They left New Cyre with rare hope. A lucky few willing and able survivors have a chance to work new land. The town of Cat's Cradle would welcome them. So, they begged or bought oxen and mules, they repaired some wagons and handcarts, they packed their meagre belongings, and they walked out of the remains of the past.
After three long days north on the good caravan road, they reached the outskirts of Starilaksur with no trouble. That day, an armed band of unknown loyalty rode past, smaller but clearly more dangerous than the refugees. If they were bandits, they didn't think the caravan worth the effort to rob. They pitched camp outside the gates, next to a stream dwindling in late spring. William's orders were clear - to pick up some donated supplies and move on as soon as possible. This city had no need of extra hands - and no great love of Cyrans.
Starilaskur had been good to Lisker. The city had ample opportunities for a man of his rough skills, even a few legitimate odd jobs, but it was time to move on. Lisker hadn't even done anything recently, but that silver evangelist picked him out anyway. He kept talking about his hands - he'd surely seen them. The Mark stirred and Lisker ran.
The next morning one of his fellow 'beggars' in the flophouse tipped him off. That cleric was asking about him, and had well-armed friends. Time to make himself scarce. Later that day, Lisker spotted another street-dweller leading three evangelists to one of his frequent hideouts. They were spreading coin around too. A few of the street people had seen the Mark in action. Not something they would likely keep to themselves. He knew enough about the Silver Flame that they wouldn't be gentle if they suspected evil. He headed for the west gate, tucking hands inside his ragged cloak.
He was almost too late. Two big Inquisitors were watching the gate already and Lisker prepared for a fight. His arms itched and crawled as he tried to get into range of the two men without attracting attention. Then, finally, a lucky break.
Three ragged travelers were trying to gather up a small pile of foodstuffs, seed and sundries while a gruff-looking fighter with a mageforged arm was doing paperwork the gate guards. The travelers were foreign - Cyran, looked like, and weren't getting any help from the passers-by. He scooped up a sack of grain and mumbled something. He sweated a few long minutes, and then walked out the gate with the other travelers.
A few hundred yards later, Lisker laid down his load and the two young Cyrans turned and thanked him. Then the leader tapped him on the shoulder with that mechanical arm. "I'm William d'Deneith. Thanks for the help. Is there anything I can do for you?"
With what he hoped was a winning smile, Lisker replied "Place had gotten too small for me, hadn't it. Felt the touch o' the Traveller, so to speak. You folks seemed likely. Mind a bit o' company?"
Rune had been ministering to the swollen communities of New Cyre ever since leaving the Mournland. His kindness and devotion earned him welcome at any table in the camps (not eating anything didn't hurt either). The place is filled with despair. With so much lost and so many grieving, many who could work won't, and instead subsist on the Brelish dole. When a deal came through to relocate some refugees, the authorities asked Rune to help find likely candidates.
Rune found more than the score of able-bodied volunteers and families provided for, and petitioned for a larger group. The new representative, a human named William d'Deneith, was unyielding. The Crown provided only had a limited number of travel documents. Rune felt he should go with them, doing what he can for body and soul. It was the day before leaving when Ardnell, one of Rune's friends among the Cyrans, introduced him to a stranger in the camp. "This is Galinndan," he eyed the eladrin warily. "We've made an arrangement, and he'd like to escort us to Cat's Cradle, by your leave." Rune sized up the newcomer. A swordmage, probably mercenary, but with honest intentions toward Ardnell. Rune directed him to speak with William, and welcomed him to the caravan.
Thorn's village was in eastern Breland before the warband came. Maybe they were Cyran mercenaries, or maybe just humanoid marauders taking advantage of the chaos, but Thorn didn't care. When a Brelish patrol arrived from the fort Kennrun, he gladly joined up and took his revenge. After that, he was one of the King's men, fighting and learning as the Last War dragged on.
Then, suddenly, the Day of Mourning changed everything. The War was over, the great nation of Cyre to the east - destroyed utterly. The humanoids had their own country now - Dargunn. Thorn stayed on in the army for another year, he had nowhere to go now. As hostilities wound down, he finally found time to grieve naturally, and let go of his loss. His squad was sorry to see him go, but the war was over. He set out that spring, west and north, away from Dargunn and his old home.
