What follows is E’kai’s personal journal which was originally started as a recap of the previous play session (we were only playing once a month), but then transitioned into a way for me to expand her character.
The last ocher beams of sunset were sinking below the western forest of Winterhaven as we remounted for the short journey back to town. As we rode, I informed my companions that the KALAREL from the note we’d just found on the Elf in the graveyard was likely to be the same KALAREL whose name we’d seen in missives found in the keep. It was agreed that we should seek out LORD PADARIG upon our return, and ascertain just what he might know about this KALAREL character.
Town guards cheered us from atop the walls as we rode through the gates, proclaiming us their saviors and thanking us profusely for our help. I acknowledged their cheers with an incline of my head, and rode straight to the stables. For once, Eldaar did not remain to “care” for the horses, instead he pushed his way into the taproom and demanded the Rogue buy him a drink. Corrina snorted, took a multifaceted rock from her pouch and tossed it upon a nearby table. Eldaar laughed, tossing his own rock to the table, then grinned triumphantly. Corrina grumbled all the way to the bar, but returned smirking, and placed a tankard of cold, refreshing milk in front of the Ranger. A new argument ensued.
Turning my back on the two imbeciles, I approached the bar wrench to ask where LORD PADRIG might be found, as we had not observed him on the walls to welcome home the conquering heroes. Before she could produce even the smallest of sounds, a thudding thump sounded from over our heads, drawing the attentions of the bar wench, Corrina, Kkestral and myself to the ceiling. I frowned.
Corrina and Kkestral moved towards the stairs. Kkestral paused after a few steps and turned back to raise a brow at me. I waved her off, calling to her that I would join them in a moment. I chose not to hear the grumbling a moment later as she continued to the stairs.
I turned back to the wench. “Now, I believe you were telling me were I might find LORD PADRIG?”
“Indeed. He has been taken ill.”
“And what has he has come down with?”
“It appears to be a case of tainted milk.” She cast an amused look to Eldaar, greedily sucking back his ‘winnings’. “He suffers from fevers, hallucinations and appears to be quite delirious.”
“How long? We parted from his side not but a few hours ago and observed no such symptoms.”
“He complained of headaches yesterday and took to his bed just after you left. You’ll find him in the keep, conscious, but I’m not sure how coherent.”
I raised an eyebrow. This tavern wench was certainly privy to her Lord’s business. I continued: “Is anyone else affected?”
“No, of course not.”
I wondered for just a moment if there was indeed more to it than that, and looked her over. Then mentally shrugged – she had no reason to conceal it if other townsfolk were indeed ill. I thanked her for the information and passed her a silver piece for her trouble. I turned and made my way to the bottom of the stairs where Kkestral was trying ignore a leering Corrina.
As we climbed the stairs, I realized I’d forgotten to ask E’ee to ward the door to Callista’s room. Frowning, I took the last six steps two at a time and pushed ahead of the others, suddenly unsure of what we’d find once I unlocked the door. Opening it slowly, nothing appeared to be amiss: Callista was still sleeping, sprawled out on the bed on her back, snoring. Corrina and Kkestral went prowling around the room while I stood over the sleeping Callista, contemplating the situation. My arms crossed, I tapped a claw against my armor and thought back. Had Callista been wearing her circlet properly when I’d removed it earlier? No, I decided. It had been completely tangled in her hair when I had dropped her onto the bed and removed it, a result of being tossed around on the ride back to Winterhaven. Again, I wondered…
Nodding decisively, I strode out of the room and returned downstairs. Eldaar was still enjoying his spoils in the bar. I snickered at my mental choice of words, and dug through his pack, and casually mentioned, “You know, LORD PADARIG seems to have become ill after drinking spoiled milk…”
I laughed as the Ranger’s face turned a shade whiter than the milk he had been imbibing and he proceeded to spew the imbibed liquid across the table he sat at. A moment later I triumphantly pulled Callista’s circlet from the quiver. As I pulled it out, a decidedly nasty scent of rot wafted to my nose. I grimaced and inspected the circle grasped in my hand. A drip of…something…splatted on the floor beside my boot. Ew.
I walked over to the bar, grabbed a bottle of liquor and upended it over the circlet. I summoned a lick of flame and let it engulf the circlet. As the flames raced around it, my eyes grew wide – the circlet had sprouted THORNS. One second it was smooth, the next it had shimmered, almost shivered in my hand and silver thorns grew to sharp points, attempting to poke into my thick hide.
Eyebrows raised, I returned upstairs to Callista’s bedside. I glanced back and forth between the circlet and her for a moment, then shrugged once and plopped it on her head, and ignored the squawks of surprise and alarm that came from the general directions of the Rogue and Elemental. As they rushed towards the bed, the thorns on the circlet moved – turned inwards and sunk into Callista’s head, causing her to twitch. I pushed aside a lock of hair – no blood. Huh. Interesting.
