I wake in the “Tea House” to the sound of Ylaana (needs link) playing her lyre with expert hands, her voice is strong for such a small frame. How she can be an expert in so many disciplines continues to amaze me.
Pieter is already at the breakfast table downstairs along with Furien (needs link) who is doing some exercises whilst hanging upside down from one of the roof rafters. Fortunately I can see Roshe (Needs link) the owner of the “Tea House” (needs link) sitting outside in meditation unaware that Furien is using his dining area as a training ground.
As we all sit for a cup of tea, cross legged on the wooden floor of the “Tea House” a small chrysalis hangs by a thread from a nearby wall. As I point it out to the others the sun catches it from the window next to us and a butterfly emerges and spreads its wings.
Upon the wings of the butterfly a small message in Elven is written: “I trust you are well rested. You will need status in order to enter the castle and gain an audience with the Baron.”
I knew that the Baron might want to kill me and possibly my friends on sight if were to turn up un-annocuned outside the main gate of the castle. We still didn;t understand the relationship between the Baron and the Raksha’s or what the deal with the Formorians could lead to. I though it best if we did some more scouting and information gathering before going to find the Baron.
Whilst the rest of the group mused on how we could collect some more infrmation on the going on in Kopekita I went outside to talk withe Roshe the InnKeeper.
He was sitting outside in the traditional meditative position overlooking a small stream flowing the gardens surrounding the Inn, he wore purple silk robes of the finest quality matching the quality of his rooms and hospitality.
Roshe said that although we were mercenaries we would not be allowed to carry weapons nearer the castle and certainly not allowed them inside the castle walls themselves. Also the citizens of Kopekita had little need for mercenaries as the city state was very peaceful.
Heading back inside the Tea House the group had different ideas on how we could gain access to the castle:
Ylaana thought we could disguise ourselves as visiting Eladrin royalty from the Feywild and the rest of us could be her retinue. Pieter’s idea was to turn up at the gates and ask to see the Baron. Furien was happy to fight his way in.
In the end we decided to disguise ourselves as Human guards so we could carry weapons and try and find Lord Prawel (needs link) and ask him about the Raksha deal with the Baron.
Ylaana casts a Seeming ritual and we head out from he “Tea House” towards the castle looking for Lord Prawel. We soon come across a patrol of Raksha’s disguised as humans and as we were passing them the leader of the patrol stopped and asked in Elven why we only had five members in our patrol. Their patrol was made up of six members and we only had five in ours. I reply and say that one of our patrol is missing and his name was Kalmin (needs link) and that we needed to report his missing status to Lord Prawel hoping that he would let us know where Lord Pawel was camped. Instead he asked me to report the missing member to “Lord Tanaki” in the West Camp over by the river.
We come across the river after a while of walking in the sunshine, its weird how this place reminds me so much of the Feywild. The river like everything else in Kopekita is very picturesque. A small wooden bridge leads over it from the path and we can see the sunlight reflecting off the back of fish as they swim downstream. Ylaana (needs link) has an idea and using one of her many rituals speaks with a fish to see if we can find out more about the situation with the guards. The fish knew about the soldiers nearby but couldn’t be specific about position or numbers. As Ylaana was bending down at the river to speak with the fish we saw a short green goblin like spirit lurking under the bridge watching the river flow past. We would have never spotted him if we hadn’t stopped. Ylaana said the fish call him “Grandfather Cappa”.
As I approached him he never moved his gaze from the river. His voice was elderly and carried tones that the Kopikitan citizens have in their voices. After I gave him a few gold pieces to help our conversation along he was quite forthcoming with information. Apparently the guards were camped just west of here although that wasn’t as concerning as the people who had been dumping latrines and dirty lamp oil into the river. He did mention that the river runs from a spring inside the castle walls which could be a potential way we could sneak into the castle.
On nearing the solider camp we can hear the sounds of music and singing emanating from a encampment of entertainers who had circled together. It looked fairly bizaree to see most of the entertainers out of costume and practicing. There were acrobats, bards, musicians, duelists and fire eaters some of them were very competent too. In terms of numbers around forty to fify were gathered in the camp.
