Five years ago, a band of good friends frequented the Inn of the Last Home, the most popular tavern and inn in the treetop city of Solace. They made a pact to go off on their own in search of some sign of the true gods, agreeing to meet back at the Inn of the Last Home on that day ﬁve years later. Each taking a different path, they set out for the far corners of Ansalon. Now the heroes, known as the Inn fellows, return to their hometown after ﬁnding only futility—the true gods seem to be well and truly gone. However, at the very least, they can look forward to a warm ﬁre, a good meal, and the companionship of their dearest friends upon their return. Unfortunately, they ﬁnd that Solace has changed in their absence. The Seekers, a misguided religious sect of questionable sincerity, have become the temporal rulers of Solace, governing the region from the nearby Lord city of Haven. Rumors of war and whispers of monsters and death circulate among the farmers and townsfolk in hushed voices. Solace has changed, and that change promises to become even more drastic.
The door opened.
Both Tika and Otik started in alarm and turned to the door. They had not heard footsteps on the stairs, and that was uncanny! The Inn of the Last Home was built high in the branches of a mighty vallenwood tree, as was every other building in Solace, with the exception of the blacksmith shop. The townspeople had decided to take to the trees during the terror and chaos following the Cataclysm. And thus Solace became a tree town, one of the few truly beautiful wonders left on Krynn. Sturdy wooden bridge-walks connected the houses and businesses perched high above the ground where five hundred people went about their daily lives. The Inn of the Last Home was the largest building in Solace and stood forty feet off the ground. Stairs ran around the ancient vallenwood's gnarled trunk. As Otik had said, any visitor to the Inn would be heard approaching long before he was seen.
But neither Tika nor Otik had heard the old man. He stood in the doorway, leaning on a worn oak staff, and peered around the Inn. The tattered hood of his plain, gray robe was drawn over his head, its shadow obscuring the features of his face except for his hawkish, shining eyes.
"Can I help you. Old One?" Tika asked the stranger, exchanging worried glances with Otik. Was this old man a Seeker spy?
"Eh?" The old man blinked. "You open?"
"Well . . " Tika hesitated.
"Certainly," Otik said, smiling broadly. "Come in. Gray-beard. Tika, find our guest a chair. He must be tired after that long climb."
"Climb?" Scratching his head, the old man glanced around the porch, then looked down to the ground below. "Oh, yes. Climb. A great many stairs .. ." He hobbled inside, then made a playful swipe at Tika with his staff. "Get along with your work, girl. I'm capable of finding my own chair."
Tika shrugged, reached for her broom, and began sweeping, keeping her eyes on the old man.
He stood in the center of the Inn, peering around as though confirming the location and position of each table and chair in the room. The common room was large and bean-shaped, wrapping around the trunk of the vallenwood. The trees smaller limbs supported the floor and ceiling. He looked with particular interest at the fireplace, which stood about three-quarters of the way back into the room. The only stonework in the Inn, it was obviously crafted by dwarven hands to appear to be part of the tree, winding naturally through the branches above. A bin next to the side of the firepit was stacked high with cordwood and pine logs brought down from the high mountains. No resident of Solace would consider burning the wood of their own great trees. There was a back route out the kitchen; it was a forty-foot drop, but a few of Otik's customers found this setup very convenient. So did the old man.
He muttered satisfied comments to himself as his eyes went from one area to another. Then, to Tika's astonishment, he suddenly dropped his staff, hitched up the sleeves of his robes, and began rearranging the furniture!
Tika stopped sweeping and leaned on her broom. "What are you doing? That table's always been there!"
A long, narrow table stood in the center of the common room. The old man dragged it across the floor and shoved it up against the trunk of the hugevallenwood, right across from the firepit, then stepped back to admire his work.
"There," he grunted. "S'posed to be closer to the firepit. Now bring over two more chairs. Need six around here." Tika turned to Otik. He seemed about to protest, but, at that moment, there was a flaring light from the kitchen. A scream from the cook indicated that the grease had caught fire again. Otik hurried toward the swinging kitchen doors.
"He's harmless," he puffed as he passed Tika. "Let him do what he wants-within reason. Maybe he's throwing a party."
Tika sighed and took two chairs over to the old man as requested. She set them where he indicated.
"Now," the old man said, glancing around sharply. "Bring two more chairs-comfortable ones, mind you-over here. Put them next to the firepit, in this shadowy corner."
"'Tisn't shadowy," Tika protested. "It's sitting in full sunlight!"
"Ah"-the old man's eyes narrowed-"but it will be shadowy tonight, won't it? When the fire's lit ... "
"I-I suppose so ..." Tika faltered.
"Bring the chairs. That's a good girl. And I want one, right here." The old man gestured at a spot in front of the firepit. "For me."
"Are you giving a party. Old One?" Tika asked as she carried over the most comfortable, well-worn chair in the Inn.
