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1874 No. 1874 edit
When the adventurers awaken the next morning, they busy themselves preparing for their next quest. Many uncertainties lie ahead, and the adventurers hone and refine their own skills before getting ready to set out.

When they gather downstairs, they notice one of their number is missing: Sariel is not with them. Asking the halfling manager of the inn about her reveals that she left a few hours ago, saying she was headed for the Arcanimus, and that she'd be in touch.

Knowing they were to meet with Thalwynn, the party sets out from the inn, and takes the main road, through the merchant district. The sky today is clear and the streets are busy, a complete change from yesterday's gloomy atmosphere. Every stall set up in front of the tall, stone and wooden buildings lining the street is fully attended and surrounded by city-folk of all races, including rarities such as muls and dragonborn.

Torinn takes the lead, with Michael and Sureiya behind him, and the shaman and warlock bringing up the rear, trying to find a clear path through the crowded streets to the Flaming Fist headquarters, which is some distance away. Sureiya is the first to spot it, but the shaman and dragonborn notice it quickly as well: in the distance, a familiar-looking tiefling is darting this way and that, tapping people on the shoulder and speaking with them briefly. Near the tiefling are four heavily-armored guards, which stand out quite a bit in the crowd of townspeople, especially since each is wearing a tabard decorated with the coat of arms of Baldur's Gate. Each of them carries large, two-handed pole-axe and is decked out in full steel scale armor, with visored helmets. It appears they're on a hunt.

Decision Time:
Attempt to evade the tiefling and his attendants, or confront him directly? Need a party consensus, go!
Expand all images
>> No. 1877 edit
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Myn, not overly surprised at the tiefling's appearance, beckons to the party and begins speaking in quiet tone.

"Since he has guards with him, it's likely that he's intending to coerce us into coming to the palace if we're found. To prevent that, as I go ahead and meet him, the rest of you should move some distance in the opposite direction and conceal yourselves. I may be able to convince him to depart, but... if taken, I'll ensure that they learn nothing of value. In either case, when the path is clear, proceed ahead to the Flaming Fist."

Noting the lack of time, Myn gestures for the rest of the group to hurry, and proceeds slowly but openly in the direction of the tiefling.
>> No. 1878 edit
"Wait a second, are you sure of this? That tiefling is quite the devil"
>> No. 1879 edit
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"Be very careful, warlock. If they try to capture you, you should escape if you have the chance."
>> No. 1880 edit
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Myn nods and gestures for them to hurry without turning around, seeming completely unworried.
>> No. 1881 edit
"Is it too detrimental if I follow?"

Shaman follows whether Myn refuses or not. For the sake of info! Also, I should have no spirits conjured.
>> No. 1882 edit
"Just so you know, I don't trust that tiefling as far as I can throw him. If the palace is the same way, don't expect us to be comin' to save ya if you get dragged to the palace for questionin', or that Miss Cragmaul will welcome ya back with open arms."
>> No. 1883 edit
"It's okay, we need to escape from this and quick, and they courageous enough to become decoys for us. Don't worry Myn, I trust you."
>> No. 1884 edit
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The tiefling quickly notices the warlock's approach, though hasn't seemed to fix his eyes on the shaman yet. He seems to recognize Myn, and motions for his guards to follow as he approaches.

The city-folk seem to disperse a bit as the tiefling and his guards move forward, apparently not interested in getting in the way of four heavily armed and armored ducal guards, so a small circle is cleared out as the tiefling comes to a stop a few feet in front of the warlock. Letharst regards Myn with a toothy grin and an eager gaze, while the guards begin to move to Myn's sides and behind him, as if surrounding the half-elf. "Ah, good, yes. I've been looking for you, yes, you and your friends that is!" he says in his rather characteristic tone while rubbing his hands together. "That is, you are one of the adventurers I met yesterday, yes? One of the group of six, yes?"

Bernkastel, if you want to try to get close enough without being seen, I need a Stealth check. Moderate DC.
>> No. 1885 edit
Despite not wanting to be caught sneaking around, being surrounded seems too undesirable.

stealth http://invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/2967068/
>> No. 1886 edit
Before heading out, Michael catches a glimpse of ???? failing to sneak around, before gesturing to the others remaining in the group to sneak away and hopefully contact Cragmaul before things go awry.
>> No. 1887 edit
Sureiya gets a little worried of the shaman, Why would she want to go as well? Anyways, the mission is first, let's hope nothing bad happens.
Sureiya goes back and try to sneak away.
>> No. 1888 edit
Torinn inhales sharply at "Bernkastel's" failed attempt at stealth, but he leaves it to her and Myn, for now at least.
Follow Michael and Sureiya for now
>> No. 1889 edit
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"Yes, I thought I recognized you from before. However, our group has been reduced to a mere five, Mister Letharst. Our wizard has since abandoned our company."