Over open land, through quiet villages, Thorn didn't stay long. People were understandably leery of strangers, though kind enough if he were in need. After a few weeks' easy travel, he came to Starilaksur, the biggest city in the region. Outside the gates, just pulled off the main caravan road, was a collection of wagons, animals and hand-carts. He spied several children - siblings probably - out gathering wood, and got a foolish notion.
He slipped back into the brambles and came out with a double-armload of kindling and fuel. "Thanks m'lord!" said a little girl and she led him to where her mother was preparing the night's meal. The woman frowned at him and told him to wait. In a few minutes, a warforged came over to meet him. "I'm Rune, stranger. Where are you bound?
Thorn nods to the warforged.
I am Thorn and am heading for Cat's Cradle in the hopes of getting some good land to farm and start my life over. I mean you adn these others no harm.
Wash: "Yeah well, if she doesn't give us some extra flow from the engine room to offset the burn through, this landing is gonna get pretty interesting."
Mal: "Define interesting."
Wash: "Oh god oh god we're all gonna die?"
Mal: "This is the captain. We have a...little problem with our engine sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then...explode."
For two years now, Galinndan had been chasing the Fading Shadows. After false hopes and bad leads, he finally had tracked down the last orders the guild had received. He learned where they had been sent, but more importantly, why. They had an "acquisition objective" - i.e. stealing something the Karrns thought vital to the war effort. They were get it and bring it out of Cyre as fast as possible - maybe, if they were successful, they had made it out before the Mourning. It was a slim chance, but Galindann would take it.
More investigation led to Thrane, where they were to make contact, then on into eastern Breland. He talked to locals, veterans, and commanders in the area. Maybe something had diverted the Shadows, and they had to come east instead of north? Before he went into Dargunn, he found something tantalizing. A raw group of Cyran recruits had surrendered to the Brelish mere days before the Field of Ruins began. They reported a lightning strike of eladrin, more interested in speed than destroying them.
Galinndan tracked the captured Cyrans to the camp where they had been imprisoned, only to find them released and scattered. He had some names, though, and they had nowhere to go - except maybe New Cyre. In that dismal refugee camp, he found the one-time sergeant of that Cyran platoon, a human named Ardnell. A warforged priest calling himself Rune led him there, but only after evaluating his intentions.
Ardnell was sharper than most of the refugees - he'd avoided the draft for most of his life and thrived in Cyre. Now, he went on, he was starting over. New wife and adopted son, new nation: he was going to become a subject of Breland and move to a quiet little town. Galidann listened patiently, waiting for him to get to the point.
"I can tell you need something from me, and all I have is information. I'll strike a bargain with you: see me and my family safely to Cat's Cradle, and I'll share everything I know. Rune thinks you're a man of character, and that's good enough for me. If I steer you wrong, you know where I live and I'm sure to regret it. Fair enough?"
Before Galidann could consider too long, Ardnell spilled certain details. His platoon had fought eladrin warriors wearing similar colors at the end of the war. The Cyrans lost, badly, but the victorious fey didn't linger long enough to even loot the fallen. They were protective of some cargo they carried. What was it? Galidann cried.
"All I know - in Cat's Cradle," replied the Cyran.
Duke Rellant ir'Wynarn (seated in Starilaskur) contracted house Deneith's mercenary army to police New Cyre for excellent reasons. The Brelish armies are still under-strength and the Crown is trying to give the Cyrans some measure of self-governance. William's commander in New Cyre reports not to the Duke, but to Cyre's exile prince, even if the Duke's seneschal holds the purse-strings.
Keeping the peace in New Cyre was easy, even for a man like William, there was simply no fight left in any of them. When William heard that a group of refugees were leaving, he jumped at the chance for a change in scene. It would also take him away from his fellow war veterans and their staring eyes, looking at him as if he belonged in a nursery home despite the fact that his new metallic arm worked just fine. It took a few well-placed coins, but finally he was named "Representative of the Crown for Citizen Resettlement in Cat's Cradle." It took longer to say than to learn the job, thankfully. He would be responsible for the paperwork, could talk to the authorities along the route, and made sure they didn't revisit any bad feelings from the War. There had even been talk of a bonus, a letter of recommendation at the end and maybe some leave if everything went well.