I headed over to talk to one of the older of the troupe who was bust filling a pipe at the back of a caravan to ask him why they had all gathered here. He told me that once every couple of days someone from the castle comes down to view all of the entertainers and a troupe is chosen to perform in front of the Baron and will be handsomely rewarded for their skills. Perhaps this was another way we could gain access to the Baron.
Just past the entertainer encampment we could see an area where the Raksha’s who were still disguised as Humans were using as one of their bases of operations. A dozen tents lined up in military style alongside each other with one at the head where we could see standards flying outside. Amongst the tranquility and heavy Elven style of Kopekita they stuck out like a sore thumb. We kept formation as we headed towards the head tent. Arc (needs link) who could still use his telepathic helm to talk and reply messages between us spotted that a number of the solider who were presumably off duty were wearing small pendants and coloured bands over their upper arms. These were obviously some sort of unit insignia or marks of rank but no-one could tell what meant what. We caught a few stares as we marched up to the head tent.
On getting closer to the command tent we could all hear the sound of loud snoring coming from inside. Outside of the tent were two soldiers on guard but they didn’t look like they cared if anyone approached. After a short conversation about why were at the tent the guards decided to wake “Lord Tanaki” so we could tell him about our missing member.
The inside of the command tent was mostly taken up with the gluttenous form of Lord Tanaki who wasn’t disguised as a human but instead sat there in his full Raksha ensemble. Gold rings festooned each finger of his paws and his clothes were made of the finest silk. He was certainly a large fellow with the chair he was sat creaking under the weight of his massive bulk. As he woke up his first reflex was to reach for some sweetbreads sitting in a bowl of oil next to his char.
I took the lead in talking to Tanaki and tried to get him to reveal what the purpose of them being here was. Tanaki was more interested in the meeting between Lord Prawel and Kalmin in the underground tunnel siting him as a dissident. At this point I was confused as to whether Lord Prawel was in fact our enemy or someone trying to look out for his people. Either way I had tipped off Tanaki to Prawels potential betrayal and he wasn’t happy about it. Tanaki gave us orders to spy on Lord Prawels movement’s for him and to report back any more suspicious activity which we agreed to do as long as we got given papers to allow us entry and exit from the camps without question. Tanaki handed over small badges of which we all took one, these would stop us from being interrupted by other Raksha patrols. When I asked a question about overhearing Kalin talking about the “Pain Vault”, Tanaki said that when the time comes all of the Commanders will use their keys to open it. Ylaana reminded us that we took a bunch of keys from Kalmin’s body and that perhaps they were either copies of all of the keys or that they had already been stolen for some purpose.
We left the command tent none the wiser about Lord Prawel, the purpose of the Raksha’s in Kopekita or how to gain entry into the castle.
Time was getting on and day was turning to night. We all discussed how we could get into the castle undetected and we all decided that it would be best if we used the river to enter the castle through the underground well. Ylaana could use a ritual to allow to breathe and swim underwater and we could then once inside the castle disguise ourselves as entertainer or guards.
We waited until the moon was high in the sky before we slipped into the river and swam underwater upstream towards the castle. It was easy to avoid being detected and the metal grate covering the river mouth into the castle was easily bent to allow us to pass. After swimming through some tunnels we eventually found ourselves at the bottom of a large well with a rope hanging down and sounds of talking from above. The top of the well was covered by a heavy wooden door and only a small hole for a bucket and rope allowed us to see through it. Ylaana again used one of her rituals to levitate us all to the top of the well where we waited until the voices in the kitchen went quiet.
After the voices of the maids and cooks went quiet we lifted the wooden hatch at the top of the well and peeked out. At the end of the kitchen we found ourselves in we could see a very old Eladrin woman sewing and humming to herself whilst rocking in a old wooden chair. She didn’t notice us as we slipped by into an adjacent room.
