Shadows of the Rift

Rage and Raven: Beneath the Skin (Part One)
Part One

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16 Growth 508

Lenoria and Rhain are still in Crownport after their last adventure and, after putting out feelers in the adventuring community there, the two have recruited two new companions.

Taganarn Relicshine is a treasure-hunting Halfling with a loquacious and friendly disposition. Regna Stoneshard is a more taciturn dwarven Magus with a pock-marked face and a dour outlook on life.

The adventures come across a notice that Mistress Londra Walera of the University of Crownport is looking for adventurers. She is the head of the Department of Artifacts. That definitely piques Tag’s interest and the rest are willing to go along.

The four companions go to the University and are led to the Department of Artifacts. Mistress Walera’s office is not huge, but it is spacious enough to accommodate them all enough to discuss the matter at hand. They are also introduced to Mistress Walera’s assistant, Bothran Trevarran.

Mistress Walera begins by setting the stage for the task at hand:

Back in the days of the Acheran Empire, there was an outpost for the Acheran legions, a waystation for their marches north into what would become Leilior and Borael. However, the waystation faced fierce fighting from the Yulani tribes that lived on the lands taken over by the Acherans. In one final, desperate battle, Yulani tribesman overran the outpost and took the head of the leader—this despite the aid of a legendary horn he is said to have said to have possessed that would summon the aid of tribesmen of his own. The tribesmen, however, are said to have respected the leader of the Acheran garrison as a worthy opponent and entombed the body beneath the outpost.

The University wants this legendary horn. The outpost still stands, however, it is currently overrun with hobgoblins. This seems to pique Regna’s interest. For the sum of 500 platinum pieces, she wishes to hire a band of adventurers to retrieve the horn. Anything else the hobgoblins may have found, the party may do with as they see fit—though they should bear in mind that the University would be interested in purchasing any other magical artifacts that they find.

Mistress Walera also states that her assistant, Bothran will be accompanying them. This draws a scowl from Rhain. She explains that he will be able to identify any artifacts that they come across and will be able to smooth the way with the Yulanian border crossing that they will have to make to get to the outpost. He will also be carrying an ancient map they have of the outpost—at least the upper level. Bothran goes out of his way to assure the party that he can take care of himself and that it is not part of their bargain to take care of him, only the horn.

Rhain tells the rest of the party about his encounters with hobgoblins and what they are like. Lenoria asks if it is unusual to have hobgoblins in that area—it is not; it is only unusual to have them in that concentration and to have such a nice stronghold.

The party agrees to take on the mission. Mistress Walera reveals that the stronghold is 80 miles to the northeast in Yulania and gives them directions and landmarks to the stronghold. They decide that they will leave that very afternoon. But first they have to purchase horses. Bothran will meet them outside the University grounds with his gear and a horse.

Tag and Regna split a horse between the two of them and Tag names it Krystal. Rhain names his steed Spirit and Lenoria names hers Firebrand.

When they arrive at the University to pick up Bothran, they see that he has a loaner horse from the University and that he has donned new adventurer’s clothes. He does not wear armor and apparently his only weapon is a finely-wrought dagger at his belt. They all load up and head northeast out of the city.

Along the way, Tag burbles on about the Vale—apparently his Uncle Osric was a treasure-hunter as well. But other than that, the afternoon is uneventful and the company makes camp on the open plain.

As camp is being made, Tag notices that both Regna and Bothran are studying books. It turns out that Bothran is an illusionist, a specialist wizard. Tag finds this interesting, as does most of the rest of the party. This explains why the man eschews armor.

Bothran takes a guard shift along with everyone else and the night passes without incident.

17 Growth 508

As camp is being broke the next morning, much of the party seems to notice that there is something behind the façade of Bothran’s face. His true face is much more reptilian, serpentine, and definitely not human. Lenoria calls him out on it and, obviously surrounded by armed and suspicious adventurers, Bothran points at Rhain and calls out, “Kill your companions!”

And Rhain proceeds to attempt to do just that.

The mighty barbarian attacks Taganarn, who nimbly gets out of the way of the big man’s axe.

A long battle ensues. in which the party defends themselves from Rhain and tries to attack the serpentine Bothran, who continues to hurl spells at them. Finally, Rhain fights off the domination that Bothran used to control him and attacks the serpentine wizard. At last, Tag backstabs Bothran and he falls. Rhain whacks his head off with his axe. The party then proceeds to loot the creature’s body, where they find a plethora of magical scrolls and devices.

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Rage and Raven: Poachers (Part Two)
Part Two

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15 Growth 508

Lenoria, Diata, and Serenia have just taken out a guard. Uther and Rhain have jogged up to see what is going on. Two more guards are converging on their position. They can see another guard not approaching and staying up closer to the manor house.

While the others handle the two guards, Rhain moves forward quickly toward the guard at the house. Lenoria and Diata take on one guard while Serenia and Uther take on the other. Uther doesn’t seem to be having much luck while Serenia seems to be doing most of the work. Diata is having a bad day as well, though Lenoria is having equally bad luck. Still, they all manage to dispatch their guards. Serenia goes through and finishes them off with her rapier. They all join Rhain at the front door.

“Well, the element of surprise is out,” Diata grumbles. They decide to continue with the plan of getting in through the balcony and letting the others in through the front door. Diata and Rhain will climb up and go through the balcony in the new plan. Diata scampers up the wall without any trouble, while Rhain takes his time and eventually makes it up. Lenoria watches from down below.

At the balcony is a door leading inside. Diata cautiously approaches the door and heads inside—and is ambushed from inside by a guard! She backs up, leading the guard onto the balcony where Rhain can help. Rhain dispatches the guard. “Thanks!” Diata tells him. Rhain grins sheepishly.

Inside is a main room with four doors, one at each corner, and a spiral staircase heading down. Rhain motions for the staircase. Diata sneaks toward the staircase, while Rhain makes little effort to sneak. As they make their way down the spiral, Diata cries out as a “TWANG” is heard and she is hit with a crossbow bolt. Down below are three more armed men—one setting down a heavy crossbow.

Rhain leaps off of the open staircase toward the crossbowman. Diata is left with the two others who are heading up the stairs toward her. Rhain fights the man, who draws a scimitar and crows with triumph after each time he hits the barbarian. Rhain then breaks away from the man and throws open the front door.

Meanwhile, Serenia has heard the commotion in the room and both she and Lenoria have suggested that Uther try to break down the door. So when Rhain throws open door, Uther is standing right there. He quickly assesses the situation and goes in to the fray, followed by Serenia.

Meanwhile Diata is still fighting her brigand with another waiting at the foot of the stairs. While Uther and Serenia harry who Rhain assumes to be Kraven the Crow, he takes on the man at the stairs. Lenoria lends support with Spiritual Weapon from the doorway.

Once the guard at the foot of the stairs is dispatched, as is the one on the stairwell with Diata, Rhain charges, both hands on his axe, and attacks Diata.

“I fucking knew it! Help!” Diata cries.

“You knew nothing!” Rhain says.

Lenoria attacks Diata with her Spiritual Weapon. She falls. Lenoria herself attacks Serenia. Uther is too distracted with Kraven to help Diata. He fells Kraven.

Rhain attacks Uther, staggering him. Serenia looks around at the situation and drops her rapier and raises her hands in surrender.

Rhain then trips Uther, dropping him to the ground and making the half-orc drop his axe. He tells Serenia not to “get funny” or he’ll kill her. She assures him she’s very unfunny.

Rhain and Lenoria secure Kraven and Diata and tell Serenia that this is just business. They can have the seven other guys. She nods in understanding. Lenoria goes after their horses while Rhain waits outside the manor with his prizes. After a bit he hears a “ZAP” sound and smells ozone in the air. He goes back inside and sees Serenia with her hands up and smoke coming off an unconscious half-orc. “He got funny,” she says by way of explanation. Rhain narrows his eyes and asks if he’s dead. “No, I don’t think so,” Serenia says, unconcerned. Rhain goes back outside.

Soon Lenoria is back with the horses and they load up and head back into Crownport. Lenoria explains to the guards that they are taking the one unconscious body back as a bounty (Kraven) and the other is a companion they are taking for healing (Diata). The guards seem to buy and don’t give them much fuss. They do have to pay gate taxes on everyone, however.

Rhain heads to the city garrison to collect the bounty on Kraven. Lenoria goes to a back alley near the Sly Toad to wait for him. After some bureaucratic hoops and explanations, the Watch gives him his bounty of 100 platinum. He then heads to the Sly Toad and meets back up with Lenoria to tell her all went well. Then he goes inside the tavern to find Stavros. He spots the man and approaches.

“Ah, you’ve been successful then,” Stavros says.

“Yes,” Rhain says, obviously uncomfortable to be talking out in the open.

“You have the package?” Stavros prompts.

“Yes, the package,” Rhain says.

“Why don’t we meet at the store in an hour?” Stavros says. “I’ll make the arrangements with the boss.”

“Alright. An hour then,” Rhain says.

He goes back out and explains the arrangement with Lenoria. At this point, they take the time to loot Diata for weapons, armor, and gear—they weren’t part of the deal.

An hour later, they arrive at the abandoned storefront they met at the other night. They enter through the rear, just as they did before, finding the door unlocked. The boarded-up shop is lit with a lantern and inside they find Stavros and their mysterious employer.

“Ah, the promised package,” the employer says when presented with Diata.

Stavros hands them a pouch with the promised bounty inside. “My employer thanks you for your discretion and your competence.”

Lenoria and Rhain head out and return their rented horses to the livery stable and then return to their rooms at the Ebon Hound. It’s been a lucrative day, indeed.

16 Growth 508

Today, the pair go shopping with their newfound wealth.

They head to Ciothrio’s Arsenal, a broker in magical weapons, who buys the magical arrow they found in Diata’s gear off of them. It was apparently a sleep arrow. He was willing to work well with Lenoria as a fellow Sianaen.

They also do trade at Othogotho’s Oils and Elixirs, a shop run by a female half-orc who deals in potions and such. They then head to Berteph’s Scriptorium to cash in some scrolls. Berteph is a halfling.

After a lengthy discussion, they decide that they may need to add to their band. Maybe a rogue—one that’s not bound to his “fun-hating sister”. They decide to stick around Crownport for now, see what pops up.

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A Tale of Three: Stormy Weather
The Grand Tournament

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2 Transformation 500

During the past week, Althessamari, Le Xin, and Elhana have sold their goods and separated their loot. Althessamari has heard rumors that a cult of Kysk was busted up in the tunnels by the city watch. Althessamari also took the vials they found on the cultist to an alchemist to sell. She’s told two of them have water and that one of them is bloodroot poison. The alchemist is appalled that a “nice girl” like her has such a thing and tells her that if she really wants to sell it, she should take it to the “night market”. She ends up dumping the vials down a sewer drain.

But on this day, while the three friends are ruminating at the Alehouse of the Cats, a messenger comes in and asks for them specifically. They are told that Master Maerin Bevans at the University requests their presence post haste. Le Xin finishes his water while the messenger waits. In the meantime, Althessamari chats with the messenger about his job.

Finally, they all head to the University. Master Bevans is in his office to greet them. He tips the messenger, who then makes his way out. Master Bevans then hands the group a flyer that he has received:

You are invited! To the Contest of the Year!
Tarl Qualtrim’s
Grand Tournament
A four-day series of contests to test a being’s
Acuity
Prowess
Subtlety
Each contest has a purse of 100 Platinum Sirens
With the Grand Prize being the coveted
Orb of Storms
Present this invitation at the gates of Tarl Qualtrim’s estate near the city of Jirra on 9 Transformation 500 to gain admittance (with a fee of 100 gold pieces of any denomination per entrant).
Good Fortune to You and May the Gods Smile Upon You!


