Still picking on the crusted salt, Lerithyn sets the quill down and unwraps his tools once more. He pulls a scraper, brush and file from his tools and once again begins to scrape the salt off of Major's chassis. "I prefer travelling by land myself," he says absentmindedly, "as I was once accustomed to flying above the lands of man to the sacred sky-cliffs. I may enjoy running the ropes again." He pulls a clump of salt off, sprinkling a bit on the table in a small pile to save for the food once it arrives. "But I think we're intended to travel the sea, as you say. Perhaps it's for the better."
"Travelling the sea we'll need a small crew, navigation will be hard, the seas may swallow us, and we may encounter better crews than us." Another clump of salt falls.
"Travelling the river we'll be constantly going upstream, we'll have to deal with climbing cliffs around the river for higher ground... which is easy given the nature of our boat, and we'll be dealing with flora and fauna from both the rivers and the jungle around us. Eventually we'll reach the Fangs and still only be half-way to our destination." Another clump of salt falls.
"Travelling by land will be slow going through the jungle with the ruins that are scattered throughout, the uncertainty of danger, and the thought that once we're out we'll only be at the Fangs." Another clump of salt falls and he turns his attention back to his companions. "Thoughts?"
Silent since they reached the Chapterhouse, Ra'sakar began sending telepathic messages to everyone.
Going by sea - not only are those waters treacherous, but we'd be passing by a community that is very unfriendly to boats not from their own land, and we'd be passing by the desert. I don't believe any of us know the ways of the desert. I'd prefer to avoid the Marsh of Desolation too. Perhaps we walk to the Hydra, and start following it near Titan's Teeth. That way we can ensure that we do not get swept towards the Dread Lake, on the far side of the continent to our goal. The Roil is hardly a problem - in fact, it is more of a tool for us. Having lived within its grasp for so long, I've learned a few tricks to manipulate it. Oh and Larithyn, you really shouldn't be damaging the table like that - it might cost you extra. The map is close enough, by which I mean that the general locations are true, but that is good enough for our needs - I know the exact paths to the landmarks along the red marked path.
After a moment or two pass as the others unravel the long thought he sent them, he reaches into his cloak, and pulls out a bottle of gin.
This bottle of Kuryeva gin is a gift to the scholars. While I don't drink, I've heard that its very popular and sought after in Khorvaire.
To Cassiel alone this time:
You reacted strangely to my earlier telepathy. You are not fond of mental communication, or did you think that your angelic guide was haunted? Nonetheless, you seem like a capable arcanist, so it would be good so see you communicating with the others in the Common tongue only for now. I'd like the secrets between us all to be at a minimum. While I can skim your surface thoughts for the gist of a comment, I'm the only one in the party, and the translation wouldn't be anywhere near perfect.
Lerithyn continues, "Assuming sea travel is uneventful and the wind favors us, we can sail approx. 100 miles per day meaning we will arrive in approx 50 days. Travelling by land at a slow pace through the jungle at 6 miles per day averaging the 6 miles due to the changing terrain, mountains, and general obstacles in our path, we'll reach our destination in 3 years. One and a half years if everything is perfect." He tilts his head at Ras, "Thoughts?" A clump of salt falls.
Once again, you forget the Roil. It could be only a week. Likely a month. If we are unlucky, two. But the sea route has dangers and costs we are not equipped to handle. Sahuagin roam the oceans, and the community fires on any ship not from their homeland. There is the cost of a crew, unless you three scholars know how to operate a boat, and we'd be passing by the desert too, and if we crashed, we wouldn't survive a day. I know the jungle. Aukan knows the mountains. Hmm... Perhaps rather than trekking across the frostlands, once we reach them, we take the boat around Dowron's Shield to our destination. I feel that is our best bet.
Ra'sakar traces his ideal path, the red line, sticking close to the river, but not entering, and diverts from the original path at the Valley of Shadows. From there, he traces a path directly southwest to the ocean, and then traces his finger around Dowron's Shield.
