Distant Horizons

The Cold Caverns
Prelude 2a: Quarsith and Talars'argt

From the private documents of Dlvayth Mournwyn:

My grandson has left Olath’delmah, bound for a life on the surface. Eventually, his path takes him to Navanaith, to embroil him in what passes for politics there. Our surface cousins will not treat him kindly, I am certain, and to those of our kind who dwell in the sunlit lands, he will be simply one more tool. I have done what I can over the years to insure that this particular tool proves every bit as dangerous to those who would misuse it, as it is to their enemies. Now, it is up to him.

I cannot help but watch from afar for a bit longer, though. My scrying is subtle enough to go undetected thus far, and I will have to give up even this once he reaches the surface. My own machinations here at home can only go so far without me returning more of my attentions to them. Until then, however, I watch, and record. As always, I have warded these pages so that only I may read them. Should any hand but mine touch them, these papers will immolate. The perpetrator’s hand will blacken, and he will be marked to my eyes, so that I might know him and wreak further justice upon him. Or her, as is likely the case in our society.

So… My grandson.

Quarsith and Talars’argt, his guardian and constant companion, took their time with their preparations. They spent about a week gathering up what supplies they might need, and paying their respects to those they left behind. I met with Quarsith myself, though I will not record that meeting here. Suffice it to say that our farewells were cordial. During the week, he met with his step-sister, Syrinyae, as well as visiting the temple of Damion one last time. Both of these meetings were warded against eavesdropping, both magical and mundane, and thus what occurred there is unknown to me. The temple meeting does not bother me. It is right and proper for a young priest to visit the head of his order before undertaking a long journey. But Syrinyae… That one schemes like a Firaliesti Lady twice her age, and what was said between she and Quarsith away from prying ears concerns me somewhat. Perhaps I have left her alone for too long…or perhaps an accord can be reached between she and I for information. Ah, well…rumination for another time.

Their preparations complete, Quarsith and Talars’argt left the confines of Olath’delmah and journeyed down the tunnels that would lead them, eventually, to the surface. The first week of their travels passed uneventfully, and Quarsith passed the time by crafting poisons for his guardian to use. It was a way to make idle moments go quicker, but it was a pastime that would prove prescient when they did encounter trouble.

On the seventh day after leaving the city, the pair came to a section of cavern that was noticeably colder than what they had been traveling through. Proceeding cautiously, they reached a forking tunnel. Deciding to take the right-hand tunnel, they had only gone a short way when they both noticed a section of the cavern floor which had been weakened. Each tied the end of a rope about their waist, and Quarsith leapt safely over the weakened section. Talars’argt followed after, also arriving safely. His heavier armor shortened his jump just enough, however, for his heel to catch the weakened floor, causing it to crumble and crash into a spike-lined pit.

While the two were still recovering from Talars’argt’s near fall, small crossbow bolts shot out from the nearby wall. While Talars’argt searched for the secret door he knew had to be there, two white-scaled kobolds appeared in the tunnels to either side of them. Quarsith took one out of the fight with a well aimed web bolt, before concentrating his spells on the other. That one was dispatched in less than a minute. Meanwhile, Talars’argt had found the secret door, kicking it in and slaying a third kobold on the other side. The creature Quarsith had webbed broke free, and quickly fled. Searching the chamber beyond the hidden doorway, the two determined that they had stumbled upon the kobold’s home. They also found, among other treasures, a map of the surrounding caverns that showed further dangers ahead.

Seeing no real gain in slaughtering the remaining kobolds, but not wishing to be attacked from behind, the pair negotiated safe passage with the leader of the white-scaled band before traveling on. One of the warriors followed them at a safe distance to ensure there was no trickery on the Firaliesti’s part. A little further on, the two came to a side cavern that radiated even more cold. From this cavern burst a pair of ghouls, one of which charged. Talars’argt quickly placed himself between Quarsith and the creature, taking the brunt of the attack. The ghouls hit and faded back a bit, attempting to lure the two elves deeper into their cavern, but Talars’argt would not be moved. As he slew the second ghoul, a third charged out of the darkness, but it too was quickly dispatched. Only when safety returned did Quarsith and his guardian enter the chilly cave. The walls were spotted with brown mold, which explained the icy air in this cavern especially. Finding three skeletons, presumably Firaliesti lost some time ago, they gathered together what gear and treasure they found and continued on their journey.

