We decided to rest for what remained of the night in the relative safety of the Ruins of Argaath. Ser Seifer was badly hurt, suffering some minor skin burns from the electric shock, and a couple deep gashes across his chest from where the abomination’s teeth had bit into him upon swallowing. I could feel the skin around my neck beginning to bruise, and my throat still felt raw from the tentacle’s throttling. Sorscha, being none the worse for wear and ready to stand vigil all night if needed, volunteered to watch the camp while some of us took our rest. Another grey dream came in the night; this time I was able to piece together some of the words spoken by the faceless entity in the fog: “Awoke… Arrival… Retribution… Eternal… You… Dominion”. I know not what it means, but I will think on it.
I woke in the morning, some hours after sunrise. The Ironclad paced around, looking irritably about the campsite; they had likely been ready to travel at daybreak. I rose from my bed of stone, still sore from the fight the night before. We met up with Pete to discuss our options for returning to Carrion Hill. After a short discussion, we found that we had only two viable options open to us. We could take an ancient Thyatian road west, skirting the outer edges of Bowman territory to loop our way around to Angler’s Cove; such would likely put us within striking distance of one or more Bowman troops. Or, we could go back to the spot where we had departed when we booked passage from Carrion Hill, and wait there for the chance passing of another fishing ship that might be willing to carry us back to the Boil. Had we not been so battle-weary, I would have preferred the former option, because it might give us the chance to cut off Hansen before he could re-supply the numbers his platoon had lost at Lochaid .
The walk back to our original departure point was miserable, filled with mosquitoes and stirges and the rumblings of swamp denizens. When it came time to camp for the night, the party was almost resigned to look for what little dry land we could to sleep on, as we had on our way to the ruins. Nathaniel surprised everyone by summoning up a stone house. We all got a good night’s rest, taking turn on watch shifts. The next day we made it the rest of the way back to our departure point, and there we waited… and waited… and waited. Just before sundown, a fishing boat came in sight.
The boat’s occupants were hurrying back toward the Boil; likely they didn’t want to be stuck out on the water when night fell. Nathaniel was the first to speak to them, announcing that we were travellers in alliance with the Watchmen, and that we needed to book passage back to Carrion Hill. The Ironclad commander called out as well, adding his own organization’s name, and promising to pay them for a ride back. The fishermen argued for some time, but ultimately came to our aid.
On our way back to the Boil, a young half-elf by the name of Nathar Arrista began to speak with Nathaniel and Caleb about the Watchmen. Apparently, Nathar had been saved by the Watchmen some years ago, when a force of troglodytes led an attack on his hometown of Angler’s Cove. He asked questions of the current state of the Watchmen, his voice full of anticipation and wonder. We asked him if he would like to help the Watchmen by keeping his ear open for any news of the Bowmen, and he agreed. Whenever we find ourselves in Carrion Hill, we should check with Nathar for updates on what he may have heard.
During our discussions with the fishermen, we found that the tensions against the Bowmen in Carrion Hill were mounting. Much of the city council were calling for the Bowmen to be banned from the city, due to their apparent alliance with troglodytes. I asked which of the council were on the side of the Bowmen in this dispute, and was given the name Allistair Brandall. Apparently he and some groups of Crows are Bowman allies. I noted the name, and resolved to find a way to remove the man from power. To that end, I inquired where Brandall might be found; I was told he frequented a high-class establishment called “The Ivory Crown”.
We docked in the Tangle, and began walking through the city to the gates which led to the Crown. As we moved, there were mutters to either side of us; excited whispers of “Bowmen” and “Trask”. I slipped away silently so my companions could keep moving without pause, and went to one of the groups to ask about the Bowmen they spoke of. They told me that there was a force of twenty at the gates, led by Trask. They were demanding entry to the Crown, and were looking to do violence. There was also a secondary group in the southern end of the Tangle who were meant to come and join the group at the gates once the fighting started. I hurried to catch up with Sorscha and the others, and informed them of the trouble just before they came within sight of the city gates.
Pausing to discuss strategy, we decided that it would be best for the Ironclad, along with Ser Siefer, to wait in a nearby tavern called the Bull & Horn until we sent word for them. Nathaniel turned Sorscha invisible, then followed Seifer and the Ironclad. I began to move up toward the group of Bowmen, inconspicuously weaving between crowds of people gathered around the edges of the street, so that I could hear the heated argument between Trask and a Crow captain at the gates.
Trask’s grating voice seethed as he spoke to the captain, who he identified as “Thorne”, talking about the injustice of being barred from the city. How ungrateful Carrion Hill must be of the “protection” provided by the Bowmen (a veiled threat if ever I had heard one). He continued on listing perceived slights as he stepped closer to Thorne, his left hand on the sheath of his blade, just as it had been before he murdered High Elder Johnston Greene. Thorne would soon have his throat opened from ear to ear, and he wouldn’t even see it coming.
I needed to warn the captain, but did not want to draw attention to myself; so I used the crowd.
“Is that… does Trask have his hand on his sword, there?” I whispered, frantically, to the group.
“… Nah, look; ’is left ‘and’s on the sheaf. Clearly the man fights right-’anded. Although…:”
“Yes, look his thumb is on the hilt there. I have seen this before; he means to pop the sword loose with his left, and slash out using his right before Thorne even sees the move!”
Thus the conversation continued, ramping up in excitement until it had folk running from my group to the next, and the next… The commotion worked just as I had hoped; the Bowmen behind Trask began to look around nervously at the agitated crowd.