“I want that Orb for the University,” he says. “I think you can win it for me. You are obviously have demonstrated acuity, prowess, and subtlety in your previous endeavors and I think I can put those qualities to use here. The University would fund your entry fees and would be able to supply passage to the city of Jirra. You would also be able to keep, by way of compensation, the winnings of any contests along the way. We just require the Orb.”

After a brief discussion among themselves, the three friends agree to take on the job. They also decide to leave for Jirra early to get a sense of the competition. So Master Bevans agrees to arrange for transport the following day. He will contact them at “their usual haunt” with the details once they’ve been arranged.

After the group leaves, they go to the market district and purchase healing potions and food for the journey, not knowing what to expect of this contest. The journey to Jirra should only take a day, but one never knows what will happen on a ship.

That evening, at the Alehouse, they receive word that the arrangements have been made for them to leave on the ship Amber’s Unity, which will be leaving first thing in the morning. Captain Amber Truaxe will be taking them to Jirra. Althessamari comments that it sounds like a dwarven name.

3 Transformation 500

This morning the three companions head over to the docks as directed and meet up with Amber’s Unity. They call up to the ship and are welcomed aboard by the crew and finally by the captain, Amber Truaxe, a dwarven female. The captain also takes into her cabin where she says she has a package left for them by the University—a pouch of gold and a mention of “entry fees.”

The companions are allowed to be anywhere on the ship so long as they stay “out of underfoot”. As the ship puts out, Le Xin begins to explore the ship while Althessamari meditates in the wind. Elhana simply stands on the deck looking imposing. The only thing of note that occurs during the journey to Jirra is that a cargo ship passes them along the way with an escorting warship for protection. It’s a very quiet, and peaceful journey that takes the entire day.

The companions discuss their return with the captain as they are putting into port at Jirra. She says that she has been paid by the University to stay for 4 days, maybe longer if needed.

Once they put into the harbor, inspectors come on board to inspect cargo and discuss taxes and fees with the captain. Then the inspectors come to the companions for “gate” taxes as they are putting off to shore. Althessamari asks for directions to clean, affordable inns nearby or near the tournament. The inspector directs them to the Trickster and Cask or the Hare’s Meadhall. They opt for the Hare’s Meadhall as it is nearby at the moment.

At the Meadhall, there is a bard playing and the place seems lively. There are two rooms available, so Elhana and Le Xin opt to share a room, while Althessamari gets one to herself. They each purchase a bath and a meal. After settling in, Althessamari wanders about the common room asking about the tournament. She finds a fellow named Franklin who’s willing to talk at length about the contest.

“It changes every time, mind you. But this time, I’ve heard that each contest will take a day; acuity one day, prowess, the next, and so on. The champion of each day wins the thousand gold piece prize. Then, each champion, on the fourth day, will face Tarl Qualtrim for the Grand Question with the final prize on the line. Whoever answers the Grand Question will win the final prize. If you don’t answer the question—no prize. At least, that’s the way my sister’s brother-in-law’s cartwright’s casker who’s working the event tells it.”

With that information under their belt, the companions go to bed.

4 Transformation 500

The companions check out of the Hare’s Meadhall and head west to check into the Trickster and Cask. There are three rooms available here, so they each get their own room. Once they get settled, Althessamari asks about for information regarding Tarl Qualtrim’s estate. She makes such a good impression that they get the offer of a personal guide.

Their guide takes them to the estate, which is nearby. It is a large, walled affair with large, wrought iron gates out front. It’s hard to get a sense of anything other than size five days before the tournament. There are guards inside the gates, but not outside. They return to the inn.

Althessamari asks about trying to get a sense of the competition—are there any big names, past winners that are competing? Any big favorites? It’s hard to get a sense because the contest changes every time, but there is a tavern brawler by the name of Orlan Tavar that’s probably going to enter. He’s a local with a bad attitude. She is also directed to a priestess of Halor who is sitting alone at table—she apparently arrived today and is here for the tournament.

Althessamari approaches the lone cleric and invites her to sit at the companions’ table. The priestess shrugs and says, “Alright” and moves to drink with them. Introductions are made; her name is Candyse Onlav. She is apparently entering the tournament to help secure funds for her temple back in Kalimsport. She heard that there will be a spellcasting portion of the contest and she hopes to enter that and that there will be combat and she is adept at that as well.

Le Xin approaches her with the possibility of making a deal for the Orb of Storms should she win it—if it is funds for the temple she wants, then perhaps a deal could be reached? Candyse says that she would have to make inquiries at the temple, but is confident some sort of arrangement could be reached. But she has to win it, first.

After they chit-chat for awhile, Candyse excuses herself and the companions make their way to their rooms for the night.

5 Transformation 500

The companions decide to take up small jobs while they are waiting for the tournament to begin on the 9th. Elhana and Althessamari manage to find work, but Le Xin does not. That night, they have dinner with Candyse and settle in for the night.

6 Transformation 500

Today, Le Xin and Althessamari manage to find work, but Elhana does not. They, once again, have dinner at the inn with Candyse and settle in for the night.

7 Transformation 500

Le Xin and Althessamari manage to find work, with Le Xin making a bonus. Elhana finds no work today. Again, they have dinner with Candyse and then make their way to their rooms for the night.

8 Transformation 500

Le Xin and Althessamari find work on this final day before the tournament, while Elhana does not. They have a final celebratory dinner with Candyse and Althessamari chats with the bard about elven things. Then the companions go to bed to rest up for the tournament tomorrow.

9 Transformation 500

That morning, the three companions arrive at the gates of the estate. Liveried assistants direct spectators in one direction and participants in another. They get in line with the other participants and then present their invitation and entry fees. When they do that, they are each given a participant’s sash to wear and are directed to stand out in a large field out in the estate with the other participants. Out in the field are numerous barrels stacked on their sides.

Soon, a large platform, pulled by mules being led by more assistants, makes its way down the field. On the platform is an extravagantly dressed man. He tells the man pulling the mules to halt and then address the gathered participants:

“I am Tarl Qualtrim and this is my Grand Tournament!” There is a series cheers from the spectators. “Here we will test your acuity, prowess, and subtlety in a series of games designed to challenge you to the fullest! Today is the Contest of Acuity, a contest of physicality. We begin with the barrel rolling competition! All competitors line up and ready yourself for the contest!”

The companions line up as asked and proceed with the contest. Althessamari falls off on her first try. Elhana stays on for a long, heroically long, time. Le Xin gives her a run for her money, but ultimately falls short. Their competition falls short as well and, finally, Elhana is declared the winner of the Barrel Rolling competition.

Next, is Taber Tossing. Once again, Le Xin and Elhana come close, but Elhana edges him out. Althessamari, with the help of her spirit “companions”, manages to dig a trough in front her with the Taber, much to the consternation of the judges. But even with the help of the spirits in throwing the long pole, Althessamari doesn’t measure up. But neither does the competition and Elhana is declared the winner of the Taber Toss.

The next competition is a drinking contest. Le Xin, due to his code, sits out of this one. But Althessamari and Elhana are game. Althessamari passes out after drinking only a small amount of the strong dwarven stout. But Elhana manages to hang on a bit longer before throwing in the towel, before actually passing out. Still, she managed to out pace the competition and is declared the winner of the drinking competition.

The final competition is an obstacle course, in which the winners of all the days competitions were to compete. As Elhana swept the contest, there is no need for the obstacle course to decide the winner of the Acuity competition. But, for fun, she decides to try the obstacle course anyway. Tarl Qualtrim claps her on the shoulder and tells her she’s a good sport. However, she fails the first set of obstacles—perhaps it was the dwarven stout.

No matter—Elhana is declared the winner of the Contest of Acuity and given the 1000 gold piece (or rather 100 platinum piece) prize.

The companions take the prize and head back to the Trickster and Cask to celebrate, guiding Althessamari along the way.

10 Transformation 500

That morning, the companions head back to the estate of Tarl Qualtrim and line back up with the participants on the field. Tarl comes out with his mobile platform and announces that today is Contest of Prowess. There will be a series of non-lethal combats. First will come hand-to-hand. Next will come sword play. Finally, will come spell casting. Then, the winner of each of these will combat each other in a general melee to declare the winner! Healing will be provided between opponents.

Le Xin is the first of companions to step forward in the hand-to-hand competition. First, he faces Orlan Tavar, the tavern brawler. He beats him handily. Next he faces a more skilled pugilist, but beats him handily as well. Finally, his third opponent is a Shandorian monk fighting in the Scorpion style. This fight challenges Le Xin, but he eventually comes out on top.

The next challenge is sword play and Elhana steps forward. She is provided with padded armor and a practice sword. She quickly dispatches a foot soldier and a guardsman and is left with a mercenary warrior. This one poses more of a challenge, but manages to dispatch him without much fuss.

The final challenge is spell casting, for which Althessamari demurs, citing the fact that she was not ready for a non-lethal combat when she selected her spells for the day. She watches the competition, however, and sees that Candyse enters and prevails.

So now Elhana, Le Xin, and Candyse will face each other in the “Grand Melee.” The three face each other on the field. Le Xin tells Candyse that this is just a competition and there will be no hard feelings. Candyse agrees. Tarl calls for them to fight.

Lee Xin goes after Candyse. He places her in a firm grappling hold and keeps her from spell casting. Elhana moves in with her practice sword and thwacks Candyse with it. Le Xin manages to maintain his grip on Candyse while also striking her.
Candyse still can’t break the hold. Elhana thwacks her hard. Le Xin maintains his grip and strikes her again and she goes limp in his arms. Le Xin sets the cleric down and faces Elhana. Elhana then yields to Le Xin.

The crowd, who wanted a fight, erupts in boos. But Le Xin is declared the winner of the Contest of Prowess and is awarded the cash prize.

The companions head back to the inn to celebrate. Candyse does join for dinner—there are no hard feelings.

11 Transformation 500

Once again, the companions arrive at the estate of Tarl Qualtrim and are lead to the site of the competition. This time it is a large hedge maze. This will be the Contest of Subtlety.

Tarl announces that only ten may enter and they will be selected by lottery. So all of the companions enter their name into the bin to be selected as competitors. Fortunately, both Althessamari and Elhana make it into the top ten. The lottery winners are then lined up and sent into the maze.

The competitors take a good part of the day exploring the vast maze. Elhana, unfortunately, gets almost hopelessly lost in many twists and turns of the labyrinth. However, Althessamari finds her way through just ahead of another elven competitor and takes the prize.

That night, at the Trickster and Cask, Althessamari pays the bard in gold to play only Elven music that night.

12 Transformation 508

That morning, Elhana, Lee Xin, and Althessamari all stand before the crowd at Tarl Qualtrim’s estate and await The Grand Question. The eccentric merchant comes out once again on his mobile platform and address the crowd:

“Today is the final day of the Grand Tournament! Our champions all will have the opportunity to answer the Grand Question to win the Orb of Storms!”

A liveried staff member walks up with a velvet pillow on which sits a crystalline orb. One can almost see purple lightning striking within the glass. Another assistant walks up with a bag and slips of parchment and a quill for each of them.

“I will ask the question. You will each write your answer on the slip of parchment and place it in the bag. If only one has the correct answer, you win the Tournament! If more than one wins, I ask another question of those with the correct answers. If no one has a correct answer, the Tournament is done and there is no winner. Are you ready?”

The crowd goes wild with excitement.

“Forward I am heavy. Backward I am not. What am I?”