Myn smiles charismatically.

"So, what business might you have with us?"
>> No. 1890 edit
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At this point, Sureiya, Michael, and Torinn no longer hear the conversation going on between Bernkastel, Myn, and Letharst.

"Ah, yes, excellent!" Letharst replies, rubbing his hands together enthusiastically. At this point, the tiefling spots the shamans ill-advised attempts at remaining hidden, and calls out to her as well. "No need to be shy, little human! No, no, it's fine, it's fine. Come forward, come forward!"

The two nearest guards will 'escort' Bernkastel to stand near Myn, assuming she provides no major resistance. "Listen very carefully, my friends. The grand duke has called for your presence at the palace, yes. Where are your companions?"

Meanwhile, the paladin, ranger, and warlord have little trouble slipping away, and begin to work towards finding an alternate route to the Flaming Fist headquarters building.
>> No. 1891 edit
Out of earshot, Torinn tries to navigate the streets to find a different path to the Flaming Fist headquarters, one that wouldn't lead them into the clutches of the Duke's cronies.
Streetwise check: http://invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/2967137/ (16)
>> No. 1892 edit
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Myn seems surprised at the shaman's appearance, momentarily turning away from the tiefling.

"You were following me? I thought you left earlier with the others... were you wondering why I was taking so long?"

Myn turns back to Letharst, looking apologetic.

"This morning, I had overslept, you see. I drank a good deal of wine last night, after all."

Myn clears his throat.

"The rest of the group went back to the Flaming Fist ahead of me. I myself need to pick up some magical items I requested there."

He sighs, rubbing his eyes with his fingers.

"To be frank, I'd prefer if I were able to retrieve them beforehand, as they're quite important to me, although I suppose this summons must be rather urgent. To keep the Grand Duke waiting would probably put you in a difficult position as well, I suspect."

Bluff check:http://invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/2967169/
>> No. 1893 edit
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The tiefling waves his hand, as if to dismiss Myn's concerns, "Oh, there's no need for concern, no, no. Come to the palace with me, and we'll send for your friends and your items, yes. The Flaming Fist does serve the grand duke as well, you see? Such a matter is a trifle, yes!" The tiefling grins widely as he speaks.
>> No. 1894 edit
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"Certainly, that would be of great convenience. Although, my companions did leave before I, so in all likelihood they're no longer at the Flaming Fist at this point. I would suggest you rather check back at the Three Old Kegs, or perhaps at one of the local churches."

Myn smiles pleasantly.

"Although, I'm certainly capable of acting as a proxy for my companions alone, Mister Letharst. For the sake of time, perhaps merely allowing me attend would suffice?"

Bluff check:http://invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/2967192/
>> No. 1895 edit
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"Ah, you needn't concern yourself with such matters. Yes, yes, all will be made clear once we speak to the grand duke, yes," Letharst assures the half-elf. He glances briefly at the shaman, then beckons for the both of you to follow him. "Come, come. We should get moving, yes. To the palace we'll go. We can clear up the specifics with the grand duke himself, yes."

At this point, the tiefling turns around, his brown cloak slicing through the air as Letharst assumes a practiced stance and beings walking forward, hunching slightly as he does so. The guards will close in on Myn and "Bernkastel," and 'encourage' them to move forward if they do not immediately begin to do so, keeping a rather tight formation and never allowing more than 5 feet between themselves and the adventurers.

Meanwhile, Torinn, Sureiya, and Michael successfully navigate the back alleys of the city, and with nothing hounding them and no suspicious glances being thrown their way, they seem to be making good progress in heading towards the Flaming Fist building.
>> No. 1898 edit
Audio 34_-_RuLude_Gardens.mp3 - (2.32MB , 34 - RuLude Gardens.mp3 )
"Bernkastel" and Myn are led by the tiefling and his attendants a short distant down the main road, then down a short side road, which leads past some rather high-class looking residential buildings before cutting into a large, open cobblestone road.

This road is very large--and it appears larger than it actually is because, compared to the merchant district, this street is relatively clear of people and carts. There is the occasional well-dressed citizen walking this way and that, and some stalls peddling expensive-looking items like jewels and finery on the sides of the roads, but the most obvious decorations are well-carved stone flowerbeds and the occasional planted tree to the sides of the road. On either side are high-class shops and a couple of inns. The road leads ahead for a long distance before it comes to a large, stone gate in the palace walls. This gate is heavily guarded, but the guards quickly slide out of the way as the tiefling approaches, and the gate creaks open, revealing the area immediately surrounding the palace.

