Dakkon

A Way Into Riven

In which the party sneaks into Riven by participating in a competition.

The party takes an extended rest at the estate of my father, Lord Trowbridge. After our rest it was mid-afternoon, so we left to visit Lord Miden to see how he was doing. We were ushered into Miden’s chambers where he was clearly beginning the process of recovery. He was in a sitting position and awake, both encouraging signs.

He greeted us cordially and gave us a reward for saving his life, a large bag of 1,000 gold pieces. He then updated us about the situation in Riven; particularly, that he feared Baron Kaldashar’s life could be in danger. We indicated that we had been planning to proceed to Riven anyway.

The cordial atmosphere chilled when Targoth decided that he wanted to talk with Miden about how Liam had been treated. Miden’s behavior towards us grew somewhat more distant and cold as Targoth argued that Miden’s men perpetrated unnecessary cruelty on a man who was little more than a lackey. Miden countered with saying that he wasn’t going to punish his men and that he felt they’d done the right thing. Things were becoming incredibly tense, so much so that even Onath realized it and attempted to get Targoth to stop talking. I was none too thrilled with Targoth myself and tried to catch his eye to tell him to drop the subject. Targoth ignored the both of us and refused to drop the subject until he wanted to.

Aideena attempted to be more conciliatory by explaining that it would be a mercy to Liam to kill him sooner rather than later; Lord Miden merely said that he would be killed soon enough, likely later that very day. After that, the subject was changed and the discussion turned to the problem of Orran. Lord Miden indicated that the King’s Guard that left Bashar headed for Orran and that the Baroness and her allies are not holding out very well, that they are in dire straits and that he’d like to be able to help her as he’s fond of her. He said that what was needed was a way to call back Bashar’s King’s Guard, which was headed by Knight-Commander Stoyan Wylersay, in a believable way.

The name was familiar to me and I mention that I’d met Knight-Commander Wylersay before, though it had been only once and was nearly five years previously. I was confident, though, that if a reason could be thought up to call the Guard back, that I could address the Knight-Commander personally and persuade him to come. Targoth volunteered that his cousin, Kasra, might be ideally placed to spread the word that the King’s Guard was going to be called back to Bashar and Miden accepted that this additional assistance would be helpful and welcome.

We eventually decided that the Guard was previously called in to Bashar to deal with a strike from the Brotherhood of the Earth. I reminded Miden that one of the SD members, Amalric Torit, is also a high ranking member of the Brotherhood and that we might have some success in convincing him and the rest of the guild to strike—or, at least, pretend to strike. Miden agreeed that this was a sound plan and, as our group prepares to leave, he asked to speak to me alone.

Targoth and Aideena expressed their unhappiness with this situation, particularly Targoth who made a comment to me about all the secrecy, but I brushed him off and eventually the rest of the party left the room. Aideena, however, was able to hear the ensuing conversation between myself and Lord Miden.

The conversation was over fairly quickly and the party again returned to my father’s house where we received fresh horses, gifts, and Targoth and I ready messages. I wrote a letter explaining that the situation in Bashar was worsening and that it would mean so much to have his assistance in restoring order. Targoth prepared an animal message ritual, using a falcon from my father’s falconer. The ritual failed twice and the falconer left in a huff. We discussed the merits of using a homing pigeon, but decided that the risk of the pigeon being killed before being able to deliver the message was too great. Therefore, we attempted the ritual once more on the pigeon and, luckily, succeeded in casting the ritual to sustain long enough to reach Orran.

That accomplished, we bid farewell to my father and headed to the Brotherhood of the Earth guild house, where we’d been told the guild was meeting and we would be able to find Amalric.

We arrived at the guild house to indeed discover that the guild was meeting. I began to push my way through the crowd towards Amalric in the front, when suddenly my arm was grabbed by a man who pulled me aside and angrily asked me what I was doing there.

Onath came to stand by me if I needed protection, but the man—-named Feshin-—ignored him and focused all of his attention on me. He was so focused on me, in fact, that he didn’t even notice when Jack thieved four coppers—all the money he likely had—from him. I pulled my arm out of his grip and told him to leave me alone, that what I was doing there was none of his business. I was acutely aware of the fact that the rest of the party was within earshot, though it seemed to make no difference to Feshin. He accused me of not understanding what was really going on, and that I was on a path that would get me into trouble—likely killed. I insisted that he was being a drama queen and that I could take care of myself.

