Defenders of Khelb

Onward from Yartar

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On the morning of the 17th of Ches 1489DR, Joren heads down to “Esklindrar’s Maps, Books, & Folios” shop while Baelfyre and Juniper go buy some weapons at “Hasklar’s Arms & Armor” shop. Cuslan, with Chloe and the remaining of the group heads out to the Western Caravan Grounds.

Cuslan fails to find a coach for sale, and no caravans are heading West that day. He directs some workers to make a few rapid improvements to the group’s cart, hire a driver, and asks Barrus to be his Longstrider for the trip.

As Joren, Baelfyre and Juniper are heading to the Western Caravan ground after their short errands, a sudden silence befell the town, conversations stop suddenly and simultaneously across the town, and people look puzzed at each others for a few seconds of eery silence, before horses starts to bolt, dog barking and birds taking flight from the roofs of the town, and the sounds of the city resume while the horse handlers retake control of the horses that have bolted in panic.

Without further due, and with the cart readied with a makeshift bed, comfortable fur blankets and a canopy, the party takes the road West toward Triboar, Juniper now carrying a spear, and Baelfyre sporting on his hip two short swords, one of them a new fancy masterwork weapon. The area West of Yartar is more tamed than the eastern side. Cultivated fields, grazing animals, and scattered farms can be seen up to the river North, as well as in the Dessarin hills, south of the road. A patrol of Shields of Yartar trot past them during the day, tasked to making sure the road is safe ahead.

The next night and day on the road pass without incidents, and the company get within 15 miles of Triboar when they stop for the night. in the middle of the night, the elves keeping watch see a bright orange glow a few miles South in the hills, but a quick survey around the camp does not show any close danger, and the watch resume as the glow fades away over the next hours.

Then, as the first ray of light from the dawn peek above the horizon, a commotion occurs in the cart where Cuslan and Chloe sleep, and a frightened shriek from Chloe wakes everyone up. The characters rush to the cart, where they see Cuslan in death throes, violently trashing around, clutching for his face, eyes revulsed in horror. He yells "Why is this happening? .. I die again… the stone tooth… I need more… the black death in the lake… oh no.. no, no… not this ’ and dies within a few seconds in an anguished agonizing shriek. Amitreene quickly grabs Chloe, crying, from the cart and hold her tight, masking her face away from the horrible scene. Meanwhile, Cuslan’s body decays rapidly and stabilizes to where it now look like he died many months ago, with the corresponding smell quickly filling up the cart.

Barrus, Jorren and Juniper jump on the cart, trying to help the unfortunate merchant, but his life has slept away. Investigating what could have happened, Joren, with the help of Barrus, conclude that somehow he died from the old acid scar he had received in the past, and realizes that the nature of his wound had probably killed him once, when he received it. He may have been raised from the dead in the past, and somehow lost the benefit of this raising, something that, if true and not mere speculations, would be unheard of.

In any case, the merchant is now beyond help, and Baelfyre points out that having his contract is a good thing.

Joren does a ceremony to recommend the body and the soul of Cuslan to the gods, and the group then wrap up his body with the canopy, blankets and bags available in the cart.

They leave the cart and the two draft horses to the driver, still heading to Triboar, while they decide to return to Yartar, with their riding horses and Chloe, to fullfill the merchant’s contract.

As some smell of smoke drifts through the camp from a southern wind, the elves that were on watch, Baelfyre and Amitreene, casually mention the orange glow seen during the night to the group. Juniper, using Cuslan’s spyglass, takes a closer look south and sees thin plumes of smokes rising up from somewhere in the hills, south of the road, a few miles away. Joren sends Nevermore, his raven, in that direction to investigate further, but the group decides to head back toward Yartar to reach it before nightfall.

