They travel west, heading for the town of Tal Podere. As morning draws near, they pass a number of the Queen’s elite guards walking along the road in the opposite direction.
They have never seen the guards from this close. The helmets completly cover their heads, giving them no way to see out. Each helmet has the symbol of the Alidian army stamped on the front, where the wearer’s face would be:
Clearly the helmets are magical, although perhaps the men that wear them are magical as well. They never seem to get tired or need rest.
The party has discussed these soldiers before. Noreeno implied that these soldiers somehow communicated with the Queen. The soldiers themselves seem a bit mindless. They never speak. How does she control them? Telepathy? Mind control? That have no idea. However, there does seem to be some connection. Perhaps they can use these soldiers to communicate with the Queen and let her know about Mordan.
Eomer yells at them to stop. They ignore him. He gets down from his horse and stands in their path as they march. The leader reaches for his sword. Eomer holds up his hands in a peaceful gesture, which is ignored. He holds his ground and tries to engage the soldier in conversation. The sword is drawn. Eomer backs out of its way. The sword returns to his side.
Eomer gives up and simply jogs alongside them (they march very fast) as he talks. He tells them that Mordan is free and that Noreeno seems to be some sort of betrayer. He relates the important points of the last few days. The solders never acknowledge him in any way.
Shrugging, he returns to the others. He’s done what he could to let the Queen know. They have no idea if it worked or not.
They reach the city in late morning. Tal Podere is a medium city, less than half the size of crossway. The buildings are low and made of wood. There is very little stonework here in town. Most of the buildings are built along a single street, which is wide and filled with ruts. (To modern eyes, this town would look vaguely old-west – Shamus) It has a wide open area
around the well in the center of town. The gates are manned by conventional guards; no elite guards are to be seen.
They are pulled over at the gate, and their papers are inspected. Once everything is settled, the enter the city.
They are sent to the Magistrate. Magistrate K’dar Stonefist is a wise old Dwarf. Once the party has gethered before him, he informs them that he has a notice from Magistrate Noreeno, warning him that five outsiders had killed a number of his soldiers and stolen some horses. Noreeno also suggested in his letter that these men were Lormanites, and that they should be killed on sight.
The party is furious. There seems to be no end to Noreeno’s trechery.
Stonefist seems unsurprised. He then demands they give an account of themselves. Eomer relates the events of the past few days. The magistrate doesn’t seem to doubt his story at all. Once complete, Stonefist reveals that Noreeno has been distrusted for a long time among the other town leaders.
Eomer asks him about the soldiers they found traveling north. Stonefist explains that they left here yesterday. He doesn’t control them directly, of course. They obey the mysterious will of the Queen from afar. As the Magistrate, he can sometimes get the elite guards to obey simple orders, but mostly they come and go according to her will. He expects she is moving troops around, and that they will get more elite guards soon; she never leaves the town without her own guards for long.
Stonefist pronounces them innocent of any wrongdoing, and invites them to make themselves at home in his town. They party bids him good-day and retires to the inn. Later in the day, a note is delivered to Thordek that invites him back to the magistrate’s office.
Thordek visits K’dar Stonefist in his office. The two Dwarves begin by speaking of Dwarven things: Where they are from and who they are related to. They discuss stonework and family trees for some time before K’dar turns the conversation to business.
The upshot of the convsersation is that K’dar thinks Thordek is a fellow spy, helping to plan the invasion of the island. It seems that the Dwarves have been living here for years, and that they are planning something big soon. K’dar thought perhaps that Thordek would bring new news, and was disappointed to find that Thordek was not privy to the coming war. He assures Thordek that the time is coming when the Dwarves will reclaim Khelberg.
Back at the inn, Skeeve studies the orb and learns the following:
That afternoon, the party members are summoned back to the Magistrate’s office to attend a town council that has been called. Many of the town leaders have gathered here, and Stonefist wants everyone to hear what Eomer told him earlier.
K’dar does not trust the cleric magic and zone of truth. Noreeno used it often and it seemed to be a tool to mislead. K’dar prefers they speak plainly of their business. He will trust the words of another dwarf.
Once the story of Noreeno is finished, the town leaders comment. It seems the name of Mordan is mostly legend, and much of his history has been forgotten. He has become a story to scare children at night, and much of his tale has been twisted. Some tales remember him as a Vampire King, and others as a man who was half-dragon, or half-devil, or any other of a number of variants on the tale.
