The Well of the Halfhollows, Part Nine

Our ninth session was full of political intrigue and social tensions, presenting the adventurers with a conflict that is in many ways more difficult than mortal combat. The players explored the ‘brigands’ plight in greater depth after having escaped the Torlish ruin and reuniting the prisoners with their people. Now the Ad’Tai camp seems divided in the course of their actions, and the tension extends to Lady Grilea and her retainer, who must decide which direction to go from here.

Thanks so much for another great session! Our ninth session consisted of the following player characters:

  • Hodjai, “Ji-HO”, the Djenndan fighter and Ad’Tai mortician, played by @Evan
  • Sookta, the Djenndan blacksmith and cart fetishist, played by @xSubNuke
  • Lemur-o, “Lem”, the kahlnissá ghost and collector of severed heads, played by @Terri
  • Ts’uviti, the viantu savant and motivational speaker, played by @saelbrin

The adventurers stood near a fire in the open area of the Ad’Tai camp just south of Elder Soburu’s longhouse. It was late at night, and most of the camp was gathered there in the wake of the arrival of the large party who had just escaped the ruin and reunited the captured Ad’Tai with their people. The atmosphere was tense as Elder Soburu tried to negotiate diplomatically between two polarizing arguments, each led by a charismatic member of the Ad’Tai–both of whom our adventurers had just freed from the Torlish ruin. While there was much to rejoice with the return of their people, the Ad’Tai also feared the delicate political position that their escape would mean for their encampment. The heated nature of the arguments was palpable.

One side of the argument was put forward by Radir Gill, who Hodjai had spoken with earlier about Kimenian burial practices. Radir believes that Elder Soburu has had the people’s best interests in mind all these years and that the Ad’Tai should continue to trust in him. He charismatically presented his argument to the crowd gathered there, pointing out that when Agleos Miren, Dolyos’s uncle took the seat of power in Pelmora years ago, Soburu negotiated a treaty with Agleos that allowed the Ad’Tai to remain in these plentiful lands despite the Empire’s decree that all Kimenians are to submit to Empire law or be exiled. Were it not for Soburu and Agleos, the Empire’s Peacekeepers might have made an example of the Ad’Tai and forced them to leave this place that they have called home for nearly two generations. Soburu had given the Ad’Tai a home, and that was something worth fighting for and worth trusting in the Elder.

A survivalist by the name of Itana Heraldine countered his argument in an equally charismatic way. She claimed that Soburu has never had the people’s interests in mind, but rather his own. Itana pointed out that the Ad’Tai had always been nomads before Soburu settled them down here within the political boundaries of Pelmoran lands. Before Agleos “let” them live and hunt in designated areas, he and his Moghul armies nearly wiped out all of the Ad’Tai and other tribes of Kimenians living here. Soburu’s treaty may have kept some people alive, but that life was akin to being penned up like livestock. And for the past year especially, the supposed trust that Soburu negotiated with the Miren family had obviously been violated. “The dead are gone, and those imprisoned have been freed,” Itana said at one point. “We should leave these lands and return to the way we have always lived–in the wilds, and away from the nobles and their intrigue.” Itana believes that the Ad’Tai have become soft and stifled ever since settling in these lands, and that when Soburu negotiated a treaty with Agleos Miren, that was his opportunistic way of trying to join his people with the Empire. Itana pleaded that the Ad’Tai have no place here and never did; coming here has never been beneficial.

Radir countered by pointing out the many benefits that Ad’Tai have inherited from being able to interact with the wealth of the Empire while still being able to hold onto their traditions. Itana came back with points about how remaining settled is no tradition of the Ad’Tai, and that it traps them to the whims of people who imagine themselves as betters. This polarized argument continued to bounce back and forth to the affirmations, murmurs, and boos of the crowd. All the while, Elder Soburu listened intently, interjecting a point here or there to try to ameliorate the conversation. Ts’uviti spoke up at one point, asking what Radir and Itana proposed as their plan. Radir stated that they should trust the Elder’s original plan, which was to stay and negotiate. Itana said it was time that they return to the wilds. The arguing and murmurs continued.

The adventuring party had heard enough of these opposing viewpoints, but not wanting to interrupt the mob they decided to take their prisoner, Kelbur Hant, off to the side to have a few words with him away from the crowd. Having recently learned that his son was killed, Kelbur was a broken man with no will to go on. But Ts’uviti stared Kelbur in the eyes and told him what he and his companions had gone through to get to this point. Hearing of the things that the adventurers had encountered along their journey thus far caused Kelbur to be uncharacteristically honest and open about his own motivations and experiences.

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Kelbur Hant was working with Dolyos Miren under the charismatic promise that Miren made long ago. The nobleman said that he would give the Ad’Tai back their claims over the wilds, the lands that were taken when the Moghuls joined with Agleos Miren’s Knights and forced the Ad’Tai into hiding, nearly wiping them out. Dolyos claimed that he has always had their best interest at heart, that he disagreed with his uncle Agleos, and that he only arrested trespassers because he needed to demonstrate to the Empire that he still held control over these lands undisputedly. Kelbur killed Jeysin’s father, Envar Pullar, because Envar spoke out long ago against Dolyos Miren and said that they should go to war and fight for recognition over these lands, but Kelbur knew that would only cause a delicate situation to get worse. They fought with one another and Kelbur killed Envar in self defense.