"A party?" The thought seemed to strike the old man as funny. He chuckled. "Yes, girl. It will be a party such as the world of Krynn has not seen since before the Cataclysm! Be ready, Tika Waylan. Be ready!"
Warmed by the afternoon sun, the boulder felt comfortable to the half-elf, who had been walking all day in the chill autumn air. Solomon relaxed and let the warmth seep into his bones-the warmth of the sun and the warmth of his thoughts. Because he was home.
He looked around him, his eyes lingering fondly over the familiar landscape. The mountainside below him formed one side of a high mountain bowl carpeted in autumn splendor. The vallenwood trees in the valley were ablaze in the season's colors, the brilliant reds and golds fading into the purple of the Kharolis peaks beyond. The flawless, azure sky among the trees was repeated in the waters of Crystalmir Lake. Thin columns of smoke curled among the treetops, the only sign of the presence of Solace. A soft, spreading haze blanketed the vale with the sweet aroma of home fires burning.
Karia and Regus were still a bit farther away. They weren't used to so much walking but Solomon had had to push them a little if they wanted to make it to the Inn at the appointed time.
He heard them talking as they came closer to his spot. He'd found them changed. He had heard about the Test, and they hadn't been very forthcoming about their trial but he knew that it had been hard on them. Strangely enough, he found that it had also brought them closer.
He stood, ready to move, thinking about Zarn. He couldn't help himself from grinning. They had so much catching up to do.
Solace had long been a crossroads for travelers. They came northeast from Haven, the Seeker capital. They came from the elven kingdom of Qualinesti to the south. Sometimes they came from the east, across the barren Plains of Abanasinia. Throughout the civilized world, the Inn of the Last Home was known as a traveler's refuge and center for news. It was to the Inn that the three friends turned their steps.
The huge, convoluted trunk rose through the surrounding trees. Against the shadow of the vallenwood, the colored panes of the Inn's stained-glass windows glittered brightly, and sounds of life drifted down from the windows. Lanterns, hanging from the tree limbs, lit the winding stairway. Though the autumn night was settling chill amid the vallenwoods of Solace, the travelers felt the companionship and memories warm the soul and wash away the aches and sorrows of the road.
Zar, Brenton and Fangor had been walking for a long time, making good time. They were almost home. A strange feeling for both of them. Solace had taken them in, never judging, when most hadn't. It felt good to come back and see familiar faces.
As they approached Solace, the end of your long journey, their anticipation of rest and the reunion with their fellows grows. Just as they see the ﬁrst of the treetop houses peeking from among the fall foliage, they notice that the road is blocked; just around the bend ahead of you is a group of guards, the Highseeker’s militia. A farmer’s oxcart is stopped on the road, and two soldiers are searching its contents while the driver and passenger stand by. Two additional soldiers watch from a short distance away; one of the soldiers holds a chain restraining a ferocious-looking dog.
The Inn of the Last Home rests cradled high in the boughs of a vallenwood tree, its worn steps winding around the heavy trunk up to the familiar, carved door. Warm laughter and cooking smells drift down to entice travelers to leave the road and rest from their journey. For returning patrons, the Inn seems timeless, unchanging. The wooden bar weaves around living branches of the tree, its burnished glow deepening with each year. The delicate windows of stained glass behind the bar are being polished by Otik Sandath, the barkeeper. He turns and waves, smiling at you, and motions the barmaid in your direction. The low murmur of voices ﬁlls the inn. An old man weaves stories in the corner by the hearth, to the delight of the crowd gathered about him. At a far table, near the storyteller, a man and a woman sit together and speak quietly. Another man stands near the storyteller, but he doesn’t engage with him or his listeners; a small boy stares thoughtfully into the ﬁre a few paces away.
Two days in the Inn of the last home. Waiting for their friends to arrive. Trying to stay away from the Seeker's guards. "They'll be here." Alex said with a reassuring pat on Shan shoulder.
Shanryar watched Alex weave his way to the bar, where others would have struggled through the throng her friend was like water.
Next to her at another table he overhears a man talking. “Well, some folk might not like the Seekers much, but there’s one of them that’s not all bad. That Elistan fellow, the High Seeker. He’s down there in Haven, on the council. He’s a decent man, was kind to my family when we went down there last spring. Wise, too. He’ll know what to do.”
Five years ago, the men calling themselves "seekers" ("we seek the new gods") had been a loose-knit organization of clerics practicing their new religion in the towns of Haven, Solace, and Gateway. These clerics had been misguided, Shanryar knew, but at least they had been honest and sincere. In the intervening years, however, the clerics had gained more and more status as their religion flourished. Soon they became concerned not so much with glory in the afterlife as with power on Krynn. They took over the governing of the towns with the people's blessing.
Cairn was huffing and puffing trying to keep up with the longer legged Algrenon. He had been grumbling for a while now about his empty wine skin in truth he was happy. Home was at the next bent of the road and he felt the same eagerness as his human friend.
Already he could recognised the trees and path of the forest leading to the town. He could almost smell the sweet and tangy odors of Otik's dishes. Algrenon turned back to watch the hill dwarf on his heels, a toothy grin plastered on his face.
