Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Meeting (12/20/2009)

Today is the day of the big meeting. Your patron has been rather mysterious about the purpose of the meeting on the journey to Fallcrest, insisting that you accompany them but dropping only bare hints as to the reason for your trip. You are looking forward to finding our exactly what is going on and how you fit into this.

After spending the night in the local inn, your patron leads you to the guildhall in the center of town. Inside, the guildhall consists of a single large room, with a large carved table in the middle and a number of chairs surrounding the table. The chairs are mostly filled with several different small groups of people, some sitting at the table and others sitting in chairs behind those that are likely their patron.

At the head of the table is an Elf, an older gentleman who you recognize as Menos. A town the size of Fallcrest doesn’t technically rate a full Elven ambassador, but there is a general belief that Menos coordinates the defensive activities here on the western edge of the known civilized world. He is tall, has broad shoulders, a square jaw, and a face etched with age lines, unusual in an Elf. However, his eyes are still sharp and few doubt that he is still as deadly as any Elf in the wood.

To his left sits what can be best described as an Elf Maiden. In comparison to Menos she is quite young. Menos certainly can’t be her father - grandfather maybe, perhaps a great uncle? Occasionally Menos leans over and whispers something in her ear, undoubtedly pointing out to her who is who as the invited guests arrive.

To the right of Menos is another female Elf … but there is something different about her. After some further observation you now think that perhaps she isn’t an Elf at all, but an Eladrin, a cousin of the Elves. Some of you had been told a special visitor was arriving to attend this meeting; perhaps this Eladrin from the world of the Fey is the special guest.

Around the corner to the left of the Elf maiden is a young human cleric, sitting alone at the table. He really is quite young, with a youthful appearance that makes him look even younger. He is trying to sit confidently as he waits for the meeting to start, but it is obvious he is nervous as he fingers an old looking holy symbol and sneaks views of the other occupants of the room.

At the other end of the table is an older gentleman quietly puffing on a long pipe and studying several maps as they lay on the table. He has white hair – what’s left of it – and wears a small set of spectacles, and seems oblivious to what is going on around him.

Behind the older gentleman sits a Tiefling and a Halfling. The Tiefling sits straight in his chair, his eyes darting around the room, seemingly assessing everybody and everything he sees. The Halfling next to him is much more animated, squirming in his seat, poking the Tiefling and obviously annoying him with whispered questions.

Suddenly the door to the room opens and the last of the guests arrive. A middle aged woman, her hair in a bun, a shawl around her shoulders, stops, and then takes her seat on the open side of the table as Menos waves her in. She is obviously nervous too – she keeps trying to fix her hair, she tugs at her blouse, and her makeup looks as though she is someone who usually never wears makeup.

As she takes her seat she waves the other two members of her group, a large Dragonborn and a burly Dwarf to sit behind her, similar to the arrangement of the old man. The massive Dragonborn sits stiffly, his physical presence speaking for itself, while the Dwarf looks suspiciously at the others in the room.

As soon as the door to the room is closed by the guard stationed outside Menos rises to his feet and says “Thanks to all of you for coming, some on short notice.”

Menos pauses for a second, clears his throat, and proceeds. “In the battle for good and evil the armies of evil often hide and bide their time, looking for an opportunity. One does not truly believe that evil can truly be destroyed, but those of the good must be eternally vigilant and ready to fight.”

After again pausing to let his words sink in, Menos continues. “The elders of my kind have been tracking a disturbance in the world of evil. Without any specific knowledge, just hints and feelings, we continue to look for clues or evidence upon which we can act.”

With a nod to the Eladrin lass to his right Menos stated, “Our suspicions rose to a new level when contacted by our Eladrin cousins. Their elders too have been tracking the same evil we have, and they wanted to share their concerns with us.”

“Thirdly, an ancient Paladin of my acquaintance by the name of Fassel,” as he paused temporarily and nodded toward the young cleric to his left, “Has insisted that we take action immediately.”

“Our investigation has shown us that it is likely this center of evil is located near the city of Winterhaven. We have sent spies ahead, tracking suspicious characters, but the people we were observing seem to have all gone into hiding, which frankly causes us even more concern.”

Menos then directed his attention to the young cleric to his left. “Thank you for coming Eldred. But I must say that Fassel’s absence troubles me. I fear he has turned for the worst.”

Eldred stammered a response, saying “Yes sire, he was not well when we met several weeks ago, and he has been quickly slipping away since. I fear his time is nigh.”

“Do not fear. Fassel has been a true fighter for good for many years and his friendship was always something I could count on. He has recommended you to me as someone who possesses this same passion. Can I count on you to join us in what we must do here?”

Out loud Eldred responded by clearly saying, “Yes sire, what ever you need. You can count on me.” Inwardly, and obviously to everyone else in the room, his nervous gulps seemed to say “Oh my god. What did I just sign up for?”

Menos gives a knowing smile, and turns his attention to the white haired gentleman. “I appreciate your joining us Douven Stahl. We are hoping your scholarly study can provide us a hint as to where to look next. We lost the people we were following in Winterhaven … do you know of a place that they might be heading for?”