Each of the companions give the question some thought and write an answer on their slip of parchment. They each place their answers in the bag. The bag is then collected and handed over to Tarl who reaches inside and reads the answers.

Tarl smiles from ear to ear. “My friends! There is one correct answer in this bag!”

The crowd erupts in applause.

“The correct answer is ‘ton’. Forward, it is heavy and backward it is ‘not’. Althessamari is the winner of the Grand Tournament!”

The Orb is brought forward, along with a wooden carrying case. The crowd rushes forward to congratulate all of the competitors. Finally, the companions break away and move to head back to the inn. Candyse is with them and Althessamari offers to let her travel back to Kalimsport with them. Candyse says she would like that. They decide to take a carriage back to the inn as they are carrying an expensive magical artifact and they don’t want to be accosted in the streets with it.

As they are alighting from their carriage at the Trickster and Cask, an arrow twangs into the side of the conveyance, narrowly missing Elhana. They look up to see a shadowy figure on a rooftop across the street. Le Xin goes to climb up and give chase, while the others climb back into the carriage for cover.

Le Xin climbs up and sees that the figure has jumped across to the next rooftop. He does the same and is gaining on his prey. Finally he catches up and grapples her, a female half-elf, to the ground. He questions her as to why she’s doing this, but she gives no answer. He pins her and ties her up with rope from his pack. Then he lowers her down the building, not taking care to be gentle, and climbs down the building himself.

As the two make their way back to the carriage, she tries to free herself from the rope. Le Xin thumps her ear and tells her to stop it. “You’re going to be sorry,” is all the woman will say, other than “Call the guards already.”

Althessamari tries to get her talk, once they get to the carriage, but to no avail. They strip her of weapons, and when she tries to maneuver out of the way, Le Xin continues to thump her. Finally, guardsmen come and ask what is going on. Althessamari explains the situation and they take the woman away, after manacling her and returning Le Xin’s rope.

They then check out of the inn and head to the docks to catch up with Amber’s Unity. They explain to the captain who Candyse is and ask if she can make arrangements for passage. The captain takes the cleric to her cabin to make those arrangements. The ship sets sail for Kalimsport soon thereafter.

About an hour after sundown, they make it into the docks at Kalimsport. After paying their gate fees, they head into the city and bid farewell to Candyse. They then head home, opting to see Master Bevans in the morning.

13 Transformation 500

The three companions meet at the University that morning and head to Master Bevan’s office. He asks if they were successful in their endeavor and Le Xin (as they were nervous about Althessamari’s spirits) sets the Orb on Master Bevans’ desk.

“Excellent!” he says. “A mutually fruitful endeavor then. I had every confidence in your abilities.”

He shakes each of their hands and assures them that if he has another task that requires their expertise that he will be sure to call upon them. The three leave the University in high spirits.

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Session Forty-Six
Civil Disobedience

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14 Chillwind 508

It is late. At Red Wolf Hall in Kalimsport, as Surm and Rilka come downstairs into the common room, Mõrvar, Savaric, and an obviously inebriated Halvor come walking in from outside.

Rilka spies a private room off of the common room. She goes to the front desk and arranges for its use. She sits down at the table.

Savaric asks, “Do we need to arrange for rooms?”

Surm says, “Mõrvar will, if he’s staying here tonight. Let’s sit and talk, things have come up.” Surm sits at the table and waits.

Mõrvar secures a room for the night and stabling for his horse. He will then sit alone at a table. He appears to be deep in thought.

Rilka comes and tells him that they’ve secured a private room and that they need to talk. Mõrvar rises and follows Rilka to the private room.

Surm stands nervously. Two issues have come up for you to consider. One, I have decided to separate from the group. Mõrvar, you seem unhappy with everything I do and say. You treat me as though I am the cause of everything that is wrong in your world, I don’t know how to get through to you, but you don’t seem to want me to anyway. The best solution I could reach was to take myself out of the equation. If I’m not part of the group, I can no longer vilify you, ignore your wishes, force you on quest you don’t want to go on, or any of the other selfish things you accuse me of. Where the group goes now and for what purpose is up to you three, I no longer have a say and will no longer stand in Mõrvar’s way.”

“Two, the sage we came to see has been taken from a dig site by orcs, reportedly to one of their islands. If we want the obelisk translated, he must be rescued. I have taken the lead on the rescue mission. I have been entrusted by the University to recruit a group of heroes to rescue the sage. Until I reach the city of the dig site and speak with the surviving guide, I won’t know how many heroes I need, but that is a seven day ride from here. That means this news is already a week old and by the time I get there, he will have been a hostage for two weeks at least. So, time is crucial, I will be leaving in the morning. I would like to hire your group to assist, I’ve worked with you all before and can trust you." Surm stands straighter to attempt a posture of leadership. “If you sign on, you will be working for me, I am in charge and decisions are mine to make. I will invite input, but it’s not up for a vote.” Surm sits down and breathes, slightly shaking from nerves.

“I’m all for helping you, but I’d like you to inform the university that two Orcs helped you in this mission. It’s hard enough on Rilka and I without this tribe making us look worse,” Savaric says.

Mõrvar stands up, tears in his eyes, and says with great pain. "Without you, there is no group. Why you can’t sit and discuss our issues I don’t know. I cannot let you separate from this group and go alone. If I am not there to protect you, then at least the only people I trust to are.” Mõrvar begins crying. “Now you force me away? I disgust you that much? You hate me that much? You need this group more than I, and they need you more than they need me. It is clear I’m the odd man out. I will leave you alone Surm, stay out of your way, never to bother or upset you again.”

Mõrvar pulls Deathblow from his back and places it, his ring, and his amulet on the table in front of Surm. “At least take these. If you no longer wish for me to protect you, then use these, too.” Mõrvar turns and leaves the room.

The group is at first left dumbfounded by the outburst. But then Savaric heads upstairs and talks to Mõrvar. He convinces him to come downstairs and take this quest as an opportunity to reconcile things with his brother. Mõrvar contemplates this and decides to follow Savaric downstairs.

The group, now Rilka, Savaric, and a very withdrawn Mõrvar, decide to accompany Surm on his quest to rescue the sage. Surm stresses that Mõrvar must vote to go because he wants to, not because Surm forced him to—that’s the point of him doing it this way and leaving the group.

Surm stresses that time is of the essence—they’ve already lost two weeks and it is a week’s journey to Asdari, where they will get more information from the guide that survived the attack. He is inclined to recruit more help once they get to Asdari. Also, he announces that Alasir and Mahgnus has elected to follow him out of the group, in order to help protect Surm and to ensure he travels with those he trusts. They have, however, indicated that they are willing to continue their usual duties for as long as needed during the transition. Rilka indicates that she’ll probably need to pick a new sergeant for the troops.

Mõrvar and Surm continue to argue. Surm stresses that what he’s doing is “giving you space—do with it what you will” and emphasizes that it is Mõrvar’s decision whether to come or not.

Surm offers 500 gold pieces in compensation plus “reasonable” expenses as payment for the quest. Savaric asks about the spoils of war and Surm indicates that the University makes no claim on the spoils of war. However, Surm does stress that there will be no reward until the sage is returned.

Rilka dismisses Surm, who goes to his room. He tells Mahgnus and Alasir what transpired and asks them to wait to tell the other soldiery about their separation until things get worked out.

Meanwhile, in the private room, Rilka, Savaric, and Mõrvar discuss the need for this “cooling off” period and the fact that family is important. Mõrvar brings up that he’ll need to see the armorer before he leaves as he’s got custom armor in the works. He also thinks that the party might be interested in hiring Beldis for this mission. Rilka is extremely dubious of that proposition and they end up talking Mõrvar out of that idea.

They also discuss the fact that Surm is currently handling their group funds. They’re prepared to allow him to continue to do so until the group (hopefully) gets reconciled.

What about Alasir continuing to control the troops? Rilka thinks that it would be best to keep things as they are for now. She also stresses the need to keep arguments away from the troops—to maintain a unified front. After they meet, she goes to find Sum.

“We accept your terms. Alasir will be nominal head of the troops. We won’t be informing them of the split,” she says.

“Alright,” Surm says. “That brings me to a touchy subject. Group funds. Do I cut myself out a fourth of them or do I keep them altogether but continue to have a vote on how they are spent?”

After a brief discussion, it’s decided to keep the group funds intact and that Surm gets a vote in how they are spent, erring on the side that, at some point, the group will come back together.

Everyone goes to bed after a long, emotional, day.

15 Chillwind 508

The group—and Surm, Mahgnus, and Alasir—pick and go as if everything were normal. Mõrvar leaves a message with the innkeep for Beldis, saying that he may be back in a couple of weeks. The entourage then starts to leave town, with Mõrvar stopping off at the armorer making a similar two-week arrangement. They leave the city along the Southgate road and leave out of the south-east gate.

Along the way, Savaric tells Alasir that there’s no hard feelings and that he appreciates him looking out for Surm. Alasir says he appreciates that.

The entourage passes through a manned checkpoint into Kuskar.

18 Chillwind 508

The eastward road turns south at the mountains. They pass through a guarded mountain pass of Acheran soldiers.

19 Chillwind 508

The road takes the party to the city of Zyend. They pay gate takes and decide to save time and pass through the city instead of going around it.

22 Chillwind 508

That afternoon, the entourage arrives at the gates of the city of Asdari. They pay their gate fees and make their way inside. Surm gets information on the location of the University.

The University at Asdari is not quite as grand as the one in Kalimsport, but it is not small, either. The monitors come by and help direct them to Rahin Noorasi. Noorasi is apparently a Fellow of the University, an administrator and donor, not a sage. They are taken a very well-apportioned office and introduced to a well-dressed man with a neat goatee. Surm apologizes for their road-dust but they are in haste and explains their purpose there. Noorasi seems very snotty toward the half-orcs but is otherwise helpful. He indicates that the guide, Achir, is recuperating in the temple of Azumazran. He arranges for a guide for them by the name of Halim, whom he places at their disposal.

Halim guides them through the streets. The young man is very impressed with their retinue and makes a great show of clearing the street for them.

The temple of Azumazran is a very ancient and well-apportioned structure. Large columns inlaid with gold and ivory adorn the entrance and many people are coming in and out. Inside are men and women in blue and white robes and long hair and beards, covering their hair with hoods and turbans, ministering to people as they come in. There are robed figures praying at a great flame in the center of the sanctuary. One of the turbaned priests approach Surm, Rilka, Savaric, and Mahgnus (who came inside) and identifies them as strangers. He asks if they need help.

Surm identifies himself as representing the University of Kalimsport, presents his letter from them, and indicates that he understands that they are caring for a guide named Achir from an expedition that was set upon by orcs. They would like to see him. The priest reads the letter and agrees to let them see Achir.

The priest leads them to a back-room where a hospital has been set up. Several cots are laid out with wounded people and priests are tending to them. One such person is a man who looks like he has suffered from exposure and from being beat about. He looks up at the party in confusion and the priest says, “Achir, these people have come from the University. I believe they wish to speak with you about the sage that was taken.”

Surm introduces himself and the others and says that, indeed, he’d like to hear what happened. “They came in the night,” Achir begins and describes the raid of the orcs on the camp. Apparently there were about twenty orcs altogether, and 5 game riding in on Gortheks, great beasts that are crosses between rhinoceroses and buffaloes. Kerendal only had a guard contingent of 6, so they were vastly outnumbered. The other survivors were a guide named Azura Mirasi and a guard named Angelet Nyweth. Apparently the leader of the raid, Balug, was impressed with Kerendal because he wouldn’t back down and took him. Achir saw them get back on their boats and head out. There was also drumming with the orcs as well. They flew a standard with a red flame on it.

