Palladium PBeM Report 11 – Long Winter Shadows ~ Promises

Promises, the current installment of the ongoing tale of the wizard Marlin Tyrell’s rise to fame, power, and infamy continues in the scrap of parchment found below. It is incomplete, but yields further secrets into the life of the mysterious wanderer, and what terrible events were set in motion by his simple visit to the port city of Luna Beach….

GM:

Out in the street once more, still quiet around the alchemist’s shop, you catch the faint aroma of freshly baked bread drifting on an inland breeze. The city’s seemingly permanent smell of damp stone streets, drying canvas, and fish is momentarily masked by the wholesome smell of the baker’s art. Even more faintly, is a hint of hay’s clean scent.

Genrir looks you up and down for a moment, lingering on the amulet, your hands, and finally on the ruins of your travel clothes. The left corner of his mouth curls up as he states wryly, “Been busy?”

Player the First:

Marlin wryly smirks back, “Not nearly busy enough, ‘twould seem. If we are to fine the erstwhile ‘Gallun” before he begins precipitating body parts, we’d best be about it, eh?” He hangs the amulet around his neck and cranes his neck toward the aroma of baking bread, and then once setting his eye toward the shop, continues: “Let us grab a loaf for the walk and head out. I had been thinking of finding a Guildsman to see if we can fathom what he may be preparing to raise,, but that would only increase the time he has ahead of us. If one were to be about *[in a whisper] summoning an aquatic demon*… it stands to reason he would be near water. The river is not much more than a swamp with tributary fingers hereabouts, and besides that, the lands about are too well farmed and populated. A much larger body of water is nearer at hand, and one would suspect, of more use in general. What little I know of his craft is that it takes time to complete it, and therefore time is of the essence if we are to catch him before it is too late. My good friend, you know this city better than me, for certain. Where do you think our friend would most likely find shelter from prying eyes, but still keep access to the sea, and be able to transport his wildlife with comparative ease; north or south of the city?”

GM:

Genrir looks at you for a moment longer, then nods – gesturing up the street, as he responds, “Fewer patrols head North.”

Holding out his right hand, palm up, as if it were a map of the city, he indicates the middle with his left index finger, and grunts, “Us,” before dragging that finger up to the base of his index finger, and saying, “bakers.”  That done, he moves it down to the base of his middle finger and grates, “Wizard’s guild,” before circling his finger around the tips of his fingers, then index finger edge of his hand, then along his thumb and finally down across his wrist while intoning, “Guarded stone wall.”

Astonishingly, he returns your query with a lengthy question of his own, “How would you get out: the sewers, a weak spot in the wall, magic, risking a small boat in the dark, or bribing the Watch?”

Player the First:

Marlin traces the city map on his own right hand just to make sure he has it firmly locked into memory. Then he indicates they press on to the base of the index finger. As they walk, he ponders the Dwarf’s rather lengthy question and muses aloud:

