Book 2-3 Interludes – Visiting Varnhold – (Kerubiel’s point of view)
With winter drawing to a close and the snow and ice giving way to an early spring, we are able to visit Varnhold at last. We of course have sent word of our planned travel and they are excited to receive us. Although the rumours of Grigory still float through town from time to time, so Glanrim thinks it best that not all the Court head out and he offers to stay and keep vigilant.
However, since this is a diplomatic trip, Kasner has elected to join us and Yollie has requested to come because she felt some cabin fever over the winter and her time due to her crime. Since Glanrim is staying behind, Aila offers to join us as well as she is taking her job as Royal Enforcer seriously and insists on keeping us all safe by lending a helping hand.
Finn and Drael both want to accompany the envoy as well. Finn I think follows wherever I go sometimes and Drael was interested in chatting more with Cephael – their arcane caster, probably their country’s magister.
I of course insist that Cora come too as this is a diplomatic mission and since she will be queen one day, it is important for her to make connections as well. A few days before we are set to leaver, however, she comes up asking if Aila’s sisters – Illianna and Valla can come on the trip as well. Says that it will be much more fun if all the Zorn sisters are present. Apparently, she has become closer with them since the two shops opened up so close to one another.
I agree to her proposal – it’s nice to see her making new friends after Fastinbur passed and Falco did the right thing and moved to Tatzylford. I ask her if they can just leave the new shop, and that’s when she asks me if we can send replacement workers from the castle while we are away.
In the end, I think it best that if she wants the Zorn sisters present and they need people to fill in for her, that it be best if she makes the requests of them as their future queen. By the time it’s time to leave she has found 6 ‘volunteers’ and I ask Jensothi discretely about it, he assures me they will still be paid their wages.
We head out with a supply wagon with Aila driving and the other being the Dogrul family one where some extra people travel inside. As we travel, we have brought our pavilion tents for any night we are out of towns. During the days, when she is not with me she does enjoy spending lots of time with the sisters.
We spend a night at Oleg’s and Finn says he’s ordering a wand of curing – probably will be useful. Oleg and Svetlana provide us with a nice meal, and we share that are starting to expand north and they look forward to seeing us grow more. I wonder if Oleg’s is part of Brevoy.
We end up heading south at Navitka’s crossing, a small town on the southern border or Brevoy. We then follow the Kiravoy river road and shortly after crossing a bridge we come upon a small town, nestled at the base of the Tors of Levenies, somewhere between Silver Falls and Tatzylford in size.
We come across a shallow fjord that marks the center of town and to the south up a hill high rise plateau is a large log house surrounded by a stockade. A pretty good strategic defensive position. Then some burly looking farm types kind of stare at us – with amazement I am sure, and I address them and let them know that we are here from the great kingdom of Argentum and are here to meet with their leaders.
A big man with long stringy black hair is somehow unimpressed – must not be well educated in foreign affairs, points us to Maegar Varn in the stockade. I thank him for his time, and we slowly cross the fjord.
On the other side of the water is a quaint green space like park similar to our Founder’s Rock area and they have a well for the citizens at one end. At the north end of the park closest to us are a small collection of wagons that seem to be all shut up tight and suddenly Kasner is next to me saying he wishes we hadn’t made him the diplomat. Confused I look back at the wagons with their colourful banners and then notice a banner that reads ‘The Wild Extravaganza”
I then look back to him with inquisitve eyes and he says that this is the carnival that was responsible for them being kidnapped on their way to Silver Falls last spring. We then discuss if they were slavers as well and he says that they definitely drugged them.
This is concerning as they are in Varnhold and not a great first impression. As this information is whispered around the envoy, Finn adds that we should not accept any food or drinks while here. We all nod and keep the convoy moving towards to the hilltop.
We pass a nice storey building that looks like an inn and tavern with a galloping looking half horse, half fish on the sign post out front. Interesting – later find out that place is called the Waterhorse.
Talking to locals as we go, we find out that the Waterhorse is the most popular place except on Sundays or at night time when the carnival opens – they’ve been here for the past two weeks with all kinds of neat attractions. Finn asks if any people have gone missing – which earns him a confused look from the local and I shoot him a dirty look and turn the conversation in a different direction… don’t know who to trust yet after all.
After thanking this townsfolk we continue on and pass shrine to Erastil with stained glass windows and a giant bow engraved on it. Moving up the hill we pass a house that is built into the side of the hill with a lovely garden. Aila and Finn are talking lots – while Finn is talking and Aila is a kind listener, about the different architecture.
