Elder Players' - Interlude Eleven
I will be posting the e-mails I receive between the November 2001 game and the December 2001 D&D game, when they are appropriate for the whole group to read:
Javair looked down, and brushed some crumbs from his recent dinner from the front of his ornate coat. When he looked back up he had a pleased look on his face. "Jeramiah, I think that it is an excellent idea. I will leave soon for the Storm Gates...and if we succeed at bringing back summer...there will be a flow of people back to these lands. They will need guidance and religion to help them deal with the harshness of rebuilding, and to prevent the spread of chaos. You have my full support in exstablishing a monastery here in these lands."
Jeramiah was very clever, and rarely missed subtle messages imbedded in conversations. "Lord Javair, what if you don't succeed? What will happen then?"
Javair's face took a grim cast, and he reached for the harp given to him by Dutton Hobbs. He ran his fingers across the strings, and the most beautiful vibrations entered the air of the warm room. "If we fail to close the Storm Gates...others must try. You and your new friends must try. The Marked Ones must try. Thorn's men must try. The heart of this land is dead. In truth, Jeramiah...a war is coming. The giants will not allow us to close the Gates without a fight. This Keep we live in may very well be destroyed in the coming war. That is why I like your idea of a Monastery deep within these mountains...for if my Keep falls, your monastery will serve as a hidden base for us to strike back from. I have a place in mind. Let me tell you of it...."
"Javair. My people sing of the beauty of these alpine valleys: the flowering mountain slopes of spring,
the crisp air and warm sun of summer, the gathering of fall and deep sleep of winter. But alas, my eyes have never
seen these things in this land. I began my quest to close the Storm Gates following the lead of Zelagorn. But he
proved too weak to complete the task.
"Now there is a second chance with greater opportunity. You now have possession of the keys which will lock this bitterness away. Under your lead, this land can be restored. I beg of the opportunity to fulfill my destiny and personally help close the Storm Gates.
"I do no fear the giants on the other side for legend speaks of giants on this side of the gates. Legions of Giant Marmots once lived their peaceful cycle here, but now have hibernated for centuries under the ice.
"I have learned the ways of marmots in the mountains above Ludwig's Knoll, and spoken at length with them of these legendary creatures. With the proper incantations the Giant Marmots can be aroused and become an army to march against the giants.
"This is the time to move against the Giants. Do not become the second Zegalorn and waste the opportunity to become master of a beautiful, prosperous country."
Javair stood from his chair and walked towards Eytai. "Aye, at one time I might have laughed at the offer of Giant Marmots! But laugh at this offer I will not do. The coming war will require all we have...all we can muster. Every human, ork, kobold, and elf, every man, woman, and child, every sword, dagger, and pitchfork...and indeed armies of dead Azure Knights yet seeking to fulfill a pledge of honor to their King...even Giant Marmots if we must. So I accept your offer, and I thank you for it."
"But the closing of the Gates is something that you may not directly help with...for though your heart and mind are capable, your body could not make the journey. I plan to travel to Greenmark tomorrow. I would like your party to accompany me there. I must rally the minds and spirits of the people, so that while I am away...tending to the closing of the Gates...their loyalty and hope shall not waver. I will go as Moontree. I would ask you to heed my message to the people of Greenmark...and carry it to Dumit, and Rosehill, and to any other settlement of hopeful souls you can find. Tell them summer is coming...but that war with the Giants is the price we must pay."
Javair turned from Eytai, and looked at the painting of Vendra's Castle on the wall. "As for the closing of the gates. Only three of us can make that journey. Myself, for it is I who first spoke with hope of completing this mad quest. Secondly, my Captain, Jack Skull will go...for he claims to be immortal and seems to seek every opportunity to prove it. And lastly, my life-long friend Vikos will go, for his god has called him to make converts...but he seeks one last holy blood-letting to prove his mettle. We three shall go because we can and we must. If we fail...I pray that others will make the attempt...if only so that their names may be entered into the rolls of the brave dead...on the lines directly below ours...."
