The day of the town council meeting has come. Aravyr is nervous about proposing the deal to the visiting Thessans. The party prepare her as best they can. Illiaph manages to raise her morale a bit by appealing to her loyalty to her duties as a priestess of Materan. She invites one of the party to attend the meeting with her as a representative of the Materan Brotherhood in Olahorn's stead. Dael volunteers to go and offers what support she can. The governors manor is well guarded after multiple violent incidents in the recent few days. Despite the crowds and pompous nature of the event, Dael and Aravyr are lead into a small dining room. A large wooden table with twenty chairs serves as the council chamber. Aravyr grows visibly shaken at the thought of such an intimate setting. She and Dael take their seats at two chairs labeled Harvest Brotherhood and wait for the other councilors to file in.
The council members slowly file in, A man in gold introduces hiself as Torvald Callahax and his dour companion, Osgrim Hellslay takes a seat next to Thorben Felspark's empty chair. Arundel Shay and princess Lilliana Holt sit across from the Thessan delegates. The rest of the seats are filled in by Halafas Raeranthur, local landowners and a small group of gem gnomes. Governess Amilia Drakeson takes her seat at the head of the table and begins the meeting by banging a wooden cup on the table.
The majority of the meeting is dominated by the local land owners and their petty squabbles. Dael spots Halafas and Arundel Shay performing some kind of subtle nonverbal speech towards each other, seemingly unnoticed by the rest of the delegates.
The governess brings attention to the Harvast Brotherhood delegates, pointing to Aravyr and Dael. Osgrim Hellslay sizes them up with his good eye as Aravyr begins her plea.
"Hello everyone. I am Sister Icewind. I apologize for the absence of Bishop Milani as he was called away on... personal matters..."
She falters for a moment looking down at Dael
"Concerning the trade restrictions against Findle, the Brotherhood has gathered a fortune of resources to assist in negotiating with the Thessan delegates to increase trade and put an end to this famine. To do so, our nation has sent archeological expeditions across the sea to Narrock and have procured a large amount of gold and silver, the sum total exceeding two hundred sixty thousand pounds of gold, or thirteen million sovereign gold coins."
That figure causes a loud mermor to erupt throughout the chamber and perks the interest of Torvald Callahax who motions for the talking to stop.
"Such tremendous wealth could surely purchase enough to feed your nation. Why not barter directly with another country? The Silver Reach perhaps?"
"The Elves do very little farming and The Ibyth Empire have little surplus. The prosperity of the South is inerrantly linked to the fate of Findle. Please, we emplore you to take what you need to open trade with Findle."
Aravyr loses her nerve at this point and appears visibly shaken. Dael stands up and takes over the negotiations.
Findle has more to offer than gold. The people of Findle are strong and brave. The war with Danasia proved that they are tough enough to stand against any foe and our recent trip to Shra could not have succeeded without the brave soldiers of House Wingar."
Her speech rouses Osgrim Hellslay. His low gravelly voice seems to darken the corners of the council chamber.
"So... you think your nation is brave? You think they are strong? I reject your stolen bribe money. Use that gold to purchase food for yourselves. Trade is lifted on one condition."
The room goes quiet and all eyes are on Dael and the Grand Duke. Princess Lilliana stands up and addresses the Grand Duke herself.
"What did you have in mind Hellslay? The Harvast Brotherhood is here to impartially negotiate peace."
"There can be peace between us, but never peace for us. You will serve as soldiers. Once every ten years for the next century, a census of your nation will be taken and twenty percent of the fighting age will be drafted by the Knights of the Chalace. Those that fail to achieve knighthood will be armed and sent to the fortress Mastema."
Everyone falls silent. Such a deal would doom tens of thousands of young men and women to war and death.
"Twenty percent? That is a bit unreasonable. We can make a deal for ten percent and we can try to open the Alchemerium again. That should start full production of dragonpowder weapons. I know a wonderful gunsmith who can assist in teaching a new generation."
"The Harvest Brotherhood is wise. You should consider their offer Hellslay. The Alchemerium will bring business and prosperity to all in the region."
The gem gnomes look visibly excited at the thought of the alchemists college opening once again.
"Your offer is acceptable. Ten percent of your fighting age population every ten years and dragonpowder weapons to outfit our soldiers. You are a shrewd negotiator Ms. Bloomhollow. "
"That's a deal we will accept as well. You shall have your soldiers, as well as dragonpowder weapons to keep them safe and trade will flow freely between our nations."
There is an uproar in the hall as Hellslay and Holt shake hands and Arundel Shay stares daggers at Dael. Aravyr looks sick to her stomach at the thought of dooming so many people to a future of war and destruction and Dael comforts her as best she can while the clamor dies down.
The conversation slowly moves down and moves to Illden independence. Halafas makes brief eye contact with the gem gnomes who clearly nod. The vote is called by governess Drakeson without discussion. Votes are cast with fifteen in favour of leaving Findle and fifteen for staying within the kingdom. Arundel smiles noticeably as the gem gnomes refuse to cast a vote. The governor insists on an explanation and they gladly give it, abandoning their prior meek and nervous attitude. The gnomes recount stories of monstrous "bullies" invading their homes, digging up their gardens and making off with their late winter food. Spring will soon be upon the land, but without food to last until spring is in full, they will have to move.
"Well far be it from me to assign someone to such a task, but I believe the representatives from the Harvest Brotherhood have made a case for themselves as brave adventurers."
He glares at Dael.
"I can't think of anyone more qualified than Blackwell's crew to resolve this issue in a timely fashion."
Dael looks around at the council who eye her unexpectedly and accepts the role as investigator.
"Very well then. We shall convine until such time as this issue has been resolved and the gnomes of Illden feel safe once again. I appreciate everyone being civil in this discussion."
She slams her wooden cup down on the table and stands to exit the room. Aravyr bids the party farewell, her job is done and she must report the events of the past few weeks to the Bishop in Harvastveil. If ever the party choose to venture into the Helmstadt Valley, they are welcome at the town of Harvestveil.Dael leads the gem gnomes to her party waiting back at the Walnut Knot. They explain how the "bullies" dig through their roofs and steal their food. Nobody has been harmed yet, but several of them are afraid that such confrontations will turn violent if no food is found to pilfer. The gnomes explain that their village is about 8 hours North of a small hunting cabin in the mountains. Illiaph rubs his temples at the thought of revisiting the cabin but agrees ti head out immediately. The party agree to take the job and head North back into the mountains.
The cabin isn't exactly how they left it. The snow is melting at an astounding rate, revealing a 3 foot stone wall partially around the area.
Alistyr startles the party by pointing out several floating red orbs behind them in the distance. They are given very little time to speculate as Marceliyna falls, strafed by a flying foe. The angelic Grand Inquisitor Var'izan calls out for the party's surrender.
Running up the hill are several slate clad knights and two winged tieflings wielding burning energies. Daels skill with her firearms brings the flying foes to cover, and Illiaph manages to banish one of the knights before the battle even starts.
The fight is long and grueling. With most involved exhausted or dead, the Inquisitor flees into the sky, carying one of her surviving subordinates with her. An acid arrow from Shalazar strikes the barely alive knight and the inquisitor drops the dead weight before escaping into the night.
She will be back certainly. It is only a matter of time before the party is outted as heretics to the Empyrean Church.