In response, he said: “You don’t know anything, Kaiva. Here you are stirring up all this fuss, putting yourself—-all of us, really—-at risk. Do you know what you’re doing? Do you even know the first thing about what happened to our father? You were just a child then—-and you’re not any smarter now. Do you know what they do to us, the ones that go off the lists? Do you even know how they find us?”

I told him that if he was so smart then he should enlighten me, but he just repeated that I was asking for trouble and that I was likely to get myself killed. With that, he walked away and I glared after him.

After a moment, we made our way to Amalric and began talking with him about asking the Brotherhood to agree to a short strike. He said he couldn’t agree to that because of the danger to his fellow guild members and reminded me that the last strike had been put down brutally and so many people had died. He couldn’t risk losing lives for a fake strike.

I proposed that they could start the strike and it could be over by the time the King’s Guard arrived, and I worked to convince him that since the idea had come from Lord Miden that he would have an interest in ensuring that there were no deaths. Amalric stated that he didn’t trust Miden and while I agreed, I also tried to convince him that Miden had seemed sincere and that he would likely work to broker an end to the strike before the King’s Guard arrived. I reiterated that his main interest was in drawing the King’s Guard away from Orran to give the Baroness a chance.

Targoth stepped in and helped me to convince Amalric that he could convince the Brotherhood to strike for a real cause and that Miden would likely accede to their demands provided they were relatively modest. Finally, Amalric began to see how he could turn the situation to the Brotherhood’s benefit and agreed to help convince the rest of the guild to go on a short strike, provided Miden held up his end of the bargain. Targoth and I did our best to assure him of that, and then the entire party left the guild and made a final stop at the marketplace so that Onath could sell some of the things he no longer needed. This also allowed Aideena to restock her supply of herbs.

We then began our journey to Riven and almost immediately Targoth and Aideena began to question me about my past. They tried to convince me that they were entitled to know something about my past since it kept cropping up while I did everything I could to remain calm and change the subject. I began to lose my composure a bit and became defensive—-accusing Aideena of keeping her own secrets, and pointing out that no one else was being hounded to tell their entire life story. Onath kept saying that knowing my past wasn’t important and that everyone should leave me alone, for which I was eternally grateful; unfortunately, no one else really agreed with him, especially when Targoth and Aideena seemed to think people were trying to kill me and that they deserved to know if their lives were in danger as well (of course, fighting monsters unrelated to my history had already placed them in danger, but I digress).

Our voices were raised rather loudly and we heard what seemed to be eagles screeching above us, but we paid them no mind. Eventually, both Aideena and Targoth accused me of being a shapechanger, and I was unable to remain calm any longer. I turned on Targoth, changed my face to look like his and imitated his voice and asked him if that’s what he wanted. The silence that greeted this pronouncement was rather significant. I then turned on Aideena and imitated her face and voice and asked her the same question.

They then asked who Kaiva was, and I told them I was and showed them what I looked like. I then showed them what my unchanged form looked like, which they seemed to find startling, and then I changed back to Audra for the time being.

Before we could discuss the finer points about what this might mean, we were attacked by the eagles-—which turned out to be falcons-—and engaged them in battle. We eventually defeated them, but as it was nighttime, we decided to make camp. I volunteered to take the first watch and wanted to keep my distance from everyone else in the group. While everyone else was sleeping, I took the opportunity to inspect the journal that was in the book that the Widow Vesney had given me. The entry was brief, rather puzzling, and dated mid-winter. I didn’t know what to make of it, so I put it away and kept watch until it was my turn to sleep.

The next day, we ate a quick breakfast and hit the road toward Riven. I was still doing my best to keep my distance from everyone and had resumed Audra’s shape. On the road to Riven, we passed by an area which didn’t feel right to Aideena. She described it as a sort of echo, that there was something that should have been there, but wasn’t. She led us a short way off the road and we came to a glade where a well-known fey crossing used to be, but no longer was. Aideena and Targoth moved closer to where it used to be to inspect it, while Jack, Onath and I hung back.

