108 - UNDER THE INFLUENCE

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108 - UNDER THE INFLUENCE

Post  Admin on Mon Nov 22, 2010 5:39 am

“Stand down, Odorous. Let the half-breed elf enjoy his ale.” A strong male voice calls from a side table.

The large bare-chested half orc grunts with disgust at Aidan and scowls then steps away to join a group of rough looking humans at the table. They look battle hardened and are all dressed casually in leather trousers and plain shirts. They are unarmed. The man who called out regards Aidan for a moment, grins and then offers a mock salute before he turns away to rejoin the conversation and drunken boasts of his company.

Aidan proceeds to get his drink from the bar and orders another for the man who intervened as a thankyou. He wants the barkeep to take it to him. This is done.

Aidan is given a tall tankard of light coloured ale by the young human woman who is serving at the bar. “This is on the house,” she tells him. “I am Jenna. You are a lucky man because Odorous has crushed many heads simply because he does not like the look of them. Just keep your distance from him and you'll be fine. I'll see to it that his companion gets the drink you ordered for him. No charge.”

“Thanks.”

“I suggest you sit over there,” Jenna points to a side booth that offers some privacy from the majority of rowdy patrons in the bar. “I will bring you our famous spiced potato mash with meat and gravy. You look like you could do with a feed. Don't worry – it's also on the house – you're a new customer and we don't like to see our patrons roughed up on their first visit to our fine establishment.”

“I would like to pay for the meal ...”
“Ok then, please yourself. Make yourself comfortable.”

Aidan seats himself comfortably on a padded three person seater on one side of a strong wooden table and waits. A tall, thin man brings his food to the table. The meal is large and fills the plate. The smell of the spices and gravy is pleasant and immediately makes Aidan feel very hungry. “Enjoy your meal,” the man tells him. “I am Remus. Just call or wave out if you need anything else.”

“Thank you.” Aidan orders another drink.

Remus accepts the payment and says “As you wish.” Aidan proceeds to have his meal.

As Aidan finishes his meal and sips his ale he sees three tall men wearing black shirts, brown trousers and wide brimmed black hats enter the main room. There is a distinct quietening of conversation as they walk in and Aidan observes that they stand for a moment, looking around the room slowly, before they move to a table near the main entrance that clears immediately as they claim it.

Aidan sees Jenna hastily instruct Remus to take a tray of drinks to them, which they do not appear to pay for, and shortly thereafter he sees plates of food provided also. The three men do not seem very friendly and appear to be very wary of their surroundings.

Many other patrons begin leaving or simply retire to their rooms upstairs. Very soon the premises are only filled to about a third of its potential capacity and conversation remains very light.

Remus approaches Aidan to clear his plate and refill his tankard. “Is everything alright, young sir? Is there anything else you might like, perhaps a room – we do have accommodation available?”

“No, but perhaps next time … please pass my compliments for the meal to the cook. It was most satisfying.”

“Certainly, young sir. May I enquire as to your name? I like to give compliments to our cook with a personal touch.” Remus replies.

“Aidan.”

“Indeed, young Master Aidan. I will inform him.” Remus leaves the table and goes out back behind the bar. Jenna is cleaning crockery and glasses and occasionally looks in your direction. A short time later Remus returns to the main room, does his rounds and then returns to your table.

“Aidan is it? I do believe we were holding a message for someone on your behalf. Is that you?”

“Yes.”

“Then it is with regret that must inform you that there are no messages for anyone named Aidan. However, a young woman fitting your description of the intended recipient has been staying with us. She has a room paid for a month in advance which we are keeping secured for her. It is upstairs. She has not been sighted for a few days. Not since those men have been here,” he tells Aidan this in hushed tones.

Aidan can see the three men have no obvious weapons on them.

“I see you are taking an interest in our three strangers over there, do you believe that is wise?” Remus says.

“I was supposed to meet the young lady tonight. But if they are here then I suppose I won't be. I am sure there is a need to be cautious in the presence of those men.”

