Chasing the Oracles

Britain has seen much trouble of late. Thus, it was no surprise when I saw that the ranger's gem -- Britannia's call for help -- was once again glowing red. The powerful magicks predicted more dire events for our land.

Slowly but steadily, the Royal Guard assembled, and soon after, both Kalis Sevren and Iyona Kondo appeared. Iyona looked much healthier than last time I saw her, back when she was rescued from the Yew prison.

"Hail, everyone," Sevren began. He waited a few moments for those gathered to gather around. "I have been busy with matters in Britain... I have called ye all here this eve to give ye tidings.

"Jhelom has been attacked."

Faces fell on those gathered, as we all realized that yet another town of Britannia had fallen to ... orcs? Undead? Dragons? We would have to wait. Our attention snapped back to what the ranger was saying.

"As it currently stands, the status of the town is unknown. I hope we can reach Jhelom in time to repel the attackers."

With a spell more powerful than the mages have, Kalis wordlessly opened a gate, and the Defenders of the Realm streamed in. "Spread out and see if anything is amiss," Kalis suggested, and those who had not already done so, split in all directions.

Trouble was not hard to find, but it wasn't what anyone had expected! Not orc nor dragon nor undead disturbed Jhelom, but men and women! Bandits, streaming in from the southern docks, attacking everyone in sight. They had neither size nor magic to use against the Royal Guard, but their blades and sheer numbers took their toll on Britannia's heroes.

The battle was long and furious, but Jhelom's saviours were hardened veterans, and slayed the invading force down to the last man and woman.

In the aftermath, there were questions but no answers to be had. Where had they come from? Why attack Jhelom? Was this the start of something larger? Were these pirates related to the other trouble across the land?

Kalis, after dwelling on these very questions, concluded that a good place to look for information about bandits -- nay, pirates -- would be the only place their kind frequents when on land. A tavern. The Horse's Head tavern was a short walk from the docks, and everyone filed in. A besotted man named Kerwin seemed to know something... well, he seemed to be talkative, anyway.

He patiently listened to everything people had to say, and answered each in turn. It was difficult to make out what he was getting at, or which question he was answering when, but it all came down to a waitress he knew in another tavern. One with cats. The wiser of those gathered reasoned that it must be the Cat's Lair in Britain, and soon that tavern was filled with amateur detectives, trying to find the next piece of the puzzle.

Laura, the waitress in question, was equally patient, and answered each question in turn. She mentioned a Baron Lenshire that lived in Jhelom an old soldier and friend of Lord Blackthorn himself. She then mentioned the name Frederick amongst all the questions, and I took that to be the Baron's name. As there seemed to be nothing else forthcoming, I zoomed off to Jhelom to find this Baron.

My search was unsuccessful, though I did see more evidence of the pirates' damage, as some of the farmhouses on the north island of Jhelom were ablaze. Others started to search the books of the Lycaeum -- mentioned by Kerwin -- for any clues. This Frederick, as Laura told, was always into books, and it was from that clue that the Royal Guard finally found Frederick at the Haven Public Library.

I wasn't present when the others spoke to Frederick, but I have no doubt he was just as rude to them as he was to me. He certainly did not like being taken from his reading, but we needed to know about this invasion! After a while, Frederick mentioned an old friend of Baron Lanshire's named Wilfred DeFransico, who lived the dangerous life, and hunted the undead for a living. The search was on!

By this time, many of Britannia's heroes had since retired to their homes and inns, for the evening had been a long one. Still, some few remained, sitting in a "chat room" and discussing what they had found out. Where would someone who hunted the undead be found? I had checked all the cemeteries, and had peeked my head into the dungeon Deceit, but couldn't find this Wilfred. Someone, half in jest, mentioned the forbidding dungeon Khaldun, found only on the Felucca facet. And wouldn't you know it -- there was Wilfred!

Wilfred was certainly more friendly than Frederick, and in no time he mentioned a friend of his, an orc of all things, that had recently been thrown overboard from a ship! The mention of a ship certainly got my attention. The orc also had a hatred for someone named Sar, which my escort, the powerful elf Lady Klotera, supposed could be their own guildmaster, Sarlock Longbow. But what if it wasn't? Who should we seek, this orc, Bublak, or this Sar fellow?

