The Warning

Episode 20

The Truth Of Treasure Hunting

“We should’ve have questioned the shopkeeper,” Ishrana jammed another chunk of honeyed bread into her mouth. Deldund looked across the table at her aura silhouette, allowing it to clarify so he could read her expression. It was alert, but irritated.

“If this doesn’t work, me may yet half to,” he replied quietly. He sipped the odd drink he’d apparently ordered. Ishrana chewed violently, but didn’t respond. He let the ridge-rider stew and turned his gaze back across the street to the front wall of Zholta’s. Deldund girded himself against the nauseating wash of motion as the cloud of auras in the street whisked before him. With practiced focus, they resolved into clearer shapes of men, women, animals, and bugs. He squinted the knotted flesh of his eye sockets at the handful of dark-stained shapes in view. There were far more with the indeterminate grey wash of the morally conflicted, and he noticed, thankfully, a couple of pure auras, gracing the scene with warm light.

He sat patiently, despite his instinct to break in the back door with his grandfather’s axe. The plan was set, and he’d abide it until it failed. He didn’t like it, but there was no choice but to trust the tricksters inside.

“I don’t like this,” Ishrana echoed his thoughts, “I don’t trust her,” referring to Tahira.

“I don’t trust either of them, but we’ve got little choice,” he stated, not shifting his gaze, “neither of us look like good news to a gang of criminals.”

“That’s normally a good thing,” she said.

“Aye, ‘tis,” He chose not to elaborate. Sweating soaked him under his mail, but at least the edge of the desert was dry. He was used to heat, comforted by it. The darkness beyond his soulsight almost let him pretend he was deep in a mountain, but the persistent wind, dense crowds, and the vulnerable feeling of open sky proved he was far from it.

“How do you stand this heat?” Isharna tugged at her breast plate to move a miniscule amount of air against her skin. Despite her helm resting on the table between them, she was sweating profusely. The paladin took another slug from her waterskin. Deldund didn’t respond, focused on the restaurant.


Inside, Tahira watched the servers moving about the mid-day crowd. She was nearly finished with her chevon couscous, and she waived down the serving girl.

“More wine?” the girl asked in baiha, a bedunna accent. Long way from home.

“I’m ready to speak with the men upstairs,” Tahira said quietly, hoping this was the proper innuendo. The girl paused, glanced nervously at the window into the kitchen.

“Of course, why didn’t you say anything?” she asked.

“The dish was acceptable, don’t worry,” the girl disappeared back into the kitchen. Tahira made eye contact with Variel, seated across the dining room with his own meal practically untouched before him. He apparently had a similar distaste for meat as most endarons. Why doesn’t he just order couscous?

A dark-looking man appeared in the narrow kitchen doorway and looked at Tahira, nodding backwards. She rose on cue and made her way calmly toward the kitchen, into which the man disappeared. Tahira followed, passing the busy kitchen staff. As they were passing the bristling drying rack, Tahira noticed two other men waiting for them in the pantry. Too late.

The first thug shoved her roughly into the other two, who quickly forced her covered head into a barrel of brine-preserved meat. She struggled futilely in the strong arms of the pair of men. Then she relaxed, and communed with the scarab. She spoke her words of power and the jewel-beetle skittered around her side an up onto the face of one of men. The hex washed through Tahira into the thug, and she began to laugh into the brine.

Unsure what was happening, the man whipped his face about to get the bug off. He worked, as the beetle leapt onto the other man’s arm and similar hex washed over him. The limp Tahira continued laughing, knowing what was about to happen. The scarab questioned her instructions as she called upon its power. She reassured her companion, and it flew a few feet away, sparks flying between its short antennae as the first man grabbed hold her legs and held them aloft.

The dark brine flashed bright-white and Tahira felt the lightning bolt burn into her as the electricity flowed between four struggling people. One of the men holding her leapt backwards in shock as the bolt flashed through them and blasted a small hole in the distant wall. He clapped his hands of his ears as the thunderclap echoed in the restaurant. Kitchen staff panicked and leapt through the serving window or jammed through the doorway into the dining room.

Patrons all around Variel screamed in fright, and looked around in confusion for split second before knocking over furniture in desperate flailing for the door. Variel was pushed up against the wall.

Across the street, the thunderclap and screams alerted Swaythe and Stonefist.

“Do you think that might be the signal?” Stonefist asked rhetorically, unclasping his axe and sprinting across the crowded street bellowing a warning to clear the way. Ishrana followed, overtaking the slower-moving clansman as they rushed for the alleyway.

Variel calmly wound between the panicking crowd and rounded the corner of the kitchen, a few staffers were still recovering from the shock, and one of the cooks had just retrieved a poker from the fireplace, obviously intent on defending his territory.

He retrieved a small piece of fleece from a pouch and muttered words to free the bonds of the material. He carefully stretched the square of fleece into an impossibly thin sheet and spun it forward, directing it with his fingers and syllables to form a demonic shape rising from the butcher’s table. At the same time, he whisked a hand and cluster of sounds at the ceiling, which immediately began to drip thick, red rain.

The remaining kitchen staff realized true terror and leapt through the serving window, except the brand-armed cook now approaching the struggling trio around the corner. One of the thugs holding Tahira seemed to loose his focus.

Tahira let her body go limp again, hoping to loosen her attackers’ grip. The ploy failed, but she continued laughing anyway, feeling the burn of her lungs.

Deldund followed Ishrana around the rear corner of the building, passing the smoldering hold in the wall. Swathe yanked open the door and he didn’t break stride, seeing the rough silhouettes of a four men and Tahira. One of the men had a dark stain of an aura.

“Long live the mountain!” He cried in rumbling Rol, directing his charge at the darkest soul in the room. He slammed his axe down, but his target spun backwards just in time to avoid the deathblow.

Deldund could barely distinguish the shape of the man’s arms and the dagger now at the end of one of them, but he swung his sharp axe again. He noticed another man-shape leap from inside the kitchen into the back of the fat man with a rod now standing in the wide doorway.

Somewhere nearby, he heard Variel blathering in his sing-song language, and he felt more than heard Ishrana step through the rear door. She started to shout a command, but it turned into an angry shout of surprise as something metallic slid along her armor.

Deldund roared as the thug before him slashed his knife uselessly against his master-crafted battlearmor. Stonefist shouted as he brought the axe swinging up, this time ripping through the man’s robe-like tunic and drawing a line of blood. The door slammed behind him, and he heard Ishrana’s muffled shouts from outside, there was more than one thug behind him now, he was certain. The newcomer from the kitchen continued attacking the cook, who was shouting in terror as he jabbed at it with the poker.

Stonefist didn’t have time to wonder why as a great serpent, dazzlingly bright in the purity of its aura, descended from the rafters and coiled around the dark-stained man. Another thug ran up behind Deldund and tried to stab his flank, but the cheap shot met his expensive armor again. The warrior-cleric bellowed and swung his axe around, catching his new opponent in the shoulder. He spun around; trying to flee up what must be stairs on the end of the wall. He was moving clumsily, as if under a great burden. Deldund then noticed a cloudy aura making its way, equally slow, toward Variel.

Deldund glanced to make sure Tahira was alive, she was, and was chanting in some unfamiliar tongue. That was good enough, and he charged at Variel’s assailant, surprised when he encountered a crackling forest of spices and herbs in his way. He pushed through the contents of the trying rack.

“Like the mountain stand your ground!” he commanded, and the man did, freezing in place like a child at a game of Golem Got Yer Beard as the power of Moradin coalesced around him, the hammer symbol hanging from Deldund’s neck glowed.

At the same time, the clansman’s body felt lighter, his axe less weighty. He smelled the tang of trickster magic, but he accepted the insult as the aide it was from Variel. The fair-waif hadn’t stopped talking since Deldund had come through the door. The threat before him neutralized for a few seconds, he turned his axe on the big man approaching from his left. The newcomer was still charging after him. Stonefist had to admire the hard-headed courage of what looked like a fairly short, scrawny man.

The aura of his target jabbed its weapon at him, but did nothing. Deldund yelled in his face and swung the now-lightened axe with all his might, he felt the satisfying impact as his blade chopped straight through the man’s weapon arm and sank into the side of his chest. The aura fell limply to the floor and the newcomer started kicking it.

“What the hell is that!” Ishrana shouted from the kitchen, apparently having sprinted around the front to get back to the fight. Confused, Deldund spoke, “Lord of the Mountain, show me truth.” The colors and shades of the world flooded back into his vision with unreal clarity, and he bellowed in shock himself as the newcomer’s aura condensed into a moving, kicking, fully butchered and skinned goat, “undead!”

The man deldund had frozen with his command suddenly shook out of it and struggled to the nearest set of stairs to the upper level. Deldund heard cries of surrender from behind him, probably the stained man in the coils of Variel’s heavenly serpent.

Deldund had bigger issues, he charged after the confusing zombie-goat, which did not have the normal, pit-dark aura of undeath. He didn’t want to debate the issue, so he let his axe do the talking. It chopped the abomination cleanly in two sections, each flopping about briefly before falling still.

Ishrana’s quarry leapt over her blades with feline grace before grabbing onto the floor of the second level and disappearing over it. She charged up the stairs after it, and Deldund followed. They ignored the empty formal dining room to their left, slashing aside the curtains concealing a bathing tub and an open window, but no fleeing attacker.

“Where did he go? Out the window?” Ishrana demanded.

“I don’t-,” Deldund started to answer, then noticed the man’s aura slinking away behind a curtain, heading for the narrow hallway across the dining room, “There!”

