as written by the cavalier Olmas Lurecia, himself.
Moonday, 2 Calistril
Qatana and Kali spent a lot of time trying to rededicate this area of the cavern to Desna. Kali was concerned, I think, about the miles behind us that will be left unclean, but acknowledged that we can only do so much. We did ask the yeti to remove the heads in the passageway, and the did agree, but it’s a coin toss as to whether they really understand what we’re looking for.
We looked into cleansing the tree/lake of the shadows that seem to be held there, but all we really did was end up arousing (or summoning) two more. We dispatched them for the safety of others, but were disappointed we can’t clean this part up. We added signage to warn future visitors, and of course told the yeti too.
Koya theorized that the shadows there may be souls that got trapped on their journey through the mountain. What trapped them, and how to free them if she’s right, is beyond us.
Despite our inability to cleanse the area to our satisfaction, there is a palpable eagerness for much of the party to be moving on. We’ve been in this necropolis too long for ANYONE’S comfort.
Toilday, 3 Calistril
Qatana helped form an alternative stone bridge over the chasm in order to bypass the anti-life field for the caravan. We proceeded uneventfully for about all of five minutes before running into the predicted stone wall. Another stoneshape spell turned that into a large doorway, and off we went.
The air smells fresher and crisper, but after several days in the necropolis among the yeti, that may not be surprising.
Fireday, 6 Calistril
That was it! Just three more days through the mountain and we emerged into daylight. With Katiana dispatched (again) it was a welcome experience to find nice weather and sunshine. Cold yet, of course, but I don’t think anybody cared. According to Kali, the next town of size is Ordu-Aganhei but it’s still another week or more away.
But we can breathe again, and we can hunt again, which will make our food go even farther. We have rationed ourselves well, even with our delay at the necropolis, but one never knows what the future may hold for us. I would not have believed that travelling in bitter cold, hunting for sparse game, and sitting in a wagon for hours a day with nothing else happening would be something that would make me happy, But believe it or not, it’s a step up from the last several days.
Moonday, 16 Calistril
A couple of days ago, we saw our first sign of human life, other than ours. There was what looked like a hunting party not too far off, but we waved a hello, they waved a hello, and that’s all the interaction we could spare. We are making good time, and the weather is slowly getting warmer.
Ulf says that the area we are travelling into (and in a sense, are already in) is something of a “barbarian kingdom”. Last he knew the city was ruled by a prince. He advised us to stay on the trails since despite being barbarians, perhaps, the people here are a bit territorial and not terribly fond of outsiders. He suggested we keep our business to ourselves and let Ameiko do the talking.
Not sure I’m okay with that, but I will try to keep an open mind. I asked Suishen if he might likely be recognized now that we’re over the crown of the world, and he admitted he wasn’t sure. It’s been a while.
We reached the city. “This is the gateway to Tian Xia!” proclaimed Ulf. Ordu-Aganhei boasts about 8000 people. We could see as we approached that the city had a massive 40′ tall wall surrounding it, and guards were actively moving on and around it. There were colorful, sloping roofs with peaked corners. The northern gate was equally impressive, being a 30′ tall iron door. Ulf also reminded us that his journey ends here, although he’s happy to hang out with us as long as we remain in the city. Sandru, however, said he would stay with the group. It sounds like we may continue as a caravan, just sans guide.
However, as we reached the gate, which was open, several guards blocked our way. “Halt – who comes to our city?” Kali responded that we had just come across the crown of the world, and —
“Unlikely!” sneered the guard. “In winter?”
Kali tried to explain before being interrupted again. “Where are you from?”
“Kalsgard,” she calmly replied. “Our grandmother, who is old and in the twilight of her life, wished to see the great nation of Tian Xia before she died. It’s why we risked the winter winds and -”
“You LIE,” responded one guard. Other guards started moving towards the wagons to search them.
“We will not tolerate your searching through our private belongings,” said Kali. “Is this how all visitors to your city are treated?”
“If they are lawless ruffians, yes they are!” responded one who seemed perhaps to be their captain. We had begun fingering our weapons when a voice called out from above, “Enough!” The guards all looked up, surprised. A well dressed man emerged from the entrance and the guards bowed before him. Apparently, this was the prince’s right-hand man.
“The Prince bids you welcome to our fair city,” he said, “and invites you to be his honored guests.”
Ulf quietly whispered to us that the Prince would be a powerful ally, but he also had a reputation for treachery.
On behalf of the Prince, each female in our party received a black rose. Despite being a bit macabre, this was apparently an honor here, so they each accepted graciously. The guards fell back as the advisor indicated he would take us to the prince. We were all on alert as we walked through the city, but everywhere we went we (more likely, the advisor Chua) people politely gave way and stared at the foreigners. The castle is in the middle of the city, Chua explained, and we were to be housed there as honored guests. The caravan was escorted to a safe place before we all headed for the castle. As we entered the castle grounds, we could see it was, not unexpectedly, quite ostentatious.
And still nobody had attacked us. How unusual. Life in the wild has changed me.
In a giant courtyard was a huge bed, and on the bed we approached an enormous, smiling man. “The golden one,” offered Chua by way of introduction. Chua cheerfully advised us to be extremely polite. It was apparent that honor and protocol ruled here.
The prince welcomed us warmly, ordering food and wine be brought. “Tell me your tale!” he implored in Common. Eager to show us to be other than simple ruffians, Kali replied in Hon-la, “Thank you for your hospitality.” A close observer may have noticed a slight darkening of the Prince’s face before it was again illuminated in smile.
