Having reached the Greenbirth at last, the party views a military camp (perhaps 100 soldiers) on the beach from an overlooking hill. They review their options and Eldorin issues a cryptic caution: “I cannot say much, as I am bound by a sacred oath, but suffice it to say that it is possible that either Walter or Eraneth might not be who they appear to be, and either could have power well beyond our own. Let us take caution with our actions here.”
Fyrsson grumbles about Elves and starts off toward the camp, others following while Orieth flies ahead, noting some large, dangerous birds about. The camp is made of about ten large barracks tents positioned by a dock, with several war clippers docked and guarded. Also off the dock is a large, two-storey wooden building.
Fyrsson approaches a tent marked with a symbol: a circle with a sinuous line crossing it from left to right (This is “O-group”). He speaks with two dwarves standing out front. They are surprised and maybe concerned to see Elves with the party, but they say sorely that “They’re in charge over there” in the next tent over, and new recruits should “talk to Walter, in that tent over there,” and that they came “from Carn Orn when it was poisoned, and disasters were foretold,” having nowhere else to go — at least here they might find work. They describe their routine, which involves daily training for naval combat.
Venmar points to the wooden building, mentions, “I’ll be at the tavern if you need me!” and saunters off.
Eldorin decides it’s best for him not to be noticed in this camp. He pulls his hood over his head and the group splits up: Fyrsson and Baranel head toward a nearby tent to the south, near Walter’s tent; Nilbud wanders to the north; and Eldorin walks to the next tent over.
- Eldorin enters a tent with a mark looking like a “T” with branches sticking off it (“T-group”). One sole halfling is inside, named Torleaf Halfleg. He seems decent but unhelpful. He directs new recruits to Walter’s tent.
- Nilbud finds a crew of bandits to the north, seemingly led by a giant man (Tyren) sharpening his greataxe and eating a chicken leg. Some women wrestle on the ground. Tyren pets an oversized mastiff and tells Nilbud proudly that their group (“Y-group”) is in charge of pillaging on the open seas, but then seems dismissive to Nilbud. Nilbud offers to wrestle the dog and Tyren looks at her like she’s an idiot but nods his head. Nilbud quickly pins the dog to the ground, cuffing its head—but Tyren pulls her off the dog before anyone gets hurt. “All right, you can wrestle. Why don’t you head off somewhere else.” She wanders further north, to a flattened field where soldiers spar.
- Fyrsson & Baranel go to the tent between the first one and Walter’s — it shows the O-group symbol like the first one with the Dwarves, but these humans insultingly scoff at the dirty Elf and Dwarf, telling Fyrsson to go back to the Dwarf tent where he belongs — and that Elves don’t belong here, she should talk to Walter if she really wants to be here. Fyrsson resists the urge to fight them, and they leave.
After that round…
- Eldorin decides to lay lower, sitting on the ground behind a tent, fixing some problem with his boot, but really whispering via cantrip to Baranel: “Orieth will go with you and be my eyes. Do not be alarmed. You do not know me.” Baranel replies: “We don’t?”
- Nilbud wanders into the sparring field where sailors loiter; she talks to them casually, saying she’s on her Greenrite. They tell her their group (T-group) is charged with capturing some island, and they practice launching attacks on and offshore.
- Fyrsson & Baranel go to the tavern with Orieth perched on Baranel’s shoulder and Eldorin perceiving through Orieth’s senses. They speak with some drunken sailors and Fyrsson tricks them into describing their duties: O-group is set for raiding & plundering some castle called Arcaibh, a Darkhold — they plunder this place regularly. (Odd — aren’t Darkholds abandoned?)
While they remain in the tavern, Eldorin whispers to Baranel’s ear again: “Baranel, are you two willing to go to Walter?” She looks at Fyrsson, who, wondering why she’s looking at him, says “Yes?” She replies to Eldorin: “Yes.” He says: “Good. You are two acquaintances who met on the road looking for work. You still do not know me or anyone else from our party. Orieth will remain my eyes, but if you are asked, she is with you.”
- Baranel & Fyrsson enter Walter’s tent. Two “stone men” stand silent guard outside, and inside, beyond a rich carpet there is a simple bed with a chest at its foot, a workbench with notes, maps, and instruments. A fire burns in the center, a strangely marked circle is marked on the ground in one corner, and a finely-wrought man made of steel stands watch in the opposite. “We were told to come see Walter,” says Baranel. Walter — an unassuming old man who is not recognized by any of the party — says, “Who are you? An Elf, here?” He inspects Orieth warily and asks: “Is that yours? Are you … one of those Druids of the North?”