“Yes … they are simply known as The Observers and they have been frequenting all of the bars and inns around Gideon for several weeks now. There is something unfriendly about them and nobody is willing to test their resolve by challenging them openly. Not since a half orc named Mangle tried to punch one when they first arrived. He was immobilized with a spoken command and a simple gesture. Shortly thereafter, the local constabulary arrived and one of the three men instructed them to take Mangle away. He has not been seen since that altercation. Nobody knows what The Observers are looking for but it is obvious they are searching for something. And they are very patient. I feel very uneasy for whoever their target might be, if indeed it is a person they are trying to find.” Remus stares at Aidan for moment, looking thoughtful. “Ummm .. We wouldn't normally allow it but on this occasion, yes, I do recall your letter. It was handed to Jillian and I believe she did read it. Take this key and go upstairs to the third floor. Turn left and her room is number 23, near the end of the hallway on the right. Please return the key to us when you have finished.”

Aidan notices the three men occasionally staring at his table while they eat their meals.

Aidan goes to the bar and 'orders a room for the night' … 'second floor would be lovely, thanks.' Jenna makes the arrangements and hands Aidan a key. “Room number 13,” she says. “Up the stairs and you'll the room on the right, a few doors down from there.”

“Thank you.” Aidan replies and then moves upstairs.

The men watch him leave.

Aidan goes to his room – it is basic room with basic amenities but it does include a very basic ensuite for personal hygiene. You inspect the room, ensure its secure, then you lock it and go upstairs to the third floor to locate Jillian's room … room 23.

He finds easily. The key fits the lock and turns easily.

[PERCEPTION 31] He hears heavy footsteps moving up the stairs slowly but they sound like they are a level down.

Aidan unlocks it and goes in as quietly as he can. He listens.
[PERCEPTION 22] He hears nothing.

He finds that the room is like any other basic inn accommodation, although rather than relying on guests using a shared ablution facility, the Broken Blade Inn has provided connected private ensuite bathrooms. Jillian's room has been used but there are no personal effects other than some fine quality high leather boots, some exotic womens' undergarments and three fine quality dresses (green, blue and red silky fabric) in an open wardrobe. There are also two sets of casual mens' shirts and trousers and a more rugged set of adventuring boots stored here too. Perhaps she had company?

On a basic oak dresser that also has an attached oval shaped mirror there are two unsealed scroll cases. The first contains the letter that Aidan had sent to Jillian.

The other is also a letter but it has been written in strange characters that will require further deciphering or comprehension to understand.

Comprehend Languages 19, Decipher Script 26 and Read Magic used in combination reveals that this letter has been written in ancient Sarlonian and has been encoded with many sections enscribed in Quor, which is an alien tongue that no magic can decipher. The letter is addressed to someone named “Jilathraen” (pronounced Ji-Lath-Ra-En) which is Jillian's true name in Adar, from where she originates. The letter itself speaks of the mountain sanctuaries of Adar, where the Kalashtar are hiding from the Inspired followers of the Reidran Kingdom. There is some emphasis placed upon following something called The Path of Light and ensuring that it be adhered to to ensure The Inspired do not gain a foothold in Khorvaire. To achieve this, all agents of the Dreaming Dark must be identified and eliminated.

[KNOWLEDGE GEOGRAPHY 21, DARK KNOWLEDGE 38]

Aidan knows that Sarlona was once the cradle of human civilisation and it is from there that the first humans spread out to colonise Khorvaire. He also knows that Sarlona fell to an other-worldly invasion by race of spirts named the Quori and that it has become a place that is far away. It is isolated, lies beyond the dragon continent of Argonnessen and it is a place where no one travels to and rarely travels from. Adar is separatist enclave that has no contact with the outside world normally and therefore has no trade with other nations. It is believed to be a collection of strongly defended ritualistic monasteries, difficult to reach as they are permanently surrounded by chaotic storm clouds. The people of Adar are believed to be refugees, a persecuted people known as the Kalashtar, who are a faction of humans who were originally inhabited by the alien projections of Quori spirits before they learnt to breed rather than continue possessing humans to be unwilling hosts for their form. They are a blended and very unique race, known to be very adept with psionic abilities and esoteric knowledge.

