Saturday, June 8, 2013

K07 - Diplomacy 101 with elves

This encounter is a continuation of the previous session I was trying to imagine how I'd think if I was a few thousand years old, on a delayed trip to the undying land. I don't think that I'd care either. I kind of dropped the ball as a GM in this session and left unexplained most of what happened underneath. Herion's backstory is funny and related to some of the trouble in this adventure, but maybe this will come back so I'll keep quiet. But that's OK, elves care about the world only on an elective basis. Getting down to the bottom of things of people living idle for millenia is probably worst than fighting the Balrog all over again. 

Act 7, Scene 1 - In Thranduil Hall

The dwarf expedition returned to their cottage on the Eastern area of the Queen's ground. They were told to wait until they would be fetched for an audience with King Thranduil. They turned to Bain for advice on decorum when meeting with elven Royalty. They settled on shining their leather armors with polish and combed their hair. Donarik insisted in bringing his axe as, he claimed, was part of a formal uniform.

Very late into the night, or early in the morning, a page knocked at the door and prompted them to follow the lanterns. The dwarves followed shortly through the Queen's ground until they found an entry to an underground complex. An eery music was playing in the background, the tunnel was too dark to perceive its actual width. There was some light at the other end, but distances were hard to estimate. All but Khazek [ Absolute timing, Absolute Direction] [+] were disoriented when they arrived. The hall was an interesting place, there were dozens, if not over a hundred elves gathered in small groups around tables or with musical instruments.  A gathering was observing a fencing duel in the far corner of the first hall. Few, if any, of the elves paid any attention to the arrival of the dwarf diplomats. Three hyperactive dogs that paused from chasing each other to have a whiff of the strangers. The dogs, interestingly kept on "blinking" in and out of sight and thus moved very fast.

Gimvar broke from the group to observe the duel closely. He was most amused by the use of smallsword to fight. After being ignored for a minute, an elf handed him a small sword to examine.

The dwarves found the acoustics in the hall to be disturbing [ -1 to check requiring talking or listening] [+]. Eventually, Lathmelen, the Queen's niece and most solid supported in Greenwood entered the hall  and walk to them.

"I'll be sticking close to you for the audience. There hasn't been dwarves in this hall since the days of Thorin Oakenshield, and never there was a dwarf who willingly entered before. I must caution you that there is a revenant haunting these halls. He cannot see elves, and the King decreed that he was never to be harmed by elves. But in case things go bad, here are two swords for you", and she handed to Bain two elven shortsword. Bain passed one to Khazek and the other one to Donarik.

"The King didn't say anything about it being mauled by dwarves didn't he", asked Donarik. Lathmelen replied that the revenant, called Herion, will be scared off by the sword and that should be good enough.

Act 7, Scene 2 - Herion, the wandering wraith

There was someone lurking  in the shadows behind the dwarves. Donarik coud catch the odd movement, but not pin the lurker. He signaled Gimvar to come with him to circle around a bundle of pillars, but no one was there. While Lathmelen was taking them to the audience, the mission kept on spotting an odd man circling around them: he was either a very finely defined dwarf, or a short and stocky human. Lathmelen identified him as Herion, the revenant. Donarik and Khazek held on to their sword closely, weary to make an obvious show of threat. Herion, an incorporeal wraith, became more and more brazen: approaching the dwarves with every minutes. He seemed to completely ignore the presence of elves, and focus entirely on the dwarves.

The dwarves were confused by this unusual situation. Reassured that, by being guest of the King they did not incurred any peril, they chose to ignore Herion and avoid eye contact with him. They entered a new hall where the Queen met with them. While she was talking, Herion brushed Gimvar's arm and sucked some of his life's energy [ Taking away a few FP in the process.] [+]  Khazek intervened to the Queen and asked her if this was OK for a diplomatic mission to be harrassed by wraith within her own halls. The Queen signalled Lathmelen who casted a spell on Donarik's blade. The blade started to shine bightly, very bightly and shooed away Herion for a moment. Satisfied, Donarik began a pursuit to catch the wraith on the run and dissapeared in the daedalus of pillars and halls, away from the gathering of elves.

