“I see the bad moon rising. I see trouble on the way.” — CCR
The envoys from New Dawnsburg — namely us — have arrived in Nakamaru Port, more than a bit bloodied from the journey but otherwise sound and hale. We decide that, despite our desire to be away from this strange and unsettling kingdom of Kou, we must remain the week until the caravan with needed supplies for our colony arrives and goes on to the south. We feel it necessary to see our mission through to the end.
Officials from Nakamaru Port have made us reasonably comfortable, assigning us a wing of rooms that are, if not fancy, at least relatively private. As we get to know our surroundings, it is noted that the soldiers and warriors of this community do not carry shields, only weapons. We conclude this is not a defensive but an offensive means of protection. We tread our way carefully during our stay. But the atmosphere of the place is a bit calmer, less strained than it was in the capital of Echizen, though there are still rumors of the occasional mother-and-child burning for those seen to be afflicted with fiend-half-breeds.
The morning after our arrival as we are breaking our fast, we are surprised to be joined by the nobleman Jirou Kurada. He is confident, if not a touch arrogant. He questions us about our journey, offering many opinions about our success or lack thereof, then magnanimously makes himself available for discussion concerning the expected caravan route. As it will be traveling from the Kou Kingdom to the south towards New Dawnsburg — and presumably through his port — Jirou stuns us with a demand for further money. There is an expectation, he explains, of a ‘fee’ that will need to be agreed on before he will allow such caravans to pass through his domain. He suggests charging 20% above and beyond the original Kou fee. While we sputter and ponder this new development, Jirou slyly suggests other means of payment. It seems he wishes some weapons to be smuggled back to the capital of Echizen and feels our diplomatic papers would ease the passage. We politely decline, giving the excuse that we are needed to the south, so he accepts one of our aquamarine gems as payment. After he departs, we muse about how the Baron will view this newer, higher price of the cost of doing business in the Kou Kingdom.
We try to occupy our days while waiting for the caravan, and decide to follow the rumor of a valkyrian slave once seen in the port area. Kado, son of Jirou, is asked of his knowledge. It seems he himself once owned a valkyre slave, one he had bought off a traveler. But he has sold her to another traveler, someone perhaps of Ech’lun origins. As far as he knew, they had left the port area and even the Kingdom some time ago.
Near the end of one of the meals we had been enjoying in the hospitality dining room, Tanna begins to see the walls bulging and low, ominous moaning emitting from the area. Alarmed, she warns they others and they leave the room immediately. The elf, however, soon realizes that this effect seems to follow them wherever they move. Caught in the halls, Tanna grows increasingly agitated, despite Tumdrum and Kaleth’s best efforts to calm her. Bizarrely, the elf scout is then distracted
- she becomes convinced she can sense all the rats in the area, wherever they are. This new-found ability stretches not only to the city’s entire population of rats, but she feels she can have some influence on them. Is the elf mad or developing new skills?
On the morn, Tumdrum decides to fly Amanus back to Echizen to speak with Dradiira of these new developments. Tanna’s abilities appear to have dissipated by the next day but he and Kaleth worry about what these new developments may mean. Tumdrum’s visit with Dradiira goes smoothly but the news is ominous. When he flies back to Nakamaru Port, he has a private conversation with Kaleth.
According to Dradiira, what Tanna is experiencing is caused by the elf being increasingly exposed to paths or trails between planes. Not only between planes but reaching beyond planes to a place known only as The Further, also sometimes called The Void. Something has connected her psyche to this path, something not demonic or fiendish, nor indeed caused by any entity of this plane or any other. Dradiira highly suspects it is exposure to the God’s Mirrors that has infected her, and she begged Tumdrum to allow her to study the shard he has. Without that, she cannot hope to help their companion, but suggests that moving around on the physical plane may help. She warns creatures from The Further may be trying to test Tanna (the example being the connection to rats) to see if hers is a viable connection.
As Tumdrum and Kaleth speculate on their next plan, Kaleth reluctantly reveals a secret she has been hiding — she is a worshipper of the god Dormin, the Snake of the World, a deity who is most connected to The Further. Startled, Tumdrum mentions the great Wound to the world, and Kaleth solemnly replies that this Wound may be something that goes all the way into The Further. They decide between them that Tanna needs to be moved as quickly as possible to Alandra’s Temple, in hopes the goddess’s influence will help shield her from the influence of The Further.
They develop an elaborate plan in order to trick the elf into leaving her traveling companions, and the next day, Tumdrum takes Tanna aboard Amanis and away from the port.
The three arrive in New Dawnsburg, just outside the settlement, but as they are landing, they spy a creature soaring high above. To their shock, it is a red dragon, and Tanna immediately shouts an alarm, panicking the people of New Dawnsburg into stampeding to the underground temple. Tumdrum has a clearer head, however, realizing this may be one of those of dragon-kind that Kaleth had expected to inspect this new community. Without the dragonborne, however, there is no way to communicate with the beast. Tumdrum begs Thal, one of Kaleth’s retainers still in New Dawnsburg, to help calm the possible ensuing anger of the insulted dragon. Thal sends a message to Kaleth that her immediate presence is needed.