The Winds of Drif'Tara

Three days later, the group sets out in the carriage, heading for the southwestern tower keep. While navigating the city is no easy task, with its crowds and magical peculiarities, keeping one’s orientation is rather easy. The 6 tower keeps rise high into the air, three on the northern side of the city, three on the southern side, with the Great Keep in the center.

The weather over Gren Noval is sunny, though beyond the city, clouds loom in all directions, the obvious effect of a spell designed to keep conditions in the city pleasant, despite nature’s plans. Glyra is noticeably bothered by this, as she makes several remarks about it, during the journey.

The Southwest tower keep is surrounded by a moat, fed from waterfalls coming from holes in the walls at both end. The water is clear, and surprisingly calm, despite the falling water. As the party dismounts, a large drawbridge flush with the exterior of the keep is slowly lowered, though there are no visible chains are attached to it, to form a bridge to the keep. The party crosses the bridge to the simple wooden door offering the only obvious entrance to the keep. Adakias raises a hand to knock on the door, but a moment before he strikes it, it swings open.

A gnome in light purple robes beckons you to enter. “Yes yes, come in come in.” He is accompanied by a halfling that says nothing, but smiles when you meet his gaze. “I am Merf,” the gnome says, “I shall take you to see Elder Tefus. We’ve been expecting you!” He bids you to follow him down a long hallway.

The corridor is lit by mundane torches, and you pass many open doorways. Through the first, you see a young man who struggling to free itself from the “mouth” of a giant plant. An old man is scribbling notes, and chuckling. “First years”, Merf explains. In the next room, two elven women in white and gold robes are standing perfectly still, their hands raised to one another, almost touching. Between them, a soft golden glow emanates.

Several doors down, two young mages, a man and a woman, are standing slack-jawed and wide eyed at a figure facing the wall. It wears red robes, and has a smooth, purple head. Their teacher is yelling, “I said summon an illusion, not an actual illith-” He is cut off as the door slams shut. A few seconds later, screams of terror and agony can be heard coming from behind the door. Merf whispers something to the halfling, who nods and takes off running down the hallway.

The next room contains a targeting range. 3 women, a dwarf and two elves, stand at a line, gathering energy in their hands. A man, not visible from the angle that the doorway offers, shouts “Cast!” and the three send fireballs racing down the alley. They strike the white targets, which glow purple for a moment, slowly fading to their original color, as the instructor offers advice.

Eight miniature dwarves, each less than a meter tall, run by at that moment. Between them, they carry two drums, held high above their heads.

“We’ve been hard at work the past few days.” Merf says, “Not that we’re not always hard at work! This city has a great hunger for magic. Spells and enchantments of all varieties. Why they need some of them is almost as big of a mystery as how we manage to meet their incessant needs. And that’s only the city! Thankfully, Daronia and her tower take care of most of the requests of other cities and requests as they come in. Otherwise, we might never get some actual, mundane sleep. Those of us that still believe in it, that is!”

You pass another door where a woman seems to be watching a bufferfly flying about the room. “Good… Good… Very good!” she says, with a great smile and a nod of of approval. In the next, two bears appear to be wrestling. One is snarling, the other cursing loudly, causing Karl to blush, and Glyra to smile.

As the group reaches the doorway at the end of the hall, Merf beckons you to stand aside. At that very moment, the door bursts opens, and Merf’s halfling companion dashes through, with 3 other wizards. Each wears a circlet (which appears to be made of wood) set with a clear gem, and holds two clear orbs in each hand. They approach the door that slammed shut, and begin chanting.

“This way, please.” Merf says, walking through the door. You follow him up one of two sets of stairs that wind around the tower. Despite the wall to your left clearly being the exterior wall of the keep, the windows cut into it offer a view to a grand arena. It is empty, except for two massive statues of centaurs, and everything is colored in some shade of red. Each window appears to offer a view that suggests they wind around the arena, contrary to the way that the stairway curves. The effect is very disorienting. “Don’t you hate that ghastly red? I wish you could have seen it when it was blue. It used to be so magnificent,” Merf sighs.