“The Alchemist said he was in a hurry and not comfortable in the streets, bought a hooded cloak, and overpaid… these are all signs of a desperate need to get out of the city quickly. Add to that a pair of goats and a hawk (should have asked if it was in a cage or not) it would seem unlikely that he could make his way over the wall with any degree of inconspicuosity. He may know a way through the wall though, which neither of us does, I presume… Waiting until dark to take a boat, with a pair of goats and a hawk in tow, nervous and hooded, is also lacking in inconspicuosity.
“Also to be considered is that, one, he has wanted posters all about the city for a substantial sum (for his death, mind, though without actually being in a summoning Circle he is as mortal as any other man, more so in many cases)… and b) given that the Watch has been hereabouts at least twice questioning the Alchemist, indicating they are taking an active interest in finding him, and that right soon, it would take giant adamantium balls to walk up and bribe a watchman, as suspicious looking as he must appear. Although, he does have a tidy amount of raw gemstones to scatter liberally about, and there is the possibility that he has an inside man anyway. That being said, the animals might in fact, play in his favour, as the Watch is apparently unaware of this, if the Alchemist is to be believed, so it is not out of the question for him to pose as a bumpkin returning to the farm, as it were… although I am not sure how many farmers have hawks at hand.
“Magic is of course an option, and the variables almost too numerous to mention. Scrolls are out, methinks, as he had nothing of the sort evident upon his person over the last few days and the Alchemist made no mention of buying any (which is not to say he didn’t, of course), though that is also not to say he didn’t have things squirreled about somewhere in the city. He may have accomplices or stooges in the Guild who would be willing to work wonders on his behalf, although I find the notion unlikely. I can think of no summoning ability that could conjure up a way for him to appear outside the walls, and such a thing would be a very uninconspicuous action to say the least… so I think ‘magic’ is not worth considering here.
“The sewers though, were he alone, would be an interesting option, but again the animals come into play. We as rational beings might choose to overlook the foulness that the sewers promise in order to effect a getaway, but the added effort of coaxing animals into them and keeping their noise-making to a minimum seems like too much effort and too much risk.
“Therefore, in summation, I would rule out an ‘over the wall in a blind spot’ sort of exit, however, ‘through the wall’ may indeed be an option. Boats: too uninconspicuous and an unlikely and dangerous option at best. Sewers: too much effort with the animals. Magic: always a possibility, but how does that help us? And so that leaves, bribery: very chancy, unless it has been done before and as such offers future promise to the bribe taker, but given his wealth at hand, he does have the possibility of making a very tempting offer, even to a first-time bribe recipient, for the same reason.
“So, let us buy some of this wonderful bread, now that we have reached the bakers’, and head back out of the city by way of the nearest gate to the north. All this thinking has made me quite famished.”

GM:

He grunts in affirmation of… hunger, agreement, or both, and replies, “Doesn’t matter how he gets there, if we can find where he goes to ground.”

The bakery is a culinary delight, and the enormously fat bakers, covered in flour and sweet confectioner’s sugar, have more delights on offer than you have ever seen in one place, in your life. Such is city life! Some treats for sale are of kinds about which you have only read~

Sated, and with a greater understanding of fairy tales like ‘The Prince and the Chocolate Bribe,’ ‘The Greedy Troll,’ and ‘The Baker’s Wives,’ you head off with your amused companion toward the North Gate. From conversations among the men as you made your way here from the mountains, you know it will be guarded by soldiers, as well as one or more Wizards or Warlocks… perhaps both.

Arriving at the gate, you see that most of the traffic is trying to gain access, rather than egress, so the line-up to leave is short and making good time. One bored guard in ill-fitting mail is leaning on his spear by the person-sized exit gate open in the huge array of iron bars blocking this lane of the roadway. Above him, however are two attentive-looking crossbowmen and a very finely dressed woman in silk embroidered with golden representations of fire. Speaking to those who wish to depart is a man in clean leather armour, with his long, greying hair pulled back into a very severe pony-tail bound with a silver clasp in the shape of a coiled dragon. He is not saying much, but is intently looking at each person in line as they approach, comparing their features to his collection of posters, pricking them with an iron pin to verify the reality of their appearance, and after a moment of silence, lets them pass. He looks weary, although nothing about his job seems particularly demanding.

“Mind Mage,” states Genrir. He sounds impressed. Obviously, the powers that be are pulling out all the stops in their quest to capture Alcome. Regardless… it just does not seem like he is the sort to get caught at a gate.

The other side of the road is congested with carts, livestock, and dirty peasants trying to work their way past the toll collectors, inspectors, and large number of guards overseeing the operation of the gate.

To exit, you will not need to pay, but you will have to leave your name and expected destination. It is more than most places ask, but with the piracy running rampant to the South, and the sort of rough-and-tumble miners and adventurers who pass through this port on their way to the Domains of Man, perhaps it is a necessary precaution.

