Dear Mom - Mishap Adventures of a Mommy's Elf




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    Dear Mom - Mishap Adventures of a Mommy's Elf

    This Story Hour is from a game not yet done but quite a bit longer in the works. The first parts are only the letters the party sends back home to the mom of the supposed main character because we lost all the other detailed notes. It will open up to narrative style eventually.

    All the players are part of a "literate kids" project in a youth club around here. When this started, the youngest (playing Flip) was 10.

    The letters have to be translated from German while keeping the style, so I am likely not quite as quick with updates for a bit. The letters were really written to the GM at the end of each game so they could not only practice their imagination and keep track of stats, but also have a motivation to put something down not dictated by school. The player for Uthas has a bad case of dyslexia and thus opted to play a semi-literate barbarian, which is really just the craze.

    It helps if you know the Freeport series to understand all the letters but later it really gets easier to follow.


    Cast of characters:

    Orlath – young naive elf noble sent to Freeport to both help a friend of his mother and to finally grow up and get his act together. Officially, he is there to study at the Temple of Knowledge. Mage of the 7 Stars. His mother created magical scrolls allowing them to send missives to each other no matter where they are. He's quite under pressure for regular reports, which basically means daily. At least.

    Nevukh – Orlath's best elven friend who thought going along would be a great adventure. Not quite as naive but somehow always gets into trouble. Mage of the 5 Rings. Orlath's mom gave him magical scrolls as well and paid for the damages he lately caused to make him send reports on their group and, of course, especially her son.

    Uthas – Half-Orc barbarian bodyguard of Orlath. What no one but Orlath' mother knows is that the other half of his heritage is elven, a result of a drunken night in a whore house when Orlath's father was supposedly "doing government business." Was sent along not only to protect mama's little darling, but also to disappear lest anyone finds out about his heritage. He is somewhat literate and thus was given magical scrolls as well, although Orlath's mom doesn't expect much to come from it.

    Flip – Halfling servant recently employed not only to serve Orlath, but also to send said magical missives as well. Flip thinks of it as an easy job enabling to "liberate" enough riches for himself – at least until the journey begins.

    To come in later:

    Lhess – Orlath's older sister. Paladin of the Golden Realm. Blunt, straightforward, undiplomatic, no people skills... she appears to be unfit to be a paladin until you see her defending the unfortunate, weak, poor, betrayed... and so on. Orlath and her do not get along that well because she goes straight over his head all the time. Whenever Orlath is in danger to mess up, mom will threaten to send his sister after him to "sort things out."


    NPCs in the background:

    Mom – with full name Theka, Protector of the Southern Realm, Scion of the 9 Stars, Mage of the 3-Fold Council. Overprotective of her last True Born son.

    Jansen: Human majordomo to Theka. He has arranged for agents of the Realm to have an eye on the group once they arrive. This can cause more problems than help.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------


    Part 1 - Death in Freeport


    Letters from the 1st of Dhai


    Dear Mom

    I am sorry for not writing back to you during the journey here. It seems to me that elves, or at least Nevukh and me – are not suited to travel the seas. I spent my time, as the crew called it, fattening up the fish. I have not had any food in days and still do not feel well. The only reprieve we had from the ups and downs of the waves was when the "Lucky Seagull" stopped at a small island. This is also why we are a bit late arriving here. See there was a woman on the island calling out to the ship, and there was a wreck. First we thought she was a survivor but then it turned out she was some sort of nature spirit wanting us to clean the shore up. She said we had made the mess. The captain said it was one of our ships stranded there but we were not able to find out the name. Uthas was very helpful in the clean up.

    Nevukh made me go into the cave this spirit was inhabiting. That was not such a good idea. She got all angry and chased us out and I tore my robe at a rock and knocked my head somewhere. We left that evening when done with cleaning and we didn't tell anyone we had been in the cave.

    Then when we came here, something strange happened. A group of thugs stopped us on the docks. I'm not so sure what it was all about, but according to Flip, such gangs are abducting people they think defenseless to do work on some ships. I can't imagine the authorities not doing anything about such behavior. In any case, Uthas beat them up all by himself. Didn't even have to use a spell. Mom, you should have seen him. It was amazing. He sent them running wild.

    The priest you wanted us to meet was expecting us at the docks, too. But it seems our foray into the depths of the Temple of Knowledge needs to wait a bit. See, one of the man's friends is missing and we agreed to see if we could find him as his duties keep him from searching a lot. Can't be that difficult, now, can it? Nevukh already asked all kids of questions about the missing priest – the archivar of the temple I think – you know how Nevukh is, always into something or the other.

    We are staying at the Scholar's Quill for now, maybe you know it from your studies here? It is manageable but I may search for better quarters later on.

    I need sleep now, everyone else is already in bed and I just stayed up to finally write you.

    Your loving son Orlath






    Honored Lady Theka!

    Apologies for not writing earlier. The wind and weather at seas are not agreeing with me so well. Additionally, we were late arriving at Freeport because we stopped at a small island. There was a shipwreck, and the nymph living there asked us to clean it all up because it was a ship from our Realm. We asked Uthas to help and it went all quickly.

    Orlath went into the nymph's cave, however, and I had to follow him to get him back out before she got too mad at him. He was all upset he tore his robe in the process but he is fine. Really, if he would just learn a spell to fix his own things he would not need to be worried about such trivial matters.