At the top of the stairway is a platform, on the other side of which leads back down. Merf produces a wand, taps upon the black iron knob of the only door, and knocks upon the door with his fist six times. He then proceeds to lead you back down the stairway, to what appears to be the door that you originally came through. He knocks, and a voice from inside beckons, “Enter.”

“Elder Tefus, this is the party for The March,” Merf says showing the party in. The room is large. There are windows along the all opposite to the door, a refreshing semblance of architectural normalcy. There is a second level that fills half of the room, a semi-circular loft accessible via a ladder in the middle of the room. Not much can be seen, but it is evident that there is a second level of windows on the loft level, as well.

Pieces of drums (bodies, skins, bolts, sticks, etc.) are strewn about the room and upon several workbenches. The room contains many curious artifacts and bizarre devices. Of particular note is a clear globe, inside of which a tiny red imp is battling a tiny brown imp. The red imp fires green bolts of energy at the brown imp, which returns fire with red bolts of its own. Neither seems to be making very much progress towards its goal.

Tefus takes several long strides from the bench he appears to have been working at to meet you. He is a young man, tall and lean, with short brown hair, green eyes, and an easy way about him. He is very finely dressed, and gives no outward appearance of being a powerful wizard. “Greetings, and thank you for coming. I am Tefus, liaison between Gren Noval and the Council of Yorv, and elder wizard of this tower keep. I am pleased that you made it past the guards, and was quite impressed by the bold manner in which you did it.”

“Indeed”, comes a voice from behind you. “Hiding in plain sight; often a very effective tactic.” The voice comes from a half-elf woman with long dark hair and violet eyes. She wears robes of purple, blue, and white. She is very beautiful, but the most striking thing about her is the fact that she appears to have no hands. Despite this, she holds her arms in front of her as if her hands were clasped about her abdomen.

“This,” Tefus explains, “is Segwyn, Mistress of Illusion, and elder wizard of the Southern tower keep of Gren Noval. Now, then. Let us get down to business. You’ve been told that the power of {[The Parade]] shall soon run out, and that you eight have been chosen to restore it. I shall now reveal to you the method by which you shall do so.”

There is a loud pop as the brown imp fires off a large bolt that it had been charging up. The red imp seems stunned for a moment, before recovering and resuming its own onslaught.

Tefus continues, “The wizards that created The Parade, our long-gone predecessors, designed it in such a way that the energies that it expends would be absorbed into Drif’Tara. Over time, these energies would build up to a point where they can be collected and used once more, in the form of stone rimmed wells. There are, or will be, eight in all. Your task shall be to visit each of these wells, which we’ve come to call the Wells of Renewal, collect the energies from them, and return to us that we may use them to renew The Parade.

We detected the first of these wells, several decades ago. To date, we’ve discovered three. One is within the Halfling Empire, the halflings will lead you to it. One is somewhere within the forests to the East of the Common Lands. Unfortunately we have not yet discovered its exact location. The third is upon one of the Airlands. The Sky People do not readily welcome visitors, but our envoys say they insist that it is there. Part of your task will be to discover the locations of the other five.”

You hear a tiny, almost cute, roar, as the brown imp has tripled in size, grown a long snout with a maw full of fangs, and little claws (large in proportion to its body). It has stopped firing bolts at the red imp, which seems to have shrunk in size, grown wings, and is buzzing about the brown imp, rapidly firing tiny blue balls of energy at it.

Tefus goes on to explain how you will each be given one of the Rings of the March, explaining what they are and how they are to be charged, so that The Parade may be restored. When he is finished, he says “Now that your task is laid out before you, do you have any questions, before your receive your rings? There will be no going back, from that point.”

Adakias steps forward, “Sir Tefus, which well do you suggest we attempt to visit first? The stories usually provide a relatively linear path with increasing difficulty. Perhaps our story will be one such as that.”

“An excellent question,” Tefus responds. “I cannot say if your path shall grow more or less difficult as you go along. I wouldn’t assume that the challenge you face at the first well would be any more or less difficult than that of the last, but who can say. None that live today, that’s for sure.