Through the bars of the gate, you can see a trio of men, lounging on a large granite boulder, drinking wine from a large skin, and laughing. Each is armoured heavily and bearing many more weapons than one normally needs in the course of a day. Leaning on the other side of the boulder, but still visible, is a troll – equally armed and armoured, laughing just as hard, and getting just as drunk… but from a small keg rather than a puny bag of wine.

“It is my duty to inform you that the gate will be closing at sundown and will not open again before dawn,” the flat voice of the supposed Mind Mage suddenly states, drawing your attention to the fact that you are now at the head of the line. Above you, the female fire warlock is paying careful attention to Genrir.

“State your name and destination,” the fellow continues, comparing your features to those on his series of wanted posters. Over his shoulder you can see the trees waving as the wind picks up, bringing with it that rich smell of cut hay. It would be hard to tell, standing here, that a person were this close to the ocean.

..but the seagulls overhead are a constant reminder.

Player the First:

At the Dwarf’s comment of “Mind Mage” Marlin thinks for a long moment as they approach the gate. He knows little of their powers and abilities but by their name alone, he can surmise that they can read thoughts, at least on the surface. Surely if they could call up deeper thoughts from within another no secrets would be safe and the powerful would have outlawed them long ago, if not had them killed outright. A form of “truth sense” however, seems a most likely ability in such a man as this. Therefore as he approaches the gate it seemed most prudent to stay as close to the truth as possible in answering questions, yet avoid giving out his last name, which would simply lead to too many uncomfortable questions and possibly detention.

Marlin bows his head respectfully and responds matter-of-factly. “My name is Marlin and I am intending to spend the next few days hunting for yon renegade Summoner. As I doubt he is within the walls of this city I shall search for him beyond them. I will return three days hence and set sail from the harbour. While I know that chasing a Summoner is no leisurely activity, nor one for the faint of heart, I would rather spend the days before I set sail in pursuit of something that offers more interest and potential profit than inns and taverns.”

GM:

Although Kadmius trained and taught you well, there was little in your studies about those men-of-magic whose power is born wholly from within, and does not require the fostering, tapping, and shaping of the mystical lifeblood of worlds.

Tales told by travellers mention strange physical augmentations, but the one tale more unsettling to most than these was of those mages who can probe the thoughts of others. If those tales are true – if mages such as this one can actually read minds, would the victim know? Would there be some sign? Could it be resisted?

None of the others in line seemed to react to this man’s probing glance. You, yourself feel no intrustion into your thoughts. What can that mean?

“Noted,” the man states neutrally, and raises a hand to point directly at Alcome’s poster on the board beside him. “You seek this man? Alcome the Summoner? Do you have any specific information leading you to believe he may have leftLunaBeach?”

In the distance, through the gate, the band of drunks sprawled around the large rock burst out into laughter at some sort of joke or comment made by what appears to be a mightily inebriated wizard with his pants around his knees and a comically outraged look on his face.

Player the First:

Marlin glances at the poster and then answers clearly, “I have no specific knowledge of his whereabouts at all. I also am not familiar with this town, having only recently arrived. Therefore, it would seem most likely profitable to look for him in places where others are not. The Watch inLunaBeachhas surely scoured all the nooks and crannies wherein he might likely hide, places I have no practical knowledge of at all. So, I will seek him outside these walls while I have the time to do so. If I find him and can claim the reward, so much the better, but find him or not, I will be sailing out three days hence.”

GM:

The man nods his head, gives you one last probing glance, and states, “Then all the best luck on your journey. Please remember, the gates will not open again until dawn.”

He turns his attention to Genrir, and states, “Are you pursuing company business?”

Genrir declines, “No.”

“Have you and your father considered our offer?” the man continues.

Genrir replies, “Talk to him.”

Sighing, the inspector waves the close-mouthed dwarf past him and returns his attention to his duties.

