Avaniel Cerelion, Jozan, and Kaspar Ottokar returned to Northlight following their excursion into the goblin den with Saluhul Zephyrpaw. The men went about the business of selling their loot to vendors in the indoor market, and they sold back their ponies to the stables. Returning to the Steelsnout, Jozan informed Captain Jacob of the mass of new recruits that would be arriving soon to bolster their lacking crew. The captain seemed pleased with the performance, and he mentioned another influx of recruits, most likely those conscripted by Kaspar.
The captain mentioned a herald of Count Wells had come to search for the adventurers. The trio were somewhat confused by the sudden interest, and the captain assured them the herald would come later to speak with them. The group rested for a bit as the night was fully underway. Aldrazan sent word to the group that the herald had returned, and all three went to address the herald.
The herald was a peculiar man flanked by a pair of guards. The man wore a form fitting suit patterned in black and white. The courtier’s outfit alternated the contrasting colors at seemingly every fold, creating both a playful and sophisticated look. It was the mask of the man that garnered the trio’s focus though. The charcoal colored mask was smooth and shined like a porcelain pot. The design was that of a bald man with a stern, furrowed brow and long, curled mustache. The mask was highlighted in deeper blacks of ebony that showed the detail of the face.
The person approached and addressed them directly by name, introducing himself as Herald Chris Abaun, servant of Count Harlan Wells. Jozan asked how the Count knew of them, which brought about a rather rough, mechanical, labored laughter from the herald. In a struggling deep voice that would continue throughout the affair, the herald explained that the Count had been made aware of your deeds via messenger from Faldrin. He had also heard of some of their exploits in Ailead apparently. The Count requested their presence at a masquerade ball he had been hosting every night since the Festival of Fools began. He wished to see the heroes of recent memory be rewarded for their efforts with some much needed celebration. The herald was sure the guests would be delighted to have Jozan and Avaniel regale them with tales of their adventures.
Jozan seemed confused about what a masquerade was. Chris Abaun explained it as a costumed party with a particular theme. This year, it was themed as a reversal of the sexes. Men and women would dress as opposites for the events. This was somewhat off putting to Avaniel, but he and Jozan become keenly interested when they discovered a variety of dignitaries, including Augustin Gonzalo, would be in attendance. Avaniel asked how they might reach the Count’s manor, and the herald worked out arrangements for them to be picked up at dusk the following day near the port district square by the Count’s private carriage.
Avaniel and Kaspar returned to their quarters to rest, and Jozan went to the captain to inform him of their plans. The captain granted the druid an extra day to handle his affairs with the count. Jozan thanked him and said he would speak on his behalf if he could. The captain seemed agreeable to the concept, if a bit skeptical. Jozan turned to leave, but the captain stopped him. He asked the druid if he could find some navigational stars that appeared to be missing. Jozan could indeed see the constellations the captain mentioned , but he could curiously not find the missing points of light either. Slight chills went through his spine as he settled in for the night as well.
The next day, the companions made their way to various places to prepare for the masquerade later. A midnight blue, sleeveless dress was bought by Jozan. A Lavender silk dress with teal accents would costume Avaniel, and Kaspar would adorn a wine colored, billowing dress. After purchasing masks, make up, and bathing, Kaspar suggested buying presents for the Count. Learning he was a fan of the arts, the group went to a dealer to find gifts. Jozan bought “Passing of an Age”, a painting of an aging dragon resting (or perhaps deceased) in his cavern. Avaniel bought “The Triumph of Perias”, a painting of a hero of children’s myth. Kaspar settled for something a bit different, as he picked up a music box, “The Muse of the Sea”. The pieces were left at the art dealer to hold until they were needed.
Returning to the Steelsnout, the group finished their costumes. Avaniel had great difficulty organizing his outfit, and he needed extra help to seem even remotely passable. The group donned jewelry, and Jozan decided to wear the emerald pendant retrieved from the drake’s cave outside Faldrin. Afterwards, the group traveled to the port square, where a carriage soon shot through a seemingly uninterested crowd unhindered.
The ivory, green and pink coach was drawn by a team of six black stallions. It seemed to stop far more abruptly than its speed would suggest, and the coach driver came down to greet the costumed adventurers. Confirming their identities, he allowed Avaniel and Kaspar to enter. Jozan seemed uneasy about the driver as he was covered head to toe in garments. Gloves covered the man’s hands, and a thick scarf and tall hat covered his head. Jozan asked the man to show himself, but the driver thus declined. He stated he was ordered by the Count to not reveal himself. Jozan asked if he had worked for Harlan Wells long. The driver responded that he had only just started his work for the count, and he would most likely not work for him again. Jozan seemed very wary about the curious driver, and he asked him once again to reveal himself.
“My coverings are a courtesy of the Count,” the driver said. “He felt it would be better if I remained as presentable as I am now. He does this only out of respect for your comfort, and I am bound by duty to not disobey his order.”
Jozan wearily boarded the carriage, and the transport moved. Looking outside the cabin window, The group noted the carriage moving at an astounding speed. Dreadlocks, costumes, and faces of the populace blurred by as the raced by seemingly unconcerned citizens, all of whom parted as through instinct. Jozan called out to the driver to stop at the art dealer to pick up their gifts.
At the dealer, the trio recovered their purchases and went outside. The driver offered to place them on the luggage rack, and the group approved. As the driver moved up to the head of the coach, Jozan attempted to sense magic about the man when his back was turned. He noted a magic all about the coach as though its very nature was not of this world.
“Forgive me, madame,” the driver spoke, startling the druid. “I had already informed you my identity was concealed by order of Count Harlan Wells. He had made this decision in order to put you at ease with my assignment to this post, and it is quite rude to question your host, let alone an aristocrat, regarding his methods. I have been as forthcoming as I can be. My lord only asks for your trust.”
Jozan stopped his investigation and apologized, stating he was only cautious given the challenges of the past few weeks. The driver politely acknowledged the sentiment, but stated that it was probably more appropriate to give the apology to the Count at a later time. The trio reentered the carriage, and once again it raced off toward the Count of Northlight’s manor as the dusk faded into night.