    When we arrived at the port, we were waylaid by a press gang. I am new to the concept, it seems Freeport is as dangerous as you have warned us about, Milady. Uthas took care of them though, it is good to have him along.

    We were indeed expected by Brother Egil. However, before we can study at the temple it seems he wants us to find a friend who is missing. One Lucius, supposedly you know him? He was and now is again the librarian of the temple. A strange thing happened 5 years ago, when he suddenly behaved weird and then vanished. Only recently he came back and was let back in the temple despite being thrown out before. Careful inquiries lead me to believe that he was readmitted because he brought back a lot of books.

    Orlath isn't much interested in the matter. I guess he thinks the rest of us will take care of it. In all likeliness, this Lucius has just gone up and about again, but we will try and solve the issue for Brother Egil's peace of mind.

    We are staying at a modest inn, and while I find it refreshing to be away from too many servants and protocol, Orlath has some trouble adjusting and might insist to stay in more noble quarters. As you have instructed us to learn a more normal way of living, I suppose you would be opposed to this?

    I will write more once I have had some rest. Everyone else is sleeping and only my sense of duty to you keeps me awake to send this letter.

    In Your service

    Nevukh




    Most High Lady Theka


    I am finally able to write after my disagreement with the seas has prevented me to do so. We arrived fine, if a bit late, and Uthas already had to beat some bullies up. Freeport looks fine to me though, and I am sure as soon as we all know how life works here we will settle in just great!

    Your honored son has decided to take things easy and went to bed early while honored Nevukh went to the Temple of Knowledge to inquire about a missing friend of Brother Egil – who was, might I add, happy to hear you were well and safe. Nothing has come of it so he asked us to follow him to the missing man's house tomorrow to see what we can find. As you know, Milady, I have a keen eye for things that are off. I might make a good investigator.

    Everyone else is sleeping already so I had some quiet to write this note. I will make sure to keep you informed promptly.

    Your humble servant

    Flip





    Letters from the 2nd of Dhai



    Dear Mom

    No, I'm not too arrogant to stay with the more normal folk, I just do not see any point living in a substandard place. With the money you gave us we could even buy a house. Maybe I'll just do that, and hire more servants, too. Flip is a bit on the impertinent side. He had the guts to call me lazy when I got up a little late for breakfast. Seriously, I stayed up late after all.

    For some reason, I had to trudge along with the others investigating the house of this Lucius. I would have rather checked out the city. Supposedly, you knew the man. How did you end up being friends with someone so... I do not even know what to call it. He's a librarian and lives in such a mess in only two rooms – and a basement that looks like a mostly empty library. And he must be a very confused individual, as his to do list for the day he vanished included such unforgettable things as sleeping. And he wasn't very tidy either. Obviously, he has no servants, not a wonder in the place he stayed in.

    I kept Flip with me when I went for lunch, although he seemed to be disappointed not to be able to go to see that pirate orc ship with the others. I'm not sure why they are insisting, anyway, just because this Lucius wanted to talk to their captain, Scarabeus or something like that, doesn't mean they got him. And if so, it would probably be too late or could wait another day.

    So, now I'm at lunch in a place called The Silly Goose. Very good food, a mix of spices from all part of the world. You would love it. It is also entertaining, as there are many rumors floating around. Mostly about the new lighthouse. From what I gathered, it is mostly a waste of money and may never be completed. A prestige project mainly. This Lord Drac of theirs could learn a few things from you, mom. Can you believe the thing is 10 years in the build and it basically ruined the city financially? They reduced the watch to be able to keep building it, no wonder we were waylaid on arrival! So, they call the thing "Milton's Folly" which seems to hit it. And supposedly, the Captain's Council – some poor substitute for a ruling body, it seems – would like nothing better than to get rid of this Drac.

    I'll keep you updated on the news from your temporary former home, for sure. It is quite interesting.

    Brother Egil is going to show us around the temple in the afternoon. I heard they have a large section on Old World spells and the history of the peoples from there.


    Your loving son Orlath






    Honored Lady Theka!


    Today a lot of things happened. It looks like Lucius was involved with some orcs. We found a note stating he wanted to talk to a captain Scarbelly from the Bloody Vengeance. Uthas and I went to check the ship out but even with Uthas shouting at them for a while, they didn't let us see the captain.

    After Orlath and I had been introduced to the temple in the afternoon – a true treasure of knowledge is in those walls indeed. We signed up Uthas for an additional language course as he is still so bad with the Realm's language. He was eager to learn, actually. Maybe we will make a scholar out of him yet.

    Uthas, Flip and me went back to the docks when Orlath had gone to bed. We went to follow the captain to a tavern and there Uthas managed to get some information out of him when he was drunk. The captain, not Uthas. Uthas only had about 5 or 6 kegs. Turns out Lucius had traveled with the pirates before, and paid them well for it. He stayed a few months and then vanished. He admitted he had seen Lucius, who got him drunk as well and asked questions about things he should know. Mainly, about his time on the ship. Would Milady have any idea why this librarian would consort with pirates?