After questioning Achir, Surm asks Halim if he knows any experts on Orcs. Halim says that he knows of one, but he sounds a bit dubious. Surm asks him to tell him who it is and he says she’s a bit notorious. Apparently her name is Noor Khandasi and she can be found at an inn known as The Hydra. “Is it on the bad side of town?” Surm asks. “Well, it’s not on the good side,” Halim says. Surm wants to be taken there, so Halim agrees.

The Hydra is a dilapidated inn in an impoverished part of the city. It bears a sign with a multi-headed reptilian beast over the door. Raucous laughter can be heard from within. Surm, Mahgnus, Rilka, Savaric, and Mõrvar dismount and head inside. Mõrvar immediately heads to the bar and orders a bottle of whiskey. Surm, infuriated, goes over and tells his brother that they are on the job and to put the whiskey back. Mõrvar is sullen and doesn’t respond very well to Surm’s demands. The two go outside and argue, with Surm insisting, as his employer, for Mõrvar to fall in line with everyone else or to quit the job. Mõrvar looks for support from Rilka, but Rilka says that Surm is acting like an employer. Mõrvar sullenly falls in line. They reenter the common room and Halim points out Noor Khandasi sitting at the back of the room.

Noor Khandasi is an Acheran woman with a long scar across her face and outlandish clothes. She looks up warily as the party approaches her table. “Are you Noor Khandasi?” Surm asks.

“I am,” she says.

Then Surm makes introductions and indicates that he represents the University of Kalimsport and needs an expert on Orcs for a rescue expedition he’s heading up. He gives a brief rundown of what’s happened and what he needs. Noor indicates that her information doesn’t come for free. Surm counters that she may be compensated if it turns out her information is good, but not before. Noor doesn’t seem to like that proposition. She brings up that the University probably has deep pockets and that there is probably a reward for participation. Surm allows that there is, and that he’s prepared to offer 500 gold pieces for participation in the expedition. Noor likes that proposition better than the thought of “maybe” being compensated for her information at a later date. She’s in.

The red-flame standard that Achir spoke of indicates that this is the Bloodflame Clan. They are based out of Karsk, a orcish settlement on one of the Islands of Urkhan. They are known to take slaves for their own purposes (labor, breeding, etc.) and for sale to the Tarsians. They are apparently led by a Orc called Gorruk. Noor has not heard of Balug. Karsk is a settlement carved out of an old set of ruins. She has never raided Karsk itself—she usually hunts in smaller groups.

Surm feels like he need to recruit more help. Noor doesn’t really have any recommendations—she usually works alone. She keeps eyeballing the two half-orcs warily. They’ll also need a ship to sail over to Karsk. Noor has a small craft that can make the journey. Surm intends to rescue whoever the orcs have—not only Kerendal and the two women, but anyone else enslaved. That means the ship may be overrun. That means they may have to have a specialist force—small, but elite. And not bring the soldiery.

They agree to meet Noor at her craft, the Azure Dawn, in two days. She says she’ll have her ready in one day. Then the party leaves to make plans to recruit more help. They also decide to have two soldiers volunteer to stay behind with the ship so that they have someone they can trust there with Noor’s crew.

Halim leads them to a reasonable inn, the Arrow of Lightning. Halim is then dismissed with the request to meet them back at the inn in the morning. Then they get the retinue situated into rooms. Mõrvar buys a bottle of whiskey and heads to his room. Rilka calls for two volunteers to stay with the boat during the mission. Tarben and Sorcha step forward. Seemingly unsatisfied with the results, Rilka offers a raise in pay of 1 gold per day for the duty. Then everyone volunteers. Surm asks Alasir to pick from the volunteers. He chooses Sorcha and Einar. Tarben looks frustrated and Surm claps him on the shoulder, telling him that his initial volunteering did not go unnoticed.

Mahgnus, Tarben, and Rilka are sent out to look for recruits, as are Surm, Alfhild, and Savaric.

Surm’s group gets a lead on someone called Scarlatta the Quick. She is apparently a capable adventurer that fits the bill for what they are looking for and is trustworthy. She apparently travels with a group calling themselves the “Bronze Griffons.” She is staying at the Copper Flagon. They head in that direction.

At the Copper Flagon, they ask the barkeep to point out the Bronze Griffons. He points out a group of four sitting in the common room. One is a large human male wearing a holy symbol of a set of scales with a sword as the fulcrum. Savaric points out that this is the symbol of Barthal, but Surm disagrees. There is also a petite Acheran woman and an Elven male. Finally, there is an athletically built female with a wicked smile who is apparently telling a joke. As the party approaches, she finishes the joke and the Griffon’s all laugh.

Surm clears his throat to get their attention and asks if they are the Bronze Griffons. The elf allows that they are. Surm says that he is looking for one of their number, a Scarlatta the Quick. They all look to the woman who told the joke and she protests that they only just got into town, that she didn’t do anything to get them into trouble. Surm assures them that he is not with the Watch. He represents the University of Kalimsport and is here to inquire about her interest in a job. She invites him to sit and assures him that anything he has to say can be said in front of her friends. Chairs are brought for the others as well.

Surm explains the parameters of the mission to Scarlatta and she seems thoughtful. She indicates that she does not work alone and he assures her that there are others on the mission and he lists them off, including Noor Khandasi. The other woman, the Acheran, indicates that she’s heard of Noor Khandasi, and that she collects Orc ears. Surm takes this in stride and says that she apparently knows the area and a great deal about Orcs and that is why she is on the mission. He was unaware of that habit.

Throughout their conversation, he is aware that the paladin (who may or may not be of Barthal) and the Elf have been having a “conversation” of their own, with the paladin nodding “yes” to the Elf and the Elf making signals of reluctance to the paladin. Finally, the Elf relents and says aloud, “We may be willing, as a group, to take on this mission.”

Surm demurs, saying, “Alas, I have room for only two on my boat.”

The Elf sighs after another look from the paladin. “We can provide our own transport. We would still like to join in the rescue.”

Surm brightens. “That’s excellent. I can offer you 250 gold as reward, payable on the return of the sage. Of course, we plan on rescuing all we can.”

The Elf looks pained. “That is acceptable,” he says.

Surm asks what they have to offer, as he was lead to believe that Scarlatta offered stealth (which was why he was there). The paladin, whose name is Alban, is a paladin of Barthal. Surm seems shocked. The Acheran woman, Prana, is a “master of illusions.” The Elf, Jalynel, lists himself as a fighter that can provide “air power”, but doesn’t elaborate.

Arrangements are made for the Bronze Griffons to meet the group at the Azure Dawn tomorrow morning and Surm, Savaric, and Alfhild take their leave, quite pleased with their results.

Meanwhile, Mahgnus, Tarben, and Rilka follow a lead on a stealthy elf by the name of Tarquinn who frequents a tavern by the name of the Bloody Unicorn. When they arrive at the rough-and-tumble tavern, they are directed to a very rough-looking elf sitting at the back of the room. As they approach, the elf keeps his eyes on Rilka while addressing Mahgnus, who does all the talking.

Mahgnus introduces himself as representing his employer, who in turn represents the University of Kalimsport. They are hiring for a rescue mission into Karsk. The reward is 500 gold pieces and reasonable expenses for a being of his talents. They were wondering if he would be interested. Tarquinn continues to stare at Rilka and says, “I don’t work for Orcs.”

“Aren’t you cute,” Rilka says.

Mahgnus looks back and forth between the two of them and says. “I have obviously wasted your time, sir. This is not the job for you. Good evening to you.” They make their way toward the door, with Tarben and Rilka forming a barrier between the elf and Mahgnus.

“Wait a minute, I am interested in your job!” the elf says, indignant.

“No, I don’t think you’re right for the position,” Mahgnus says, bustling out.

As they make their way out, the elf calls out, “You’ll be sorry you didn’t hire me, lousy Orc lover!”

Rilka and Tarben remain on high alert as they make their way back to the Arrow of Lightning. Mahgnus comments that he thinks he got some bad information.

When everyone returns to the inn, they compare notes on their relative successes and failures. Rilka goes upstairs to inform Mõrvar of what has transpired and to see if he wants to meet their recruits. He seems disinterested and smells of whiskey. Rilka leaves him to it.

23 Chillwind 508

Arrangements are made for the majority of the soldiery and the porters to stay at the inn. After breakfast, Rilka kisses Kortash goodbye, and everyone heads to the docks. Einar and Sorcha will accompany the rest of the party to the docks. They head to the slip where the Azure Dawn is docked. It’s a fairly dilapidated little ship. They are met on the deck by a swarthy man without a shirt who gruffly asks them their business. “You must be the northerners then,” he says when Surm introduces them. He lets them on board. Noor comes up and welcomes them on board as they see the Bronze Griffons approach. Introductions are made all around.

The Griffons will be sailing in a ship called the Ivory Horn. Noor gives them coordinates for their captain to follow as to where to weigh anchor off the coast of the island where Karsk lies as a rendezvous point. The Griffons wish everyone safe journey and head off to their ship. Noor pulls up the anchor and ships out.

1 Harvest 508

The week of sailing is cramped, sweaty, and uncomfortable, but otherwise uneventful. Noor’s two crewmen keep to themselves and are never introduced. Land is finally sighted and the anchor is dropped off the coast. When Surm expresses dismay that the ship is harbored at the island, Noor is sharp with him about not wanting to run her ship aground. They’ll have to take rowboats from here. That’s going to slow down the rescue operation considerably.

After some thought, Noor sails around to the other side of the island, with the Ivory Horn following, and puts in at a lagoon, a natural harbor. It’ll mean more hiking through the jungle, but at least they won’t be sitting ducks in a rowboat. They all disembark from their respective ships and begin hiking through the jungle, with Savaric and Scarlatta taking point. Mõrvar and Noor believe that it will be 10 to 15 miles to Karsk from here. They start heading southwest through the jungle. Savaric has Ghost guard the ship along with Einar and Sorcha.

As they hike through the thick vines and foliage, everyone questions Jalynel about his choice of weapon—a lance. He says that he has a mount—a griffon. The rest of the party is a bit incredulous. He explains that he can summon it twice per week. Still, the party is a bit dubious of his claim.

At the end of the day of hard hiking, Savaric finds a clearing in which to camp. He finds signs of tigers, Orcs, and Gorthek which have traversed through the campsite in the past day. He decides to find another campsite. As the sun sets, he finds another clearing that seems less well-trafficked.

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Interlude: At Red Wolf Hall
Private Conversations

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14 Chillwind 508

Alasir and Alfhild get the soldiery into formation as the train heads to the inn. Alasir makes it clear that they are still on the job until they are dismissed.

The Hall is located near the city center, not far from the University. One can see the University’s amphitheater up on Sage Hill from the inn.

Red Wolf Hall is a very nice inn with many creature comforts. The innkeep, a ruddy-faced man with a receding hairline, does make it clear, however, that he does not allow lodging in his common room. Rooms will have to be secured for everyone. Fortunately, rooms appear to be available, though people will have to share and it will be tight.

The common room seems lively, filled with well-to-do travelers and visitors to the city center, as well as their retinues. There is a small stage in the common room that currently appears to be empty.

After a brief discussion with the innkeep, it is ascertained that there are 9 private rooms, 3 small suites, 2 average suites, and 1 Luxury suite. Rooms, meals, and stabling are secured for two days. Once room assignments are made, the soldiers head out to the common room, with the exception of Halvor, who heads out the door.

Rilka nods her approval. She arranges for a personal bath & laundry service. As the guards and gear get settled, she touches Surm’s shoulder and says in a low voice, “It would be good for us to talk. Let me buy you something to drink.”

