Kingmaker

Part 2: The Kindness
Wherein Gravefoot is reminded he knows little.

The cawing that surrounded Gravefoot was the only sound, though he could feel a strong wind upon his face. Gravefoot was not certain how, but he knew he was dreaming. He stood on roughhewn steps of stone, leading to a dais with pillars that reached into the slowly swirling golden sky like skeletal fingers. A gray mist spread out beneath Gravefoot, making it impossible to see the ground, yet somehow he knew he was atop a very tall peak. Countless and varied sized poles of grayed and gnarled wood lay in scattered intervals crisscrossing the skeletal pillars, and thousands of ravens cawed, hopped, and perched on the beams.

Gravefoot was not scared. There was something familiar about the feel of this place, although he was certain he had never been here before. Slowly he began to ascend the steps. The cawing seemed to get louder, and now he could he the snap of wings and the tapping of beaks. Yet even as the sound grew it never became cacophonous or deafening.

As Gravefoot ascended the steps he saw beneath the perches were so many writing desks. The desks were made of a wood so dark it looked black, and atop them were large tomes bound in variety of colors. At each desk a spectral scribe busily transcribed into the tomes, motes of faint green light gathering around their quills as if being pulled from the air itself. Each of the spectral scribes wore a long black robe that seemed to absorb the light, and small soundless bells dangled from their hem and sleeves. Occasionally a scribe would cock their head, as if trying to hear better, before nodding and carrying on with their work. Gravefoot saw that after a time a raven would nod to a scribe before flying off, only to have the scribe begin to immediately pay attention to another that began cawing. The birds were in constant flux, with as many coming as departing, seeming to appear and disappear out of the swirling golden light.

Gravefoot did not know how long he waited on the steps by himself, yet he knew he must. Nor did it bother him to do so. There was a pervading sense of clam in this place, despite the noise. Here he did not feel ashamed, or as if he must hide. The nagging pains of his disfigurement vanished in this place. And suddenly Gravefoot knew he was where he would one day be eternally, in the home of his matron Pharasma.

After a time Gravefoot felt a small tug on his psyche and turned to see a scribe at a black desk looking patiently at his tome. A little disoriented Gravefoot realized he was no longer on the steps, but on the dais itself, with so many ravens overhead.

“Be quick, and say what you have drank,” the ghostly scribe urged him, though not unkindly, without looking up.

“I do not understand,” Gravefoot tried to say aloud, yet his voice came out like a caw.

The Scribe looked up and was immediately perplexed to see Gravefoot.

“You are not a normal drinker,” The scribe said not quite knowing what to do.

Gravefoot could only shrug.

“What is your name?” Asked the scribe.

“Gravefoot,” Gravefoot replied.

“No,” was all the scribe said.

“No?” Gravefoot was puzzled. “I have only had one name, the one given to me by him that saved me shortly after I was born, and almost killed.

“No,” the scribe said matter of factly. “Yours was name given before your birth. Your name was announced to a people, and your coming was celebrated.

Gravefoot could only snort. “My coming, friend scribe, was met with a slab of cold stone upside my head by she that bore me.”

The scribe tilted his spectral head slightly, as if listening to something distant, then returned its gaze to Gravefoot. “It is of no matter for now, you have drank so little. Yet we will need to record your contributions under your name, you will need to find that out.”

Gravefoot confusedly spoke, again his voice sounding like a raven’s, “I know not of what you speak?”

The scribe nodded slowly. “Too soon, drinker, you drank too soon. There is still much you should have learned.” The scribe waved its arm towards the sky indicated the ravens overhead. “They eat the eyes of the dead, capturing the last impressions and sites of a departing soul, and bringing them here, to the Aviary, where they can be transcribed by us. Sometimes the images and impressions happen after the soul has begun to depart, and without drinking the eyes, some parts of the living soul can be lost as they transition to dead souls. If pieces are lost, the soul is unwhole, and may become restless. And this, as you know devotee of our lady Pharasma, is unacceptable. Normally Our Lady relies on the raven kin to be the Drinkers of Eyes. But it would seem as if you have been chosen.”

As the scribe spoke, Gravefoot knew what it said was true, the same way he knew he still dreamt. Even still, the kobold’s last memories surged to get out. They battered and leapt against the inside of his skull while others seemed to peck. Sensing a release, Gravefoot began to recant the memories that were not his own to the scribe, the words turning to caws that joined the chorus of those around him.

The scribe’s quill flew across the pages of the tome, the greenish motes seeming to be pulled from Gravefoot’s mouth. When Gravefoot had concluded, he again felt at peace. The scribe finished his scrawling and nodded to Gravefoot. Suddenly Gravefoot was again among the steps of the dais. He could no longer see the scribes, only the ravens. The swirling amidst the ground begun to rise and engulf Gravefoot. As the slow mist began to slowly overtake him, Gravefoot heard the echoing voice of the scribe.

“Return to us when you have drank more. And learn your name.”