Kali regaled him with tales of wild, almost living storms, and a fierce white dragon before pausing to catch her breath. The prince observed, “Not all dragons bring good luck! But I must hear more. I declare a holiday and we shall celebrate the Five Feasts of Hongul! You must join me for dinner this evening!”
Of course we accepted, and we were escorted to individual rooms, with individual beds and baths and various food (like fresh fruit and snacks) already available on a table. So VERY different from our life of late.
Sparna asked about making contact with a local weaponsmith; apparently he wants to know more about forging the type of weapons we see around us. Chua assured us that would be possible. (Apparently, as royal guests, very little was IMpossible.)
A few minutes before 8, we were escorted to a great dining hall – this was not to be a private affair. There were 300 people there if there was a dozen. We were provided a place of honor near the prince and the first course was brought out. It was immediately apparent that what we were having for dinner was diplomacy, because what they brought out – as a delicacy no doubt – was duck heads in some sort of pungent sauce, and chicken feet in … well, I managed to eat a polite amount.
Part of dinner was, apparently, the three games of Hongul. This involved mounted archery, bareback riding, and wrestling. After a demonstration by our host’s champions, we were invited to show our prowess. Surprisingly, Ivan nailed the mounted archery, and Sparna proved to be a future wrestling champion by winning that bout. I retrieved Kasimir but my bareback riding is limited, and I’m afraid I was not able to clear the hurdles they had set up. Rather than seeming disappointed, though, the Prince seemed to take pride in the fact that his riders held a superiority over us and he was comparatively gracious in his victory.
One thing we noticed was that every subject in the dining hall watched the Prince closely, and no matter what transpired, closely mimicked whatever the Prince’s reaction turned out to be. There is a fine line between respect and fear, sometimes.
As a result of our competition, the prince gifted us with
 a composite short bow
 10 +1 arrows
 an efficient quiver
“Tomorrow,” proclaimed the Prince, “we shall celebrate the Feast of the Ancients!”
But I must say that if today’s menu foretells our dinners during this holiday, I’ll be making quite a dent in the fruit in our room.
Toilday, 17 Calistril
Today, during the day, we will start to sell some of the things we acquired but have no particular desire for. I’ve decided to buy the terra cotta warrior with my share of gold, and will buy the materials for Kali to make my +2 belt of strength a +4 belt. Similarly, I’m going to see about getting my +1 amulet of natural armor improved to +2. Those three items will use up most of my share, presuming the prices here are fair.
We did not want to be caught by surprise again, so we asked Chua what was involved with the Feast of the Ancients. He told us it would be a feast of storytelling.
Kali discovered in the morning that the prince had sent a dress for her to wear to dinner. She is apprehensive of this gift, as she does not relish getting too chummy with the prince, given what Ulf told us of his reputation.
It was around 5pm that we gathered to raise Bevelek. I have never seen anything like this done, and Qatana seems so unlikely a person to do it. It took an incredibly large diamond (which turned to ash during the ceremony) and maybe every one of these goes differently, but it didn’t take all that long before Bevelek was breathing before us again – weak, a bit shaken, but alive. Vankor was beside himself, and later I saw him holding a piece of parchment that had been written on an arm’s length away from his brother. “This need not be sent now, and there’s nothing to read here” he said, but Bevelek insisted on reading it first. He paused, and then looked at his brother before hugging him tightly. “I agree that they need not know,” he said before he tore it in two, then four, and finally into small pieces. I’m not quite sure what that was all about.
It was a bit before 8 when we were again escorted to the hall and served dinner. The tale that the prince’s storyteller related was, loosely translated, “why the marmot has no thumbs”. It was elegant enough, but we decided to augment our tale of how we defeated the white dragon with minor magicks and accompaniment by Ameiko, which was very well received. The prince bowed before Kali for her efforts, making her visually uncomfortable as she politely demurred and downplayed her role.
No doubt making her appear even more attractive.
We were presented with
 A masterwork horsehead fiddle
The food, unfortunately, was as … distinctive … as last night’s.
Tomorrow: The Feast of the Fire.
And Kali was invited to breakfast. Sparna offered to be her honor guard, and although my primary duty is to Ameiko, I really want to assist Sparna. Two armed warriors would probably be too much though, so …
Wealday, 18 Calistril
Chua arrived at 7am and was mildly surprised to find Kali had an escort. We explained that as an unmarried woman, in our culture she was owed an escort to any social activities. He quickly covered his surprise and escorted her to the prince’s quarters, where a sumptuous meal awaited. According to Kali, and Sparna, the prince was polite but a bit more … touchy … than Kali was comfortable with.
Again a little before 8 a servant escorted us to the dining hall and, as expected, there were displays of fire and fire control. When we were invited to show off, I took the stage with Suishen for this one, and Ivan utilized his walls of fire to great effect. Radella’s and Sparna’s weapons were lit with oil, but Suishen of course needed no such aid. The display was again roundly applauded, and the menu was typically heinous.
We were gifted, this time, with
 6 vials of flaming breath
The prince’s eyes rarely left Kali, and she is visibly concerned.
Tomorrow: The Feast of Varisia – we are the chefs for this one, although we have the entire kitchen staff at our disposal to assist us. Qatana and Koya are putting their heads together. Finally! a meal I’ll be able to eat!
However, the prince’s growing interest in Kali may ultimately have us leaving hastily. We are also preparing the caravan, as innocently as we can, in case we need to leave separately and meet elsewhere, maybe outside the city.