After the murder thirteen years ago, Soburu banished Kelbur Hant instead of having him executed in order to demonstrate to his people there was another way, a new way of law and justice inspired by the civilization of the Empire. Kelbur went into hiding until Agleos Miren died and passed the Pelmoran crown onto Dolyos. Kelbur met a mate, and they had a child, and spent a decade in seclusion. It was after that time that Miren’s Knights approached Kelbur once again to ask for help. At first Kelbur believed he was helping Miren in the best interest of his people. But as Dolyos Miren’s actions became less and less clear, Kelbur began to look for a way to help himself. Dolyos seemed to be one step ahead of Kelbur, and through a series of convoluted events that even Kelbur himself did not understand, he was working for Dolyos Miren to save his son.

The adventurers realized at this point that Kelbur Hant had largely been a victim of the foul actions of Dolyos Miren. They brought the broken man to Soburu’s longhouse for protection, and made their way over to Lady Grilea’s group. Ser Runt was in the back of a cart, covered with a blanket, resting and scribbling away on parchments he borrowed from Ts’uviti. Ser Jahann and Ser Rynan greeted the adventurers with the Lady Grilea, and the party began to discuss what Lady Miren hoped to do. At first the Lady was withdrawn and seemed concerned, but after some coaxing, the party managed to get the scoop from Ser Rynan.

Lady Grilea seemed to be on the fence. She explained that with the Peacekeepers on her side, she would essentially be allying herself with the enemy of the Ad’Tai and unifying the power imposed by her husband Dolyos. Essentially, she would be claiming power herself over Pelmora similarly to how her husband treated the Kimenian forest people. According to the laws of the Empire, she was well within her rights to do this, but the relationship between her clan, the Moghuls, and the Ad’Tai was already tenuous. When Agleos Miren first conquered this region and wiped out the Ad’Tai living throughout the area, he did so with the unified military strength brought in by the Moghul clan, earned when he married Dolyos to Lady Grilea. Thus, if Grilea hoped to maintain her status within Pelmora and the Empire, she would have to do so through continued force.

Yet, if she were to unite the Moghuls and those who were loyal to her in Pelmora with the Ad’Tai, she would be in a difficult place politically with the Outer Council and the Empire. The Peacekeepers are great in number and only answer to the order of the Outer Council. Even with the Moghuls on her side, she would stand against the Empire’s vested interests, and Peacekeepers would flood into the area causing chaos for everyone. And if Grilea makes it to the capital she might be able to convince the Outer Council to place the Moghuls in power, but what happens for the Ad’Tai then? The opportunistic side of Lady Grilea began to show as the adventurers discussed with her what her next actions might be. Eventually, she seemed to be leaning toward bringing the evidence of her husband’s treachery to the Outer Council in the capital city, but the adventurers couldn’t be sure.

The group left Ser Rynan and Lady Grilea to return to Soburu as the crowd began to disperse late in the evening. The Elder looked tired, but greeted the adventurers and thanked them once again for returning the people to his camp, even if the circumstances of their return were so contentious. Lem’ suggested that Soburu think about allying with Lady Grilea, but the Elder seemed to think this would not be good for his people. “They are of the same cloth, Grilea and Dolyos,” Soburu said. As an attempt to sway Soburu, Hodjai made a plea. “If you had seen the things that we saw in those ruins, you would want no part of this, and would realize what we were up against.” Soburu remained unconvinced. “Dolyos is just one man,” he said. Sookta spoke to the Elder convincingly, stating that he should at least consider getting the Ad’Tai out of the reach of the Pelmoran Knights, if only for a short time. The Elder considered this wise advice and said he would try to work toward that end. It was late, so Soburu decided to retire leaving the adventuring party free to roam the camp in the few hours that remained before dawn.

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The party returned to Ser Runt’s cart, where Ser Jahann, Ser Rynan, and Lady Grilea were gathering supplies, taking trips back and forth from there to a nearby hut. Ser Donnan also lay on a cart, breathing shallow. Ser Runt communicated to the group that he has been re-thinking his life choices given the experience they all shared in the Torlish ruins. He said that depending on what was to happen, he might have an opportunity to leave the Pelmoran Knights and seek another path in life. He asked the adventurers if they would allow him to accompany them in their travels. As the group conversed with Runt, the injured Ser Donnan’s breathing began to change, and the man began to stir. The adventurers thought that perhaps it was Ts’uviti’s pale stone trinket that the Knight was responding to, so they placed the trinket in the man’s hand.

Miraculously, the Knight darted awake. It appears that pale stone somehow gave him vitality and awareness. Ser Donnan, a loyal Moghul, took water and began to regain his coherence. He had some things to say about the costly venture of Civil War. It seemed that he might have pull with the Moghuls of Valadagal should they need a voice to be heard. And it appears that the Moghuls weren’t entirely convinced that Lady Grilea’s press for power in the east of Pelmora, supported by the Empire, was the best thing for their people.

What remained for the adventurers after an evening of political intrigue were a few courses of action. Lem advocated they might find loot and treasures if they raided the Palace of Pelmora and took down Dolyos Miren’s shady operations. Sookta advised caution and asked what the gain would be for the party if they were to remove Miren from power. Hodjai passionately argued that Dolyos’s black magic should never be allowed to happen, and that it must be put to an end, for justice’s sake. Ts’uviti agreed. Sookta grabbed the edge of Ser Runt’s cart and said “We need to take Miren down.”

What will become of this web of intrigue? Will the adventurers attack Miren’s compound head on? Will they accompany Lady Grilea to the capital. Will they flee this political quagmire and travel with Soburu north? Will they press Ser Donnan for help from the Moghuls and the deserts of Valadagal? And what will become of Ser Donnan? The saga continues!

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Fractalform is the gaming handle of Bret Woods--ethnomediologist, author, and lead developer of Augur's Lore RPGs. Bret is Thing 1 at http://descrypt-studios.com.

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