Wednesday, February 21, 758 BC
Alyonka, Boudica, Gennifer, Gus, Jezzy, Torbjorn, and Xevok are not walking long before they hear a voice call out behind them. (Especially odd, as the person approached without a sound.) They cautiously turn around to find Laurie standing behind them, no doubt still possessed by the spirit of Khatun Javach. Torbjorn makes note of the fact that she is not wearing her amulet. (And at various points during the conversation, typically while she is speaking, she looks distracted, her gaze growing distant. Based on how she is addressing Gennifer, she is likely using the tongues spell, as well.)
She explains that she needs their help. She attempted to contact mystic sages to learn what has transpired in this land since she last walked it, only to receive an answer from her brother, Khan Chago. He was also already aware that she was here. (Torbjorn acknowledges that he attempted to contact Thor and learned the same thing. He omits the fact that he is probably the one who informed Khan Yemur of her presence in the first place.) While she has the resources to effectively remain hidden forever, it’s not much of an existence if she spends most of it hiding from her brother. And if he has well and truly done something to depose the gods and the ancestor-spirits, then he must be stopped.
And since these strange outlanders seem to be on the same page, she might as well team up with them.
In exchange, she will offer them assistance — both in terms of magic and information — and she promises to return their friend Laurie to them once her labors are complete. Jezzy says she will offer her own body if Javach requires a vessel, but Javach explains that she has an alternate plan in place.
She makes one last request: can the travelers wait here upon the morrow, when she will join them fully? Torbjorn asks why she wants this, and she explains that she is not really here right now. She will need a day to prepare and then travel to meet them. (When Torbjorn asks how, she indicates that she can teleport, although she reveals that she can only travel to places she has already been. So while she cannot aid them in going to their destination, she can travel back to Golova.) They agree to the terms, and so Javach says she will return tomorrow morning. With that, she disappears.
Once she leaves and they are certain she is gone, Torbjorn asks Xevok how Javach was capable of casting spells without a spellbook. Boudica posits that she might be someone with innate magic, while Xevok explains that she could presumably cast whatever spells she memorized before entering the magic jar. (Suspecting that she was using the tongues spell to communicate with Gennifer, Torbjorn notes that said spell requires material components. To their knowledge, she doesn’t have access to material components…) Given that they have a day’s wait ahead of them, Xevok invokes Leomund’s tiny hut and the travelers wait.
They spend the day performing what research they can perform in the tiny hut.
Torbjorn sends a sending to Thomas Parker, asking, “Where are they keeping you? Are you with Bazshar? You can respond to this message. It’s Torbjorn.” Thomas responds, saying, “Work colony. Solitary confinement; I’m not sure where in the facility. Bazshar is not with me; we were separated before I was captured.” When Torbjorn relays this information, Boudica is upset at the possible disappearance of Bazshar, and falls against Alyonka’s shoulder, crying. Torbjorn then attempts to send another sending to Bazshar herself, saying, “Hey Bazshar. Hope you’re still alive. Don’t know where you are, Thomas said he lost track of you. Hope you’re okay.”
She does not respond. While it is possible that she is beyond some planar boundary that inhibits communication, the most likely explanation is that she is dead.
Boudica is greatly saddened at the prospect.
Torbjorn also seeks to get more information about Khatun Javach, so he begins formulating questions to ask her skull with speak with dead. Having formulated his questions, he invokes the power of Thor and asks the following five questions:
1) “Why did you want to outlive your brother?” “I knew he would bring only ruin, and I sought to avoid that ruin.”
2) “How did you accomplish casting the spell that put you into the magic jar?” “I gathered a black pearl and cast the magic jar spell.”
3) “If you did outlive your brother, what were your goals or plans afterwards?” “To rule.”
4) “What spells did you know in life?” “I knew only those spells which my handmaidens taught me.”
5) “Are you aware of any caches of treasure or money that have been sealed away somewhere?” “My own tomb.”
While her answers are cryptic, they at least know that she cast her own magic jar spell, and therefore probably at least knows spells of the sixth circle. More importantly, Torbjorn now has an idea of how difficult it would be to dispel her magic jar spell.
During the day, Alyonka also offers to perform tarokka readings. Jezzy volunteers, asking about her love life, and Alyonka assembles the following basic cross:
- Representing Jezzy herself, Alyonka first pulls the Nine of Coins reversed: The Miser. Jezzy will likely attain the goal she seeks.
- Representing Jezzy’s past, she pulls The Mists, also reversed. Representing an unexpected journey or hidden path to success, Alyonka interprets this as Jezzy’s path bringing her to her goal.
- Representing Jezzy’s present is the Three of Swords, The Soldier. Alyonka notes that the soldier cannot see her own future terribly well, and Jezzy is similarly placed where she cannot clearly see her own outcome.
- Representing Jezzy’s future is The Seer (sometimes also called The Hero or Esper), also reversed, in this case representing bad luck. Something will come between Jezzy and her goal, although earlier cards indicate that her path is favorable, so she shouldn’t despair.
- Finally, representing the outcome of the reading, Alyonka pulls the Five of Glyphs, The Druid. (This amuses her greatly, as she interprets the outcome as specifically referencing Boudie.) Representing the balance of nature as well as catharsis, Alyonka says that Jezzy is “going to get a full on penny dreadful scene of passionate confessions and, who knows, maybe a bit of passionate somethin’ else, and everythin’ll be at rights as it should be.”
The rest of the day is relatively uneventful, although they discuss their plans. Under the circumstances, they think it is best to travel to Suria, then Kiiksiugun Colony, and then travel back to Golova via the railway in the hopes of finding the secret warforged factory along the train tracks. (And possibly sabotaging the tracks as they go.)
