Thorne takes the Ash Hunter to see Ollonni who agrees to clean out the dry cellar of the Watchers’ House as a temporary room. Ollonni notices that Thorne is become ragged and his skin translucent. He is losing his grip on the world. Lucky for Thorne Ollonni has just the trick and uses some alcohol drenched silk to stitch his spirit back into his body.
Hafwyn, Keribrar, and Lady Anne Mowbry go to the Fountainhead market to purchase some healing supplies. Keribrar also gets a small chunk of ceder and teak to use for Thaogut’s chair. The three of them find a nice inn and rest until nightfall.
River of Souls
With the sun near the horizon the four of them meet up at the shore of the river. Karrin is already there waiting for them. Her time is near its end and by dawn she will be forced to return to the Flumen Dei Animas. With so much time trapped together they delve into each other’s secrets. It is true that Hafwyn despises Keribrar and all elves of his ilk. He tries to mend fences but Hafwyn simply leaves the conversation. Karrin tells them that the proprietor of the Pustule is a skilled necromancer who fetches water from the river to pull spirits upstream to a gathering point he has prepared. Karrin has been summoned several times and looks forward to nothing more than returning to the river.
It takes hours following the river until they final catch sight of the river. The river is wide, stretching nearly a mile, but except for central channel is is shallow. A wetlands stretches on either side of the river – filled with sickly trees and reeds. Karrin warns them against getting into the river now that the sun no longer touches it. It will sap the strength of the living until their souls are bound forever to its flow. That flow once led to the sea and “what comes next,” but something changed that long ago. Now the souls are trapped going downstream within sight of the sea before drug back to the headwaters.
Lady Anne and Thorne take a potion that she made during the day that will weaken the bonds between the spirit and body. The others guard their bodies while their spirits enter the river and begin to travel upstream. They need to move the bodies higher on a hillock as the waters of the river sense their presence and surround them – lapping ever closer to them. It is not long before their spirits are beyond sight and their bodies begin to convulse.
Treadmill of the Damned
Thorne and Anne speak with several spirits, many of whom they cannot understand. All of them realize they can never leave this river, but there is nothing they can do about it. When they reach the damn across the river they are returned to its headwaters to begin their cycle anew. There are thousands upon thousands of spirits on the river, but Anne is able to find a small gathering of those who appear like the cameo.
The people belong to the Sorcerers Kingdom, a name she thought more legend than reality. The few snippets point to a legendary city of gold, milk, and honey. A land forever blessed with spring and filled with humans wise beyond all other races. It was destroyed long ago and its bones reclaimed by the earth. If the kingdom was settled in this river valley it would be an intellectual coup. Unfortunately for her they are far too gone to even interact with her.
Thorne speaks with several spirits eventually finding those of the Lycene Empire. Their empire of dragon-kings existed before Theodova. They tell him that there lives an Old Woman on the river that has been here long before any others. Her spirit is strong and lives on a pond filled with water from the river, but not flowing towards its end. With time running out they force their way upstream.
They come across a small pond filled with water from the river. A hand-powered mill with leather buckets is constantly turning and drawing water from the river before dumping it into the pond. In the center of pod is a wooden shack at the water’s level. As spirits they cannot leave the river, but Thorne improvises and jumps across the buckets filled with river water, followed by Anne. When their feet touch the pond a cold breeze blows over them, the first physical sensation they have felt.
A woman’s voice comes from inside and welcomes them to her house. They go through the gauzy fabric hung over the doorway and enter the shack. Inside are ropes stretched from wall to wall with cloth, meat, and skins hanging from them. An elderly woman is sitting in the center of the shack beside a hole cut in the floor dangling her feet into the water. She beckons them closer and to join her beside the hole.
X’letta has been on this river longer than any other and remembers her time well. She was a child when near the end of that great empire although she remembers little. She does remember the elves who once helped her village coming to kill everyone that lived there. She remembers that day clearly as it was her centenarian party to recognize her rite of passage from child to adult. She would leave the home of her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.