Ishrana charged around the curtains just as the man broke into a struggling hobble out the balcony doorway. She gave chase and overtook him, slashing with sword and sickle. The target was to slow to dodge all of her slashes, and her hooked sickle caught his pant leg, tossing him tumbling to the floor. He was wearing the local norm of long tunic and loose, pants, but he hooded mask made it difficult to determine his face. The glittering scimitar was also more important at the moment.

The man flipped-up, imitating a acrobat’s performance, and rolled away from her. She stepped out onto the balcony, the sound of panic rising from the patio below them and the dusty wind blasting her face, blowing the cloak out behind her.

“Stop! Where’s Peck!” she demanded, slashing out and tripping the man again, this time catching more than cloth with her blade, drawing a scream from the man, the first noise he’d made.

The acrobatic fighter impossibly rolled onto his feet again and leapt straight-up, grabbing the edge of the heavy canvas roof and disappearing over it.

“Damnit!” she bellowed, chasing after him. In full armor, it would be difficult to follow, but she gingerly stepped-up onto the low wall at the edge of the balcony.

A piercing shriek emanated from somewhere inside the building, and Deldund shouted, his axe breaking something wooden. There were screaming women probably in the parlor room next to the patio. Ishrana ignored all of it, seeing her man sprinting down the canvas edge of the rooftop.

“Stop!” she shouted, trying to pull herself up onto the roof. Her armor was too heavy.

Downstairs, Tahira lay on floor, two hexed thugs guarding the flat door way to the second level. They’d kicked at her again, sending her tumbling down the stairs. Fires of fate, burn the soul, she felt a sudden heat rise as her face flushed, Tahira glared at the thug in front, Burn the soul! Burn the soul! she commanded, and like a pitch-covered tent the man was suddenly enveloped in flame. She turned her glare on the second man.

As the first came tumbling down the stairs, narrowly missing Tahira, the second thug slammed the door and ran, screaming from the room.

Ishrana was about to sheath her weapons to make it easier to mount the roof, but the terrified thug charged out of the doorway she’d come through. The man shouted, mad fear in his eyes as he shouldered into her legs.

They didn’t give an inch, and he bounced back as one of the knee-guards slammed into his face. He tried again, but this time one of the boots caught him on the back of the head in a sweeping kick.

“Get off!” Ishrana shouted, feeling her heel connect with the thug’s skull and watching him tumble limply over the wall, roll down the awning, and disappear over the edge with a sickening thwack; more shrieks followed from the panicking patrons fleeing the restaurant. She looked up, her target was now getting back inside the building through the far window.

“You’re really starting to piss me off!” she shouted, jumping off the wall and running into the parlor. Women were shrieking, and Deldund was dragging another bandit toward the stairs. Evidence of the brief struggle to subdue the parlor guard decorated the doorway and wall.

“He’s getting away!” she shouted, but Deldund was already going down the stairs. She swept aside the curtains, revealing an expansive bed and a trio of shaking, barely-dressed women shrieking in the center. She looked to the window, seeing her target behind an overweight oslinder man climbing out of the window onto the dining room roof below.

“Stop!” she yelled again, the acrobat drew his blades again. She charged, but he dodged her attacks, rolling out of the window down over the front edge of the roof. Breathing heavily in the heat, Ishrana growled and clambered out the window after them. She stepped to the edge and scanned the crowd for the oslinder or the thug. They were nowhere to be found. She cast about, trying to find them, then she heard a clatter from the alleyway. Ishrana turned in time to see the oslinder reaching the rear corner of the building and turning into the alley behind the restaurant.

“Damnit!” she shouted, charging back through the ravaged bedroom and parlor, past the terrified maidens, into the formal dining room, leaping straight over the bathing tub and out the open window overlooking the alley.

She braced and grunted as she hit the waddle and daub wall of the building across the alley and landed heavily on rubbish next to the fleeing oslinder and thug. She got a good look at the oslinder’s shocked face at the fully-armored knight falling from the sky.

“It’s Peck!” she shouted, hoping the others would hear from inside the building. Deldund charged through the door and after Peck and his captor, just as the pair disappeared around the corner headed back toward the street. Ishrana pulled her self to her feet and followed, Variel emerging from the back door right behind her.

“Peck! We spoke with your wife! We’re here to help!” Ishrana shouted. Something bluish flashed by her from behind and stuck like an arrow into the masked thug’s back. He turned, weapons still drawn, and a look of angry surprise on his half-covered face. A dart of solid ice protruded clearly from his bloody chest. He clattered to the ground like a scarecrow, and Peck skidded slowly to a halt at the corner of the building.

“Peck you’re safe, we got ‘em!” Stonefist shouted, axe still covered in blood and wood splinters, which also decorated his prodigious beard and armor.

“What are you talking about, rescue ?” Peck asked, wary.

“We heard you’d been kidnapped, so we came get you out,” Ishrana said, winded, “You’re safe now, we got ‘em all.”

“Not all, one absconded,” Variel corrected, now approaching the others.

“I wasn’t kidnapped , where did you hear that? I was an honored guest. They were paying for women and booze!” Peck shouted. They all looked back at him dumfounded.

“Your expedition was attacked, your crew killed…” Ishrana said.

“Well, that’s true, but I wasn’t a prisoner; they wanted information. I made a deal and was just reaping the benefits. Until you people smashed in. Who the hells are you?” Peck demanded.

“Why don’t we get out of the street,” Deldund growled.

“Good idea,” Tahira agreed, appearing at the back of the group. Her scarab buzzed around her, “Now, don’t be alarmed at what’s about to happen.”

Just as she finished, a bobble-headed man with an obviously broken neck hobbled around the front of the building, and a the masked acrobat’s body rose to ungainly feet, dart still sticking out of its chest and eyes frozen in dead surprise.

“Undead!” Deldund screamed, charging at the darted walking corpse.

“I said don’t be alarmed! They’re mine!” Tahira shouted. Deldund stopped, axe raised, turning to face the desert woman.

“What? Necromancer?!” he demanded.

“Necromancy?” Variel’s normally placid expression darkened as his eyes began to glow. He has his gaze across the walking bodies and Tahira, “a raising spell? How? I heard no incantations?”

“Why aren’t they death-stained?” Deldund realized that the auras were similar to that he’d mistaken the zombie-goat for earlier. Cloudy, compact men that didn’t match the bodies they inhabited, “What is this trickery?”’

“I’ll just be leaving you to that,” Peck stated, easing around the corner. Ishrana lowered her sword, it was more important to get Peck secured. She jogged-up behind him, staying his flight.

“They’re servant spirits, more than willing to aide our mission,” Tahira explained, the one without a broken neck nodded in agreement, “The departed souls are not involved, my servants inhabit their empty vessels.”

“Gah! I don’t know what you are, but it’s unholy and wrong!” the clansman shouted.

“You see for yourself they’re not evil,” Tahira said, “We have more important issues at hand!” She pointed her staff toward Peck, screams from the street punctuating her statement.

“I’ll say, you just killed a Wisemen lieutenant and hijacked his body. Did you at least take care of Maood?” Peck interjected.

“Who?” Variel asked.

“Red tunic, black belt, short greasey hair and a nasty scar on his cheek,” Peck described.

“He would be the absconder,” Variel frowned.

“Great job! He’ll report to the rest, if you guys want to live the night, you’d better get moving out of town,” Peck turned to walk down the crowded street. He was bizarrely calm given the circumstances, which irritated Ishrana.

“Just wait,” she followed, sheathing her weapons, “We rescued you because we need your help.”

“Among other things,” Tahira said to herself. The corpses followed her closely, appearing to be just another pair of drunks stumbling after her as the servant spirits learned to control their new vessels.

“Help with what?” Peck asked.

“Finding Ghalladier’s Journal,” Deldund replied.

“Ghalladier’s Journal, well that is intriguing. Zulthezthurane the Blue has that, you’ll never get it away from him,” Peck replied off-handedly.

“We’ll deal with that, we just need you to get us there,” Ishrana said.

“What do you mean deal with that? You have an army around here? He’d kill them all before lunch, and you don’t look like you’ve got enough riches to trade him. Even then he’d probably just eat you and take your offering,” Peck laughed.

“All we need you to do is lead us there, you were already planning an expedition,” Variel tried. They had turned down a side street.

“Why is the journal so important?” Peck asked.

“We need to find the location of something that could end the world as we know it,” Deldund stated.

“Ha ha! That’s a bold claim, just what are you involved in?”

“Not here,” Deldund glanced around suspiciously.

“Yes here, better the Sandmaze than among the many prying ears and eyes of my suites,” Peck insisted.

“Fine,” Deldund exchanged quick glances around the party before stepping in front of Peck like a stout iron wall.

“We’re looking for the kenoran box that Ghalladier wrote about, to stop someone from bringing Tazgin’Ra back into the mortal realm,” Deldund stated. Without missing a beat, the portly oslinder replied matter-of-factly.

“That would mean the other box has already been found, and there are absolutely no records to go on for that to occur,” Peck dismissed.

“It’s already been found,” Deldund countered. This peeked Peck’s interest for the first time.

“Where is it?” he asked.

“Safe and secure with friends in Port of Isles,” Ishrana stated, her tone clear she wasn’t about to reveal anymore.

“Alright, that’s a good reason,” Peck conceded.

“Will you help us?” Variel asked.

“That depends, how big an expedition do you have?” Peck asked. They looked to one another.

“Us and a few others,” Ishrana answered.

“Ha! You don’t even have an expedition set-up?” Peck laughed heartily as he pushed into the door way of a some unidentifiable bar, “I might help you, but not until you get your act together. Come find me when you figure it out, I’ll be right here.”

“What should I tell your wife?” Ishrana stated, “She’s worried sick.”

“Not likely,” Peck answered, “More concerned about her status. Which butler is she sleeping with now?”

Ishrana was taken aback by this crude, bold accusation, “and your daughter?” she asked.

