Out of the dungeons and into the grove...

July 21st: Early Morning
We walked back to the main part of the castle, through the caverns we had traversed. The undead would not be overwhelming Maldar any time soon, but Ama had to decide what to do with her grandmother.

What she had done was treason at very least, but she was also Ama’s last link with her mother.

There was a long discussion between the two and in the end it came down to two factors.

First, Ama could not live with herself if her grandmother were executed. Second, the lady said that if Ama let her go, she would live out her days at her estate in peace.

She also gave Ama the bit of news that she had seen her own death, as had Ama’s mother and as she probably will when her time is near. I’m not sure that is terribly comforting to Amalline.

July 21st – July 28th
We actually had a full week where nothing tried to kill any of us. I was shocked.

The Duke was recovering from his ordeal, but his recovery has been slow. He is still weak, but regaining his strength.

Ama told me a bit about her conversations with her father during the week.

• The Maldaran guard is coming and there is no way to stop that.
• The Church of Bane (or at least Malvena Vol) is extremely disappointed in the Duchy’s lack of commitment to Bane and his church.
• Some of the Duke’s counselors are “off”, Kyman is the worst of the bunch, just not acting like himself and more forgetful than usual.

He also asked Ama (and the rest of us) to take a trip to the small village of Candlehall and see if anything is amiss there.

A merchant who passed through recently found that the village was changed from what it had been before.
• There had been Goblin sightings (Goblins are not common in this area at all)
• The villagers were closed-off and unfriendly which is contrary to what they have been in the past.

In order for Ama to make this trip, her double will step in on a semi-permanent basis. Also, just to be clear, her father suggested that she may have to stay away for a while. The Maldarans who have arrived recently are different than previous guards from that empire.

Added this, the Baneites have a major holiday (one of their usual festivals of bloodletting) coming up.

Surprisingly, Lady Ivanov doesn’t want the Duchy to fall and has converted to worship of Bahamut. She might be able to help in getting Amalline out of the capitol. She also gave some information from her own sources in Maldar.

The first piece was that the emperor has heard of Amalline’s beauty (no doubt he has one of “those” statues) and is drawing up documents to have her taken to Maldar as his consort (not his wife, but rather as his legal mistress).

The second bit was that this same emperor wants Cu back in the arena. I don’t think Cu wants a comeback tour, nor do I think he ever wants to step back into the arena.

With all that was happening, Cu decided the best way to deal with everything was to have him released from service (forcibly). It would otherwise draw suspicion to have him leave while Ama’s double continued to act as her. Anyone who has ever met him knows that he would never leave her.

I spent the week with my parents, taking the time to watch my father. He was keeping an eye on me too, which was to be expected since I generally avoid spending too much time with him.

In looking over the books, I found some interesting, but perplexing information.

Once a month father gets expensive, unidentified Maldaran shipments, delivered to an undisclosed recipient. He is working with Elizah Jacoby. This concerns me as they have hated one another for as long as I can remember. I suspect that this could be very bad indeed.

We talked about Maldar and the political situation there. Purges have been happening again, but they are different than the usual “whole family disappears never to be heard from again” kind.

This time, the people disappear for a few days and then return with completely different viewpoints and no memory of the time they were gone.

We also had our usual conversation about when I’d stop “wasting my time” and come into the business.

I pointed out to father that I am gaining information that can be used later on to influence people and that my friendship with Ama can later be parleyed into influence if I need it. Besides, we both know he’ll eventually win this argument, since Lucef doesn’t want any part of the business. If one of us has to do it, I will, simply to protect him.

Yes, Tobias Crowe will win, but I will have my way before I surrender and I know he wouldn’t respect me if I didn’t insist upon it.

He accepts that I will do what I want to for now and will do my duty when it becomes necessary.

Lucef is having a bit of a problem. He’s gotten some local girl with child. I suggested that a grandchild might be a distraction for Mother now that father has forced her to stop the charity work she loves so much.

I really need to find a way to give her something to hold on to, I fear she’s slipping away and losing her hold on reality.

As I was leaving, father asked me something strange. He wants to know what Cu’s “price” is. I told him honestly that I think he doesn’t have one. From everything I’ve learned about him, there is nothing he truly values aside from Amalline.

I did say that if I come across anything useful I’ll share the information. Father says that he has a “project” that Cu would be useful for. I’m betting (though I have no proof) that the project might be delivering him to the arena under an exclusive contract with Tobias Crowe. I could be wrong too; after all, there are many uses for a Goliath in this world.

Glyph spent a lot of time with Kyman. The old wizard is indeed losing his memory and even some of his arguments with Prester Crane.

Glyph asked him right out if he might have been taken by a puppet master and Kyman told him that his problems are more due to old age than possession.

He worries about his other apprentices. Cadwallis has learned all he can and has little talent for magic. Lucef shows a facility with Divination, though he uses it for his own purposes most of the time. He also has an unusual interest in Glyph and his background. He has a mental block when it comes to conjuration. Having gotten one of the local girls with child has not been good for his studies.

Glyph also needs to make up a purgative for Cadwallis who had a bad reaction to something recently. I think Glyph will make something perfectly vile for him.

Kyman, it seems, is going to visit an old friend who has taken ill. He has something he’s mixed up to make him a new man.

Kyman made a point of telling Glyph again that the Lady in Silver is a myth and a waste of time.

He also pointedly told him that bias against Maldarans can inform opinions and lead to wrong conclusions.

Cu and Lady Ivanov had some conversations, but he was very closed mouthed about the whole thing. What I did manage to glean was that he talked her into helping him get “fired”.