K’dar has not trusted Noreeno in months. Noreeno has been claiming the resistance has been harassing his borders, taking food and supplies. Over the past few months, he has constantly requested more food, man, and supplies. A month ago, K’dar sent one of his own men to visit the city under the guise of a merchant courrier. He reported the city was secure, and the soldiers he had amassed were guarding the city and not searching the countryside for Lormanites.
Noreeno has been moving troops around in odd ways. He sends back some divisions saying they “lack dicipline”. The men are fine and fit. K’dar suspects their loyalties are not as flexible enough to suit Noreeno.
Eomer tells him that Noreeno killed their four elite soldiers. Stonefist is not surprised and mentions that same night his four gate soldiers left.
At this point a town guard stepps into the room and informs the Magistrate that a set of four new elite solders have just arrived and are now guarding the gates of the city.
Eomer immediately leaves.
Outside, it is sunset. The four new royal soldiers have taken their place at the north side of town. The uniform of the elite soldiers is simple: They wear the metal helmets and black pants. They are bare-chested and carry a single broadsword at their side. Eomer draws near to the guards and sees that one of them has tatoos on his chest. It is Endo.
Eomer waves at him but gets no response.
He goes back into the meeting, where the town members are still arguing about the veracity of the various legends of Mordan. Eomer whispers to the group that he has found Endo.
They decide to talk to the magistrate after everyone leaves. Thordek will do the talking.
The meeting ends and everyone heads home. Thordek asks the magistrate for help in recovering their friend.
K’dar replies, “It is treason for me to harm these guards. However, I can command the soldiers to do simple things. If you like, I can order him to patrol north of the city. Perhaps you can catch him alone. You can do as you will then. I doubt he will be missed in the confusion with Noreeno. Don’t tell me anymore about it. Agreed?”
They retire to the inn. The casters go study. Fifteen minutes later there is much yelling and shouting. Eomer sees the guards attacking a creature trying to slink into town. K’dar comes out and checks on things and sees that all is well.
Skeeve and Enoch continue to study. Skeeve learns what happens when the sphere is destroyed.
This at least explains why nobody has destroyed the orb. He also learns that Mordan will appear back at the orb, slightly weaker with each death.
Enoch works on the book, but doesn’t manage to translate a new chapter.
Morning comes and the party continues in their habit of sleeping during the day.
Enoch heads to the library to check and see if there is anything of use. He does find some language books that help. He then studies while he waits.
Skeeve studies the orb and learns the following:
The day passes and evening comes Just as the sun is setting K’dar marches out to Endo and tells him to go look for another creature like last night. He marches northward at a steady pace.
Beck, Thu’fir, Eomer, and Thordek follow at a discrete distance. They follow him into the dark woods north of town. Once clear of the ears of outlying farms, Eomer attempts to sneak up behind him and knock him out. Endo turns and attacks. His movements seem stiff and slow. He’s using the sword and not his hands. Apparently he is just a simple puppet when under the control of the Queen and not able to make use of martial arts. This makes the fight a lot easier. The party pile onto him in a frantic meele of elbows and knees. Thu’fir manages to pull off the helmet and Endo instantly falls limp. They wake him.
He wakes, panicked that he can’t see.
Eomer comforts him, “It’s night Endo, give your eyes time to adjust.”
“No. I cannot see.”, Endo insists.
Enoch brings his glowing mace near. Endo lifts his head to reveal that his eyes have been sewn shut. “Where is the prince?”, Endo demands.
Despite his blindness, he doesn’t seem to have lost his dedication to whatever task he was on. He then says he feels sick and starts throwing up. Eomer gives him his fighting staff. Endo attempts to put it on his back, but his things are all gone. Eomer takes the knee pads and elbow parts of the armor and puts them in his pack. They lead Endo back into town with Thu’fir’s cloak over him.
They sneak him into the inn. Having just attacked an elite guard, they don’t want to be seen strolling back into town with him. They bring him up to Enoch’s room, where Enoch uses his powers to cure Endo’s blindness.
Endo still looks terrible, however. He looks like he’s lost a bit of weight. Since he was all muscle before, this is a bad thing. He is tired and shaking. They let him sleep. The account of his travels will have to wait until morning.
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