"The cost of a crew, you think?" He nods to the scholars, "Will the Wayfinder's Guild not provide for this expedition?" On an aside, "If we're to expect the Roil to be to our advantage, why even look at a map?" He tilts his head, "The Kor travel this place in pilgrimages that last decades. Do you believe them lost for not arriving in a fortnight?"
"Forgive me. I'm merely trying to understand your thoughts." He stops scraping salt from Major and looks directly at Ra'sakar, "I feel your ego may be getting in the way of rational thought. We are travelling from one side of this continent to another and you expect the Roil to provide us with a clear path?"
Well, I wasn't given any details for this trip. I was only informed that it was happening three days ago, and that you two would know the details. Regardless, The wind is another factor you have to consider on the boat, and the fan feather has limited usage. The map is for the scholar's benefit, I've memorised the jungles, and if we were to trace the actual path I suggest, it would look far more random. They are hardly lost - the grasp of the Roil is weaker in the skies. I lived in the jungle alone for a century, and used that time to learn. To learn my abilities, and to learn the Roil. The path will not be clear - at some points we will seem to double back on ourselves, but I know the path to the Fangs, and ran it many times. That would be about a third of our travel time, unless Aukan learns how to manipulate the Roil in that time. If he does learn it, then our journey through the mountains should be brief, and the majority of our journey will be the sea-travel. If we can find someone to manipulate the wind even past the limits of the fan, then I have less objection to the boat, but I am wary of being stranded in the middle of the ocean with sahuagin surrounding us.
Ra'sakar directs the start of this thought only at Lerityhn and Major, but the rest is for all of their group to hear. Ra'sakar's nimble elven hands are tapping on the table impatiently, wanting the decision to be made soon so that he might return home to his daughter for one last night before setting out.
"I have been on a boat twice in my life," admits Aukan. "Land is definitely more familiar terrain, but I feel I could learn something by being out at sea for a time. The waters would be much faster..." He ponders the proposed routes given by the guides and his companions, and then inspiration strikes him while looking at the Flamewind box.
"Lerithyn, you say we have in our possession a box that can become a boat. I'm assuming it can return to the form of a box at will? Why not take advantage of that property? If it is dangerous to be at sea for long periods of time, then let us use the boat to hug the coast, disembarking from the boat each night and collapsing it to keep it concealed. We will make camp along the shores, and each morning we will pop the boat open once again and continue in this fashion until we arrive at Dowron's Shield. If we run into trouble at sea, land will not be far and we can continue on foot until we are clear of danger, then return to the waters." Aukan traces his finger along the yellow-lined path already on the map, agreeing with that general route but remaining closer to land.
"However, if the seas around the Menachtarun desert are as treacherous as Ra'sakar suggests, we could take the waters as far as The Wasting Plain, continue on foot through the Fangs of Argarak, hook west to Dar Qat, and finish the journey by boat." Aukan marks a path in green to highlight his suggestion. "With this route, we could avoid the dangers of the jungle, the desert, and the frost lands, while making use of the boat for maximum safety and speed." While Aukan is happy to present this idea and contribute to the group discussion, he gives deference to the more experienced guides to make the final decision on an exact path.
Dar Qat is off limits to those not of Riedra. They are aggressive to outsiders, and Tal Esk is an outpost for Dar Qat. It is best to avoid that place at all cost. Perhaps the Green Path until it meets the Red, and then we take the alternative route I suggested earlier?
Ra'sakar adds a purple path to the map, marking this new suggestion. So long as they avoid the open water, the desert, and Dar Qat, however, he doesn't mind the final route they choose.
"I think Ra'sakar's modified route will work well," Lerithyn says, nodding to the group. "Jump between ship and land as the tides, wind, and weather permits, continue south until we hit ocean, cut through the Shield." He tilts his head, "The best part is, we can adjust our route and travel plans as needed since we won't be stuck out at sea or completely lost to the wilderness at any single step of the journey." He seems satisfied with the results, "Are we agreed?"
Sorgen, who was silent and lost in thought while listening to the Zendikari discussing the route, liked where the plan was going.