Thorne holds up the small cameo and she recognizes it. It was the badge given to mediums of great power. It granted them many freedoms and privileges. Something about the elves stopped the flow of the river and trapped the souls upon it. Many of them dared in time to force themselves upon the land and became powerful wraiths, forever tortured by the sight of the living, feasting upon their lives.
She warns them that they must return to their bodies before the first light of the sun touches the river. If they should be on the river when day breaks their spirits will be trapped forever. As the dawn breaks they can see the small island where the Hafwyn and Keribrar have taken refuse, with their bodies, from the rising river water. Angry spirits surround the island trying to reach one of them.
They fight and push their way through the others and with the help of Hafwyn and Keribrar they just touch their bodies as the sun touches the river around them. During the night the river moved as if possessed, but once morning comes it seems as little more than a large wetlands. The sounds of birds and other animals return to the land.
Taking only a few minutes of rest and burying the body Karrin occupied they met up with the Ash Hunter. He has searched along the river’s edge for those who trapped him, but to no avail. He will continue his search and thanks them for their efforts. He is currently burning runes into the earth and nearby trees – turning everything into ash around him. From here he will hunt for those that have wronged him.
On the return trip back to Fountainhead they reach the outer most steddings. Throne tries to use his key to the Watchers’ House to open a gateway. Instead of opening into the foyer it opens into some place far darker. A swirling black and green curtain of liquid covers the doorway. Multitudes of small purple flames light the darkness. Before anyone can react a dog-like creature pushes through the gate.
A large dog-like creature with a hugely oversized head with ten dazzlingly bright flames on its head. The flames streak off in all directions and when they strike the earth smaller dogs appear. The land around these dogs becomes blighted and begins to rot. Everyone scatters to stop the hounds from destroying more of the stedding while Hafwyn throws herself at the door trying to close it; unfortunately a second, but smaller dog, pushes out.
Anne manages to cut the magical leash connected from the large dog to the smaller. This causes the smaller to shrivel up and return to a pair of purple flames. Thorne commands the smaller dogs to obedience eventually cowering them until they return to flames as well. Keribrar help Hafwyn deal with the second dog then together they push the door shut.
A brassy horn is heard and Mr. Canders runs up. He beseeches them to save him the dog for he has not had a good hunt in many days. Thorne negotiates with him that he is willing to provide superior prey if he is patient for a single day. Mr. Canders agrees to the trade and helps them defeat the final dog. The people of the stedding appear physically unhurt, but scared out of their wits.
Back at Fountainhead Anne and Keribrar try out several abandoned houses in the Fountainhead#Blackhouse District before setting on a only slightly damaged crafter house. Keribrar sets down to work on Thaogut’s chair. Hafwyn helps Thorne try and discover the location of Mockers’ Grove, but there are plenty of guesses, but nothing specific enough.
As they leave town Keribrar stops by and delivers the chair. It is well received and Keribrar elusively thanked.
At least Thorne has better luck with his prey. The dishonorable scum of Holwen’s Boys are prime candidates. He spreads rumors about them not finishing an honorable duel. While no ganger has ever met upon a field of honor there are over a hundred Sidhe in the city that look down upon such things. Having them hunt you will bring him out of the woodwork to deal with these rumors.
Thorne prepares an ambush in a stretch of trees near the city with the help of Anne and Hafwyn. He spies Rorrick along with three other companions – in addition they brought along a nasty looking hobgoblin. Hafwyn’s warrior spirit resonates with hobgoblin driving both of them into a rage. The ambush blown Thorn steps out and laughs at Rorrick’s need for help – ignoring his own assistance.
