The Forty Four Nights of Amn
On the day of the high Harvest Festival the peasants of Amn plant the last crop of the year and then bring their finest produce to the festivals held in Amn’s major cities. The celebrations of a good harvest can be extremely rowdy and have been known to exceed the single day allocated by the gods.
The Serious Person’s Guide to Amn
High Harvest Festival
The streets of Athkatla were crowded with drunkards and revellers. The fluid mass of their snake-like passing stretched from the plazas and squares at Athkatla’s heart all the way to the East gate and then further still along the Trade Way. Its tail composed of stragglers and latecomers arriving finally from the paths intersecting the Trade Way as it passed their farms and holdings. Each festival goer had tucked about themselves at least one full skin of wine and the best fruit, bread and cheese they had about their homes. Chauntea had once again provided generously to the people of Amn.
Having been mostly about their own business the mercenaries Oreva, Solomon, Dak’kon, Karock, Gorflem and Blackurn had agreed to meet at their old comrade Tangia’s new tavern that he had opened at Solomon’s command. The inn was sited in the strip of land between the Alandor River and the Trade Way, outside the city walls, that the city had recently permitted building on. Solomon spend the majority of the evening explaining about his forthcoming trip to Ritatavin to Gorflem while Gorflem spent the majority of the evening telling Solomon about his quest to the Snowflake Mountains. Two bottles of wine later the pair had agreed to pool their resources.
Meanwhile Karock was asking Dak’kon and the monastery where Dak’kon had been trained:
“The monastery where I was apprenticed is far to the north of Amn, my friend. Many weeks of travel on foot lie between the Cloudpeaks and the mournful peaks that cloak the towers and corridors of my home. As many as two hundred of us live at the monastery, perfecting our skills and bring order and peace to the land. After completing the basic training of our order the initiate is sent out into the world and must return with some new wisdom or refinement of our fighting art. These seekers of knowledge are known as the “journey men”, it is these questors who are now returning, like me, to the north to uncover the meaning of the strange vision we have received.
“The monastery lies a few days travel from the town of Iriaebor which is a haven of good in the lands of the north. We often ally ourselves with the defenders of the town to defeat common enemies. Particularly the tribes of orcs and goblins who dwell in the Sunset mountains that lie to the east of the monastery itself”
High Harvest Festival
The High Harvest was good in those areas (both north and south) not affected by the attacks upon the country by bandits and pirates. The good weather that had made the harvest so much easier to bring in broke the following month and large rainclouds were seen over the sea though few ventured inland. Sailors noticed that the first of the ocean-going vessels returned earlier than anticipated and reports from the west told that the flotillas of the New World were heading to their home ports with all speed.
The Annals of Amn
Week One – Getting the run-around
After talking with Dak’kon Karok decided to take a look at his chances of getting back from Iriaebor assuming he survived the trip there. Discussing the matter with the caravan guards resting near the market he did not quite feel reassured. Estimates ranged from three weeks to two months on foot. Although the grass plains that lie between the Cloudpeaks are fertile and flat there are many bandits and humanoids who roam the plains and hunt unwary travellers down. The safest route to Amn by far was a trip downriver to Baldur’s Gate and then south on the Trade Way. That was the opinion of the world weary caravan guards.
“If you take the river you have four cities my friend,” said one “Iriaebor, Scornubel, Elturel and Baldur’s Gate, if you try it across the plains you’ve got nothing but bandits, nomads, monsters and worse.” he shook his head and spat into the dust.
Some what enlightened Karok supplemented his trail rations with some of the Amnian dried fruit and meat that he was beginning to develop and alarming taste for.
Also there in the market, but cloistered away out of the sun down the small corridors that harboured the city’s gem and precious metal merchants was Solomon. Trying to track down the mysterious Master Salicus who was rumoured to have an interest in items such as the dragon claws that Solomon was trying to sell. The object of his hunt was remaining elusive. No-one he spoke to seemed to know the fellow personally but all of them knew someone who did, messengers were dispatched, meeting points were arranged but one after another the leads ran dry and the more he seemed to be wasting his time. Why was it so damn difficult to sell these things? he wondered to himself. No-one had told him that Salicus was not interested in the goods, by all indications the merchant seemed to be both rich and interested. Yet he seemed to be in no hurry to make himself known. Was he being tested in some way.