The echoes were where ley lines used to be, but the lines themselves were missing. Ley lines are apparently fundamental to how the fey wild works and it would require extraordinary amounts of power—-certainly more than just the power one individual might ever possess-—to do something like this. The effect was incredibly unsettling for Aideena and she seemed rather freaked out.

That sensation was heightened by the appearance of three juvenile phase spiders. The phase spiders are fey creatures, but instead of keeping one form, their bodies were contorting and their forms were shifting; at one moment they were in their fey forms—brightly colored with a faint glow—and at other times they appeared to be regular, though large, spiders. Aideena could literally see the fey energy being drained from them and was incredibly unnerved by it. The spiders headed towards her and Targoth; the both of them backed away, but not before Onath attacked the spiders. Luckily his attack missed, and it became clear that the spiders were not at all interested in us; rather, they made straight for where the fey crossing used to be and began scrabbling at the ground, clearly trying to get through the gate. They whole experience was rather sad and we soon left the glade, knowing there was nothing we could do to help the spiders.

We headed back onto the road and came to an area that Targoth recognized very well. It was apparently where he’d been attacked years before by reptiles and ultimately led to the trouble with Druuk. There was no sign that remained of the struggle.

We continued on the road to Riven and finally could see the Dragonchain Mountains, where Targoth originally came from. Not longer after, we arrived at Riven, but to our surprise, there was a small tent city that sprang up around the south gate. Riven-—a town designed to be a fortress-—had never allowed settlement of any kind outside of the walls before. When we rode closer to the city, a pair of guards rode out to meet us.

They essentially told us that the town was blockaded, that there was no way in or out, and that we should move along to the tent city and wait there until the blockade was lifted. We tried to talk to the guards and made a little progress—-we were able to discover that the blockade had been in place for about three days, for example—-but the progress we’d made was undone when we mentioned the situation in Orran. After being stonewalled, we headed to the tent city with every intention of figuring out a way into the city. The first suggestion is that I use my abilities to impersonate the Chancellor, but I tell them that it’s unlikely that—-given so much time and not having studied the Chancellor—-that I would be able to convincingly change into him. Before I can explain to the rest of the group, we arrive in the tent city and have a look around.

We discovered that it was fairly orderly and that there were plenty of guards making sure it stayed that way. We then headed to talk to a tent salesman, as he seemed likely to be able to give us more information. He wasn’t able to tell us too much more-—he confirmed that no one was allowed in or out—-and, in addition, tried to sell us on a tent. The more we demurred, the less information we got and the less talkative he seemed inclined to be.

While most of the party was talking to the tent seller, Onath went to fill up on ale and made friends with the ale seller since he was such a good customer.

We left the tent seller not long afterward and Targoth decided he wanted to go speak to a Dragonborn he’d seen as we walked in, though he was much less inclined to once he was able to perceive that he’d not been raised in the Dragonchain. Meanwhile, Aideena and Jack headed back over to the tent salesman to rent a tent; the tent salesman took such a shine to Aideena that he knocked 1gp off the asking price of the largest tent—14gp a week instead of 15gp. And when Aideena picked a tent that was already occupied, the tent salesman went in and kicked those people out of it for her.

As this was going on, Targoth ran into an old friend of his named Sabian. Apparently the two had been bards together and had played taverns in Riven along with a larger group of musicians. According to Sabian, the rest of his troupe was already in Riven and he was stuck in tent city, looking for a way back in. Lucky for him-—and us-—a ball was going to be held in Chancellor Tavrix’s honor and there were no musicians within Riven good enough to play for it; as a result, they were going to hold tryouts in tent city. This appeared to be our best option to get into the city, so we agreed to work with Sabian and put together an act. Our main competition was a family called the Harles, led by Jacques Harle. Jack apparently recognized them, though he clearly held no fondness for them.

Meanwhile, Onath was still back getting some ale and while he was doing this, one of the goliath women saw him there and took an obvious shine to him. I had taken it upon myself to keep an eye on him so that he wouldn’t drink too much and it was clear as day that Jean Harle had the hots for Onath, though he barely even knew she was sitting next to him (which, considering she was a goliath, is quite the feat).

Eventually Onath had enough ale and we all convened in the tent to practice our act for the next day. After a few hours of practicing, we decided to take a break. I took a short walk outside near where the Halflings were practicing archery and I overheard the following conversation:

“I hear that most of the clans are all in an uproar and that they’re going to call a Conclave, though I don’t know why.”