He wanted to find the fabled lost city of his father, or the mysterious and hidden inner sea. This new path offered a chance to explore most of the places he wanted to see in the shortest time. Because yes, time was a factor. His heart more than his mind knew it. Ignoring the thought that he might have been chosen for this purpose by intelligences greater than his own, he decides to try to vote for this new, reasonable and amply discussed route.
"I agree with Ra'sakar this time. This path combines most of the speed of water travel while avoiding the most treacherous waters, and on foot it might get us through lands that are at the very least not claimed by anyone except from the spirits of the land..." - He noted puzzled looks, looking up from the map to the eyes of the companions. - "... If there are such entities at all." - He continued. - "I won't hide from you that I hope to find some help along the way. I happen to be the son of a famous local expeditioner, and although life took me far from here, his name and legacy might still open some doors in the inner... Regions. I also appreciate that Aukan is confident about traveling on foot. As he says, even if we have been given means to travel the waterways, these means are not bounding us to the coasts or rivers like a physical vessel and crew would: we can alternate fast travel by boat to stealth on land. I must confess I think they have given us these means for more than just utility: it must have some significance. But that's why I like this latter option: it makes us start and finish the way they want us to, without binding us to a... Strict course of action. "
Sorgen always wanted to leave as many options open when it came to movement and travel. That was the message he felt embedded in the nature of his patron, and he was not going to fight it, especially when all the gifts he had been imbued with were confirming he should always be unfettered.
After Ra'sakar's last mind communication with Cassiel he felt a bit ashamed to have brought distrust to his new companions, so he decides to say in hushed tones: Friends, sorry for my privet talks with myself in different languages, even though Aukan understands one of them. I must be honest with you as we start this journey together; evil follows me in the form of a corruption to my soul but also I bring goodness to protect others from it. Ra'sakar I would ask that you speak to me with your physical voice because my mind is already crowded and I it is hard to keep in control of myself, Adriel and Barachiel.
Lowering his eyes to the maps for what seems the first time Cassiel speaks: Barachiel and I see wisdom in alternating land travel with water travel since water bound creatures cannot track us on land and vice versa, so if we would be tracked we would have better chances to avoid leaving a path in the same travel way. And since Adriel is against this path I have more reasons to take it. When saying this last bit Cassiel is almost looking straight to his right.
Very well everyone. I bid you a good night, and shall see you on the morrow by the West gate of Stormreach - we'll start our travel on land, so I can see how you handle a night in the forest. If you can do that, I'll let you hear my voice. I hope you have a lovely night in the Chapterhouse. I'm off to spend another night with my daughter before we leave for dangerous lands.
As this thought reaches the minds of the others, Ra'sakar wipes away the markings drawn on the map (ah, magical technology, it has wonderful uses), and more carefully redraws the decided upon path. He then gets up and leaves the Chapterhouse for his own house, near the gate he mentioned.
Oh, and be wary of pickpockets in that part of town - they run rampant there.
Lerithyn nods to Ras and seems to notice Cassiel for the first time, "You are three in one? Fascinating." He's half-tempted to ask if he can examine him, but the thought of touching someone pushes that temptation far from his mind. "Do you make your own decisions, or are they able to control your actions as well?" Lerithyn also seems to notice the stew in front of him for the first time. He grabs the bowl in both hands and slurps a little up, adds salt from his stash on the table, slurps some more, then seems satisfied. He slurps it periodically. "Can you tell us more about these other personalities?"
Aukan catches Cassiel's eyes and meets his gaze in admiration. There is strength in a man who can openly share such inner workings of his mind. "Evil follows each of us to some extent. You are not alone here. Whatever your demons, they will smash against my shield before they reach you." Aukan pounds the table twice for good measure, considering the matter settled.
"Til the morning," Aukan agrees with Ra'sakar. "Rest well, friends." With that, Aukan downs the remainder of his drink before heading to his own room.
Cassiel thanks Aukan with a smile but a sad look in his face: I thank you master Aukan for the support and am really relieved that you all take my situation with good eyes. I will prove that I can contribute with this journey and that the good in me outshine the evil that gnarls at my soul. Now I need to rest for tomorrow I'll need to prove that I can handle at least a night in the jungle. The last part is said with a genuine smile to Ra'sakar. And to Lerithyn he finishes before leaving the table for his room: I am Cassiel, always Cassiel but I do have two others with me. You could say that my conscience personified and that Adriel is anger and fear while Barachiel is peace and strength; so in some aspect when I am angered or afraid Adriel would be manifested with me and when I am at peace or feeling capable and sure of myself as I am at this moment, you could think that Barachiel is with me suppressing Adriel.