Surm says, “I’d like to get the obelisk to the sage, it’s going to take time to research. I’ll go make those arrangements now, you hold down the Hall in case someone returns, probably in trouble. I’ll take Mahgnus and Alasir with me.”

He begins packing. Before he leaves, Rilka points out they should also arrange for rooms for Savaric and Mõrvar. “Savaric intends to bring your brother home tonight.”

Surm says, “That’s not what I understood, Mõrvar plans to stay out on his own and I thought Savaric was too. But, we can book Savaric a room if you think he’ll return without Mõrvar.”

Rilka replies, “He said he was accompanying Mõrvar to let him blow off some steam, then they were going to catch up with us. I assumed that meant later on tonight.” She pauses, “Although perhaps you are both expecting that process to take longer than I was.”

Surm arranges for a room for Savaric on his way out with Mahgnus and Alasir to visit the University.

After a quick bath, Rilka waits in the common room and keeps an eye on things. She doesn’t distance herself from the guards, but is relatively quiet.

When Surm returns a couple of hours later, he finds Rilka. “Rilka, may we speak privately in your room?”

Rilka nods and rises from her chair. They head upstairs to talk.

Later, when Rilka and Surm re-emerge and head downstairs, Rilka will speak briefly with Kortash and invite him to share her room that night. Kortash gladly accepts the invitation.

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Interlude: At the Fat Hero
Drinks with a Tryst

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14 Chillwind 508

After stopping off at the armorer’s so that Mõrvar could place place an order, Savaric and he head to the Fat Hero.

The Fat Hero is located near The Jetties, which is essentially a city park located between the east and south gates of the city. A waterfall is formed here through the city walls where the Lesser Mondira River meets the Arahani River. The water is gathered in a smallish (but deep) lake. The lake is surrounded by park lands.

The inn looks slightly dilapidated and in ill-repair. It could definitely use a paint job. A sign hangs out front depicting an obese man practically busting out of a suit of plate armor. Savaric and Mõrvar can hear raucous laughter and music coming from inside the common room. They can also smell sweat, cheap ale, and the faint odor of cat piss in the air over the smell of river water from the Jetties.

Inside they see a common room filled with working class, and lower class, humans, half-orcs, half-elves, dwarves, halflings, and even a few goblin sidekicks. A raggedy human bard is playing a fiddle on a makeshift stage, narrowly dodging debris being halfheartedly thrown at him by the goblins. A balding, eye-patch wearing half-orc is behind the main desk.

As they walk in, Mõrvar tells Savaric to watch out for thieves. He stops just inside, his chest bowed out, and scans the room for female companionship. A surly-looking dwarf with a puckered scar for a left cheek scowls at Mõrvar as he walks in. Morvar gives him a death stare and the dwarf backs off, muttering into his drink, clearly shaken by the look. Mõrvar spots a comely woman sitting on the lap of a bald bruiser, though it’s clear she’s a “professional.” He also sees an attractive woman wearing black and silver leathers sitting at the bar. She appears to be half-elven and wears a longsword and dagger at her side. She seems amused by the antics of the goblins and appears to be drinking alone. Mõrvar selects a table and settles in, keeping a hand on his belt pouch. He asks Savaric to secure them rooms for the night.

Savaric, for his part, does not secure rooms. He’s hoping to return with Mõrvar to the Red Wolf Hall tonight and join the others. Savaric returns to the table with a pitcher of ale. Soon, they are joined at their table Halvor, one of the soldiers in their retinue.

“I told you all to set up at the Red Wolf, what are you doing here?” Savaric demands.

“We’re all set up, sir. We were dismissed and Master Mõrvar said something about free drinks,” Halvor says.

“Master Mõrvar obviously isn’t feeling well. Here is your free drink," Savaric pours from his pitcher, “I hope you’re as interested in bring him back as much as I am,” Savaric says.

Halvor sips from his mug, “Emotions are running high, to be sure. Maybe some hearty taverning will do the man some good. I’m happy to help in any way I can to make sure he makes it home safe and sound.”

“Still not sure what to say to get some sense in his head, but I suppose we have some time to come up with something," Savaric says.

Mõrvar sees Halvor and shakes his hand in welcome. He then makes his way over to the bar and the comely half-elf. He asks her what she’s drinking and orders the same for himself. He also sends a bottle of whiskey over to Savaric’s table. She’s having ale and happily takes the offered drink. She introduces herself as Beldis.

The two converse with each other in Tradespeak for a time, enjoying each other’s company. Mõrvar keeps an eye on his companions, making sure they always have drinks. He watches his own drinking, however, not drinking as much as Beldis or his companions.

Beldis is an adventurer between jobs. Her last adventuring party broke up over an argument about dispensation of the shares of the last take. She’s in town looking for a job and a party—she usually doesn’t work alone. She’s done work as a scout and, occasionally, as a thief. She’s Boraelan by birth, but has traveled around quite a bit.

She urges Mõrvar to drink—she doesn’t like to be the only one drinking.

Mõrvar has another drink, but can tell that Beldis is drunk. She asks if he’d like to go upstairs and Mõrvar says that he would. Mõrvar sends another gallon of ale to Savaric’s table.

Savaric and Halvor see Mõrvar heading upstairs with the half-elf woman as another gallon of ale reaches their table. Savaric hears a whispered Message in Joslac not to follow them up.

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Beldis is sleeping peacefully. Mõrvar collects his things and makes sure nothing is missing. All is intact. He heads downstairs and leaves word with the desk that he can be found at Red Wolf Hall. He finds Savaric and says, "I believe it’s time to move on to the Red Wolf. I am done here.”

“Excellent, let us get back to the others,” Savaric says.

Halvor, for his part, is happily drunk. The three of them head back to Red Wolf Hall.

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A Tale of Three: A Drop of Blood
An Open Contract

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24 Starfall 500

Over the past couple of weeks, the party has been busy. Althessamari has managed to open the chest they procured from the Tarsian ship. It contains a pouch with 100 gold pieces and a bloodstone. They take the bloodstone to one jeweler who swears that the stone is only costume jewelry and only worth 5 gold. The party doesn’t believe him and take it to another jeweler, a Kelwyn Sells, who gives them a fair deal of 50 gold pieces for it.

On this day, Elhana is heading to the Alehouse of the Cats to meet her friends. Suddenly, a halfling appears out of nowhere and throws herself into Elhana’s arms and whispers “BK 27894”. Elhana also notes that the halfling has slipped a key into her hand. The halfling has blood all over her. Then, just as suddenly, a crossbow bolt is shot into her back. Elhana looks up in time to see a cloaked figure making its way quickly into a a nearby ally. Elhana picks the halfling up and carries her into the Alehouse, ignoring the gathering crowd and shouts for the Watch.

Althessamari and Lee Xin see Elhana carrying the halfling and are dumbfounded. Althessamari clears off a space on their table and Elhana places the small woman down. Althessamari checks the halfling for signs of life, but has bad news—the halfling is dead. She pokes her head out the door to see the gathered crowd and a small Watch contingent, in the livery of City of Kalimsport, coming down the street. The Watch split, some going into the crowd, the other half coming into the Alehouse.

The lead Watchman comes up to Elhana and asks, “Do you know this halfling?”

“No. She gave me a number,” Elhana says.

“A number?”

“I don’t know what it means,” Elhana says.

“Do you know who did this?” the Watchman asks.

“A man in a cloak. They ran into an alley,” Elhana says.

Althessamari says, “I’m sure our friend can show you what alley and can corroborate with other witnesses.”

The Watchman turns toward Althessamari, scowling. “What’s your name?”

“Althessamari.”

“Stay here.” He then directs Elhana to direct him to the alley where she saw this cloaked man. She does so and the watch checks it out. The other Watchmen come up and the they have a private discussion. Finally the lead Watchman tells Elhana and her friends that they may go if they wish. They pick up the halfling’s body and take it with them. Then the Watch heads out, assuring everyone that the magistrates will be notified.

The three friends discuss these recent events. Althessamari brings up the possibility that the number the halfling recited could be a chest number from the Bank of Kalimsport. The key that Elhana got has a matching number etched on it. They decide to head to the Bank and see what’s in the chest.

They head to the bank via a circuitous route, in case the cloaked figure is following them. The Bank of Kalimsport is a grand building with lots of people coming in and out. They are approached by a well-dressed man who asks if he can help them. Althessamari asks if she can see her chest. They are brought to a back room where Althessamari is asked to sign a ledger. She signs illegibly and and then is taken to a sitting room where a small chest is brought to her. She opens the chest with her key and inside are three items: a map, a contract, and a pouch of 50 gold pieces.

The map has two notes on it. One indicates a secret entrance at the Morose Demon. The other indicates a Shrine of Kysk. Althessamari and Lee Xin know that Kysk is also known as Lord Blood, a god of death and murder and is often followed by assassins. The contract reads as follows:

Be it resolved that the undersigned Parties, who shall hereafter be referred to as “The Party” shall be entering into an Agreement with the Undersigned, who shall hereafter be referred to as “The Benefactor” for their mutual Benefit.
In short, The Party shall retrieve the Artefact known colloquially as “The Circlet of Persuasion” from the Cult of Kysk, located (as discussed by the undersigned parties) beneath the City of Kalimsport in exchange the sum in total of one hundred gold Florins. Fifty gold Florins will be paid in advance and fifty more will paid by the Benefactor upon delivery of the Artefact. Delivery of the Artefact is to be made as soon as humanly—or demi-humanly—possible. The Benefactor can be found most days at the esteemed University of Kalimsport and can take delivery of the Artefact there.
This Agreement is entered into by all Parties with sound minds and hearts, unclouded by drink or magical coercion on this Eighth Day of Starfall in the Five Hundredth Year of the Age of Tears.

Maerin Bevans, Master of Artefacts, University of Kalimsport (Benefactor)
Polla Codswoddle, Scout (Party Member)
Arla Steelshield, Knight of the Shield (Party Member)
Ozymandius of Iosabail, Wizard (Party Member)
Mavis Trevan, Scribe, University of Kalimsport (Witness)

The party decides to follow the map and fulfill the contract. But first, they decide to gear up before heading over to the Morose Demon. After gearing up, they head over to the Temple District where the Morose Demon stands. It is a ramshackle dive bar owned by an ex-priest, at least according to the information they’ve gathered.

As they head toward the tavern, Althessamari and Lee Xin spot someone following them. They lead the man into an alley and ambush him. Elhana shakes the man up while Lee Xin stuns him and takes him out. Althessamari stabilizes him. The man has a small blood drop tattoo on his face. They find no poison on his weapons. Lee Xin puts on his masterwork studded leather while Althessamari tries to hide the body.

They finally arrive at the Morose Demon. They head into the alley behind the tavern looking for a secret entrance. They do see a cook throwing out potato peels. They fail to find an entrance, finding only food droppings and old jugs. A large man pokes his head out of the back door and castigates them for lingering around his alley. He tells them the entrance is around front.

Elhana takes the lead and they go around front. The large man acknowledges them as they enter. Lee Xin and Althessamari go to the bar to secure the gambling room while Elhana sits a table. A drunkard comes by and harasses Elhana, wanting to start a fight, and punches her in the face. This starts a free-for-all in the tavern. In the meantime, Lee Xin and Althessamari have made arrangements to rent the gambling room. Elhana makes her way to the room to meet the others.

Once they get in the room, they search it out for a secret entrance. They don’t find one. They venture out into the tavern again as the fight rages on. Elhana searches the privies while Lee Xin and Althessamari search the kitchen. No luck in either case. They come back to the gambling room and search again. This time, they find a secret entrance beneath the table. They head down and shut the entrance behind them.