    When we were on our way back to the inn, we were waylaid again. This city is really getting out of hand, they do not have enough money to pay enough watchmen, so I heard. This time, they shot at us – shot at us! – from the roofs and tried to cut us off in the street from both sides. And they even had a mage with them. Not a very good one, admittedly, but still. I was under the impression that Freeport was a place with few arcane magic users. Well, now there is one less. After Uthas interrogated the man, we made sure he would leave the city on the next ship. I do not trust the system here to deal with him accordingly. Uthas had, unfortunately, killed the others. Flip had a hand in it, somewhat, by getting 2 of them off the roofs. There is more to the little guy than I thought. We had some additional help, too. When we thought we would be wedged in between our foes, a group in night blue robes and hoods arrived and killed half of them before we could do much, then vanished when they saw Uthas handle the rest. They looked suspiciously like Realm agents to me. Do we have many Realm agents in Freeport? And if so, are they shadowing us?

    And here comes the shock. This was a band of mercenaries hired by some Enzo. The mage didn't know anything else except that they were to be paid in a tavern called Black Gull. Uthas was angry, very angry, and he insisted on checking the place out right away. It is a very seedy place close to the docks, as can be expected. From the descriptions we had been given, this Enzo was easy to find.

    As you can imagine, Milady, Uthas handled the situation with his usual charm. He grabbed the man and dragged him into an alley, threatening to remove his teeth all in one if he wouldn't talk. While I usually disdain such blatant display of force, it was very helpful in this case. This Enzo believes that he has been recruited by some sort of cult calling itself just "Brotherhood." I think he has been duped to run errands for someone who takes advantage of his gullible, feeble minded nature. But supposedly, we have angered the oh so powerful leader of this cult and are now a target. I have no idea why we would have angered anyone, all we did is attempting to find a missing librarian. So, either someone important has him and feels threatened, or someone has a hate for our noble line. Which would explain the presence of the agents.

    I asked a few more detailed questions, and found out that the supposed temple of this cult is some old unused house in a more or less unused part of the city. Uthas and I decided it would be wise to take Enzo with us and lock him up in Uthas' room so he can lead us there tomorrow. I am hesitant to involve the officials yet.

    I have loaded up on magic energy, including some globules of each color, and I have learned a new spell in the temple today, too. Something defensive, in case we get into trouble. I think out in the real world we will need more of the magics used for attack and defense. It is good I knew enough to catch this mage earlier.

    Ever in Your service

    Nevukh




    Most High Lady Theka


    Things are going awry. We – except your son - have been attacked tonight, by a gang of mercenaries called the Yellow Shields. By sheer luck and with the help of some unidentified strangers nothing happened to us at all. They had a mage, and that one's spell and one from honored Nevukh collided, knocking the stranger out. Please, Milady, if you have any contact to them, which I assume you do, could you tell Nevukh to be more careful with his magic? He meant well but as back home, he might do more harm with his thoughtless use of it than help.

    Uthas ended up capturing the man who paid them, and it looks like some sort of cult member of whatever. They don't seem to have a real name. We will need to make honored Orlath go along tomorrow. He is the better caster, I know, and he knows offensive spells, which we may need. But I assure you, Milady, we will watch out for him. A bit excitement is just what he needs. This morning, I had to wake him – he slept to almost midday. He didn't like me getting him out of bed either but I just did as Milady instructed.


    Your humble servant

    Flip




    Bosslady

    I am be writing now late. Was to match to take all inn. Has had beat up some folk and tonite we capture some dumb arse thinks he is ina cult. Nev sais he is making stuff up. Well see tomorow.

    I am good watch for son of you. I am even be learning better langish of you elfs. Nev sayd some about puting a colar on me but I hope sure he was been joking.

    And Flip say it is my turn get young boss out from bed now. Young boss snore like a drunk hore. Flip gave me a buckit to fill with water so I get him out more fast.

    ~U
    My Story Hour campaigns. What are they up to this week?

 

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    Letters from the 4th of Dhai



    Bosslady

    We got back from cellar fight in city. All are going be good, Flip and son of you got a bad bump on head, not awake yet. Nev lost blood much and not strong to write ssays he. Healer says can write tomorrow and explain.

    ~U


    Mom,

    you won't believe what happened! We are heroes now! Just like you predicted we would be. Much of it was my doing, of course, and Nev's but the others sure did their part.

    But, let's start from the beginning. The others got attacked again when they were returning home from their attemtps to talk to the orcs. Turned out they were some mercenaries and they captured a guy. I forgot the details, but he was to tell them where the cult was he was supposedly working for. He led us to some old house where in the basement was a concealed door magically set to trigger an alarm. Can you believe they, including Nev, just wanted to go through? It was very good that they took me along because otherwise they had alerted everyone that we would be coming.

    I disabled the alarm in no time and we went in. To my dismay, Nev insisted on carrying the prisoner along. I would have left him outside with Flip as I didn't know how useful Flip could be at that time. See, Flip is more than he appears to be. You do probably know that but I was surprised that he found a trapdoor and a hidden door in the room we found ourselves in after a short trek through a corridor. I had not taken the whole situation quite seriously until then, I have to admit. But when we found the other rooms, I was very much alarmed. There was a ritual room of the darkest kind, with a pit to summon evil things no doubt. I am, as you know, not very receptive to the vibes of different energies, but it was so obviously evil in there that I insisted on backing out, and the others mostly agreed, only Flip investigated a little. We also found a library with the most foul writings about the forbidden lore of the Unspeakable One. Seriously, that is a cult outlawed in even the more evil places of the world! Who would have thought we could encounter anything like that in Freeport? By then the prisoner was finally realizing who he had been working for and was suddenly very cooperative. A coward, definitely, but at least he had some sense left. He said that there was a temple somewhere, too, but he had not been there yet.

