Chapter 1: Fodder!

 
Tarner stops perusing the shelves, realizing it would just be easier to ask the shadar-kai. He walks up to her, and mutters, "I have a little... problem. I would like to know if you have any books on demonic possession."

It seems as if it's hard for him to get the words out. "While I have control over my own actions - at least, I think I do - a possession would be the closest word I could think of." As if in response, his aura glows a little brighter, like it's wanting to make its presence known.

Then, while waiting for an answer, he pulls out the wand from before. "Hmm... I didn't get a chance to look at this very well before... I wonder what it does?"


Ilvani laughs at the absurdity of Eduardo’s request. ”They are library spirts, not carrion eaters!” Despite this, it’s obvious that the sheer audacity of the request delights the woman. ”Still, I see no reason why the deaths of these three should arouse even mild concern—either for you or for their master. It was a battle was it not? Then you can say truthfully that they were killed as part of it, and leave it at that. Of course, you’ll have to be careful if you try to strip the bodies and fence their equipment later, but beyond that…? I am quite sure your mistress knows that soldiers die in battle, and in any event, these are males—little better than slaves, I’d imagine. I’ll bet their commander won’t even notice that they didn’t make it back.” Ilvani reaches into a pouch in her cloak and removes a small purse. ”Here. You can put there weapons and armor—along with whatever books you choose to take—into this. Please… do not think that I am ungrateful for your aid. As I say, I do not relish the touch of the drow any more than would the rest of you do, and in my former condition, it is entirely likely that those fools would have had their way long before I ever managed to regain enough of myself to fight them off.”

Ilvani hands you the purse, which turns out to be the smallest Bag of Holding you have ever seen. Of course, the inside is as massive as any other of its kind, but the outside? It would fit easily into Gruunk’s boot.

Ilvani turns to Fortune. “As for the rest, of course I noticed there was a battle. It was not being allowed to fight in it that drove me to the brink of…” Ilvani shakes her head again. “It is no matter. As you’ve guessed, there are several books here on the history of the drow in this city. This one here is a specific history of this house, but there are others. Though I’m not sure what good they will do you. But please, take whatever you like with my compliments. At a minimum, it should fetch a few golds from one of the city’s booksellers.”

She turns back to Eduardo, a quizzical look on her face. ”How ever did you become addicted to Nightcloves? They are easy enough to prepare. Indeed, I could show you how if we had some handy. But they are native to my realm… and not easy to find, even there.” Ilvani sighs. ”I don’t know what to tell you. That’s quite a quandary.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, Tarner continues searching for books about demons. Most are about Lloth and the history and denizens of the Demonweb, but one in particular strikes Tarner’s eye—The Infernal Pact and You: A Field Guide to the Stolen Magic of the Lower Planes. He scarcely has time to read it now, of course, but the book’s title, at least, is promising.


Fortune


Gruunk Bloodfist
Half-orc Barbarian (Berserker)
Current HP: 39/39 Bloodied: 19
Healing Surges Used: 6/9 (9)
Resources Used: Macetail Rage

Conditions:


Gruunk listens to the conversation with interest. Then a thought occurs to him...more of a realization...a thought would be giving it too much credit. "So...uh...if we not saved you, that bad drow wake you up from nightmare anyway. Then you kill them." Shakes his head absorbing what he's seen, the half-orc just sits quietly observing.

An owlbear. An evil spirit tree that speaks the future. And it says I have to find my destiny and stop being other's slave. I don't know what that means. And now talking animals and a book girl that isn't. I will never understand this world. Interesting that his speach is not halting in his mind.

Eduardo scowls, I didn't get addicted to those accursed things by choice. But it's good to know at least something about where they come from. He shakes his head, not quite comprehending why someone would choose a poison that's so rare . . . ah well. Bide my time, as always.

He kicks the fallen's drow face one more time, for good measure, and looks around, we should head out of here before someone else comes up. You folks going along as well?

Before Ilvani can reply to Fortune’s question or Gruunk’s confusion, the entirety of House Macjyata rocks with the force of a massive explosion—or perhaps an earthquake. A moment later, there is a tremendous crashing downstairs, and you hear a great voice call out:

“This incursion is unwarranted, Urbasano! I gave you no leave to attack one of your sister houses. You will stop this needless violence AT ONCE!”

You peak around the corner and down the stairs just long enough to catch a glimpse of an enormous purple form striding down the hall with long purposeful strides. The giant’s very steps ring with authority.