(from Mike C.) COLLIN'S CONVERSATION WITH JAVAIR:
Sitting in the darkness, Collin tilted his head back and let the shot of brandy slide down his throat. The fiery warmth of the liquor spread from his chest through his limbs and ultimately up to his head. Little beads of sweat formed on his forehead. Ah, now that was a feeling you just couldn't get in Gelhorn he thought. A wry half-smile crossed his face, thinking back to his recent time in the city of the dead. The place seemed like the real world for the most part, but the subtle differences weighed on your mind if you spent any time there. The place was drab. Oh there were colors and light all right, but they always seemed pale, like clothes that had been washed one to many times. And the liquor! You imagined it burned, just like this bottle of Javiar's best he'd liberated, but you were never sure if it was real or just a memory. You never got those beads of sweat!
He felt Javair enter the darkened sitting room as much as saw him. It was strange how he sensed people since he'd returned, almost as if he could feel their life-force. The older bard stood in the doorway staring at Collin who poured another shot. Collin had no idea what he was thinking, and really didn't care. He knew this conversation would come, and he knew what he had to say. Colin reached across the table and feeling around found another shot glass, probably Cedric's who'd spent the first half of the night drinking with Colin. He swabbed it out as best he could with the sleeve of his shirt and poured another shot. Gesturing for Javair to sit down, he slid the glass across the table and said "won't you join me for some of your excellent libation?"
Javair trudged around the table, a pale imitation of his usual agile self. He looked world-weary and tired, the perception only enhanced by the dim light.
Collin poured a glass while he spoke. "Aye lad, the troubles of Kingship seem to weigh heavy! Might ye wish for the brothels of Haven again?"
"I'm no bloody King, and I wish you bastards would quit calling me that!", Javair hissed. "I'm the Lord of this keep by right of my deeds, deeds which never would have been accomplished without me. You ungrateful … I've no adjectives left for you people anymore. I sometimes think I should leave you to your icy hell."
Collin drained his glass yet again, waiting for the heat of Javair's words and the brandy to subside.
"Aye, I've no doubt it may o' crossed yer mind, and ye'd be within yer right's to think it. But I'd no wish to o'fend ye tonight, nor do I seek o'fense myself. I'll admit we're not an easy folk to abide and we'll look a gift horse in the mouth and demand better. But you'll also find we're stout in a fight and given enough time to ponder yer words we'll usually ferret out any wisdom that abides within them."
Javair sat slack jawed; this was clearly not what he expected to hear from Collin
"In Gelhorn I'd an inordinate amount of time to think. No matter our differences, we share at least one goal. I'm ready to put aside thinking o' the rest until the first is done. The Storm Gates must be closed. To that end I'll bring what aid I may to bear. I kin do you no good at the gates, but if I may be so immodest, I've a way with words. You'll need the people's support and in that I can be o' 'elp. Send me 'ere you will, and I'll sing a song that will bring the common man to yer cause, and stay the hand o' the Highlanders with which you're none to poplar these days. What say ye."
Javair sat looking at the books that lined the shelves of the small sitting room they sat in. It was a small
library off of the Great Hall of the Keep. "All this knowledge...all these stories...all these carefully recorded
human and elvan words." Javair tipped back his glass, and swallowed hard. "There are songs to sing, women
to court, fields to plant...all these peaceful endevors will soon come to an end...and we will go to war with the
giants. That weighs heavily on me...heavily."
Javair put his glass down on the table, close to Collin and nodded to him to fill it. "I wonder if when the people of this land prayed for the Storm Gates to be closed...they fully understood the price they would pay?" Javair downed another drink and set the glass down up-side-down on the table.
Collin was quick to answer, "The answer's clear to me. Nothing...not one thing is more important than closin' those Gates. This 500 year winter must end...."
Javair rubbed his face and then looked up across the table directly into Collins face. "The Gates will close...this winter will end...and we'll beat the giants or we'll die, weapons clutched in our bloodied hands. When I first came to these lands...I was lost, in a sense. I was without roots. But I have found a home here...and things will not stand as they are now."