    While Flip and Uthas investigated another room close by – and in there destroyed several skeletons as I was told – Nev and me went to magically seal those dark writings. Nev is better with such stuff but I could at least help. Then Nev packed most of the library into his magical rucksack after handing me everything else from in there – were you aware he owned a Goblet of Clarity? – and we made to check out the rest of the place. Unfortunately, by now we had announced ourselves to the cultists thanks to Uthas not having been very quiet about taking those undead apart. Someone was sending twisted lizard creatures against us. Not an issue for Uthas and me – I am happy I took uncle Klaine up on the offer to teach me lightning spells – but we made even more noise, and by the time we were done with them and reached the temple part itself, we were expected by 3 of the cultists. Imagine my surprise to find their leader was no other than Milos from the Temple of Knowledge!

    One of the cultists started to attack us right away, while Milos was doing the same kind of babble you tend to read about when it comes to evil leaders. I didn't even pay attention and instead put some magic missiles into him. It didn't seem to help much, and then there suddenly was this dark, tentacled creature behind Milos. It was not much bigger than himself, but clearly one of the hordes of the Unspeakable One. I must have been in shock or something because I didn't notice the attacking cultist swinging at me with a staff. I was knocked out and also the subject of some sort of spell. I was about to pass out when I saw that Flip had had the foresight to take the silver candle holders from the ritual room and was now landing blow after blow on the cultist's back.

    I woke up in the Temple of Knowledge with quite some headache. Yet, I still had to write to you. I will ask Nev to fill in the rest of the story.

    Your loving son with a headache

    Orlath



    Honored LadyTheka!


    We are all back and safe from our little adventure. Orlath said I should fill you in from where he left off, but I have the feeling he is not aware of me writing to you anyway. I take it I should leave it at that?

    After Orlath and then Flip got knocked out, Uthas was just done with the 3rd cultist. It seems our half-orc friend is quite resistant to some magic, especially sleep effects. He took his opponent by surprise thanks to that. Maybe it was the combination of a magical spear and shield Flip had taken from the treasury where we met the skeletons first. Flip also took about everything else in there but that is fine to me – he was a great help and I consider it earned riches.

    I had been placing protective magic over myself and Orlath, but could not include Flip. But the protection from evil combined with a displacement spell was enough to send the tentacled evil back to where it came from as it touched the circle of protection. Milos got very upset about that and pelted me with some sort of glowing embers spell.

    My one meager ray of frost I was able to produce under the circumstances seemed to really slow Milos down, he was vulnerable to cold. But it was not enough. Flip had badly wounded the other dark priest left and so I told Uthas to go for Milos while I was taking up the sword against the remaining foe. I am not yet trained that well in the arts of sword fighting, but luckily, the priest was only armed with a staff and a badly manufactured short sword. It was not the first time I had to kill someone, but it was the only time until now I felt no regret. This was a dark soul destined for hell and I am happy I managed to rid the world of it!

    On the bad side, I had received a cut to my thigh I did not even notice at first, there was no pain. It was when Uthas felled Milos, who seemed to be all out of spells that I noticed, but then the most wonderous change happened to the treacherous temple priest and I forgot I was bleeding. Milos changed into a reptile in front of our eyes! No wonder he was vulnerable to cold. He looked somewhat like the twisted lizards, just not twisted... if that makes any sense? He threw curses at us and more babble of overtaking the world and all. The cult must be quite a bit larger than I first thought. Then he died.

    Uthas found Lucius behind the altar. He was in bad shape and used up the healing potions to be able to stand up. Confused as he was, he was still able to assist our prisoner to get me to get out of the place after I had magically stopped my bleeding. Uthas easily carried the others. To my dismay, I passed out once we were out of the old building, but by then, the guard was already alerted and helped us.

    We were assured the officials would evacuate anything in the temple and destroy it as needed. The story spread quick, especially about Milos having been a shapechanged lizard. I wonder how many more there are? I do not feel quite safe yet, maybe there will be some sort of retaliation later.

    Flip confessed he is also writing reports to you. He asked to tell you that thanks to a healing resistant injury he received from a spell, he will not be able to write a lot in the next few weeks or so. It somewhat fused the fingers of his left hand – his writing hand – together.


    Ever in Your service

    Nevukh



    Dear Mom,

    No, you do not need to send Lhess here. We can make do without my overbearing sister at our sides. Didn't we just prove we can handle ourselves?

    I will take up your advice about seeing your old adventuring companion. If he knows as much about this city as you think he does, he will definitely be a great help.


    Your loving son Orlath



    Letters from the 9th of Dhai


    Dear Mom,

    as in my last letters, not too much has happened with us. But we found out now what it was with Lucius. It seems he was possessed by a being from another plane for the last 5 years, a being that wanted to learn about our world and has, among other things, traveled with the orc pirates to find out whatever it could. And it seems the cultists, or at least this Milos, whoever he really was, wanted to learn about it and probably use it in their dark scheme.