The answer lay across the city, concealed in an alleyway keeping a close watch on a particular wooden building in the Bridge quarter of the city. Oriva passed by the alleyway and to the watcher’s surprise the wizard’s gaze lingered a little too long on the narrow passageway.
For Oriva himself though the moment had been fleeting and his mind had hardly registered the momentary interest. Instead the half-elf was wondering about the wisdom of having bullied the banned wizard Aubrey into teaching him. The guy didn’t seem that powerful and Oriva wondered how far his knowledge really extended.
Oriva mounted the steps that had been precariously hammered into place on the side of the building. Aubrey had the entire attic space of the building and had paid what appeared to be an ogre to put a new staircase directly from the ground to his eyrie. The wood creaked precariously under his feet and he was glad to make the door to the attic and let himself inside.
After being banned from the practice of magic Aubrey had found a loophole in the terms of his curse. He had been prevented from ever creating magic, not wielding it nor talking about it or dealing with those who used it or using all the more mundane knowledge that he had picked up in his time as a leading wizard.
A new career therefore beckoned as an appraiser of magical items. Aubrey’s attic was stuffed full of the necessary tools for what he himself described as “a hobby in the serious career of drinking”. Oriva had learnt to avoid various pieces of possessed furniture, ignore the taunts of the imps held within binding cages and most of all not to touch the strange chemicals and smouldering equipment that were piled up on the shelves all round the attic.
Aubrey himself spent most of the day (when not cloistered in the tavern) in a single room that was miraculously clear of clutter. In fact the contrast between its Spartan limits and the rest of the attic had astounded Oriva at first. The room contained a large sofa couch that often doubled as Aubrey’s bed (Aubrey’s mattress in turn doubled as a kind of bookcase), a single woven rug from the far south lay on the floor. A large window let a blazing light in that illuminated every corner of the room. Underneath the window was a table, on the table were six books piled neatly while, Oriva knew, the left drawer of the table contained a lot of money in very mixed change and the right had a store of writing paper and a number of old receipts.
Aubrey described it as the thinking room and it was in essence the work room, lounge and study all bound up in one. Aubrey had explained that most items that were brought in to him were never really researched properly. The imps and demons and cauldrons were all essentially window dressing, what the paying customer expected for their pay. Most of his commissions were contained in his six heavily annotated books, each one a catalogue or an encyclopaedia of sorts.
Aubrey was snoozing on the sofa, the light warming the room from the window. Oriva called to him and he woke up with a slight start.
“I’m going to be leaving next week, I don’t know how long I’m going to be.” said Oriva
“Adventures and heroic endeavour in general are your problem my friend. You force me to teach you and then the next minute you’re off saving the world, or at least your friends. You should focus yourself a bit, keep to just the one act of continued brutality. There isn’t going to be enough of you to go round.”
“When I do come back though I don’t want to be peeling you off the floor of the Port Barrel – understand?”
“Sure, I don’t need to go to a tavern to get drunk you know, I have alcohol here.”
“Why do you drink the way you do?”
“I’ve told you – to forget.”
“But to forget what exactly? The reason you were cursed?”
“You know something, I’ve forgotten, success! Fancy a drink?”
Week Two – The Moon Paths Open
Soon after sunset Dak’kon, Oreva and Karok made their way to the Temple of Selûne. Already the sound of voices singing in close harmony could be heard from within, the different choirs wrapped ever more complex melodies around one another creating a sea of sound that spun the emotions of the listener around like a ship in a storm.
The main doors sprang open at the approach revealing the dome of the temple shrouded in shadow. An honour guard of Moonblades stood either side of the entrance both greeting the visitors and herding them into the heart of the temple. The door swung closed behind them.
A priestess slipped between the guards and gestured for the three travellers to follow her. Above them a faint rumble indicated that the bronze and glass skylights were being opened to the night sky.
“The ceremony has already begun and the moons are already close to conjunction. The Ways will be open soon but before you enter I must tell you a few important things.” the priestess spoke as she strode “The Ways are dangerous and Selune’s support does not extend far from the Path, do not stray from the Path. The Path may sometimes be long but at others it is short. It is sometimes difficult to follow, other times the journey is over before it begins. Such is the nature of the moon, waxing and waning, never the same twice. Should you walk the path successfully you will arrive at our sister temple in Iriaebor.”