As we approach the stockade gates I remind Kasner to be calm and that we need to learn more about the carnival before we bite our tongues too hard. But then Finn and Drael make some comment about burning being their speciality. Oh brother, diplomacy at its finest.
Finn then looks to me and asks, “Burn it?” – I say not yet, and he and Drael echo with ‘yet’.
This is when a tall blonde Ulfin woman approaches us and tells us that her name is Willis Gunderson the newest member of the Varnling Host. She then welcomes us in and brings us to Maegar Varn.
We exchange pleasantries, discuss how well they are doing. I comment that their people seem happy. They then invite us to feast with them tonight. He apologizes that they can’t host us here in the big house, but they have booked the Waterhorse for us. Says it’s the nicest place in town. Suggests that we might like to rest there before dinner tonight.
We thank them for their generosity but mention that we have some concerns that are quite urgent. He says that he had hoped to wait to the feast, which then Finn says he is on a religious fast currently. Oh brother. They are polite enough back and Finn gives an awkward curtsey. They have a proposition on a trade agreement, and they would love to discuss it more over dinner.
I then say that dinner does sound great tonight. We also congratulate them on their growing council. Drael then asks for us to have a brief moment to discuss something, and they give us some privacy.
He thinks that we need to discuss the carnival with them, and Finn agrees – also telling us he made up the whole fasting thing just in case. We agree and turn back to Maegar Varn.
We ask him about the carnival which right away he has a noticeable tell that makes him appear uneasy. Hmm. He asks if this conversation cannot wait. We are insistent and he says that he will gather the rest of his leaders.
While this is happening, Finn does not like that we are in a center of a kill box, and we try to discretely have our women and child hide in their wagons. On edge we wait another 20 minutes until a large table is brought out with some baked radish chips and the guards are asked to leave.
He says we are important people and want nice things for us. We then get to talking about the Carnival – the Wild Extravaganza. They have been in town for 2 weeks and their people seem to enjoy them.
We end up explaining what happened to Kasner and his family and what hand we believe the carnival had a part in it. Which is met by an odd laughter from members of the host. When we don’t join in, they explain that the carnival has been a thorn in their side – causing money to not stay in their country coffers but that their people seem to really like them.
I ask if they want us to get rid of them. They say that would be great, but better if it wasn’t tied to them so there wouldn’t be any tie to them and political backlash from their people. They also say that if we can deal this, they would love to establish a trade agreement between our two nations. The details of which are a little slanted in their favour at first, but long term would benefit us greatly. We decline for now and they say it is an open offer.
We discuss levels of removal and Finn of course wonders if redemption is an option. The Varnling Host don’t totally care what we do, if it isn’t tied to them in some way. We eat some more spicy radish chips and then head to the Waterhorse, at least a little relieved that our hosts are not aligned with the carnival.
As we are heading to the Waterhorse, Finn wonders if he could breed creatures like this, which Drael thinks they are fictional and Aila says she’s never seen any underground. And then about breeding shark semen and merfolk with horses and oh brother. I ride a little ahead
I then try to stir the conversation back to deal with the carnival. Drael suggesting that perhaps we arrest them. Yollie pipes up saying that she has a quieter idea to which Finn responds reminder her that all have a right to redemption. She just says that we won’t understand until we have children. I look to Cora and perhaps Yollie is correct.
Finn responds that maybe he does as he pets Ray Jay – oh cousin. It’s at this point we pass the hillside home again and there is an older man out front gardening, but it causes Drael to give pause and suddenly dismount. The man is an elf with wide grey eyes as Drael approaches him.
Drael hails him as Kardel. He starts having a conversation with him and we pause the envoy and I whisper to Finn if we know this man. While they are talking, Finn whispers to me that we must try redemption first and if that doesn’t work Sarenrae’s swift justice. I nod and at this point Drael is done talking and comes over to us with that man in tow.
He introduces us as the council of Argentum and that he is a Baron. Kardel clarifies – like the Varnling Host and Drael nods. Kardel seems pleased and then Drael invites him to visit us. Kardel says that it might be a long journey, so I pipe up saying that if it is important to Drael we could help support the visit or move to Silver Falls.
He says he’d like and that he’s only been here a couple of months. Finn then mentions that it would be good to have another man of the soil around while pointing to the garden. Kardel smiles and says its mostly chard. They then talk about visits and Finn mentions tending a special tree.
Then Aila pipes up asking why he moved here as she has recently moved with her family. He responds saying that it was a good opportunity and that he needed a change – but something in his tone is different and I get the sense this is not the truth. Hmm…curious.
