As the Virtuous Maiden pulls into Sulanok, the party splits up to explore, refit, and take care of personal business. Strongbow has need to head to the local Temple Dragonwright to see to Mug’s conversion to the faith as well as to deal with the discovery of family being among the discovered slaves they had rescued from the witch Kraltos. He feels he should be able to get a satisfactory response as the High Priestess of this region also happens to be his younger sister, Nessa, third born in the Trillof family.
As he dresses in his ‘work’ clothes, the less liable to draw attention especially in a port town, Alta expresses a desire to join him and Mug ‘to watch’, as she puts it. He gets the feeling that while she may be curious to see what will happen, she’s more interested in being with him and offering her support. No fool, Strongbow accepts her offer gladly.
They arrive at the temple and are greeted by an acolyte.
“Good day sir. I have a message for the High Priestess from her distant brother. May I speak with her?” Strongbow obsequiously asks.
“One moment” the acolyte answers. “Please remain here and I will see if she will see you.”
About a quarter of an hour later he returns. “Her Holiness will see you. Follow me.”
Mug follows along, carrying a chest entrusted to him by Strongbow. His head swivels from side to side and smiling in wonderment at the majesty and beauty of the temple. He had never before seen such grandeur. Strongbow puts his hand on Mug’s shoulder to reassure him, faintly catching Mug whisper “Just like dream”. As they walk, Strongbow explains to Mug just what the temple is and what it stands for, the faith of the True Dragonwright, that not corrupted by evil cultists. Mug listens with rapt attention.
Alto is also looking around, highly impressed but cautious, almost uneasy. She feels as if everyone there is staring at her although none are. Strongbow notices this as well and takes her hand, squeezing it lightly and smiling at her. She smiles back, some of the unease falling away.
As they enter the sanctum, the acolyte leads them to a side chamber where the High Priestess is waiting. She seems startled to see not only the expected ‘messenger’ but also an orc and female elf. Strongbow bows to the priestess.
“I have a message from your brother Most Holy. Not to be rude but he stated it was for her ears only.”
With a nod from the High Priestess, the acolyte bows and departs, closing the door behind him. The High Priestess looks pointedly at Alta and Mug.
“Are these two privy to your message as well?”
Strongbow smiles and embraces her. “"Yes Nessa. The lady is Alta, my ........companion” He glances back at Alta and wink,“The orc is Mug, my Elfservant".
Nessa laughs and returns his embrace eagerly. "It has been too long! How have you been -talor? We had heard word that you were still out on your adventures.”
"I'm doing well. It's been an interesting time. I'll have stories to tell for decades at the dinner table. How's Mother..and the rest of the family? "
Mug stands out of the way, the trunk next to him. Even with his size, one would overlook him. Alta watches intently, very interested in the exchange between long separated brother and sister.
"Mother is doing well”, Nessa responds,”although she misses he second-born. Ereinion is doing as he always does. He has negotiated well, and has gained some small amount of grudging respect from the rest when several of his trade agreements have ended up locking theN'ktor dwarf clan into a position they find unfavorable.Idril is as scholarly as ever, and is becoming a very promising match. She will have her choice of suitors when the time comes.Earenduris his usual self.” She says the last with some menace.
Strongbow sighs “So all is as expected. And you sister? All is well w/ the faith?"
"All is well as it should be. The only oddity is the followers of Kym-Mark-Nar acting slightly off, but that's not surprising."
“No it's not but we'll need to keep an eye on that. Anyway, Why I'm here is twofold. The first is that Mug here has requested to join the church. Since he has been so loyal to me, I thought it would be a nice boon if here were blessed by the High Priestess.”
Hearing this, Mug breaks into an uncharacteristic coughing fit in surprise and shock. Strongbow chuckles in response.
Nessa walks over to Mug and looks him in the eye, "None shall be turned away." she says to him with ritual gravitas, "Will you be as loyal to your faith as to your master?" she asks him.
