It’s a tactic that I’ve seen before, but I didn’t expect it to work here, with the Bowmen.
At Exelar’s suggestion, I took Hershel and set up in the treeline at Lochaid the same night that the bargain was struck. The arrival of this leader among the Bowmen has revealed a level of competence that could not previously be discerned. From our hidden vantage point, we could see them gathering materials, striking fires and camps, all for preparation to leave in the morning and all done with efficiency. Had these Bowmen been present from our first encounter with them, things would have gone differently.
Deciding it was worth a night in the open, we held position and I took my reverie perched in a tree. Come the dawn, the Bowmen were on the move and leaving Lochaid, as had been promised. As they left, they split their number to the East and West out of the town. I assume they did so to enforce our new restrictions. However, thinking back on what Exelar said about his conversation with their leader, I can’t help but wonder what the larger issue is that they’re dealing with that makes it so they couldn’t keep losing forces to us.
I sent Hershel back to the Rise to bring them up to speed. His new cloak makes for a useful and speedy messenger. I wanted to make sure that the Bowmen were gone, so as he left, I descended into the town.
I’m not sure what I expected, but they had actually left. I encountered no traps and buildings were not put to the torch as they left. After the last several weeks, it was strange to be walking here openly. It no longer was a place of danger, but merely old and empty.
Remembering our first time through here, and the determined digging of Bowmen on later visits, I hurried to the building that had collapsed from under me. A quick search lead me believe that in the time since, none of them had managed to dig out the body of the Bowman that fell with the tower. I took note for later and headed to the large, main building that sits near the cliff face. Damaged, but sound, it was also now empty of life. Satisfied for the moment, I went back to Temple Rise.
Arriving at the temple, Exelar was in conversation with a new arrival from the night before. A high elf, he arrived late and exhausted from travel, claiming to have reached us by following signs of battle. He walked out as I walked in to find Exelar examining a map of the area that I hadn’t seen before, He told me that he believed it be a type of magic that pointed out threats in the area around the Rise and that he had sent the newcomer to search for one, in particular. He then requested that I follow the elven knight to observe and “not let him die, if possible.”
This new elf was a strange one. Having shown up declaring himself an enemy of “those who would use magic to subject others”, and drow and their ilk, of course, he was now tromping through the forest, hurling boisterous challenges into the trees. He made it very easy to keep track of him while staying hidden. But, strange or not, his methods appeared to work as I suddenly noticed movement in a tree as there was the sound of a bowstring and a feathered shaft sprouted from the elf’s chest.
A fight ensued and, though the sniper was skilled, I managed to disable him fairly quickly. I noted, however, that every time I set the man up where we had advantage, the elf would not avail himself of it. He merely kept bellowing, demanding that the man stand up and face him, while simply standing there and not fighting.
Ultimately, I fought him to the point where he yielded. He said that he was instructed to convey that just as the Watchmen were fair game for the Bowmen if and when operating outside the Rise and Lochaid, so were their forces vulnerable when operating within the domains ceded to the Watchmen. He also said that we should expect that they will want to keep an eye on us, but that if we caught their spies, then they deserved to be caught. The sniper then used a device I’ve seen with the drow before – a mouth-carried capsule or false tooth filled with poison – and promptly died. We searched the body and returned across the bridge.
We arrived back at the same that Nathaniel and his entourage, along with Balk, were returning from Lochaid. Apparently, he had gone down and had Balk dig out the body from the collapsed building that I had noted earlier, As had become something of a custom, we piled our newly found items together to begin a magical analysis of them.
Everything went normally until Nathaniel examined a key. The very air in the temple room changed. It became heavier, almost like it took effort to move through it, and Nathaniel began to scream and then speak in several layered voices, The key burned in his hand with a strange light. Before anyone, even myself, could move, the elven knight moved forward and struck the key from Nathaniel’s hand. At the moment this happened, a wave of force erupted from the key, knocking all in the room prone and Nathaniel collapsed into a heap.
After some recovery time for all, I sought out Nathaniel, intending to inquire as to the nature of what he experienced with the key. As I entered the basement libraries, I saw him communing with a glowing crystal of some type and again, speaking with voices that were not his, nor otherwise present in the room. Calling out, I told him to set the gem down, immediately. When he refused and began trying to explain why he would not, I raced forward and rendered him unconscious with two precise strikes. This would not happen again the same day.
I took an empty pouch, grabbed the gem with it, and strode from the room, headed for Exelar’s chamber. On my way, Nathaniel, roused by one of his men, attempted to stop me through explanations and even physically, but I would not be deterred.
After consulting with Exelar in council, a course of investigations has been determined. Exelar is holding onto the gem to be examined further. And the rest of us are to go down to the Spire to investigate visions that Nathaniel had while under the influence of the key. Something in his descriptions of them reminded of the encounter with the Old One in the goblin caves, and I am not encouraged. It brings to mind a surface saying that I’ve begun to become familiar with about frying pans and their fires.