They find themselves in a largeish chamber with “Bayrd Davys waters his beer” scrawled across the wall in Tradespeak. The room smells of sewer and leads to a smaller chamber and some tunnels, according to the map.

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Lee Xin searches the chamber out, but finds nothing of interest. They head into the smaller chamber and find alternating black and white tiles on the floor, but nothing else. The tunnel circles around and they head to down to a larger chamber where they are met with a swarm of rats. Althessamari tries to distract them with the ghost sounds of dogs barking, but this doesn’t seem to work. They eventually defeat the swarm through brute force. Althessamari searches the chamber for anything of interest, but finds nothing.

In the next chamber, they encounter a creature that Althessamari identifies as a Cave Fisher, a crab-like monstrosity with a filament that it shoots out to draw in prey. They defeat the creature, eventually, and search out the room. There is a bloody drop painted on the far end of the room, with a cloud of insects gathered around it—as if it were painted with real blood.

The next chamber is apparently empty. Lee Xin searches it out, but finds nothing.

Before entering the next chamber, Althessamari hears clicking sounds coming from it. They decide to press on. Inside they find giant ant! They fight the large monstrosity and are victorious. Lee Xin searches the room out and finds nothing.

They make their way down to another chamber small chamber and encounter another Cave Fisher, which they defeat. This chamber has “Daveth Pynrose is a poof” written in Ornish across the wall. After this fight, Althessamari administers some healing spells. They search the room and find nothing of interest.

In the next small chamber, they encounter some giant centipedes. These they defeat handily and search the room. They find nothing. They then backtrack and head for another series of chambers. In the hall along the way, they encounter another Cave Fisher, which they defeat. In the chamber, they find six Dire Rats chewing on some refuse. They defeat the Dire Rats and search the room—they find nothing of interest.

They then backtrack to the room in which they fought the first Cave Fisher. Lee Xin removes the armor he’s been wearing and they take another passage, heading to another series of chambers. They head into one chamber and discover that it is empty. They search it out and find no secret entrances or other things of interest. They decide to head straight to the Shrine of Kysk.

Along the hallway, they pass a spot where someone has scrawled in Ornish “The Overlord sucks griffon eggs”. They also pass a small water leak. As they get closer to the shrine, they can hear chanting. They approach stealthily and see a figure standing with his back to them in the doorway. Lee Xin sneaks up behind him and punches him out. The man falls.

“Intruders!” comes a call from across the room.

Lee Xin rushes inside. From across the large room come two more guards. In the center of the room is a stone table with a man lying on it, strapped down. Three cultists are gathered around the table. One is wearing a circlet and is holding a short sword over the prone man. The cultists turn toward Lee Xin as he runs in. His companions follow close behind.

Soon the guards join in the general melee as Lee Xin, Elhana, and Althessamari engage with the three cultists. Finally, the three companions are victorious and the cultists and guards lie unconscious on the floor. They free the man strapped to the stone table, who appears to be drugged. He’s wearing nothing but a loincloth. Althessamari asks him his name and he says his name is Lavan.

They take the circlet from the lead cultist. There is a brief debate on whether or not to keep the circlet, but it is decided to go ahead and turn it in to the sage per the contract. The strip the cultists and guards down and collect their weapons and armor to sell. They then head out through the secret entrance in the Morose Demon, treating the drugged cult victim like their drunk friend.

The barkeep stops them on the way out and berates them for not ordering drinks often enough for his liking. Then he lets them go.

The three friends head to the Alehouse of the Cats, renting a carriage to do so. It’s early evening at this point and the streets are going to be dangerous carrying all of this loot. Once they get to the tavern, they craft a note for the Watch to go and collect the cult and send a street kid to deliver it.

The man that the party rescued is Lavan Dormas. He’s a cartwright and lives in the Southern Market District of the city. He was apparently kidnapped while coming home from a tavern. They offer to escort the man home and he gladly takes them up on the offer.

25 Starfall 500

The three friends meet once again at the Alehouse of the Cats before heading over to the University. There they ask for, and are led to Master Maerin Bevans. The party tell their story and explain how they came upon the contract and the money and, finally, produce the Circlet of Persuasion.

Master Bevans seems impressed with the story and tells him that he is prepared to honor his end of the contract. He pays them the remaining 50 gold and asks if he can have contact information in case he has other dealings that he can call upon them to help secure. The party give him contact information for each them and their business is concluded. The three head back to the Alehouse to celebrate.

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Interlude: Answers
A Stormy Confrontation

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14 Chillwind 508

Outside of Master Yew’s home in Kalimsport, Mõrvar brings up the possibility of changing the party’s group name again, as well as the sigils for individual party members on a group banner. He would like the matter settled.

Rilka likes both “Winter’s Storm” and “Northern Storm” as a name. She is less concerned with an individual sigil. She’d rather look like a unified group, rather than have multiple symbols/sigils on everyone. And her vote still hasn’t changed—she’d rather have a single symbol on the banner than individual sigils. It’s simple, easier to recognize, and striking.

Savaric doesn’t care. “If we do change it he likes Northern Storm, Winter’s Storm, and Winter’s Warriors in that order,” he says. Savaric agrees with Rilka, “The individual symbols you made for us all were cool and we can still use them if we want on our own time. I think the single knot design was best, putting all the symbols make it look a bit too busy.”

So Mõrvar says that that means that the new group banner is the Shield Knot without individual sigils by a vote of 3 out of 4, as Surm never cast his vote, leaving the name down to Surm’s vote as it is deadlocked.

Surm says that he like neither of the names (Winter Storm or Northern Storm) as “storm” has a negative connotation. “Like we’re here to storm the castle or storm the south. It sounds aggressive to me and that’s not what we are about,” he says.

Mõrvar says, “I disagree, tainted has a negative connotation, but I don’t think Storm does. I think Winter’s Storm says exactly what it says. A storm spawned by winter. Northern Storm may have that connotation, like we are storming the north. If you disagree with Storm, then give us something other than ‘I don’t like it’ because right now 3 of us do.”

Surm says, “Maybe I should pout and threaten to leave the group since my opinion is being disregarded. I seem to recall someone else acting that way when three voted against him, the very same person now embracing the majority rules rule…interesting how that works. After all your whining about being ignored, about how the name and flag should represent all of us equally, and now you take a dismissive and impatient tone with me…I guess as long as the vote goes your way, then majority rules is fine, all four being equally represented has suddenly become less important to you.”

Surm narrows his eyes with his best “I’m burning a hole through your skull glare” and says, “I have nothing to offer, three to one it is, name Your group what you will, brother.” Surm walks away to contemplate alone.

Mõrvar says, “Really? I just agreed with you that you may be correct with Northern Storm possibly carrying a negative connotation. Secondly, I didn’t dismiss anything you said, I disagreed with your statement about Winters Storm and while disagreeing realized that I might actually agree with your statement about Northern Storm. I’m pretty sure that’s not dismissing anything but rather the opposite and giving your statement recognition.”

Mõrvar looks at Rilka and Savaric, and asks “Am I wrong with that assessment? And as far as the flag, the entire fact that we even looked at and considered a standard with sigils was 100% because you (Morvar points at Surm) wanted to see what it looked like. I tend to agree with Savaric that it made it look to busy, but we at least took a look at it and gave it thought before we said we like the flag without better. What upsets me is that no one ever entertains the ideas or desires I have and never even takes them in consideration. But, go ahead and give me shit about it. Obviously my feelings mean nothing here. Apparently I’m just some dumb brute who hates the world and cares about nothing."

Mõrvar, with a very upset and very hurt look on his face, mounts his horse, and begins to ride away.

Savaric says to Rilka, “Well this is fucking awkward…”

Surm turns around and says, “The reason I’m so angry with you…” He sees Mõrvar mounting to leave, and screams "ARE YOU EVEN GOING TO LISTEN TO ME? YOU RANT FOR DAYS ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS AND I’VE DONE NOTHING BUT LISTEN AND TRY TO UNDERSTAND, EVEN WHEN I DISAGREED I STILL TRIED. NOW ITS YOUR TURN TO LISTEN AND YOU’RE TOO SELFISH TO GIVE ME THE SAME COURTESY. GET OFF YOUR HORSE AND SHOW ME YOU BELIEVE WHAT YOU’VE BEEN PREACHING! OR RIDE AWAY AND SHOW ME WAS JUST MANIPULATION TO GET WHAT YOU WANT!”

Surm’s face is red of embarrassment for having an outburst in front of Master Yew’s house and looks around for some place to go hide, but he just stands in the street shaking, waiting to see if Mõrvar dismounts or rides away.

Rilka looks between the two brothers, then says in a calm, even tone, “This is neither the time, nor place, for this conversation. We need to secure either lodgings for ourselves and the company or make encampment outside of the city.”

Mõrvar turns his horse so that he is facing Surm. He is clearly upset and looks to be in physical pain as if he is holding back either an outburst of anger and aggression or an outburst of tears and agony…hard to say.

He takes a deep breath to calm himself, and in as a calm of a voice as he can, while looking directly at Surm who just tried to burn holes in him with his eyes, Mõrvar states:

“I have spent my life protecting you, following you, trusting in you. I have put your life before mine every day since we last saw Father. I have been hit, stabbed, sliced, and blown up trying to keep you as safe as I could. Every time we have gone to battle, my first, and only concern has always been how to keep you alive. When you or anyone else in this group have made suggestions or had ideas, we have thought about, talked about, and analyzed them. We have discussed them thoroughly. With the exception of the group persona and my reasons for wanting to change it, or if we are knee deep in shit and need a plan to get ourselves out of it such as Yrda, not once has this group respected me enough to sit down and discuss those things that I have an interest in. Not once have we really talked about if there is a way that we all agree upon to accomplish the things I wish to accomplish. Not once have we analyzed or thoroughly discussed all possibilities. Not once have I felt any support from you, brother, whether you agree or not with my ideas, to bring it to the table and give it the same treatment as we do with all other ideas, or desires. Not once have my ideas even been entertained. Maybe they are impractical or impossible, but we will never truly know because you guys won’t give it a chance to be discussed. I expect support from my brother, to at least be heard out, and not shot down off of assumptions or lack of interest before discussing it. So, go ahead and be angry, be upset, be hurt, because that is how I have been feeling for some time."

Surm says: “Do you want to know why I was so angry that I blew up? When I voiced my opinion about the group name, you countered with, ‘the 3 of us agree’. As if that settled it, as if all of sudden, you, Mõrvar, have always embraced the majority decision. You’ve rejected 3-1 time and again, and then threw it in my face when it worked in your favor. That’s what made me so mad. Like you haven’t spent weeks complaining that 3-1 dismisses you and your feelings, but when its me, then its a perfectly suitable tool for resolving disputes.”

“But now, you have the nerve to sit on your horse and accuse me of not supporting you! I guess planning an expedition to a cursed island to retrieve a magical boost to your strength doesn’t count as support in your mind. I guess loaning you the money to craft your special sword was selfishness on my part. I suppose, even though I didn’t agree with your business model, offering you the 14,000 of my share so you could go ahead with your plan because it was that important to you was just me being a complete bastard!”