The palace itself is quite tall, with spires and towers carved out of white stone, and topped with minarets. Though it is tall, it's not as big around as you might have guessed, as it is surrounded by well-tended gardens, and a lush green covers every field that is not a section of the white cobblestone paths, which split off from the road to the palace doors and lead into the garden. Tall hedges which reach up to about your chest flank either side of the main road.

The palace doors are pretty big too, and made of thick, magically-reinforced wood. The guards maintain a tight watch on the two of you as Letharst pushes the doors open, and they make a rather loud, reverberating creaking noise inside as they open.

Speaking of the inside, it's also quite well-decorated. Chandeliers of a golden color hang from the at least four-story high ceiling, and though there are no windows on the ground level, the levels above contain stained-glass windows. A thick, red carpet with a silver trim leads from the doorway, up a set of two-story stairs that leads straight forward and up to a set of heavy, black, wooden double-doors which are fitted with a golden-colored metal. The parts of the room not covered in this carpet are carved from gray and white polished stone, and pillars hold up what appears to be a partial second level above you, which a few brown wooden doors above and two or three on the ground level, and golden metal railing to prevent falling from the upper level.

You are led by the tiefling to a small, side section of the ground floor, which contains several comfortable-looking chairs and couches of purple and blood silk and vinyl. A large, yet low brown table decorated with an exotic-looking plant sits in the middle of this furniture, which is arranged around it, and a crackling fireplace sits to the side. A quick inspection might reveal that it's unlikely that the fireplace is burning with real fire, however, it's probably just an illusion of some sort.

The tiefling urges you to sit on one of these chairs or couches, and the guards maintain a perimeter around you. "Please, wait here while I have the particulars arranged for you." With that much, Letharst slinks off up the stairs, but the four armored guards remain, standing watch over you. A few moments later, a middle-aged gnomish man in a black tuxedo and well-groomed brown hair shows up, and requests of you, "Greetings, guests. The grand duke will be meeting with you once the rest of your group has been gathered, but can I get anything for you in the meantime? Perhaps some ice water, or a light snack?"

Around this time, Sureiya, Torinn, and Michael find their way back to the main road, only a short distance from the Flaming Fist headquarters.
>> No. 1902 edit
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Torinn glances back, finding no traces of their pursuers, nor of Myn and "Bernkastel". They must have taken them in after all.

"I think," Torinn says to his companions as they near the front door of the establishment, "that our companions have likely been captured, and it's only a matter of time before the Duke comes after us. He knows where to find us by now." The dragonborn rubs his temples in mild frustration, "I think that we'll have to be tactful in how we handle this from here on out, because I don't think we can evade pursuit without causing an uproar."

"What we need," Torinn says, opening the doors to the Flaming Fist's headquarters, "is to get as few people involved as possible. Any ideas?"
>> No. 1904 edit
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"Few people you say? ... what about Thelkra?"
>> No. 1905 edit
"Her as well. She probably won't like cooperating with the Duke, though. If we can convince him to leave her alone, all the better, then."
>> No. 1906 edit
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The shaman shakes her head no to the gnome and tries to relax, resigned to the predicament. ...so much for the distraction.
>> No. 1907 edit
"So, what's the plan? Are we going to the palace?"
>> No. 1908 edit
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Torinn sighs, "We may as well go to them before they come for us and the Flaming Fist. But we need to reassure Miss Cragmaul first."
>> No. 1909 edit
"Indeed. Michael, are you coming with us?"
>> No. 1910 edit
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Myn appears pleased as he looks towards the butler.

"...this being a palace, you wouldn't happen to possess any wine of higher quality than what they serve back at the Three Old Kegs?"

"Given the situation, even if we were forced here, we're still too valuable to be poisoned at this point."
>> No. 1912 edit
"If what Miss Cragmaul said is true, about the possibility of war, getting as few people involved isn't going to matter at that point.... I shudder to think what kind of person the Duke is with such people as that Tiefling under his employ. Right now informing Miss Cragmaul seems to be the best course of action. Hopefully before the guards find us or reach them."
>> No. 1913 edit
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"Very good sir. I will choose a lighter wine, as the duke will want you coherent when the time for your audience comes," the gnome says, then shuffles off, leaving the warlock and the shaman alone with the guards.

The other three party members decide to go ahead and enter the Flaming Fist headquarters building. Gabashia Fellowships is sitting behind the secretary's desk again, and looks up at you, yawning loudly as you approach. "Welcome... you have business with the Flaming Fist...?"
>> No. 1914 edit
"Sorry Miss, but we need to see Miss Cragmaul right away. It's of the utmost importance. We were the adventurers from just the other day."
>> No. 1915 edit
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"Oh..." Gabashia picks up a pair of small glasses from her desk, and puts them on, looking at the three of you. "...I thought there were more of you before. Listen... Miss Cragmaul just got a sending spell a few moments ago. It's apparently really important... she said something..."