“By Pelor, you talked to Michella, too? A champion of what is that…Gelnor? Now I’m going to have to buy her a horse!” Peck complained. Ishrana looked like a horse had just kicked her in the gut as he tried to formulate a response through the confusion and instinctive anger.

“Very well, we’ll return as soon as our arrangements have been made,” Variel punctuated the conversation and guided his compatriots out of the doors.

“We’ll have a very busy evening, I think, best we get to it before these Wisemen realize who we are and attempt an assassination,” he stated as Peck disappeared into the bar.


“I need to speak to Hargaine,” Ishrana told the young Westwatchman. He stood from his desk in the blue quarter watch station. The ridge-rider had never been eyed with such suspicion by any constable, it was a strange feeling. He left the room to inform someone further inside the post, and Ishrana heard a door open and close before the young man returned. He gestured for her to follow.

“The judge will be here soon, follow me.” She did, back to the same small room with a simple table and two chairs. She waited for little more than ten minutes before Judge Hargain’s solemn shadow blocked the doorway. He sat across the table from her, the lone candle flickering light on his craggy face.

“You are ready?” he asked.

“We found Peck, we’re arranging our expedition right now. We could use your help, Hargaine. From what everyone’s told us, we’ll need all the help we can get to retrieve the journal we’re looking for.”

“I and my jurists will join you, then. Five disciples of Cuthbert, if for no other reason than to keep an eye on your friend,” Hargaine spoke with dull, emotionless tones, yet his eyes seamed to peer into her very soul. In fact, she thought, they probably were. Was this what it was like staring her down? Ishrana certainly hoped so. “I can see what he West Watch will provide in manner of assistance, though I haven’t share the nature of the expedition with them as of yet.”

“Anything you can do, but I don’t want anymore people knowing about what we’re doing. If words gets out that this is happening…”

“Then unsavory ears are sure to hear about it. Yes, discretion is the key to hunting the pit dwellers,” Hargaine finished for her.

“Thank you, Judge, We’ll meet again the morning after tomorrow,” Ishrana finished, “Gelnor’s praise.” She rose from the chair and held an armored gauntlet forth.

“Justice find you,” Hargaine clasped her hand and strode out of the room on long legs. Ishrana left the station and returned on a meandering path to the Dawncrest, checking for spies following her route. With this Al’Mueld character on their tail, she was concerned any of the team left alone for significant lengths of time could be an easy target for an assassin.

Unfortunately, this “team” was nigh impossible to keep in one place. She glanced up at the huge sunset, the fading daylight unbroken by any clouds save gusts of wind-driven sand. The light cascaded off the bone-white towers of Sandwatch, the city carved of a single stone.

Even the sunsets were foreign here. On the rolling plains of Kardam, there were almost always clouds drifting lazily toward the sea, reflecting the sunsets in purples and blues and blazing oranges. She closed her eyes for a moment, trying to remember the smell of prairie grass and wildflowers that was home. Only the earthy smell of sand and traces of the sewage from the maze beyond the walls met her nose. She sighed and continued back to the inn. Hopefully Deldund hadn’t killed Tahira yet. At this point, if anyone was going to be doing that, Ishrana wanted it to be her.


Sandwatch proper was more familiar to Tahira. The Sandmaze was a foreign and disgusting to her as it was to any of the others in her new company. Nearly a decade had passed since she’d been away from her charge this long, or this far, and the ancient stone vaulting around her here reminded her of the ruins she called home. The wind whistling around the spires and the sand sizzling along the myriad surfaces was music to her ears. She let her own cowl of breeze run free with its big desert cousins. Perhaps it would tire them so they’d be less unruly when she needed to remain unnoticed.

Her faithful servant spirits were standing guard at the inn, watching the stables and room with unblinking eyes. She’d know if anyone approached her allies with ill intent. Right now, she had to focus on finding the Shrine of the Weyrune. For simple faith, they were adept at overcomplicating the path to prayer. Perhaps they were compensating. Or perhaps they were trying to heighten the sense of accomplishment in finding it. Either way, at the moment it was just irritating.

Close, her scarab told her. She rounded another corner in the narrow walkways and finally saw the tell-tale markings over the door of the shrine. She entered it without breaking stride, and approached the dais on which a solid block of marble stood. The shrine acolyte emerged from beside the stone.

“Greetings, wayfarer,” he said from beneath his robe’s hood.

“Greetings, keeper,” Tahira replied, bending in a partial bow, allowing the scarab amulet to swing forward.

“What does a Tomb Sentinel seek from the Weyrune? and So far from any charge?” the acolyte asked.

“I need a guide,” she said, “A skilled one.”
“hmmm, perhaps the Rune can show you the path, come, you must prepare yourself,” he gestured for her to follow him into the side chambers, “You have fasted for a day and a night?”

I never eat she touched the sustaining ring on her finger with her thumb, “Yes.”

“Very good, indeed. You know the rituals, the Weyrune will be pleased,” the Runekeeper brought her to one of the prayer chambers and assisted with her anointing and arraying the incense properly while she chanted. After nearly two hours, the preparation was complete, and she approached the dais with its block of marble. In the marble, a single, huge rune had been inscribed. It was part of no known language, and had no known meaning out of this context.

The Keepers of the Weyrune followed the teachings of no actual deity. No ascendant soul claimed dominion over their fates. They were often confused as a sect of Boccobites, but this was an incorrect interpretation. The Weyrune may have been created by Boccob, the Archmage Ascendant, but it was not a part of his narrow pantheon. In fact, no one really knew the origins or nature of the Weyrune. Theologians debated whether it was a creation of Boccob’s in his attempts at ascendance, an accidental creation, or simply the worldly remains of that great wizard condensed to written form when he became a god.

Whatever the origins, it was established that the Weyrune had some kind of power and self-direction, if not self-awareness, and the Keepers of the Rune made it their life’s work to commune with the all-knowing Weyrune and interpret its lessons for the world. Tahira approached the rune and knelt upon the dais.

“Wayfarer, ask what you will of the Weyrune,” the acolyte instructed.

“Weyrune, I require a guide to dangerous place, to find that which was taken,” she asked. As she watched, the lines of the rune slowly rearranged themselves on the face of the marble, swimming across the smooth surface like fish seen from above a pond. Slowly they drifted into place to form completely different rune.

“Ahhh, the Running Thief,” the acolyte read from the marble. He turned to Tahira, “The Weyrune tells you to find a thief who can guide you through the danger to that which was taken. I know of the man the rune speaks of. Eschel Dunerunner.”

“A thief?” Tahira asks, her rudimentary understanding of the Weyrune’s symbols agrees with the keeper’s interpretation, but it seems like a terrible idea.

“I will send for Eschel, if you have patience to wait,” the Keeper offers.

“Can you bring me to him? Time is of the essence in this matter.”

“The Weyrune blesses your journey by its answer, my acolyte will help enact its will,” the keeper gestures to the shadows and boy not much older than sixteen appeared, “Naish will take you to Eshel Dunerunner.”

“Thank the Weyrune,” she bowed before the marble, “and thank you, Runekeeper.”

“One need not thank one for his duty, but you are welcome Tomb Sentinel.” With that the rune on the marble slowly shifted back to its alpha point and the boy led her through door.


The crimson quarter was home to many of the craftsmen. Deldund could hear the pounding of tinkers, coopers, and smithies all around him. He heard the whispers of awls and the bite of augurs, the cricket-sound of wood saws. This was place of labor as an art, a place familiar to his heart. He wandered the sound of building and shaping for a long time as he searched for what he was looking for. Then, in the distant background of noises, he heard it. A smithing team, rapping their tools in the precise patterns of an ancient labor song; he walked in its direction. As he approached, the tune became clearer, until it was all he heard. Then the deep tones of Rol welled-up. He followed the song, which he knew was not Mountain Gate’s work song, but nonetheless felt like a homecoming.

The work song of clan told much about them. This one was of the west, in the Anvilfall range. He listened further, they were descended from Yamdolir Rockrage. They were of the three clans under the Wyrmling Peak.

_…Seek your western brothers, for they know how to fight your foe…

The words of Moradin leapt to his mind. His foe at the moment was Zulthezthurane the Blue Wyrm, if any of his western brothers knew how to fight a wyrm, it was those under the Wyrmling Peak. He smiled, Moradin was truly guiding him. If his eyes had not been scoured by devils’ brands, he would have tears in them at this further proof that he was not merely wandering the world another clanless disgrace.

The work song was loud now, ringing his ears with its beat and the rising and falling gravel-tones. Then he saw them, rather their aura shadows. Their auras were lighter shades of gray, but in each burned an ember from Moradin’s forge, they were Sons of the Mountain. They were family.

“Hail Stonekin!” he bellowed in greeting. They looked-up from the trance-like state of their work song.

“Hail Stonekin!” the shouted in unison, not breaking their tempo. Normally, he would join the strikers, but in his state, he could not reliably find his mark. Instead, he took position as a bellows. It was unnecessary in this instance, but symbolic in its gesture. The Smith accepted it.

“Onyxbeard of Firesnout,” the smith introduced himself, his beard was dark brown, not black as one would expect. Woven into it, however, were several long ribbons of carefully shaped onyx, incredible craftsmanship with such a brittle medium.

“Stonefist of Mountain’s Gate,” Deldund replied. They actually paused a beat in their tempo before restarting.

“You are the Clanless Cleric, then, we have heard your tragedy,” Onyxbeard stated, “What brings you to so far west of the arches?”

“I have traveled much farther than that, stonekin,” Deldund said heavily, allowing the weariness in his soul into his voice, “Moradin himself guides my path. I am to travel further west, into the flats, to Zulthezthurane’s Temple.” The clansmen pounded in silence for a few moments at the significance of his statement.