    The poor guy. Imagine losing 5 years of your life! A local temple of the Goddess of Mercy has some hopes to restore the memory they say must be there despite him not having been himself, but still. After all that has happened in his life, maybe he will never see peace again.

    We've sent our former prisoner – who we have kept as secret from the authorities as possible – to Laryss in the Realm with one of the Realm's warships getting provisions here. The city or the cultists here would just kill him, but the poor coward was taken advantage of his whole life. I am sure Laryss can rehabilitate him, as with so many others.


    Your Loving son Orlath

    PS: We just learned from Brother Egil that Lucius is missing again and he suspects that the cult has taken him again. I believe he might just have left Freeport for good but we promised to check on it again.




    Honered Lady Theka!

    I am happy to report that, with the help of your old friend, all the dark writings have been destroyed by now. Some of the effects of destruction were quite spectacular, as you have suggested they would be. The threat is gone!

    We are all making significant progress in our studies at the temple as well.

    Ever in Your service

    Nevukh
    My Story Hour campaigns. What are they up to this week?

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    Letters from the 10th of Dhai


    Dear Mom,

    while we are waiting for lunch to be served, I have a moment to tell you about this morning's events. After Brother Egil described to us how someone had searched Lucius' simple home and the guy went missing after that, Everyone but me and Flip decided to find out what had happened. I spent the morning studying in the temple, as I suppose you would prefer me to do while Flip was running errands.

    There is so much talk at the temple about Milos and how come no one ever had any suspicions, and not only Brother Egil but most of the priests feel unsure about who else might be a foe. So I ran a few detects on them to show them no one else has been shapeshifted. Really, how likely is it there would be more of those snake people? Not counting those mentally unstable twisted ones we encountered in the cellar. The guards let us know there were more of them in the sewers, and supposedly they will root them out one by one.

    I learned a few new spells, although you may think of some of them to be useless. One allows me to learn a fact about a place, object or living being. That one is useful without a doubt. I may go back to that dark temple just to learn a bit about it, now that it is safe. I've also learned some variations of arcane locks, and a spell to change the weight of some thing or being. And I learned to make ghost sounds, this to me very useful trick every gnome just seems to know. Yeah I know, you just shake your head at those type of tricks, but I think them useful and fun, too.

    There are a few more things I've learned, I will tell you all about it tonight, lunch is here now.


    Your loving son Orlath



    Most High Lady Theka

    It is with regret that I have to confirm your worries. Your hero son – forgive me my sarcasm – seems completely content to rest on his momentary fame and go back to his studies. Nevukh says it is because you have read him the Holy Book of Ghor * before you sent him here and he now wants to prove he can stay out of trouble. Nevukh also says Orlath would like us all to stay out of it despite your wishes to help Brother Egil again. He also seems to be sure I am more than a simple servant by now. I hope he does not get the idea why I had to leave the Realm. After all, he might get the wrong idea and think of me as untrustworthy.

    He tries to send me on so many errands I can hardly help the others. Paid a few boys today to go shopping for me and went with the rest to the old bricked house to see the temple again but there were guards telling us the matter was taken care of. Thanks to one of Nev's scrying spells we got a good idea that they were carrying everything we had not taken, including the temple floor tiles and some books we overlooked, out of there to hide it somewhere else. I can smell a conspiracy behind this.

    With the scrying spells, we found out where all of the stuff went to. It is the house of a councilor, the upstart named Verlaine. It is well guarded, and we really didn't have a real reason to ry and get in, anyway. But I might check it out once things have calmed down, as there is definitely something amiss.

    This evening over dinner, I suggested we check out where this Milos snake used to live, lest we miss something important. No one else had had the idea yet, and they all agreed, even Orlath. He is not only curious about how those lizards spend their days, he also hopes to find some more magical things in there.

    Other than that, things are going fine at the temple. Uthas is trying hard to learn the language, and he is also trying to learn to calculate better. One of the priests has come up with the idea to explain numbers to him with soldiers on a battlefield, and that he seems to get, at least.

    Your humble servant

    Flip

    * expression when someone has been chastised




    Mom!

    No, you don't need to send anyone after us, especially not my sister. We are grown men able to take care of ourselves and do not need a girl to 'look after' us! Seriously! Stop treating us like little boys. Please. Mom?




    Letters from the 11th of Dhai


    Honored Lady Theka!

    Things are moving again, but we do not know where to, as I have to admit. After our studies today and after we helped your ever so resourceful friend Falthar with his magic shop, we all went to check out where this Milos used to live. According to Brother Egil, he had another identity, that of a guy named Devlin. Mkes sense, when you are a shapeshifter of sorts, I suppose, though I wonder why no one ever wanted to visit his Milos identity, or why he didn't have rooms at the temple as well. But what do I know about the ways of snakes?

    His Devlin self had rooms at the Marquis Moon. You won't know it, it is a relatively new, yet poor quality inn in the Old City. I had to charm the man being something like in charge – not that he paid much interest – so we could get to "Devlin's" rooms. And really, for all the poor state of the place, it seems this snake, at least, was a neat freak. It is almost as if someone drew a map to not leave an inch of the place unused. Walls behind shelves with books and scrolls and ritual stuff – he was really into all of that cult crap. Some books were about other things, too. And he slept on the floor. I guess snakes do not want beds. It was all kind of dusty but someone must have been here because the layers of dust were not smooth everywhere. Flip guessed someone had been checking the room only a few days ago. He also found that some books had no dust on at all and suggests that those are replacements for removed volumes, probably about this whole cult stuff.