The gnome female rummages through her desk, looking for a scrap of paper, and then grasps one from the mess of loose notes spread across her desk, and adjusts her glasses reading it. "Right, she said that you could go to the armory while you're waiting. Your equipment is ready."
>> No. 1916 edit
Torinn exchanges a worried glance between Sureiya and Michael, then nods, "Thank you very much."
>> No. 1917 edit
"Thank you very much, let's go then."
>> No. 1918 edit
Michael thanks her while cursing to himself at the possibility of the Duke getting to her already.
>> No. 1919 edit
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At the palace, the gnome shows up a few moments later, bringing two glasses and a green bottle that has a label, declaring it plump helmet wine, fermented in 1392. He pours Myn a glass, and sets the bottle back, leaving it in case "Bernkastel" decides she wants some. He then bows, and departs.

When the other three arrive at the armory, they find Brozwon the mul in the midst of moving large boxes of this and that around. "A moment, please," he requests as you gather around his desk. A few seconds later he finishes his business, then looks to you and says, "Ah, yes. Let me get your things." The mul wanders to a different room for a minute or so, then returns with a gleaming, silvery sword that glows with faint white energy. It is set with a symbol of an upright gauntlet with an unblinking eye in its palm. Furthermore, he holds a holy symbol of the Platinum Dragon, encased in steel.

He hands the items over to the dragonborn. "As per our agreement. The half-elf's items are ready too... where has he gone to?"
>> No. 1920 edit
Torinn takes the items, shaking his head, "He was captured by the Grand Duke's guards along the way here. They were out looking for us, and he bought us a chance to escape here."

"Say, do you know where Miss Cragmaul went?"
>> No. 1921 edit
Sureiya remain silent, as he nervously wait for the chance to talk with Lady Craugmal.
>> No. 1922 edit
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"Captured? I don't--" Brozwon begins, when suddenly the doors to the room swing wide open.

Standing in the doorway is Thalwynn Cragmaul, in full plate armor, and wielding a large, dwarven maul. She is flanked by two guards, one dragonborn female, and one human male, equipped with scale armor and wielding greatswords. She looks sternly at you, with a face that could be described as weary. She speaks to you in an off-hand manner while idly pounding her maul's head into her palm, "I just got word from tha palace. Ahm tae hold ye here until theys send a detachment tae escort ye tae tha palace. Apparently fer an audience wit' tha grand duke."

Thalwynn narrows her eyes, and says the next bit in a terse, quite annoyed-sounding voice, "I trust ye woon't give me any trouble about this."
>> No. 1923 edit
"So they got Myn"
Sureiya makes troubled face as he mutters
"This is not what we planned, that Letharst ..."
>> No. 1925 edit
"Just so ye know, Miss Cragmaul, I gave ye my word yesterday when I said I didn't wanna get the palace involved. I intend to keep that promise even if it's probably too late at this point. I won't give ya any trouble though and I appreciate all ye've done fer us."
>> No. 1926 edit
"We'll do what we can to keep them from making things worse for you."


"Before we go to meet him, though, could you tell us about the Grand Duke? What's he like?"
>> No. 1927 edit
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Thalwynn just gives the three party members a weary look, and walks out of the armory without saying anything. The two guards she left behind move in front of the doors, making sure you won't leave. Brozwon seems confused about the matter, and just stays quiet, going back to work after a few moments.

Some time passes. Any attempts at conversation with the guards will reveal them as rather unresponsive, and while Brozwon will engage in idle chatter, he doesn't seem to have much to say regarding the grand duke or the situation at hand. After about a half-hour or so, the doors to the armory open, and three armored guards wearing armor similar to the palace guards you evaded earlier and dressed in the same tabards enter. They are equipped with pole-axes, but these weapons are strapped to their backs and not drawn. The leader, a gruff-sounding dragonborn male, announces, "We're here to take ya to the palace. Come on."
>> No. 1928 edit
Torinn is disappointed by the lack of information about the Duke, but, after stowing all the equipment in his bag of holding, the dragonborn lets himself be lead away without complaint.
>> No. 1929 edit
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Myn pours the wine into the two glasses, placing one beside the shaman as he takes a sip from his own.

"You need not be nervous. Meeting the duke will likely be a pleasant experience, and it's not as if our plans for the day will be ruined by a short visit."

Myn resigns himself to idly drinking the wine, hoping he conveyed his message well enough.
>> No. 1930 edit
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Since the three don't resist, they are escorted swiftly to the palace. They take largely the same route as the previous two, outlined here:

After a fashion, the five adventurers are reunited. It seems Sariel has managed to evade being taken in by the grand duke? In any case, it is only a short time before you are approached by the gruff-sounding dragonborn again, who declares to you, "The grand duke will see you now."
>> No. 1931 edit
The shaman hesitantly takes the glass of not one but two questionable origins, and pretends to take a sip.