- Baranel replies: “I don’t think any creature can belong to another, but she is with me, yes. The North? Which Druids? I am a Druid, but not one of ‘those’ Druids, whoever they are!”
- “And yet you wish to work here — with us?”
Fyrsson steps in: “We just want work. We were told there was work here. Is there some reason we wouldn’t want to work here? What is it you’re doing here? Why would we not want to work here?”
- “Who are you both? Where have you come from?”
- “Fyrsson and Baranel. We met on the road not long ago, looking for work. Baranel seems to be some kind of Druid, and I serve the Bronze Dragon Brondurium.”
- Walter pauses. “You should both leave this place. You do not belong here. Begone.” They leave the tent, taking careful note of their surroundings, and Eldorin notes Walter’s possessions carefully: an ornate wizard’s staff, a necklace, many rings. There is a chest in the back near the bed, and a sack sits on it.
- Meanwhile, Nilbud challenges a sailor to a boxing match and swiftly humiliates him. He gets up and sorely walks away, glowering. She starts to wander back toward the south, and the rest of the group.
They all meet up quietly and head to the north to discuss, and the Elves notice some people further north, surreptitiously spying on them. The party waves goodbye to each other and fans out, each heading north but separately. The spies try to leave but Fyrsson gets their attention with a Thunderwave, and then amiably attracts them. All converge.
The spies are some of those “Druids of the North”, who have been tailing Walter for some time and spying on this camp, looking for ways to upset his operation. The party reveals that they share this goal, and all compare notes, agreeing that the camp’s goals will be carried out within a day, meaning there is no time to seek outside help. They slowly form a plan. The Druids agree to play a role, and they will be ready three hours after sunset as agreed. They head off, away from the camp, and the plan is put into action….
Nilbud takes a windup and punches Fyrsson square in the mouth and a few times in the eye, giving him a nice shiner. Fyrsson grunts but takes it before parking outside camp to rest up a bit. Then Baranel goes away from the main camp to bathe in the ocean water, and Eldorin and Nilbud go to the tavern to rent a room. The barkeep explains how the building was here long before the camp was, and no one knows what it was before. Nilbud introduces herself and the barkeep says, “Hey, I think we had a chest somewhere in the basement for ‘Underfoot’. You’re free to go look for it!” Eldorin & Nilbud pick up their jaws and Nilbud goes downstairs to search through rooms full of junk while Eldorin goes upstairs to the room.
- Baranel, now clean, shows up at the inn/tavern and finds her way to Eldorin in the room.
- Nilbud takes a while downstairs but does find the locked chest with an ornate “U” on the lock. She takes it with her outside and leaves it with Ester the donkey, well outside the camp.
- Eldorin scouts the room and its view out the window: the prize vessel across the dock. Thirteen guards keep watch over it below their window. Somewhere down below, he hears a rooster crow its final death-crow. “Must be supper-time,” he thinks.
- Venmar meets them in the room and they relate his part of the plan. He nods grimly.
- Fyrsson nurses his bruises, which are purpling nicely.
They all finish a short rest and wait until three hours after sunset.
It’s night. Fyrsson takes his axe and gouges his lip, which blooms fresh blood — along with his bruised face and general Dwarven countenance, he looks a foul sight. He makes for the Dwarves’ tent from the O-group – the same Dwarves he first spoke with. “Those bastards! The humans – our ‘bosses’! They said – augh! They think they’re better than us! We need to show them who’s boss around here!! Who’s with me?!” The Dwarves look around, get mad, and grab their weapons. They all follow Fyrsson, who leads them to the O-group human area and charges — blasting the front man with a column of holy radiance before thickening in the ranks and then hastily escaping the ensuing battle….
Venmar, “conveniently” sitting nearby, jumps up and starts yelling about a fight broken out to anyone who will listen.
Eldorin, watching from the window of their room at the inn, sees the column of radiance and signals to Baranel & Nilbud. “It is time.”
Baranel casts a spell of swiftness on Nilbud, then changes form into that of a snake and slithers into Nilbud’s pocket. Eldorin empties the packet of dust over Nilbud and the snake, and they disappear from view. Eldorin watches the room door open and close, as invisible Nilbud and Baranel make for Walter’s tent.