“The wyrm is not so young, stonekin. The task must be great for Moradin to send you there.”

“The task is greater than any since our grandfathers’ grandfathers’. The Enemy threatens,” Stonefist said.

The Enemy?” Onyxbeard actually turned to face him, if only between beats.

“The Enemy. Moradin spoke to me in the chamber at Basalt Mouth. He ordered me to seek my brothers to the west, for they know how to fight my foe. Can you help my, Stonekin Onyxbeard of Firesnout?”

The smith immediately directed his first striker to take his place, and hung his apron on its hook. Onyxbeard stepped to his basin, splashed his face with water, and pulled on his mail. Within a few minutes, he stood armed and armored with a pack over one shoulder.

“It’s two days march,” Onyxbeard said, the first words he’d spoken in response to Stonefist’s question.


“Have you seen this one?” Variel asked, holding up a half-rolled parchment. The pair of them had removed the mattress from Variel’s bed to have a larger workspace, as the small table afforded little more space than enough to place wash basin. An inkwell sat next to Variel’s spellbook, half-full of specially prepared pigment.
“I haven’t,” Tahira replied. It was pleasant to speak illossillion with a native-speaker; she hadn’t used the tongue in years. In fact, it was surprisingly pleasant to have a conversation out loud in any language. Her jade scarab was carefully tasting a scroll before her, running its crystalline antennae along the enchanted lines. Tahira far from understood how the little jewel-bug learned from them, but somehow it was “reading” the spells stored within the rolls of vellum and parchment.
Variel handed over the scroll he’d just finished copying into his book. Most of the retrieved kingmarks from the carpet shop basement had gone to purchasing these, what remained were now in Ishrana’s hands to purchase their supplies for the journey. She was out in saffron marketplace as they sat copying spells, Eschel was with her. Even Tahira didn’t think much of their guide when she met him. His short stature, almost as squat as Stonefist’s, combined with his portly stomach and thinning hair made Eschel Dunerunner present as altogether unfit for this task.
Yet he directed their preparations with canny experience, calculating what foodstuffs would last well and provide the most nourishment for their weight, and forcing them spend a significant portion of their coin on anti-venom. They protested, citing that several of the expedition’s number were blessed with healing gifts from their patron divines. What concerned her most was that he was openly acknowledged as a thief by the Weyrune. Tahira had not mentioned this part of his resume to the rest of the company, not wishing to further the significant tensions between them.
Eschel also had a harsh view on the durability of their expedition. His provision calculations had been predicated on half their number making the return trip. It was the first wake-up call to the outlanders to how lethal the Flats of Sadiz were. In the morning, they were supposed to collect the disparate elements for a briefing. Variel and Tahira both intended to be finished with this spellcrafting by then, and there was still much do to do.
Cocolongo entered the room stopped at the sight before him.
“What are you doing?” he asked, his low kent still thickly accented with chullachulla.
“Preparing for our journey, as you should be,” Variel stated, not looking up from his work.
“I am ready always for travelling,” he replied proudly, pointing to his small satchel. Variel knew it held the southlanders every belonging save those he was wearing right now.
“And She-without-a-name?” Tahira asked, looking into his eyes.
“She has less to bring than me,” he smiled widely, “I just worry about her when fighting start.”
“She appeared to have some experience when we were ambushed by Mr. Brickler,” Variel stated.
“She will be protected as well as the rest of you by my loyal spirits,” Tahira comforted. Her offer didn’t appear to have the soothing effect she was looking for.
“It isn’t just that,” he sighed, sitting down on the barely-stuffed chair near the unused table. His head hung over the basin of water, staring at his reflection, “She is not a,” he paused searching for the word, “traveler, like me. He slapped his muscles and scars. Not tough like cappies.”
“What makes you say that?” Tahira asked, her attention free to wander as her beetle studied the scrolls. Coco was obviously uncomfortable trying to talk about it in this unfamiliar language.
“She likes soft things, she has no…hard spots,” he pointed at the thick callouses on his laborer’s hands. “She is not made for hard life.”

“Have faith, Cocolongo, she is likely tougher than she appears,” Tahira said. “It’s often the spirit more than the body that counts in the hard times.”
“Well, she is very spirited. Maybe you are right,” he seemed to be satisfied on the subject. “Is there anything I can help with?” he asked, staring at the array of parchment.
“There is little for an illiterate to do here,” Variel said, realizing at the end of his statement that it sounded a bit cruel, “Though I’m sure you would be more than helpful assisting Ms. Swaythe. You were their guide in the Southland Jungles, yes? Perhaps your unique skill will help ensure nothing is look-over during the packing.”
Cocolongo took another deep breath, letting his eyes linger coolly on Variel before he left the room again.

Not beyond insult, I see Tahira thought.

Loyal? the scarab asked, pausing its intricate dance.

To have come this far from his home, certainly she returned.

Cocolongo descended the wooden stairs to the lobby, smiling wide at Mr. Eddis as he swept.

“Back for dinner?” the innkeeper asked. Cocolongo was as polite a guest as he had in a long time.

“I hope so, your wife cook very good,” Cocolongo laughed patting Eddis on the shoulder.

“Oh, don’t tell her that, she’ll want more wages!” they both laughed as Cocolongo stepped outside into the late-afternoon sun. He’d forgotten his cloak again, but he didn’t need it. The sun did not bother him so much, just the wind. It was unbearably dry in this place, his lips chapped over within hours outside.
He walked around to the back of the building to say hello to Laurel. He was starting to grow fond of the animal. At first the monster had terrified him. All of the children’s stories about the northerner’s war beasts eating people alive, with skin so thick arrows could not pierce it. Now he thought Laurel was like a big cappy, all silly noises and sniffing nose. He though the ears were cute instead of demon-horns. He fed him a carrot from his pouch and patted his huge neck.
“Are you ready for the desert big cappy?” he asked rhetorically. Laurel nodded his head in what seemed like an imitation of the human gesture, “Yeah, you ready for anything, just like Coco. We a good team, huh big cappy?” he continued to rub the horse with both hands as he whinnied appreciatively.

“Okay, got to go help get your food, be good, big cappy,” Cocolongo sidled back onto the street and pointed himself toward the marketplace Ishrana had gone to. This was such a strange city, even as far as cities went. At least all the others resembled how houses in South Landing were built. This place looked like it was carved from a big mountain, all at once. It was kind of scary to think one being could just make it. He hoped they would be on his side if they ever showed up.

He passed aviary market on his way, which was real treat for him. Home was full of loud, vibrantly colored birds, but there weren’t many pretty ones around here. These were an exception, all intricate patterns and sharp beaks and claws. They looked like flying warriors from his ancestors’ tribe. He saw a man with one these birds sitting on his gloved fist, shifting its gaze around the passing crowds. Wouldn’t that be something, to have a living weapon for a pet?

As he looked at the various birds in their pens, he heard Ishrana’s clear voice raised over the din of the market. He walked that way and found her arguing with the little man whose name he couldn’t pronounce, Es-kel or Ithel. Cocolongo approached as they finished the argument, never hearing what it was about.

“I come to help,” he said. Ishrana looked at him with almost palpable relief.

“Thank you, Coco, at least someone is trying to be helpful,” she said.

“You hired me, wench,” Eschel shot back, “When your two-weeks into the desert and your cloak falls apart, you’ll regret it!”

“And will I regret not buying four crates of liquor, too?”

“Oh, you’ll regret that on day number two,” Eschel replied, jabbing a chubby finger in her direction. Cocolongo sighed, then stepped forward with a smile he’d cultivated since he was three years old selling fruit to treasure hunters.
“Why you fight? We’re on a big journey, so much to do besides fight,” he said diplomatically, “We got to be ready in the morning, yes? No sense wasting time. What else do we need to buy?”

Rewards

Experience Points: 3000 XP to each Character.
Pity Point: 5 XP to Content Not Found: tahira_ for getting pickled.
Awesome Point: 5 XP to _Content Not Found: Ishrana-swaythe
for supermaning out the window to catch the bad guy.
Treasure: 15 Kingmarks, 25 Dukemarks, 128 pence, Speed Scabard, Masterwork Scimitar, 2 daggers.

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Episode 19

Swept Under

Variel poked a crude fork at the concerning amount of meat recklessly tossed in some sort of fetid, quasi-fermented fruit sauce. The dining room of Zholta’s assaulted his senses from every angle, but the odors were the most oppressive; dense humanity with an almost reverential attitude towards a soiled state of being. The raw odor of garlic clashed with floral herbs, homemade “wine”, and dung. Grease smoke penetrated every surface, which left a disturbing film that homogenized color into muted shades of grime.

It was fortunate that very little light managed to penetrate the walls, even the dim illumination revealed too much to his sharpened eyes. Insects, the heirs of sentient life the world over, scuttled across arms, though scalps, in the food, on and under foot in the fastidious work of pestilence.

Variel had traveled to countless cities and lands in his years of study. None had he found so oppressively foul as the Sandmaze besieging the walls of Sandwatch. He glanced to his dining party as a distraction from the milieu. Variel almost laughed out loud at the humor of fate, how had it lead him to dine with a trio of divinely righteous warriors with more use for death and the dealing of it than attempting to understand the underpinnings of the world.

He tugged the corners of his mouth from their spreading grin back into a solemn scowl. Best to match everyone else, lest they grow envious of his mirth. He nodded to Ishrana and set his fork down purposefully. With relaxed precision, he poked and prodded the fabric of reality around him while using a river of syllables to direct the flow of ambient energy.

The air seemed to thicken; he knew it wasn’t actually air, but space-time itself enveloping his body like a cloak. There were innumerable ways to render oneself invisible with magic these days, but Variel was fond of this particular approach. Having dedicated so much of his life to the space between realities, it felt comforting to disappear into it, if only for a few minutes.

