Clove, the half-ling, might have felt left out at the castle, while the rest of the adventures had gone to the forest to re-inspect the herd stone. However, he ended up faced with some of the biggest conflict of the night. Ilsa, the duchess’ stewardess, had earlier warned Helga of potential impending doom. She was worried that the Count was going to take control of the duchess’ territories, and this gathering was a front for an assassination attempt. At the time, Helga had been dealing with much more pressing matters though, and had abandoned Ilsa in this time of need to go investigate the possibility of ‘borrowing’ a human baby to shed some blood on the stone. Ilsa, for reasons unknown, had gone to Clove next, petitioning him for aid in her struggles to protect the Duchess—though why she spent so much time away from the duchess to be speaking with these adventures was also a mystery.
Clove was hired by Ilsa to keep an eye on the food in the kitchen, to make sure that there was no poison that could make its way to the Duchess, or allow her to come into any harm. She also told Clove about her concerns regarding the Count’s intentions during this celebration. Clove immediately got to work in the kitchen, trying to make sure that the food provided would meet his standards. An ogre soon arrived, along with Helga, asking for food. Another chef reminded Helga that there was plenty of food for free around the corner, on the buffet-style table, and her needs were quickly satiated. The ogre, however, was not so easily pleased.
Swag—the ogre—was dressed sharply. He wore a monocle, and a jacket to compliment his well-made gut plate. “Meat Pie.” He demanded of the chefs, to which the first tried to respond that there was food around the corner. The ogre cleared his throat and stepped out of the kitchen area, though, showing respect to the man, and the chef quickly turned to Clove.
“When will you have the next meat pie finished?” He asked, his voice perhaps only wavering because of the heat, and not the ten foot ogre in their midst.
“Thirty-Two minutes” Clove, the detail-oriented half-ling immediately replied. After all, not knowing exactly when his next dish would be ready would hardly be fitting of a cuisine connoisseur such as himself.
Pulling out a pocket-watch, the ogre would contemplate the response before he spoke again. “Four-Three minutes.” The ogre replied vaguely, in a way that philosophers could debate was actually incredibly profound, should they be incredibly drunk, and having bets on the most ridiculous thesis they could possibly write and get published before they began to feel hung over.
Forty-one minutes after the ogre left kitchen, he would return for his meat pie, and eat the entire pound of meat to satiate his own hunger. The ogre put out his hand to shake the half-ling’s hand (or entire body) and introduced himself, “Me Swag.” He declared, and then swaggered off to work again with the guard. After the ogre left, Clove noticed a vial on the floor. There was a bit of liquid left on the bottom, but the chef was unable to identify its contents. Clove tasted his food frequently, and though it met his standards, he would find that he was getting tired, and a bit worn-down. Such was not uncommon during a large celebration, working in a hot kitchen, though, and Clove was not one to back down or run away, despite the appearance of the strange vial.
Irunil was a boatman, the lookout on a larger ship that made its way to the docks of Sollandheim the evening before Geheimnistag. The high elves suspect that magic is concentrating in this area of the empire, in dangerously high levels. Irunil was part of a group that was sent to learn why this heavy concentration was building, and to help mitigate the damage that might have been caused. The reason for their docking in this particular location was that they were already nearby when they saw the beast men attacking the castle. They docked, and Irunil helped to end the assault on the castle by killing a number of these creatures.
Already invited to stay in the barracks for lodging because of the assistance he had provided, Irunil was informed by a guard that a group of adventurers had come with information about a herd stone that was found in the woods. The arch mage from the ship asked Irunil to look into the magic concentration, as he was a better set of eyes than she was, and she didn’t want to interfere unless it was absolutely necessary. Aware of the relationship between the herd stone and the increasing concentration of magic, Irunil went towards the woods, only to be met by one of the guards who was bringing out the cocooned bodies and bandits.
It was probably a startling sight for the high elf, to encounter humans dragging bodies wrapped in abnormally large cocoons, and one man in manacles, from the woods. “Is anything wrong?” He asked. The guards stumbled over his words, accidentally giving the elf a much higher rank than was required, assuming that every elf was of relatively high standing. “Captain? Admiral? Uh… these are townsfolk that we are returning for burial.” The guard explained.
Putting his weapons away, Irunil offered his assistance to the guards, and helped to take the cocooned bodies so that the guard could focus on the prisoner. On the way, Irunil was filled in about the beast men ambushing during the celebrations, how the block powder stores had been ignited, and even how they were reduced to throwing stones because they had no access to cannon or handgun, or stockpile of other armaments. He explained that they killed about 20 or so beast men in their encounter, and thanks to a few adventurers, only lost one of their men.
