The Reception

In which the heroes of the Second Wind attend a reception in their honour. The reception produces moments of insight and unease, as the heroes cross paths with some of Brindol’s most notable citizens, some friend, some foe, and some whose intentions, for the moment, remain shrouded in mystery.

Close to one hundred of Brindol’s finest are present, including most of the high-ranking priests of Brindol’s diverse faiths and several influential councilmembers. Among the many persons of importance are:

Scene 1

The sun is just setting as you make your way to the Hall of Great Valour. The upper class of Brindol’s citizenry is well-represented, as evidenced by the numerous horse-drawn carriages that flank the wide, shallow steps leading into the Hall. Inside, impeccably dressed waiters glide through the gathered assembly of Brindol’s finest, dispensing exotic drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Polished glass cases display the items you recovered from Castle Rivenroar; beside each, a stolid guard stands, presumably to prevent over-liquored guests from harming the relics. Sertanian has carefully arranged the display to focus attention on the ceremonial platinum longsword, which gleams beneath a light spell hovering over the case in which the sword sits.

Scene 2

You stand at the entrance, unsure of how to proceed. Your hastily purchased formal wear seems cheap and ill-fitting compared to the finery of your fellow guests. Before you have time to think, though, Troyas is bearing down on you, with another man whose insignia and unadorned gray tunic proclaim him to be a member of the Brindol City Council.

“Ah, welcome, adventurers!” Troyas says, with slightly more animation in his voice than normal. Drink has evidently loosened his tongue. “We’re all delighted that you could make it. Beastly of us to drag you to a formal party the day after you get back from vanquishing goblin hordes, but once you make your name in this city, your life is no longer quite your own!” He chuckles and and drains his wine glass. “Let me introduce you to Lord Marsden Kaal, also a Council member. Lord Kaal tells me he’s been looking forward to meeting you all day.”

Troyas is about to say more, but at this moment his attention is drawn to another conversation nearby, and he darts away, leaving you with Lord Kaal, who half-smiles as he turns his attention to you.

“Nissa, isn’t it?” he drawls. “The adopted daughter of Eothel? You don’t remember me, I’m sure. I saw you perform once, a year ago, at a trade function. Your compositions were, shall we say, both unusual and provocative. What was the refrain? ‘Balls out, Sally?’ Very amusing, indeed, very amusing.”

“But I mustn’t neglect the rest of you,” he continues smoothly. “This is quite an honour, isn’t it? The Heroes of Brindol, the new saviours of the city. Venturing into the dungeons of Castle Rivenroar to rid the Vale of a goblin threat, all the while rescuing innocent civilians and returning valuable relics to where they belong, here,” he gestures in a parody of grandiloquence, “in the Hall of Great Valour. An epic tale. Deserving of story and song!”

He smirks at his own words. “Or so Troyas would have us believe. Oh, I mean you no disrespect. I’m sure your courage on behalf of the city is as legitimate as anyone could wish. But Troyas is an ambitious man. Quite adept at turning happenstance to his personal advantage. And his attachment to adventurers is not what one would call — committed. You see that woman talking to Niniel Moonglow? That, my worthy adventurers, is Megan Swiftblade, leader of the Freeriders. Apparently, they slew a black dragon in the east of the Vale a few months back. Very impressive, don’t you think? No doubt they, like you, will continue to make their names ring out in the city.”

He laughs, and for some reason the sound is unpleasant, tinged with a meaning you can’t quite grasp. “I do apologize if I’ve dampened your mood. Good day, adventurers. I’m sure we will meet again.”

Scene 3 (Nissa)

“Feel like a god yet?” says a voice, and you see a dark-haired woman grinning at you a few feet away. “No? Good job, friend. You’ve got your feet on terra firma. When we offed that black dragon, you’d think we’d just slain Tiamat herself the way these stuffed shirts carried on. My motto? Never too high, never too low.” She takes a long pull of ale. “Watch your back with Marsden Kaal. Nothing he says is ever quite what it means, and he’s every bit as ambitious as Troyas.”