Eldorin sends Orieth out the window and off to the north, then waves a hand at the bed and it ignites. He turns to the window and stretches out his hand, sending a fiery blast to the sail of the prize ship across the dock, which is engulfed in flame. He exits the room, taking his pack, and calmly strides downstairs and out along the dock — at this point, Venmar runs up the dock, calling to anyone about a fight in camp. The ship guards stare blankly, but then his face catches a glow from above, and they all realize the sail is on fire. Venmar runs back down the dock, still yelling about the fight.
Orieth reaches the Druids and flaps her wings, wheeling about back to the camp. They nod and rise silently, making for the docks. They stick to the shadows and creep under the docks, readying their fire magic for the dock — but are stopped by a horde of giant crabs under the docks! One Druid gets off a spurt of flame, but is crushed to death in a huge pincer. The others escape with their lives….
Invisible, her steps quickened, Nilbud creeps into Walter’s tent with snake-form Baranel in pocket, both unnoticed by the stone wardens. They see a prone form in the bed — he’s wearing Walter’s robes, but this is no human: it’s an ancient Elf. The steel golem does not see them, but they can see the arcane staff lying against the chest, and the Elf “Walter” seems to be in meditation — he certainly wouldn’t be sleeping.
Turning visible, Nilbud grabs the necklace from Walter’s neck, puts it on his own neck — the Elf’s eyes flick open — then grabs the staff and clamps a hand on the Elf’s mouth. Baranel flops out on the ground.
Eldorin & Fyrsson approach the tent at the same time and meet there, unsure whether to enter. Eldorin whispers a message to Nilbud: “What is your status?” — the reply: “Holding Walter down in his bed; have his staff!” Eldorin dashes straight toward the tent but Fyrsson bursts right past him, running past the stone golems, who begin to move….
Inside, in a blink, Walter and Nilbud have switched positions — Nilbud on the bed and Walter has grabbed the sack from the chest and is stepping back away, calling to the elements all around. Man-like forms rise from the sands below. The steel golem strides over to the bed to menace Nilbud, but Nilbud escapes to run over to ‘Walter’. Baranel, at the foot of the bed, suddenly expands to the form of a great bear, facing off against the golem. Fyrsson bursts into the tent across the rug, which springs to life and thrashes at him, missing but still threatening. Eldorin follows more carefully, dodging the rug and hurling a magical web into the doorway to slow the entry of the stone golems… then Eldorin turns and sees the Elf, and calls to him:
“Maegwir, my old friend: let us cease this madness. There is no need for hostility.”
“Call off your friends.”
“Halt!” says Eldorin, and all cautiously stop fighting. “Explain your actions, Maegwir.”
“I am not the enemy, Eldorin. I know not what Finoriel told you, but you are on the wrong side.”
“Convince me. I would love nothing more than to believe you, but you must give me at least one reason to trust what you say.”
“Finrodel betrayed us. He planned to take the Flame of Therilor and use it against us.”
“And so you took it instead? You confess you wield it even now?”
“I have it.” Maegwir (“Walter”) nods to the sack in his hand, inside of which something glows visibly. “I must keep it until we are able to stand against him, but he is too powerful. If I can but get inside the Wyrmspire and learn what they know of the Flame, we may stand a chance.”
Eldorin pauses. “Let me help, Maegwir. If betrayal has faced the the Circle, I will not stand by while others fight to protect it. I will stand against it! How can I help?”
“Yes! Can you go to Wyrmille and get inside the Wyrmspire? This would help greatly. You can find me at Arcaibh, at the Circle of Brodgar. You can send your owl.”
Eldorin looks at his companions. “We could do this. But why? Merely show me how the devastation you have wrought these past few weeks does not condemn you.”
“The monsters — the beasts, grown to unusual size — the creatures twisted by madness, rage, and hunger.”
Fyrsson bellows, to Maegwir’s dismay: “Everywhere you have passed, you have left a trail of misery and destruction!”
Maegwir presents a shocked face. “It must be the Flame.”
Eldorin looks to him. “If you retire to this island keep at Arcaibh, you will take the Flame with you and remove it from the presence of these beasts? This could keep the madness at bay while we build strength and get to Wyrmille.”
“Yes. Find me, Eldorin!” Maegwir waves a hand and disappears. All the constructs freeze in position — now apparently lifeless.
The party turns all their eyes to Eldorin, and close on him. Baranel in form of bear growls, engages, and pins Eldorin against the tent post. Fyrsson looks at Eldorin and says: “Talk. NOW. Everything.”
Eldorin sighs, and then speaks….