Act 7, Scene 3 - King Thranduil

King Thranduil arrived in the main hall at last. The King was aware of the presence of dwarves, but made no show of their presence until the Queen addressed the court in a loud and clear voice. She argued that these dwarves from Erebor were coming here to take counsel from the King and should be allowed to speak [ Her diplomacy check was enough to shift Thranduil's reaction from Neutral to Good.] [+]. Lathmelen then drew attention to herself and explained to Thranduil that Khazad-dum is the only known location in Middle-Earth where there exist a cold forge, and that the most famous elven craftsmen, Celebrimbor, practiced his craft in the hallowed forge [ History check to influence Thranduil to respect the dwarves' endeavor, success. Further shift of reaction towards very good (but not quite). ] [+].  Thranduil began to show interest in the dwarves. He addressed Bain directly in Westron. He expressed concerns that such mission would stir the hornet's nest and endanger his cousins in Lothlorien. Bain proceeded to meticulously explain the rationale behind the operation, and that there was no intention to withdraw and leave Lothlorien's in danger. However, Khazek could no longer contain himself, and blurted out of turn that they weren't on their way to stir the hornets' nest but to shut it down altogether, thus fixing Lothlorien's problem rather than creating one [ Fast-talk influence roll, critical success.] [+]. The outburst suprised the elves which were paying attention, some even burst into laughters. The King let out a smile. Bain, surprised by being cut off, realized that Khazek's spark had accomplished in a sleigh of hand what he was trying to do in more rational terms. Nonetheless, he dispatched Khazek to talk to the Prince about the eagles, and get a chance to keep on discussing with the King without the fear of interruption.

The Prince was distant and unapologetic about standing off the dwarves earlier in the days. Khazek realized that he was unlikely to make a headway with the Prince and returned to Bain. Bain tried to get the King to discuss about the Eagles, but the King seemed unwilling to expand on the relationship between his son and Gwahir, the wind-lord. He, in fact, didn't appear to be willing to even look at his son at that moment.

Gimvar prompted Bain to ask the King about the dangers along the old forest road. The King told them that his domain wasn't extending beyond the Mountains of Mirkwood. He warned them of a confederacy of orcs living to the south, and that he doubted that the elves of Lothloriens were keeping a close eye on them. Bain asked about Khazad-dum, and the King told him that there was a curse that has taken place since the death of the Balrog, but he couldn't really expand as he had had no oracle on the topic yet. One thing that he knew from the Eagles is that the body of the Balrog had disappeared shortly after the end of the battle with Mithrandir.

Bain then proceeded to ask the King about alternative and secret roads across Greenwood. The King replied that there was no way that an armed force would cross Greenwood through the elven trails. Bain then requested to be supported somehow by rangers. As Bain was explaining his request, he felt like something was prying into his mind. He shrugged off the feeling without losing his train if though [ Dwarves have a pretty good magical resistance.] [+].  Khazek spotted in the shadow beyond the silhouette of Akshanna, advisor to the Queen, in the process of casting some kind of spell. Khazek loudly interrupted Bain and the King and moved to Akshanna. His theatrical snit drew the attention to her, and she recoiled and refrained from further spellcasting. The Queen swiftly ordered her to leave the hall, and apologized to Bain and Khazek.

All this ruckus drew the attention of Donarik, who was returning from chasing Herion deep on the the shadowy halls of Thranduil. Donarik, even louder than Khazek arrived on the scene with the elven shortsword drawn. The sword was still glowing with a blinding light in everyone's eyes. Lathmelen whispered into Donarik's mind to put the sword down, that everything was OK. However, this further upset Donarik as he got startled to have voices inside his head asking him to lower his guard. Lathmelen gently took the sword from his hand and offered him a pint of ale.  The sweet brew calmed him down, at least enough for the audience to resume.

The King apologized for the actions of Akshanna. However, it was impossible for the dwarves to read through him whether he was really sorry. He granted to Bain that a coningent of rangers from his Kingdom would accompany the dwarves through the old forest road, and offered to send Lathmelen as an ambassador to broker good relations with Lothlorien.

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