With this knowledge in hand, many of the tireless heroes had set sail across the Britannia, looking along every island and beach for any evidence of a waterlogged orc. Hours went by, and the trail seemed to be growing cold. It had been ten Britannian days -- almost a whole Earth day -- since the Jhelom invasion, and there was no sign of this Bublak character. Had he drowned? Wilfred had said "...good thing he does not wear much armour". That told me that there was a chance he might live.

It is at this point that this tale becomes weird. With all those on the side of good and virtue trying to help, I would never have expected someone from ... other walks of life, to help out. But that is exactly what happened, for Bublak was finally found, not by one of the Royal Guard, but by one of the most notorious figures in Britannia - Leeloo of the Fallen Lords. A known murderess, she is rightly feared throughout the lands, having ranked impressively in the recent duels at the Laughing Skull Tavern. Through secret channels, she let it be known that Bublak could be found in the Lighthouse in the Lost Lands of Felucca. I do not know why she knew of the search, or why she let us know. Does she have some good in her? Or perhaps it was revenge for not being invited to help with the first raid.

Bublak was friendly for an orc, and once I made sense of his accent, was able to get some information from him. Other had visited him before me, of course, but I wanted to here things for myself, in case a vital clue was missed. Eventually the talk with Bublak got onto the topic of armor, and how he "lubs ledder" - loves leather. The humans that threw him overboard -- those that we all suspected were the invaders of Jhelom -- all wore this leather, and Bublak knew the name of the maker; Christine. The search was on!

The handful of stalwart heroes, those who had taken little rest since the invasion, spread out across Britannia in search of Christine the tanner. Alan Quartermane eventually found her in the basement of the Tanner's Shop in Vesper. This Christine turned out to be a difficult woman, friendly enough if you wanted to buy product from her, but tight-lipped for information. Even when told of the importance of our task, she wouldn't help. In the end, she would only speak if we got her some rare or exotic supplies, and suggested we look in Delucia.

Alan Quartermane and I spurred our horses and were off to Delucia in a flash. After visiting the local shops, we eventually found a shepherd outside of town by the name of Bella. She was kind, a bit simple, but firm on not selling her bulls to us. She suggested we speak to her brother, Richard, a rich merchant in Britain's Jewel of the Realm.

Magincia was the first thing to come to mind, though my lore of Britannia is not what it should be. Quartermane and I both went there, and the others, upon hearing the latest news, tried other towns in Britannia. Failing to find Richard at the tailor shop in Magincia, I figured I must have been mistaken about the "Jewel of the Realm". Informing the others that Magincia was a bust, I went to Britain, the capital, to check there.

I'm embarassed to say that a short while later, SmokeSerpent, one of our detective group, made me look the fool as he found Richard in Magincia after all, not in the tailor shop, but in the Merchants' Guild! Bella did say merchant...

Richard was the most helpful, asking only that we help him determine the new thief guildmaster's name in Buccaneer's Den, for he's always needing contacts. Again, Alan Quartermane comes through, and finds Otan the guildmaster in Felucca.

Upon telling Richard the news, he tells us of some dragon leather he has. Not the regular kind that enterprising hunters have been gathering from Skara Brae and Trinsic of late, but special ethereal leather. This would certainly be good enough for that Christine!

And it was. Christine gave up the coordinates of the drop off she made for her previous "clients", who we all suspected to be the invaders of Jhelom. "Head to 92 6 N 141 57 E and say 'shinies'", she told our small group. And so we did. We spread out, unsure which facet these coordinates belonged to, but at none of the locations did the passphrase work. Had Christine lied to us? Was the information too old?

No, the timing had to be right, is all. Whether by alignment of the moons or something else, it was unknown, but we were assured that when the time was right, the call would once again come for the Royal Guard of Britannia. It is because of them that Jhelom is still free, and with extra credit to Alan Quartermane, SmokeSerpent, Asmodi, Varug, and yes, even Leeloo, for helping to track down the clues to bring us that much closer to our enemies.

-- Crwth