Rain spits from the sky onto the onlookers gathered at a massive cemetery on a remote hill outside Baldur's Gate's Outer City; orange and brown leaves cover the yellowing grass of mid-autumn. The trees are bare of leaves, seeming to have caught the emotions and thoughts of those of Faerun at the moment. A curse has been felt across the land, but no more so than here among the numbers gathered for this morose occasion.
Nine members of the Flaming Fist have been slain. Garrin Drake had led his squad into an ambush and was the only survivor. He had resigned from the Fists, but was still present at the funeral. Duke Ulder Ravenguard made an appearance along with numerous members of the Fists.
Many others are present as well, having lost their friends or lovers forever.
For that is the nature of the fell curse upon the land: the Death Curse. None can be raised, be they king or beggar. It's been three days since rumors first came from Baldur's Gate of astonished clerics working together to attempt resurrections, to no avail.
Folk from Baldur's Gate and even some from beyond have appeared to pay their respects. The visitors range from nobility in their finery and robes, to commonfolk, dressed in leathers and burlap. Beggars, clergy, even a Firbolg, a Genasi, and one-legged Goliath line the hilltop.
Bouquets of flowers line the sides of the coffins set before the graves. A cleric begins the proceedings and several people speak in the soldiers' honor. Eventually the ceremony is over and Garrin Drake is left alone shaking hands and giving out tight smiles to family members and friends of the squad. After a time he joins the Genasi, and they are in turn joined by the Firbolg and Goliath. A few minutes pass as they catch up with one another, old friends re-connecting; they're then joined by an odd pair.
"A fitting ceremony for the Flaming Fist," states an imposing sun elf, female, older, with a large scar upon her face and wearing the finery of a northener over the frame of a warrior. An aura of authority seems to emanate naturally from her. "A hard time to lose lives, when they cannot be reclaimed."
The sun elf's companion, a figure shrouded in a multitude of the finest robes and sashes and covered in a deep hood obscuring their face, places a hand on the sun elf's arm and steps forward. A great frailty of build is apparent by the palsied movement.
The voice that issues forth from the hood is startling in its reedy raspiness. "It is clear that these lives meant much to all of you," the hood turns to Garrin with meaning. Beneath the hood, the scant light of the drizzly day catches silver, denoting a mask of some kind. "Our sincerest condolences to you all. These soldiers, all lost soldiers, mean much to us as well. My companion here," gesturing to the sun elf, "is called Remalia Haventree. My name is Syndra Silvane; I will be brief. We represent a group of associates who wish to do good in this world. Our current undertaking is the resolution..."
Syndra Silvane's body is wracked with spasms as a horrid cough issues from her hood; the cough gurgles and stutters, and her body shakes with the sound of sinews or joints popping.
Remalia Haventree stoops to hold her companion, a stoic concern clear upon her face. Her head turns to the three as she supports Silvane. "The resolution of this damnable Death Curse. Our order has considerable resources and already we have found all possible leads, I can assure you. Our only next step to resolving this curse, in our opinion, is before us. But we need help. The order is stretched thin and this endeavor will test all our resources..."
Silvane clears her throat. "First, an explanation for those of you unschooled in the arcane. Our scholars believe that this Death Curse has a mechanism of action similar to a Lich's phylactery; you are familiar with the concept of the Lich, yes?" She glances at the four.
"The phylactery holds a Lich's souls and lifeforces, such that if the Lich is destroyed, it can (and will) reanimate at the phylactery, drawing the stored souls, power and essences from it."
"Essentially, a reserve life kept in safety," adds Haventree, relaxing her support of Silvane.
"The Death Curse," rasps Silvane, "seems to be like a phylactery but that draws escaped souls to it, like filings to a lodestone, or flotsam into the heart of a maelstrom. And its power is affecting all of Toril, as best we can tell." She pauses. "We have not seen power the likes of this ever before."
Haventree continues. "Because of the nature of the magic, we hypothesize that a Lich could give us more information about the Death Curse, perhaps even finding a direction of origin or location." She pulls her cloak more tightly about her body as a wind adds to the drizzle. "So we must find a Lich and... 'convince' it to help us. We need a small force to infiltrate the Lich's lair and find its phylactery, while the rest of our order applies its might in a frontal attack as a diversion. Phylactery in hand, we will extort what we need from the fiend."
