, and Fixer wards off one of the more curious ones. Gaius and Fixer decide they need a cart or something to help carry the rest of the party and Lady Taelira back to the rail. Gaius finds a cart full of flour and the two of them unload some of the flour to make room for the bodies of the party. Fixer loads up the party and Gaius retrieves the horses he saw earlier. They drag the cart up to the hillside and Fixer tends to the wounded while Gaius rides off to find Lt. Cliona d'Deneith.
Gaius returned to the mock campsite a few hours later with Cliona d'Deneith. She brought with her four vials of healing and handed them to Fixer to be distributed among the party. Cliona attended to Lady Taelira, removing her mask and revealing Taelira's appearance. She was most definitely an elf, with fine features, pointed ears, and long dark hair. But, her elf-ness seemed to end there. Her skin appeared tight and gaunt, a shade of pale reminiscent of the Karrnath legions of undead, long wicked fingernails, and cracked purple lips. For all intents and purposes, Lady Taelira appeared to be dead. But, Cliona d'Deneith acted as if the Crimson Wolves hadn't touched her except to leave her unconscious.
After reviving the party, the group returned to the lightning rail and Cliona enlisted the party to help her escort the Aerenal ambassador back to Sharn. Cliona promised a nice reward for helping. The party agrees and the group sets out South toward the Old Road. Cliona loans Gaius and Fixer a Deneith stead until they reach Sharn. The party arrives at the Old Road around dusk, and sets up camp for the night in a meadow on the side of the road. Everyone passes out after a long two days with little to no sleep, except Fixer of course who keeps watch.
In the middle of the night, Fixer hears something stirring in the high grass surrounding the camp. Lady Taelira seems to be gone, but everyone else is still sleeping. He peers out into the brightly, starlit night and sees the Aerenal ambassador standing in the grass alone. She speaks with Fixer and discusses who they were and what happened. Fixer also asks about Herrgoth d'Cannith, but the elf tells him she knows nothing of a person with that name. Fixer finds out Lady Taelira is over 350 years old and that she has been the ambassador to Breland from Aerenal for nearly 200. She has great influence in the land of Aerenal and if Fixer and his companions need anything pertaining to that elven isle, she would assist in any way she could. Lady Taelira then beds down and Fixer continues the night alone.
In the morning, Lady Taelira is missing once again, but Gaius spots her on the Old Road already. Cliona picks up Lady Taelira and the party heads further South along the Old Road. They ride on for several days, passing the capital of Breland, the city of Wroat, along the way. They continue on for another couple days and finally they see the high rising towers of Sharn on the horizon.
At the gates of the city, their identification papers are checked and then they are allowed into the city. They escort Lady Taelira to the Aerenal embassy and she thanks the party for escorting her and tells Fixer to "remember what she said." Then, the party continued to the House Deneith Enclave to speak with Cliona's superior about their reward. Cliona escorted them to her enclave and inside to speak with her superior. Inside, she leads them through a seeming fortress House Denieth referred to as their guild enclave. Cliona goes inside and speaks with her superior. A few moments later she comes back outside, face red and streaks of tears wiped away. She leads them inside the room where she introduces Sir Broderick d'Deneith.
Sir Broderick is an older man in his late forties and wears a well-groomed greying beard and short cropped peppered hair. He sat at his desk in his plate armor as if it were comfortable slacks. He is obviously all business and directed the party to speak to him, explaining what happened. He suggests Lt. Cliona's failure, but thanks the party for assisting her to complete her mission. Then, he offers them a reward, 100 platinum coins, but with the condition that this payment silences the party about the event as well as rewards them for their help. He tells them House Deneith's reputation in Sharn depends on their tight lips. The party agrees to this and accepts their letter of credit from Sir Broderick. He dismisses them, and Lt. Cliona escorts them out.
The party then goes to a bank of House Kundarak and cashes the letter of credit, dividing it equally among the five of them (200 gold coins each). From there, they ask around about shopping and House Cannith. They decide to visit Tradefair, a market district to buy some wares and then head to the House Cannith enclave in Dragon Towers.
At the Cannith Enclave they are greeted by two warforged guards who refuse entrance to the enclave. As they are on the stairs speaking with the two warforged, a group of Cannith heirs are entering the enclave and Gaius hear's a voice shouting his name. Gaius recognizes the voice and puts a face to it immediately. The voice and face is Darlina d'Cannith's. Darlina is Gaius' childhood friend from Sylbaran. She provides entrance to the party and offers them some food from the enclave's dining hall.
The party asks Darlina about Herrgoth d'Cannith and she reacts quickly, telling them to watch their tongues speaking such a name within the enclave. She tells them she is forbidden to speak of him, but she will help in what way she can. She tells them Herrgoth was excoriated from House Cannith a year ago because of accusations of continuing work to produce warforged (against the Treaty of Thronehold) and even worse, tampering with using warforged components on humans. Darlina says the party's best bet is to track down Braeden d'Cannith, Herrgoth's son and fortune's heir. He is enrolled at Morgrave University here in Sharn.
Darlina has a warforged named Castle escort Dorin, Fixer, Baba, and Rokester around to look at the workshops within the enclave, while she takes Gaius to her private chambers. There, she has a gift for Gaius. She hands him a Quiver of Elvenkind. She tells him this quiver was crafted by a Valenar elf and enchanted by her for Gaius. Gaius thanks her and they return to the rest of the party. She leads them out of the enclave and tells Gaius to return once he has more time and have dinner with her.
The party departs the Dragon Towers for Morgrave University. When they arrive it is night and they take up rooms at an inn called the Golden Horn. The inn is run by a cheerful, but obviously wise half-elf named Mandyran. Mandyran gets the party rooms and a round of drinks. Rokester and Dorin both head to bed while Fixer, Baba, and Gaius stay and have a few more drinks. They ask Mandyran about Braeden, and at first he is leery of the party, but confides in them. In fact, he tells them, Braeden is in the Golden Horn as we speak. Mandyran points out a table with a young, dark curly haired youth in fine clothing drinking heavily and surrounded by girls.
The three approach Braeden with a bottle of wine and try to confront him about his father, but Braeden is drunk and aggressive toward the party - making fun of the three of them with raucous tone and a barrage of laughter from the girls. Gaius tries to come back with a quip and intimidate Braeden, but Braeden is not in the least intimidated and now the entire tavern is watching the episode and laughing at the party... They skulk back to the bar. Mandyran is there leaning on his elbows shaking his head. He leans forward and says,
"Looks like Braeden got the best of yah... Come close, and I'll tell you a little story that might change the tide."
To be continued...
1) Rokester scolds Gaius for trying to lift a pouch from a noble's belt in Tradefair. Rokester says, "We need to talk!"
2) Rokester scolds Baba for arguing and being confrontational with authority figures (especially Broderick d'Deneith). Rokester says, "We need to talk!"