There were a dozen or so routes to Faerun, but Marty had put out his casting call in Waterdeep too – so that was the route he took. It would mean a fourteen-hundred mile walk to Barrataur. That really would be a bit much – and he didn’t want to take quite that much time out either. Wait! Waterdeep was overrun with Wizards; if he had one transport everyone to the edge of the forest, it would only be about a hundred and forty miles – and easy weeks travel, which was about what seemed appropriate.
Hm. Kelian could handle calls and such while he was out, Amsian could look after the runners-up, and Turvin could come along to help out with Elera, Minel, and the eight new girls. Between his own skills and having eleven Thralls along – even if most of them were riding in his pockets – he wasn’t likely to run into anything he couldn’t handle. He had Turvin stick to human form as a servant, but kept the others in ferret-form and to himself. Better to keep his resources – and private harem – a secret for now.
While his Thralls were collecting supplies and things he wrote a meticulous report (pretty much his first such effort) home… No doubt Gelman had already reported, and this could be a career ender back home. Mr Leland often played a bit fast and loose with the rules, but a mass child-slaving operation was probably a bit over the top.
If that was the case, he wanted his boss to know everything he needed to know to make a good decision in that case. He had to wonder if he was being affected by the more orderly realms… He’d never thought of any of this back home!
He needn’t have worried quite so much; Mr Leland did indeed see the enormity of the screwup – but he was also pretty used to subordinates exceeding their authority and making disastrous deals.
(Leland) “Hmm, this is a major screwup, but it’s not going to affect the main branch. And those two have been going at it since I hired Marty. I’ll let Marty fester for a bit. This will be a learning experience… and maybe keep him out of poor Gelman’s remaining hair. Now who’s a good baby possum? Yes you are!”
The Waterdeep applicants were a very mixed bag; a couple of other elven bardic types, five elven rogues (including at least two that Marty would bet ten-to-one were spies), and three young elves who were looking into possible apprenticeships (and who mostly seemed to be assuming that “open-minded” meant “willing to visit a Drow city),
Marty really wasn’t that interested in sex at the moment – for the first time in his adult life, Marty didn’t really feel like chasing girls (although, if one was game, he’d certainly go with it). It looked like… One of the Bards was interested in Romance (albeit with a female), one of the almost-certainly-spies gave the impression of being approachable (but her mind was heavily shielded; she might just be interested in a cover), and two of the apprenticeship-seekers certainly were.
Well, he could hardly blame the surface elves for wanting to keep an eye on a group of drow that were moving back to the surface and using unheard-of magics.
Marty took along the three apprenticeship-seekers and settled for teaching them way of the bard on the road, without even making any major effort to seduce them beyond basic friendliness.
It happened with one of them anyway, mostly thanks to Marty’s enhanced charisma, strong social skills (at least in his bardic ID), and due to Turvin cheerfully aiding and abetting matters, (he thought that Marty could use the diversion).
It did cheer Marty up a bit.
The teleport went smoothly enough, even if a pesky griffin promptly popped up to make a pest of itself on the far end.
On the road, they had a patrol that wanted to grill them for news, a few fey who insisted on them playing music for them all night but seemed to see them as semi-colleagues, and a group of “mysteriously flammable” (thanks to massed Thrall-witchcraft) bandits – of whom they captured six.
They handed the bandits over to the authorities at the next settlement. After all, they were bandits. Presumably they were dead no matter who they gave them to – unless they gave them to the Fey or to Thay, both of which were arguably fates worse than death.
Tavril did talk two of them into participating in the Witchcraft Spirit Pact ritual, which would link their spirits to Kadia. They were young enough to be possible recruits and bandits in Faerun had a short life expectancy anyway; it was pretty much exclusively a disposal system for the young, stupid, and desperate. After all, the smaller the group of travelers you ambushed, the more LIKELY it was that they’d include an adventurer who’d kill you.
Besides, Kadia was underpopulated and was at least as nice as any afterlife that lawful evil bandits could expect in Faerun.
Not too eventful – but then they were sticking to the roads. The forest was dark and had some menacing monsters, but normal people could travel there – and they were anything but normal.