I then say that we are visiting for a couple of days so he and Drael should take some time to catch up later. Drael then nods agreement, and we head on. I say nice meeting you, and that’s when we find out that he was Drael’s adoptive father. Finn is shocked and says he is heading to bed. I remind him that we have dinner to go to later. He nods and we make for the Waterhorse.
The Waterhorse is a nice tavern with a lot of room for patrons. Across from the front door is the bar where a tall well-dressed half-orc is working. The Zorn sisters seem interested and rush to get drinks. The rest of us follow a little more casually.
The bartender then welcomes us and said that he knew we were coming and has a party night planned with drop shots. He is quite eager. The sisters are quick to partake but the rest of us are cautious. Getting a good look at this guy I get the sense he means us no harm, so I take one of his drinks. Finn still refuses and Drael does a clumsy toast and spills most of his no so subtly.
Cora rubs my back and says that it could be fun, so we do the drop shot of double pipe ginger into the ale. The whisky is smooth just like what Cora and I drank at our first Merrymead with that nice warm spicy feeling.
The sisters stay and chat up Traikore the bartender while the rest of us head up to unpack and chat about the plans for the evening.
There are five rooms that we split up and Cora and I share the largest one. Cora tells me that her and nibbles are going to watch over the sisters while the rest of us pile into the lavatory to have a private conversation.
In discussion of what to do with the carnival, Finn wants to use a Candle of Truth to find out what crimes they are guilty of – which intrigues the hell out of Aila.
We ask Yollie to clarify what they did exactly – they dined with them and then woke up in the chains of slavers. So, thinks they should be dealt with by swift death as they are guilty in some way. I am curious to know how the Extravaganza would respond if they saw Yollie and Kasner – might be able to tell a lot by their reaction.
Aila questions if we have authority here and I also start to wonder what the rest of the townsfolk think of the carnival, so Aila goes to ask the bartender. Yollie is still adamant that they are met with the swift end of a blade and when questioned more about it just responds that none of us have had a child taken. Fair point.
Drael then pipes up and points out that we still don’t want to make a scene and cause problems for the Host. Perhaps following them into a more secluded place – Finn whispers ‘bathroom’, to which I just nod to him.
It’s at this point that Aila returns with a drink in hand and says that the bartender says he’s not too much of a fan because it draws the crowd out of the tavern…and that the wagons were still closed up so there weren’t many people around to ask.
Drael then suggests we just confront them about it and Aila responds with a brilliant plan – to invite them to Silver Falls. And Drael rolls with this plan, suggesting that we then ambush and arrest them on the way there. This gets a smirk out of Yollie.
We then discuss how to approach it, perhaps having them be invited by the Varnking Host up the stockade and then we invite them there, but we decide that sounds too suspicious and then Drael suggests that tonight after dinner we go ‘enjoy’ the show and talk the carnival then and convince them to come. We agree that this is a great plan A and adjourn our bathroom meeting and head back downstairs to join Cora and the sisters.
I ask Cora if she wants to wander around town or stay here and enjoy the libations. She wants to stay here because back home we have a lot of duties, and we could have some fun while we are in town. I nod and smile at her and we order another double pipe ginger.
Drael chats up the bartender some more – maybe trying to make up for his terrible ‘accidental’ spilling of his drink earlier. He later tells me that no one has gone missing since the carnival has been in town. The main problem has been the centaur attacks.
Finn doesn’t join us but stays upstairs in his room with Ray Jay, and Aila seems to relax some more as she socializes with her sisters.
As the sun is setting, Willis arrives at the Waterhorse and invites the council to our official dinner, leave Cora, Yollie, Porthos, and the sisters behind. We make it swiftly up to the blockhouse once inside we are brought to large dining room with a table laden with food.
Maegar welcomes us again and I say that I am glad we were finally able to make it out. I have some roasted stag and a stoat. As we eat and make merry, Varn mentions that Silver Falls and Argentum looked good when they came. I tell him it’s even more impressive now. He nods with a slight smile.
He then goes on to gripe a little that he did not realize running a kingdom would be this challending With the demands of the citizens and the constant dangers. But his complaints are unfortunately wasted on me, because I like all of it. Raising a kingdom. Helping our people to a better life. And leaving a last mark on this world. He wonders if I knew it would be this hard – which I kind of assumed it would be. Having been raised to possibly rule from a young age, there hasn’t been too many huge surprises, just things that need to be dealt with.
However, Drael does agree with him and says that it is very tiring and harder than he had expected – especially with the trolls. Which I clarify was a troll nation that we went to war with last summer. Where we lost our beloved Ellira.
Maegar then asks if we had ever fought centaurs and before I can reply, Finn says yes and explains how Duskholde used to be bombarded by regular centaur tribe attacks. When asked if they beat them, he said no, they moved on….