As for where to begin, I would suggest you start with the Well that we know to be found in the Halfling Empire. The small folk will happily show you its location. It might give you some wisdom that will help you to prepare for what lies ahead. That Well is secure, which means that it can wait, no outside force will tamper with it, but that also means that you can visit it inconspicuously. And many of us believe that a charged ring will offer greater benefit to the wearer, easing the rest of your journalize.”

“Are there any known defenses that were designed with these wells, other than the individual challenge?” Rico asks.

“We don’t think so,” Tefus says. “We think that the location of the Wells will be somewhat random, wherever the power that forms them collected. Naturally, this alone will cause some inconvenience, and it is very likely that you you may have to overcome defenses of an incidental sort. If a Well were to appear in some dark wizard’s tower, for example. Let us hope, for your sake, that this is not the case.”

“Who else would have information regarding the location of the Wells?” asks Lady Dahlia.

Tefus answers, “We have scryers and agents working to find them, but Drif’Tara is a large area to search. It seems likely that the Wells would be spread about the world, rather than clustered together. It is likely that some are known to those that live near to where they have appeared. The power that creates them comes from The Parade, but the appearance of a Well in the Airlands suggests that proximity is not necessarily a factor. It is quite possible that a Well has surfaced in a location we haven’t thought to check, and has been observed by someone we’ve not thought to ask.”

“There are many drawn to power,” Segwyn adds. “It is possible that a powerful mage or the agents of some great lord have already discovered a Well; they have been surfacing for decades. They may not all be available yet, for all we know. It is also not likely that the power within is easily tapped, which may afford us some time, should their discovery by other prove to be a reality.”

“I say, good lady Segwyn,” Adakias says, “I have not traveled far in my lifetime. Yet, somehow you seem familiar. Is your visage true or is this an illusion to provide some measure of comfort?”

Segwyn shrugs and says “Things are often not as they appear.”

“From what you’ve told us the Wells could be anywhere above ground. Do the rings work as a sort of compass which points the wearer towards the wells location?” Raivik asks.

“It is possible,” Tefus says. “Each ring differs from the next, and what they may or may not do depends also on the wearer. We cannot say what they will are capable of. You, yourselves, may not know, even after spending some time wearing them. Their effects may be subtle, or even imperceptible.”

“What do you mean the rings siphon energy from the wearer?” Raivik asks, “Are you saying they slowly drain you of your lifeforce as long as you wear it?”

“We do not believe the rings will prove to be any detriment,” Segwyn says, “but we do not know for sure. This is a risk you must take yourselves.”

“What will you do with these devices once our task is complete? Will they be used again in another 800 years?”

“They will be yours to keep.” Tefus answers.

“From what I know of the airlands they are not always accessible, or easily traveled,” Rico asks. “Is it possible that you might be able to provide some easier means of travel to, and within, those lands?”

“IF any such transportation is required, you will have to beseech the Sky People. We possess no Pegasi to give you.” Tefus says, to which Segwyn snorts and offers him a mocking grin.

“What happens should a person fail his/her trial within the Well?” Raivik asks.

Segwyn answers, “Let us hope we do not find out.”

Tefus says, “Any further questions?”

Jora steps forward. “First of all, there was some mention made of skulking about and avoiding notice. That was, afterall, the whole point of our little ploy at the gate. Is there some other faction at work here? Some danger about which we’ve not yet been informed?”

“There were,” Segwyn says, with a wicked grin.

Tefus continues, “It would be best if you assumed that there are many seeking the Wells, as well as the rings that you shall possess. We shall mask them from mundane detection. But power such as the Wells, and the charged rings, does not go undetected for long. You’ll need to be vigilant about what you reveal, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to look over your shoulder from time to time. Also, if you come across a threat that you feel we should know about, be certain to tell us in person. But do not return to The Parade lightly. It makes… a bit of a spectacle, and there are always those watching who comes, who goes, and for what purpose. As Segwyn said, hiding in plain sight can be quite effective, and where better to do so than The Parade?”

