Rise of the Runelords

A campaign for the Pathfinder roleplaying game.


Family Ties

Toilday, 18th Neth — Sandpoint, The Rusty Dragon

Thia took a sip from her mug, and pondered for a moment on all that Shalelu had told her.

"There's something you're not telling me," she began, frowning slightly. "The goblin tribes are weakened and fractured, sure, but that won't last forever - sooner or later they'll stop squabbling, and their attention will turn back to raiding the farmlands. You've been protecting Sandpoint for years, and it's hard to imagine you'd leave - even temporarily - without very good reason. What's going on? Why do you want to come to Turtleback Ferry with us, of all places?"

Shalelu lowered her eyes for a moment, then looked back up at Thia. She seemed to be wrestling with something, but after a few seconds she reached a decision. Leaning forward, she uttered a single hushed word - a name that very few in Sandpoint would even recognise, but of whose significance Thia was well aware.


Thia was taken aback. Whatever she'd expected, this wasn't it. Realising how personal this was, Thia leant in closer and similarly lowered her voice.

"Your stepfather?", Thia asked quietly, puzzled.

"They never married, but yes," affirmed Shalelu. "My mother's lover. I never fully understood what she saw in him, in truth, but I was just content to see her happy again."

"I thought you had no idea where he was," said Thia. "You said he just left Crying Leaf without a word. What makes you think he's in Turtleback?"

"Not Turtleback - Fort Rannick. I overheard some travellers on the road a couple of days ago, about ten miles south-east of here. They were discussing how strange it was for the Black Arrows to have been out of contact this long. Several names were mentioned, and one of them was Jakardros."

"Are you certain it's him?" asked Thia.

"Not certain, no," Shalelu confessed. "It's an uncommon name, though, so there seems a reasonable chance that it's him. I've spent the past couple of days talking it over with Ameiko, trying to decide whether to follow up on it. When you and your companions returned and revealed that you'd been contracted to investigate the Fort's silence, my path felt clear.

"And if it is him? What then?"

"I'm not even sure yet," admitted Shalelu. "First and foremost, I need answers. I need to know why he left so immediately - he didn't even stay for her funeral." Shalelu paused for a moment, pained, and glanced away. "Did my mother and I really mean that little to him? He couldn't even say goodbye - to either of us."

There was an anger and bitterness in Shalelu's voice that Thia had not heard before. Thia's history had many parallels with Shalelu's, but the wordless departure of Jakardros had provided an extra devastating element. When her own mother died, Thia had discovered that friends were not truly friends; Shalelu had instead discovered that family was not truly family. Thia was convinced that this was largely responsible for the way Shalelu kept herself distant from Sandpoint - protecting the town, visiting, even forming a small handful of close friendships, but never settling, never staying for long. Decades later, the impact of the betrayal had lessened little. Thia had done what she could to leave the events of her own past in Crying Leaf behind her, but it was clear that Shalelu's history there still weighed heavily on her, despite the passage of time. Thia's heart ached for her friend.

Impulsively, Thia reached out and wrapped Shalelu's hand in her own. Surprised, Shalelu's eyes turned back to meet Thia's again.

"If it's answers you seek," stated Thia firmly, "I'll do what I can to help you find them. Whether they're to be found at Fort Rannick, or elsewhere."

Shalelu studied Thia's face for a moment, and then smiled. "Thank you, Thia," she said, the bitterness in her voice having fallen away. "That means a lot."

Thia frowned slightly as another thought occurred to her.

"Shal... I don't want to assume the worst," began Thia, "but we need to remember what's caused us to be sent to Turtleback in the first place. Whatever fate has befallen Fort Rannick, it must be serious for it to have rendered the Black Arrows silent. Even if we do find Jakardros, we have to accept that there's a possibility he'll be in no position to provide you with any answers."

"The thought had already occurred to me," admitted Shalelu. "It may well indeed be that my last opportunity for answers has already passed. If there's a chance, though, I need to take it while I can. This is the first hint I've had to his whereabouts since he left Crying Leaf. If it is him, and he is still alive, he may not stay at Rannick forever. If some disaster has befallen the Order, he may simply leave once more - and I may never pick up his trail again."

"I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss our tracking skills, nor Nyx's nose," said Thia. "We'll not give him an easy time if his intention is indeed to leave."

Shalelu gave a weak smile at that, but Thia understood her doubts. If Jakardros were to flee, it was quite possible he'd already have done so - and the Fort was a good week's travel from here. Jakardros would have a substantial headstart, and tracking him down again could well be beyond them.