Gravefoot awoke with a slow and calm fluttering of his eyes. As had been the case all his life, the first thing to greet him this morning was the ever constant pain of his disfigurement. Even still, Gravefoot felt a residual stillness within himself. He rose slowly from the floor and reached for his tattered coat. Only in its place was a new one, the fabric a shiny new black. Gravefoot raised it up and a small tinkling sound filled the air. A small silver bell hung from each sleeve, and below the collar was a mantle of Raven’s feathers. As Gravefoot slung the coat over his shoulders it fit perfectly. Grabbing his staff, Gravefoot breathed a prayer of thanks to Pharasma and brushed the rough wooden holy symbol against his battered lips. Stowing the rest of his gear Gravefoot departed into the morning air, eager to perform in his new calling.

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Part 1: The Map
Wherein Gravefoot fears to dream.

Gravefoot rubbed wearily at his eyes, his calloused hands brushing against the ruin of his face. He yawned widely exposing a fanged maw, battered and broken on one side. A familiar pain laced through his face, accompanied by the pops and pulls of his jaw and scars protesting the forced relocation. Over thirty years the pain had dulled to a sharp jab, followed by a dull discomfort. Gravefoot expelled a ragged breath that was meant to be a laugh.

“As if I needed another reminder of my deformity,” he said to no one.

Gravefoot was glad for this dark night. He was able to converse with the soldier on watch for quite some time without fear of being seen, and he was doing what he could to avoid sleep. Eventually the guard had caught a glimpse of Gravefoot in the fire light and was suddenly far less talkative. That pain was one that time had not yet dulled. The expressions of horror, shock, and revulsion when someone new bore witness to the ruin of his face. Many good-hearted people would do what they could to recover. But even with his scarf covering the majority of his mother’s gift to him, people still new something was wrong, very wrong.

Sighing heavily Gravefoot examined his last few days work. He had never even considered cartography prior to being asked to do it. And although he had no idea whether or not he was doing it correctly, he had enjoyed it thus far. For Gravefoot, the maps were more than just records of direction and landmarks. They were reflective of the struggles and events that were undergone while exploring. Gravefoot knew the value of work without meaning. How many times had he redone a tattoo gotten by a soldier in their cups? The name of lass whom they loved for a lifetime, redone when it turned out the love only lasted a night’s time. The soldier drunkenly shouting the motto and bravado of his regiment one day would come back another to have it covered, after turning deserter. These meaningless works would fill Gravefoot with sadness, yet he performed them all the same. Humans were a mercurial lot. Their only constant was death, and that was why Gravefoot found so much comfort in the dead being his connection to a world otherwise terrified of him.

Gravefoot’s most recent map was a work carved into a roll of cyprus bark. He had found the stringy sheet of bark on a tree near the edge of the marsh, and it still bore some of the boggy smell. Gravefoot had carved the radish patch in relief, his thoughts going back to the battle with kobolds. Suddenly his mind was flooded with memories. The membrane of the eye bursting forth salty jelly with a small “pop” as he crushed it between his teeth. The bile rising in his stomach. A feeling of satiation as he lazily napped amidst those in his band, full on radishes. The desire to protect the radishes. The fear of himself chanting mantras of death and ruin. The arresting pain of steel being slammed into his body.

“Enough!” Gravefoot growled. Louder then he would have liked. He looked around quietly to make sure he hadn’t disturbed anyone at this late hour.

Those last memories were not his own. Yet they had invaded his thoughts all day, and his dreams the night before. That was why Gravefoot tried now not to sleep. Refocusing, he took some steadying breaths before looking upon his second map.
This map was more traditional. Drawn on parchment in a style that was needle thin hashes scrawled in quick successive order. The ink was stained a violent red from the berries Gravefoot had crushed and added to it, and the venom he had added from the spiders left an actinic glow on the parchment in low light.

Gravefoot’s final map looked like nothing more than a heap of carved bones and a few feathers. Gently pawing through the heap, Gravefoot located where the raven feathers were tied to cured ligaments. When the ligaments were pulled taught, the bones leapt into order, and the carvings aligned into lines of the map. Pleased at his own ingenuity, Gravefoot tiredly put the last of the maps down. He could fight sleep no further. Drifting off rapidly, his eyes lingered briefly on the raven’s feather before closing. Just before sleep over took him, he heard the far off caws of a mass of ravens.

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Valen's Journal Entry 2
Around the Trading Post

“Many practitioners of magic have mannerisms that make them stand out from normal folk. I believe there is something inherent in the power we wield that causes this. This influence over behavior can vary from something small and barely noticeable, to something that dominates the practitioners personality. I have noted, in my life time, that the practitioner is rarely aware of their own oddity. I have often wondered what mine might be…..
- Tales of Faith and Magic by Valen

I was glad to find the Swordlords saw fit to hire one more explorer to add to our band. Gravefoot’s arrival with the dawn before we set out that first day turned out to be a gift from Iomedea herself or, perhaps, Pharasma should be credited. The man himself cuts a slightly unsettling figure, old used armor shrouded in a worn coat all topped with a long purple scarf used to conceal the lower half of his face. He’s focus on finding Capt. Javair speaks of the value he places on friendship and his skill as a healer has already saved most of the party from their final rest.