She looks at the ground for a moment and takes a heavy breath, crossing her arms. "These are desperate times. We would never judge your answer and I realize we are manipulating your emotions by coming here. But we are out of resources." She swallows, licks her lips. "We... are begging you. The souls of the dead, including the soldiers of your squad," she says with a nod at Garrin," are begging you. Can you help us?"
Garrin stood silently as the clergy completed the ceremony. The hood of his cloak was drawn up shielding his face from casual onlookers. Shame burned him, yet he knew he could not be anywhere else at this time. Before him lay the bodies of 9 men who had trusted him completely. Around him stood the loved ones who had kissed them farewell and waited for their return. The Flaming Fist was his family, and he had dishonoured them. It was only right that he leave. None of the men would trust him enough to follow his lead now. Garrin had quietly acknowledged Duke Ravenguard but had averted his eyes when the others of the Fist looked in his direction. Only Valik did not impose upon Garrin. He had been there after all and seen the ambush. If anyone knew Garrin's flaws it was Valik, yet there he stood, offering support to his former commander.
Silvane spoke to the gathered group, explaining the concerns over the Death Curse. Garrin understood little of magic outside of what he saw in nature, but he had heard tales of lich's in the past. The souls of his brothers would not be resting in peace as they should be, and there was something he could do about it.
Garrin pushed back his hood and drew himself up to his full height. "I will serve. I deserve to be where these men lie now. If I can bring their souls even a moments peace, I must do it."
Bowark watches the ceremony quietly, and as it ends she waits until the Fist members’ loved ones have finished paying respects before making her way over to stand silently before the coffins. After a moment, she bows slightly and then turns to meet Valik, Garrin, and Jolly. She claps both Valik and Garrin on the shoulders and offers her own brand of gruff but sincere condolences.
She half listens to Silvane and Remalia, but mostly watches determination drag itself over Garrin’s face. After he gives his declaration, Bowark steps up next to him and swings an arm around his shoulders, “What the hell, if you’re in, I am too. Been needing something to shake life up a little anyway.”
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I do both party and individual character commissions. PM me for info.
Corti- Warforged bard (Union!)
Bowark "Nightworker" Noakamono- Goliath rogue (Tomb of Annihilation)
Valik had been somber throughout the funeral, he had stayed back, allowing the moment to come and go, like the winds of change must always do. He watched his friend and commander, knowing the pain he felt was not just physical. He said nothing as it all ended and Garrin stood beside him, he did however give a thin smile to Bowark as she joined him. Being one of the more morally loose members of the Fists had allowed him to get to know the woman fairly well, he nodded at her pat.
He followed the words of the newcomers, understanding their meaning and presumptions. It was far fetched int he Genasi wizards opinion but not out of the realm of impossibility, I mean is anything in Faerun truly impossible? As they finished and his two compatriots spoke up he added, "Never met a lich before, I would imagine they have horrible morning breath." He gave a little puff of air through his lips.
Jolly tried to keep his sobbing to himself throughout the ceremony, but only half-way succeeds at best. And no clever use of a bearmantle or rain could hide the tears freely falling from his face. He knew at most only one of the men, and even then it had been a good decade since the two last saw each other. Yet, Jolly weeped and sniffled like someone who knew them all personally on some level. What he lacked in flowers in the beginning, various seeds dug from the tangled, dark green mess he called hair had been set on the graves -- when an opportunity arose for it.
In time the firbolg mustered the will to join the others, or more specifically seek Garin, having understood the man was a former member of the squad. But ever the polite one, he stood in silence as other addressed them. Thoughtlessly, Jolly started forward at Syndra's pain, but stopped short seeing Remalia intercede and brace Syndra. The look of concern never fades from the displaced firbolg. Even all the talk of Liches and phylacteries -- which almost visibly went right over the firbolg's head -- failed to diminish his focus by much on the woman.
"Oh my. That.. This is quite a lot. But, I am always to happy to lend folk some help that need it." Jolly smiles for the first time since the funeral. "Though, if given the chance, I don't s'pose ya cannae ask'em nicely? Bad breath, or no."
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When you realize you're doing too much: Signature.
