The party needed echite and needed to do something with Meg. Before leaving Wilhorn’s Hold, they spoke with Wilhorn briefly to see if he wanted to keep Meg. He did not. However, Reade remembered an obscure (actual, real-life) bit of vampire lore: most vampires are compelled to count things. Reade was able to create small, illusory hourglass to hold her attention but he was concerned about the night. Fortunately, he was able to convince Wilhorn to part with a large, decorative hourglass that seemed it would last the night. They were a bit uncertain, and Wilhorn advised them to just kill her, but at Eizen’s request they refused and chained her to the hourglass, resetting it as needed and keeping watch. With that, they set out.
The trip was scheduled to take about two weeks: one to reach the border and another to reach Bluesky. A few days in they came upon a number of clothes strewn about the ground beneath some bushes. Curious, they poked around and found a nearby stream in which someone might have bathed, but there was no one there. Disappointed in the immediate lack of naked people, and without Eizen to remind them to look around, they shrugged and moved along.
Three days later, right before the checkpoint, they came across a painter working on a scenic landscape of the foothills and mountains in the distance. He seemed really chill and asked if they would position themselves in the painting. Together they worked out a beautiful tableau of a traveling dwarf being hunted by a mysterious knight and his fiendish bloodhound. Mohorin stood at the back of the hunter while the dwarf ran toward aid offered by Vardalon, all while watched by the specter of death, looking into her hourglass at the dwarf’s fate. It was magnificent and we need to get someone to ink and paint it properly.
(I will insert the picture here later)
The next day they arrived at the border checkpoint. The guards recognized Eizen and spoke with him briefly, granting them passage. They looked grim and down on their luck, though. When asked about their business, Arryn informed the guards they had a message for Sergeant Matilda in Bluesky regarding the vampires. The guard’s face went pale and he ordered them to wait while he fetched his superior. Nervous, they waited for Border Captain Kathryn to arrive and told her the story so far. She summoned them to her tent to tell them why everyone looked so glum. About a week ago, mysterious undead appeared out of the woods, out of nowhere, and began harassing the border encampment. The first wave was brutal, but they managed to drive off the undead soldiers. Since then, though, the camp has been the target of repeated attacks every night and they haven’t been able to send word back to Bluesky for reinforcements due to reduced manpower.
Kathryn asked for the party’s help either in defeating the undead or in taking a message to Bluesky. She reassured them they would probably be able to hold out until the reinforcements arrived, knowing it would be at least two weeks. Arryn and Reade seemed willing to take a message, so she drafted a letter and entrusted it to the party: for express delivery only to Sergeant Matilda and not to anyone else in the front gate of the city near tons of gossipy and panicky people. >_>
So the party moved on. A few days later, as they crested the foothills they came upon a nest of snakes in the path. Thanks to their counting machine, they determined there were precisely 57 snakes. Thanks Meg! However, no one in the party was a herpetologist, and so despite how cute the snakes were, had no idea if they were venomous or not. Thus Reade carefully magicked them out of the way and they continued.
Nearing the city, about a day away, they stopped for lunch. As they ate, Reade noticed a glint of bronze in some rocks a little way away. His owl, El Diablo Birbo, said it was an old scroll case and he scrambled over in excitement to find it. It was old and rusted with some bare ornamentation. They tried to open it, but even using Arryn as a wrench they couldn’t manage it. Reade was disappointed but they put it aside for later.
Finally they arrived at Bluesky the next day. They joined throng of people gaining entrance and waited for the guards to look over folks’ as they came in. When the guards came up they asked what the reason for entrance was. And Reade, or Arryn, said, “Oh, we’re here to tell Sergeant Matilda about the border being attacked by undead. See? We have a letter from Border Captain Kathryn.” This did not go over well with the guard, who had just enlisted for the pay to support his granny only a few weeks ago, and was thus not trained or authorized to handle national emergencies. However, to his credit, he did the right thing and passed the buck up the chain. His boss, a corporal, came out to hear the story for the second time in front of a crowd of now scared onlookers and look at the letter. Like the underling before him, Corporal Fred had joined some twenty years ago to support his family and had since married and seen a kid grow up and move out and was now just here as a way to fill time, get a pension, and keep bread on the table. This meant he was also not trained to handle national emergencies, but he knew enough to go fetch his boss, the gate captain.
Captain Vimes was not authorized to handle national emergencies. But it turns out that being captain of the City Guard means you deal with them every so often, nipping them in the bud before they become national emergencies. Thus he had experience, and a certain gruffness that brooked no dissent or argument. At the sight of the letter he sent out riders to the border and ordered the gates closed. An escort was prepared for the party and their carriage thoroughly inspected. Nothing out of the ordinary was revealed except for a wayward snake, which Lorilla took a liking to and named Anastasia (she is a pretty snek). A cleric nearly scanned the party but Eizen quickly took him aside and persuaded him to let them in for Sergeant Matilda to handle. He released them reluctantly so they wouldn’t notice Meg.
The party was escorted by several soldiers to the city’s main compound with runners sent ahead to fetch Sergeant Matilda. Gossip, however, moves faster than people do and by the time they arrived a sizable crowd had assembled to watch Matilda and her guard wait on the steps in full regalia. She recognized Eizen’s illness and addressed Lorilla (as she was the highest ranking and best understood such things). Matilda, very loudly, welcomed this messenger from Mohorin and her retainers, thanking them for their aid in bringing messages when no one else could, doing what she could to help keep the people of Manscell and Bluesky City safe. Even though this wasn’t Lorilla’s home country, common enemies made allies of them both. A few paid urchins cheered and applauded, easing people’s tensions. Matilda invited the party inside to discuss further plans while the guard milled about outside looking impressive and dispersing the crowd.
Once in and safely in her office, she turned cold, demanding the letter from Kathryn. Reading it, she confirmed their account with Kathryn’s and technically thanked them for the news. It would’ve been nicer if they’d helped out, or if they’d not gone around shouting problems at the public, but she was very glad to receive the care of Meg, promising to extract lots of information from her. Meg cursed them, but she was met by two monks of Olim, not known for being yielding and they hustled her away. With that, the party asked for help with their quest: echite and so on for the expedition, but Matilda turned them away, telling them to go ask at the church of Echoe. She was not in the best of moods, but promised to speak to Eizen later, and thus dismissed them.
Tossed out, the party sat in the square unsure of what to do. At first they’d had a good welcome, and then suddenly sent away with what was only technically a thank you. With nothing to do they struggled to open Reade’s scroll case. Eventually a nearby guard noticed and felt embarrassed on their behalf and popped the top off for them. The scroll within was in a very old script, hard to read, and in Middle Common besides. The best Reade could make out was that it was a Charter for the Village of Xianti. Intrigued, he put it back and they were about to go look for the church of Echoe when a commotion issued forth from the barracks. A rider in silver regalia and a white and red cloak bolted out. She wore an ivory half-mask and had carefully curled auburn hair. In the square she was joined by Matilda and some other mounted officers. The rider held aloft a faceted silver sword decorated with a rose and flourished it shouting, “For the Glory of Manscell!” Then they rode off toward the palace. Now, with the gossip off of them, the party headed off toward the temple.
They got lost.
Fortunately they had El Diablo Birbo to scout for them, but alas he wasn’t good at finding buildings. Neither Reade nor Arryn could describe it, but Lorilla knew from her studies about the symbols associated with Echoe and told Diablo Birbo to look for the moon. He was thrilled and led them straight there where they received a pamphlet from a novice. They spoke with her about getting an audience with a priestess and she got Priestess Anna. She was excited to see people from the expedition and informed them that they could meet with Sister Elone the next day.