10 Longnight 508
Staying in the city of Kalimsport while the University conducts research for the Crimson Cord, Surm decides to pursue leads into the high society of Kalimsport. He spends time frequenting the affluent parts of the city, hanging out in taverns, public galas, and talking his way into parties. He specifically seeks out someone in need of adventurers to handle some local situation, something that the Crimson Cord might be able to take care of locally and quickly to earn some favor and prestige. He wants to get the group in the door of high society and start rubbing elbows with nobles. He would prefer something that requires discretion and will earn favors rather than cash. He’s looking to get a noble name to attach the group to and use as the first rung of the social ladder to the important lords and ladies. A foot in the door, as it were.
He brings Mahgnus with him to help listen and to schmooze with the guests. Both are outfitted in the finest attire Kalimsport has to offer.
His forays into society looking for a possible contact yield the name of Lady Meliora Gynn. She is an Ornish noblewoman who has a residence within Kalimsport, though her lands are just outside the walls. Surm’s initial attempts to make contact with her are rebuffed. However, he keeps trying and eventually gets an “in.” She agrees to meet with him to discuss a potential business arrangement that the Crimson Cord could assist her with.
Surm knows that Lady Gynn was on the side of the current (victorious) King Daveth Pynrose in the relatively recent Ornish Civil War. She aided the Pynroses by running weapons and troops by ship from Kalimsport to Crownport, as well as assisting the “rebel” cause through funding various expeditions. She is a close friend of His Majesty and a favored courtier of the Overlord. She has a reputation for being a shrewd businesswoman and is fiercely loyal to the Pynroses.
Surm informs the group of his intentions prior to meeting with Lady Gynn. He tells them that anybody who wants to come can, but please be prepared to dress the part. “If you guys are happy to let me make the arrangements, I’m happy to handle it. Again, it should be quick and local, but being owed favors by an aristocrat who is in good with the Overlord and the King of Ornis is a boon for us!”
The two half-orcs, Rilka and Savaric, opt to let Surm handle this matter without them. Mõrvar, Surm’s brother, decides to the dress the part and accompany him to the meeting.
17 Longnight 508
Lady Meliora Gynn’s Kalimsport residence is a small, but stately home near the Overlord’s Keep. It has a large lawn and is surrounded by a high stone wall. Entry is barred by wrought iron gates bearing the Gynn crest of a wyvern.
The three men, Surm, Mahgnus, and Mõrvar, are met at the gates by a pair of guards in Gynn livery, gold with a silver wyvern on the chest. One of the guards, an Ornish woman by her accent, asks them to state their name and business.
Mahgnus looks to the two of others as if to ask, “Do you wish me to take this?”
Mõrvar looks at Surm. Surm gives Mahgnus a nod of approval and waits
Mahgnus steps forward and says, “Masters Surm and Mõrvar Ulrich of the Crimson Cord. We are expected.”
His tone has just enough authority to convey that the guard should move quickly, but not so much as to be insulting or condescending.
The guard nods curtly and opens the gate, allowing the three of men to go inside. She accompanies them as they walk down the cobblestone lane toward the house. When they arrive at the door of the house, the guard raps on the door. It is answered by a middle-aged woman dressed in a dark blue high-necked dress, who looks at the guard with an arched eyebrow.
“Expected guests,” the guard explains. “Masters Ulrich of the Crimson Cord.”
The woman turns to the three and smiles slightly. “Ah yes. Welcome to our home. Please, come in.” She steps aside to let them inside the house.
“Lady Gynn will see you shortly. Please come with me.” She leads them to a drawing room with comfortable chairs and sideboard equipped with a silver tray and a crystal bottle of wine with matching glasses.
“Please make yourself comfortable while you wait,” the woman says, and shuts the double-doors behind her as she leave the three in the room.
Surm settles into a chair and sips some wine. His brother does the same. Mahgnus takes up a standing position slightly behind and between the two brothers—unobtrusive, but available should the need arise.
After a few minutes, the doors open and a beautiful woman in a flowing burgundy dress enters the room. Her reddish hair is piled high on her head and held in place with a jewel-studded comb. She smiles warmly and says, “Gentlemen, welcome to my home.”
Mahgnus pours the lady a cup of wine, for which she thanks him and settles into a chair. “I appreciate you meeting with me to discuss this matter. The reputation of your troupe speaks well of you,” she says as she sips her wine.
Surm says: “The Crimson Cord is only too happy to accommodate the Lady. How may we assist you?”
“As you are probably aware, I used whatever means I had at my disposal to assist His Majesty in the recent…unpleasantness…between his House and the Rowyns. Part of that aid was funding and assisting in the shipment of arms, both traditional and alchemical, to Pynrose loyalists from Kalimsport to Crownport. This is no secret and I am not ashamed of my service to the Crown.