We all have the potential to do good deeds or be evil toward others it only depends on our personal decisions, in my case I can argue with my conscience as if they were physical as you are, I say physical because they are real.
Good night to all of you and that Aureon's wisdom guide our path in this journey.
"Fascinating," Lerithyn says again as Cassiel leaves for the night. He finishes his stew and nods to Major. "Let us retire for the night as well. It'll give us time to finish getting you ready for a trek in the wilds." He places the tools back in their rightful place, rolls them up, and puts them in their satchel. He then places the satchel in his backpack. Nodding to the others remaining, he heads to his room with Major in tow. "Now lets see what filth has built up between your legs," you hear him say as they make their way upstairs.
Having decided on their route to Dowron's Shield and finished their meals, our heroes realize that resting in the Chapterhouse is a challenge on itself. Once the music band, the cluttered conversation noise and the usual bar fight are done for the night it's usually just a few minutes of darkness before the sun rises. Anyway, anything is better than a ship coming from Sharn passing through Shargon's Teeth.
The new day welcomes them with a bright sun and a warm light rain. When they come out of their rooms and go down to have some breakfast, a young maiden point them at a supremely served table.
"Good morning, sirs. Lady Sorala would appreciate you joining her for a meal full of energy for your future endeavours."
On the head position of the table, a chubby halfling dressed as a relic hunter lifts her face up and smiles at them. Next to her, a very big dog sits on the floor next to her.
"I hope you don't mind my initiative ,good sirs. Please join me," she says. "I sent a messenger to invite your other partner, the drow."
The table is superb. Glasses hold fresh fruit juices, milk and stronger beverages, while silverware offers bread, different kinds of grains and cereals, some cold cuts and cheese in abundance. As soon as they take a seat, the noise around the place seems to dim very low, only whispers reaching their ears, even if people in the dining area looked like talking as loud as normal.
Once Ra'sakar joins the rest, the halfling blushes a little and greets him childishly.
"Welcome, everyone," she starts. "My name is Sorala ir'Ghallanda and I run the Chapterhouse on behalf of my House. I hope you forgive me for cutting it to the chase, but I don't want to waste your valuable time. It has come to my attention that you're planning an expedition that will take you from here all the way south to the Dowron's Shield... passing through the Throne Gate ruins and the Wasting Plain. I'm entitled to offer you my House patronage in such an endeavour, if you agree to a little detour, a side mission, and a companion."
She looks at the group, as if she was assessing their opinions. Before they could talk, she continued:
"Allow me to elaborate on this. My House is interested in a particular object that we're sure can be retrieved from the Obsidian City. The few adventurers we have hired have been unable to find it. I'm very aware that deviating from your original route can be time consuming, so I'm offering not only a hefty reward in exchange for the object retrieved, but also resources to take you south via the Hydra River all the way to Tharkgun Dak, saving you some days. Our ships have never fallen victim of any Roil incidents so far. You will be joined by an agent of ours, who will set the travel for your party and pay you for the object, which he'll recognize from the vaults inside the Azure Tower."
She gives her dog a little caress, and it disappears and apperas so quickly one could think it was just an optical illusion.
"What you say, adventurers? Will you help us and gain the favor of House Ghallanda?"
(DM calls for History checks to shed some light about the "Azure Tower" and its surroundings. Roll only if proficient, and with advantage if your character has been in or is related to the area around the Obsidian City)
Lerithyn sits down at the table setting his bag down next to him. He leans his cannon against the table and watches as it begins to slide. He blinks, begins pulling a small saw from his backpack, but stops. On the post beside him he spots a nail. He hangs his weapon beside him and makes a note to himself that he might just start nailing walls in the future. Without much introduction, "Please describe this object." He reaches for a sweet pastry.