Wednesday, May 1, 2013

K05 - Prisoners or visitors?

Old Forest River, April 15th FA 15

Late in the morning of April 15th, the Ardacer arrived in Esgaroth and paused beside the bridge. The Fire Lot spent the night here and by the time the viceroy reached the structure. Goldo was already inspecting it to assess whether it would withstand the passage of the Emerald. 

The viceroy rallied the royal family members: Kalin, Goldo, Khazek, Gror and Drolf were present. The diplomatic objective of the viceroy was Thranduil hall, a forbidden place for all but wood elves. Kalin was opposed from the start in involving the elves and ruled himself out of the expedition. Drolf, while vague, hinted that his presence would hinder the mission rather than help. Gror was on the fence, but Drolf declared that he was needed in command as Lot-Herd of the Ledge. Khazek, reported that the barges heading up the river were small and would accomodate only a few dwarves. He selected four of his best rangers as an escort for the viceroy and made arrangements for their passage on the next trek up the river. Kalin muttered under his breath, Gror roared to rally his warriors, Drolf returned with Goldo to inspect the bridge once more. 



The trip up the river was a two days affair. The barge was operated by two men of Esgaroth. The bulk of the barge was in fact roped-up barrels heading to Thranduil halls. Khazek thought of his grandfather Oin who once made the reverse trip down river inside a barrel. He certainly missed a sight! 

At about noontime on the 16th, a voice called for them in Sindarin. All dwarves tried to locate their locutor, but in vain. It asked what was the dwarves' business in Greenwood. Khazek, a Sindarin speaker, took counsel with Bain before replying that they were entering the land to talk to King Thranduil. The locutor exchanged faint laughters with other voices. The dwarves were not to hear any replies until a few hours later when a small boat approached from upstream.  

On the boat were three elves. One of them standing while the two other paddled. Khazek immediately recognized the heraldric signs on the standing elf as a member of the royal family [Area Knowledge(Rhovanion) @ -2, PASS][+].  

"Why are you entering, un-invited, the land of the wood elves, dwarves.", asked the elf. Khazek re-iterated his previous answer. The elf expressed amusement. 

"I would simply like to know whether I should welcome you as prisoner or as visitor", he added in Westron (common tongue). Bain repeated that this was a diplomatic mission and that they should be treated as visitor. The princely elf told them that the distinction between visitors and prisoner was moot until the King decided for himself. The elves signaled the men to resume gaffing up the river. Over the next two hours, the elf asked a few questions, particularly about the earth-tone clad escort. The elves seems amused, which was irritating, but also interested in Khazek and his rangers. Khazek made sure to mention that he had met Legolas in Aglarond, and that his uncle was Gimli, elf-friend. It was impossible to read these elves, but the factoids certainly could not hurt.

Early in the afternoon on the second day, the barge hit a small beach of pebbles. The elves landed first. A dozen elves came out of the wood to meet the Prince. Khazek then realized that he had conversed with Prince Imeptannen, brother of Legolas and next in line to the Throne of Greenwood. The Prince addressed the dwarves slightly more cordially, and told them to take quarters until supper: The Queen would love to meet the prisoners.


Supper in Greenwood

The viceroy, Khazek and their escort didn't get to see Thranduil hall from within as they were led to an adjoining structure along the river. Unfortunately for the dwarves, supper in Greenwood turned out to begin no earlier than midnight. They were taken deeper into the forest to attend an outdoor celebration. Some 100 elves were present: enjoying music and dozens of exotic looking meals landing on the tables every now and then. Khazek and Bain were alert, trying to read the crowd and understand their dynamic [Observation checks Khazek Mos:3, Bain MoF:1, Bain loses one in composure][+]. Bain showed too much interest at the Queen who recoiled and ignored the dwarves for the next hour. Khazek noticed that the relationship between the Queen and the Prince was mostly formal. Finally, he identified a female elf, probably low in the royal family, showing a clear interested in him and the viceroy. Khazek attempted to work the crowd, moving from table to table in between songs, but his dwarven ways turned out awkward in such a place [Carousing-12, roll: 13 MoF:1, Khazek loses one in composure][+]. The evening went on, and the dwarves played cautiously. It became clear that the Queen nor the Prince had any intention to directly speak to the dwarves on that evening. The diplomatic mission wasn't quite going according to plan.

The viceroy then kept endeavoring to identify the key players around the Queen [Psychology-14, roll: 13 MoS:1, the Queen interest is renewed by the attention][+]. He was no longer trying to do it covertly, but showing a clear interest in the beautiful hostess. The Queen, with a minute gesture of the hand, silenced the entire assembly. She invited the guests (no prisoners anymore!) to treat them with a song.  Bain saw in this an opportunity to grapple with both hands. Khazek pulled his picolo, truly an undwarven-like instrument and began to play his most polished song [Musical Instrument-10, roll: 13 MoF:3, Khazek comes across as a goof: underperforming on an overly simple and short melody][+]. The performance was unfortunately floundering so Bain drew the attention to himself and began to improvise a song especially for the occasion.  He tackled the theme of Gimli-elf friend and his life-long relationship with Legolas Greenleaf, son to the King and brother to Imeptannen [Singing-15, roll: 11 MoS:4, the old dwarf is good and to the point][+].  The song was more a diplomatic move than a performance, but it did work! The Queen cleared seats beside her own and invited the viceroy to come.

The Queen expressed concerns over stirring the hornet's nest so close to Lorien. She inquired about the dwarves plans to enter Moria from the East or the West. The viceroy managed an extremely convincing sequence of responses [Diplomacy-16, roll: 8 MoS:8, the Queen knows that Bain is not a fool][+]. They converse about Rivendell and Greenwood. The Queen suggested last that Thranduil himself would be the better elf to talk to.

Meanwhile, Khazek maneuvered to approach the female elf who was showing interest in him. At the end of each song, every time that a new meal would be brought up, they both would shift closer until they managed to lie on adjacent litters. Her name was Lathmelen, a niece to the Queen and a master jeweler. She spoke enthusiastically to Khazek for a long time about metalsmithing and jewlery, probably under the assumption that all dwarves were passionate on the topic. Khazek feigned interest, which wasn't too difficult as he was tipsy at this point and enthralled by the elf's uncanny beauty. It turned out that Lathmelen was very eager to see Khazad-dum revived so the cold forges of the 6th deep could be reactivated. She claimed to have dreamt for the last 850 years to be the first elf since Celebrimbor to craft Kahzad-dum's most exotic and magical alloys. Khazek smiled: the niece of the Queen seems to be on their side... despite his lackluster picolo's solo.

Small victories.
  


2 comments:

  1. Khazek also remembed his GRANDFATHER Oin, who made the barrel trip as well!

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    Replies
    1. Quite right, I lose track. I'll fix this.

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