Barrataur was more than a bit odd… They were still getting the hang of “weather” and “day and night”. There wasn’t much actual confusion – but they didn’t yet have much real experience in designing buildings to handle varying surface conditions. They had some advisors – but there were still a lot of problems with heating, cooling, tight roofs, and wind damage. They were learning, but they’d had to hire some local architects – and the traditionalists kept wanting totally impractical designs. At the moment, it was a tangle of Underdark-style buildings, plain cottages, and quarter-finished larger structures with people arguing over the plans – mostly with phrases like “you’re not in the Underdark now!” and “That design was good enough for ten generations of (elven) ancestors!”.
The traditionalists were fine with getting wet and being cold indoors? Well, they were elven traditionalists… And Marty had thought that getting old humans to change was a fuss.
It wasn’t like he was an architect – although the Thralls could probably boost either himself of themselves enough to handle some basic advice.
Even with the bustle, debates, and chaos, it wasn’t long before he was noticed – so he went ahead and formally announced his arrival.
They definitely remembered him – and the reception was pretty varied. Some of them wanted to know if Kevin was coming too, a few seemed downright hostile, a few more than a bit nervous – it seemed that he had was rumored to have many mysterious powers of his own – others wanted to make business deals, and at least one noblewoman wanted to talk with him urgently.
Well, it was easy enough to tell them that Kevin was busy elsewhere. The hostile ones were a bit more troublesome; it seemed that they were mostly of the opinion that it would have been better to stay in the Underdark, even if it meant being wiped out, than to flee to the desolate surface. A couple of the women in that group seem really angry – widows? perhaps women from the party? – and those had minds that were well-enough shielded to keep out the Thralls… Hm. Probably not widows or partygoers, it seemed that a lot of them had never been formally married anyway and most of that group were too old. Noblewomen who’d lost power? They did seem to form a pretty tight clique, like they were members of some secret club.
Oh well, probably some local thing – although he would have to try and look up the women who might be carrying his kids. If only he hadn’t been so drunk at that party… There had been what, seven? eight? nine? It was almost four months ago now.
Still a strong market for healing magic from what the local office had to say. Come to think of it, there were a number of minor injuries and such around; evidently they were short enough on healing to be reserving it for the major injuries. It might be a good idea to bring in a few priests if they could find some local priests who would work with the Dark Elves.
How were things going on the religious front?
It looked like… the new colony had successfully chased most of the Lloth-worshiping Drow out of the area, and was considering an attempt at exploiting (or even reviving – if they could obtain Kevin’s assistance) Myth Drannor. The local followers of Vhaeraun were apparently more-or-less willing to join the effort; the people of Barrataur both outnumbered them heavily and had actually managed to obtain support from the surface-dwellers. The Priestesses of Elistraee were claiming that they’d seen signs of her return, there were a few priests from the rest of the elven pantheon trying to win converts, there were rumors that Lloth still had a secret cult operating in the city, and there were still several minor cults operating – although most of those were highly illegal, like the Cult of the Elder Eye.
In fact, they were going to be impaling a few such cultists that evening.
Ah, Drow justice.
The rest of the Elves were apparently trying to persuade them that there were better ways, but the Dark Elves had already softened things a lot; death by impalement was much nicer than the traditional slow-torture-before-being-hauled-into-hell-by-a-summoned-demon penalty.
The business proposals weren’t to surprising… The Dark Elves still had plenty of treasure (the underdark was rich in precious metals, gems, and similar resources), as well as lots of spare weapons and thousands of (unensouled) Drow slaves left over from the attacking armies from a few months back. They needed building supplies, more food, scouts who knew the area better, healing and magical gear and were a long way from any major markets. The local Amarant Solutions office only had three Thralls, although there were a few more helping defend the fortified remains of the old city, and – between the recruiting, healing, magical services, and information-collecting, could only run the occasional cross-manifold caravan.
Marty had a few more Thralls assigned to the office – Kevin was recruiting quite a few new ones back in Kadia – set up some deals, and stepped up the caravan schedule, focusing on food and on building supplies to start with.
Unfortunately, spending a few days in town meant attending the executions – as little has he wanted to, it was a more-or-less mandatory public event. Four impalements; two middle-aged and tolerably prosperous shopkeeper-followers of the Elder Eye and a noble kid and his servant boy who apparently belonged to some unspecified cult that blasphemed against Elistraee.
Marty had to consider what to do. He HATED seeing kids being abused or executed – especially in worlds where that was actually permanent.