Friday, September 02, 2005

Chapter 12. Aug 20, 2005

Without delay we took to the road in desperate hope that Arrak’s council might help us to find the old sage alive. Joining us was the messenger, Rudegar, who after a bit of persuasion on Taliesin’s part finally agreed to subject himself to the transformation, which was now familiar to the rest of us. And thus in the form of falcons we made haste for the Free City. While it normally takes a full four days to cover the distance to Glamis on foot, on powerful wings we made the journey in less than a day, setting down within sight of the city just as the spell wore off. After a further hour of hiking we arrived at the city gates, shortly after the onset of night. The gates were guarded by a watch consisting of four orcs of the Steel Skull clan, who readily let us pass after having examined a few of our bags. Inside the city Rudegar led us directly to Arrak’s lordly home, obviously unaware of our previous visits, where at the front door we were courtly welcomed by Arrak’s butler. With his usual detached attire the butler without much ado showed the way through the house to the sitting room where his master waited.

It was immediately apparent that Arrak had somehow received fast tidings about the disappearance of Elÿas and of the presence of dragons in Hammersdale. Greatly concerned on behalf of his old friend, Arrak had therefore promptly initiated his own inquiries. So far his contacts had reported a group of black-clad men fitting the description from Hammersdale, who were traveling north. In turn Taliesin gave a detailed recollection of all we had discovered in Elÿas’ house and learned from the Soul of Saint Drayan, e.g. the kama, the Sword of Five Virtues, the mithril amulet, etc. The old wizard listened carefully to his every tale and speculation, never once revealing whether he already knew that which was told or what his true feelings was. In conclusion he asked if he could keep the kama for investigation, as it could perhaps reveal the whereabouts of its owner. Likewise, when showed the Ankh of Voices, Arrak offered to take it off our hands for a generous price. When refused, he merely commented that this priceless artifact could no doubt bring in a fortune if sold into the “wrong” hands. All together there was something about our mysterious host, which made Anarion later suggest that Taliesin should be more careful about his tongue in the future. In his opinion, the half-elf had been a bit too trusting and open-mouthed, especially since the wizard had already once proved to be a man whose motives were entirely his own. This was agreed upon. As we eventually departed, Arakk gave us a token to show in a nearby inn, The Tankard and Bottle, which he warmly recommended. This inn was located in Carriage Street, between the Great Market and the Horse Market.

The next few days Taliesin spent locked in his room, magically investigating our many findings. Meanwhile the rest of us tried to find information pertaining to the Sword of Five Virtues and Dava-Notar, alas without much success! And so passed several days until at eventide on the fourth day, we were once again summoned to the house of Arakk, whose master had clearly fared better than we. Using the kama the wizard had magically discerned Elÿas’ location to that of a remote fortress on the great plains to the north, called the Grey Fields. Moreover, a letter from one of his contacts at the Great Library in the Monastery of Dusk, a man called Seneschal, named his kidnappers.

Seneschal's letter to Arakk

Evidently there was no time to waste, and hence at first dawn we left Glamis in our bird forms, in the direction of the Grey Fields and Hoit’s Tower. Though our first day of traveling was hindered by strong winds and rain, we managed to reach as far as Killraven, where we made ready to camp in the ruins, when suddenly an ogre barbarian and three hobgoblins appeared out of the woods to launch an ambush. We swiftly dealt with these attackers, who proved to be carrying many magic items of some value on them. Early the next morning, we ascended a quarter of a kilometer to reach the barren and unforgiving lands of the Grey Fields. For two days we flew over these wide open fields, where only grass and moss will grow and where the temperature drops to just above freezing even in summer time. Finally, in the late afternoon on the second day, Hoit’s Tower came into sight, rising in the distance from a small hilltop, the only one within miles and miles.

Next morning, in the unsuspecting form of sparrows, we approached the fortress, spending the better part of the day studying the activities of the inhabitants and looking for possible clues to Elÿas’ whereabouts. It was immediately obvious that the use of a frontal attack could only suffer a dire fate, since we were hopelessly outnumbered and outmatched by the force of the monks. And hence stealth was called for.

The fortress of Hoit’s Tower consists of a number of smaller two or three-storey buildings, whereas the central one seems to be the dining hall, since at dinnertime most of the monks gather there for about an hour. What is more, a foul aura emanates from the building directly opposite the gates and thus appears to be the center of their dark worship. All together an aura of malevolence covers the entire fortress, leaving little doubt about the black hearts of its inhabitants. Nor does the presence of the many cadavers and skeletons lying around everywhere.

On the second day, Taliesin returned alone during dinnertime to scout for his uncle and for the amulet using his spells. He returned with evidence that the signet ring Elÿas used to carry was to be found in the two-storey building standing tall on the small hill in the outer wall, while the amulet was in the central building. With this knowledge we spent the night planning our next move…

The next day, shortly before the monks would have dinner, Taliesin cast a Fly spell on everyone and we carefully approached the backside of the fortress cloaked by invisibility. On the top floor of the building, where Taliesin still sensed the signet ring, the half-elf magically wrought a hole in the wall of stone, and we began a fast search of the building. Guided by the magical imprint of the signet ring, we quickly moved downstairs, where we ran into a guard. Shocked by the sight of a door opening out of nothing, it was easy for Duncan to strike him down. Unfortunately, the sound of battle had alerted two guards posed outside the front door, and since Duncan was now visible, they had now no problem in seeing him. Fortunately, we managed also to strike them down before others could be alerted, and while Taliesin created two illusionary guards outside, Luke went on to search the room, where the signal ring supposedly was stored. True enough, here in the office was the ring, but there was no sign of Elÿas.

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