Bleak Rock Hold, deep within the Ashwood – Varisia
The 5th day of Pharast, 4712 AR – afternoon
(The party (minus Igmar) joins Paralictor Kolibri in his tent for conversation and light dining. Halfling servants bring cheese and wine, and then the conversation turns to Igmar, and his sins against the Laws of the Old Chelish Empire. Nadine in particular presses for the dwarf’s speedy release from prison. She points out (rightly so) that Igmar did not really attack the Hellknight squires to harm them; instead he cast his spells defensively, and ultimately injured no one.
In the end Kolibri concedes this point, but refuses to see the dwarf released. His prison-marks clearly show his guilt in other crimes, and the Law is the Law. Such is the mindset of every Hellknight. You are beginning to lose hope in the matter when another squire storms into the tent and informs the Paralictor that the prison tents at the far end of the encampment have caught fire!
Kolibri does not hesitate in his reply to this; swordsmen are summoned, and Akorian, Kymrych, Eiko, Talathel and Variel are kept in the tent under heavy guard whilst Kolibri, Nadine and Albia go to see what has occurred. When they arrive at the edge of camp they are shocked to see that the so-named prison tents have all burned to the ground, leaving only the wrought-iron cages within intact and whole. Igmar, now covered and soot and as naked as the day he was born, sits in his cage, unharmed. His prison-marks have disappeared, but he is otherwise alive and unharmed.
Nadine insists that Igmar’s condition can only be the will of the Gods, specifically Sarenrae, the Dawnflower. More importantly, without the prison sigils Kolibri no longer has any evidence in place to convict Igmar of anything! Kolibri begrudgingly accepts Nadine’s argument, and the dwarf is clothed and released, and allowed to rejoin his fellows. The attentiveness Kolibri shows Nadine on the walk back to his quarters speaks volumes of the interest the Hellknight commander holds for her.
Once the group is reunited, Kolibri orders his servants to see to it that you are fed; soon platters of simple soldier’s fare are brought in, and you eat your fill. Once your wine cups have been refilled for the second or third time Kolibri clears his throat to get your attention. The Paralictor admits that he does not have enough men to properly lay siege to the keep. Nor does he have the luxury of waiting until the orcs get hungry enough to do something foolish. He is under a great deal of pressure to end this situation as quickly as possible; King Eodred II of Korvosa demands that the orcs be out of Bleak Rock Hold within the month, and that no one outside of the immediate area know of what has happened here. So Kolibri is going to try to force the gates in a few days, with the men and equipment he already has on hand. He also tells you that it will be a difficult fight; his lieutenants are inexperienced, but loyal. He needs more veteran warriors on hand to gain victory. If you wish, you may join his forces, and help him rout the enemy. Albia has assured him you are all trustworthy and of good character. After some minor discussion you all agree to assist him, and thus begin your preparations to end the siege of Bleak Rock Hold.)
The Paralictor seems pleased that you have agreed to assist him. Thusly, he assigns a lean young Hellknight armiger to act as your liaison with the rest of the army. You notice it is the same squire you encountered when the party first arrived in camp. The young knight is brought before you, and properly introduced as Armiger Arthraxis Kolibri, the younger brother of the Paralictor. Armiger Kolibri is grim and overly serious, much unlike his older brother. But he is polite and precise, and quickly moves to see that your horses are properly quartered, and tents found to house you all. He then informs you that the Paralictor will take his dinner with you at dusk; until then you may rest, and makes your rounds of the camp as you see fit.
“They’ll be watching us very closely. You know that, don’t you?” Talathel says as the young knight strides away.
“I don’t see what difference it makes,” Akorian replies. “We have nothing to hide. Now come on. I want to see what sort of army we now have on our side.”
Talathel agrees to stay behind and watch over your gear while the rest of you explore. You leave the tents in a group, clustered closely together for mutual support as you head onward across the bustling encampment. Few passersby seem to pay you any heed. Soon you reach the picket lines of the Black Raven mercenary company, and pause to look at the ochre-hewed standard that hangs limply from the staff at the center of the camp. The Black Ravens themselves are a diverse lot; men and women from every conceivable race, religion, ethnicity and creed are seen amongst their ranks. The soldiers themselves are equipped with a wide assortment of armor and weaponry, and seem to be organized as a mixed bag of light cavalry, serried pikemen and archers afoot.
