It was the dead of winter after all, and snow fell on the last of the dying embers of the Fire Forest of Innenotdar. The seela gathered supplies for the next leg of our journey: their lives are literally in the hands of Quo Varis, and so they are eager to see that he survives and is richly appointed with fine furs.
“Well, excellent, just hand me the case, and I’ll be off.” Kazyk, demon servant of the Ragesians, didn’t waste any time calling for his end of the bargain we’d never explicitly agreed upon. It made little difference to us, so we gave him the case. But not before we emptied it of its contents: a heavy tome (marked with a supernal script, as we later discovered). As he departed in his usual way, Kazyk made vague threats: “Know that you will be watched.” “Begone.” I told him, “I am used to looking upon ugliness, but the sight of you sickens me.” I had been saving that one for just the right moment.
As we made ready to leave the seela village, Tiljann, inspired by the bard Etinifi, asked if she could join us in our questing. I admire the Eladrin’s skepticism: “what do you think you can contribute to the group?” he retorted. “Well,” the little fey said, looking shyly at her toes, “I could teach you the Song of Forms?” This was agreeable, so we allowed her to tag along.
It would be a long journey indeed, and it would take us along paths long overgrown. To make matters worse, it was to be, by the caterpillar’s bush, a harsh winter. An icy wind blasted our faces (and a colony of icicles tugged at my mutton chops). And it was in this state that we met a lone traveler, a bard by the name of Starett, on his way to see the sight of the everburning forest. Had he ever heard of Etinifi, Tiljann enquired. No, but ask me again sometime, he replied. We told the bard only what he needed to know to save him a trip to the now extinguished forest, and he eagerly agreed to join us and hasten our travels with song. This was a boon, indeed. And, with Fern’s magical protection we swiftly blazed a trail along the southern road, untouched for some forty years, to the village of Cornerwood.
We passed unnoticed by a band of hobgoblins, members of the Razor Claw Clan, rumored to keep umber hulks, trolls, and even dragons as pets. This was not the last we’d see of them.
We took cover from a raging snowstorm. We rested in a small cave, the final resting place of a troop of Dasseni warriors. Starett, with his loot-first-ask-questions-later philosophy, has gained my respect. Together we set about the business of relieving the dead of the trappings of the living. No luck, but their armor was frozen solid to their bodies, which rose from the ground, radiating a bitter, deadly chill. We cut them down, frozen brain matter ricocheting off the cave walls, may they rest now in peace.
We were relieved to see Cornerwood, a ways farther down the river flowing with chunks of ice, a few dozen men still fishing along its bank. Our very conspicuous group was spotted by the town’s horsemen, all bedight in the livery of Dassen. They arrived only too late to help us fight off the ambushing Razor Claw hobgoblins. Their captain, Iver, led us back to town, where Starett lifted the spirits of the commoners for but a few hundred coppers.
We followed the river from Cornerwood, through Thornwood Forest, and from there we journeyed farther south along the Prince’s Way, passing through some of Dassen’s duchies:
Timor: Ruled by the wise and benevolent Lady Timor, who hopes to earn the favor of Lyceum. The lands are kept safe by patrolling mages, dressed in the duchy’s dove and tree branch livery.
Rego: Capital city: Trenalath. Ruled by Lord Rego. Quincy Felthuf, one of Rego’s knights, told us of the wickedness of the wizards of Lyceum, who ignored Lord Rego’s plea for help, as Li Psu, a marauding mage, unleashed some primordial creature which harried Lord Rego’s castle. Once the strongest of the duchies, Rego is now devastated from the unchecked destruction that took place one year ago. It’s a fair bet that relations between Rego and Lyceum are cold at best.
Namin: Ruled by Lady Namin, friend of the Shahalesti, suspicious of Ragesian refugees. This duchy is harder hit by refugee travel. Soldiers tailed us as we passed through the land.
Iz: Lord Iz greeted us with long bearded, barbarian guards at his side. He was keen to impress us and the refugees by personally fulfilling his duty as lord.
Megadon: Lord Megadon is a just and generous ruler of his citizens. He is, however, hostile towards Seaquen (haven for Ragesian refugees), and has banned trade with the town. Foreigners are harassed with a 10gp toll. Lord Megadon does not believe Ragesia to be a material threat to Dassen and is critical of King Steppengard’s reactionary response. The citizens of Megadon would like to see King Steppengard step down and Lord Megadon take the throne.
Dene: The lands of Lady Dene are connected to Megadon by ferry. The duchess’ army is the weakest in all of Dassen, so the lady gouges the refugees, hoping to use the profits to swell her forces with mercenaries.