She doesn’t want Amalline harmed and would like to see her safely away. She has more loyalty to Anderland than anyone would ever think, more than is safe for her to have, I think.

In the end, the Duke dismissed Cu and asked him to leave the palace. The rest of us packed up and met on the road out of town.

Before we left, I saw Lucef. He has not one girl with child by him, but three. He asked me for some herbs to take care of his problems.

The miller’s wife cannot hide her infidelity because of that accident the miller had a few years back, so I gave him some herbs for her that will end her troubles and Lucef’s.

The second girl, woman actually, is the wife of a local merchant. Lucef must learn to be more discerning in his choice of lovers or at least avoid the married ones, lest he be ventilated by an angry husband.

The third girl may be more of a problem or may offer an opportunity. It is lady Ivanov’s daughter, far above Lucef in social standing and with a mind of her own.

She wants to keep the child, but would rather pass it off as William’s (William is Amalline’s older brother). I gave Lucef some herbs that he can pass along that will allow her to lead William to believe that he may be the father of her child.

If this works, I will have a bit of leverage over the future Duchess, which could be of use later on, if used carefully.
I wonder if I am truly helping Lucef by fixing his problems like this, but he is my baby brother and he needs me. Any sister would do the same and Lucef is just a boy still. He will grow out of this irresponsible phase.

July 29th: Late Morning
Amalline told us about her conversation with Sir Robert as we set off to Candlehall by way of the Council Grove.

She told him that she still intends to free him from his obligation, but wanted to know his story.

It seems that both Robert and Edward fell in love with the same woman, who happened to be the Duchess. Both men were married as well. Robert realized that love her as he did, they would never be more than friends and he accepted this.

Edward could not accept it and forced the issue. He raped her and was arrested and set for execution.

Robert could not see his brother executed and helped him escape, killing several knights in the attempt.

Both brothers were captured and tortured for a long while before being allowed the release of death.

Once they died, they were cursed to serve the Duchy until their honor was restored. Since their crime was against the Duchess, they would serve the women of the family.

He also told Ama that necromancy is in her blood, which she doesn’t seem to fully embrace.

Before we left, Ama told Glyph to check (at Robert’s request) for a gift from her grandmother in the kitchens. It turned out to be a withered human hand on a chain. He seemed happy to get it though.

Tempest received a letter of Marque from the Duke (which she is pretty happy with).

We walked for a bit, arriving at the council grove in early afternoon. When we got there, we found things to be…not as usual.

For one thing, we were challenged when we entered and for a moment, I thought they would deny entrance to my friends. Once I identified myself, we were taken to Nara Blackstaff, who has taken over as Archdruid since Master Ashcroft has taken ill and is near death.

The others were taken to the Warden’s quarters while Nara had a word with me. She promoted me to stand on the council, which was shocking to me. I’ve not been a full Druid for very long at all. There have been problems though, most of the council members have either disappeared or gone mad. Some have been killed.

The wardens who normally stay in the grove to provide security are also gone. One is off to report to his superiors, she said, the others are dead, one from illness, the other from a dire bear attack.

When I went back to see the others, I noted that even people I have known a long time are not themselves and that things are very, very wrong in the grove.

In the Warden’s quarters, I found the others just as a servant brought in mugs of spring water. The water here is usually pure and clear, but I sensed the taint in it…the faint smell of pitch, the corruption of the blood of the Night Dragon. To have the corruption here, in the grove might be disastrous.

Tempest reached to the earth and found that the corruption is spreading; the earth itself is bleeding and poisoned.

We dumped our water out. No one took so much as one drop of the tainted water.

Amalline and I went out to “procure more water” and to check the spring. It was there, the pure spring that feeds the grove was corrupted.

I needed to see Master Ashcroft and so we went there. I was challenged at the entrance to his clearing, but managed to convince the acolyte on guard that as a new council member, I could certainly see the dying Archdruid.

He was in bed, looking small and weak. His eyes were clear though and he took my hand, his grip strong as he stared into my eyes.

Once he was satisfied that I was free of the taint, he let go of my hand and told me what he knew of what was going on. He returned from a visit to Father Oak a week ago to find the grove changed. The corruption in the water was obvious to him, but everyone here had changed and seemed not to notice it. He doesn’t know how the water came to be tainted.

He told me that the village of Candlehall is making ale with the water from the grove to be sent to all corners of the Duchy. We must stop this from happening and at all costs, we must keep the corruption from reaching the grove of Father Oak or all is lost.

Then, he handed me his staff and told me that I’m the new Archdruid. Without it, Nara cannot be officially recognized as the leader of the Council.

He even growled for me, but I knew that his death was coming soon. Still, that small growl made me feel better.

Amalline and I went back to the others to tell them what had happened. I gave the staff to Cu, wrapped in some cloth. On his back it is just another weapon, in my hand, it is a target until we leave this grove.

While we were gone, the others searched the Warden’s quarters. The warden who was supposedly gone to his superiors is very likely dead, since all his belongings are here. More disturbing were other things they found.

An Uthnal headsman’s axe stood in a weapon stand with some other reaver’s weapons. The headsman’s axe is a weapon of obsidian steel that leaves slivers in any wound it makes. The slivers travel through the body to the heart, killing anyone not fortunate enough to die immediately from their wounds.

That it would be here is troubling.

Tempest also found a pot of Goliath war paint and a totem with death symbols in a pack with some more reaver weapons. The paint is mildly caustic and is not used by anyone who is not a Goliath and it is strange that it would be here as well and even stranger that it would be with the reaver’s weapons.

We need to get out of here fast.

We’re going to get our things together and try to divide into two groups to make our escape. Then, we’ll meet outside of Candlehall.

I’m starting to miss the dungeons.



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