You introduce yourself, producing another grin from the woman. “I apologize,” she says with affected archness. “Where are my manners? Probably back in the last dungeon we slogged through. Megan Swiftblade of the Freeriders, officially the flavour of last month, now that you all have done your thing.” She chuckles. “Fame is a fickle thing, but I probably shouldn’t be saying that to a bard, should I?”

She sits down next to you. You can’t help but notice the wicked-looking greatsword hanging from her belt. Despite her levity, you suspect Megan would be a formidable antagonist. “We could have used a bard to compose a half-decent song about our adventures,” she says. “They gave it to some hack nephew of a council member with delusions of artistic grandeur. His first verse called us the Saviours of the Vale, no word of lie. His song had me leaping into the air, doing a full backflip, and then slicing off the dragon’s head with one smooth, sinuous blow. I even think he had our ranger’s arrow piercing the dragon’s heart at the same time I supposedly made my masterstroke. In slow motion. I mean, really now. We can barely agree on which door to open first in a dungeon, let alone coordinate our strikes like we’re actors in a damn play.

“You know what really happened? I dropped twice during that combat, came closer to meeting the Raven Queen than I’ll ever come before I die. I’d lost my sword, so Ghena threw me her quarterstaff, and from my prone position on the dungeon floor, barely able to see past the blood in my eyes, I blindly swung out at the dragon and somehow, by the grace of Kord, managed to stagger him long enough for Sylen to twin-strike the miserable creature into oblivion. If there was anything glorious about that fight, it fled my brain when half my face got chewed off from that cursed acid. Ragnum (that’s our cleric) fixed me right up, but once you’ve had your head almost melted, things don’t seem so poetic afterward.

She utters a short laugh. “But enough of my whinging. How was Rivenroar? I heard you lost your ranger, so it must have been pretty tough. ‘Course, these shirts never want to hear about the cost in blood. They just want uplifting stories. What was his name, Iorminas? I hope you give him a good send-off. I heard he could shoot a mean greatbow.”

Scene 4

Having just accepted the mission to Overlook, you fall into informal conversation with Niniel Moonglow. At the mention of Iorminas, a look of sadness crosses her face. “The valiant Iorminas is dead, and I am grieved,” she says finally. “His heart was as true as his bow. His spirit will find its way to the halls of our ancestors. Of that I have no doubt. But alas, our time on this earth is too short to dwell in grief. To honour Iorminas’s sacrifice, we must move forward. I have here a worthy replacement, one who knows the mountains of the west well, for he once made them his home. Step forward, Theseus. Be not afraid, adventurers! Though his form is fierce, he is a good friend and a stout warrior. So says Quamara of the druid circle of Witchcross. Quamara is an old friend of mine and her word carries weight; she vouches for Theseus unequivocally. If you are willing to travel with him, he will be a boon companion in times of need.”

Scene 5

Another altercation between Edgar Sommerfield and Hasim. Edgar disparages Hasim’s formal dress, is incredulous about party’s exploits in Rivenroar, and all but accuses Hasim of lying to increase his own reputation. After a brief scuffle, Edgar is ejected from the Hall of Great Valour, but you’re fairly certain that you haven’t seen the last of that swaggering fop.

Scene 6 (Aldor)

You turn to get another glass of wine from the waiter and almost run into a tall, imposing man standing impassively before you. He’s dressed in a stiff, high-collared tunic with a black sash across the chest area. His black hair cut unfashionably in a bowl, he surveys you from behind cold grey eyes that match the colour of his garb. When he speaks, he looks through you, rather than at you.

“I am Crumley. I understand you fought and destroyed a deathlock wight who had bound the life forces of his comrades to the catacombs of Rivenroar. What do you know about this procedure? Can it be replicated?”

You start to explain how you thwarted the wight’s plans, only to have Crumley cut you off. “I’m not interested in the release,” he says coldly, “I’m interested in the procedure. Such things are of … interest to me. I see that you can tell me nothing of importance.” Without another word, he walks stiffly away. You begin to wonder if everyone in Brindol is concealing some dark design or other.

The Reception

Scales of War jayrajiva