I walked calmly behind one of the people moving from my group up the street toward Trask’s men. My thought was that if I could get close behind the Bowmen, I might be able to turn invisible and get a shot off at the wall such that it would look like they had begun to fire on the Crows. Hopefully, that would catch Trask off-guard and he would have a moment of distraction wherein Thorne could take a step back into safety. If the first shot was fired by the Bowmen, and the Crows started attacking before they were prepared, perhaps the fight would go in our favor, and we would be able to wipe out Trask and his men. I began reaching for my bow with my right hand, while my left moved toward the quiver on my hip.
An unseen hand grabbed my right arm, and I had to bite my tongue to keep from yelling out. Sorscha’s voice whispered into my ear, “Do not attack, fool! If we start a fight here, many innocent lives will be lost. Most of us will likely die as well.” I looked over my shoulder, nodded reluctantly, and released my grip on my bow. The drow woman whispered in a harsh, condescending tone, “I am going to retrieve the Ironclad. I will be back soon. Don’t. Start. Anything.”
Moments after Sorscha left, Trask began to step up his threats and I considered my plan again. Captain Thorne took a step back, out of the reach of Trask’s sword, and drew his weapon, answering the challenge. His second, Sergeant Torquil, drew his own weapon, a double-headed greataxe whose edges gleamed in the torchlight from the gate. Trask yelled something about not caring how many Crows he had to kill, and gave command to his own second to cut off Torquil’s head as he readied himself to strike. At the sight of weapons being drawn, I had gone for my bow again, but I stopped when I noticed something in the tone of Trask’s voice, and the movement of he and his men. He was clearly enraged, but his voice sounded a little too zealous; he was playing up his anger. And his men were tensed and ready to fight, but they were also clearly waiting for the Crows to make the first move. He wanted to be attacked.
The heavy, rhythmic clank of iron-shod feet rose steadily from the lane behind me, and I turned to see the Ironclad and Ser Seifer advancing toward the Bowmen. They stopped about twenty feet from the edge of Trask’s men, and Centurion Frissk called out to the Crows, declaring the Ironclad’s allegiance to Carrion Hill, and their willingness to stand in solidarity to face down this Bowman threat on the city. Seifer saw Trask, and his hand went to his sword. I quickly moved to speak with him, telling him that attacking now was what Trask wanted; the result would likely be many innocent lives lost, and if he was looking to start a fight, the odds were that he had the ability to finish it. The knight looked less than convinced.
The sound of two more sets of iron-clad boots, one so heavy that it shook the ground, came from the other side of the wall. The gate opened inward, and Lance Corporal Wallace emerged, eclipsed shortly thereafter by the massive suit of living iron, Keldoron. Trask scanned the scene, calculating; then his eyes tracked over my position and his expression went suddenly cold. He glared at me, and at the Ironclad, as he ordered his men to stand down. Bellowing more threats about how “this is not over” and “the Bowmen will remember this offense,” Trask marched his men toward us. He stopped briefly in front of me to throw curses, insults, and ever more threats in my face. I gave him a flat stare.
As he turned to leave, I responded “Tuck your tail and run, dog.”
He turned, staring daggers at me, “Funny to hear that, coming from a yellow-skinned coward.”
“Ooh. Yellow. Strong words,” I said, voice dripping with sarcasm.
He smirked, “Awfully brave of you, hiding your head while Greene paid for the sins of the Watchmen with his blood.”
I looked on, not sure what to say. Trask left, and I lamented that my words hadn’t sparked more of a response. Surely next time we meet, the Bowman Lieutenant will want me dead… or worse.
I followed fifty paces or so behind the Bowmen as they left, both to make sure they did so without killing anybody, and to be there to attack if they struck the first blow against Carrion Hill. Coming around a corner, I found that Trask had discovered Caleb and Wulfgar, near a bridge leading to the southern portion of the Tangle. Five Bowmen each held my companions, and they looked ready to do violence. Glancing to the few Crows who were also following the Bowmen out of town, I drew by longbow and nocked a magical arrow, “I trust the city guard sees the Bowmen assaulting my comrades, there!” Trask grimaced at me, and ordered his men to let Nathaniel’s bodyguards go. His voice rasped like an axe to a grindstone, “Like Three Cedars, do ya?” Then he turned and walked off.
We returned to the gates where stood Captain Thorne, talking with the Ironclad. He thanked us for helping the guards stand up to the Bowmen, and as we walked past the gates into the Crown, he followed along, inquiring as to where we would stay the night. We told him he could meet us at the Mucky Duck, and he departed. Nathaniel then began to relate to us a revelation he had about Trask’s robed companion. It appears that his garb is of the same make as that which Xar’eth found at the Spire. That, taken together with the demon-head tattoo on Trask’s skull is fairly damning. Then there’s the issue of how atrazine knew we were at Hemlock Field even though he never saw us directly. We need answers from the Drow, and soon.
Upon reaching the Duck I asked the tavern-keeper if there were baths available, hearing a slight feminine echo to my own voice. As the tavern-keeper left to ready the bath, I glanced to my left and met Sorscha’s eyes for a brief moment. She broke the stare, looking discomfited, and called after him “Separate rooms, please!”
I came downstairs feeling clean and more relaxed than I had in weeks, despite the confrontation with the Bowmen. Captain Thorne entered the tavern, along with a group of plain-clothed men who moved in too disciplined a manner to be commoners. Presently the tavern was emptied of most of its occupants, and the plain-clothed men occupied the tables in their place. Thorne sat at the bar with our party, and discussions began as we waited to sup.