    When we asked in the common room about who was here, only one old drunk dwarf could help. After some drinks of course. He told us some "official looking" people had been here, claiming to be on council business. I guess he knows official when he sees them.

    Well, that was not much so we left. Outside, someone called for help and before me or Ortlath could stop him, Uthas rushed to help a young looking fellow, a messenger about to get his message stolen by some orcs as it looked like. Uthas seemed to be so happy about a chance to fight after all his studying that he drew us right into a fight. It was only when the supposed victim was caught by Flip with his hands in my dropped bag that we realized we had been tricked. They didn't manage to steal anything. Flip wanted to go back and check the room out again, suggesting there must have been something there the first search party and us missed, but I didn't think it likely and Orlath refused to deal with the stupid innkeeper again.

    The thief managed to wriggle free and run, but we didn't bother to give chase. An attempt at a crime of opportunity, no doubt.

    This evening, your son suggested taking the scholar's route to this issue. Find out more about councilor Verlaine, on who we all agree that he is suspicious. His suggested method was going through the city records. Uthas and Flip were both groaning, refusing to be a part of this. So Orlath and me will go alone after our studies tomorrow.

    Ever in Your Service

    Nevukh



    Letters from the 12th of Dhay



    Dear Mom

    We are finally getting somewhere. We went to the records office as you said we should. It is chaos, really, not a bit of organization can be recognized in the mass of papers, and most is useless anyway. The man running the place was a bit unfriendly, but when he heard we were there to find out about Verlaine, who he hates, and probably find evidence against him, he was very cooperative. Seems that the councilor's thugs, as he calls them, recently paid him a visit to get city maps, especially of the sewers, although such maps do not seem to exist. We spell copied the maps he showed us as well, and the man was very forthcoming spouting dirt about Verlaine. He came to power after the last Lord Drac died. Rumors are Verlaine had him assassinated. By now, he seems to be the biggest influence on the council and no one really dares to oppose him. It may be that he is the one after the whole lighthouse mess.

    While this was all not that remarkable, what was was the group of guards awaiting us outside, wanting to arrest us. They would not even tell us what for, so I played on the diplomatic status my birth and rank gives me in most parts of the world. Their dumbfounded look was priceless. They left in confusion.

    It turned out they had gone to arrest Flip and Uthas though, and there was nothing much we could do about them, as they do not share our status. To our surprise, Brother Egil brought them back. The temple of knowledge, as it seems, holds considerable influence. Flip was all about storming Verlaine's place, saying that Lucius must be there as well. I was, however, still sure that the cult would not bother with the librarian again. Nev suggested checking the temple to see if he was back from the given leave and if not to go to Verlaine's place. Brother Egil was none to happy about that, saying we were wasting time. Then Uthas came back to the inn from an ale run and immediately seized Egil. We were all confused until he told us that this was not Egil, that the guy smelled wrong. Orcs and their sense of smell, you know. Well, Uthas was quick in making the guy talk, too. Quick as in it took only a few broken limbs. His real name was Nikko and he's with that stupid brotherhood that still has no name. Not a snake, just disguised with a potion, and he doesn't know where the real Egil is but assured us Lucius was fine. He also admitted he wanted us to go to Verlaine's house. Why, he wouldn't say because Uthas overdid it and accidentally killed the guy. Asides from the logistical problem of getting rid of a body now, we were also missing vital information. Our best guess is that the cult disliked Verlaine's amount of power and wants to pit us against him rather than them. Or maybe they have some sort of internal power struggle. Silly folks, would they just have left us and the temple alone, nothing would have happened at all. Now we are really pissed and do not want to leave this matter in the hands of the locals, who seem incapable to sort things out anyway.

    The cultist has a plan of the sewers with him. Something must be important about them as Verlaine's people had asked the record keeper about them as well. Uthas was all for checking the marked path but I sure as hell is hot won't go down into the sewers, of all things, and neither will Nev. I am sure there are other ways than getting ourselves dirty like that.

    We are still discussing how to go about this. Uthas called me a coward, can you believe that! And he needs to be careful, I am already angry at him for throwing a bucket of water at me this morning when I was just getting up.

    Your loving son Orlath




    Hi bosslady


    Accident I kill a bad cultist today. When I have ask him about what he do. He had map of sewers so Flip said I should probably just throw dead man in there to rot. So I did that while others are in fight of what to do next.

    I dont mind sewers. Bad smell but can wash later. Flip says he go, too, but son of yours and Nev are too high nose to want get dirty. Maybe Flip and me go alone but Flip says dont be silly to me. He may right with it be too dangerous for us.

    ~U
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    This reads like the best kind of British fiction - looking forward to seeing the rest of it! Very touching!

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    Letters from the 14th of Dhai


    Dear Mom

    I was so right not to go into the sewers. It would have been a trap. We are out, clean and, more importantly, alive. Flip has a concussion and needs a few days worth of bed rest. He says he is not going to let any magic get to him if he can avoid it. He explained it to me. Did you know you can be allergic to magic?I never suspected! Turns out he starts twitching when magic is worked on or to close by him. I'm tempted to make it an experiment but Nev insists it would be immoral. I will at least read up on it at the temple.