Wrapped in his little pocket of invisible space, he wound his way through the crowded dining hall towards the kitchen. He was nearly bowled over by a quick moving server balancing a carafe and three plates, but safely made it into the bustling preparation area. Two cooks were busy by the fireplace, chopping parts off a handful of butchered animals on a table. A few assistants busily chopped vegetables or folded dough, all of them sweating profusely in the heat. Variel cringed, but gingerly meandered through the gaps between table and sweaty kitchen staff.

Ducking around an awkwardly-placed drying rack of some kind, he entered the rear pantry. A door to the narrow alley stood ahead of him, while stairs to the upper level lay at either end of the room. Barrels, sacks, a small staff table, and a plethora of vermin occupied the dark room, and he saw no need to step among the debris.

He lightly twisted knots of space-time and tugged on them, again using his voice to direct the flow of energy in his invisibility pocket upward, and he floated free of the ground. He gently ascended through the stairway into the second level, finding a well-decorated room with rich curtains and well-made, if soiled, carpets. A trio of men chattered idly as they reclined on cushions around a large, traditional beninite dining table. He continued past them down a narrow corridor, passing a closed door, careful not to disturb the curtains.

At the end of the hall, a door to his right opened into a sparsely furnished room with sleeping mats of old sacs and a broken table. A couple of individuals lay resting. He turned to the door across the hall, which apparently lead to a balcony overlooking the wider street in front of Zholta’s. He could hear the chatter and music of the patio crowd.

He passed easily through the curtains, and nearly ran into a pair of beninite women dressed in fine, immodest clothing. They chattered in rapid baiha, deep in a conversation about men. Variel shook his head. Human societies with their endless obsession and conflict between genders confused him. In the woodlands of his village, relationships were such a natural and simple endeavor. How did these city-dwellers manage to make them so complex?

One of the women seemed to notice another presence, pausing in her long critique long enough to glance around. Variel took his cue and drifted through the other doorway on the balcony, leading to the only unexplored room in the structure. He heard the suspicious woman yelp. Damn .

He sped into the room, apparently a parlor, the far end curtained off. He heard the men from the other room shout questions; he heard heavy footsteps on the wood floors. Damn .

The wizard flew out an open window like a ghost and lowered himself gently back down to earth. Out of sight from the main road, he let the twist of space-time enveloping him snap back into place, and walked around the front. His frown deepened as he brushed against several patrons on his way back to the table and his partners’ expecting faces.

“I didn’t see him,” he said in low kent, confident that few of the immigrant beninites would understand him. The holy warriors sighed and stabbed at their plates in frustration. Except Deldund, who had no food left to stab.
“This bunch runs the level, er, neighborhood,” The algran clansman all but growled, “Best be checkin’ about.”

“Peck could be hidden anywhere,” the conspicuously armored ridge-rider sighed.

“They won’t stray far from their hole,” Variel had still not quite placed the strange accent in their newest partner’s voice. She was obviously beninite, dressed in the ancient tradition of the desert nomads, but it was not any baiha-touched kent he’d ever encountered before. He hated mysteries; the unknown was a thorn in his mind, scratching his considerable cerebellum until answered.

“Shall we begin? The sooner we leave this place the better,” he urged, standing visibly this time and withdrawing a few pence from his pouch and sliding them next to his untouched meal.


Tahira watched the wizard closely as he walked in the shadow between buildings ahead of her. The group’s quest seemed legitimate, but Sandwatch did not contain a single soul that could be completely trusted. She scanned the waddle and daub walls for thin cracks or disturbed earth indicating hidden doors, but kept equal attention on the endaron. He appeared to be a summoner, which concerned her more than the other two combined.

If any of her new “compatriots” were going to know what her father was, it would be this expert of the planes. He was also the most dangerous; the others were brave, but hard-headed. Soldiers from militant cultures trained from birth to charge, weapon flailing, at their foes. Not impossible to out think, but this one disdained from straight-forward combat, manipulating his enemies and the material between them. Dangerous.

“Here,” Variel ran a delicate and across the wall’s surface, tracing the outline of a small door at ground level. Pointed-out, the door was still difficult to spot. Well made, far beyond the abilities of most beninites. There appeared to be no way to open it from outside.

“Secret escape route, perhaps,” she said, “This is a carpet merchant, what would he need a hidden trap door for?”

“I’ll collect the others,” Variel disappeared around the front of the restaurant. Tahira studied the air around her, glancing around to make sure no one had been spying on them. She lifted her generous sleeve to run her fingers across the jade surface of her amulet. The crystal scarab fluttered its hard wings in appreciation, turning about in its mounting. Trust them? the holy insect inquired.

Enough she replied through their soul-bond. The messenger bug fluttered its wings again and ran a foreleg over its cephalothorax. Tahira followed Variel out into the street.

“_Do you think he’s in there?_ “the kard was asking, using an unfamiliar dialect of illossillion.

“If so, he’s likely to be in the basement,” Variel said, decidedly in kent. Using the endaron tongue was more suspicious than anything else they were likely to do today, and Tahira was glad at least one of this troupe had some sense.

“Then we search the place,” Stonefist grumbled, brushing past them in his characteristic, not-quite-straight line. Supposedly the algran had been granted some kind of mystical ability to see despite his gruesome lack of eyes. It was obvious he could see some things, and Tahira was getting close to realizing what exactly he could distinguish. There was always a pause when he entered rooms, as if he had to focus to find his bearings. He grew irritable in crowds, but that wasn’t uncommon in his thinly-spread kinsmen.

Apparently agoraphobia wasn’t the only trait he shared. Deldund approached the narrow doorway of the carpet market with a purposeful march devoid of any grace, and walked awkwardly through the embellished curtain across the portal.

Tahira and the others quickly moved to follow. The market was dark, musty, and awash in colors from a hundred different patterns. The middle-aged proprietor emerged from the folds of the room.

Hello, Welcome! I am Gheshan, what sort of weavework are you looking for? “ the short beninite fired off in clean baiha. Deldund was before the man, hood covering his head. The cleric hadn’t comprehended a single word, but a merchant’s introduction was universal.

“I need a rug,” Deldund barked.

“Well, correct place you found then. You are clansman? What range?” the merchant slipped into crisp kent.

“Algran,” Variel replied first, hoping to cut-off an uncomfortably complicated conversation about the differences between Oslinder and Rol names for mountains.

“Of course, of course! Step right this way, I have a master weavework befitting any hall,” the salesman slipped back into the folds of the room, beckoning Deldund and Variel to follow as Tahira and Ishrana entered.

As the merchant swung a complicated array of bars and racks, a stunning, intricately patterned fold of rug appeared. Sparkling lines of gold and silver laced through the design, which was obviously influenced by traditional clansman iconography. Deldund stared unmoved slightly above the display.

Variel edged past them, backing nearer to the center of the structure, searching for anomalies in the floor. Ishrana moved up behind Deldund to watch the entrance and the merchant, who was extolling the virtues of the selected rug to Stonefist’s unseeing eyes. Tahira followed the wizard, browsing the weaveworks.

“It costs but fifteen hundred kingmarks, good sir,” the merchant finished with a flourish, “quite a bargain, considering the quality and rarity.”

“Hoo!” Tahira heard Stonefist’s dismay clearly through the mats of carpet, “Are ye’ daft? Cheaper.”

Variel swept a layer of carpets away from the floor, revealing a small panel with an iron ring attached. Tahira spun a display around to further hide their activities as the merchant bubbled arguments. It would certainly be rare for him to have a clansman customer, and with the Kard in full battle armor, he certainly looked to be a lord on travel with his knightly bodyguard. The merchant was too engrossed to notice Variel opening his trapdoor and disappearing into the dark crawlspace beneath.

Several minutes passed by, during which Stonefist directed the carpet-man to another display with rugs a fraction of the cost. Tahira continued to peruse until Variel re-entered the shop from the street door.

The sentinel glanced back at the open trap-door, keeping her sigh to herself. She slowly concealed the door again, and rejoined the others.

“You’ve nothing but shoddy hobby-works, I’m not for wasting marks on it,” Stonefist grumbled, just a hint of menace in his voice. He turned and marched out the door back into the blasting sunlight as the merchant followed after, practically begging for him to return, and turning to the entourage as they passed, trying to salvage a sale.

“What did you find,” Swaythe asked as they walked among the crowds of the Sandmaze.

“Not here, back at the inn,” Variel seemed stiff, but no one pushed the issue. Neither could they help but notice that the endaron’s backpack was a lot fuller than when they’d gone into the carpet shop. They walked in relative silence back through the entry queue where their weapons were again peace bound by the West Watch.


Wandering through the far-less-crowded, seamless streets of Sandwatch proper, they quickly made it back to the Dawncrest in the saffron quarter. Eddis nodded as they passed through the lobby on their way to Variel’s room, where most of their things were. Cocolongo and the woman who’d only been introduced as Rose were inside, fully clothed.

Variel quickly let his pack thud onto his bed, and then pulled out something wrapped in a dusty carpet.

“You stole a rug?” Stonefist demanded.

“By Gelnor, why do keep breaking the law?” Ishrana was exasperated. Her anger only grew as Variel unwrapped a chest and opened it, revealing a mound of gold coins within, “What did you do?!”

“There was another chest in the crawlspace,” Variel stated, unperturbed, “There was a disassembled body in it.” This got Tahira’s attention.

“How old?” she asked.

“Not my area of expertise, but I would guess at least a week.”

“The shopkeeper had a body in his crawlspace next to a chest of…” Ishrana paused, staring at the coins.