"Time is of the essence, of course. You will need to move quickly," Haventree states. "We know of a Lich, Zaldara Cordress, the Duchess of Rot, who makes her lair to the south in the Cloakwood, roughly three days travel by boat. I can arrange to have you taken there tomorrow morning; be at the docks tomorrow morning at dawn. Ask for the ship Diviner, and our agent named Calibrax. He will pilot the ship and arrange for food and lodging on board; he'll also have the finer details of your mission. I would tell you more now but need to arrange our forces and logistics and don't have the information at the moment."
Syndra Silvane speaks from beneath the mask. "These may prove helpful," she hisses as she produces four, stoppered vials full of viscous, red fluid and hands one to each of you. [Potion of Healing] "Our organization will, of course, reward your bravery handsomely upon completion, should you require more motivation for the task; I imagine you do not, but gold is always useful. Five Hundred pieces should compensate the four of you. It will await at my mansion in Baldur's Gate."
She pauses a moment, sharing a glance with Remalia Haventree, the sun elf. "To be transparent, I must tell you that I am personally involved in this matter. We have not mentioned another effect of the Death Curse; not only are those who die unable to be raised, but those of us who have been previously raised," she utters, gesturing to her amorphous, robed self with both finely-gloved hands, "are wasting away. I do not know how much time we have, but each moment I feel more of my restored life slip away. This tells me that every lost person's soul has a limited amount of time to be saved."
"Are we agreed then? Tomorrow, the docks, the Diviner, Calibrax? I suggest you get what rest you can; events will move quickly starting tomorrow morning."
[Please let me know if you have any specific things you'd like to do before the morning or if you'd like to proceed to the docks.]
"So, that is no then on asking nicely."Jolly's expression falls for a moment. But then, he straightens out on the back of a deep breathe, puffs out his chest, and poorly imitated one of the flaming fist salutes. "We'll do our very best, Syndra. You can count on us. Just... keep it together." He offers a final bow to the duo, and then as if it was perfectly normal followed at Valik. At least until he found a shop that looked to carry herbalism kit, or an Inn that would allowed the oversize galoot to sleep in the stables.
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When you realize you're doing too much: Signature.
[You can spend any starting gold or exchange equipment that you feel is better suited to this adventure; I don't need to know about it, I trust y'all not to suddenly have a vorpal sword. ;) We're about to enter possible combat, so magic users please let me know per gametime day which spells you have prepared. I'm going to move forward w/ the adventure, if anyone wants to role-play anything we can make it a flashback]
Sleep is not restful as each of the heroes thinks about the impending danger they're about to put themselves in, and it's with bleary, puffy eyes that each sees the first rays of the sun peek over the edge of Toril as they arrive at the docks of Baldur's Gate.
The Diviner is a small keelboat with little protection from the elements; the four travellers are greeted by a morose halfling, introducing himself as Calabrax as he fiddles with the dock ropes. He gestures them all aboard with a wave and doesn't speak again until an hour after they've set off through the slapping waves.
"Food," says the halfling, "is in that crate in the bow. Water's in the barrel next to it." He leans on the rudder and keeps his eyes on the far off shore. "We'll talk details in a bit."
On the evening of the third day at sea, Calabrax finally speaks in earnest again; up until now he's evaded all attempts at further conversation with monosyllabic grunts or just outright muteness. The four travellers have noticed the shore growing closer, which has become a cliffside some 100 feet in height, over which the edge of the Cloakwood hangs.
The tip of a dark tower can be seen over the line of trees. A dark spot in the cliff face appears, and grows larger until it's evident that it's a cave, and the keelboat is headed for it.
Calabrax scans the horizon, looking for the descending height of the sun.
"We'll reach the entrance soon," he nods at the cave. "Once we're there, we wait for Remailia's horn; that signals the advance on the tower," he looks at each of the travelers. "That's your signal. You move quick. Every moment you're in there, Harpers like myself are dying, clear?" He lets that sink in; some of the travelers glare at the obvious condescension. "You're looking for a book bound in humanoid skin; it'll stick out. That's all the detail we have on that. You get the book, you come back here fast as you can. I'll teleport us all up to Remalia where we'll start a parley with the Lich."