    But I disgress. After we've considered all sides, we naturally went with what Nev and I suggested. Which means we decided to get into that councilors house, heavily guarded or not. After some hesitation, Uthas said he would probably be able to bring some allys, and Flip went of to get some supplies without telling us what he meant by that. We met a few streets from the mansion in the better area of the city. Flip was there with a bundle of key-like tools, which he assured me would get him into and out of anything. Uthas looked a bit nervous when he arrived, followed by a bunch of armed, dark cloaked figures. Before I could ask we heard a snarly voice from one of them uttering some sort of greeting and what passed for a ruffian's thanks for a welcome distraction. To make a long story short, it was the pirate orcs we had somewhat deal with earlier... whatever their ship was called again. Turns out they are so nervous because a wizard had paid them to steal something magical for him and not showed up yet to get it. Uthas promised we'd help find the wizard and, if we could not find him, would pay the other half of the money he was owing them and take it with us. They are not too happy with anything magical on their ship, especially not knowing what it does, which I can understand.

    This seemed a bit above Uthas' usual line of thinking, so I looked at Flip, who sheepishly confessed to have had a hand in the negotiations before he ent to pick up his new toys. I would have chastized him, but it was really a good move. I got the idea we could use the orcs as a distraction to engage the guardsmen watching the mansion, and then slip inside with the help of a bit of magic. Nev has learned a new spell creating a zone where everyone would be hidden in plain sight as long as we would not draw direct attention to us. It would only last a minute or two, but that should do it as the door to the garden was, as last time we checked, wide open. Deliveries were still going in and out.

    The whole scam worked quite well at first. The orcs pretended to be drunk and harassing Flip, so the guard did their duty and came to the halfling's rescue. The orcs really made a show of really being misunderstood and just wanting some property back, and while the guards had their hands full with them, Flip hurried over to us and Nev did his spell. We could slip inside without a problem, except that Uthas almost bumped into a servant, which would have somewhat killed the spell effect.

    We were now in a big and well kept garden, well able to rival one of our lesser estates at home. The two guards on the roof were totally focussed on the scene with the orcs so we got close enough to the wall before they could see us. To our surprise, the front door stood slightly ajar. That got us all alert, because obviously it makes little sense to protect a place that well and then leave the door open. Not if you want to keep someone in there safe. To us, it looked more like the house was used as a go-through, to hide something else.

    We sneaked in and checked out the ground floor. To our left, the living room was empty and undisturbed. The adjacent dining room had a wide variety of food and a place set up for the lord of the house to eat, but the food was all cold. Didn't stop Uthas and Flip from helping themselves, of course. In the kitchen, at the end of the hall, it looked like all was fine at first but then we found that the silverware was lying all about and a lot of it seemed missing. We had a bit of a discussion – well, a hand waving contest really, as we didn't want to make much sound – about where to go next, upstairs or downstairs. Nev and me were all for downstairs this time; after all it had all been about using the sewers before, and we had pretty much agreed that the marks on the sewer map would be somewhere around this mansion. But no, of course now, Flip and Uthas wanted to check upstairs first. Something about the situation being all weird and not wanting for anyone to fall into our backs. As if that could not nhappen the other way around as well, but they got Nev to agree with them so we went upstairs. Luckily, the stairs didn't make any sounds like in the horror stories of our childhood.

    The doors upstairs were all closed, but we could hear the sounds of someone rumaging through one of the rooms. It turned out to be the study, and it looked like a storm had blown through. Torn papers everywhere and toppled over furniture. Before I could decide on anything, Nev used a hold person spell and Uthas quickly ran to hold the man's mouth shut before the surprise was gone. From the symbol on the man's shirt, he was a cultist. Why he would ransack the home of a councilor who seemed in league with them was curious, but right then we just wanted him secured. Unfortunately, he started to struggle and Uthas lost his patience and just broke the man's neck. Just like that. He terrifies me at times.

    Flip searched the body and turned up several stolen goods including the missing silverware. There was also a very rough map of the Temple of Knowledge. We had to think twice about what it was supposed to be.

    Uthas had sneaked out and was now returning with a second dead thief – he said he had heard him rumaging in the wardrobe. He, too, had all sorts of stolen goods with him. A note was among the loot in which Verlaine authorized an inflitration – more likely an attack – on the temple. By now, I was utterly confused. Flip didn't seem to be, he made 'that face' – you know, when he suddenly gets it all to click for some reason.

    Nev and Uthas went to check out the bedroom, but Flip held me back. He said that we had to get out of there quick, that we were being set up. And that we hgad to hurry to the temple to warn the priests. But we had not yet checked out the basement. I was about to tell him that when Flip and Nev came back. They had found the body of Verlaine and some of his guards in the bedroom. Flip repeated his insistence on getting out of here and back to the Temple of Knowledge, but when we hurried downstairs, we could see the guards outside had finally turned away the orcs, and we would have a hard time explaining the situation.