With our party gathered we went in search of the hermit Boken east of the Trading Post. I have to admit the man was odd, it was hard to balance the cafter of the potions with the crazy man in the hut. After a difficult conversation he indicated he was willing to trade information on Gravefoot’s Javair for a type of berry he uses to flavor his potions. This whole thing seemed surreal to me as he also asked us to kill his brother…..

I expected many things on our trip through the Greenbelt; bandits, traders, wild animals, and even a monster or two were on the fore of my imagination. Giant spiders were not among the things I had imagined. One seemed to burst from the very ground and viciously assaulted Arumn before darting back into the earth. My surprised horse dumped me on the ground and bolted. As we recovered and surrounded it’s hiding spot a second beast crept up behind and drove his mandibles into Fell. The rest of the fight was short and brutal though it would be days before Fell and Arumn recovered from the poison. In their den we found the body of a bandit adorned with one of the Staglord’s pendents and an odd map, at least the beasts did some good on this earth before meeting their end.

I had thought never to be surprised by my own body again after the first time my hands shed their normal form for that of a scaled beast. These past days have proven that my mind is changing as much as my body. We encountered some creators (Kobalts I think is what the are called, I remember the name from some of father’s old tales) laying near some dug up radishes. Upon seeing us the lizard like creators attacked, chittering away in their own tongue; it took me a moment to realize I understood their words. I experienced a moment of vertigo right before I turned my flames on them, hearing their shouts about one called “Sharptooth” and a “curse.” It is easy now to form the claws, almost to easy I am beginning to think; after replaying the memory of ripping the head off one Kobalt and using it to threaten another I find myself slightly disturbed. I’m still not sure what stayed my hand with the second Kobalt, it was not pity or sorrow for they attacked us on sight with no provocation, no as I look back on it I think it was a feeling of kinship, a thought I find infinitely more disturbing.

Surprisingly we found the crazy hermits berries and maybe more surprising Bokken not only kept his word about his knowledge of Javair but also agreed to discout his potions for us. I must admit I was sorely tempted to buy more potions, to say they taste only good is doing them a disservice. Knowing that we had little in the way of supplies remaining we returned to Oleg’s to restock before heading south after Javair and her captors. Much to our surprise we found the out post reinforced with the patrol Oleg had spoke of earlier. I found it both reassuring and disheartening to see the solders. Seeing Oleg and Svetlana defended made me happy but the solders remind me of the militia and of a life I so recently left.

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Valen's Journal Entry 1
The road to Oleg's

“I still remember when I took a life for the first time. It was a terrifyingly easy thing. I have no guilt from the action only sadness, the man was a bandit who had terrorized a family for months. It has been said that you loose a part of yourself in the taken, I can’t disagree with that. However, if it ever comes to pass that someone forgets the feeling of that first time they will have lost something even greater.”
- Tales of Faith and Magic by Valen

After leaving Rothmire I headed directly to Restov to sign up for the expedition into the Stolen Lands. It was interesting how the other areas were given over to established groups to explore while our group is a mashed-up selection of individuals tasked with mapping the Greenbelt. I guess I should begin by describing my impressions of my traveling companions.

Arumn Wrothfort is an interesting sort of fellow, a story teller and a story seeker. No one in our little band really talked much until he started-up a conversation. It was good to describe myself and my town to him; I am not yet sure if it was insight or just his nature, but he did me a great service by getting me to talk. One I hope to be able to repay. Although with all the skills he seems to possess finding an opportunity to do so may prove difficult.

“I am Kevlann Darksbane, heir-in-exile, master of the sword, drinker of ale and lover of women.” The first words he spoke to us sounded like a line from a story, that being said he proved some of that statement true during our first fight. My father had told me it takes greater skill to capture a man in combat then it takes to kill him, Kevlann captured his man. I think the most I heard him talk was about cheese, other then that he talked little and said even less. Noral said that kind of man usually has a secret.

The last of our merry band comes in the form of Fell Kandle. Of all our group he, perhaps, most fits the image of a hardened adventurer. His dark, spiked armor matches his surly expression. His prowess as a warrior, however, cannot be denied. While I did not clearly see the blow the felled the bandit commander, I did see the body afterward. It was very nearly cut in half, armor and all, truly a fearsome blow to come from such a small man.

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Oleg's Map
Rough Sketch of the area

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Valen’s rough sketch of the area from Oleg’s description.

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Group Loot
Group Stuff

Updated: 02 Jan 2014
Currency:
506.5 Gold (in loose coin)

Mundane Gear (Prices are listed as Market Value for one unit):
1x Leather Armor (10 g)
1x Short Sword (10 g)
2x Bottles Alchemist Fire (20 g)
2x Silver Amulet (Staglord’s Symbol) (20 Gold)
4x Pack Horses (75 g)
1X Riding Saddle (10 g)
3x Pack Saddle (5 g)
4x Bit & Bridle (2 g)
4x Saddle Bags (4 g)

On Order (Prices are listed as Market Value for one unit):
First Order (6/10 Days):
3x Military Saddles (20 g)
Whiskey, Ale, and some good cheese (15 g)

Magic Gear:
1x Potion of Cure Light (Kevlann)

Key Gear:
Crude map with a claw shaped tree

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