“I heard the same. Don’t know what’s going on. We’ll probably be called up.”

As I walked further along, I heard another snippet of a conversation:

“…a half orc walked through like he owned the place, while the rest of us good folk are still here waiting and waiting…”

Meanwhile, Aideena stepped outside and talked to an elf who was heading to Bashar to do a little investigating. Specifically, she was sent to investigate a fey crossing that had closed-—likely the one we passed. Apparently the elves rely on the fey crossings for their business as they do most of their trade in the fey wild.

After this, we went back to practicing for a couple of hours then decided to head to bed. Unfortunately for us, we forgot to set someone to keep watch and we were attacked by three emerald assassins. They first went after Targoth and attempted to slit his throat. He screamed and woke the rest of the party up. We began fighting and decided to leave one assassin alive. Unfortunately, before we could do much with him, he chewed on a cyanide pill and died. Targoth was really frustrated, but Jack managed to thieve 500gp. He also found a bloody scrap of paper which read:

You will find them via the enchanted map; it is on their persons.

After some discussion, we figured this meant the map we had picked up at the Borderlanders headquarters. Aideena checeds the map with a magic spell and discovered that the map was, in fact, enchanted. She successfully reversed the spell tracking it and a silver filament shot out of the map and through the roof of the tent. We quickly ran outside and were able to see that it ended in the city of Riven. We discussed what we should do with the bodies and the map and ultimately decided that we should copy the map and then throw it and the bodies in the river, which we successfully did. We then remember that Jack had Chimes of Awakening, which would allow us to hear when intruders are nearby.

After that, there was further discussion about having me use my abilities to impersonate one of the assassins, so I was forced to sit the rest of the party down to explain that my abilities have limits and that changing shape doesn’t work without practice and study. This is why I was able to convincingly sound like Targoth and Aideena; I’d spent weeks in their presence and had had time to study their habits, their voices, and their faces. Without some time and practice, my chance of complete success are incredibly small. This discussion out of the way, we decided to get some rest ahead of the competition the next morning.

The next morning we awoke and not longer after Sabian returned to us and told us it was time for the competition. According to him, a master would set each group to certain tasks and whichever group won would be allowed to enter Riven and perform for the ball. Both groups lined up in front of the master and Jacques Harle looked over at us and his eyes lingered a bit longer on Jack. He told Jack that he looked familiar and then asked if his father was a performer. He thought Jack looked like the old man and that it would lead him to a bad end. Jack retorted that the Harles were going to need all the luck they could get. The barely veiled insults were halted by the master beginning the competition. The first event was the human pyramid.

The Harles jumped into action first and tumbled into a 2-2-1 pyramid. From the top he taunted Jack about having more tricks up their sleeves than just singing and dancing. Our group was able to do a 3-2-1 pyramid and our tumbles and leaps into position were slightly more impressive than the Harles. We won the first event by a score of 21 to 20.

The next event was tumbling. Our tumbling was a bit clumsy—-especially in comparison to the Harles-—and we lost the event 25 to 21. The third event was the strongman competition; the Harles went first and one of the goliath sisters lifted a bolder and tossed it. There was absolutely no sense of style to it and her score was an 8. Onath, on the other hand, got on top of his bolder and balanced on it while using his legs to roll it around the clearing. It was much more impressive, which is why his score was a 16, enabling us to win that event.

The next event was oddities. The Harles again went first. This time, the other goliath sister lifted her shirt to reveal the pattern of a screaming face. It so terrified the judges and the populace that her score was fairly low; they only scored a 9. I went up for our group and discreetly used my abilities to shape part of my back into a slightly three dimensional woman that danced. This worked well for our party and I scored a 23, which meant we won this event as well.

The following event was sleight of hand. One of the goliath twins started juggling but quickly stopped when the master sent her a withering look of contempt. Aideena went for our group and was really impressive. She set herself on fire then juggled balls of flame with her two hands and a third magical hand. Her score was equally impressive, as she got a 28. In fact, her act was so impressive that Jacques disappearing and reappearing was almost forgettable. His score was decent, a 19, but we still won that event as well.