Finn and Varn then talk about his family and Duskholde and how the stoat comes from there. Then Maegar comments that Duskholde seems to have quite the influence in Argentum. Which Finn nods saying that I am his cousin and our uncle, Kasner, pointing to him, is our diplomat.
We then tell them our plan to get rid of the Carnival by inviting them to our country. The Host nods their agreement, since the plan won’t be tied back to them. Then says that if this is successful, they would love to set up a trade agreement of resources. They have drawn up preliminary plans that look like they would benefit Varnhold more initially but long term we might get more out of it, if we can connect our countries by roads.
They are also willing to defer the trade agreement a few months while we build up a surplus to start the agreement. They agree that this would be fine. We say we will bring it to our full council when we return to Argentum and let them know.
I also offer to possibly help them with their centaur problem if dealing with carnival goes well. They say that would be appreciated. We then finish dinner with plans to go investigate the carnival.
On our way down the hill, Drael stops to talk to Kardal, saying he will catch up to us at the front of the inn, since we have to go get the others anyways.
We gather and change before heading out. Aila’s sisters are not interested in the carnival, but with hanging out with the bartender instead. Fair enough, they are young and carefree after all. Cora is going to come though, as she is interested in what we are doing. Kasner and Yollie; however, decide to stay after a reminder that the plan is when we leave town. Yollie nods her agreement.
Finn meets us drapped in a bed sheet as a dress of sorts and he has one of Ray Jay as well…apparently a disguise. Drael comes in at that point and says that he will talk to the Ringmaster to convince them. Since Cora is with me, I think that is a good plan. Aila says she has to meet us there.
Finn suggests planting bombs, but I remind him there are innocent civilians. He has a fixated mind sometimes.
Down at the carnival, there are four different people, and one of them, a gnome with wild green hair has a lion named ‘Peanut’. There is also a tall man in a flowing red coat and blue trousers, holding a mallet, organizing some sort of strength contest. There is a lavishly dressed catfolk in the center of it all casting minor illumination and I assume illusionary display spells.
The final person is cloaked in mystery – a Krea Mistsplitter, a fortune teller, but she is inside her wagon with quite a line up.
Drael says he wants to check out the magic of the fortune teller, so Cora and I go check out the lion tamer – see how well he treats his cat, while he gets in line. As we are watching the lion tamer, Madame Maxine finishes her center show with a flourish of purple sparks and heads off stage.
Meanwhile, this hack job gnome has made this lion learn different showier forms of the most basic tricks. Things you start with, not something that takes any real talent. Cora seems to enjoy it…I guess I need to show her what a true trainer can do once we are back home.
Finn has drawn a crowd and people are asking if he and Ray Jay are new additions to the show. As the lion jumps through a hoop, Sorath’s hackles go up, but I am able to reassure her easily. Cora then says she’s tired and would like to go back and party more with the sisters. I think that’s a great idea, because Drael is still in line and Maxine looks like she is alone.
After dropping Cora with the ladies, I start to perform near Mistsplitter’s line, to hopefully help Drael move up the queue quicker – If my cousin can draw a crowd, then these people haven’t seen much.
While Sorath starts doing some quite impressive tricks, eyes start to fall on us and Drael uses some magic to disappear for a moment and reappear near the front of the line. Excellent. The gnome gives me a sour frown, so he earns a roguish wink from me. I then see Drael go inside so I wrap up my show and let the crowd know that if they liked this show, they should come visit the magical kingdom of Argentum. They don’t say much – obviously awed by our renown. I then head to Maxine’s wagon.
Since she is alone, and Drael went for the fortune teller instead, I guess I will be the one to convince her to come. I must have had a drink to many earlier – this should have been me anyways.
When she sees me approaching, she asks if I want an autograph – to ease her suspicions, I let her sign my tabard. I tell her I am new in town, and I am impressed by the crowd. She boasts, like a true showman. I then invite her to perform in a real venue – our castle in Silver Falls. I even tell her she can tour our three cities.
She pauses to consider it and then asks about compensation – as she lies to my face that they were paid to be here (her whiskers twitch when she tells a lie), which I promise her would easily outshine what they are making here.
She suggests we meet for a drink at the Waterhorse to negotiate terms. I agree and tell her I will see her there shortly and take my leave.
I regroup with Finn, and Drael as he is coming out of his fortune telling and ask how his future looks – he says bright…good. I tell him that I may have convinced Maxine to come. Drael tells me that he said we have a festival coming up soon with a wink…okay, Silver Springs, to celebrate the rebirth time/end of winter. We will go with that. Finn says he will make sure the Dogruls are not insight and rushes off back to the Waterhorse.