Corrina back peddled out of the room to call for the Wizard. Kkestral’s mouth hung open for a long moment before she managed to sputter: “WHAT are you DOING?!”
I shrugged. “She’s a Tiefling.”
She stared at me, mouth agape again, then clicked it shut. “Well, where did you get that?” She gestured to the circlet. It took me a moment to understand why she even had to ask. Interesting that in less than a day, Kkestral had managed to insinuate herself so completely within our group. “We were gifted them.”
I shrugged again. “We don’t know.”
“AND YOU WORE THEM!? You’re a moron.” The last part, she at least had the intelligence to direct towards the unconscious Callista.
“To be fair, we didn’t have much choice.”
Kkestral went on a verbal tirade, lashing out at everything and everyone she could think of. I stopped listening after about five minutes, cleaning gunk off one of my hands (it had better not have been whatever was rotting in the Ranger’s bag…) and tuning back in when she pointed at Callista’s head, saying “She shouldn’t be wearing that on her head.”
“Well, where else would she wear it?”
“No, I mean SHE shouldn’t be wearing it. Period.”
I rolled my eyes. “Well, would YOU like to take it off her?”
“Oh don’t make this about me. You put something thorny on her head!”
“Yes, it was her item.”
“So if something of yours turned into a Tiefling, we should give it back to you?”
“Sure, I’d pop it’s head off, and see what I could do with the bones.”
Kkestral made a shrill sound of frustration and elbowed me out of the way. I resisted for a moment then stepped aside, amused. She bent closer to examine the circlet. “How did it get thorns?”
“I pulled it out of the elf’s bag, it smelled funky, so I doused it with alcohol and lit it on fire.”
E’ee ambled into the room, Corrina hot on his heels, and inspected the circlet for all of 10 seconds before pronouncing that we wouldn’t be getting it off her head easily. With that settled, I marched a protesting Rogue out of the room, Kkestral and E’ee following. As I locked the door, I asked the wizard to ward it. He took a knee, gestured, then stood and wandered back downstairs. I momentarily considered tossing Corrina at the door to test the ward but decided the resulting gore would get into the armor creases. I picked up a vase that was at hand instead and chucked it at the door. It bounced off, clattering to the floor. The ward shimmered visably for a moment after impact, before fading again. We returned to the tap room downstairs, hustled E’ee and Eldaar out of their seats, and made the short walk through the town to LORD PADARIG’s manor.
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LORD PADARIG’s manor was easily found, dominating almost an entire wall of the town. We made ourselves known to the household staff and were ushered into his lordship’s bedroom without delay. We found him propped up against his pillows, tucked neatly into his bed, nattering on about buying peanuts and crackerjack, and not caring about going somewhere. In other words, hiiiiiiiiiigh as a kite.
Corrina approached the side of the bed and leaned over to inspect LORD PADARIG. “How are you feeling?” LORD PADARIG blinked at her for a moment, his eyes wild. Before she could protest, his lordship’s hands shot out and grabbed her chest. She squawked and backed away quickly. Once she was out of groping distance, she repeated her question. “I said, how are you feeling?”
LORD PADARIG giggled. “I like blueberries!”
Great. E’ee snorted and left the room. I rolled my eyes skyward and dug through my travel pack for some supplies. I approached him, tilted his head back and poured a thick, viscous fluid down his throat, ‘encouraging’ him to swallow by holding his nose and mouth shut. He sputtered and choked for a moment, then swallowed. I released my hand from his face and waited. Within minutes, his eyes were clearing and he met my gaze, utterly embarrassed. “How do you feel now?”
He swallowed, glanced sheepishly at Corrina then nodded at me.
“Excellent, we have some questions. When we first arrived, Corrina over there lost some gold to an Elf. Who was he?”
“NINARAN? He’s an Outlander.” I glanced at Corrina, she nodded: it appeared LORD PADARIG spoke the truth.
“Does the name KALAREL mean anything to you?” He shook his head. Another nod from Corrina, truth again. Apparently LORD PADARIG was trustworthy. Stupid, but trustworthy. I momentarily regretted saving him – his manor house was quite pleasant, I could easily see myself enjoying its full retinue of servants…
I gave LORD PADARIG a quick update on our progress through the Keep and the resolution of the undead issue in the Graveyard. He was pleased and paid us for our work thus far. We confirmed that we would continue to clear the Keep, and would check back with him when the task was completed.
We took our leave of him, so that he could rest, and made our way back to the inn. As we passed by Wrinkle’s tent, a flap was visible for a change, flickering lights danced across the doorway. I would return later, after I’d eaten, the Elder and I seriously needed to talk.
An hour later, belly full and tired of the endless nattering of the Elf and Halfing, I excused myself for the night and headed upstairs. Leaving my pack and weapons in my room, I slipped back downstairs and out of the inn, through the darkened town to Wrinkle’s tent.
This chat was long overdue.