The prince recommended a warforged, Rune, to find likely candidates. The golem supposedly had found religion and dedicated his life to the poor, something which managed to catch William's attention. He took it upon himself to inspect the warforged, and quickly agreed to bring him along to protect and strengthen the Cyran settlers. They had to be strong enough to make the journey and work when they arrived so they would be able to pay the Brelish tithes for living on their land. He was given a handful of travel documents to distribute to anyone willing to join. A tight fit, it turned out. All told, over two dozen men decided to join the caravan. There were a handful of war vets past their fighting days, a few sturdy graybeards, and a lot of young farmers - and their kids. William was granted a few swordhands in case of trouble, but William was not unpleased when no other Deneith Blademarks decided to come along.
The night before leaving, an eladrin named Galinndan joined the group at Rune's direction, reporting to be on some personal business. William wasn't going to turn down a skilled swordmage, whatever his background, so he quickly accepted the man into the group.
--- After three days of travel
William sized up the man who had helped carry the donated food out of the town. "Touch of the Traveller, eh? You won't likely find any adventure where we're going, lad." he said, hoping to get a better read on the fellow. With those old ragged clothes he looked less than harmful, but not very trustworthy either. Still, the man looked determined to go, and William was in a good mood so he might just give the man a chance. "I don't suppose you have any travel documents, do you? I need to see if I can provide you some, if you are really intent on joining us..." he let the sentence trail off, testing the man's resolve one last time. And even then he really did have to check if he had any documents left. They had been flying out of his hands faster than gold at a dice game.
Making a deliberate show of checking his various pockets, satchel, and pouches for travel documents it quickly becomes apparent he doesn't have, Lisker says after a moment "ah, musta misplaced somewhere. Lose me own head next, won't I. Tell you what, let me make meself useful around 'bout for a day or two. Things be to your liking, maybe we revisit the 'documents' question?"
With a bow he says "Name's Lisker. I can do most anything you need. Just ask!" He keeps his hands in motion, first with the searching, then tucking them in when he bows.
William hmm-ed when Lisker explained he must have misplaced them. Both of them knew the man did not own travel papers, but William chose to play along. He'd had enough of paperwork already, and he was certainly not in the mood to police the roads when he was not ordered to.
He extended his own hand for Lisker to grasp, keeping the metal one clasped behind his back. "William. I'm currently in charge of this here band of travellers. I'll have a look if I have any papers left, but until then I would not object to an extra helping hand, there's enough to be done. If I don't have any travel papers left we will just see how to proceed then, I am sure we could come up with another solution." William smiled, grateful for the offered help. Lisker's enthousiasm took away some of his wariness, but he still made a mental note to ask Rune to have someone keep an eye on the newcomer. "Welcome, son."
Lisker has a moment of apprehension when he sees William preparing to offer a hand. Not good. Not safe, more importantly. Holding up his hands instead of completing the gesture and showing their dark nature he says "Worked dyes at a tanner's. Should come off in a week or two. Wouldn't want to stain yer hand though sir." and he bows again. It's a practiced lie, told many times now. As long as no one pulled up his sleeves it should hold up pretty well. For awhile anyway.
Best not to stick around for questions though. William was already letting the papers slide, no need to push futher. His introductions made Lisker takes his leave to make himself busy any way he can.
The days of travel, had went by in a blur. People who could see his face noticed that there was a shocked or lost look to them. Having spent as much time as he could keeping himself either busy or out of way, even going so far as to use his natural skill to fade from view, to avoid the common questions. They were near here? Why? Why not return? Many a thought like that bothered him until he had enough.
It wasn't until thier next rest that he finally started to come out of it. With a dertermined effort he decided to track down Rune. Once doing so and with nary anyone else around he bows, making his apology. Sorry friend Rune, I must apologize for my behaviour the last while. My own business caught up to me faster than I thought and brought up questions that drove me mildy mad for a while there. I noticed that several others seemed to join in the work you spoke of. It might be rude to do so again, but I would like you to introduce me to the ones that I hadn't met as well as the few that I might have ignored. I do remember a human, a Deneith I believe but other than that I remember very little.