Cursed Son Saga Part Three – Diplomacy with Ducks
This took a while to sort out. I have 14 pages of notes. So much conversation. I've tried to distill it down.
Windsday, Harmony Week, Storm Season 1618
The morning after the feast, Bluebird finds Elara and tells her he has an assignment for her. He explains he has to leave and travel to Nochet to research the Eye of the Half-Bird given away to the Lunars. While gone he wants Elara to find out about the circlet Vestorfin wears as the man was rather close-mouthed about it. She is less than enthused. Annoyed, even. The library at Nochet is one of the few places in Dragon Pass she desires to go to. But after a small amount of complaining she agrees to the assignment and to remain.
During the day, the camp is still in a celebratory mood and people are coming up to Elmalric and congratulating him. He makes sure to talk up the others in his band whenever this happens. He notices at one point an older tradesman from Black Spear Village enter the chief’s tent. He leaves a short time later and appears to head right back home.
Wildday, Harmony Week, Storm Season 1618
Sarekt is finally released from the healer’s tent and Elmalric tells him what he needs is a goat patty. The others go along and soon are settled around a fire with a jug of wine and several goat patties courtesy of Valeeda. While the others snack, Elara excused herself and goes to find Hendrick Many Ransoms.
Inside his fancy tent, a miniature version of the chief’s in most ways, she asks him if he doesn’t want Elmalric to become chief because he thinks he will do poorly or because of his own ambition. Hendrick recites a well-done speech about what is good for the tribe. Elara tries to determine the truth of his words by listening as she focuses on her connection to her Truth Rune. No magic, just a good ear. She rolls a 12 out of 21 and determines he says this a lot without meaning it.
Elara reminds him she was sent by Anbrast to help his brother and if she determined helping Elmalric meant insuring he wasn’t chief she would do that. Hendrick said that was between her and her conscious. She bluntly accuses him of not providing the truth then. He accuses her of calling him a liar. Which she did. She apologizes and blurts a few scattered thoughts out as she leaves about how King Yalaring became King of Trilus.
The meeting did not go as she intended, but she rejoins the others and is offered one of the last goat patties she shares with Posey. After eating part of it she feels better and when she questions Posey the dog says the same. Suspicious, she saves the rest of the goat patty and has something to think on later. As they linger a young man wanders by, decently dressed and with a right arm made of iron and bronze with a red crystal inset in the wrist.
Jen, looking for a one-armed Lunar, asks where he is from and if he is from by the river where her family is from. He says he has been to the river, sure. But he makes it clear, when asked, how he does not associated or like Lunars.
He introduces himself as Koltic the Younger, who lost an arm to a walktapus and his uncle Koltic Giantslayer arranged for Piku to make him a new arm.
Elara is instantly entranced and asks if she can touch it right before grabbing it. The arm feels warm to the touch and he says it does what he wants it to do. Jen asks if it ever tried to kill someone. He says no, but says it does talk to him. Although not in words. More like feelings. Like sometimes it tells him he could do better. And once, when was sick and slept too close to the fire, it tore his tunic that had caught fire off him as he slept. He also tells him how sometimes he claims it is the arm making a rude gesture without his knowing. A secret they all agree to keep.
Sarekt asks about how the arm was attached and such, but Koltic says he does not remember as he slept for two days when it was being attached.
Elara as a lot of questions and asks if she can sketch the arm later. Her enthusiasm is a little off-putting. Assuring him she can find him later, because Posey can find anyone (he is not comforted by this) he makes his escape to go see Piku as he’d intended.
A house carl summons Elmalric and his friends to his father. Elara asks if that includes her and Elmalric says yes.
In the tent, Vestorfin says he needs Elmalric to go to Black Spear Village and handle a small problem. A second group of durulz have arrived and are loud and troublesome. Jex vouched for them as friends so they were allowed to stay. He has moved some of his and his crew’s family in as well. The new durulz, also from Quackford, claim the Lunars will be along any day now and they need to be ready.
Once Elmalric says they will leave the next day, he asks to speak to Vestorfin alone. He asks his father about when they will openly declare their rebellion. Vestorfin says they will wait as long as possible and he will be surprised if the “peace” lasts another year. He then says to either get the new durulz to settle down or chase them out.
While they are talking, Elara takes out her map of the camp and searches for anyone with Lunar sympathies or leanings. No surprise, she finds no one, but she has begun to work on the circlet problem.
Godday, Harmony Week, Storm Season, 1618
The party sets out for Black Spear Village. They take horses for the journey and it might have even saved a little time had Elara any skill in riding. Instead, someone led her horse as she carried Posey in her lap, unbothered by her lack of skill.
Upon arrival, they were greeted by Dorik, the headman of Black Spear Village. As they are met by him they hear a cacophony of sound from the river that is not singing, but a discordant quacking. Dorik says they sing from about now until the wee hours of the morning. The new durulz have also taken to overturning boats that come down the river, questioning with force the boatmen to be sure they are not Lunars or sympathizers. They let them go once determining they are not, but all their goods are at the bottom of the river now.
Dorik says he has five or six people from the fyrd ready to assist if the ducks need running off. But they were given hospitality. Before the group goes to face the newer durulz they go to see Squinch-eyed Jex, the smuggler who helped Elmalric and others get close to and out of Whitewall.
He says they are doing well, those of their family here feel safe even if another Duck Hunt were to come. They are pleased with what they have in their own small village cropping up near Black Spear Village. The others, he says, are not being socially responsible.
