4th day of the 1st ride of Summer-Flame, 1262
After lingering for some time at the site of the carnage in Allenham, we followed Luca to the forest’s edge. He was eager to find out if we could follow to where the murderous brigands had fled to. We were lucky enough to pick up the trail and we followed it into the forest for quite a distance. We went deep into the forest, where there are more shadows, the air is humid and earthy, and the temperature is much colder. Forests tend to grow oppressive the longer you stay in them, so I was happy when the trail brought us to a clearing with a lovely pond at the base of a hill. The pond is fed by a small waterfall that springs from up on high. There were bits and pieces of architecture strewn about and a clear path to the summit of the hill. We followed the path since there was plenty of evidence that it sees regular traffic, and likely from the brigands as well.
On the top of the hill we found the remnants of, what appears to have been a lovely pleasure garden. The Queen’s garden at Kingsport sprang to mind. I was eager to find the source of the water, but was unable to find it on the top. In the center of a wide circle of columns and shading trees, there was a fountain-basin with a statue of two elves in a romantic embrace. The basin was empty and overgrown with fragrant roses. I could faintly hear the bubbling of the spring somewhere underneath, at which point I concluded that there must be more beneath the surface. I urged the group to gain entrance by going to the point where the water bursts from the hillside.
At that point James sought our attention, for he found a crude shortsword. After a brief search, we uncovered a deep crag in the hill at the bottom of which were strewn the remains of a dozen of those ‘skaven’ creatures. The group included one with the queer type of leather armor. James cut a sample from the leather. Arguing that these gnomish rats would only dwell below the surface, much like regular rats, I reinforced my conclusion that there must be more below the surface. No entrance into the hill could be found in the crag however.
We rested in the peace of the garden for a short while before coming to our senses. We had a town meeting to attend! Luca left a note for the brigands, inviting them to partake in the meeting in town. We made it back to town in time, in the early evening.
We found Strickland at the Allenham Town Hall, looking concerned, inside a room one might describe as the ‘official room’. It was a bit more … let’s say ceremonial in appearance. Good for all manner of official business. This is good. Signing a truce or even a peace is sufficiently official to me. Things grew ever more tense as we waited long uncomfortable minutes for yeoman Allen and his wayward daughter to arrive. When they did arrive, Strickland promptly started the proceedings. Each of the involved parties were urged to state their grievances clearly and to explain what they hoped to be the outcome of these proceedings. Strickland himself showed a good amount of remorse in his actions and seemed willing to accept responsibility for the mess they were all in.
Falibur the dwarf explained that he was much aggrieved by the destruction of his smithy and was considering leaving Allenham and demanded recompense for the damages suffered. Syldarael merely wanted peace to return and the violence to stop. She was willing to cancel the marriage for the sake of peace (much to the satisfaction of Martha). Allen wanted the land the Halfling family that had been attacked today had been rewarded. And he wanted Strickland to keep a more even hand when it comes to the allocation of farmland.
Herman rather rudely demanded to know what our interest in all this was, since we were supposedly here to go after elven brigands. I calmly explained to him that through their combined efforts Allenham had become weak and therefore vulnerable to attack from the elven brigands. Like vultures on a carcass. Buttressing the strength and cohesion of Allenham was therefore in our interest.
Next I explained that Herman’s position was nothing short of blackmail. Giving him the land would be a travesty for the Queen’s justice, since no punishment would have been meted out for the many crimes committed. I also hinted that Martha would be a very likely target for investigation unless we could come to a … ‘ bargain’. This combination of ‘carrot and stick’, although I suspect the carrot more than the stick, proved sufficient to mollify the old yeoman and to come to a sensible agreement. Which stands thus:
– Strickland will strive for a fairer hand, especially in terms of the distribution of land.
– The Allens will take the Stubbs-lands (the Stubbs having ‘voluntarily’ uprooted and moved away prior to this agreement).
– The Allens will pay additional taxes as a fine, which will serve to rebuild the town, and more importantly, the Falibur smithy. The fine will be paid over five years. The first two years the Allens will pay triple the current rate, and they will pay double the rate for the remaining three years (so two years 3/10 taxes, and three more years 2/10 taxes).
Naturally, it is demanded that any and all violence stops from here on out. Also, the marriage was still on. I attempted to help close the proceedings with a flourish, after which all departed content-ish. By Sedna, at least the town is in calmer waters again.
The magistrate offered us room and board in the Town Hall and was thankful for our efforts. At that point we confronted him about the elven brigands. We explained that the rogues would have to be delivered the message that Allenham is no longer a target for their murderous dealings. A message for which we are to become the messengers. I hoped to convince the magistrate to join us as a means of atonement, but he proved too thick for my subtle message, or perhaps my delivery was too indirect. He convinced himself that organizing security at the town was a more expedient use of his time. He pledged to look for reinforcements from Cpt. Randall in Blackbridge (we exchanged dark looks amongst ourselves, knowing full well how preoccupied Cpt. Randall must be). Strickland did inquire what kind of reward we might need for chasing after the elven brigands. Seeing that we are well stocked in provisions and coin, we opted for a set of mules, which Strickland promised.
We briefly discussed whether we would wait for any reinforcements but decided against it. Reinforcements might not even come. We settled in for the night at the Town Hall, ready to return to the elven ruins the next day.
After a good night’s rest we departed for the ruins and found them without troubles. We made our way to the summit and tried to follow the trails of the gnomish rats, to discover from where they were dragged into their current resting place: the gash in the hill. We milled around and found numerous possible places of origin up until we started running into our own tracks. In other words: the tracks were too muddled to make proper sense of.
Next we split up into two groups to find an entrance into the interior by means of the waterfall. I investigated the top with James and Astrid, While Luca and Emrys investigated lower down. Neither group found anything or achieved much (outside of a nasty fall I made).
We then focused on the statue and the fountain basin, looking for hidden levers or other possible contraptions, or any other clues really. Emrys seemed a little distracted and eventually explained that places like these invite introspection and remembrance. He also explained that the statue represented two famous Moonelf lovers, and that he himself is of Moonelf descent. Also, this place was 3500 years old! Hence his state of distraction. Also, we found that Luca’s note was missing.
I found the basin and the pedestal of the statue to be very much worn, but the statue itself to be in an almost pristine condition. The flow of water from the fountain would have worn the stone which would explain the differences in wear between the pedestal and the statue. Also, I would not be amazed to find that the Elves would have used some manner of enchantment to secure the preservation of the statue. Especially given the subject matter. Ultimately I had to concede. I could not find a way in, but I did come to realize what had happened here … well, in broad terms.
The conduit that originally fed this fountain was cut by some catastrophic or dramatic event deeper down, quite possibly related to the gash in the hill that now serves as the final resting place for the gnomish rats. Ever since that event the water has been spilling from the flank of the hill instead. This is not unlike the situation with the aqueduct at the Sheridan Estate.
While I was pondering all of this Luca was visually concentrating hard on the statue. He seemed to want to wish or will something away. Whatever he did, it worked, the statue of the embracing Elven lovers vanished and in its stead stood a cloaked and hooded brigand with a drawn bow …
Sedna protect us! They are upon us!