“Two thousand kingmarks give or take some for imperfect smelting,” Deldund continued for her.

“We should question the body,” Tahira stated, her scarab fluttered in anticipation.

“Yes, we need to investigate how he was killed and if the carpet merchant is actually the carpet merchant.

“Bah!” Deldund grated, “this Salty-blood gang runs the neighborhood, and this Sandmaze is a landscape of villainy. We can’t go chasing every thief in a thieves’ den.”

“You’re correct, Deldund,” Variel offered, “but being immediately adjacent to Salted Blood gang’s base of operations could mean the shopkeeper or the body in his basement knows more about the gang’s operation.”

“For all we know, that could be Peck in the basement,” Ishrana realized.

“No, the deceased was clearly beninite,” Variel corrected.

“What’s going on?” Cocolongo asked from the corner, staring wide-eyed at more coin than he’d seen in his life.

“You’re involved with more murderers now?” Rose asked.

“Calm, Rose, we’re not any more danger than we were upon entering the city,” Stonefist’s attempt at a soothing voice was hampered by his gravelly accent.

“My name is not Rose, Deldund, I have no name,” the woman insisted.

“Damn it,” Ishrana’s fist turned into an accusatory finger, aimed at Rose, “You have a name, until you give something to call you I’m calling you Rose,” she pointed the finger at Variel, “ and you just stole two thousand kingmarks from a gang’s neighbor,” the finger traversed to Tahira, “What do you mean question the body ?”

“Swaythe, you’re not helping,” Stonefist ground the room to a calm. “We need to focus on finding Peck, so we can get to this damnable wyrm lair, find the bloody book we’re looking for, and stop the Enemy from destroying everything my ancestors accomplished.” A long pause filled the room.

“I have to purchase some scrolls,” Variel replaced his spoils into his backpack.

“Is that why you stole that?” Ishrana demanded.

“No doubt these ill-gotten gains were themselves ill-gotten,” Tahira said. Her scarab had shivered appreciatively at the mention of scrolls, “What better purpose for the coin than furthering a noble cause?”

“Fine,” the paladin wasn’t going to win here, “I’ll check in on McEwn and Rambellow.” She huffed out of the crowded room and stomped down the stairs toward the stable and her horse. The group exchanged glances before Variel collected his bag and left for the violet quarter.

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Episode 18

Down the Viper Hole

With their search for information on Sir Gregori Peck apparently directing them to the syndicate underworld of the Sandwatch, the party seems to be at a loss. None of them is familiar enough with the social fabric of the Sandmaze to easily identify who might have Peck and/or why.

The only apparent option seems to be getting hip-deep in the maze. The meet and leave the safe-zone of Sandwatch proper, the peace-binding ribbons removed from their weapons as they pass beyond the city gates. Their first stop in the Maze is a linens dealer, from whom they purchase a selection of cloaks more appropriate to the roasting, dry winds. They inquire around the marketplace about Peck and his expedition. To their disappointment, the day-to-day struggle for survival in the sandmaze limits how much the locals pay attention to such things as a courtly treasure hunter…particularly if it has anything to do with syndicate business.

Coming-up dry, they decide to stop for a meal at a local cafe. The restaurateur nods them in the direction of the local gang of thugs, and a quick reading by Variel reveals them as likely shake-down criminals. As good a place to start as any. Their newest ally follows the thugs through the winding, twisting, putrid alleys and walks of the Sandmaze as they conduct their brutish business.

Speaking to one of their “protectees” she discovers the name of the local crime lord, and the group decides to pay him a home visit. They arrive at his door mid-morning, finding only his wife and son at home. They pretend to be old associates from the West, and their able to maintain the illusion for over an hour of refreshments before the man they’re looking for returns.

They don’t get much information, but they do pay ten kingmarks for the men to ask around and figure out who has Gregori Peck, where they’re holding him, and they offer a further forty kingmarks if the criminals deliver Peck to them directly. The thugs are given the location the bathhouse near the party’s inn, and it’s to that location the group retires for the day…restlessly waiting….

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Episode 17

Fresh Eyes

Arriving in Sandwatch, the party makes their way to the Saffron Quarter, home of the Lost Library and all of its ancient lore. The library is only partially catalogued, despite the years since Queen Mailoki unlocked the vaults in which the tomes and scrolls were preserved.

To prevent theft and damage to the rarities within, all visitors must be escorted by a page or librarian when researching, a process that can lead to long waits and has made the Lost Library a place only the truly dedicated have the patience for.

A cafe in the lobby of library caters to those awaiting admittance, and it’s here the party finds none other than Loraina McEwn. She’s been waiting for two days for a page to assist her, but it apparently takes the arrival of the party to finally “encourage” that assistance.

A page, named Ophelia, appears to escort them to the chamber holding the scrolls from the era of the Fall. With her assistance, the four of them spend most of the day searching for any mention of the boxes or the apparent expeditions to hide them. They come-up empty.

It isn’t until, after a short break exploring the city, the party decides to instead focus on the new information revealed in their vision outside Port of Isles. Variel made a sketch of the apparent temple, and sharing with Loraina McEwn and page Ophelia, they come-up with a possible answer to the mystery. Architectural themes consistent with draconic style seem to be present, and the perspective leads both McEwn and Ophelia to believe the temple may belong to a dragon known as Zultheztherene the Blue.

The wyrm is a legend bordering on myth, as he hasn’t been seen or heard from in centuries. According to legend, his temple holds great riches for the cleverly bold, but all who’ve searched for it failed or were never heard from again. The prospect of a powerful wyrm is concerning, but Moradin himself spoke to Deldund of an enemy his brothers knew how to defeat, and the western clans are far more experienced with dragons than nearly anyone else in the north of Henal, aside perhaps kobolds and their priests.

They continue searching the scrolls and tomes from the Fall, with a renewed focus on Zultheztherene. A dragon’s temple seems to be an good place to hide such a dangerously valuable artefact…or at least a likely place for it to have ended-up.

Shortly after, one of the Lost Library’s few loremasters returns from a day trip, eager to meet these new researchers. From what his pages of told him, there’s a uniquely historical reinvisioning of the Fall at hand. Loremaster Rambellow’s first order of business is to end their focused search for knowledge on Zultheztherene’s temple. They could search for a decade and find not a trace, in fact many here already have ten fold.

He does offer a sliver of hope. There are a few scholars both dumb enough to seek out a dragon, yet clever enough to figure out his location. Fewer still are three that would likely work with the party and be forced to potentially share the wealth…and the glory.

The first is Nimseo Borlin – DECEASED, whose demise the party has the awkward duty of sharing with Rambellow. Next is a treasure hunter currently based out of South Landing, which the party concludes is not only too far, but also highly dangerous given the nature of recent events. The last is a man named Content Not Found: peck, based in the local nobility and famed for his exploits.

While Rambellow finds the man distastful, he can’t deny his abilities and his shining collection of acheivments. He isn’t even that far away, but Rambellow’s estimation. A recent expedition lead by left Sandwatch only a couple of weeks previously. Rambellow isn’t certain what they were looking for, but then again Content Not Found: peck is prone to keeping his goals secret, in case he has to change them.

This information in hand, the party begins asking around about where Peck has gone or when he’s due back. They mostly encounter favorable, but vague information about him. There is, however, a server at one of the cafes who shares valuable information with them. He’s heard that the expedition didn’t make it a day from Sandwatch before falling victim to a local syndicate’s henchmen. The man leading it was captured. He hasn’t got anything more of value to share, but this news alone changes the nature of their search considerably.

During their questioning, the party also visited ‘s apartments in the central spire, speaking with Peck’s wife. She mentions nothing of his possible capture, still expecting him to return in roughly two weeks, although her husband is known to draw-out his successful return journeys to heighten the drama of his triumphs.

What Mrs. Peck does mention is another person asking after him in as earnest a tone as the party. Not being the most observant, she can only tell them the woman was clad in desert clothing. This is interesting news, and potential lead in their search for his captors. At the very least it’s worth investigating just to see what this strange woman’s after.

Searching futher, they eventually run across the woman their looking for. After a tense introduction, in which they learn almost nothing about her aside that she’s also looking for , Variel quite bluntly informs this woman of why they need to find post haste, and invites her to help them save the world as they know it. She politely accepts.

Following this, they visit one of Sandwatch’s famous bath houses and spend an evening resting in beds rather than camp rolls.

Rewards

Experience: 300 xp each character.
Pity Points: none
Awesome Points: none
Treasure: none

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Episode 16

Wake-up Call

Full Synopsis

Rewards

Experience: 1000 xp to each character
Awesome Points: 5 xp to Ishrana Swaythe for throwing sickles and the ultimate Gibbs Smack.
Pity Points: 5 xp to Variel for getting his robe dirty and realizing how “popular” he is.
Treasure: 175 Kingmarks, 2 Light Crossbows, 15 bolts, and 2 daggers.

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Episode 15

Day of Praise

While traveling to Lake Besmus, Cocolongo rejoins the party, finding Port of Isles is no longer a safe place for him. While camped, the party is once again subject to some kind of mysterious seeming, a herd of deer stampede through the camp, but only Deldund, Variel, and Ishrana Swaythe appear to notice it happen. After the stampede passes, their hoof prints leave an image stamped in the earth: a temple built into a cliff face, as viewed as some distance over flat terrain.

What the image is of specifically escapes them all, including the well-travelled Quatermaster Hedgewhistle. Without further incident, the caravan reaches Lake Besmus, and the quatermaster informs them that the caravan will be camped here for two weeks while some of their number travel up-river to trade with the dwarven clans. They are welcome to join them westward again at that time.