“Unfortunately, not all of my endeavors were successful. One such endeavor stalled at Cranbarrow Keep, some ten miles northeast of Kalimsport. The keep was being used to house a cache of weapons, including some alchemical explosives. The weapons were hidden in one of the dungeon chambers.
“The Cranbarrows were betrayed by one of their servants, who sold information about the cache to the Rowyns. The Rowyn faction sent a covert team of sappers to the keep who, with the help of the turncoat servant, used an underground corridor to tunnel up into the dungeon.
“The Cranbarrows discovered their servant’s treachery—but it was too late. The sappers were on their way. They rushed to meet the interlopers down in the dungeon and fought them. In the course of the fighting, the alchemical weapons were ignited and there was a mighty explosion which killed Cranbarrow and sapper alike, as well as crumbling half of the keep.
“Fortunately, the Cranbarrow line survives—the new Lord Cranbarrow is the former Lord and Lady’s son, Borwyn, who was taking an apprenticeship in Kalimsport at the time.
“No one has returned to Cranbarrow Keep since that fateful day—it is said to be haunted by the spirits of the dead. Other creatures have taken up residence in the ruin.
“Lord Cranbarrow would very much like to reclaim his heritage—not only the keep, but the family signet from the hand of his late father.
“I would very much like to help my friend, young Lord Cranbarrow in this endeavor. Thus, I hope to enlist your aid.”
“Remaining true to your king is nothing to be ashamed of at all. Loyalty is an admirable trait that the Crimson Cord appreciates and respects. We would be honored to assist you and the Lord Cranbarrow on this endeavor," Surm says. "This seems straight forward enough, but, just so I can be clear when explaining the mission to my compatriots, you are asking that we not only seek out the lost signet ring, but also clear out any squatters and ‘haunts’ that may have taken up residence since the keep was abandoned?” He also asks for a description of the signet ring.
“You have the gist of the mission correct, Master Ulrich,” Lady Gynn says, “and the ring is made of silver with the symbol of a hart’s head above a crossed spear and axe on the face.”
“Would we be able to speak with Lord Cranbarrow, perhaps get a layout of the lands and keep?” Surm asks.
“Certainly,” Lady Gynn says. “He actually is currently residing here. However, he is also a Journeyman Scrivener and is, at the moment at the Hall of Records, not far from here. If you wish to speak with him, you may either return later in the evening or seek him out there.”
“We could go to him, is he aware of our arrangements? If not, perhaps a quick note from you to ease the introductions. After speaking with Lord Cranbarrow, we will begin preparations for the task at hand. If there are any delays, I will contact you, but I do not foresee any. I expect the Crimson Cord will be on the move either tomorrow or the next day," Surm says.
“He is aware that I am making preparations on his behalf. He is not aware of the details. I will gladly write you a note," the Lady says. Before they leave, she provides them with said note—a brief missive on parchment simply stating that the two of them have been sent by her to discuss a business arrangement and that they can be trusted.
The two brothers and Mahgnus leave the home of Lady Gynn and head for the Hall of Records.
The Hall of Records in Kalimsport is a large, stately building with wide columns bearing bas relief carvings depicting a variety of scenes, both urban and pastoral, of people at work.
The main courtyard is bustling with people, scribes running to and fro with scroll cases in hand, panhandlers watching people and holding out their cups for alms, and various men and women in fine clothes and robes gathered together in conversation.
The Hall itself is set back from the courtyard, its entryway barred by two large iron doors and two guards in city livery.
The three men approach the guards and Surm requests entry. “We are to meet with Lord Cranbarrow. The Lady Gynn indicated we could find him here. May we enter?”
One of the guards turns and opens one of the iron doors. He calls to another guard within. “Three to see Cranbarrow.”
“Very well,” the guard within says, cheerfully.
The guard at the door motions for the three to pass through.
Once inside, they are met by another guard who says, “Lord Cranbarrow is a journeyman with the Department of Lands. I’ll lead the way.”
The friendly guard leads them through a long hall lined with doors with placards detailing various departments and subsections of records: Marriages, Deaths, Taxes, etc. Finally they come to a door marked “Lands.” The guard opens the door and they see a large room with several desks inside with scribes furiously scribbling onto scrolls and books. A large map of Kalimsport is on the wall—it looks like it details the city in light of parcels of land.
“Three to see Journeyman Cranbarrow,” the guard announces, and a young man rises from one of the desks. He’s probably 18 years old, austerely dressed, though the clothes are obviously finely made. He looks quizzically at the three men as he approaches.
“Yes?” he says.
The guard excuses himself and leaves the four young men at the door to the Department of Lands.