Follows etc.
>> No. 1932 edit
Torinn goes with the guard, still unsure what kind of person the Grand Duke is supposed to be.
>> No. 1933 edit

Myn smiles slightly at the arrival of the rest of the party, stashing the half-empty bottle of wine in his bag and standing to follow the guard.
>> No. 1934 edit
"What're you smilin' about."
>> No. 1935 edit
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"Unsuccessful plan, I suppose?"
>> No. 1936 edit
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Myn's expression doesn't change.

"I have no idea as to what you could mean."
>> No. 1937 edit
"Hold a second ..." Sureiya get near to Myn and lowers his voice.
"Weren't you going to bluff them?"

>> No. 1938 edit
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Myn also lowers his voice.

"It seems that they intended to take us in from the start, regardless of what I said. We should wait until after we leave the palace to talk further, however."
>> No. 1939 edit
Michael just sighs and covers his face with his palm.
>> No. 1940 edit
Audio 47_-_Kuja's_Theme.mp3 - (3.33MB , 47 - Kuja\'s Theme.mp3 )

Though the adventurers silently bicker amongst themselves for a few moments, the guards seem uninterested in attempting to follow their conversation, and simply lead the five up the stairs to the double-doors, which are flanked on either side by potted exotic-looking plants. The dragonborn guard opens the doors, and makes a gesture with his head indicating you should enter.

As the gathered five do so, they find that the audience room is long and rectangular. There are large, marble pillars on either side of more of the red carpet, laced with silver on the edges, which leads straight forward for a great distance before covering a short series of steps to a raised platform, atop which sits an elegantly-carved elven-looking wooden throne. Behind the pillars to either side of you are more carved marble walls, and the floor appears to be made of a very smooth stone as well where it is not covered by the carpet. The walls are decorated with paintings of what appear to be the past grand dukes of Baldur's Gate, and there are more of the exotic potted plants here and there (you might note you've seen a lot of plants in the palace).

Standing beside and a bit behind the throne is a familiar tiefling, who grins as he sees you. The wall behind the throne is divided into three sections as the other walls join it, with tapestries decorated with the Baldur's Gate coat of arms hang on either side, and directly behind the throne is a very large portrait depicting an eladrin male (pictured).

The same eladrin male pictured is sitting on the throne in a very relaxed manner. He is leaning to one side, and supporting his head with one fist, while his free hand rests on the opposite armrest. He wears elegant, faded purple-looking clothing with a gold trim, and his short sleeves reveal slender arms to compliment a slim build. His upper body is dressed in the faded purple-and-gold robe, and you can see dark red trousers beneath, with black boots. Golden bracelets sit on his wrists and match his shoulder-length golden hair. He has red eyes, fair skin, jeweled earrings, and there are distinctive purple markings on his cheeks which curve from his jawline to his eyes. This is Daval Prestor, grand duke of Baldur's Gate.

"Welcome to Baldur's Gate," he announces to you as you stop walking a few yards short of the throne. His voice is silky smooth and casual-sounding, yet it carries a strong undercurrent of authority. "I trust you've found the accommodations of my city to your liking. We have much to discuss, but I imagine you also have much to ask of me." At this he pauses, as if giving you the chance to reply.
>> No. 1942 edit
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Myn steps forward slightly, speaking in a pleasant, yet serious tone.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mister Prestor. Your city has indeed been most enjoyable. However, I've been quite curious as to what business you might have with a group such as ours."

"So, this is the duke. I should carefully examine his character while I have the chance."
>> No. 1944 edit
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"Oh? I'd have thought you would have been made aware by now," the grand duke lazily replies, still appearing quite relaxed. He gently gestures in the direction of the nearby tiefling. "You've met my adviser, Letharst. He contacted you regarding your mission in the Troll Hills. I am to understand you were sent there to investigate the source of the attacks on caravans coming to and from Baldur's Gate." Prestor leans forward slightly at this, and narrows his eyes, before speaking in a slightly softer voice, "There are those in this city aware of what's out there. Plague-changed caverns which hide all sorts of marvels. I want to know just what you found out there."
>> No. 1946 edit
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Torinn steps forward to address the duke, trying to recall what they found.