The priestess came to an abrupt halt at the edge of the mosaic floor directly below the dome. The sound of the choir filled the dome, the echoes of the song seeming to return to its singers contributing anew to the divine melody.
Above them the three could see the lithe silver forms of the Lunes stretching down from the skylights high above. In their wake came countless prismed moonbeams cascading into the temple, filling it with their shifting light. The song swelled around them and as it climaxed the very air was rent apart in a burst of silver light that initially dazzled the watchers.
“The Ways are open!” cried the priestess “Swiftly! You must enter!”
Dak’kon turned to look at Karok and Oreva, both of who nodded their ascent. Then he turned and ran towards the light, closely followed by his two companions.
Together they lept into the shimmering portal and felt a feeling of immense dislocation sweep through their minds and bodies. The light became blinding in its intensity and then just as panic began to well up in their hearts like the fear of a drowning man the light fading and the sound of bird song played over their ears.
Looking around them they found a barren landscape, like a desert composed of ash. Strange rocks formed imitations of trees and bushes while in the red sky above strange grey polyps of flesh floated idly upon high. In front of them a grey canyon open and in the middle of it shone a flowing carpet of silver light that snaked into the canyon and then disappeared from view.
The only familiar thing in the whole vista was the bird song. Looking down they saw it came from a yellow canary in a brass cage. The cage was clasped in the right hand of a man who seemed to be sleeping with his head against a boulder.
Dak’kon approached the man wondering what he was doing in such a place. As he came closer the boulder shifted slightly and seemed to rise from the dust with an organic slurping noise. Horrified the monk watched as the creature withdrew a variety of gore stained tentacles from within the man’s head. Screaming in rage and anger he swiftly stooped and threw a stone at the thing. It shot off across the plain and disappeared from view, the blood being coated with the ashy dust of the place.
“Let’s get on that path and out of here.” muttered Dak’kon.
The others who had not witnessed the horrific sight took one look at the monk’s stern face and shouldered their packs. Together they tramped into the canyon that quickly seemed to surround them.
The canyon walls were pitted with caves and crawl holes, from which keening howls occasionally rose. The silver path though kept a steady course through the middle of the canyon and none of the inhabitants bothered the group. The worst thing about the journey was the dust that seemed piled deeper in the canyon, often rising to the knee. Every step threw up a plume of dust that choked the throat and blinded the eye. Karok showed the others how to tie scarves and rags around their faces in the style of the desert nomads, the meagre protection they offered was welcome.
Finally after hours of trekking the canyon came to a fork, the path turn to the left fork and the group obediently followed. No more than twenty metres along the fork though they came across the mottled body of an enormous lizard that lay sleeping on the floor of the canyon such that it seemed to fill the entire space. The path ran directly under its sleeping frame.
After a swift drink of the wine they had brought the three considered their options. Oriva summoned up a spell calling twisting threads of blue magical energy together he bound them into magic missile attack. The cords of energy flew from the nimbus surrounding his hands only to bounce harmlessly off the lizard’s dusty skin.
Next Dak’kon meditated upon the creature and feeling that he heard discerned the flow of its life force strode forth and summoned a devastating blow to a point on the creatures neck just above the head. To his surprise the creature’s flesh was like clay and rather than being crushed by his blow seemed to cling to his fist and disperse the force of his strike.
Confused he stumbled backwards, “Any other ideas?” he called.
The afternoon after Dak’kon and the others had left the city Solomon paid a visit to his sponsor’s office at the Temple of Lathander. The office was located at the top of one of the towers that surrounded the temple and afforded from its small window a wonderful view over the city. Solomon stretched back in the priest’s comfortable leather clad seat and accepted a liqueur from the priest’s cabinet.
“I’m glad to able to tell you that I am interested in the task of building a new temple in Riatavin. But I need to know some more information.”
“That’s a fair request, the exact approach is up to you. As far as we are concerned we want a temple in Riatavin one year from now. We are interested in how you set about the task there is additional credit available if the priest’s like what they see in your organisation, but at the end of the day the temple’s the thing. The grander the better, the quicker the better. Oh and the whole thing has to be done on budget.”