When we get back to the Waterhorse, Maxine is in the corner, and now Aila is dressed like Finn in a bed sheet. Oh brother. I tell Drael to fill in Finn and Aila as to our plan and head over to Maxine.
She asks if I’ve had their drop shots and I nod that I have and try and wave Trekoir into bringing me one, but he shrugs and apparently doesn’t do table service. However, Cora catches my eye and she plays the role of barmaid and brings me one. I give her a tip and she giggles…we may have to explore this role-playing thing more later.
I then wave Drael over and introduce him as our kingdom’s Magister. He butters her up by saying we will have a premium charge to see them, and we will split the admission gate. We also agree to pay them 200 gold pieces for coming. 100 upfront in the morning. We will leave together.
She then takes her leave and I fill in the rest of the council as to the plan. I decide that we should also bid our farewells tonight to the Varnling Host as we won’t have time in the morning.
I opt to go quickly and say I will be back shortly – if too much time goes by, come weapons drawn. They agree.
Meeting with Maegar, he is completely impressed that we are driving out his nuisance. I tell him that they have an open invitation to always visit, and look forward to creating an alliance where we can both prosper.
As I ride back to the tavern, I contemplate Maegar Varn’s words of complaint and difficulty at ruling and wonder if in the future as we grow if they would be willing to join our kingdom. Hmm
After another drink, Cora and I retire up to our room for the night and enjoy an evening that is not appropriate to be read about in a king’s journal.
The next morning, I opt to drive the Dogrul’s wagon as we have planned to keep them hidden as much as possible on the journey home. We decide that we will try and get them all the way to Silver Falls and only deal with hostility if they try and flee on the road.
Finn straggles a little as he is looking for flowers before leaving – apparently he’s heard a lot about begonias while here. Bravo also seems to spent some time with one of his wagon wheels before they are ready to go.
After paying Maxine the 100 gold, we are on our way and make it to Navitka’s crossing by nightfall. Making good time as we are almost at Oleg’s by the end of day two.
That’s when Maxine approaches me and tells us that one of their wagons are having mechanical issues and we should go on ahead – I am certain I see a whisker twitch. There is no way we are letting them out of our sight.
We enthusiastically offer to help look at it, Finn and Drael with tools and magic. She tries to say that she wouldn’t want us to be late to the festival and that Bravo doesn’t do well with distractions. Finn and Drael then ‘fix’ the problem (Finn says later there was nothing wrong).
When we get to the outer gates, I hand to reigns over to Cora and ride ahead to alert Keston and to have Glanrim’s soldiers close the gates once we are in the city. Drael takes them to the Blue Lantern.
When I talk to Keston, telling him that we have to make an arrest, he responds promptly and gathers his men quickly. Glanrim ensures all city exits are secured.
Minutes later, I arrive at the Blue Lantern with a full squad of twenty guards. I head inside and ask all the patrons to please leave quickly by order of the First Baron. I tell Janelle she will be compensated as she asks if staff should leave too. I nod.
I then read the Wild Extravaganza their rights and explain to them that they are under arrest for the aiding in slavery and will be tried for their crimes. They all claim innocence, but Maxine is the most heated in saying that Yollie is the one that should pay for her crimes. They do come along quietly though.
During the trial we use the last of some of the truth candles to find out that Bravo, Mirtwert, and Krea had no idea what they were doing. They just were following Maxine’s orders and the Dogrul’s were bad people according to her. Maxine knew she was dealing with slavers and shouts out that Yollie deserves worse than that.
The council of Argentum deliberates and there are different thoughts.
Drael wants a sentence for all of them, but a stiffer one for Maxine. Finn thinks redemption should be offered to all of them, to which Jhod agrees but slags on Kasner at the same time. Glanrim thinks death for all of them for their part in it. Keston is unsure, because it happened outside of our kingdom. Jensothi also thinks of imprisonment. Loinarv mostly sides with Glanrim. Gith agrees with Finn, but then starts to talk about an economic regrowth plan and I stop listening to be honest. I think trying to redeem their actions is probably what is best as I look down at my mother’s holy symbol.
With the use of the truth candles, we find out that the 3 of them are sorry and are interested in atonement, but Maxine is not and still thinks it is a big mistake that we don’t lock up Yollie as well.
In the end they are sentenced to three months of jail time with regular redemption sessions with Finn and Meridith, but Maxine is required to spend one year for her deal with the Royal Roses.
Looks like we will have some carnival folk needing a job in Silver Falls come the summer.