"We found a series of elemental leylines etched in the caverns that weakened the fabric of reality. Giant poisonous mushrooms corrupted by the Spellplage. Remains of a camp overrun by something. A horde of undead and some kind of... Thing from the Far Realms trying to break through. Arcane Ballistae that were suspiciously helpful in dispatching various elementals that harried us, and some hodgepodge of elemental energy molded into a creature that acted as a guardian. There was a complicated magical gate that required a specific sequence to unlock. And a fell orc who attacked us and summoned a dragon from out of thin air, speaking of some sort of plot by a Fell King. That is what we found."
>> No. 1947 edit
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"Interesting," the grand duke comments, despite not looking terribly interested. "There are many places a powerful caster could have holed up and delivered attacks upon our trade routes. In addition, this caster had a host of summoned and controlled creatures at its disposal, according to your story. Despite even being capable of summoning a dragon to battle you, you overcame it. I am curious as to whether or not there was something special about the cavern itself. And perhaps that question can be answered by these elemental leylines you mentioned." Though Prestor does not pose any direct questions, he still seems to be asking them regardless.
>> No. 1948 edit
"Well you see, the arcana expert from our team suddenly leaved today, and if I remember correctly she didn't knew too much about them.
I would suggest to send some people to inspect them, sir."
>> No. 1949 edit
Torinn thinks back to the encounter at the end of the caverns.

"They all did converge on the fell orc caster's chamber. Last we saw them, it was almost like they were 'leaking' fire and lighting, and were close to bursting." He grimaces, "I didn't feel comfortable leaving them unchecked, but we didn't have any way to quell them."
>> No. 1950 edit
Michael sighs and shakes his head, thinking to himself,"Am I the only one who actually meant to keep his word around here and isn't intimidated by this duke?"
"Yes, yes, we've met your... "adviser"Michael says sarcastically, though for someone who already knows as much as you already, I hardly see it necessary to send out a search for us. With armed guards at that. I'm just glad yer not beatin' around the bush and gettin' to the point for the most part, but if many of your advisers are like Letharst here, I shudder to think how Baldur's Gate is truly run. Don't expect much information out o' me though and keep in mind that one of us in the group doesn't speak for all of us." Michael's eyes sort of glance in the direction of Myn.
>> No. 1951 edit
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The grand duke shakes his head and repositions himself in his chair to lean forward instead of to the side. He grasps his throne's armrest with one hand when he gestures with the other and explains, "You misunderstand me, adventurers. This is a matter of critical importance. During a raid on a caravan in-route to Baldur's Gate, a fell orc mage was killed, and a talisman was recovered from its corpse and delivered to the Flaming Fist. This talisman bore the insignia of Many-Arrows."

At saying this much, Prestor relaxes again, leaning back, but keeping both hands on his armrests. "I did order you brought in, by force if necessary. That is because, whatever you have heard up to this point, I have no interest in involving parliament or the guilds in this matter. War is not my agenda. Letharst here," he gestures towards the tiefling, "Has been hard at work keeping this matter from the public eye. With any luck, your dispersal of the cavern system and the capture of the caster within will cease the attacks on our caravans. However, this 'Fell King' you spoke up remains at large."

"Do you not understand?" the grand duke presses, suddenly standing from his chair and gesturing with his hand in a sweeping motion, "This information you have recovered may be critical in predicting their next move. If they have targeted one leyline, they may target another. And in any case, Many-Arrows is involved, somehow. We need more information there."

The grand duke takes his chair again. "Which brings us to you. I apologize for needing to bring in armed guards to take you in, but I needed you off the streets before something about this matter slipped. We weren't able to obtain your eladrin friend, but Elayne and her are going to remain holed up in the Arcanimus, and are working on something. We can put her talents to use elsewhere." He gestures towards you, "I need to send an ambassador to Many-Arrows. However, I cannot assign a military escort to foreign territory without the authorization of parliament, and it's far too dangerous to send a diplomat through the wilderness alone. You all have proven yourselves more than capable of undertaking this task, and so I guess I am asking for your cooperation in this matter."

"I can see that you are well rewarded from the best merchants of Baldur's Gate," the grand duke offers. "This is a matter of critical urgency, that requires immediate action. I respect the efforts of the Flaming Fist, but I feel as though they cannot handle this own their own--furthermore, and I mean no offense to Thalwynn Cragmaul, but the Flaming Fist's duty is that of policing Baldur's Gate. In dealing with matters concerning foreign powers, the Ducal Palace becomes responsible. I will elect a diplomat I can trust to keep quiet, and you can accompany the diplomat on the mission to Many-Arrows. In the meantime, I will have the Arcanimus begin scouring the land for other strong elemental leylines. Once we have a channel of dialogue open with Many-Arrows, we can solve this problem together."
>> No. 1953 edit
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"Although I'd not presume myself capable of speaking for all of us..."

Myn makes it a point not to glance at the warlord.

"...I am without objection to this type of request. Indeed, swift diplomacy will do much to ease the current problem."