Ylaana casted another “Seeming” ritual and we then disguised ourselves as palace guards in full plate. Thinking that these guards would have more authority than the Raksha Human guards once we were inside the castle walls. After the ritual was complete we headed out of the kictchen area to find out where the Baron was sleeping.
The castle was split into two parts, the outside was roughly square shaped but had a large courtyard area in the middle where an inner taller keep was built. All of the interior of the castle looked like the decor at the tea house. Wooden panels and paper doors made it easy to move around but anyone with the light could see through the walls and see shadows moving the other side. On top of that the floor were all made of sprung wood and squeaked and groaned quietly as we stepped over them. As we found an exit to the central courtyard area which accessed the inner Keep we saw more guards than I would have dreamed. The courtyard was flanked silently by around twenty guards not to mention the archers poised in position on the outside walls with excellent field of fire to anyone running towards the keep. We had our disguise intact but one mistake and we would surely be outnumbered and in a lot of trouble.
Ylaana (needs link) used her cunning and persuasive skills to get access to the Keep past the courtyard guards. Inside the keep the quality of the craftsmanship which had gone into the construction of this building was astonishing. There were gold statues, works of art on the walls and even the air had an aroma of spring time flowers. We ascended the keep passing more guards and people asleep in adjoining room until we reach the top of the keep where the Baron had his personal quarters. Outside his chamber were four guards which we relieved by virtue of Ylaana’s bluffing ability.
On entering the Baron’s personal quarters we found a large room with many adjoining doors. The door straight ahead was open and I could see a larger bedroom inside. I moved away from Ylaana enough for the seeming ritual to drop so my true self could be seen as I quietly paced across the bedroom floor looking for the Baron. I wanted to kill him on sight but I couldn’t unless I was totally sure the woman I had loved was in fact dead and not alive as the old Warden had told me.
The others searched an adjoining room which was being used as a war room by the Baron. Maps of Kopekita, Arden and Mauretainia were on the table alongside a pile of letters one of which caught Ylaana’s (needs link) eye. It was a letter from the Lady of Pain addressed to the Baron giving him orders to carry out the pre-arranged plan to “lock the gates”.
The bed was empty but the sheets had been pulled back, silhouetted against the floor where I was standing I could see a figure of a man. He was standing at the bedroom balcony in a meditative trance facing towards the low moon. At this point I knew there was no point in subterfuge or stealth and walked calmly out onto the balcony and stood next to the man I wanted so badly to kill.
I addressed the Baron with a semi-respectful tone, my place in Eladrin society had long since been and gone and I owed him no fealty. I asked him outright about my love and he told me that someone took pity on her and resurrected her after her death. She was probably still with them someplace in the Feywild. Another reason to get the gates unlocked and to get off this plane. He told me he was working with the Lady of Pain and had locked the gates on her orders. He was also not going to tell us how to unlock them unless we did something for him. Apparently the Formorians he was dealing with in the Feywild have an artifact that he needs for some reason and he would be willing to allow only us to leave the plane after we have retrieved the artifact for him. Between a rock and a hard place we had no other choice but to agree.
At that moment the lights in the bedroom and antechamber lit up and a tall wizardly looking figure appeared standing at the door to the bedroom. The Baron addressed him as ??? and would allow us to sleep in the keep until tomorrow morning when we would set out for the Feywild and retrieve the artifact. The wizard lead us into another room which was circular in design with a bench that circled the room, in the middle was a giant hourglass filled with sand. You could feel the magical energy radiating from it. Ylaana (needs link) confirmed it was an artifact of some kind but had no idea on what it was exactly. As we were watching the sand trickle from the top to the bottom Arc saw something inside the glass itself buried in the sand. We all went round to look and slowly as the sand fell from top of bottom it revealed the face of Sarranni my lost love. The Baron had resurrected her and placed her inside this artifact, the sand was keeping her alive but when the sand is gone then the magic keeping here alive would no longer function and she would die.
Ylaana confirmed that there was nothing that we could do to free her from the hourglass and that there must be a ritual to unlock it. The Baron had won again and I could see the look in his face that he was enjoying every last second of pain I was suffering.