The next to last event was walking a tight rope high in the air. Jacques went first and was pretty impressive, though he appeared to slip slightly at the end. As a result of the near fall, he scored a 12. Jack went for our group and started ascending the ladder to get to the top. While he was climbing up, Aideena noticed that the rope appeared tenser than it was before and that where Jacques slipped, the rope was fraying at an alarming rate. Aideena called out as Jack was getting ready to step onto the rope to stop, so he killed time in a handstand while Aideena pointed out to the master that the fraying rope needed to be replaced. The rope was replaced and Aideena examined the old rope and noticed that there was a cut on one end. She tried to get a look at Jacques’ shoes, but she was unable to see if he had a knife concealed there. Meanwhile, Jack went across the rope mostly on his hands—though he also threw in some cartwheels and flips for good measure—and earned us our highest score yet, a 29.

Jack came down and Aideena showed him the rope and it was fairly clear that Jacques had tried to sabotage it. Nonetheless, the competition moved on to the final event, the song and dance. Two songs were chosen at random, one a sprightly Draconic tune, the other a slower Common one. The Harles were good and received an 18, but we were better and received a 22. As a result, we were declared the winners and allowed to enter Riven.

Before heading into the city, though, Onath and I went shopping at a couple of stalls set up in tent city. There, we bought healing potion, and I bought a talent shard as well as woundstitch powder. As we did this, Targoth and Aideena chatted about how the Harles cheated and Jack attempted to sneak through the camp to steal things. He was not entirely successful-—hindered by the broad daylight-—and found his way to the Harles tent where he had what was clearly an emotional conversation. When he came out some time later, he looked worse for wear and a bit paler than normal.

Finally, we were ready to head into Riven and did so. Sabian told us that the rest of his men were staying at a flop house in a dodgy part of the city called the Ragged Quarter. He asked us to go with him to retrieve them, so we did.

When we got to this flophouse, it appeared to be a large home that had been broken up into a series of flats. We noticed that it felt odd, as if something was wrong, and so we waited downstairs while Saiben went to get his men. As we were waiting, a woman greeted us distantly. Her husband poked his head out from behind a door and the ensuing conversation went like this in flat voices:

Woman: They’re back again.
Man: The voices?
Woman: Yes.

At the same time-—unbeknownst to the rest of the party—-the pearl that we had convinced Onath to take started vibrating wildly in his pocket and suddenly the man and woman attacked him, the woman with a knife and the man with his mind. The man stared at Onath and suddenly he attacked Aideena.

While we were fighting the man and woman, Aideena reached out with her mind and felt insanity that seemed to bleed away from the man and woman, but curiously stopped dead at Onath. He seemed to be stopping it or undoing it somehow.

I manage to kill the woman and when she died, the man got an ecstatic look on his face. He then looked at Onath and said: “They’re coming,” then dropped his knife and knelt on the floor. Blood was seeping around him in a strange way, sort of an irregular pulsing in and out then the feeling of wrongness deepened just before the man died. Right when he died, the wrong feeling stopped, and the pearl stopped beating contemporaneously.

I went to examine the room that the man and woman had come out of and discovered a small shrine which was little more than a table full of candles and symbols that glowed black. Even though I’d never seen the language before, I could hear them and knew they said “those who hear.” I then felt an overpowering desire to stay and became transfixed, hearing the words over and over again.

Almost right away, Jack came and hauled me out of the room. I was finally able to shake off the voice and the feeling of being dazed and transfixed, but not before I heard the word “listen.” I was incredibly disturbed and explained briefly what happened. Aideena and Targoth wanted to investigate it, but I warned them to be very careful; the act of repeating what the words had said caused me to have an echo of that sensation again and shudder.

Aideena approached the room with Targoth behind her, not looking at the shrine. The two stopped in the doorway and Aideena did an arcana check. She was barely able to fight off the same feeling I had described, though she took a step closer. Targoth stopped her from going in and for a brief moment she wasn’t herself, wondering why he’d stopped her when she wanted to get closer. She came to her senses quickly, though, and explained that she felt madness.

At that moment, Sabian returned with the rest of the minstrels. Upon seeing the dead bodies, he said we had to leave urgently. We couldn’t be found with them because we would be arrested; leaving was our only option, so we did and began to make our way to the Dancing Raven.

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