From above, the woman in scarlet adds, “Put in a good word for us, Genrir, and I’ll see to it personally that it is worth your while.”

The dwarf passes underneath the cupola in which she stands to join you. He does not reply to her. The bored looking guard opens the gate in the greater array of the entry gate, and mumbles something about having a good trip.

Outside the gate, a broad, but rain-pitted dirt road heads north across the marshy land which begins its slow rise toward drier land, and well-managed forests. To the west lies the coast, and to the east, more farmland.

The right side of the road is lined with carts and groups of travellers seeking to gain entrance to the city. Many near the end of the line will be lucky to do so before dark.

The drunken band on the rock are still laughing over the antics and mock irritation of the tale-telling wizard, goading him on to even greater lengths to entertain.

Player the First:

Marlin glances down to his new friend. “Clearly you and your father are good people to know in this town”  He watches the drunken troupe for a moment and then continues, “I’d ask what offer that was but will instead save you the trouble of not answering me.” He looks back out again over the people on the road ahead and then pushes on. “Let’s head down to the coast and see what we can see there. Further reasoning will await further revelations.”

GM

The road makes for easy going, and before long it curves to bring it closer and closer to the shore. Where the two meet, the land has risen up to produce a cliff face nearly 100 feet in height, against which the surf hurls itself endlessly.

Ahead through the growing mist of a windy day, you can see the beach is composed mostly of tumbled rocks with sparse patches where smaller stones form beaches of sorts. Should anyone attempt a landing on these forlorn stretches of shore, they would have to be skilled and lucky, or mad and blessed.

Before you can question the wisdom of coming out this way when there does not appear to be any place suitable for Alcome to work a summoning, Genrir grunts and points into the distance at a dark splotch in the curve of the cliff face. As the two of you stand on the top of the cliff, looking north, the cliff in the distance projects out into the waters of the gulf, giving you a good view of the stressed stone and crushed gravel beach below it. Near the waterline, dark from its recesses and the swell of land over it, lies what looks to be a cave entrance.

“Ruined temple,” grunts Genrir. “No one goes there – cursed. Wet. Plundered.”

To reach it, the two of you will have to climb down ropes from above, or wade in from the shore. It looks like there is a path or two down to the beach, such as it is, from further on down the road.

Player the First:

“What a gods’ forsaken place this is. I have no doubt of the veracity of that curse, and I am equally content that such a place would be damned near perfect for Gallun.. or rather Alcome, to hide. I don’t suppose you  have a hundred feet of rope tucked into a pocket somewhere? I seem to have left mine behind.” He snickers softly and points to the path. “I don’t suppose we can make it without getting a bit wet, but I doubt he will have any guards watching. Methinks he is a bit of a loner. Shall we?”

GM

Genrir nods, and heads toward the cliff face and the coming descent. Although you are no expert, you reckon it will take more than half and hour to negotiate the path and reach the treacherous rocks of the beach.

If your eyes do not deceive you, it also looks like a figure is gathering items even further down the shoreline past the cave. The person is just about to disappear around the curve of land in which the ruined temple lies. If you had to guess, you would bet the person was gathering drift wood.

Player the First:

Marlin squints into the distance and the late afternoon gathering gloom. “I cannot tell from this distance, but I think that may be our erstwhile companion yonder. Let us make sure that he has rounded the headland before we start down. If we hurry, we can make it down and into cover before he returns… hopefully.”

Marlin, intending to get down to the rocky shore and start across toward the cave as night settles in, knows that he will be disadvantaged by that, but hopes that so too will Alcome. Genrir of course will not be. Not knowing if the driftwood is simply for firewood or a part of the summoning, Marlin decides that a balanced combination of speed and stealth is what is required here. Negotiating the rocky and beach will be tricky but it can be done. Not sensing ley line activity in the area he steels himself to hoof it.  Studying the landscape, he decides that If at all possible, he wants to get as close to the mouth of the cave as he can before the figure returns; ideally, undetected, within 60 feet or so… although that seems a tad unlikely as the cave is over a kilometre away.