The keelboat scrapes over some large rocks and bumps gently to a stop just inside the cave; the echo travels down into the darkness beyond.
Joining the howling note of wind across the cave entrance, a mournful warhorn sounds in the distance.
"Off you go. Best of luck," grunts Calabrax.
The travelers scramble out of the boat and onto the cave floor, moving in a few feet as their eyes adjust to the darkness. The cave mouth becomes a tunnel, about five feet wide and eight feet in height. There is no light apparent in the tunnel; it yawns before the adventures, pitch black inside.
[It is 7PM and the assault is underway. I will let you know as time passes at the bottom of my posts. I need marching order for moving through tunnels/doors and information regarding whether the last person in line is looking back, forward, etc.; you can discuss and post in the OOC email I'm sending. Once that's resolved, please post with your actions; also let me know if you're stealthing and include any roll results in your post]
Garrin steps into the dark maw of the tunnel. Bowark, at his back, carries a lantern lighting a little way ahead. The young man makes his way slowly forward with both of his short swords drawn, ready for anything to appear. This was not a place he would wish to enter on his own. Even if he did not fully trust every member of the group, he at least knew they needed each other right now.
Garrin tried to walk as quietly as he could, while keeping an eye out for any pits or dead falls. Stealth: 8
"No worries, Mister Calabrax. We'll be in and out in no time." Jolly replied, not seeming to catch the condescension at all. "Well, maybe not no time, but certainly pretty quick... uhm... And you stay safe too." Whether met with more of Calabrax charm or less so, the Firbolg is quiet for the remainder of the trip. Just as he had been throughout most of the overwater part, having found long travel on sea... did not quite agree with his constitution.
Despite the grim task set before them, Jolly cannot help take a moment soaking in the immediate sight of the cave entrance. But once the others are on the move, the young and former feywild dweller tried to mirror the movements of those ahead. A task made all the easier after having been forced to stoop a little just to keep from scrapping his head upon the ceiling. Until the lapping of the water started to fade, Jolly kept his eyes largely forward. But after that he glances back long enough to make sure no plucky Flaming Fist hadn't snuck onto the mission behind them... or something far deadlier stalked them.
The adventurers move 100 or so feet through the clammy tunnel until it opens into a wider cave. The ceiling is 20 or so feet in height, studded in stalactites. A 5 ft wide natural stone column seems supports the ceiling at least partially; a stairway winds around it up to a l5 ft high ledge that continues behind and along the side. Light doesn't penetrate to the ledge; it's impossible to see beyond. The ledge terminates at another stairway to the North; the stairs lead up to a door carved with a large skull.
[To clarify, short stairs lead up around the large column for ease of access up onto the five foot high ledge running across the cave. You cannot see into the gloom beyond. There is also a short stairway up to the North, leading up to the door with the large skull carved onto it.]
After some squinting and looking over the options, Jolly grimaces and grimly nods to himself. Leery of their voices being carried by echoes however, the oversized green bean scrunches down further and whispers to the others, "We can check upstairs. But... if this thing we're after is so important, there's only one place it's likely to be." Immediately after he gestures to the skull door and audible gulped at a thought. "Think it unlocked already? Or we try up stairs? See if maybe we lucky, and it not so deep?" He asked.
Despite reluctance always creeping into his face whenever looking to the door, if asked, his leanings towards at least trying the door remains unchanged.
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When you realize you're doing too much: Signature.
"I agree with Jolly, we should check upstairs before going through any doors," Valik gestured up the column stairs. "Taunting skull aside."
He still was unsure why it is that a large group such as the rumoured Harpers would approach an unknown band such as them for such a task. Surely they had more experienced resources, however the Genasi was thankful for the trust and opportunity to experience new challenges.
Bowark nods at Jolly and Valik's comments, "It could certainly be trying to mislead us," Bowark says, grinning, "I'm sure we'll figure it out soon enough. I agree, let's head upstairs." In the hand not carrying their lantern she has pulled out one of her daggers.
“See that ledge up there?” Garrin points along the wall toward the skull door. “That’s the perfect place for guards or enemies to be hiding. At least if head up these stairs we may get to a point where they don’t get the jump on us, quite literally.” Garrin makes his way carefully up the stairs by the pillar, checking the stairs as he goes. Perception: 23