Two hours later, as Joren summons his raven back to investigate what he has seen in the southern hills, the company trotting eastward come upon a lone man walking the road westward. Baelfyre recognizes him as Cuslan’s bodyguard that killed the sergeant during the caravan ambush and disappeared in the woods in the middle of the battle. The man seems to recognize the group at the same time, and darts away from the road, hiding from view. After the surprise round, where Baelfyre quickly moves his horse forward to intercept the fleeing figure, the group try to pinpoint him where he hid. As they get too close, he casts a spell and then dart out South. He is quickly followed by the company still mostly all mounted. Amitreene hurl spells at him, while Juniper lands a few solid blows. As everyone tries to keep pace with the chase, the man casts another spells, viciously slashing Juniper, before running farther South, easily escaping any attacks of opportunities. Finally Joren casts a second Command spell at him, and the man falls asleep allowing everyone to catch up and tie him.

Taking their prisoner off the road, the company decides to charm him, using Barrus’s magic. The second attempt works, and as the man named Leejen Roykins finds himself freed in such friendly company, he informs them that he is following them under order of his employer, one Varus (of the Crushing Wave, Barrus mentions). He tells them that Varus is very unhappy that they prevented him to take the merchant after the ambush. As the man has a stone of sending to contact Varus, and is expected to report to him, the company asks him to report that the merchant is dead and that the company is heading to Waterdeep. Varus’s response is to keep following Chiwyll wherever he goes, as the secret of the merchant is now gone, and vengeance will be served (in more colorful and injure-laced terms). The “befriended” ranger has given as much information as he could, when Baelfyre slits his throat from behind. Losing blood, the man’s body fall on the ground, dying.

Stunned by this action, some in the group react as Baelfyre tries to finish the ranger. Chiwyll applies his healing hands to heal the man at the very last second to save his life, while Juniper attempts unsuccessfully to restrain Baelfyre.

Baelfyre steps back, expressing his surprise about some wanting to keep the man alive, as he clearly murdered a sergeant and was working with the ambushers. Hot words are exchanged, but cooler heads prevail, and decision is taken to keep the man alive.

After Joren has more time to talk to his raven familiar, he learns that the raven has seen a village devastated by fire, with a group of kobolds encircling a small partially destroyed keep, where the remaining villagers have taken refuge.

The company decides to keep heading back to Yartar, taking the prisoner with them. They reach the city at nightfall, and are investigated by a sergeant of the watch, who informs them that they should camp on the eastern caravan ground if they plan to keep the dead body with them for the night. Joren makes a quick stop at the market place to obtain a few gems in order to later cast some identify on the magical items that have obtained from Cuslan’s and the ranger’s equipment. While standing in front it, the company decides to take the body to the Temple of Tymora to see if they can preserve it better.

Welcomed by the acolytes first, and then a priest that mistakenly assume they want to raise a friend’s body, the conversation leads to a meet with the High Priest of Tymora in Yartar, named Ceylian.

Joren and Chiwyll explain the strange occurrences of the morning, also mentioning the disease that afflicted Cuslan, and when informed of the hypothesis formed by Joren and Barrus, he tells them that for a few workweeks now, raise dead spells have stopped functioning, and they do not know why.

Intrigued, and visibly very concerned, the High Priest agrees to charge no fees to cast a Speak with Dead on Cuslan’s body and preserve it for the group if they allow his clergymen to ask two questions out of the five. The company agrees, and the priests take the body of Cuslan to be prepared for the spell, while the High Priest leads the group to the hospital room, where a middle aged woman is sleeping. He tells them that she has been brought here by her friends 10 days ago, and she has been suffering for a few ten-days from a disease that the priests so far have not managed to either identify or cure. They also tried restoration or curse removal spells without any effects.

As the group approaches the sleeping woman, it becomes clear that her external symptoms seem very alike those that Cuslan had, minus the acid scarring. As a few of the adventurers express their wish to talk to her, the High priest offers to establish some degree of privacy around her first. He has himself one question for her.

Under Baelfyre’s watch, Leejen is locked in a small cell-like room with a stone bed and a grated door, a few others of these rooms lining the eastern wall of the hospital, while a few priests utter magical words, setting up four spheres of silence around the woman’s bed, keeping an area around it clear of the spell’s effects.

The High priest invite the rest of the group to join him by her bedside, the effect of the silenced zone shutting down the other sounds of the temple. With the nature of her disease unknown, they had already isolated her from the other few people lying in other beds.