“And as for ‘following’ me and ‘trusting’ me, that is a joke. If you did follow and trust me, we wouldn’t even be having this argument because you would see that everything I do benefits you. You don’t trust me, you wouldn’t even let me handle the negotiations of the items from our last haul. You had already appraised them and given me the numbers, yet, when the time came for his man to do it, you had to stand over me and supervise even though I asked you not to. That’s not trust! If you trusted me, you wouldn’t feel belittled by the group name, you’d recognize that it’s just business and it benefits you. If you trusted me, we wouldn’t have spent countless hours arguing about your business venture, you’d have let it go a long time ago. The fact is, Mõrvar, no one supports you more than I do, and no one trusts me less than you do. I’m sorry you feel otherwise, but you seem to give me no credit for anything, and short of cowing down to your every demand, I don’t think your low opinion of me and the horrible way I treat you is likely to change.”

“Don’t respond now, think on what I’ve said while we find lodging as Rilka suggested. Separating from the group in anger before we have a base of operations to meet is foolish.”

As Surm and Mõrvar continue to argue in front of their retinue, Rilka’s hands tighten on her horse’s reins and she sits up even straighter in the saddle. At Surm’s last words, she takes a deep breath, then repeats evenly, “Let’s go find lodgings. Now.”

The soldiers are all shifting nervously in their saddles during this display. Alasir rides up and down the line, trying to instill discipline, and doing a fair job of it, but it is apparent that everyone is uneasy in the face of the ensuing drama.

Finally, the procession starts to move out. Surm does some asking about for lodging near the University and settles on Red Wolf Hall, a well-to-do establishment. Mõrvar asks for some place “good for a traveler to raise hell and cut loose”. He settles on an inn called the Fat Hero, located near the Jetties.

Rilka says she wants to get their entourage off the street and secure safe lodgings … and their belongings. There’s already been one theft, she doesn’t want another. “It may also be difficult to fit a group of this size into a single inn. We may have to try several before landing on one with enough rooms.”

Mõrvar, who still looks as if he is steaming inside says, “You’re right, probably not enough room for us all. Guess I’ll head elsewhere tonight.” He turns to Alasir, “Once they figure out what they are doing with you guys, if you are any of the men are up to it tonight, I think the Fat Hero is calling my name.” Mõrvar then looks at Surm as he begins to turn his horse in that direction.

Surm says quietly (shaking his head sadly): “I guess your going to reject me then, my advice means nothing. Farewell and watch your back brother. I honestly hope you spend this night with someone you do trust, it is a dangerous city and you are going to a dangerous place.”

Mõrvar says “I never rejected you, it is the other way around. I have told you what bothers me, what upsets me and what hurts me. In response you justify why you do what you do and how it shouldn’t. You villianize me. You make me out to be the bad guy and try and make me feel like it’s all my fault. You even throw petty things like the standard at me. Hell, I spent countless hours working on developing one standard for the group. That turned into developing personal standards for each person. I have gone through more than five different versions of a group standard before three of us finally agreed on something, and you take that as a win for me? You say that voting worked in my favor for that? Yes, you have taken us on expeditions to benefit the party, but I wasn’t the one who asked for going to a haunted island. I am not the one who asked to go a dwarven stronghold. The things I have asked for have been either thrown to the side as trash without any consideration, or has been a fight just to get you three to even see my point of view. Never has it been, hey, lets talk about this and give it a fair assessment. I don’t remember saying I had any desire to stay at some fancy inn. Hell, as usual, I don’t remember you even asking what the rest of us wanted or where we wanted to stay. You care so much about wanting to rub elbows and being seen as one of these fancy rich fucks that you don’t even toy with the idea that some of us might not want that lifestyle. I am a northerner, and though there are things about these southern folk I do appreciate, such as their acceptance of our kind (Morvar points back and forth between he and Surm), there are things I despise. You drag us all over getting us these “jobs” but typically you don’t even ask if we want the jobs. You just assume we do. You do it to build vanity, brother, not for the best interest of the group but for the best interest of you. It is your best interest to make me as powerful as you can to protect you. Never have you wondered if what we do is in my best interest. I am not saying I won’t follow you on your journey to be a southerner, but what I am saying is it would be nice if at some point you would take a look at other’s desires, and maybe treat those around you as equals. You are so caught up in being one of them, brother, you forget your really one of us. I am tired of being disrespected. I imagine you’re sitting there and still have no idea what I am even talking about. Tonight, I don’t want to stay in some fancy inn surrounded by elitist snobs who think they are better than everyone else because they were born privileged. Tonight, I stay with assholes and cutthroats. Perhaps a good bar room brawl will erupt. Hell, maybe I’ll even wake up stripped of everything I own and left for dead. That has to be more entertaining then what can be found at the Red Wolf Inn. In fact, (Morvar looks around at the entourage) are any of you interested in joining me at the Fat Hero? If so, drinks are on me.”

The soldiery continue to look uneasy in their saddles. Alasir looks from Surm to Mõrvar to Rilka to Savaric and back again. “Sirs? Are we being dismissed for the evening? Are we still proceeding to inn? What are our orders here? None of us are going to leave until our job is done.” He says this last part with a stern look back at the troops.

Surm looks as though he might respond to Mõrvar, then simply gives up with a sigh.

Surm says to Rilka, “Emotions are high, you take command of the troops. Dismiss them now or have them finish their duties as escorts, but let’s move.”

Savaric says, “You guys go get settled at the Red Wolf. I’ll go with Mõrvar to the Fat Hero so he can blow off some steam and we will catch up with you.”

Rilka speaks directly to Alasir. “Your orders are to first provide escort until we find a safe place to secure lodgings. Once there, then you can arrange for the guards to take leave.”

She turns towards Mõrvar and Savaric and says crisply, “Start looking for us at Red Wolf Hall. As I said before, we don’t know if that’s where we will end up. I’ll try to leave word if we have to look elsewhere.” Rilka then begins moving her horse forward.

Mõrvar and Savaric turn towards the Fat Hero as the procession turn toward the city center and Red Wolf Hall.

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A Tale of Three: Cry Freedom
A Rescue

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17 Starfall 500

It has been a week since our heroes’ last adventure. They have cashed in and split their treasures and once again find themselves enjoying each other’s company at the Alehouse of the Cats in Kalimsport.

Their usual barmaid, Gwynfer, is not her usual perky self. She seems…distracted. She gets their orders wrong and is friendly, but only on the surface—not like usual, when she genuinely seems happy to see her favorite customers. Althessamari asks her if something is wrong and the barmaid comes clean.

Apparently her brother, Jory, didn’t come home last night. Jory is a dock worker, a longshoreman, and he usually comes straight home after work. But he never showed and Gwynfer is worried sick. Lee Xin and Althessamari ask her some more questions about his habits and it is revealed that he works with some men named Domwald and Walsey, but Gwynfer doesn’t know where, just somewhere on the sprawling docks of Kalimsport. Gwynfer bustles off to help some more customers and the three friends agree to help Gwynfer by finding out what happened to Jory. They’ll start by tracking down Domwald and Walsey.

Althessamari goes to Gwynfer and lets her know what they plan to do. Gwynfer is pleased and thanks the group for their efforts.

Elhana, Lee Xin, and Althessamari then head down to the docks to begin asking after Domwald and Walsey. They don’t really get a bead on the two longshoremen (Elhana’s method of interrogation is particularly ineffective), but they do hear that there have been more disappearances on the docks.

As they are making their way around, Lee Xin notices a small boy passing him and then running away from him. He looks down and notices that his pouch is missing. He takes off in pursuit, yelling for the others to follow. The boy jumps across a gully and Lee Xin follows. Elhana has trouble with this, but Althessamari doesn’t. The boy then tries to climb a fence, but doesn’t clear it, allowing Lee Xin to catch up and grab the boy by his ankles. Althessamari shows up and does the same thing. The boy thrashes about calling the two a couple of “weirdos”. Finally Elhana catches up and intimidates the boy into giving up. He hands over the pouch and gives them some information.

Apparently a Tarsian ship, the Black Moon, is in dock and is pressing people into service. That’s why people are disappearing. The boy doesn’t know where on the dock the ship is. The group finally lets the boy go.

The group then decide to start asking around about the Black Moon. They soon find themselves in a hairy situation: they are in a narrow street and a man pops out of an alleyway ahead of them. Two more pop out behind them, pinning them in. They have short hair and beards. They all draw scimitars and come at the three with violent intent in their intense amber eyes.

The fight is short, thanks to Elhana and Lee Xin’s fighting prowess and Althessamari’s spellcasting assistance. Two of the three attackers are down and out and the third drops his sword and surrenders. From him, they learn that the Black Moon is docked in the southern part of the docks, near the Southern Market District of the city. They tie the man up, along with his comrades and leave him in the alleyway. Then they head to the south end of the docks to look for the Black Moon.

After some searching, they come across a ship with a black crescent moon carved into its prow. Althessamari and Elhana hang back while Lee Xin does some reconnaissance. Lee Xin watches in secret as three figures depart from the ship. One is a broad-shouldered woman with long braids in her hair, festooned with beads, gemstones, and shells. She has olive skin and intense amber-colored eyes. A second figure is male, also with long braids in his hair that are filled with beads, gemstones and shells. His forked beard is also decorated in the same fashion. His frame is thinner and more wiry than the woman’s. The third figure is decorated in much same manner as the other male, with a forked beard and long, decorated braids. He also sports a long scar on his left cheek. The three stride confidently off of the ship’s gangplank and head off into the dock district toward one of the taverns there. Lee Xin stealthily makes his way back to his companions and reports what he saw.

They decide that if they are going to hit the boat, now might be time while those three are off the ship. They are hoping that it was the main officers of the ship taking their leave and only leaving behind a skeleton crew to man the ship in their absence. Lee Xin will go first since he is the stealthiest, followed by Althessamari, and finally Elhana. They will approach in the water and climb up the rigging onto the deck. Althessamari will distract any crew on the deck with a Ghost Sound of “Hey!” and a whistling sound to draw their attention to the street.

They slip into the harbor water and swim to the ship and then climb up the ship’s rigging on the Black Moon’s deck, not without some difficulties. However, they all eventually make it. Much to their relief, they find no crew on the upper deck. They quietly pull up the gangplank. Then Lee Xin stealthily makes his way to the staircase leading down to the lower deck.

As he heads down the staircase, the monk sees a crewman heading toward the staircase. Lee Xin quickly moves to meet him and catches him off-guard. He makes quick work of the crewman, but alerts another man who was patrolling on the same deck. Elhana and Althessamari make their way down to the deck to assist. Between the three of them, the crewman is dealt with quickly. Lee Xin makes a point of catching the crewmen and gently laying them down before letting them hit the deck floor. The staircase continues down to another deck. Lee Xin follows it down, quietly.

He makes it to the next deck unseen or heard and sees two more crewmen. He sneaks up behind one and surprises him. Elhana and Althessamari follow shortly behind and begin to engage the other one. Once again, they take out the crewmen, with Lee Xin gently laying their unconscious bodies on the deck. From below they hear the sound of moving metal—like the shaking of chains. There is another short staircase leading down to yet another deck. Lee Xin follows it down. The others follow him.

Lee Xin emerges on a smaller deck and finds himself face-to-face with another crewman. The fight is fast and furious, but once again the monk emerges on top. He gently lays the crewman down on the deck. Then he hears another sound—snoring. From multiple sources. He goes to the end of the deck to check it out.

Meanwhile, Althessamari and Elhana see a line of people chained to the side of the deck shaking their chains. There are 15 people chained up there altogether—including Jory Grybbin. There are halflings, a dwarf, an elf, half-elves, and humans. Males and females. Althessamari asks them to keep it down while they try to find a key to get them out. Sure enough, they do find a key on the last crewman that Lee Xin had taken out. They unlock the chains and free the prisoners, who reveal that the Tarsians are actually slavers.