Deldund’s first order of business is to pray at the Temple of Moradin and share what he has learned with a trusted dwarf. He does so, and proceeds to pray the remainder of the day. While he does this, Variel takes Ishrana on a grand tour of his favorite city, ending in raucous night at the Rainy Day tavern, during which Ishrana accidentally meets one of the guard captains and also manages to become an artistic sensation. They retire at the end of the night to a mansion they were invited to on the shores of the Lake, and awaken quite refreshed.

Deldund receives the first clear message from Moradin in many weeks, and purifies himself in the temple. After enjoying some hearty, dwarven cooking, and being assured that world will be sent to the mountain clans of the coming danger, Deldund is reenergized for the mission before him, given unto him by Moradin himself. All three of the adventurers are ready to travel, and after tracking down Cocolongo, and a new “friend” of his that may prove as infuriating to Deldund as Hobbes Spizzlecog was, they set off westward along the North Loop of the tradeways, making four days progress without incident.

Full Synopsis

Rewards

Experience: 500 xp to each character
Awesome Points: 5 xp to Ishrana Swaythe for becoming an instant art sensation. There it is.
Pity Points: 5 xp to Deldund Stonefist for once again having to travel with a individual “freed from the contraints of convention”.
Treasure: none

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Episode 14

The Expectedly Unexpected Fissile Parting of The Ingeniusly Unanticipated Master of the Art of Science of Alchemy Hobbes Spizzlecog

With Variel now returned to the group, they begin plans to leave the city. Tovarius, it’s decided, is to remain in the care of the Heironite clergy, who have yet to hear about the incident at the Academy. Loraina’s insights solidify Sandwatch as their next destination, with haste.

Deldund arranges for them to travel with a halfling caravan taking the North Loop through Lake Besmus, and they prepare for the journey. On the morning they are to depart, Variel and Hobbes are the last to leave the Cathedral grounds, shortly after riding out the gates, they walk into an ambush set by the Cuthbertian clerics an the Sapphire Guard to capture Variel and re-incarcerate him. Not in the mood to play advocate again, Hobbes spurs on his team. The wagon is off, and with their combined abilities to ignore natural laws, they lead the sapphire guard and clerics on a wild chase through the famous Gateway Quarter.

Eventually, the guard get lucky and ignite the wagon with alchemical fire. Shortly after, Hobbes losses control and collides with an oncoming coach. Variel is thrown from wagon, and Hobbes barely rounds the corner before the fire reaches his chemicals an blows the wagon to bits.

Surviving the blast, Hobbes keeps moving on the advice of Bajan’s ghost, right on past the caravan. As he rides by on one of his recently-purchased riding lizards, he shouts a series of discombobulated words at the party.

Recovering quickly from the abrupt appearance and subsequent disappearance, Deldund and Ishrana Swaythe bid adieu to the strange, incalculable “genius” that is Hobbes Spizzlecogs…

Full Synopsis

Rewards

Experience: 500 XP for each character, and 200 additional XP for Hobbes Spizzlecog
Treasure: A selection of spells from the elven spellbooks for Variel.
Awesome Points: 5 XP to Hobbes Spizzlecog for pulling that off.
Pity Points: 5 XP to Variel for solidifying his status as a dangerous fugitive.

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Episode 13

A Thickening Brew

After a raucous evening with Sahm’El, the party goes their separate ways. During the night, Variel meets an alarmingly-amnesiac spirit that tells him he must find a woman named Loraina somewhere in Port of Isles. The following morning, the party heads to the University of Tryna to seek out anyone named Loraina who might know something about ancient Kenora.

They don’t find her, but hey find her boss, Professor Erik Kolmin. It only takes a few minutes before their conversation with him turns sour. He mistakes them for mercenaries working for local crime lord Murdock and ends up imprisoning Deldund in some kind of cursed brick. In an effort to enlist local aide, Variel ties to summon an Imp to incriminate Kolmin. That plan backfires as Cuthbertian clerics rush the room and arrest both Kolmin and Variel.

While Ishrana takes the brick back to the Cathedral of the Fallen Knight for help getting Deldund out of his newest hell, Hobbes Spizzlecog goes behind her back and stages a jail break, freeing Variel. The two of them fly, thanks to Variel, back to Sahm’El’s tent in Callilly Jetty. Sahm’El packs up the wagon, in which he and Variel then begin driving about the city to keep ahead of the guard and the Cuthbertians, who now think they have a devil-summoning villain at large in the city.

By the time Hobbes gets back to the Cathedral, the elven council has just finished a ritual to free Deldund. Hobbes makes and impactful entrance, and the brick explodes. Deldund is thrown back into reality and left splayed out on the lawn…along with a couple of new friends. It seems they’ve found the Loraina they’ve been looking for, and an ancient slave…

Full Synopsis

REWARDS

Experience: 2000 XP to each character
Treasure: None
Awesome Points: 5 points to Hobbes Spizzlecog for bringing Donovan back, if only for a brief time before turning him back into a pumpkin.
Pity Points: 5 points to Deldund Stonefist for being a dwarf trapped in a rock

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Episode 12

Tracking Shadows

Upon their approach to the docks, the party encounters an eerily familiar face admidst the dock crowd. The aging man approaches them and asks if they might be going to South Landing, or have come from there. Upon hearing they have indeed come from South Landing, He asks if they have heard news of Lucas Dragonheart.

It’s then they recognize some the features. This man, bearing a seal of Heironeous and a well-kept, if simple, longsword is Matthias Dragonheart, Luke’s uncle. He’s devastated by the news, but upon hearing how the boy met his end trying to save his friend and stop the vile Hammerfel and Borlin, he takes some comfort. A righteous end is all a servant of Heirnous can ask of his true lord.
Matthias, thanks to Luke’s letter, the same that drew-up enough concern in the scholarly cleric to travel south in the first place, knows of the Kenoran box. He asks the team about it and they reveal it to him. He responds with awe but little surprise. He explains the box in the way known to Osil’s scholars, as an ark of some great importance in the time of the Kenora’s Fall, which is said to house some unspeakable power not meant for mortal hands.

Matthias believes the box should be protected by the greatest army of good in Maritaph, the Champions of Heironeous in their fortress-Cathredral of the Fallen Knight. There, in the heart of Port of Isles in Osil, the box will be beyond the reach of whatever evil seeks to reunite it with its ancient mate.

His zeal for this outcome is countered in strength only in Variel’s insistence that the box be returned to the Elven Council assembled on the day of Agus’s Fall, the same that shrouded the box for the centuries it remained hidden in Agus Tevidune. This is the purpose of Variel’s mission here, and he will not see the youthful and hot-headed men, women, and dwarf risk the return of Tazgin’ra’s dark empire.

The gnome Hobbes dissents in a different light, bringing his own wanderer’s logic to the problelm. Why not keep it on the move for a life time? With this small group escorting it from city to city, land to land, for a generation or more. Surely the forces that seek it will discover it again should it be hidden, and even a fortress can fall prey to a traitorous soul or a dedicated thief. The plan to launch it into the planes of chaos and color, or hide it in a church, are ridiculous.
Afop this, Ishrana has been ordered by the Horselord to bring news of the box to the Kard King, and inform him of the dangers, as well as ordering her to protect this box at all times, it must accompany her to the throne. No one else finds this an appealing prospect.

After no small amount of negotiation, they decide upon a compromise. The Elves will come to Port of Isles and meet them at the Cathedral of the Fallen Knight. Imara Skybuck will warn the King of Kardam of the threat that may soon come, and on the way, Deldund will be able to ponder Moradin’s will, while Ishrana will be able to maintain her duty protecting the box.

A few days later, the party, aboard the Sea Dwarf sees the lighthouse of Port of Isles and Castle Seaglaur rising from the clifftops. As they approach, they find the docks as full as ever, with ships anchored in harbor awaiting a birth. Infact, they arrive just as the Harbor Patrol of the Sapphire Guard are burning down a ship. Matthias remarks on how rare indeed such an act is. They all know now that the plague of undeath has found its way to Osil as well.

They row to port in the launches, and walk directly through the swarming metropolis to the huge Cathedral of the Fallen Knight. Matthia guides them through the gates and the main doors, through the stone corridors, and they arrive in a meeting hall. Shortly after they are joined by the Paragon himself, and following this a line of silent elves breeze into the room without a sound.

The conversation takes a great deal of time, with explanations by Deldund of the fall of Moutain’s Gate and Hammerfel’s betrayl. The pain in his soul comes through as he relives the nightmare of his last sights once again.
He and Hobbes tell of their draw to Kardam, and the rescue and betrayl of Nimseo Borlin. They relate the hellish trek through the Southlands, and the discovery of Agus Tevidune, from where the Elves then explain the ancient truth of the Kenoran Box as the resting place of Agus’s soul within the haft of his sickle.
The existence of the second box is revealed, but likewise is the mystery of its location. Briefly, they note the fall of Hammerfel and Nimseo in the warm waters of South Landing, and a prayer of thanks and honor is said for the fallen Champion Dragonheart.

The discussion on what to do next arises freshly, with the elven council and the paragon butting heads over the issue as much as their subordinates had upon first meeting. Eventually, the raucous debate settles upon a plan: the elves will create an arcane fold within the Cathedral, one in which the box will be hidden and layered in arcane wards and veils. Meanwhile, the church will recall its warriors to defend the cathedral against any coming threats.
With the box apparently as safe as it is likely to be, the conversation turns to the second the box and the existence of more than two dozen fiends in the mountains, that have been there for months according to Deldund’s time line.

The masters of Hammerfel must be identified, and the second box must be secured or kept hidden from them. The spectre that this unknown master already possesses the knowledge of the second box’s location is raised, and no one in the room has any idea what that location may be. The only thing certain is that divine powers beyond the understanding of Paragon or the council have deemed Deldund, Hobbes, and virtue of their meeting, Variel and Ishrana, worthy of the cause. They must continue the task set before them, and track down Hammerfel’s master.