Douven roused himself from his thoughtful study of the maps before him and said, “Nay mi’lord. In the turmoil of the last many centuries, as cities and civilizations have risen and fallen, much has been lost. If these people are who you say they it is likely they are looking for some hidden temple, or perhaps are looking to obtain some lost artifact or piece of magic. Unfortunately, in my studies I have come across nothing that would be of assistance to you.”

“Nothing?” asked Menos.

“Well, there is an old keep north of Winterhaven, but there is nothing there but some half-fallen walls and crumbling buildings. I have been there myself several times and have found no such thing as a hidden temple, much less a dungeon to explore. Besides, I have heard it has been overrun with Goblins. If you are looking to put together some kind of team I would suggest driving those foul beasts back to the gates of hell.”

“Does not Winterhaven have a militia for such tasks?” asked Menos.

Douven took another puff on his pipe and responded, “The captain there is a good man, but he does not maintain an army. He is charged with maintaining the town, providing security for the local farmers and merchants, as well as any travelers who might be passing through. But they do not go off on expeditions … they stay pretty much close to home.”

Menos then turned his attention toward the woman. “I believe you are Delv, wife of Parle Cranewing. I appreciate your joining us as well, but I was hoping to pick Parle’s brain on the topic we are discussing.”

Delv tried to sit straight in her chair, and tried to speak in clear and professional manner as her gruff demeanor would allow, “Thank you, guv’nor. My husband is away, and when he’s away I run the business. When your invitation came I thought it important enough to attend.”

Delv then paused slightly, hoping that she had actually said the correct thing, and then decided to plunge ahead. “This gentleman is right. The Captain in Winterhaven won’t be going after no goblins. He’s got enough on his plate as it is. He’s a good man though.”

It was Menos’ turn to chime in. “Among your merchant contacts have you heard of any … unusual travelers, or goings on, such as what we might be looking for?”

“Nah, we usually don’t follow much with them types. But, if it helps … my husband is in Winterhaven now. He heard there might be a dragon graveyard up there and he went off to see if he could find it. He didn’t even wait for some of his guard crew” gesturing to the Dragonborn and Dwarf seated behind her “and went off on his own. He’s was supposed to be home a couple of weeks ago and I’m fretting he’s in trouble.”

Sensing she might have said too much, Delv tried to get out by continuing to talk. “I’m sorry guv’nor. I don’t know nothing about any devil worshipers, but you can count on Parle and me to give any assistance you might need.”

Sensing he might be able to get a word in edgewise, Menos started to speak, only to be interrupted by Delv yet again. “I mean if you are going to Winterhaven anyway I’ll put up a reward for finding my Parle and bringing him home in one piece. My husband is a pretty smart guy and if someone got the better of him he might need a set o’ fighters to go in and get him out. I’ll put up …“and after thinking about the ransom money she was instructed to use should Parle ever be kidnapped “300 gold pieces for the group that fetches my husband.”

The mention of 300 gold pieces got everyone’s attention. Even Douven Stahl stopped pouring over his maps for a second, staring open-mouthed at the woman to his left. The sudden quiet gave Menos the opportunity he as looking for and he jumped back in. “Thank you Madame Delv. That is a handsome reward. We will put that on the table as we discuss our plan of action.”

Again quiet settled over the room. All eyes were on Menos as he appeared to be deciding on what to do next. Finally Menos spoke, saying “At this point I see no option other than sending a team to investigate this further and bring it to resolution. I propose sending Eldred the Cleric,” and then holding his hands out to the Elf Maiden his left and to the Eladrin on his right “and that Maive and Jenneth accompany him on this quest.”

A brief cough came from the other end of the table. “Yes Douven?” Menos asked.

“I have a professional interest here myself,” Douven started. “I too will put up a reward. Assuming a temple, or magician’s tower, is indeed found I will put up … “ It was Douven’s turn to hesitate, eying the coarse woman that sat to his left, “300 gold pieces for a detailed map for what ever you find.”

And then, as if to raise the ante on his offer, Douven continued “And I will offer the services of my two bodyguards to the party.” Being referred to as a bodyguard brought a loud snicker from the Halfling and a snort from the Tiefling. Embarrassed, Douven stammered on, “Well, OK, one bodyguard, one cook then. Besides, if nothing else it will get them out of my hair for awhile so I can get some reading done. This is Akta” he stated, pointing at the Tielfing, “and this is Oester,” pointing at the Halfling. “They have served me well for many years and will be a good addition to your team.”

Sensing her original offer had raised, Delv jumped in again. “I’ve got two bodyguards I’ll kick in to the pot as well. Bogar … he’s the Dwarf, and Krstic, he’s the Dragonborn, have served my Parle for several years and are as good a team as you could ever want. Who knows what you’ll find out there. You just bring my Parle back.”

Menos jumped in immediately, not giving Delv the opportunity to continue. “Thank you, thank you all. It appears that, barring any objections, that we have a party of seven people … and a good mix of skills as well, to look into … well, whatever may be out there. It might be nothing, but I think not.”

Pausing slightly, as if to consider what to say next, Menos continued, “I suggest we spend the rest of the day discussing plans and for each of you to get your provisions together, because I would like you leave in the morning. It’s a 4-5 day walk to Winterhaven and I want to move quickly on this.”

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