“Before we decide just where to go,” Jora says, “There is one thing that you could provide for us that would make this go much more smoothly. Drif’Tara is half sea. Give us a boat. I’m not asking for a floating fortress, but a vessel large enough to serve as a base of operations; a cargo ship, perhaps, so we can bring our horses and equipment aboard. I see you getting that look on your face that says we ask for too much, but you’ve done nothing but smother us with casual wonders since we’ve been here, you can’t tell us that for all the power you possess it’s impossible for you to contribute so crucial a tool as you send us off on a dangerous quest to save the world! And if you can use some of your abundance of magic to ensure we always have the wind at our back, well, who would blame you?”

Tefus and Segwyn look at each other for a moment. Tefus shrugs. “Alright, then. A ship you shall have, though it may take us some time to arrange it. Perhaps you should visit the Halflings’ Well first, then. That should give us plenty of time. Now, have you any other questions before we bestow your rings upon you, and your journey begins?”

There is a small buzzing noise, followed by what seems to be a tiny battle cry. The brown imp has summoned forth a swarm of of something, which flies towards the red imp. In response, the red imp has split into dozens of tiny replicas of himself, which meet the flying minions head on. Miniature chaos ensues.

“No? Okay then, as I read, your names, please step forward to receive your ring.” Tefus says. One by one, he calls the members of the party forward. As each does, Tefus places a plain looking golden ring on his/her right thumb, and after Segwyn waves her “hands” over the user’s hand, keeping her eyes closed and saying nothing. Tefus explains that this enchantment will prevent others from detecting the rings via conventional methods.

The rings are distributed as such:

“As they are now,” Tefus says, “the rings are incapable of drawing power. In order to prepare them to do so, they must be bonded to you. The bonding will act as magical catalyst, if you will, which will activate the power seeking nature of the rings. It will also prevent the rings from being removed. Please do not remove them until then, though. Creating them took a great deal of effort, and the council shall be… displeased should you lose one.

The bonding ritual is rather involved, and shall take place back at The Parade. Segwyn shall escort you, however she and I have some final preparations to make, first, so I must ask you to spend one more day within the city. Not so terrible a fate, I should say.” He grins, and steps over to a scroll mounted to the wall. He tears off a sheet, which appears to be quite blank, and hands it to Adakias. “There is an inn close by called The Hopping Centaur. Normally, I would offer you rooms here in the tower, we have wonderful accommodations for visitors, but it seems we have a mind flayer loose in the halls.”

“First years,” Segwyn mutters.

“But ‘The Hop’ is a fine establishment,” Tefus says, “a place the students go to relax after classes. It caters specifically to the magically attuned. Prudent observers and scholars of magic will find much of interest and insight from the many enchantments, and enchanters, that reside there. The obtuse, however, often meet with rather unfortunate, often hilarious, fates. Nothing serious, mind you; just enough to keep it interesting.”

“Try the ale,” Segwyn says with a grin.

“Yes, do try it,” Tefus says, “But remember to use only your left hand to drink it. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have much to see to. Enjoy yourselves, tonight. You shall be needing all of your strength, and soon.”

You leave through the same door that you came in through, which now seems to lead to the outside. This comes to great relief to the members of the party sensible enough to wish to avoid confrontation with an illithid.

You make your way to The Hop, a large, white building with a curving front, giving the visage of a tower. The inn keeper, a heavy set woman with hard features, greets you as soon as you step in, as though she were waiting for you. “Yes, yes, come in. We’re rather busy today. Room’s on the 4th floor, last one of the left. I don’t want that.” She says as Adakias tries to hand her the scroll Tefus gave him. “Chicken for dinner. Try the ale, left hand only. No destructive spells. No summoning. Don’t use wands on the 3rd floor. First years.” She mutters. “Chicken for dinner.” She repeats, as she scurries off to tend to something else.

The party enjoys an eventful, but relaxing, evening at the inn. The food is good, the ale even better/ Though Karl forgets to use only his left hand, his hair seems to have grown back by the end of the evening.

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