The Test had indeed taken it's toll on Karia, but buoyed by coming back to Solace to see her friends again she had a wide smile on her face. Karia was a lean young woman, barely out of her teens, and the short pixie-ish ginger hair she had worn almost throughout childhood hand been grown to shoulder length, kept out of her face by braiding the sides and knotting them back behind her head. The white robes that declared her allegiance to the Tower and the god Solinari were a good heavy cotton as was the hood that kept the sun off her face.
"And I'll probably go back home after we leave to see my parents again. It'll be nice to see them again, certainly after five years on the road. I've tried to write to them, but you know how it is." She said in a rambling tone.
Algrenon had butterflies churning in his stomach and as such decided to absently minded blame the feeling on an empty wine skin. This might have relieved his old friend Cairn quite a bit because since meeting up by chance in the town prior aside the typical conversations friends have catching up Algrenon had remained deathly silent. Often he would be on the constant look out to the point of spacing out within his company. Gone was the smile and jokes he had been known to all who frequented the Last Home Inn. A little bit of dry humor has done alot to relieve the tension between the two. With each passing step Algrenon seems to be brightening, "Come now Cairin we dont want our friends to have first chance at drink and good fights without us right?" Algrenon quips grinning back at his dwarven friend. Algrenons Perception Roll: 2224 (OOC: First time I posted roll didnt show so posted a second one , first roll was the 22)
Algrenon's slight smile forming suddenly fades his eyes becoming focused as he now studies the area he perceived the sound coming from. "Perhaps I was to hopeful for that fight old friend, sounds like we have goblins on the hunt in the woods. Think we should investigate ?" He asks while moving his hand he used to warn his friend to his bow wrapped to the back of his belt buried beneath his large blackened fur cloak. That feeling he has learned to listen to with great earnest over the past five years wells up inside him , his instincts hes learned to hone in and control.
Looking at the others the towering Minotaur scratches his head." When did Solace begin militaristic checks?"He said his hand slowly reaching over his shoulder to touch the new yet familiar feel of the old yet strangely static feel to his maul. He was ready to defend himself. Always ready it was ingrained both in training and in life. Still he waited for the others to reaction. For him this most likely would go badly.
Seeing the broad minotaur reaching for his maul, Brenton offers, "Stay your hand. Loosen the binding, but stay your hand. Your intimidating enough when you're not holding that tree trunk of a weapon."
Getting a better look at the situation, Brenton continues, "It's been five years since I've last been here - situations change. Let's find out more before assuming treachery. Let's try and approach this... open minded."
Brenton takes a more measured look at how the search is being performed and the attitudes of the soldiers and the farmers.
// OOC Does he gleam any insights from his observations? If perception add 8, if insight add 5, roll: 11. //
Regus huffed as he strode alongside Karia, The older man wasnt use to this amount of physical exertion and it was evident. While lean he wasnt muscular or athletic, And has forgone cardio in the practice of his own Magical prowess. Robes of crimson red dragged on the ground behind him, The cloth worn and tattered on the edges were a symbol of his Status as a Sorcerer, Having passed a Test few do at the Tower of Sorcery. Permitted to practice and perfect his abilities He spent much of his time doing so. The robe open in the front showed the simple traveling clothes he wore underneath, Though one thing stuck out. A simple leather pouch affixed to the front of his belt was in far better shape then anything else he wore, It was almost pristine and very well made. A Gift from the Friend he had made in Karia.
"Aye I know what your speaking of Karia. Im sure they'll light up when they see their child return." In actuality Regus had no clue what Karia was talking about, He had no one to write home to. It was of his own making of course, Deciding to separate himself from his Family for their own safety. "5 Years, cant believe it's been that long since we began and now we are coming to the end." The older humans voice was deep and raspy, An effect his pipe has had on him over the years.
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Brenton recognizes one of the front guard looking into the farmer's cart as Thomas a distant acquaintance from years back. They seem to be doing their jobs.
As Zarn steps into the path, the rear guard with the dog in leach starts a bit and almost letting the mastiff loose in surprise. Another even lets his lance fall and scampers to retrieve under the yells of his sergeant.
"Damn it Eron you are a disgrace, even the militia is not good enough for you." He stops for a second considering than shakes his head and move to confront the minotaur.
Despite his brave words his face falls a little as he approaches. He looks back making sure that the three other guards are ready to back him.
"We have orders to search your belongings for a blue crystal staff. Where are you coming from and what do you intend to do here?"
One of the guards, Thomas, comes closer. He looks at Brenton apologetically "Let us conduct this quietly and you may go on your way."
"Dont worry Ill keep an ear out for them" Algrenon begins to lead the way making no sound as he begins to sneak through the forest thanks to his Boots of Elvenkind doing his best to remain unheard and unseen by the potential goblin threat. Agrenons Stealth Roll: 25 < First Roll > Advantage Roll 10