Mug, humbly, responds, "Without question."
"Do you understand the tenets of our faith?"
"Master has told Mug stories. Of Kym-Nark-Mar and Zandragal, of Kormath and Styphon. Mug like stories of Dragons."
Nessa smiles a little. "Then you shall be welcomed to our faith, with appropriate ritual, and my blessings."
Mug fights back the tears. Strongbow leans over to Alta and whispers “I think this is going well”. She nods in return, her eyes wide.
"An acolyte shall attend you for the remainder of the day to make sure you understand our following.” The High Priestess continues”,This eve we shall conduct your initiation to our order, and you will become one with us."
Strongbow nods to Mug to show his approval. Mug nods back quickly and bows deeply before Nessa, "Mug wishes to learn."
Nessa puts her hands on his shoulders and raises him up, "Come with me." She turns to Strongbow and Alta briefly and says, "I'll be back shortly," and smiles. She then leads Mug off to find an acolyte.
Alta comments, "That's very generous and noble of you. I don't know that I've seen a happier servant." He voice is full of sincerity.
"He deserves it. I couldn't ask for someone more loyal and hardworking. “He pauses. "So, was 'companion' the right word?" He smiles slyly at her.
"Perhaps." She smiles slyly at him, “So I am more than just some lass on a boat to you then?"
Her tone is both playful with an undertone of questioning.
"I certainly think so. Although I definitely like the 'lass on the boat' ", he winks at her and tickles her side.
She slaps at his hand and then looks into his eyes with a serious expression, almost as if she is searching for something there.
“What?” he asks, “Tell me.”
"Would I still be your lass if I wasn't DragonWright?"
"It's the family's official faith. “Strongbow answers,” It's not a requirement though. "
She smiles quickly at that, and her smile slips a bit as the implication of being apart of the Trillof family hits. She quickly smiles again and kisses him full on the lips. He kisses her back.
"Remember, I've MET some of the gods. I would be a fool to deny the worship of them and the 2nd son of IrethTrillof is no fool." He says, "Except maybe when we're alone".
She smiles playfully and is about to say something when Nessa returns.
"Well well, what happy days have come to our shores!" Nessa smiles at them in a teasing sense only a little sister can manage.
"And what is it that's making these shores so happy dear sister? "
"New faith and young love. I am eager to dash off a letter to mother."
Alta blushes furiously.
"You always were a tattle tale.” Strongbow scolds Nessa as she smiles in that evil little sister way.
"Some things are just too good to keep quiet about though!" She playfully has a little bit of that whine that little sisters have.
"Brat. Well on the next matter, also involving letters, I'm going to require your vow of silence"
She notices the change in tone and adjusts quickly, "You have it. What is the issue?"
"While I've made some enemies over my travels, I've recently made some that involve the family. And I'm going to be making more. Ones that may require some severe retaliation. "
A sense of gravity comes over the room, and Alta speaks, "Would it be alright if I looked around the temple, Nessa?". An attempt to give the two siblings privacy.
"You may ask Adept Tilar, and I'm sure she will be happy to show you the temple grounds."
Strongbow again squeezes Alta’s hand as she leaves the room. "My traveling companions and I recently took on a job to take out a slave ship. Turned out these were some major players in the south seas slave trade and are likely involved in the trade worldwide.”
He gives Nessa a brief story of the fight at sea between the crew and the slavers. The priestess listens intently.
"Upon investigation, I found something that disturbed me greatly and will disturb you as well".Strongbow concludes, "Trilloffa's were part of the cargo."
Nessa’s eyes come alive with anger and her nostrils flair. The Trilloffa’s are not only a branch of the family but the one that the house Mind Mage ,BerenTrilloffa, hails from.
"Oh, it gets better.” He continues,” I found the log book of the slaver leader. Some of the people he'ld been trading with were included."
"Ok, you've asked my silence for a reason.” She says impatiently” Why?"