"This is better than I expected. Guarding a diplomat is a good way to get close to royalty."
>> No. 1957 edit
Feeling the ill mood in the room, Sureiya decides to speak.
"Escorting a diplomatic sounds like a good idea sir, my concern was this becoming a bigger problem, but that's just my word. Maybe if you give us some time to discuss it?"
>> No. 1965 edit
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The shaman listens to the Duke's explanation... but upon the mention of diplomacy with Many-Arrows, becomes worried. Where is the heart of the problem?

She nods at the ranger's suggestion of asking for time to discuss.

>> No. 1967 edit
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"Certainly," Pestor replies, leaning back in his char once more. "If you require some time to discuss the matter, feel free. If you so desire, you may return to the waiting area and discuss the matter amongst yourselves. I will have the guards stand down."
>> No. 1968 edit
Insight before we leave: http://invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/2972769/
>> No. 1969 edit
If anyone else is saying something to the duke, Sureiya is moving to the waiting area
>> No. 1971 edit
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"Negotiations could prevent a war from breaking out. Clearing up these misunderstandings first would be good," Torinn thinks, heading back with Sureiya.

It would be nice if they could get Thelkra to give them some more information, though. Where is she right now?

>> No. 1976 edit
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The five adventurers make a temporary departure from the audience room, and gather again in the waiting area. There are less guards this time, only two, and they remain by the doors that lead out of the palace, far enough away to not overhear your conversation.
>> No. 1977 edit
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Torinn sighs deeply, glad to be out of the presence of the Duke and his tiefling cohort.

"Right. These aren't the best circumstances to be in, Lady Cragmaul doesn't want us, and there may yet be some underhanded motive behind all this, but if we're going to resolve this without a pointless slaughter, diplomacy would probably be our best option. What do you guys think?"
>> No. 1978 edit
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"We, might have disappointed Lady Cragmaul, but we could gain her trust again if we complete this job."
>> No. 1979 edit
"Agreed... It all depends on who they send as a diplomat though and what we encounter on the way there."
>> No. 1980 edit
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"An underhanded motive behind? Any reason to think that?"
>> No. 1981 edit
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"I don't know, but something about all this just doesn't feel right."
>> No. 1982 edit
"I don't see any reason to don't trust the duke, he is trying as well to avoid any kind of conflict"
>> No. 1983 edit
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"No matter how you look at it, that Letharst fellow is a caricature of villainy. All that he was missing was a cackling laugh. Truly we are in trouble if he is our diplomat."
>> No. 1984 edit
Michael can only nod in agreement as the Paladin takes the words right out of his mouth.
>> No. 1986 edit
"That tiefling is another thing, but yeah I wouldn't like him as our diplomat.
Anyways, Will we willingly accept the duke offer?"
>> No. 1987 edit
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Torinn nods.

"Even if this is some sort of plot, I believe we can make everything work out peacefully in the end. I say we accept his offer."
>> No. 1989 edit
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"I expected no less from you, Torinn.
Well, I'm ready whenever you are."
>> No. 1991 edit
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"As I said before, I've got no objections."
>> No. 1992 edit
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The grand duke is still waiting for you when you re-enter the chamber, though Letharst is apparently no longer present. "Ah," Prestor announces upon seeing your approach, "Have you reached a decision?"
>> No. 1993 edit
...What, are they buying their good guard, bad guard act?

With a small sigh, the shaman nods in assent.

>> No. 1994 edit
Torinn steps forwards and speaks up first.

"We have agreed to accompany your diplomat to the Many Arrows."
>> No. 1995 edit
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The grand duke smiles. "Good," he says, as he begins to trace some sort of sigil in the air with his finger. "Your assistance is much appreciated. Captain Highwind," at these words, the doors behind you to the audience chamber open, and the fully-armored, gruff dragonborn guard from before steps into the room, flanked by two of the guards from the merchant district. "You may brief them on the particulars. And I want a rather generous reward prepared for them."
>> No. 2009 edit
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"One more thing sir, if you allow me to ask.
Do you know anything about the Dragonsworn clan?"
Diplomacy check, just because I feel like using the dice roller: http://invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/2974116/ (17)
>> No. 2014 edit
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"Dragonsworn." Prestor replies, sounding like he wasn't expecting to be asked about that. "I know of them, yes. They were an orcish clan that Obould Many-Arrows the first was said to have nearly wiped out when consolidating the clans of the north, nearly one hundred years ago. From what I understand, very little remains of the clan, and nearly all of its remnants were absorbed into other clans in Many-Arrows."