This raises some interesting questions for Aidan - if Jillian is indeed from Adar then this would make her Kalashtar, rather than a Changeling. In hindsight this should have perhaps been more obvious but then the initial encounter was brief and it would not be completely incorrect to have made that assumption. From Aidan's knowledge of the history and races of Khorvaire he is aware that the Kalashtar never possess dragonmarks. Therefore, what could Jillian have possibly meant when she wrote in her original note:We share something in common. I know of the mark you bear and may be able to help you uncover its power.

After spending some time in Jillian's room, perhaps an hour, and it is very quiet.

Aidan writes a note … a crude attempt in her own language “Was given key, read this message, understand it, will wait in room 13 and leave tomorrow.”

As he is writing Aidan gets the sense he is being watched. The hair stands up on the back of neck. Like a presence around or near him. He looks around.

It is then that Jillian reveals herself to him … she materialises a few feet in front of him, at first a vague shimmering form that gains solidity. Her appearance is as her saw her before. She is wearing a fine evening dress and her eyes are glittering gold and lavendar.

“Hello Aidan. I see you have gained some mastery of my people's tongue. Most impressive. I also see that you have indeed made an effort to find me.”


“Yes, I booked a room downstairs but Remus gave me your key.”

“Remus is good man, most trustworthy. I suppose you are wondering why I gave you such a cryptic note when we first crossed paths at the Liberty Spire?”

“Well … after reading this … yes, I am very intrigued.”

“You should be. It is not every day that a Kalashtar from Adar seeks to make contact with any person from Khorvaire. Even less so this part of your world as it is very hostile and in many cases xenophobic.”

“I do agree with you there, having personally experienced it myself.”

“I can offer you a release from the taint that infects you. This will diminish the symptoms and discomfort that know you have been experiencing recently. Does this interest you?”

Aidan contemplates the offer. “Look, the taint does cause me discomfort but it does allow me to learn knowledge that I could probably have never learned without it. I mean, you speak of the first humans. I may have learned about the first elves. And the taint did help me achieve it. But you said we had something in common … what did this mean?”

“I see,” she says. “You believe that, perhaps, there is a longer term benefit to remaining tainted. And partly therein lies my answer to your question. The thing we have in common is a shared ancestry in which we have had an origin in darkness. My people were born into your world after the first humans were possessed by unnatural and dark natured spirits. We now travel the Path of Light, we few who have built our own sanctuaries and a new homeland. In you I sense the emergence of a soul whose ancestors were born of malice … the first elves were not the nicest of the races to have come to this world. But you represent a point of light that resists the darkness even as it gnaws at your very essence. In some regards the taint has been a gift to you but equally it could be your downfall. It will be responsible for drawing out an abberant dragonmark. No doubt you have already experienced symptoms of that?”

Aidan nods. “Yes. However, whether it is an abberant dragonmark, or not, not all dragonmarks are evil or become it. As for the Le Shay … they had to become as dark as their enemy to understand their enemy. I sensed that they were a proud and great people who were ancient and very wise. But they had to be like their enemy to understand their ways of defeating them. They returned to the stars but I believe that they allowed a seed to be sowed in Arenal to preserve their legacy. I believe that my dragonmark is related to the location where I encountered the former outpost of the Le Shay and the guardian who is very corrupt permitted my entry because he recognised my mark. This, to me, proves that dragonmarks are not a recent phenomenon but have occurred during the time when the first elves were on this world. Those who consider dragonmarks abberant, or evil, are those who wish to control them. And I believe that the mark I have is one that I must control for it is my destiny to do so.”

Jillian listens intently and nods in understanding. “Then we have that in common also. An abberant dragonmark.”

Aidan draws the symbol he saw on the door at the Le Shay outpost and as it appears frequently in his visions.

