Again, just a rough draft from my notes, to be fleshed out and fully written later.
The exhausted party is relieved in guarding Wlad’s north tower by a group of soldiers, but they were not allowed to leave the grounds. In the large hall where the ball was, the lords of Hancher have set up a council to determine the next regent. After much discussion (read: bickering and politicking) a minor lord from north Hancher, along the lake, stood up and claimed to be the most qualified because he was the most independent, as he didn’t owe any favors to anybody. He ultimately claimed the regency by the “will of the people,” asking the sole man in the room whom he identified as “of the people”: Corbin. When the other lords objected, he split the large table in half with a single strike from the point of a dagger. The battered party was given leave to return to Redcliffe Manor to recover. After all, they had to be whole and able to properly enjoy the parade and celebrations that would be held in their honor.
After a few days of recovery, they were awarded medals of honor for their service to the people of Hancher. Much revelry ensued, most of which will never be remembered by those that partook of it. Each member of the party was awakened the following morning with a message requesting their attendance at a meeting of the council of lords the following evening.
As they waited in the antechamber to be admitted to the council room, Jason revealed that they knew that Kellen was not a member of their Society... but despite what the paladin thought was an obvious need for cautious tongues, Eadric gave away the group’s name.
Before they could discuss further, they were ushered into the council chamber. Rolandstahd had sent a request for help sometime in the last year of Wlad’s reign, but the despot had hidden this request and never answered it. Damon vowed to send help in the form of wood, a much-needed commodity in Rolandstahd, and a diplomatic envoy. For this purpose, he proposed the decorated… Kellen Redcliffe. Steamrolling Kellen’s objections, he continued, declaring that he was going to begin raising an army to “bring peace to the nearby countryside.”
With this shocking pronouncement, he adjourned the meeting and summoned Kellen and the party to his private office, where he revealed himself as an operative of the Titanite Society. Jason was incredulous that they were discussing matters like that with someone who was not a member of the society, and Damon directed him to a specific section of the book of prophecy:
“The crimson bluff shall crumble, but be rebuilt in the light as a foundation of the Hero’s destiny.”
Damon gave the confused Kellen a necklace with a titanite stone and requested that the party travel to Rolandstahd, acclimate Kellen to the Society’s workings, see what was wrong in the city—and help, if they could. They agreed, as they were planning to travel north through Rolandstahd anyways, to a library in the Northern Elven Woods. A caravan would take them north to his holdings the next day, and from there they would travel north by boat to Rolandstahd. Jason lagged behind after the meeting and showed Damon the Dwarven crown, noting that if the Society is looking to build a wide base of nations to support the Hero in her destiny, it might be good to keep an eye out for any dwarves worthy of the crown. Damon didn’t know of any, but Jason wanted to make sure somebody in the Society outside their party was aware of the possibilities.
On the ride to Damon’s docks they tried to explain about the Society, but Kellen wouldn’t hear any of it. He was thankful for their help in killing Wlad, but he had no interest in anything but returning to Hancher and going back to his life. When they reached Damon’s land they found he’d significantly expanded his shipbuilding capabilities: he had 20 drydocks. Six barges were loaded with lumber for Rolandstahd, and a caravel was ready for the embassy as well. It would be a five day trip across the lake to Rolandstahd, and the party traveled in style. Instead of a large hold, the caravel was set up with luxury guest suites.
About a half-day out of port, Phalyn dropped in for a visit. (Notable to Kellen and most of the crew because, of course, he arrived on horseback. The rest of the party pretty much took it in stride.) He gave Kellen a familiar-looking necklace: the one he thought he inconspicuously dropped overboard at the docks. (It had caught on the anchor.) He could see he was in denial, despite the prophecy, so he gave him a more worldly reason to join. He described an old Hancherian law called the “Writ of the War of Hancher,” which was a rebellion of nobles against the council. One section says that the duties of the first son of noble families are to continue in the father’s political footsteps; the second son would join the army; the third son would join the church; and the fourth was to be conscripted in an old society. While this society was no longer a functioning entity, they had been subsumed into the Titanites… and Kellen was the fourth son. Kellen refused to believe this and headed above deck.
Phalyn told the rest of the party to meet with Eadric’s mentor in the elven lands, and he would guide them to the library where they might find information on this Sword of the Heavens and Temple of the Hero. Further, he brought some news of the troubles in Rolandstahd. It seems that some time back, a member of the royal family ate half the council. He couldn’t get much more information before he was warned by his contact to get out of town before he was discovered.
While most of the party was below with Phalyn, Kellen tried to make his escape. His family was known for their horses, of course, and Phalyn’s was a fine specimen… so he tried to ride it, but the horse wouldn’t even let him on its back. Desperate, he decided to dive into the sea and swim back to Hancher, but the horse bit the collar of his shirt just as he was about to go overboard, pulling him back on board.
Phalyn left, urging the party to be careful in Rolandstahd. Kellen tossed his necklace over the side of the boat again—but when Corbin reeled in his fishing line and it was on the hook, he dashed belowdecks and barricaded himself in his suite.
As the convoy continued north, the crew grumbled about there being more rats than usual on the ship. On the fourth day, a ship of the Royal Navy of Rolandstahd showed up on the horizon, and the crew started to look a little sick. As they began to collapse, Henry recognized the ship: it was the RRN Havoc: a warship!
