“She walks across a garden full of snow,
In this garden, wild roses grow.
The roses are not red, pink or champagne,
They don’t need sunlight, and they don’t need rain.”
“They show no sign of life, but they are not dead,
Ice covers their delightfully rose-shaped head.
The girl walks ahead, looking at the ground,
The snow makes a peaceful and flowing sound.”
“She looks at the roses, sees her face in return,
She looks at a face, teared up and concerned.
She looks away, from the mirror roses,
As if looking at it, would somehow expose it.”
“She walks along the path between the trees,
She folds her arms, as she starts to freeze.
She stops because she can hardly move no more,
Snow covers her dress, forming a beautiful decor.”
“She can’t shut her eyes, all she sees is a rose,
She sees everything, all that no one knows.
Her mirror image shows a tear on her cheek,
Down her pale skin, it shows she is weak.”
“The tear never reaches the ground, it freezes on the way,
The girl sees the world fade, as everything goes gray.
Now, she stands there, in a garden full of snow,
As a fountain of everlasting beauty, where the ice roses grow.”
Synopsis : A tale in which the adventurers spend some personal time, while Ricochet and Sprout spend time together in close quarters spying on Master Daemon Tarrasque’s operations and personal manor. Eventually, spying a strange, lonely figure in the Manor’s gardens, the pair discover that it is a beautiful young woman, before retreating and sharing their experiences with the group.
16th of Echos, TR 1049 : Green Forest Inn, Thornkeep : Following the events in the previous night’s moot at Caer Dragonscorn, the adventurers awaken at the town’s best inn, where they had spent the night. Over warm honeyed oatmeal, they discussed the situation, and decided to spend a few days in town pursuing some personal tasks.
Ricochet and Sprout agree to spend some days examining the comings and goings at Thornkeep Mercantile, Master Daemon Tarrasque’s merchant compound. They spend the day securing supplies, including a “smolder pot”, essentially a crockery filled with charcoal and wool, that will generate heat for days, but not give any real smoke or other noticeable identification of their whereabouts. Food would be cider that could be warmed in proximity to the smolder pot, and a couplke sacks of jerked meat. They spend the rest of the day looking for a good spot to hide, high enough up the western slope of Brokenhelm Hill to keep an eye on the compound, but good enough to keep their presence unknown.
17th of Echos : In the early morning hours, before the sun arose, Ric and Sprout slipped into a crevice they had located near the entrance to the Accursed Halls, and climbing into place, settled in for a cold and uncomfortable three days. They noticed that the compound was quiet throughout the night, with only a small extension attached to the main shop showing light and movement.
In the morning, several hours before dawn, people began hauling water to the stables and the shop really began to light up, with staff moving some goods from the storehouse to the shop. About an hour after dawn, Master Tarrasque arrived in a small carriage with a couple guards, and he spent most of the day in the main shop, with only a short trip to Green Forest Inn for lunch. Customers tended to be those seeking equipment, rather than provisions, and most of his customers were the northern small farmers and hunters, seeking “hard goods” such as ironmongery, pots, and what adventurers might seek to buy. About an hour before dusk, he left the shop in his carriage, returning once more to his home at Tarrasque Manor.
18th-19th of Echos : While the rest continued their personal tasks, Sprout and Ric observed that while Master Tarrasque didn’t return on the 18th, he did on the 19th. They had hoped to see something in the way of night-time activity that could be suspect, but there was nothing that smelled of smugglers, thieves or other wrong-doing. The staff of the mercantile seemed very normal.
Late in the night of the 19th, the two cold to the bone adventurers returned to Green Forest Inn, ordering warm baths, and a hot, meaty meal of roast fowl. They quietly conferred with their companions what they had observed, and speculated on what might lie in the cellars.
20th of Echos : Ric and Sprout took a long break, heading to the castle after a late start. They managed to meet with Lady Ivis Blackshield and her maid Larista, and after apologizing profusely for “forgetting” to swear fealty in open court to Baroness Neria Blackshield, due to the events regarding the hag Adelinda. Lady Ivis claimed the hag would be held until tried at the next moot, when the adventurers might better show their intentions to the local community… They agreed, referring to themselves as “The Green Daggers” for the first time. Also, Vesina’s presence was welcomed at court whenever she might choose to attend at her liesure, with Lady Ivis hinting that her daughter needed more women of substance her own age to associate with. Lady Ivis also returned “Lady Anisa’s Journal” to the adventurers, having studied it at length.