GM

Even though Marlin grew to manhood in the mountains, this is not an easy descent, especially with darkness falling. With Genrir leading the way and offering his usual helpful mono-syllabic commentary about route conditions, it is not unlike trying to traverse the path alone.

With scraped knees and palms after a few uncontrolled slides, the two of you reach the bottom. One of you is much cleaner and less-winded than the other.

You calculate that it took almost 30 minutes to make it down to the beach. You made good time, often with the assistance of gravity and luck. Throughout the descent, no sign of the return of the figure was noted by either of you.

From the beach, a much less navigable strip of sharp-edged rocks and shattered boulders than it had appeared from above, the booming of surf surging and withdrawing inside the cave  sounds like the patient footfalls of Death itself. Is the Reaper’s cold claw coming for you, or Alcome?

Closing the distance to the cave entrance is an exercise in patience, agility, and seeing through the long, cold shadows cast by the setting sun. A fall here means deep lacerations, and possibly broken bones. What appeared to be stretches of gravel from the cliff above, are actually shards of brittle stone with knife-like edges and peculiar, spike-like projections. Each footstep must be precise and controlled.

Something very unnatural happened here.

Along the route the dwarf is picking, etched deep into the stone of the cliff, are images of the sea, the sun, and the wind. It is odd that there is no sign or symbol for earth…  What sort of temple was this?

It will be full dark before you reach the temple. There is still no sign of the figure you saw, but if your eyes are true, there may be firelight flickering deep in the cave… it is hard to tell. Genrir’s  gaze seems to have been drawn by it, too.

Player the First:

Marlin will carefully split his attention between following Genrir’s lead and keeping an eye on the cave. However, at a moment when they stop to catch their breath and plot the next course forward, Marlin will look at the symbols etched along the walls and engage in some speculation.

The absence of “earth” and the unnaturalness of what had obviously occurred here leads him to surmise that there was some sort of struggle between the various elemental powers. He doesn’t see the removal of the earthen symbols but rather the lack of them, and this unnatural stone beach seems to be almost a response to that. Was this temple some sort of Warlock refuge? Maybe a refuge that, for reasons unknown, discriminated against those of the “earthen persuasion”? Symbols for sea, sun, and air also suggest, in combination, storms and this is indeed a place most likely to deal with storms on a regular basis; therefore, Warlocks of these persuasions would be useful in quelling such storms (or calling them up in defence?). Now, given that Alcome is a Summoner who tends toward the aquatic, this temple (or refuge) would indeed offer him a unique and safe place to work his foulness. It may in fact actually have some residual elemental advantages (should such a thing be possible) or elemental artifacts. Hells below, there may even be Warlocks with whom he is aligned or in control of! The presence of the Fire Warlock at the gates is suddenly quite telling now: fire against water, and surely the Powers That Be in Luna Beach know of Alcome’s tendencies. Once he has embarked on this train of thought, Marlin fervently wishes he knew more about Summoners, Warlocks, this area, and its history. Genrir is unlikely to offer much in the way of enlightenment, but Marlin will eventually proffer a question to him before they make their way onward.

“I have noticed these elemental symbols along what was once surely a better maintained path to the temple entrance: sea, fire, and air, but no earth. Genrir, this temple and the curse… what do you know it? A “curse” is a very effective way to keep out unwanted visitors. I am beginning to suspect a collusion of Warlocks and their elemental powers were at work and battle here. Water would certainly be of interest to Alcome. Also, as there is a fire within the cave and we did not see that collector return, might Alcome have henchmen or allies within? I would think Summoners to be somewhat solitary, but I confess I know little of them.”

GM:

“Missing? The wall is Earth… no?” prods Genrir, looking at you in that way people do when cultural biases collide. “The bedrock the others rest on?”