In short order, Quarsith and Talars’argt arrived at a lake. Ice floes floated over the surface, nudging against rocky islands dotting the lake. Wood planking bridges from island to island indicated that at some point, at least, this region saw use as a byway. As they moved toward one of the bridges, movement drew their attention. A large ice troll rose from where it rested, lumbering toward them. Quarsith levitated the bridge out of reach, and they peppered the troll with crossbow bolts. As it got closer, Quarsith enlarged Talars’argt. Across a stream of icy water, the warrior and the troll exchanged blows. As Talars’argt’s sword sliced into the troll’s flesh, the poison coating the blade took effect. The troll staggered and fell unconscious. Talars’argt stepped forward, hacking the troll to bits. While Quarsith took inventory of the treasure found in the creature’s lair, Talars’argt lit the pieces of troll on fire, let them burn, and tossed the scorched pieces throughout the lake. The two moved on and soon enough left the cold caverns behind them.

The rest of their journey to the surface proved uneventful. Even now, they move to higher tunnels. In the next day or two, they will reach the sunlit lands and my scrutiny of them will end. I have faith now that my grandson is well equipped to deal with whatever comes, and that his guardian will do everything in his power to keep his charge safe from harm. My agents in Navanaith will tell me when he arrives there. Until then, his life is his own.

With the troll and the ghouls gone, the white-scaled kobolds now control that entire stretch of tunnels. They are far enough away, and a small enough group currently, that I have no concern for our city’s security. And even were that not true, they are only kobolds, and easily dealt with. However… The brown mold in the area might be useful in any number of arcane experiments. And having a friendly tribe guarding our borders is never a bad thing. The actions of Quarsith and Talars’argt have fostered a certain amount of good will with these particular kobolds. Perhaps I should pay them a visit, and further that good will in the name of House Mournwyn. Something to think on, at any rate. For now, the hour is late, and my bedchamber calls.

The Sea Hag's Lair
Prelude 1a: Daziel, Tolfgar, and Zazumet

From the Journal of Beriana Elorelen:

I arrived in Sunset Bay a short time ago, ready and eager to begin the adventure of a lifetime. To sail beyond the Dragontomb Isles, to go over the horizon and off the edge of the map… These are the things that the greatest of sagas are built on! So, it was with a little trepidation that I approached the bellicose young woman overseeing the loading of supplies aboard the Araen Horizon.

Ah, the Horizon! I have spent many an hour down at the docks of Elvedon City, and rarely have I seen so fine a vessel. Sturdily built to withstand the harshest storm, yet her lines still spoke of speed and agility. Even furled, her twin sails seemed to surge with each breath of wind. She sat at her pier, every bit as eager as I, like a racehorse pushing at the gate before the horn sounds and the race begins. If I was to tie my fate to that of a vessel, I could think of no finer a ship to carry me to that fate.

Back to the yelling woman. She was young, a few years older than myself, but moved with a grace and confidence that I could only hope to achieve in so short a time. Her tanned skin and windblown hair coupled with that grace to give her an attractive exoticness amongst the paler folk of northern Elvedon. Her strong voice carried easily over the crowd and the waves, her orders given with a brisk efficiency that spoke volumes of her experience. She glanced at me as I approached, and if she frowned, it was the expression of one loathe to be interrupted rather than unfriendliness. This, then, was my introduction to Marilynne Macauley, first mate aboard the Araen Horizon.

She took my name, gave me a small metal chit, and directed me to an inn dubbed the Floating Gull. I took my time getting to the inn, wandering the town and taking in the sites. Sunset Bay proved to be a somewhat quaint place compared to Elvedon City. The entire town could have disappeared within one small district of the capital, of course. It had an industrious feel about it, an air of hard work and simple pleasures. Yet as I walked the streets and strolled the markets, I saw and heard the telltale signs of a thriving cultural center as well. Or, at least, the beginnings of one. Given time, Sunset Bay might rival the great trading cities. For now, though, it remained the fishing center it had always been. The people, for the most part, seemed friendly enough, if a bit plain spoken. These people valued truth and honesty, it seemed, and had little patience for the niceties and polite lies so common in the capital. It was somewhat refreshing, if just a little off-putting as well.

Eventually, I made my way to the Floating Gull and offered up my chit. The common room was clean enough, and I had certainly spent the night in worse. I did spend the extra silver for a better meal, however. Stew has never been my favorite meal. Once settled, I returned to the docks to spend some time just gazing out past the horizon, as well as studying the Araen Horizon. The words began to flow through my thoughts, and I returned to the inn to write.

