One of the things I'm especially enjoying about this campaign so far is the very different pace of various sessions. The previous two, for example, were very combat / exploration heavy - in the classic dungeon crawling style, more or less. Last night's session, on the other hand, was a complete contrast - it consisted entirely of roleplaying and hardly a die was rolled. It was essentially an 'R&R' session for the PCs, but this allowed the story to really develop, opening up a lot of new possibilities.
Barur - Dwarven noble
Darian - Crowd-fearing Bard
Arthanius Lex - Servant of Arg (god of storms), witch-hunter, accompanied by his faithful hound Bane
Upon returning to Keet in the night, after their largely victorious siege on the bugbear-riddled manor at Ballan, the PCs made their way straight to the village temple to deposit the body of Barur's ex-henchman Barath in the hands of the high gods. They found the temple occupied, and the Seid (the village temple warden) engaged in a funeral ritual for the two guards who had died earlier that day, also in the raid on the manor. They spoke with the Seid for a time, before leaving Barath's body with him to consecrate before burial the next day.
Returning to the Grinwold's Eaves the party found the inn surprisingly busy. A number of the village guards were gathered there and were drinking and simultaneously celebrating the victory at Ballan and mourning the death of two of their fellows. Olm, the only survivor of the three guards who accompanied the PCs to Ballan that morning, was the hero and the centre of attention, and was drunkenly telling and re-telling the story of the battle. The PCs joined the guards in the evening of drinking and recounting, and planned to travel to Aglong, the nearest larger town, the next day.
In the morning they attended the simple and unassuming burial of the three deceased, and then set off on the road to Aglong, arriving at dusk. Passing through a gate in the wall, they were surrounded by the bustle of the town. Barur was happy to be back in a larger settlement, after having spent most of the last few weeks in the tiny village of Keet, but Darian started to feel a little unnerved at the crowds. The party decided to split for a time, as Barur and Darian headed to an inn and Arthanius went to visit the head of his Order, who was based in the temple of Arg in Aglong. They agreed to meet later on at the Serpent & Eagle inn, where Barur had stayed previously and could recommend as a reputable and reasonably priced establishment.
Making his way through the streets of the town, Arthanius came to the temple of Arg, a large square stone building in the centre of the town, decorated with rows of columns and the crossed hammers of the god of storms. Entering, he gave a brief prayer at the feet of the statue of the god, and passed through a corridor at the rear of the temple and into a courtyard where the priests' quarters were found. His superior, a tall, elderly, battle-worn man named Meerax Eld, received him, and the two talked for some time. Arthanius reported what he had discovered of the ruined village of Ballan, and of the disappearance of the necromancer in Keet, and they discussed the possibility of Ballan being reclaimed from Chaos. This was hoped to be possible, with the aid of the priests of Hraal (god of protection & warding), but there had been very few instances of the realms of Chaos being pushed back in this Age, in fact quite the opposite. Nonetheless the Eld deemed the ruined village worthy of further investigation, and agreed to try to enlist the aid of some further members of Arthanius' Order to make a kind of scouting / clearing party. He also suggested that the Lady Esmelna, the granddaughter of the baron of Ballan, and heiress to the manor and village, should be consulted, at least out of courtesy, before any further excursions to Ballan were made. Arthanius took his leave and made his way back to the south gate and to the inn to meet his companions.
Meanwhile, Barur and Darian had found the Serpent & Eagle incredibly loud and crowded, much to Barur's delight and Darian's chagrin. In fact it was all the bard could do to enter the place and go up to the bar to drink the mug of beer which Barur had bought for him. It is becoming clear that Darian has some kind of problem with large crowds. As they sat at the bar, Barur was surprised to hear someone addressing him from behind in the Mountain tongue, the native language of Dwarves and various other mountain-dwelling races. Turning around he was delighted to see one of his kinsmen, a fellow Dwarf, smiling up at him. Dwarves in this Age are a somewhat rare race, their dominions having been wholly overrun by Chaos, and a huge majority of their number slain in the wars with Goblins. So the two were pleased to meet, and began talking excitedly in their tongue, leaving poor Darian to suffer alone in the noise and bustle of the inn. The Dwarf, whose name was Nenn, invited them to join him and his travelling companions, who were seated at a table in a corner. Much as an evening with four Dwarves did not strike Darian as his ideal pastime, the idea of a corner appealed. Once they were all settled, the four Dwarves began recounting tales of their people. They were considerate enough to translate the stories, as best they could, into the Kargeen tongue, for the benefit of Darian.
At about this time Arthanius entered the Serpent & Eagle, and made his way through the crowds to the table with the Dwarves. There they discussed their plans, and waxed heroic with their vision of reclaiming Ballan for Order, and then beginning to explore the City of Iron, the ruined Dwarven city in the nearby mountains. The three Dwarves - Nenn, Dak and Embed, who had been travelling companions for some time, were greatly inspired by this talk of glory, and agreed to join the party in Keet in the next week or so, after having finished some business they had elsewhere. The two humans went to bed early, leaving the four Dwarves to drink and reminisce together.
The morning brought thick snow and a cold but bright day. The party spent the day wandering the streets of Aglong, visiting various markets and shops, selling treasure and buying equipment. Barur took the painting, which he'd cut from its frame in the manor house at Ballan, to an antiquities dealer, where it was identified as being a portrait of the ex-baron. The proprietor also surmised that the orb and the quill which the baron was portrayed as holding were perhaps magical, as he was known to have possessed magical gifts from the wizard Elleg. Barur, being in possession of the feather, was intrigued at this suggestion, and attempted to find out if any wizards lived in Aglong, who might be able to identify the item, but to no avail. The antiques dealer also mentioned Lady Esmelna, who might be able to shed more light on the history of the manor, and would no doubt be pleased to see the painting of her grandfather, even though it was now in an awful and worthless condition.
Arthanius used the time to stock up on useful equipment like torches, oil and a lantern - not planning to be caught out below ground with only a single guttering torch again. He also purchased a second animal companion - a large black dog trained as a guard. The dog was called "Will", which the witch-hunter found somewhat too mundane for his taste, and began considering a renaming.
The session ended there, with the PCs intending to visit the Lady Esmelna, and Arthanius planning to return to his superior in the evening to see if any aid could be provided.