“What about things like having to buy stone and the like, do think I should buy it here and then ship it to Riatavin? What about this credit line, how does it work?”
“Hold on a minute Solomon, I am neither a quarryman or a merchant. If I answer all your questions then I might as well build the temple myself. All these things are your problem now.
“As for the money; the deal is simple and unchanged since last we spoke. 5000 gold for the initial costs, the temple will honour your credit notes within Athkatla but if you need cash, say if you needed something from Riatavin itself, then you may have up 2000 coins worth in trade bars, minimum denomination 500 pieces of gold. Petty cash is your concern.”
Week Three – A slight case of under-barding
Solomon had decided, once again, to do his recruiting from the comfort of the Rackal pub near the great harbour of Athkatla. Joining him was Gorflem who ostentatiously took the table opposite Solomon. For a quiet moment the old comrades sat and gazed across the empty room at one another.
Solomon was the first to break: “Why don’t you come over here rather than the pair of us sitting in an empty inn at different tables.”
“How about,” replied Gorflem “I stay over here and recruit good, decent and true half-orcs for a holy quest and you stay over there and recruit a bunch of pansy verse chanters who are willing to kiss your arse.”
“A Bardic Chronicler wouldn’t just kiss my arse he would help everyone else to understand why my arse is worth kissing. That’s your problem you think small. After all what’s this ‘holy quest’ about? You’re about to go and try and fill a dead man’s shoes. It’s a quest for a bloody pair of shoes.”
“And who got in me into the situation where I have to quest for a pair of shoes?! Who created the situation that crippled my leg?!”
“You smartarse! I never! But if I did it was because you abandoned us there!”
“Regardless of where I was I never ordered you to ‘catch the javelin with your leg’ that was your great idea.”
“Stay on your side and keep your bards with you!”
Blackurn wandered into the Rackal and sat down at Solomon’s table. He immediately noticed the atmosphere and turned to look at Gorflem.
“Have the pair of you been fighting again?”
“He started it.” muttered Gorflem
“Right, right I don’t really need to know I guess. Solomon, I’ve put up the notices for a bard…”
“Ponce.” Gorflem interjected
“ A bard companion,” Blackurn continued “in the markets. We’ll have to see what comes up from that. I had a word with a couple of guys in the market about foremen and they seem pretty common and pretty cheap so I wouldn’t worry about them too much. Architects on the other hand are very expensive and very rare.
“I have the names of two: Anjou Pastermak who has designed and constructed a number of villas for Athkatla’s seriously rich and a dwarf called Bunsunu Hotez. The dwarf recently built a new office for one of the minor trading families. We can probably go a visit that if you’re interested.
“In addition to that I also got talking to a few builders and it turns out that for basic buildings you don’t need an architect. A master builder can put together a basic hall and stain-glass window affair and cost a lot less. I guess it depends how ornate you are planning on having this temple.”
Blackurn turned to Gorflem, “What are you waiting there for?” he asked.
“I am here to review potential recruits for quest.” answered Gorflem jutting his chin firmly.
“Haven’t you heard? There’s some half-orc called Ribcrusher just arrived, he’s got all the local half-orcs wound up something big over a quest he’s going on. He’s staying at the Copper Coronet, you aren’t going to get a single body down here until they’ve drunk his tab dry.”
“That lousy country bumpkin! I don’t believe it! How dare he steal all my people, doesn’t he know that I’m the champion of the Reeks. Can you believe the cheek of this fellow?”
“Hey, calm down, at least you can help me interview some bards now your diary’s free.” replied Solomon.
Oriva, Dak’kon (Paths of the Moon)
50 XP gained
Karok (Paths of the Moon)
50 XP gained, 10 days trail rations acquired at the cost of 20 GP
Gorflem, Solomon (Athkatla)
Next month is Uktar.
Good opportunities for new characters: mercenaries and soldiers willing to join Dak’kon on a dangerous adventure to discover what has happened in the Sunset Mountains. Bards, builders and Lathander devotees to accompany Solomon on his quest. Warriors, heroes and half-orcs to journey with Gorflem.