" They've been dealing w/ the Trilloffin branch of the family".
"So I can't have Beren rip the information from their heads? What do you plan do to about this situation. You wouldn't ask my silence if you didn't have something in mind."
"We're one of the last Elvish noble families left on Palladium. We can't afford a civil war. I'm going to give them a chance. I'm paying them a visit after I leave here. I will inform the head of the branch, I can't remember the fool's name at the moment, and tell them they will rehabilitate ALL the slaves at their own expense or the Trillof's will be informed"
"I see the wisdom in your actions, but still feel galled at the situation. How will you keep me appraised of the situation?"
I've picked up a number of magic pigeon scrolls. I also need you to deliver these letters. The two on top are to Mother and Ereinion to be opened only if something 'accidental' should happen to me. The third is to a Gnome named Tauren who is located at the Temple of Tark on the Islands. He's an associate of mine and will be keeping an eye on the Trilloffin's. SHOULD anything happen to me, most of their heads will no longer be attached. "
"A follower of Tark? Interesting." She takes the letters, "I shall see to their swift delivery personally. Is there any other foul news I should know about? Or can I finally enjoy my brother's return? Or brief visit knowing you," She smiles at the last part.
"One last thing, the chest over there is my savings. If you would please get it warded in your and my names and delivered to my room back home. It can be used as payment to Tauren just in case. Otherwise it will be for huge celebration when I return permanently. "
Nessa looks at the chest, impressed, "You have been a busy boy. I don't suppose I could persuade you to start keeping a journal of your tales? It would make a fine addition to the family library, and your exploits would likely be favorable in our lands as well." She says that last bit like it's already a done deal. While he doesn’t know it, his letters home have already generated widespread tales among the March.
" I should really do that, shouldn't I? This whole responsibility thing. Eck"
"Maybe all of our efforts have been directed in the wrong ways," she glances out the way that Alta left, "to instill in you some sense of responsibility. At least tales of your travels would be something to keep us entertained. Ereinion is absolutely abuzz about your last communique to us. He's already commissioned several expeditions."
"Not sure what will come of it but from what we found, it looks like one of the archaic races exterminated during the war w/ the Old Ones."
Her jaw drops,”"You do realize that you've doomed yourself to storytelling tonight?"
"Very likely. As long as there's lots of food and drink. We'll be heading out in a day or so so I plan to eat, drink and be merry"
"That is wonderful news! I shall make sure that all is ready." She is smiling with excitement.
"Quick question, “Strongbow interjects, ”when you mentioned Eärendur, you looked at Alta. What was that about? What nonsense has he been up to lately and is mother grey from dealing w/ it?”
"She is nearly Grey from his antics. ” Nessa explains,” He becomes more and more brazen, making a fool of himself and of our family. He seems to think that he is above the people."
"There's a noble son I'm acquainted with from Timiro. Arrogant. Obnoxious. You name it. Barely tolerable to even be in the same room with most of the time. His family sent him out into the world to either mature or be rid of him permanently. "
"Are you suggesting we do the same?", she asks, obviously interested in the idea.
"It's a suggestion. Perhaps bring it up at the next council meeting. The one I've dealt w/, he's at a point somewhere between a hero of the common people and working on getting stabbed in the back".
Her face goes blank, "I just can't see Earen- as a hero of the people. The other part I can see just fine though."
"Have any tales of the "White Knight" in Timiro reached here?"
"There have been some word of a White Knight. Is your companion this supposed hero of justice?"
"Let's just say for now that he wasn't alone. "
"Heh, very well then."
"Now sister mine, I need to go and take care of that other matter we were discussing. "
"Yes, and I have matters to attend to as well. Shall we meet again tonight for dinner?"
“I think that would be excellent, yes.Now I need to go find Alta and deal w/ this. Take good care of Mug while I'm gone.”
"I will. Farewell."
Strongbow departs the room, leaving his sister to her duties. Now comes the time where he must deal with less pleasant members of the family.