After the guard finished his recollection, the high elf once again inquired about the herd stone, and where the chaotic artifact might be located. Much to the elf’s dismay, it was revealed that the elf had been very close to the location when he had met with the guard, in the wilderness. Before he finished lugging the bodies, the elf also asked if the human had noticed any signs of this impending attack by the beast men. The guard revealed that he had his cards read the week before, and he had learned that there would be two full moons, and it would be a rather dangerous time in the area. By the time the elf was heading out once more, he had the interestingly dressed ogre in his company as well.
After fighting the giant spider, Skaldor and Helga once again began to contemplate the best method of ridding the herd stone of its magic. Skaldor’s plan was to create a new rune, one that would use the magic of the herd stone, but do virtually nothing with it. Helga doubted Skaldor’s abilities, at least in jest, and commented upon arriving at the herdstone, “We might need to cut this baby!”
“We?? You!” Cael’yn replied. It had not been the wood elf’s idea to borrow the human baby or bring it out to the woods, and she had no intention of being a part of harming it. As Irunil came upon the clearing, the adventurers had yet to notice him (or the ogre, surprisingly). Skaldor stood in front of the stone, in contemplation about his rune-smithing. Helga was trying to feed the baby, shoving bacon into its mouth. Cael’yn sighed, and Helga tried to hand off the infant to her.
“Feed the baby, elf.” Helga demanded. Cael’yn refused, and they discussed the baby’s potential need for milk. Not interested in breast-feeding in the slightest, Cael’yn suggested water. “You want me to water the baby?” Helga asked Cael’yn skeptically.
After a few moments to translate the words properly, the elf shook her head. “No, give it…to drink!” She exclaimed. Helga had great difficulty settling the child, though she did discover that Belgar hadn’t made a mess in his diaper, which was impressive considering their earlier encounter with the spiders.
Irunil was the first to spot the eyes in the woods, low to the ground. Calling out to Cael’yn, he yelled, “Azure!” mistaking her for a high elf. Cael’yn promptly broke out in a fit of laughter, though it ended when he continued in the elven tongue. “There are monsters in the woods!”
Cael’yn sobered immediately and drew her weapon. “Weapons!” She yelled to Helga.
“Tell the dawi mage to continue!” He yelled after, as the ground began to rumble and quake beneath their feet. Cael’yn complied, telling Skaldor to continue with his rune-smithing, though the dwarf was not happy to hear the wood elf giving him orders. Cael’yn moved close to Skaldor, knowing that he would not be able to defend himself if he continued and these…things continued to attack.
“Why did you say to draw weapons?”
Cael’yn pointed to the ground, where the bubbling of puss sacks in the dirt and flailing arms began to rise out of the ground. “Monsters in the woods.” She repeated in common, frustrated by the lack of understanding among the group. The creatures attacked Cael’yn first, rushing in as if engaging in a group hug; only, they were armed with rusty knives.
The ogre rushed closer, attacking and smashing 4 nurgles in one go. Helga wanted to write these creatures in the grudge book, but had trouble juggling the book and the baby, and was not able to easily find a safe place to put the boy so that she could write more quickly. Irunil noticed that because they were so short, the nurgles would only attack the ankles and legs, and he yelled a warning out in the common tongue to protect their legs. Irunil killed a few with his short bow, and the other party members continued to reduce their numbers. Eventually, the few nurgles who were left ran, and the ogre followed them into the woods.
Irunil and Cael’yn moved beside each other, making sure that the threat from the tree line had in fact been the same creatures that had appeared from the holes in the ground. They learned that the holes had been little tunnels that the creatures dug. During the battle, most of the party had been injured at least a bit, but the only one to catch a disease from the nasty creatures was Helga, whose foot would begin to stink. The stench would grow throughout the evening, making her even less tolerable to the rest of the party.
“So…who are you?” Cael’yn asked when the chaos had subsided. Irunil introduced himself, and Cae’lyn did the same. “I am not Asur.” She commented, and the high elf nodded. Once he had entered the clearing completely, and he saw her appearance (namely, her dark dreadlocks) he had gathered that she was Asarai. Irunil explained briefly that he was sent to investigate the herd stone. He borrowed a piece of cloth from Cael’yn and wrapped it around his hand before touching the stone, finding that it was still warm.
Helga was the first to let out a large sigh of relief when the fight was over. “Well, the good news is we didn’t have to sacrifice baby…” She trailed off, unable to remember the baby’s name for a moment.