Though the Havoc could be approaching to receive the diplomatic envoy, the crew being incapacitated at the same time was too coincidental for anybody to believe this was anything but an attack. Jason and Wraya recognized the illness as a dose of Jamer Leaf, which is normally used as a sedative or anesthetic. Jason and Corbin dragged the sleeping crew belowdecks, Henry dropped the anchor, and Eadric cut the sails (given his lack of nautical experience, he took the directive literally: he flew up the mast and cut the ropes, so the others pulled the canvas belowdecks with the crew). As the Havoc pulled alongside, its crew armed and ready, the party arrayed themselves at midship, with Eadric at the stern ready to level magic fire at the warship’s passengers at the first attack. Unfortunately for this diplomatic envoy, the Rolandstahdians weren’t interested in talking…
The buccaneers swung across as soon as the ships were even, followed by Rolandstahd marines; mages and the ship’s officers remained on deck. The mages, which remained on the Havoc, countered the powerful spells that Eadric and Wraya tried to fling across the gap. The party began to whittle down their foes’ overwhelming numbers, but at a cost: they were spread out across the deck of the ship, Zaylan was surrounded, and Wraya was unconscious. The unlikely pair of Corbin and Jason stayed back-to-back at midship, crushing the enemies that foolishly surrounded them. Eadric, isolated at the stern and with little in the way of combat experience or remaining spells, conjured the illusion of a demon and scared away some buccaneers around him as he scrambled overboard, climbing the hull of the boat to escape the battle. In the confusion of the melee, some buccaneers slip belowdecks and tie up the sleeping crew. As they returned, the officers swung across to finish what their men apparently could not. As soon as they landed, the hold grate burst open and the deck was swarmed by wererats and dire rats. A tall hooded officer threw back his cloak and revealed himself as a half-dragon werewolf, but despite his fearsome appearance he fell quickly to the painful dual strike of a divine smite from Jason and a deadly precise piercing by Zaylan’s rapier. Eadric climbed back up on the deck of the ship as the Havoc drifted closer, threatening to crush him, but found himself cornered by some marines and a lieutenant… and was knocked unconscious. While he was revived by a healing burst from Wraya, he was entirely out of spells, so he surrendered to the lieutenant and remained at the stern. Meanwhile, the wererats were piling on anybody they could surround, and Jason and Corbin were on the other side of a bludgeoning than they were used to, courtesy of the ship’s captain, who fought with his bare knuckles. The party, wounded to the limits of their endurance, slowly felled the invaders, and the mages ordered the Havoc to retreat for Rolandstahd.
The party freed the crew from their bounds and waited for them to awake. Wary of the wounds inflicted by the wererats due to legend, Jason, who was immune, and Eadric, who had not been hurt by the rats, tied the others to their beds that night until the Jason and Wraya could heal the infections the next day. While Kellen and Zaylan were able to hold off the effects, Wraya and Corbin were transformed into wererats… and Wraya remembered it.
The next day, their wounds healed, they sat down to think about the attack. Why did they attack the ship? Was it because it was a diplomatic envoy, or because they were members of the Titanite Society? How did Rolandstahd know about their mission? It could be that Damon was in on it, but that was unlikely. A close advisor or a council member could have alerted Rolandstahd. It was also possible that someone in Rolandstahd was scrying on them. The plan upon reaching Rolandstahd was to act as though they had not been attacked at all, and try to gauge the response and surprise of the people there. (Jason, unwilling to be a party to the deception, would be staying on the boat.)
As the convoy pulled into Rolandstahd, they saw six ships: two frigates, two ships-of-the-line, and two man-o-wars… and Zaylan saw the Havoc among them. One frigate, the RRN Lemure, approached and hailed the caravel. In port, the diplomatic envoy was received by three members of the royal family and a nervous-looking third of the council. They said that they were happy to reestablish ties with Hancher. Kellen apologized for Wlad’s failure to respond to their request for aid, and asked if there was anything they could do to help. While they said everything was fine, Zaylan thought there was something a little off. The Rolandstahdians said lodging wold be provided, but since they were unaware of the envoy’s approach, they would need time to prepare a proper welcome banquet, which would be held the next evening. Both Zaylan and Kellen get the feeling that this is a bald-faced lie, that they knew they were coming, but they stick to the plan and play along. They accept a carriage ride to their provided quarters, and Eadric follows the carriage. The others split up: Henry to visit his mentor and Corbin with him, and Wraya and Jason to the Temple of Apollo. There they both hear the same story about what happened in Rolandstahd:
About six months ago, someone new showed up in town with a seal of nobility and old proof of being a member of the royal family. He claimed he had a more pure claim to the throne than the current branch of the royal bloodline. The magi tested him and the Temple of Apollo cast their most potent divinations, and both confirmed that the newcomer’s claims were legitimate. The council sent envoys to their old allies, including Hancher, but none responded, so it was their armies against those of the royal family. Unfortunately for the council, the royal family has strong connections to dragons, and in fact the original founders of Rolandstahd were dragons. Phalyn’s story was confirmed: the newcomer turned into a green dragon in the council chambers and ate most of them. The fighting between the armies was quick and bloody, as the dragon was able to finance a hoard of mercenaries with his horde… not to mention the power that a dragon’s support can offer an army. Once his rule was secure, the new king brought in a massive influx of wealth. There were more drydocks and more ironworks than ever. Armies were being raised, and any able-bodied mercenaries found plenty of work. The people of Rolandstahd enjoyed the benefits of a prospering economy. The mage’s guild had stood with the council and lost political power as a result; the temples all took no side in the battle. Henry and Corbin learned from their Titanite contact that a decent-sized faction of the council’s navy may have escaped; they were suspected to be in the northeast portion of the lake. They used a sending spell to communicate the situation in Rolandstahd to Lord Damon back in Hancher, who directed them to continue as planned for now. And so they planned for the welcome banquet, possibly to enter into an alliance with a vicious chromatic dragon…