“Lord Cranbarrow, I am Surm Ulrich, this is Mõrvar and Mahgnus, and we represent The Crimson Cord. We were sent by the Lady Gynn to discuss the current state of your family holdings and how the Crimson Cord can assist.”
Surm hands the young Lord the note that Lady Gynn composed.
Lord Cranbarrow reads the note and nods. “Very well. Let’s discuss this elsewhere, however. Wait here.”
He goes to a man in robes seated near the large map and whispers a few words to him. The man nods and Lord Cranbarrow returns. “Let’s go to The Knave’s Pipe. It’s nearby.”
Lord Cranbarrow leads the way and the other three follow.
The Knave’s Pipe is a modest tavern not far from the Hall of Records. The four of men are quite overdressed for the humble affair, and get a few looks from the patrons, but nothing hostile—just interest. Lord Cranbarrow selects a corner booth and, after seating himself, orders a bottle of wine for the table.
“I have heard of the Crimson Cord. You are a band of adventurers, correct? I understand that you have done some work for the University of late,” he says.
“We are currently contracted with the University to retrieve artifacts that they would like to research.”
“But we are currently awaiting research and find ourselves with time to kill. That brings us to you. The Lady Gynn informed us of your desire to have squatters and rumored haunts rooted out of your family estate. Since we are uniquely qualified for just such an endeavor, we have signed on, only too happy to assist a local lord with his troubles. We were hoping you could gives us a layout of the estate and keep. A working knowledge of the terrain will make things go smoother," Surm says.
“I see, then you’ve already made all the arrangements with Lady Gynn. Then I will do the best I can. The formal maps and papers were lost after the explosion and no one has returned since then. That was five years ago. I was just a boy. I can sketch you out a layout of the keep as I remember it, though,” Lord Cranbarrow says. “I could provide you a drawing, say, this afternoon?”
“Very well then," Surm says. The three members of the Crimson Cord take their leave of the young Lord and leave the tavern.
Surm decides to “hit the streets” and look for more information on the reputed new denizens of Cranbarrow Keep and if anyone can confirm that it is haunted. Asking around, he learns that the keep is indeed reputed to be haunted. Most “smart” people avoid it so no one can say for sure—well except for old Elizir. He’s drunk most days. They say he ventures out there from time to time to pay his respects.
They find Elizir sleeping in an alley. Speaking with him, they learn that he was the chamberlain for the keep, back before the accident. He says he’s seen the spirits of the dead there—that they’ve chased him off the property. He’s also seen creatures flying from the towers on leathery wings, though he didn’t get a good look at them.
“Elizir, would you be willing to guide us there? We have taken up the cause of Lord Cranbarrow and plan to clear the threats from his estate and search for his father’s signet ring. Your working knowledge of the estate would be most helpful," Surm says.
Elizir belches. “No, that poor boy doesn’t want a ruin. He should start a new life and build something unsullied, untainted.” Then he looks up as if he just heard you. “Guide you there? Are you daft? It’s haunted, and worse! No place for a drunk old man…”
“Well, perhaps if you helped us, Lord Cranbarrow would bring you back into his services. That has to better than drunk on the street," Surm says.
“I don’t deserve a second chance with that boy,” the old man looks down, a tear dripping off of his nose. But then he looks up, a new determination in his eyes, “But he deserves his heritage, right enough. I’ll help you.”
The three men take the old man and get him cleaned up and outfitted with new clothes. They then take Elizir with them to meet back with Lord Cranbarrow at the Hall of Records.
The whole time, Elizir is quiet, barely saying a word except for a murmured “thank you” when presented with the clothes and when introduced to the bath.
They are all admitted again to the Hall of Records and directed to the Department of Lands. There, Lord Cranbarrow is summoned once again and he meets them just outside, two rolled pieces of parchment in his hand.
“I’ve sketched out the keep here…,” he says, and then stares at Elizir. “Master Elizir?”
The old man nods and bows his head, “Aye, lad. It is I. Here to help you reclaim that what is yours.”
The young man embraces the old awkwardly and says. “You are welcome to help, sir. You have been sorely missed. We have much to discuss. Where have you been? What happened to you after the accident? There is so much!”
“There’ll be time enough for that later, lad,” the old man says, patting the young man on the shoulder. “But I thank you for the undeserved welcome. These gentlemen still have business with you.”
“Oh, yes, of course,” Lord Cranbarrow says, recovering his composure. “I have sketched out these two maps of the keep. Hopefully you will find them helpful.”
Surm thanks him and lets him know that they are staying at the University if anything useful comes to mind, otherwise, they will contact him when the task is done.
They take Elizir with them and have Mahgnus set him up with a bed. Meanwhile, the two brothers explain all to their two companions.