“That is curious,” she tells Aidan. “While I have not seen that symbol before, it does feel very familiar. My own dragonmark has fully emerged (she indicates it is positioned on her lower back but not reveal it) and it looks like this ...” she draws it and Aidan can see there is some similartity in their form. Serpentine? Not sure … “I have not yet learnt its power but I am certain that its presence on me has drawn unwanted attention already and I feel like I am being hunted. There are three strangers who have begun to frequent this bar – you have probably seen them already – and they were frequenting the previous inn that I was staying at.”

“There is one among the council here, called The Seeker, and I do know him. However he does have a group now who is looking for dragonmarks. Those men may be part of it. Look … there is a place of safety that I know of. I think with your abilities you should be able to get there unseen. I can help you and we can get ourselves to the Zephyr Breeze.”

“Your offer is most kind. Tell me, are you certain that I would be welcome. Do you own this 'Zephyr Breeze'?”

“The Zephyr Breeze is a floating vessel that is run by one of the Dragonmarked families. However this particular ship captain leads a rather adventurous and independent lifestyle. I have grown to trust her immensely. She is the only one who knows about my emerging Dragonmark.”

“Interesting … “ Jillian muses. “Can you tell me which House she is affiliated to?”

“House Lyrandar.”

“Ok … but you also say she is independent and can be trusted. Is this true?”

“Yes. She has protected me whereas others have refused to do so. She knows more about me than anyone else.”

Jillian studies Aidan closely then asks “Is this captain you speak of the young half-elven woman that accompanied you in the Liberty Spire?”

“That is her,” Aidan nods.

“Then will I be welcome? You did both appear to be very close. “

Aidan blushes. “Ahlissa is engaged and believe you me, if her fiance knew I was onboard her ship he would not be pleased. He hates me. Look … Ahlissa is Ahlissa … she took me out and I work for her … I am just a member of her crew.”

“Then it's settled – I will accept your invitation and tomorrow we will test the waters. I will accompany you to meet Ahlissa on the Zephyr Breeze. Forgive me for being cautious … I am just so used to being made feel unwelcome in many places, not least of all my own homeland. At least here, in Khorvaire, I have enjoyed a small degree of anonymity and it has been an interesting experience to be considered an 'elf' in these parts.”

“Even though I have been unwelcome amongst my own kind, Ahlissa offers freedom to travel. I am learning more about the world when I do. And her crew are very good and very tolerant.”

“That sounds good indeed,” Jillian says. “I think I shall rest now. We will meet on the stairs of the second floor landing early tomorrow. Let us say, perhaps … 5am?”

Aidan nods and passes her room key to her. “Thank you.”

“If anything happens … my room is number 13,” he tells her.

Aidan leaves discretely and goes to his room. As he descends the stairs and reaches the second floor…

[PERCEPTION 36] He hears slow heavy footsteps and then he sees one of the three strangers walking along the corridor towards you. He has an unfriendly expression on his face and he regards Aidan very coldy when he makes eye contact. Aidan sees his eyes are black … intense pools of inky darkness … as the man draws closer Aidan feels uneasy and he senses that the man notices this. The man pauses as he passes and says “Nice evening for a walk isn't it?”

“It is indeed.”

The man simply stares coldly at Aidan who goes down the stairs, ahead of the man.

Aidan goes to the bar and hears the man's footsteps move slowly down the stairs behind him. He sees the man's other two associates are seated at the same table as he saw earlier. There are even less patrons here now.


Aidan orders a drink, a refreshing ale.

Jenna asks “How is your room, is it to your liking?”

“It is, very much,” Aidan replies. He notices the man from upstairs has returned to his friends at the table. He murmers something to them quietly and they all begin to take an active interest in watching him.

“Looks like our friends don't like you,” Jenna says.

“Too bad ...” Aidan replies loudly.

“Be careful, mister,” Jenna says. “We wouldn't want to see you get into un-neccesary trouble. Those guys really don't mess around.”