The pair requested a visit with the hag in the prisons, which Lady Ivis granted, handing her signet ring over to give them access. They slipped out, making tehir way to the Old Bailey, and followed the route they were familiar with, leading them into the dungeons below the Bailey, where they found a single guard, the several prisoners of Bailiff Setrew’s cult, and a screaming, spitting green hag in the far corner. She swiftly changed to appear as the innocent little Adelinda the group were familiar with, but noted that despite the change, her gag remained tightly bound and Sprout noticed her manacles shimmered and refused to be removable despite the change in her size.
The adventurers were unimpressed with her activities, however, and even when she changed shape into a semblance of Kahli, which Sprout copied as well with some difficulty. After discussing the situation with the guard, they learned that any execution would likely be conducted by Ser Kranstin Shearwater, and the hag’s fate was ultimately the responsibility of the Baroness. The pair then returned to teh Great Tower, and returning the signet ring to Maid Larista, who had remained behind for that purpose, they left for the inn.
Noting that his consort might need some better clothes, Ric went shopping for dresses with Vesina, informing her to take advantage of the opportunity, as he and Sprout would be gone for another few days. He and Sprout gathered another selection of supplies, smolder pot and jerky for a three-day scouting mission of Tarrasque Manor.
Later that night, the pair left their rooms at the inn, and made their way north to Tarrasque Manor, finding the place larger than they were led to believe. They settled into a spot where they could observe the compound from a nearby tree, but far enough away to give them some isolation.
21st-23rd of Echos : While Sweet continued in her athletics studies, Scales began in on mastering a new book, “Waking Dreams of a Starless Sky, Or On Aspects of Astral Dreamers”, though its writing in Gith made such a study, a difficult proposition.
Ric and Sprout found the stay in the wilds easier in many ways, with an ability to move about. Observation of the compound identified that in addition to a small guard and servant’s area, the compound included a kennel for a pack of Mastiffs who had the free reign of the place at night, a coop for chickens, a carriage and small stable for a pair of horses. The western portion of the compound was a large garden, with several tall trees and what seemed to be a maze of shrubs and rocks.
The manor itself was massive, easily as large as the master merchant’s compound in town. There were perhaps a dozen guards who patrolled the 12’-tall stone walls on a regular basis, and perhaps a half-dozen servants. Activity at the manor was mostly during the leave-taking and return of Master Tarrasque, around the dawn and dusk of each day. There was little other activity about the manor, though one oddity stood-out; soon after the master left each morning, a lone, heavily-cloaked figure would move about the gardens each day.
Intrigued, they noticed that the guards never left the compound, but they were dedicated to performing regular patrols despite the snow and winds. Nonetheless, on the early morning of the 23rd, Ric was determined to identify the lone figure in the gardens. Using the departure of Master Tarrasque as a good diversion, he headed to the walls, with Sprout on look-out duty, and attempted to scale the slippery, ice-covered walls. After several tense seconds, he finally found a purchase and scampered over the stone walls to drop into the gardens with a silent “thump”.
Taking a place in the bushes near the north-west tree, Ric hunkered down for some time, listening to the guards move about the wall. Eventually, he heard the tell-tale sweep of cloak and gown on the stone path of the garden, and noticed the guard hailed the unknown figure as “Morning Ma’am!”. After a quick exchange of pleasantries with a feminine-sounding voice, the guard moved on. Ric heard a sound of someone brushing stone of snow, and moved forward to see. He stumbled upon a life-sized graven stone statue of a gargoyle and right into the sight of possibly the most heavenly young woman he had ever seen; The Ice Rose.
Dressed in a warm gown and with a heavy wolf-fur cloak, she looked startled as she stared at Ric, and asked him “How did you get here?”, with a little fear in her eyes. He responded “I seem to have gotten a little lost…”, and quickly bolted back out the way he came. From behind him, he heard her call out “.. please, don’t go…”, as he vaulted into the tree and jumped out over the walls to drop outside the compound. A horn went off behind him and guards began to crowd the walls, as Ric ran one way and Sprout ran the other. The pair quickly made their ways through the forest and eventually found their way to Thornkeep, returning to the inn and another warm bath and hot meal.
That night, they related what they had learned, commenting on the sheer opulence of Master Tarrasque’s home; it was increasingly obvious he had a great deal of wealth before he came to the town, and that he was more like a wealthy man hiding, rather than a master thief trying to amass a fortune. This bore extra thought. The group also reflected on the fact that there were a handful of books originally found among the “treasures” of the dead wizard Elzid; books that seemed to match in a remarkable fashion, the topics related to the powers and interests of Blackmaw herself. Perhaps these books had more of value than seemed apparent…