At this point, the grand duke pauses to think for a moment, then says, "Come to think of it, I heard the Flaming Fist had a descendant of the Dragonsworn clan on its roster. I do wonder, though, what prompted the question." Again the grand duke isn't actually asking anything, yet seems to be at the same time.
>> No. 2015 edit
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The Duke knew more than he expected. Torinn tries to shift the focus away from Thelkra.

"She did say something to that effect, yes, but she swore that she was not in any way loyal to them. In fact, without her help, we would not have captured the fell orc, who certainly did have strong ties to the Dragonsworn clan, in the first place. All of us trust Thelkra."

Take 10 on diplomacy to ease tension and convince Duke she's not a bad person
>> No. 2017 edit
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The grand duke doesn't seem too concerned (though he rarely ever seems concerned about anything anyway), and replies, "I do not really understand why I'd suspect her of trouble, but you have my assurances that I do not. Though you said the fell orc had ties to the Dragonsworn clan, which is interesting. Hm. I'll ask the Flaming Fist about it, see if they've gotten anything from the captive. You have my thanks."
>> No. 2031 edit
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With the adventurers' questions answered, the dragonborn captain Highwind leads them back into the waiting area, and then through one of the doors on the lower level, which leads to a somewhat plain-looking hallway (at least in comparison to where you've been before). He stops at the third door down and opens it, and you gather around a large table that fills up most of a somewhat small room, and appears to be the room's only feature, aside from some shelves stacked with unlabeled boxes and a few books that appear to be atlases or map collections, and a hooded lantern hanging from the ceiling. Spread over the table is a map of north-west Faerun, and once you gather around, captain Highwind points at the location of Baldur's Gate.

"We'll get you on a merchant ship bound for Waterdeep. You'll be working as guards for the ship. I'll look for one that pays well. You'll travel north, along the Sword Coast, and disembark at Waterdeep," the dragonborn traces his finger along the coast to the city while saying this, then begins to move up north along the Surbin river. "From there, your diplomat will requisition a river ferry, headed for Mithral Hall. It would normally take some time, but the grand duke'll get a Sending out, and have one ready to go by the time you get there. Ferries to Mithral Hall are rare, but your diplomat is a dwarf, so hopefully you'll be able negotiate your way in without too much trouble. Once you reach Mithral Hall, your diplomat will coordinate with the government for a diplomatic meeting with the king from Dark Arrow Keep." The dragonborn pauses for a moment, then explains, "Negotiations between Baldur's Gate and Many-Arrows are... quite rare, given the large distance between us. We haven't met with them since the end of the civil war of Many-Arrows in 1460. Most likely, you'll have to meet the king somewhere in orc territory, though it's unlikely they'll receive you in the keep itself. Tensions between Mithral Hall and Many-Arrows are still high, as there are still plenty of dwarves there who lived through Obould the first's siege of Mithral Hall. Right now, they have a tenuous peace, but there's bad blood, particularly given the proximity to Dark Arrow Keep. Be careful."
>> No. 2042 edit
"Is there anything else we need to know before setting out?"
>> No. 2043 edit
"This look good, my only question is, when do we start?"
>> No. 2044 edit
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Captain Highwind grunts a bit before responding, "We'll be looking to get you out to see by late afternoon at the latest. We'll get your diplomat ready to meet you at the port."

He gives you a good looking-over, then says, "Well, if there's no more questions, you're dismissed."
>> No. 2056 edit
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The five, having no further questions to ask of captain Highwind, depart the briefing room and head for the palace's exit. On the way out, one of the guards hands Myn the two rods the Flaming Fist had enchanted for him. A quick inspection will reveal that everything is in order, and the party has received everything from the Flaming Fist promised thus far.

Once you step out the palace doors, and they close behind you with a heavy sound, a second, softer sound comes from behind you. "Hey, there."

Turning around, the five find Thelkra leaning against the wall next to the doorway into the palace proper, idly tossing her dagger up into the air and catching it, over and over. Once you notice her, she nods and remarks, "So, ya got to meet the grand duke, eh? Must've been a helluva experience. Never met'em myself, though. What's he like?"
>> No. 2058 edit
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"He doesn't seem like a bad man, but his advisor it's really fishy. Apparently he doesn't seem interested in making this a big deal."
Then Sureiya lowers his voice
"Well, we are escorting a diplomatic to Mithral Hall, the Duke wants to avoid conflicts to any price"
>> No. 2059 edit
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Torinn is relieved to see a friendly face from the Flaming Fist. At least some members weren't particularly mad at them right now.

"He was surprisingly understanding. Can't say I trust his adviser, though. He looks like a villainous caricature and acts like one too."

After exchanging pleasantries, Torinn remembers something important.

"And if it's not too much trouble, could you tell us more about this Dragonsworn clan? We feel they may tie into this somehow, and any information on them might help."

Take ten on diplomacy again in case it's a touchy subject
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