J’afrock laid his huge axe down on the council table. “He is… for now. He is a target and he puts all within these walls at great risk. We can defend ourselves, but many of our people would perish should the Necromancers seek to liberate him. We must consider our next steps. we have the advantage, but they have something we want. No one would see his execution as anything but justice. There is, however, something pathetic about him. His afflication, perhaps. Is there a cure? Would he even wish it? Was it a death wish that caused him to attack us? Regardless, I do not trust Pizentios. We were all better off when he has Elric‘s blade through his chest…”
Caelynn‘s soft voice rose as J’afrock finished his strong words; “Battle to me is like a game of chess, and we gave up the King to get the Queen. I think you know where I stand on this. Nothing was gained and now we have the onerous task of controlling this mad beast of a prisoner. I think we should seek out Pizentios, have a formal parley, and even return Mandraka to him. The evil that I feel is about to befall our lands will make strange bedfellows indeed.”
J’afrock, keeping his voice low, spoke up, “Battle may be chess in the mind of the Eladrin, but it is chaos, fury and blood in the heart of an Orc. Pizentios is lucky he escaped with his life, and to die fighting an enemy of that standing is honourable, though not desired. You would be an too easy a bedfellow, Caelynn. We have something he wants, presuming the concept of loyalty and honor to friends are not foreign to the Necromancers. Maybe we even have a common goal. Let us signal him to discuss now, for I fear should we leave, we put our people in peril. I must admit, while I am loathe to lose comrades, risking true death brings more glory to battle. Tanamier, do their souls still ascend to their gods and are prevented to return or do they not reach paradise? For This, I would risk true death many times over.”
Caelynn replied, “Aye, a parley with Pizentios then? What of this Mandraka fellow? I suppose he should remain in our ‘care’ until we meet his master. Let us turn our attention to finding methods of contacting Pizentios, as you call him, J’afrock. If that proves futile, let us seek answers as Griften proposed.”
“Perhaps, we have now shifted the advantage in his favour somewhat. We might have Mandraka, but he may well have the information we may be looking for. I can spend some time researching what happened in the Heroe’s Graveyard, but I might require more time than we have. The more time wasted, the fewer souls that will return to us.
“As much as I’m reluctant to admit it, a short parley with Pizentios, though I would say I still do not trust him, would be of benefit.”
“Then we must discuss the particulars. Now that we are in Blazebane, he may not have the means of joining us unless we return to Rel Mord. This is an easy thing of course, but the logistics of how we meet and when now become important. For instance, Mandraka is here; do we plan on transporting him back with us? Is Mandraka’s life going to be part of the negotiation?”
“The difficulty in transporting a captive such as he makes travelling to Rel Mord precarious at best. Of course, it would be far better for Pizentios to join us here, though I think it unlikely he would be willing to waltz back into a stronghold held by the Nyrondese army.”
“I would agree that we have to choose a meeting place beyond the walls of this keep; I would not willingly accept that evil coming within these walls. However, I believe you give Pizentios too much credit. He has forfeited the life of Mandraka. I do not know how much of an advantage we have by holding Mandraka’s life.”
“Then perhaps as I communicate with him, I will leave out any mention of Mandraka. My messages must be short; shall I suggest a neutral meeting place?”
“Perhaps we can meet at the same Hero’s Graveyard.”
“This is easy for us to do; shall I tell Pizentios we should meet at mid-day on the morrow?”
“Then we are agreed? Would you like me to include anything else in the message?”
Caelynn spoke up again, “Tell him we will be at the Heroes’ Graveyard in a fortnight. Shall we take Mandraka with us with the plans of returning him to his fel master? I am neutral on the matter. I think it will be easier and less complicated to have him out of the alliance.”
“As you wish, my friends”. Griften voice grew faint, and he bowed his head a moment. Furrowing his brow in concentration, Griften brought forth the image of Pizentios to the forefront of his mind. The emotional connection with these memories was still strong, and Griften sneered slightly at the thought of their first confrontation. Griften cast the words into shape and cast them towards the image of Pizentios.
“Pizentios, your attempt to ambush us was unwise and folly.
We will be in the Heroes’ Graveyard three days hence at high noon, I suggest we meet.”
The silence in the room was palpable. The heroes had seen this trick before, but it was never pleasant to wait.
You must think me a fool, little psion!
The folly was Mandraka’s not mine; I will not make myself victim to you like he did!
I am not he you once knew. Your bodyguard lives and will stand trial for his crimes. You have my word our intentions are genuine.
Ahrens in kalistrend (darmen lands)
A city of 19,000 people, Kalstrand is prodigiously defensively constructed. In the past, hostile men and dwarves from the Glorioles, not to mention monsters, were a threat to the burgeoning city. After the construction of double city walls and an excavated moat defense (Kalstrand has a good river harbor, aiding trade), and the installation of key magical defenses, the city found itself attracting more and more people. Its population has doubled in the past 40 years, and a new city section is being built northward with an extension of the city walls being currently completed.
Kalstrand is rich. The cost multiplier for goods is 140%. This applies especially to staple goods; luxuries are only 100-120% of normal cost. The city has very few slums or areas of poor people; city laborers and menials generally walk the two or three miles from a number of villages around Kalstrand to work in the city itself. There is much to wonder at. The Merchants’ Guild is proud of the majestic buildings it has paid for, and the great columned guildhall is only one of the great sights. Others include the spectacular Hovering Gardens (levitation magic keeping these terraced, exotically vegetated, bowers in place over the northern city) and the Museum of Antiquities. The museum has a remarkable number of old Baklunish and Suel relics and items as well as Oeridian ones, but the priests of Boccob who administer it are both unhelpful and pompous and delight in being difficult.
An outsider never can be quite certain what anyone here truly thinks of him. This is a city of half-truths, silences, concealments, and polite smiles masking all manner of backstabbings and cruel treacheries.
The cathedral of Zilchus is huge, and its icons must be worth more than the building itself, which cost 200,000 gp to construct. The head of Zilchus’s church in Aerdy, Larissen, is almost a house prisoner here. Xavener rescued him from threats in Rauxes but now insists the priest cannot leave, and Patriarch Cherench of Kalstrand agrees with the Prince, having a genuine concern for Larissen’s safety. Larissen is unhappy, because here he is too closely identified with the Prince whose hospitality it would be churlish not to acknowledge. This restricts his freedom for political maneuvers, as he is well aware. The major population of visitors here is Ahlissan, since Darmen nobles own land there and trade is conducted between Kalstrand and Ahlissa. Kalstrand offers the best opportunity for gaining advance knowledge of Ahlissa before entering it; and, like everything in this city, the information is available to the curious–for the right price.