“BALGAR!” Cael’yn supplied, annoyed that the dwarf who had felt so attached to the baby couldn’t remember the name she had given him.
“Wait. WHAT?!” Irunil interjected, stepping forward to try to find out more from the dwarf about the potential child sacrifice that was being discussed. He asked how in the world they had gotten the idea that sacrificing the human baby would eliminate the threat of the herd stone.
“Folklore!” Helga and Skaldor replied.
Irunil turned to Cael’yn with a look of astonishment. “They’re dwarves.” She replied to the unspoken question, shaking her head.
“I just want to make it clear that baby sacrificing was at the bottom of the list.” Helga continued, though the fact that it was a list of two options didn’t do much to serve her cause.
Irunil asked the male dwarf how his rune would help the situation, and Skaldor explained that it was a rune apprentices used in training; it was an ineffective sink of magic. Though the prospect of sacrificing babies and using training runes to end dissipate the magic of herd stones probably sounded completely trustworthy, Irunil suggested that they speak to the Azure mage who had assigned him to learning more about the herd stone, to get her approval on the tactic they had chosen.
Still, before they left, Helga asked once more if they should spill a few drops of the baby’s blood, just to be safe. The dwarves seemed to think it was an amicable solution, though Irunil was not a fan of it.
“They don’t want my opinion.” Cael’yn said to Irunil quietly. “Why not?” He asked, puzzled about the strange relationship between the wood elf and the dwarves.
Cael’yn sighed, and asked the dwarves if they wanted her opinion, and then was bewildered when they said yes. “oh…uh… No. It is a stupid idea.” She declared.
The argument over Belgar and the herd stone for a short while longer. Irunil tried to compromise by asking them to return to his arch mage and get her opinion before they did anything else rash, trying to say that he wouldn’t rule out the dwarf’s suggestion completely, but the dwarf was not ready to agree to meet this arch mage, since she might have been in the grudge book. They bickered for a short while, and then Cael’yn suggested that they check the grudge book as they were going towards Irunil’s friend, which was accepted.
The ogre returned to the clearing after the fight, and after a brief discussion he used his weapon to smash the herd stone into many small pieces, which might have helped to dissipate the magic, though the arch mage would be able to tell them more when she was retrieved.
The half-ling chef continued his due diligence, until a younger servant pushed open the doors to the kitchen, his panicked voice echoing through the room. “The Duchess has been poisoned!” he yelled. The boy ran off before the thought had time to settle among the chefs. Replacing the boy at the door, a few guards appeared, asking all of the chefs to come with them, to figure out how this could have happened. It was obvious by the weapons in their hands that if any of the chefs were to refuse, then the guards would likely use force, and assume the hesitance was an admission of guilt, of course.
Clove bravely disclosed the information that he had already acquired, hoping that truth would lead to justice, and the true culprit being found, of course. Clove admitted that he had found a vial, and that he was already under the effects of the poison as well, because he had been tasting his food, as any good chef did. Clove was led to another area, where a trial could begin to find out who poisoned the duchess, and exactly how involved Clove was in those events.
As he was rather forthcoming with information, Clove spoke to the judge quickly, explaining the situation, to which the judge exclaimed that the half-ling could have planned this, and injected the poison on purpose. When he produced the mysterious vial of poison that he had found, which in retrospect may have in fact made him look guiltier, the judge wafted a bit of the odor, and studied the leftover liquid before passing it to one of the guards.
“It is grave rot.” The guard commented, looking at the judge.
“Where did you find this?” The judge asked. Clove stated that he found it on the floor, and the judge narrowed his eyes a bit before continuing. “It is an illicit substance. Possession of grave rot comes with a fine. Twenty-five silver, or three days in the stockade.” The consequences had been set a long time before. Clove considered the choices, and with a sigh he agreed to the stockade, complying with the guards and accepting the imprisonment.
Some time had passed, with Clove growing quite weary due to the narcotic running through his system. Fortunately, he had learned that he was not going to die due to the influence of the drug in his system. Unfortunately, he had not been provided with any substance to help lessen the effects of the drug.
“I’m sorry for you being wrongfully accused.” Ilsa said as she appeared in Clove’s view. She had come up from behind the stockade, and she knelt a bit so she was at level with his face. She told him that she would make sure that he wasn’t blamed for the duchess’ death, and then apologized once more, and then raised her hand to his mouth. The cloth that covered his mouth and nose must have had some sort of sedative chemical on it, because in a matter of moments, Clove was unconscious.