Those amongst you of a martial bent also decide that the Ravens are a very experienced crew; by the look of things they’ve already seen their share of blood and honor, and are ready for more, if the price is right. So onward you go, keen to see the rest of the army. Just on the other side of the camp stands the picket lines of the contingent of the Korvosan Guard that King Eodred has sent to deal with the orc infestation at Bleak Rock Hold. Their dull green uniform tabards and gleaming mail hint at excellent training and solid discipline; unfortunately, most of the rank and file soldiers you see in this portion of the camp are very young, and very inexperienced. What they have in new equipment and well-honed steel they lack in living through their first rendition of the Song of Blood and Fire, it seems. You watch this group for a time, noting their strengths and weaknesses, and then move on to the third billeting area in camp.
The Hellknight detachment under the command of Paralictor Kolibri is smaller than the other contingents, but it is also far more impressive in many ways. Hellknights make for some of the best heavy cavalry in all of Avistan, for they take their notions on training, tactics and battle strategy from the very Legions of Hell itself. One hundred knights of the Order of the Nail have been sent to serve on this particular battlefield, and the very Hordes of Abyss itself will not stop them from their appointed tasks, you know.
It is nearing nightfall by the time you make your way back to the Paralictor’s pavilion. It has finally stopped snowing, and the brittle night sky above dances with pinprick brilliant stars. You walk in a loose group, speaking quietly amongst yourselves. It is Variel who first realizes that the path ahead is blocked by a lone figure standing casually before you.
You all pause a moment, and let your eyes grow used to the coming darkness. The figure is obviously feminine, and very slender and tall. An elf-maid perhaps. She carries an ornate longbow and has a large, curved two-handed sword belted at her side. Her clothing is of an Elven cut, and boast the colors of the winter forest – snow-white, gray and brown. Even as you watch the patterns on her elven warder’s cloak swirl and move, seeming of their own volition.
“Greetings, Lan Silvertree. I am Laniss Sparrowhunter. I am what you would call a Lantern Bearer.” Her voice is cool and precise, and her accent strangely lilting, as if she were unused to the harsher consonants used when speaking common Taldene.
Lantern Bearer: known as the ‘Shin’Rakorath’ in the Elven Tongue, this shadowy group of elven hunters has been trailing Talathel for as long as he can remember. They oppose the drow, and claim to speak for all Elvendom – a Light Against the Darkness, if you will. Talathel looks to the young woman and casually lets his hand drift to the sword belted at his side.
“My name is Talathel, Lantern Bearer. What is it you want?”
The girl smiles oddly. “Your proper name is Lan’altherea Silvertree – that is the name you were given at birth, at least. Talathel is your father’s name. I suppose you took it as your own because of the sigil ring bearing his name that was found with you.”
As Laniss speaks Kymrych moves to stand beside the bard. His casually fits his shield to his left arm, and gently loosens his sword in its scabbard. The elven warder does not seem to notice.
Laniss continues: “I grieve for the life you have lived amongst these… People. It was not meant to be. You deserve to be with your own kith and kin. Your father’s betrayal will not be held against you, Lan. This I can promise you. But you must not be allowed to join him. He has fallen from the light, and cannot be redeemed.”
She holds out her hand. “Come with me, Lan. The Elven Kingdom of Celwynvian is just a short ride from this place, to the north and west. Leave these human lands behind, and rejoin your people. Reclaim your heritage, and step into the light.”
Talathel does not budge from his place in the center of the party. “And if I refuse?”
Laniss’ normally lovely expression grows hard. “We know the Enemy has contacted you, Lan. And made offers of their own.” Her vivid green eyes seem to drift to the drow sword belted at his side. “If you refuse to come with me, here and now, you will die here, amongst these rutting barbarians and their petty squabbles. This is your last chance; come with me, Lan. Or die – the choice is yours.”