The resources of the Church and the Elves are behind them, but only so much can be done. The first place to start is in this very city, for Deldund knows Hammerfel came to Port of Isles following his betrayl. They track down the dwarven community leaders, and question them regarding Hammerfel.

They learn little more than that he lodged with a dwarven work team, and that he spent a great deal of time in Dorrick, the academic and holy district of the city. The Hall of Justice Coleman is in Dorrick, and as the seat of the Cuthbertian church, it seems a good place to start if they’re tracking a criminal and a fiend-servant. They meet with Justice Coleman, who directs them to his lieutenant tasked with rooting out fiends and those who associate with them.

They learn that Hammerfel frequented the Academy, in particular the historical branch. They follow in the Betrayer’s footsteps and head to the library, where in which they discover that Hammerfel was not investigating fiends or any other dark lore, simply the history of the Kenoran Empire. The library has an extensive collection, one of the largest in Maritaph. It’s no wonder the dwarf came here to research the box’s location.

After hours and hours of searching through books and tombs, they learn a great deal of the history of Kenora and the other peoples that resisted them in their reign. The Cytaran, the Halflings, and of course the dwarven clans in their hundred-year war. The frightening realities of the Flying Sickles and the leader, Agus Tevidus.

They finally find a tomb mentioning the construction of a great temple in Jungle after the death of Agus Tevidus, built by dwarves and named Tevidune in the old tongue. This is how Hammerfel learned where the box would lay, Deldund is certain. He would have needed more research to find the location, perhaps in the Chart Hall or in more literature, but there is no doubt in his mind that Hammerfel learned in this very chamber all he needed to know about the resting place of the Kenoran box holding the Haft of the Sickle.

The remaining question is whether he also learned here the resting place of the Blade, in its own box. They begin the search for that information. If they can find it, they must assume that Hammerfel also had given how long he spent in here.

With further hours paging through dusty books, they eventually find a fragment of ballad written years after the Fall, apparently relating the tale told by a dwarf.:

….Hills of sand, so far from home,
the blazing days we spent abroad,
the friends we lost to thirst and snake.
We carried forth or fathers’ task,
Into the heat not fiend could bask.
__
Ever did we travel forth, it seemed eternal,
We Trudged and marched and heat became cool,
Then the cold would pinch the toes from feet,
Would blacken or fingers and noses, the frosted sun
Could find us no more, for days and days there was no
Light at all, wandering n darker dreams and thought.
__
The charge we carried dragged our souls as beasts and
Warriors fell and crawled. We few marched on leaden legs,
On rotten feet and broken brows, we fought the shadows of the land,
But the shadows of ourselves were greater threats.
__
A life of war, and no peace could we keep,
The darkness of the land salted our souls to that fruit.
Blood froze on our hands, the blood of brothers.
We carried out our task and made the turn, but woe to those
who struggled home. For we were three and worn to bone.
The secrets held would slay us all, and I the last to fall,
Would bear witness to it all but for an oath I made, my blade
Upon my father’s throat, upon the Devil’s Face…

The poem is explained in the text as originating from just after the Kenoran Fall, and was recorded in Old Kenoran in the original, translated from Rol into that ancient text.

With that information seeming to point towards the deserts of Benin, and with another great library in the ancient and mystical city of Sandwatch, a path is slowly presenting itself. There is little more evidence to go on than a fragment of a translated poem, but then there was little more than premonition to guide Deldund and the others South months before.

The seek out the beninte population of Port of Isles, heading for the Calilly Jetty neighborhood of Foamhead. The Temple of Boccob the Mystic is also here, surrounded by his faithful beninnite children. Soon upon arriving, they meet an interesting character, Fihal (Fil), one of Hobbes’s former business partners. He treats the party to…a party and does his best to help Hobbes steer them all away from going to Sandwatch. He also helps them convince the dockmaster to ‘liberate’ a birth for the Sea Dwarf.

Following their unexpected party, in which they learn very little except how dangerous and despicable Sandwatch is, Variel goes to the Planar Observatory, a strange place were denizens of multiple planes gather for academic discourse and study. The observatory itself a window through the barriers of the Metaverse, allowing the study of dangerous planes without the need to travel there and the inherent risks therein. There are outsiders of many stripes and types that wander the magical grounds alongside men, women, elves, and all manner of races.

The search for answers is disappointing to men such as Hobbes and Variel, who put their faith in fact and imperical truth. They cannot bring themselves to leave the fate of the world to something as fickle as faith. Deldund knows only one thing, Moradin has never failed him, and Moradin has shown him a path to this place and time. The youthful gods cannot be trusted, their motives too unclear and shrouded. He can hear the distant beat of Moradin trying to tell him what to do, but the world is too loud to hear it clearly.

Ishrana’s faith is always with Gelnor, and he will show her the true path, but there is too much at stake and this place to unfamiliar to her. Streets confuse the path before her, twisting as they do. The sea cannot be traveled like the plains, and the enemy is not clear. A soldier cannot fight shadows and whispers. She yearns for a clear sign perhaps more than her allies.

Rewards

Experience: 500 XP to all characters.

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Episode 11

New Friends, Old Secrets

As they begin cleansing the docks with the clerics of Dalda, Deldund and Hobbes are surprised to run into Imara Skybuck, one of Horselord They’s advisors and one of the few people to have noted the significance of the Kenoran Box.

Imara is surprised herself to encounter the pair, and expresses her sorrow at the news of Luke and Neema’s demise. She quickly moves on to the equally disturbing revelations she’s had regarding the Kenoran Box. She introduces two of her associates with whom she has been working on a plan to voyage south in search of Deldund and his compatriots.

First is a Daldan Ridge Rider named Ishrana Swaythe, an accomplished half-elf warrior whose upheld the law and honor of the Horselord for years. Ishrana herself had been serving on the southern front against he hobgoblins until very recently, when she was approached by an elf from the enchanted Delldun Forests to the West.

This elven wizard, Variel, is Imara’s other companion. Variel further explains that he’s part of an ancient academic order among his people that were tasked with protecting the very box Deldund has come to posses. The wizard explains that, during the final Battle of the Kenoran Empire, Agus Tevidus’s body completely disappeared, along with that of the pit fiend. It is well known that the fiend was not merely banished from the mortal plane, the enchantments used by Agus prevented that. It’s also not entirely known where the fiend or Agus himself actually went, but it is suspected that they are somehow linked to the two pieces of Agus’s broken sickle recovered from the battleground.

The two pieces, the blade and the shaft, were separated and sealed in the highly-guarded boxes, one of which is the one Nimseo discovered in Agus Tevidune deep in the Southland Jungles. When he did so, Nims breached the arcane defenses installed by the elves, and they were alerted to the disturbance. Immediately, the order of elven academics convened and agreed to send Variel to investigate.

He traveled across the lands of Kardam first, waiting to enter the jungles until the shortest path through them led to Agus Tevidune. Just before crossing into the Southlands, he encountered a Kard warcamp. During the evening meal, he learned of striking events that took place in Theynehold, involving outlanders, a strange box, and the possession and subsequent murder of one amongst them, followed by the mysterious disappearance of everyone involved…and the strange box.

Investigating further, Variel met the Ridge Rider Ishrana Swaythe, and she agreed to escort the elf to speak with Pogarn, the Ridge Rider Captain of Theynehold who was serving nearby on the front as they spoke. After fighting their way to the front and meeting with Pogarn, the duo was directed to travel north to Theynehold and speak with Imara Skybuck, the horselord’s historical and arcane adviser. Ishrana, sensing the grave significance of the threat, further escorted Variel north in search of Skybuck.

They eventually found her in Dalda, attempting to find some trace of Deldund, Luke, and the others. They joined efforts to pursue and locate the box, attempting to earn passage by tracking down a local pirate named Cagey Vic and arresting him. Just as they had just accomplished this task when they encountered Deldund and Hobbes.

Variel shares with the party his knowledge of the box and it’s contents: This is the sealed resting place of the shaft of Agus’s broken sickle. Were this half of the sickle ever to meet the blade, the consequences for the mortal plane were extremely dire. To ensure this would never happen, both pieces were placed in identical boxes and hidden far apart form one another. The elves took charge of the Shaft, and they deliberately have no knowledge of where the Blade was hidden. Variel’s task is to retrieve the Shaft, return it to his order in Delldun Forests, and assist them in relocating the Shaft to a new hiding place.

This solution is entirely unacceptable to Deldund and Hobbes both. Hobbes indicated that the box was found once, and it will therefore be found again if the same tactic is used. The gnome insists that they should become the guardians of the box, keeping it on the move at all times such that no seeker could ever happen upon it. For his part, Deldund wants it destroyed…utterly removed from existence. That is the only final solution in his mind.

For their part, Ishrana and Imara are still trying to comprehend the significance of what they’ve gotten into. Imara’s expertise is limited in dealing with existential threats to the world, and Ishrana’s experience lies in fighting savages, criminals, and abominations…not concealing veritable keys to the birth of a new dark empire. Both are more inclined to bring the issue to their respective superiors.

As the specter of Pandemic looms across the eastern seaboard, these five souls alone contemplate what is to be done with the wooden box that could bring about the rebirth of the most powerful and vile empire Henal has ever known…

Awards

Experience: None
Hero Points: None
Awesome Points 5 points to Ishrana Swaythe for Capturing Cagey Vic alive and preventing the murder of Skood the Mad
Pity Points 5 points to Variel for attempting to calm Skood the Mad, triggering his outburst, being forced to “shake hands” with all of these dirty folk, and having to thwart the clumsy advances of drunken bar patrons in the Wharf district.

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