Matron Urbasano herself hurries out to greet what can only be the fomorian King Bronner himself, but you are much too far away to hear what is said. Nevertheless, the next few hours quickly become a blur of confused activity as House Urbasano forces hurriedly withdraw from their newfound gains. In snatches, you manage to learn that King Bronner has forbidden the Urbasano conquest on the grounds that Matron Urbasano neglected to inform the king of her plans in advance and thereby secure his permission for them. That the king has never before required permission for such a raid seems irrelevant somehow to all involved. However, if this seems capricious, it perhaps begins to make more sense when you later learn that Macjyata’s eldest daughter has somehow become newly betrothed to King Bronner’s youngest son. Such a match will be nearly ruinous for Macjyata, both in terms of social standing and its sheer dowry requirement, but it is still a damn sight better than the utter destruction that Urbasano was about to visit upon her closest neighbors. You can only guess that Matron Urbasano was either unable or, for whatever reason unwilling, to make King Bronner an equal counter-offer to the last-gasp-of-desperation offer that Matron Macjyata obviously made. In any event, in addition to the financial implications, the betrothal gains House Bronner both a new de facto vassal house as well as the opportunity to put not one but two of its drow subordinates firmly down in their respective places. Meanwhile, you yourselves have had an opportunity to learn something about drow schemes. Which is to say that participating in them is a fool’s game.

What’s worse, the next few days within the familiar confines of House Urbasano are utterly unbearable. Matron Urbasano herself is furious, leaving everyone else on edge and fearful. For you, this manifests in gratuitous additional beatings from Modred and his slave drivers, but you are by no means the only ones affected. All of the drow walk around like newly-scalded dogs, and several of the House’s nobles are seen in quiet, urgent argument. Once, one such argument—between the lady Tailen and Nymeria—erupts into open shouts with weapons drawn. Fortunately, Weapons Master Adius is there to calm the situation before things get completely out of control, but the event leaves the household even more on edge than ever. By the end of a week, the matron’s demon-consort Malakus has returned to walk the halls, bringing the ever-present fear of torture and death, even to the House’s nobles. After that, the paranoia reaches a fever pitch.

Curiously, the only thing missing from this toxic stew of fear and punishment is Modred’s personal vengeance. Instead, when he beats you, it’s mostly either mechanical—because you angered someone—or emotional—because he’s angry and wants to work the aggression off somehow, and you’re a convenient target. However, he never once mentions the crystal tree or anything that happened to him down in Macjyata’s basement. After a while, this becomes something of an obvious omission, making the lack of retribution actually more, not less, threatening. From the way he looks at you, especially at Eduardo, you can tell that he hasn’t forgotten. But he’s holding his tongue for some reason. Biding his time.

All of this lasts for a week. By the end of it, you’re showing obvious bruises and beginning to wear down. It’s at this point that you’re called before Tailen.

”Come on, you lot,” Modred says when he comes to fetch you at the end of one particularly long and grueling work day. ”I ain’t about to let you keep the Lady waiting.”

Eduardo mutely curses, having just sat down after another day or work for a moment's rest when Mordred barged into the room. He gamely sighs, and takes the harp, putting on his best smile for the slave-driver, thank you for informing us. We are, as always, at our masters' disposal. And I am honored that you chose to lead us to Mistress Tailen in person . . . I would have expected that summoning such lowly helpers as ourselves to be the work of one of your subordinates, like that Bloc fellow.

He stretches, trying to work some of the stiffness from his fingers, having served tables for almost a week now without much break, I haven't seen him around lately. Hopefully, he's not taken ill. If he is, there are a few potions I know of that could help. The cook used to be a harbalist of some sort, and has the most interesting recipies for stomach troubles, for example.

Limping in, her old crippled body battered more than normal, the old orcish woman you met as Nurse mutely follows Modred. Since the battle you have seen nothing of the human that helped out. Even more sheepish than usual, Nurse seems to be continually nodding at every word said by anyone, mumbling to herself, "My masters are wise and correct, this one is not worthy but will obey."

When Eduardo speaks, Nurse visibly flinches as if she expects to be hit for something the bard had done. When no beating ensues, she raises her eyes a hair to see who had spoken so boldly, and then continues her noisy recitation.

Gruunk Bloodfist
Half-orc Barbarian (Berserker)
Current HP: 39/39 Bloodied: 19
Healing Surges Used: 0/9 (9)
Resources Used:

Conditions:


Gruunk says nothing, used to such beatings. He typically draws an unsavory term at guard duty for one of the wretched nephews forcing him to watch their vile acts that usual take all his willpower to just throttle them on the spot. No, that would have been a pleasure compared to the numerous turns he took at cleaning the stables and oiling the weapons cache or polishing the armor. Even the forgotten, left-behind junk they had to leave behind for them.

As the minotaur appears, he scowl and is rounded up with the rest of the herd. He notes the old orc woman and furrows his brow. Hmm, she has the same name as the human. Or so said the spirit tree. I wonder what that means... If Talien wants to see us, this could be good. If it was bad, we would be dead already. That's the end of his thoughts as Modred shoves him hard forcing him face first into the dirt. More mindful of the present, he trudges along in his standard zombie slave gait.

Fortune

Fortune looks down, only nodding and following in response to Modred's words. In her own twisted way, she didn't mind the whip. It stung and burned like hell, but left little permanent damage. Almost any other item, on the other hand, left her muscles and bones so sore she felt numb. Neither would be able to break her will alone. A little mental torture, though -- long-term isolation, for example, certainly would. Thankfully, they weren't interested in completely broken slaves. They had the means, but not the motivation for that.




 

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