Lee Xin goes to the end of the deck and sees about a dozen hammocks hanging in the alcove formed by the end of the ship. All full of sleeping crewmen. He quietly backs away and informs his companions. “We need to get out of here. Not that way. We don’t need anything that way,” he says, pointing at the other end of the deck.

At this point, all three companions notice a cabin at this end of the deck. Althessamari goes to check out the door. It is locked. Never one to let that deter her curiosity, she picks the lock and opens the door. It is a small cabin, modestly furnished. They search it and find a secret compartment in the wall. Inside the compartment, they find a small coffer. Althessamari takes the coffer as “compensation” for the misery these people have caused.

The companions then round up the prisoners and head back up to the upper deck and carefully replace the gangplank. They then depart from the ship and make their way to the Alehouse of the Cats.

All of the prisoners thank the companions profusely for saving them. Apparently they were all taken on the docks of Kalimsport within the past couple of weeks. They all then head back to their homes. Gwynfer thanks the companions as well and has a tearful reunion with her brother.

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Interlude: On the Road to Kalimsport
A Southbound Journey

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1 Chillwind 508

The party leaves the city of Aldasar behind through the south gate and heads down the road toward Kalimsport, the “hub of the world.” The day is windy and, typical of the month, a bit chill. Alasir has the troops in formation around the wagon and Rilka and Mõrvar ride at the head of the procession.

People come into and out of the city along their path and largely have to go around their entourage as they take up most of the available space on the road. Toliver Yew doesn’t seem to mind. He’s beaming ear to ear as the procession makes its way through the city and down the road and only lets go of his grin when the people start to dwindle and the sun starts to go down.

The party makes a camp on the roadside, with Mahgnus’ efficient guidance, and watches are established by Alasir and Alfhild.

The night passes without incident.

3 Chillwind 508

The past day and night have passed much like the first, though Toliver’s mood is not as bright without the light of public attention to illuminate it. This day is particularly quiet, with little to no traffic on the road. However, one person of interest catches the party’s eye…

Meeting the entourage on the road from the opposite direction is a man on a heavy horse with chain barding. He bears a lance in the crook of one arm and a banner bearing two symbols in the other: a white star and a brass dragon. A heavy steel shield is slung on the side of the horse along with his saddle bags. He wears banded mail on his body and a scimitar at his side. His suit of armor includes a conical helm and a metal veil that is currently hanging off of his face. That face bears a neat beard and Southron features.

Mõrvar knows that the symbol of the brass dragon represents Azumazran, a good Southron deity. He also knows that based on the style of the man’s armor, and the metal veil, that he is probably Acheran. Acherans wear veils when they go into battle to symbolically blind themselves to the violence that they are about to do.

Surm knows that the symbol of the star indicates that he is most likely a cavalier/knight of the Order of the Star, an order whose members devote themselves to various religions.

The man pulls his horse over to the side of the road to allow your troupe to pass. As the entourage pulls up beside him, he calls out in Tradespeak, “May the Light of Wisdom shine upon you!”

Rilka nods at him as they pass and replies in turn, “And may your heart be filled with Courage.”

Mõrvar simply nods his head but keeps an alert presence as they pass.

As the troupe passes, he, too, watches warily as it goes by. Once he has room to traverse again, the knight returns to the road and starts continuing on his way.

5 Chillwind 508

In the middle of an early morning thunderstorm, you arrive at the gates of the city of Pylar-Holton. Pylar-Holton straddles the borders of Leilior and Ornis, with the town of Pylar on the Leilioran side and the town of Holton on the Ornish side.

Toliver Yew informs Surm that he has some business he’d like to attend to in the city.

Mõrvar and Surm discuss the possibility of moving around Pylar-Hollton, but as it fords a river, that makes things tricky—especially with a wagon. There will be gate fees at both Pylar and Hollton. Surm asks if Master Yew will be paying the gate fees for the escort and Yew responds, “We didn’t negotiate my paying of your travel expenses when we discussed our terms."

“Very well, Captain Rilka is not one to quibble over a few coppers," Surm says.

The gate guards inform them of the gate fees and shrugs apologetically. “Everything is high these days. Even taxes. Times are tough these days in the city.”

Once the gate fees are paid, the entourage makes it way into the town of Pylar. It’s a nice town, settled on the River Ornis. They see the pennants of the city depicting a white stag, rampant, on a green field, snapping in the storm winds. It’s raining pretty hard as the storm blows through.

Master Yew directs the procession toward a nice section of town, near the temple district. Once there, he asks for a halt in front of a particularly fine home with a circular drive. Here he disembarks from his wagon and tells them that he is heading inside. He should only be a short time and that the procession should wait. Thunder rolls and the rain falls down in a sheets.

Mõrvar tells Surm, "We are his escort, perhaps you and I should accompany him to this home. Never know were another impression or contact could be made.”

Surm calls out to Master Yew, “Master Yew, do you need escort inside?”

“I don’t anticipate any troubles, but it would be a nice front. Sure, maybe a small show of force would be appropriate,” Yew says.

Mõrvar dismounts as if there really is no question, and positions himself to escort Master Yew as if Mõrvar was his personal bodyguard. Surm dismounts to go, but looks to Rilka to see if she is coming. At Master Yew’s words, Rilka dismounts as well, moving to walk step-in-step with Surm.

Mõrvar, Surm, and Rilka all fall into step to escort Master Yew into the house. The four of them approach the house’s front door at the portico and Master Yew raps on the door. It is answered by a young woman in a maid’s outfit. Master Yew announces himself as “Master Toliver Yew and escort.”

The young woman curtsies and invites them all inside. They are directed to a small parlor off the main entrance where a sideboard with a decanter of brandy sits as well as a small tray of cheese and bread. Yew helps himself to the food and drink and takes a seat.

Soon after that, a tall thin man comes into room dressed in fine clothes. He has a large mole on the end of his nose. “Toliver, you’re soaked to the skin!” the man says, shaking hands with the Ornish merchant. “Have some more brandy to warm you up!” The man pours himself a glass and sits down across from Yew.

“Connall, it’s raining outside, of course I’m soaked,” Yew says with some gravity, but with a smile. He sips his drink. “This brandy is excellent by the way.”

And the two gentlemen begin a conversation as old friends, completely ignoring the three escorts in the room.

As the two catch up and reminisce, Yew manages to secure an exclusive contract to sell Connall’s silks at market in Aldasar. Finally, the two say their goodbyes and Yew, all smiles, heads back out to the horses.

By this time, the rain has let up and the sun is poking out from behind the clouds. It’s chilly, though, especially for those still wet from the rain.

The procession now heads to the Great Bridge and crosses the River Ornis into Hollton.

The gate into Hollton charges a tax of 3 copper per person, 8 copper per livestock. As they pass through, they are welcomed into Ornis. Master Yew has no business to conduct in Hollton, so they are free to pass through and continue on their way for the rest of the day.

7 Chillwind 508

It’s a windy day as they wend their way down the road and see, perched up on a nearby hill, shining in the noontime sun, [Tower Iosabail], one of the fabled Towers of Wizardry located throughout the continent, where wizards and sorcerers gather to ply their craft and learn new spells.

9 Chillwind 508

This morning on the road, they arrive at the gates of Glofthall. The pennants bearing the green field and golden boar’s head snap in the crisp breeze. The guards announce the gate fees of 2 copper per person and 3 copper for the livestock.

Surm manages to convince the guards that the wolf will be on its best behavior. It is treated as livestock.

Glofthall is a large town, pleasant enough, but they see a lot of its citizens eyeballing them as the procession makes its way through town—not in an unpleasant way, but in a gossipy way. Signs indicate that there is a pass that leads west through the nearby Slayt Mountains that leads to the town of Wycliff in Eacenia. Also, apparently the town is ruled by a Baroness whose hold is in the center of town on Baron’s Hill.

They pass through the town and arrive on the other side without a hitch and continue down the road.

10 Chillwind 508

It’s a moderate day, weather-wise, when they arrive at the gates of Laketon around noon. Laketon is just off of [[King’s Lake]], the second largest freshwater lake in the known world. The road passes through the town and they are asked to pay the tax (2 copper per person, 3 copper per livestock). Once again, Surm convinces the guards that the wolf is not a safety issue. The procession makes its way into Laketon, with the guards assured that the wolf will be well-handled. As they make their way through the winding streets, they can see that Laketon is a prosperous town and proud of its proximity to a natural attraction.

14 Chillwind 508

The morning is windy and a bit warmer than usual as they approach the great port city of Kalimsport. There is a long line of people waiting to get into the city. Laborers, merchants, entertainers, courtiers—people of every type vying to pass through the gates. To the west is the Sea of Jirra; its salty air is carried on the wind.

Eventually, the procession makes its way to the head of the line and to the North Gate. There you are met by City Watch soldiers in Kalimsport livery: A white field with a blue dolphin emblazoned on the front. While some of the Watch deal with Toliver Yew and his declarations concerning imports for sale, another address the party and their gate taxes. “5 copper per person, 1 silver piece each for your livestock. And 1 silver for the wolf as well,” a guard says, eyeing Ghost warily.

After paying their gate fees, the party finds itself in the city of Kalimsport. Kalimsport is a city like no other. It’s huge, its crowded, it’s bustling with life—and it’s a day before market faire—so crank it up a notch or three and you get the idea.

Traffic is thick in the streets with other wagons of merchants trying to get to the market district to set up for the faire. Visitors have come from miles around to see the faire and all the entertainments it provides. Speaking of entertainments, street performers are on every corner, juggling, singing, playing, trying to pry coppers from passersby. The noise is deafening and the stench is blinding. It takes forever to make their way through the streets as Master Yew’s wagon is slow on the best of days and glacial in this situation.

Alasir does a good job of ensuring the soldiery keep close to the wagon and keeps an eye out for any ne’er-do-wells that may have an eye on the merchant’s few goods he has left.

Eventually, the entourage makes its way to the city’s Southern Market District. Once there, Master Yew brings his wagon to a stop at a modest home with a small fountain out in front of it. As he disembarks from the wagon, he calls Surm over to him. “I suppose we need to settle up. That was 19 silver per day, right? Follow me.” And he starts heading toward the house with a large key ring in his hand.

Mõrvar dismounts and follows, checking his belongings to see if anything is missing. Now that he’s able to look, It does appear that in the crowded press of people on the way here that his sack with his soldier’s clothes got torn away from his gear somehow. He announces this fact to the group.

“Do you know where you last left it? I don’t know if I can track with all these people,” Savaric says.

“I’m sure it was ripped off in the crowd. Who ever made off with it is lucky I didn’t see them, or I would have detached another head from it’s shoulders,” Mõrvar says.

Mõrvar and Surm follow Master Yew to the house while the others wait behind. He takes his key and unlocks the large lock on the front door and lets them inside. He bids them to wait a moment while he lights the lamps, as there isn’t much light. He does so and then leads them into a sitting room.

The sitting room is simply furnished—it is nice, but not extravagant. He once again asks them to wait while he fetches their pay. He then brings them back a pouch full of silver coins. “Nineteen silver per day for thirteen days. Our bargain is complete,” he says, smiling. “My trip to Aldasar has been a very profitable enterprise indeed. Should I travel again, may I call upon you?”

Surm says, "Of course, and may we call on you as our guide to Kalimsport, we’ve never been this far South and it’s always good to have a local friend?”

“Certainly,” he says, “What sort of direction do you need?”

“Well, directions to the University of Kalimsport would be helpful. I am seeking a sage by the name of Mandreth Kerendal,” Surm says.

The merchant gives Surm the directions he seeks. The University is near the city center, sitting upon Sage Hill. The two men take their pay and exit the domicile toward their procession.

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