The leader of these new durulz is Gudrin Skulltaker. Her toughs are Spiritbrood and Hellfeeder and one other. The other half dozen or so have seen action, but not hardened. None of these new ducks understand the concept of others personal property and stay drunk all the time. Maybe if Gudrin had some sense put into her the others might fall in line.
But Jex says Spiritbrood and Hellfeeder are just assholes. He spends a moment being sure the humans understand the term, because he isn’t sure they have it. Then he says they all are sure war will be here tomorrow. Gudrin is not drunk, so again, maybe talk sense to her, but she’s not been receptive and has said a lot of bullshit, language being nuanced, he is sure they understand. Although he also says he is sure they do because they have cows.
Jex is disparaging of her. Says she thinks she is a big deal but doesn’t even have her own boat. He says if killing needs doing, his people are ready. Just whistle. From around his neck he pulls out a fingerbone whistle and asks if they have one. Elara says no and asks if she can have it. He hands over the human fingerbone whistle to her and she grins.
When they go to plan, Elara offers the idea of secret Lunar weapons and maybe they need to send Gudrin, who is clearly tougher than Jex, to investigate this in the Upland Marsh. Elmalric had the near same idea and they decided Jen will be the herald. Dorik gives them a few jugs of wine to take as well as a gift. Before they go, Elara casts a detect lies rune spell on herself. A 9 out of 21 is a success, and translucent Truth runes circle her head slowly.
Sober-looking ducks stand outside the encampment. They ask the humans’ business who say they are here with a message from Chief Vestorfin, born by his son Elmalric. They also hand over a jug of wine to the perimeter guard. He runs off and returns to give them passage to Gudrin.
Inside the tent, it is smokey and seated on a chair with corners made of mammoth tusks, is a female duck with pauldrons made of human skills and bearing a necklace of human jawbones. With her sword across her lap, the image delivered was one of a female durulz, Conan.
Standing by her is a scrawny duck with small red eyes and black plumage. He stands half behind her chair holding a rattle and wearing a headdress of bright feathers with bones on his necklace. On her other side is the largest durulz they’ve seen, as tall as a ten-year-old human! He is brown feathered and has the Storm run painted around one eye and the Movement rune around the other.
Seated before the throne is a third duck, drinking from a bowl of wine too big for him. The wine sloshes all over his clothes and feathers and on either side of him are two gleaming iron hand axes. He is filthy, covered in mud and grass with the Beast and Death runes painted on his chest.
When their business is demanded, Jen introduces herself as Jendinna Axe-Hunter who brings a proposal and gift of wine. The large brown duck, Malvern, takes the wine and nods amiably. The small, red-eyed duck leans forward and whispers something to Gudrin.
Thus begins the group’s attempt to pull one over on the ducks. Gudrin and the others say they have no need of gold. They only seek revenge. The red-eyed duck, Spiritbrood, often whispers to Gudrin. Elara detects no lies during the conversation. Spiritbrood clearly does and lets Gudrin know, although the characters do not know this.
Gudrin is sure the Lunars will come in force and destroy Orlanth’s temple and bring the god to his knees. She refuses to leave, knowing the fight is here and saying, despite what humans think, all ducks do not belong in the Upland Marsh. She also says, Spiritbrood tells her they wish to be rid of her and her band even though she wants to swear allegiance. When things are at an impasse, Elmalric asks to speak to Gudrin alone. Everyone leaves and they speak plainly.
She says she will get her ducks in line and swear allegiance to Vestorfin and the Anmangarn. She also agrees to move further into the Colymar Wilds, nearby for fighting, but not staying with the humans. The duck leader says her people are weary from fighting constantly and took advantage of lax discipline. Elmalric apologizes for not being honest from the get go and tells him he should consider that next time.
While the leaders converse, Elara goes to speak to Hellfeeder, the filthy duck who pretended to be drunk inside. It is easy to figure out once close enough that he smells of wine but does not look as if he has imbibed. He whistles through his nostrils in a terrible way, but she settles near him and calls him Storm Bull. He replies with a Lhankor Mhy, saying he recognized the beard. She points out it is one of her best, worn to honor Gudrin. Elara shows off her bone whistle and they speak of his off-putting behavior done on purpose. He also remarks her dog looks tasty and she says Posey is not for eating. If he wants to try with someone else’s dog, that is on them, but if he hurts her dog, she’ll kill him. He also mentions during the conversation how they had 2 more ducks before, but they were causing problems, so he killed them. From 8 to 6, he says makes no never mind.
Jen and Sarekt speak to the large brown duck, Malvern. He tells them Gudrin is small for her kind, but formidable. Her pauldrons, he explains, were taken from a Lunar Captain and a Lunar Magician. He does not remember which is which, but Gudrin knows their names.
Jen remarks about how formidable Gudrin and the others are. Malvern says they are lucky not to fight, although if that were to come, the humans wouldn’t know before their leader was dead and they were in trouble.
Just then the tent flap opens. Gudrin calls the others and tells them camp discipline is on and if there’s trouble they will answer to her. And no more drinking. They grumble, but all begin to pack up when she says they will be moving further into the Wilds.
Jex and his people are dancing about in their own camp, excited about the potential fight. Elara raises her whistle to her lips where he can see but drops it before blowing. Jex and his people settle down. He says he is glad, and he knew Gudrin was a smart lass.
Dorik is found and he asks if the fyrd is needed. Elmalric tells him no and explains the outcome. The headman agrees to send the scouts Gudrin asked for to see the durulz settled somewhere nearby. He tells Elmalric he is as wise as his father and Elmalric says he simply got lucky.
The group spend the night at Black Spear Village to return to the chief’s camp the following morning.