Baelfyre stays outside of the privacy zone, next to Leejen’s cell, keeping an eye on both him and everything in the large open stone hall. Once the incantations are completed, the other priests resume their regular tasks, while Ceylian wakes up the woman.

“Hi Karina, these adventurers have a few questions for you, as they may help better understand the disease you are afflicted with. Before we start though, I do have one question for you: Have you ever been raised from the dead?”’
“yes, I was raised once during the Darkening”, she replies “why do you ask?”
“How long ago was it?” Ceylian asks without responding
“It was 5 years ago or so, during the fall of Nesme… We were participating to the defense of the walls against the orcs when the white dragon swooped in and froze me to my death with his breath. My companions managed to raise me after they were able to flee the city with their lives.”

At the invitation of the High Priest, Amitreene speak first, asking how she became infected.
Karina responds “I am not sure. I started feeling tired around the end of the last month, then everyday feeling more and more tired, overwhelmed with exhaustion. I came here at my friend’s suggestion, after we tried everything in term of healing ourselves.”
Amitreene then asks “Was there something strange at the period when you got infected? Contacting with someone? Visiting new places? Did you notice anything?”

“Not especially, no. I am living here in Yartar, studying the weave, and I have not traveled this past winter. I stay in touch with my close friends regularly, and used to go out from time to time. The priests told me that what I have does not seem to be contagious. The only thing that happened around 3 workweeks ago is that I started to have a hard time to focus enough to be able to cast my spells. I can still do my cantrips, but I can’t cast more powerful spells anymore, as I am too exhausted. I sleep a lot these days…”

Joren asks Karina if any of her friend has also been raised from the dead. She says that none of them has, as far as she knows, but her group split up after the Nesme battles 5 years ago, so she does not know what happened to some of them after.

She then asks “Do you believe I suffer from this because I have been raised?”
The High Priest steps in and says in his most reassuring voice “This is just an hypothesis we are investigating, nothing more. If I may ask, when you realized you could not cast your spells, how did it manifest?”
“I did not lose the spells, I still know them. It is just that at the beginning I started having a harder and harder time concentrating, and ten days ago any efforts I was trying to concentrate failed.”
Amitreene steps in again, and politely asks “What is your specialty as a wizard?”
“I am an evoker, dear.”

With no more questions for Karina, The High Priest leads the group to the other side of the hospital hall, and talks again.
“Thanks again for sharing this information with us. The coincidences with her situations and what you told me of Cuslan is troubling, and we are going to look into it more.”

Joren steps in “We need to investigate about any other people that have been raised in the past five years. Do you know of anyone else that may have been raised here?”

The High Priest ponders a moment, and then say "Yes, there are some people in Yartar that have been raised within this time frame, some of them we can check on. I will send some priests out first thing in the morning to check on them. "

He then stops for a moment, eyes losing focus for a few seconds, then whispers something back. “My priests tell me the body of Cuslan is ready for the questioning. We can keep your prisoner in this cell if you are ok with that, and we can head over there if you are ready for your questions.”

A dash-and bow from Baelfyre within the silence bubble, puzzle everyone as the group leaves the hospital hall and heads downstairs, in a lower level of the temple using long stairs and corridors lit by candles.

The group is brought in a large bare stone room, with only one small doorway, and in the middle of it the body of Cuslan lying on a stone table. A few priests are chanting in low voices around the body. Candelabras are lighting the room, as no windows or openings are visible.

As Amitreene brings Baelfyre up-to-date about the conversation with Karina, they also start to ponder about the three questions they are going to ask, when Amitreene turns to the High priest: “will we hear the questions you will ask the merchant?”

The High Priests responds to Amitreene: “We have already asked the two questions we needed to ask.”
Baelfyre then interjects: “Would you care to share what you learned? Perhaps it will help us to help you.”

One of the priests in the room whispers something at the High Priest ear. Ceylian looks the adventurers grimly. “Our first question was to make sure you told us the truth about this man’s death this morning, and his answer confirmed you told us the truth.
Our second question was about the fate of his soul, as we asked if he saw the City of Judgment before his soul departed from his body, to which he responded No”

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