This was my routine for the next few days. I spent the mornings down at the docks seeking inspiration, and returned to the inn for a meal and to write. And it was here that I met some of my traveling companions. I did not see them enter, engrossed as I was with my work. It wasn’t until one of them approached my table that I looked up. He was an interesting fellow…a cultured gnome who taught at the Queen’s Academy until recently. Zazumet, he introduced himself as, amongst the stream-of-consciousness words he spoke. I admit to some amusement, but not of the unkind variety. We spoke briefly of the upcoming voyage, and the mental faculties, or lack thereof, for those of us voluntarily undertaking it. His large companion, Tolfgar as I found out a bit later, moved with a wolf’s deadly poise and spoke with a northman’s gruffness. And yet… He carried poetry in his pocket. Clearly a man who was not to be judged solely on appearances. Lastly, there was a quiet gnome named Desmond Daziel. His wide eyes portrayed both a wariness and an innocence that seemed completely natural and unfeigned. He spoke little at this first meeting, but I do not despair. We have an entire ocean voyage to get to know one another, after all.

The three of them, though they had just met, seemed to come together nicely and fall into comfortable roles easily. They worked the room with ease, discussing rumors with the regulars and acting on the subsequent tips with alacrity. These were Adventurers, complete with the capital A, and I felt a slight tingle of excitement as I watched them plan. A tingle that blossomed into glee when they invited me along. I gathered together my papers and books, and followed them into the night.

We made our way down toward the docks and entered a tavern graced with the unfortunate name of the Salty Nomad. There was little to distinguish it from a hundred other such taverns in a hundred other port towns. It was dark and smoky, and smelt overwhelmingly of fish and cheap rum. Tolfgar bought us each a drink that was…quite intoxicating. What it lacked in taste, it more than made up for in potency. I regret to say that I lost a fair amount of the details for the rest of the night. I watched my three companions survey the room, before approaching an old fisherman arguing with his tablemates about a light he had seen some ways south of town, where there should be no lights. Zazumet and Daziel let Tolfgar do most of the talking, and the three determined to investigate the light the following night. Before retiring for the night they checked in with the proctor for North Island Trading, to ensure they were not stepping on any toes with their investigation. Given the Company’s blessing, the three returned to the Floating Gull and took to their beds. As did I.

The three left early, making their way south. Unfortunately, I was feeling the after effects of last night’s grog and was unable to accompany them. What I know of what follows, I got from them on their return. They arrived at their destination around twilight, and through the growing gloom, Daziel spotted a ship lodged against the rocks. Closer inspection showed it to be the Miser’s Purse, a merchant vessel expected in port a few days previously. Daziel made his way carefully over the rocks to peer inside the staved-in hull. The hold was empty, and the others made their way over to the ship’s side. Preparing to enter through the hole in the ship’s side, the adventurers spotted a draugr methodically chopping at the ship in an attempt to break it up as quickly and completely as possible. From their description, it seems that a draugr is a zombie-like undead creature, saturated with miasmic water and possessing at least some intelligence. There were several of these creatures aboard the Miser’s Purse, and battle was quickly joined. Zazumet’s eidolon, Zero, proved itself quite a combatant, and Tolfgar somewhat surprised his companions when he began a lyrical and inspirational chanting. Apparently, the barbarian carries poetry in his soul, as well as his pocket. After the creatures were dispatched, the three noticed a light glowing before a sea cave on the shore, roughly halfway up the cliff face there. Quietly making their way to the cave, Daziel snuck ahead and discovered the lair of a hideous sea hag. Returning to his friends, they concocted a plan to deal with the monstrous witch as quickly as possible. Zazumet provided his fellows with magically enhanced speed, and the fight was on. Daziel sprinted in first, his crossbow readied. His first bolt caught her full in the stomach, burying itself deep in her flesh. Daziel was already nocking a second bolt when the eidolon, Zero, rushed in. His arms stretched forward with the whir of unwinding clockworks, but the hag ducked and Zero’s claws swept vainly overhead. Her victory was short lived, however, as Tolfgar followed on Zero’s heels. His axe swept upward and out, biting deep into the creature’s throat and separating her head from her body. In a matter of seconds, the fight was over and the hag crumpled to the cave floor.

Searching the cave, the companions found a secret door that led to a larger cave, hidden well from outside view. In this location, they found the contents missing from the hold of the Miser’s Purse, as well as the contents from at least one other ship. A closer look at the hag’s possessions revealed several ship’s logs, as well as a shipping schedule, detailing when ships were due to arrive in Sunset Bay. Several of these ships, including the Purse, were marked off on the schedule. Clearly, the hag had been working with someone. Determined to find out more, the three returned to town. Though they were tired, I convinced them to enjoy a drink with me and recall the day’s events so that I might record them.

I look forward to seeing where else their investigation leads, and am confident that with such as these aboard, the Araen Horizon’s journey will be more than successful.


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