Collin smiled and poured one last drink for himself. "Well on that we agree."
Javair turned his glass back over. "One more...and then I really must sleep. I haven't answered your question yet, have I?" The older bard chuckled while Collin poured. "When I met you...as Moontree...I immediately like you. Your style of play impressed me, and your will was very strong. We spent quite a bit of time together in Greenmark...exchanging tips...sharing songs and stages." Javair paused, as if gathering his thoughts. "I was not happy with how things turned out...I had hoped to prevent your deaths...not become a factor in them. Regardless of whether you believe that or not...please believe me when I say that I not only accept your help...I am asking for it."
Collin nodded, but said nothing.
"The people need to know the struggles that have been waged on their behalf...the efforts made by your friends...and the other group of Marked Ones. They need to understand that soon the Gates shall close. I want you to travel to Dumit...to Rosehill...and throughout the land, and spread the word of what our future can hold. Tell them summer is coming...but that war with the Giants is the price we must pay."
"Aye, I'll accept yer task" Collin replied. "This life weighs 'eavy on me since my return, so I'd 'ave it 'old some meaning if I'm to bear it. We've plenty o' time to talk of Kings and succession once the battle is won. My only counsel is we canna abide another good King Seneca! For all the good he wrought, we've paid mightily these last five hundred years."
Javair smiled sleepily. "I'm no more a King, than you...or Oren...or Zeek! But I'm Lord of this Keep, and
I consider this Kingdom my home. I have since the day I got here...and Merrick and her followers greeted me in
a snowy glen. I have no intention to make myself King...."
Collin filled both glasses one more time, Javair making no move to stop him.
"Another dead soldier, I'll wager it'll not be the last we see."
Raising his glass Collin offered a toast.
"To warmer days, and absent friends, may the Lord of Gelhorn o'r look ye one more day!"
Javair nodded. "I've been to Gellhorn once...to find Vikos. May Hiser take us...."
With that both men raised their glasses in a silent salute and quickly drained them. Javair rose to leave. Walking from the room, he paused beside Collin and briefly clasped his shoulder. Then he disappeared from the room, leaving Collin sitting by himself with several more hours yet to wait for the dawn. Since his return Collin had slept only infrequently. He'd lie down but the peace of sleep would not overtake him. Occasionally he'd slip into the half world between sleep and wakefulness, where terrible images of the dead would haunt him. The memory usually kept him from even trying. Yes there was a price for returning to the world of the living Collin thought, one that he wasn't sure he could continue to pay. For now though he'd sit in the dark, and wait for another dawn.
Every night was a feast at the Azure Keep. There was always some Goblin Prince or Foreign Ambassador visiting
on some matter of great import. Will didn't like having to learn a whole new set of players. He already knew who
the power brokers in Citadel were, and learning the political landscape was something he'd always had to force
himself to do anyway. But learn it he would. If he were to follow Baron Shelby's advice, he'd need to understand
the politics of this new court and use the knowledge to his advantage.
Will had decided that tonight would be the night he'd approach Javair. The current guest was a fat merchant prince from the Empire, whose boorish conversation would make a condemned man long for the release of his execution. However tonight he would not be the one to take a stroll on the parapets with Javair for an after dinner cigar. The fat slob had eyes for one of the serving wenches and a few well-placed Imperial Kerns had ensured he'd be distracted after dinner. Tonight Will would share a cigar with Javair!