As she speaks and looks worried, one of the three men stands and approaches the bar. He stands purposely next to Aidan. He stands there silently, for perhaps a minute, looking at Jenna and she simply smiles at him and says “So what can I get you, stranger?”

“Another Dragonbolt,” he demands bluntly. “And two more for my associates … and hell, why not … give this man here one of those too. We'd like to see what he's made of.”

Jenna shrugs and says “Whatever you say, fella, here you go.”

The man picks up three drinks after pushing the fourth to Aidan. “Drink up boy …” he says. “It's a gift.” He waits and watches.

Aidan knows that a Dragonbolt is an extremely potent distilled spirit that requires a high constitution to handle. He feels reluctant …

The man is scrutinising him “Got a problem with that?”

“Yes, you didn't ask.”

“Didn't ask what? Whether you have a stomach or are you simply too weak to handle it. Like I said … it's a gift. Take it or leave it. No matter to me. I just guess you aint got what it takes.”

He moves towards his table.

Aidan doesn't touch the glass and leaves it there.

“You'd better watch your mister,” Jenna says. “Those guys will have you marked. I don't know why but they are taking one hell of an interest in you. They just don't stop staring in your direction.”

Aidan leans over and whispers quietly “... and they are being watched themselves. Thank you and good night.”

As he leaves he notices the three men glaring hatefully in his direction. He ignores them.


The following morning at 5am Jillian is waiting in the shadows of the landing and Meets Aidan on his arrival.

“Are you ready,” he asks her. “Have you everything you need?”

“Yes. I travel lightly.” She informs him.

She is carrying nothing and is wearing casual adventuring clothes. They leave the inn together, saying goodbye to Remus and Jenna and they tell her to retain her room key as her payment is good for another fortnight. Jillian does so.

It early morning and public transport is available and they easily get across the city to the Skybridge and the airship facility.

“Do you have money, should Ahlissa ask for payment?”

“Yes, that is not a problem.” Jillian tells him.

“It is best we take you on as paying passenger as I have some notes and you help me do research that might interest you.”

On reaching the gangway of the Zephyr Breeze, Aidan spots Ahlissa watching the crew return and new arrivals. She waves out when she sees him and Aidan waves back.

Ahlissa moves to meet Aidan and your new companion as you reach the deck. “Hey Aidan, tell me, who is this fine young friend you have made? She's really pretty … much nicer than your usual catch!”

“What?!” Aidan says, blushing. “I'm not that sort of person.”

“So, what's your name?” Ahlissa asks Jillian.

“My full name is Jil-Ath-Ra-En. But my friends call me Jillian. I am Aidan's contact from the Broken Blade inn. He contacted me with a letter and I waited.”

“Yes … he's very handy with a quill and paper. And he helps out a bit around the place beyond doing that and reading old books. In fact, he's just very handy in general ...” she winks at Aidan as she says that.

“He is also very brave. I hear that Aidan stood up to several goons in the bar last night. And he's still standing to tell us about it.”

“Is this true?” Ahlissa asks laughing.

“Sort of … they were trying to impress themselves with their toughness though I noticed there was something truly malevolent about them. They had been interested in Jillian and myself for some time. I just didn't let them antagonise me.”

“Who were they?” Ahlissa asks.

“The Observers. There were three of them. They stand out in a crowd because they usually clear crowds with their presence. I've brought Jillian here as we have certain things in common and she is willing to be a paying passenger and enjoy the freedom that travelling to exotic places brings … I suppose, until we consider what we are doing next.”

“So … “ Ahlissa asks Jillian “Who are you on the run from? Don't worry … I'll gladly accept you in any case, but it's just good to know who we might have to deal with up front.”

Jillian produces two Siberys Dragonshards of excellent quality and hands them Ahlissa. “I trust these will be a good down payment on whatever I owe you for safe passage in Khorvaire? To put things simply I don't want to be found by The Inspired. My homeland is Adar.”

With that, Ahlissa looks very impressed and remarks “So, it's true, the Kalashtar do walk among us. Have no fear, your presence will be safeguarded with me and my crew. We will look after you.”
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