The thugs are dispatched nicely and Rorrick forced to surrender, but the hobgoblin has wrapped up Hafwyn and has a dagger to her throat. From this bargaining position he parleys for safe passage from this battle. He does not care about Rorrick and was only doing this as a favor for his boss. The information he gained is far more valuable that repaying a cheap debt to gang trash. He does offer some advice that nobody should turn their back on the Hafwyn if they value their life. Hafwyn’s rage burns bright and deep.
Dragging along their prizes they head to search for a priestess in the next village. She knows of the grove, but the directions she gives are most alarming. Head west until you are heading east then pass through the fork in the road. The words may be twisty, but they do manage to find Mockers’ Grove. Mr. Canders is not pleased with the quality of his prey, but he is willing to let the favor pass. All of the land owe obligation to the ancient one who watches over these lands and the ancient one choose them.
He tells them of the time long ago when Aegrin came to this land and killed X’toltn, the Undead King of Marak. It is said by some that their battle never ended and they continue to fight to this day. The power used to destroy the Undead Sorcerers was drawn from the River of Souls and the river, along with the land, has never been right since then. It has been cleansed of their evil, but it has twisted everything sideways.
He does has one spot of good news. Anne should seek out Father Karl for a cure for her poison. The priest has some measure of power and he has gathered around him a strong following. There is both a great deal to be gained and a great danger with such people.
That night Hafwyn wakes and finds one of the children stealing from Anne. She stops the kid and after teaching her a rather physical lesson gives the kid some food and supplies.
The next day Thorne gets ten daggers and trades them to the girl in the inn for Thaogut’s stick. She tells him that her leader, Gorrick, will be pleased and if he should have further trade she would be willing to lead him to them.
Lady Anne finds Father Karl at the forum in the Temple District. He has gathered quite a crowd of both followers and onlookers. She gets his notice and asks for his help in curing her ills. Father Karl places his left hand upon her forehead and invokes the name of his deity. Anne feels power coursing through and her wounds begin to heal. When he pulls back his hand the icon of his god is branded on her head. It looks like a wide ankh.
The next morning Keribrar stops by and presents Thaogut with his chair. The fae gnome is immensely pleased with his new chair. Throne meets him there and returns Thaogut’s walking stick and even helps Thaogut move //The Chest// higher upshelf to the temple district. Keribrar learned a great deal about Mr. Canders from Thaogut. The Irillians call them Liminal, but the proper term is Harduic. Most are half-born creatures chased from the Fae Lands by a Faerie Queen. Pitiful creature trapped between world and never belonging to either.
Thorne returns to the Watchers’ House and finds it changes. The greenery is wilted, the flames dimmer, and the entire place chilled. The house is under the influence of the unseelie, but Ollonni does not seem to mind. He does meet up with some other Sidhe who are enjoying a nice luncheon. It is clear they are unseelie, but Thorne cares little for such titles and sits down for lunch with them.
With everyone gathered at the inn they meet with the girl and pay for passage to visit Gorrick. It is a twisty path with plenty of spots to ambush or kill any interlopers. There is even a heavy blade placed after a small tunnel to lop off any heads peeking through. Deep into a natural cavern they reach the lair of Gorrick. He turns out to be a deformed and amputee goblin. The roughest and ugliest goblin that anyone can remember seeing.
Gorrick is willing to help them, and even leave them alone, in exchange for a trade. He needs weapons, tools, and coin. In exchange he is willing to guide them to the edge of the territory of Duerte. Duerte is a powerful necromancer who has lived here since the birth of this city. He is a master of secrets and dangerous as an enemy. Gorrick sold two brass orbs to him for a tidy sum.
While speaking with the goblin they see a young girl carrying food and a goblet into a back room. When the curtain parts they seee Quilate bound up inside. The girl comes out with empty plates and six colorful feathers. With an immediate goal they negotiate for Quilate’s freedom. The final tally is Quilate provides them with six feathers a week and Keribrar repairs their simple furniture. In exchange they can take Quilate and he will provide them with his protection.
It is a done deal and Quilate is freed.
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