The wind blew cold across the parapets of the Azure Keep. Will shivered and in the back of his mind once again wondered if seeking his destiny in this cold, Gods forsaken, windswept land was really the right career choice. The logical part of his mind quickly shoved aside such thoughts. After William George FitzPierce made a decision, by Kempin he did not waver from it without good cause, and a cold wind did not qualify as such. Turning the conversation from small talk, Will began: "Lord Javair, pardon by forwardness but I've been thinking of the future of this land. You will be needing men with a strong hand to help take hold of this Kingdom. The people are scattered and fearful. Commerce is difficult and defense unorganized. If the Kingdom is to win the coming war with the giants that you predict, then you will need to organize a defense of your lands. You will need experienced and strong military men for the project. I feel I have much to offer you in this regard and am eager for the opportunity. If you would but grant me a fief, I will pledge to you my sword in defense of this Kingdom. I have recently received letters from friends in the Empire inquiring about opportunities within the Azure Kingdom (note to the DM, Will has recently taken the feat Leadership, and this is an attempt to role-play that). I would propose to bring these men here and form a cadre of experienced soldiers to defend a fief. I also plan to encourage my new friend Jeramiah to raise his church in such fief as you may see fit to grant me. The advantages to you are obvious. From this fief you could count on loyalty, as its leaders would be unattached to any political alliances or rivalries that may currently exist. You could count on professional military service; to help organize and defend the fief as well as help with field armies you would need to raise to execute any offensive actions against the giants. I believe such a decision would serve you well in the coming war."
Javair stood looking from the porch outside the Upper Gates. The night air was very brisk, and thick white condensation mixed with the smoke coming from his nose and mouth, only to be taken away by the wind. "This Kingdom has no King...and I have only my own fief to give...a fiefdom that I took, and was not given. I think your offer is generous, and righteous. But instead of a fiefdom, allow me to give you some advice. Bring the Empire soldiers here...fight the good fight in this war that is coming...and take yourself a fiefdom. Pick you land, and then protect your people in such a way that they insist you rule them. These people have hardy souls, and they will not suffer a tyrant...but they will accept a Lord."
Will looked perplexed. "But there are rules, and protocol...ways of doing these things. You are as much a King as any in these parts, and your promise of land would hold weight among the people...."
Javair continued to stare down at the frozen lake that lie at the foot of the Mountain of the Azure Keep. "Will, did you see the ruins at the base of this mountain? The frozen city on the shore of the lake below?" Will nodded, and Javair continued. "When summer comes, a great diverse city will grow there. Man, ork, goblin, kobolds...and who knows what else will live there...working together, trading their respective goods, making a life...and a city, from nothing. And they will feel safe, because I will protect them. The people of this Kingdom look to me for leadership not because I am their King, but because I intend to give them the one thing they want most in the world...Summer. Carve yourself out a piece of this frozen Kingdom, and earn the right to rule it. Grant yourself a fiefdom, Will...then it will truly be yours...."
Will stood on the battlements finishing his cigar. He was trying to decide if he'd really heard what he thought
he'd just heard. Seize his own lands? What did he mean there was no King? This place was truly barbaric. No place
for a proper Imperial soldier, he'd send word to his superior tomorrow, and see if he couldn't get another assignment
in a least a slightly more civilized land. Damn this place is cold, he thought.
Walking back to his room though Javair's words wouldn't leave him. So there was no real authority here? A man could just carve his own place! Yes it was barbaric, but mastering your own destiny, that did have a sort of primitive appeal. No more having to learn someone else's court. No more political games. No more hoping someone else would notice how good you were, and maybe throw you a commission or posting. You'd be the one others would seek to curry favor with, how strange would that be?
By the time he reached his room, Will had made up his mind. He'd have a go. He could always go back to the Empire later. Maybe even with honors and gold if things worked out well. Perhaps he would return to the Empire a powerful political player of his own right. Javair was correct. This was an opportunity. He'd just had to be bold enough to seize it. And an Imperial soldier was nothing if he wasn't bold! He'd go to the library tonight and start making some sketch maps, looking for likely places in which to establish himself. Somewhere that had been heavily populated at one time and still held a remnant population would be best. Especially if it had an abandoned hold. Also someplace with a quarry. The blue stone would certainly give him a leg up and bring fat Empire merchants to his door. Yes, like the one up stairs, he smiled to himself. Up stairs! He'd better hurry up and write some letters tonight as well. He'd need to encourage some of his friends in the Empire to join him and that fat merchant was heading back to Citadel tomorrow! He pulled his cloak back on and began wandering down to the kitchen for some coffee. It was going to be a long night. Once Will got something in his head he wouldn't rest until it was done.
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