“Anyway – I agree battle was fought here. Never asked – should have.”

Indicating the cave, he states, “Alone, but with victims I think.”

Squatting down he takes the thick piece of wood and carves a rough outline of the promontory in the glittering, sharp-edged gravel. Through it, he scratches a curving line that widens in the middle. “Two entrances?” he ponders.

Player the First:

Marlin mutters something unintelligible and then says in a more polite tone as Genrir carves, “I only noted that the *symbols* for Earth seem to be missing. Is there not also water here, and air? But anyway… I am not well acquainted with the ways of Warlocks and we can debate this presence of elements versus symbols at our leisure later.” He studies the crude map and nods, “Aye, that does seem like the most likely scenario. How many others disappeared when Gallun did? Was it three or four? I wonder if those make up the victims he has within. I doubt he has had time to do much kidnapping what with all the shopping, loitering, and skulking he has been about today.” He looks out over the rough waters in the gathering dusk. “Think you we can approach the cave entrance from here unseen?”

GM:

“Yes.”

As the full night falls, you note that the tide and wind seem to rising, while the temperature seems to be dropping.

That there is firelight from inside the cave is now obvious, although it must be quite deep inside. You doubt that it would be visible from the cliff top.

As the two of you creep slowly closer, you focus your control over the mystic energies you hoard within yourself and release them, bound to your will by the select choice of power words and mental images you channel them through. As your will manifests as effect in the world around you, your senses become attuned to include not only an awareness of the ley lines which gird the world, and of which this beach is sadly bereft, but also the presence of magic in its active and static forms. Unbelievably, the beach itself is littered with thousands of fragments of something which bore a great enchantment, but now lies in pieces in every direction around you. Distracting as this is, however, it does not deflect you from noticing that the cave itself radiates magic.

If Alcome is working magic at this moment, you are unlikely to be able to sense him, but if he is to work magic somewhere, then this would be the place to do it.

Genrir looks at you and seems to be steeling himself to make the rush across the 10 meters of 0pen ground to the cave entrance. He has his flail in hand, and a hard look in his eye.

Player the First:

Marlin loosens his new sword in its new scabbard and takes a deep breath himself. “I cannot tell if Alcome is working his foul summonings at the moment, but I can say with certainty that the cave yonder is abound with magical energies. If we are to do this, let’s get it done now before it is too late.” He nods once to signal Genrir to begin his approach, and moves to follow him, eyes and senses attuned to anything out of the ordinary.

GM:

Your approach is noisy and difficult, but you close on the mouth of the cave with no interference from within.

To enter the cave itself, you will have to cross a pool of water, which is about half a metre deep at is deepest point. It extends into the cave about 10 metres, fills the whole width of its mouth, and extends out onto the shore for about 5 metres. Small denizens of the deep cling to the rocks in the cold, clear water, oblivious to your grand quest.

You will need to duck a bit to enter the cave, but once inside it looks to be quite spacious. Roughly 15 metres inward the tunnel seems to fork, obscuring your sight lines. Both passages are lit.

The left fork probably goes off to form the hypothesized alternate exit, and the right likely descends deeper into the promontory.

At the height of your eyes there is a deeply carved mystical symbol on the overhang which forms the roof of the cave which, although very stylized, you recognize as representing the forces of Earth. It is about the size of your head. In orbit around it, about the size of a coin, are the nearly faded carvings of the other three elements, and a fourth symbol either too damaged to recognize, or beyond your ken.

You can smell the scent of wood smoke over the more liquid smell of seaweed and damp stone.

Genrir looks at you and states, “Good for traps.”

“Don’t set any off.”

 Here endeth this installment of the courageous tale of Marlin Tyrell, Wizard, and self-aggrandizer extraordinaire. Stay tuned for what may eventually befall him should he ever press onward into…

The Lair of the Summoner!

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