After dinner, the travelers eventually bed down for the night. Towards the end of Torbjorn and Xevok’s watch, a pack of sixteen wolves pad across the landscape, sniffing at the tiny hut before continuing on their way. During Jezzy’s watch, she sees a single figure, clad in skins and animal bones, emerge from the storm. The figure is translucent and is clearly saying something that Jezzy cannot hear. (Since its mouth is covered, she can’t attempt to read lips, either.) It points to the southwest, along the road, before disappearing as mysteriously as it came. During Alyonka and Boudica’s watch, they note a family of brown bears sniffing around camp, as well as a pack of dire wolves. (Boudica throws food out for both groups.)
The travelers awaken the next morning without incident, save the fact that Xevok’s sleep was troubled in the night. As they are finishing breakfast, Khatun Javach appears outside Leomund’s tiny hut. With all the pieces in place, the travelers set out along the road.
After sunrise, just before noon, the travelers come upon a body in the road — an Isiksivikian who is quite underdressed for the weather and subsequently died of exposure, only wearing pants, boots, a shirt, and a vest. The vest is covered in pockets, and when Torbjorn searches the body, he reveals a smattering of 18sp, three spools of blue thread, and a sealed letter. When he opens the letter, he finds that it is a missive from his own father, Bjorn. He writes that he knows Torbjorn has been traveling, but he feels his strength ebbing and has been coughing blood. He thinks Torbjorn should come home soon if he is able so that they might see each other one last time.
After puzzling over how a letter from Torbjorn’s father found its way to this distant place, they decide that there is little they can do until they find a way out of Isiksivik.
Continuing along the road, they come upon a small village within the next hour. Clearly built among what was once a stand of trees, the village now stands among a field of stumps. Smoke drifts upward from the chimneys, and the sounds of life are heard inside the village, but the gates stand open and no guards stand before them. (A brief glance suggests that the village was once larger, and most of the homes on the periphery are probably abandoned.) Still, the place seems normal enough, so the travelers enter.
One of the first villagers to spot them waves, so they give greeting. Introducing himself as Aulut, he explains that this is the village of Kilu. The villagers do not often receive visitors anymore, least of all outlanders, but if the travelers wish to stay, no doubt one of the villagers can put them up for the night. (When asked about alcohol, Aulut responds that they don’t often have it or drink it, although someone here might have an ancient bottle of something.) Jezzy asks if she might give greeting to the chief of the village, and Aulut directs them to the wise woman, Nuti, in one of the central houses in the village.
Entering Nuti’s hut, she greets them and offers them the village’s hospitality. Jezzy explains their purpose, and she notes that merchant caravans no longer use the Khan’s Road terribly often, so they see few travelers. (The travelers are a little perturbed that she keeps offering for them to stay and that nobody in the village seems overly perturbed at the non-humans in the group, but everyone certainly seems pleasant thus far.) Jezzy and Torbjorn ensure that Khatun Javach can ask any questions she has, but she declines.
With nothing further to discuss, and only wanting to make introductions, the travelers take their leave. Nuti tells them they are welcome any time, and the travelers begin to leave. As they are heading to the eastern gate, they are discussing their plans — realizing that the next village on their map is Siaria and not Suria, they think they will just skip the rest of these villages and travel across the open tundra straight to Suria — and Jezzy notes that she suspects they won’t be able to leave. Nevertheless, they exit the gate without incident and are continuing along the road when Torbjorn gives them a warning that danger is coming and that they should form up on him.
When the travelers look, they spot the huge flock of owls sitting atop the buildings of Kilu — easily numbering six dozen or so. Once spotted, the owls surge forward, but Torbjorn invokes spirit guardians, summoning ghostly valkyrie warriors to defend him and the rest of the party. The owls flock, circling above the travelers and waiting. (Much to the travelers’ chagrin, as they might have hoped that the owls would dive into the midst of the valkyries and be destroyed.) Alyonka ignites a fireball above their heads, prompting a rain of dead and roasted owls, while Boudie conjures a moonbeam to slice through part of the swarm. Torbjorn uses stone shape to raise a pillar from the ground, but he cannot gain enough height to menace the owls. (All the while, Javach is asking why they’re being attacked by owls. The others shout that they’re cursed, but offer no additional explanation.)
That’s when Xevok hatches a very unique plan.
He tells Jezzy to tie a rope to Torbjorn’s feet, because he has an idea. Once done, he casts levitate on Torbjorn, convincing Gus and Jezzy to help him control the rope. Letting slack on the rope, Torbjorn ascends into the air, his valkyries destroying the remainder of the owls. (A few owls manage to slip under his valkyries while he is ascended, causing minor scratches on the travelers, but they pull Torbjorn back to earth and destroy the rest.)
They are about to gather themselves when they notice another huge flock of owls sitting among the buildings. (The villagers, who were watching the proceedings with vague amusement, now retreat to their homes to weather whatever is happening.) These owls circle around the outer rim of the screaming valkyries, clearly having learned the previous trick. Alyonka and Javach both pelt them with magic missiles, but that only kills so many owls. (Although Jezzy notes with horror that Javach fires eleven missiles in quick succession, indicating she is capable of casting spells of the ninth circle.) So, they change tactics: when the owls are circling and watching the circle, Gus, Jezzy, and Xevok begin swinging the rope to swing the floating Torbjorn in a circle, hopefully destroying the owls.
Despite the comical appearance of the plan, it works handily, as the travelers stand among dozens of owl corpses. Just in case of further emergency, all present keep their respective protections in place, and so the travelers walk east along the road as Xevok holds the rope tied to the floating Torbjorn, carrying him like a balloon. They also briefly explain to Javach that they cannot discuss or think about certain kinds of birds without summoning them, and they don’t know how to break this curse.
A pity that they only make it a handful of further feet before one of their number thinks about owls again…