Though recently returned, our time at Temple Rise was not to last.
Upon reaching Three Cedars, I saw that they had begun to establish a perimeter. Additionally, the knight, Seifer, had a handful of villagers running through their paces. He appeared to enjoy the work and, if I’m honest, there was at least some improvement from when we last did battle here.
A few of the townsfolk from Hemlock Field decided to stay. Apparently they knew people at the Cedars and preferred to take comfort among them rather than seek a more defensible location to resettle. This would also benefit the hamlet, if Seifer could get his training to take hold. We left for Temple Rise and he decided to accompany us.
We stopped briefly in Lochaid, to ensure that the new residents were getting settled in. Hershel made a point of advising that no one try settling in “that building”, the dark one that he’s had a morbid fascination with. Can’t say that I disagreed with him. Talking with Olt, I learned that he had requested an additional contingent of dwarves to help rebuild and guard the suddenly booming population.
Through some sorcery, I assume, Xar’eth now occupied a restored Scarlet Spire. Though not unimpressive, I’ve seen similar feats before. Though he certainly acted in his own best interest, he had yet to move against the group directly, so I had other priorities. Our new magehound seemed to be getting more comfortable with Nathaniel and very much less so with our warlock companion. I left the others to hammer in vain at the solid door, demanding entry (though they made their way soon enough). I needed to report to Exelar.
After conferring, we collectively decided that we were deficient of information. If we had any hope of dealing with the Bowmen, we needed to know more about them and the wider area that we’d entered into. Soggy Pete agreed to guide us and after a night’s rest, we set back down into the Basin.
Coming Down the Mountain.
We decided to take a different path known to the trollkin, rather than risk going back through Hemlock Field so soon. We left the Rise, headed through Three Cedars, and then on to the village of Pulga, which we’d heard from refugees had been destroyed. Upon arriving, we could see that they were correct. Pulga had been razed.
Smoke and some guttering flames still belched from what had once been a small settlement. Naught was left of the buildings but a few portions of stone foundation and the charcoal remains of timbers. More disturbing was the fact that there were bodies staked out in front of the town. Dead, all of them. And then we caught movement in the village. Moving in closer, I was able to see that they weren’t people; not any more, at least. Like Elder Greene and the bodies locked below the Spire, they were dead. A few well-placed shots from Hershel felled them. Is this the remnant of the ‘plague’ that the dwarves had been concerned about?
At Pete’s insistence, we moved on from the remains of Pulga. We were bound for a place he called the Graham “Homestead”. A rather grand name, in my mind for a house with growing lands and a secondary, smaller residence. There turned out to be a primary couple living here – the titular Grahams – along with a second bonded couple and a labor hand. The family heads were Siogh and Aariama.
For a change, they seemed a fairly pragmatic lot. Though they had no love for Bowmen, they allowed them through and even provided supplies, if they caused no trouble. Interestingly, it seems that factions among the Bowmen have something of a reputation of being reasonable, or more trouble than others. They also anticipated who we were, having heard rumors of some activity around Temple Rise. We accepted their offer of respite and stayed for the evening. In our interactions, I did note that the people themselves were from different areas around the Basin. Apparently, this was intentional, especially on the part of a community called Anglers Cove (which turned out to be out next destination).
Heading to Angler’s Cove, Soggy Pete again proved his worth as an emissary, buying us pause from the locals that we otherwise might not get. Convincing him to come along was an action on the part of Hershel and Nathaniel. However, in this case, that goodwill was tested. One of these ‘covemen’ challenged our entry, accusing us of being or working for the Bowmen. I must admit that my self-control…slipped…a bit and my companions had to lay a hand on me to keep me from breaking our accuser. However, this seemed enough to convince him and we were allowed entry.
Obviously, the people here held no love for the Bowmen. Similar to the Grahams, my impression was that they may tolerate them moving through sometimes, but brooked not foolishness from them. It seems that everyone in this land had to accept Bowmen authority, to one degree or another. The only good part of this is that does appear to have bred resentment, as well.
Pausing before our next leg, we took rooms in the local inn. Listening to the townsfolk and some of my companion’s conversations, it seems as though Angler’s Cove actively manages it’s population. It frequently sends people out into the lands in order to remain a certain size. This was perplexing until I caught a familiar sign near the docks, heading to the inn: troglodytes. Not the creatures themselves, but sign of them and their work. Did the town have an arrangement with a nearby tribe? I’ll have to keep this in mind.
While we were partaking in a meal (except for me, the new ring has taken effect and though extremely useful, I find not need to eat a bit odd), A bar tough started making a ruckus. Having been among my companions for so long, I had almost forgotten the kind of attention that a drow can draw on the surface and the troublemaker’s gaze settled on me. Just as I was loosening my limbs and making sure that I had enough room to move as I needed, Seifer moved in and intercepted the man. Was he itching for a fight or did he truly believe that I needed protection? Either way, he was an excellent distraction.
Seifer blocked the man’s way, insisting that he return to his own business, at which point the man attacked him. Assuming that Seifer was capable enough to deal with a single tough, I took a look around the common room. At the last moment, I noticed another figure moving toward the fight. So, there were two of them, and Bowmen at that. And this one was mine.
Using my own trained swiftness, enhanced by the greaves I’d acquired, I was on him in an instant. At the last moment, before striking, he whispered that he was trying to help and to let him make his move. I don’t know why, but I took the gamble. I knew that I could drop him if needed, and Seifer was encased in metal, so I had reason to fear yet. A quick knife throw and this new one had fatally wounded the other. He then asked me to play along and walk with him back to my booth. Intrigued, I followed.
Sitting down, I asked why he had helped us. He answered that it wasn’t his intent and that he was here for the ruffian; despite the fact that they were both Bowmen. The strife among their factions ran deeper than we realized. He was clearly on edge and preparing to leave, but he also said I should ask any questions that I had now.
I asked after Trask and was told that his men had several mobile camps, but that their main base of operations were in a set of caves to the North of The Sink. And that they kept a presence in The Boil. I then asked why the Bowmen were spread out over the basin. What were they looking for? I don’t know what I expected, but it certainly wasn’t the fact that they were searching ruins for “an artifact lost to Law”.
He also mentioned a ‘feared name’ in the search or among the factions that had been hiring
surfacers as well as darkfolk to carry out their missions. As he said this, he stood to go. I pressed and asked what this fearful name was. He only looked back, said “Nakarris”, and left. I have no idea who this could be, but if our luck stays it’s course, whoever this is will be bad news.
Ah, Seifer appears to have been cleared of charges from the authorities. Time to rest, then. Tomorrow promises no less interest than today.