    Flip mumbled something about them having expected us to come through the sewers and left guards outside to lure them in once we were there. It did make sense to me finally, but the problem how to get out again remained. Uthas finally suggested the sewers again – he has a brain up there somewhere it seems – but that's really not something I wanted to consider. Flip then suggested getting up on the roof and let the guards there sleep for a bit, so Nev and me could fly off. He knew of course that Nev can do a fly spell lasting long enough to get us out of there. He said he and Uthas would take the sewers and get to the temple directly, suggesting that we would take somewhat longer. We agreed to that.

    Flip had some darts with a sleeping drug on them he said he aquired earlier this morning. He really surprised me with that. The two guards went down almost silently, but some guards from below had heard something, so everyone but Nev and Uthas flopped to the shingles while the two of them waved back at them to signal all was fine. It was a tense moment, but it worked.

    Nev and me waited a few minutes so we could be sure the others were back down and on their way into the basement, which worried me a bit because they were only two and there might be more of those mad men around. Nev suggested that with what we had seen from Uthas earlier, we would not need to worry. He put the spell on us and we flew out to the other side of the street, off from the gate.

    The temple is, thank the gods, not that far away. Yet there was a fog creeping up from the sea reaching up to the merchant's district, and it made it hard enough to see anything, even with the well tended lights of Freeport. The only good thing about that was that the cult fools would be slowed down the same way, at least that was what we hoped.

    Not too much later, about a corner or so away, Nev said we were followed. How he discerned that, I have no idea. But he pulled me over to a wall and into a doorway, away from any light, and when we stood still I could hear it, too – the muffled steps of several people behind us. And a moment later, some dark cloaked figures showed up. From the way some of them moved, they must have been elves. Nev did his hide in plain sight thing again, and from earlier situations similar to this one, I knew to put some shost sounds out into the fog and direct them away from us. But this changed everything. If they had followed us here, they were evne better organized. Nev says they were not cultists but who else would follow us? This was too much to be a coincidence.

    They would probably notice they were fooled sooner than later, so I pointed at the temple behind us. We had been standing in the doorway, and as temples are always open in Freeport, Nev agreed to slip inside to get out of the reach of our pursuers. It happened to be the Temple of Nature, which was a good thing as we could just pray while there; we definitely could use some divine help by now. Also,. No one would wonder why we were there. Our worries about our companions had to be put aside for our own safety. After all, we are of royal blood and important to the Realm.

    I'll give the others some paper now and let them add to the story so I do not hog all the spotlight.

    Your loving son Orlath


    Most High Lady Theka


    I will tell the story of Uthas and me from when we left Verlaine's house.

    We went downstairs and into the wine cellar undisturbed. After some search, I found a hidden door there, leading through a badly secured tunnel into the cult's reconstructed temple. It looked very bizzar, partly like a cave with stalactites all over, partly like something from another dimension as the stones seemed to bend very weirdly. Uthas hated the place but followed me in anyway.

    We came out right behind a large of those grotesque statues of their unspeakable ugly god. Which was a good thing as on the altar, which was on a platform in front of the uglyness, we could see a bound figure. It turned out to be your friend Brother Egil. There was a brazier with hot coals holding a branding iron, and aq cloaked figure – what's it with those cloaks anyway? – walked around the prisoner, waving incense. The scent wasn't bad, good thing, and it sure masked the large fart Uthas let rip just then. I should probably not mention this to Your Highness but the echoing noise was why the cultist saw us before we could sneak up on him.

    Lucky for us, the wretch was so baffled by our appearance, he just stared and allowed me to sink a knife right into his chest. Without your honored son present, I decided not to worry about possible redemption of anyone. We needed to warn the priests of the temple, after all. To that effect, because we were in a hurry, Uthas just grabbed the badly beat up Egil and threw him over his shoulder. I retrieved my knife and then we made way to the other end of the temple, where we saw an exit. We ran around a u-shaped corridor and passed two rooms, one looked like a library – of course – and the other was a storeroom. We had no time for either.

    We came around a few bends and then there was a steep upward slope. Thanks to our burden, I had to use my grappling hook to allow us to move on, and even then it was difficult. Good thing Uthas is so strong! We finbally exited into the sewers, and, ignoring the stench, made to the next visible exit. The stairs we found were stepp, and again it was difficult to carry Egil up but we managed. Once out and in relative safety, we sat him down and removed his bounds. He was afraid of us for a moment. He thought we might be shapeshifted serpent people. We half carried him along while telling him of the planned attack, and he finally got we were really us.

    When we got to the temple, thanks to Egil we were led right to the high priest, Thuron, while Egil was taken away to be treated. The old man was weary, he seemed to have expected this day to come. He said he would tell us what it was all about if we would manage to defend the temple and survive the night. That got me wondering just how many cultists he was expecting to show up. In any case, he had the alarm roused, and the priest were prepared. Uthas agreed to help in the defense of the temple without asking me. I decided to slip away once the attention was on preparing for a fight, because the priests really looked nothing like fighters. I knew where the orcs would wait for us not far away from there and decided to get them.

    I was really hurrying up, by my legs arfe short and it also took a moment to convince those pirates to help again. When we came back, the fight was in full action. According to what Uthas told us later, a bunch of cultists had arrived disguised as ambushed priests after slaying the originals. Thus, they got inside temple before they were revealed to be fakes. Uthas and several priests were wounded, some unconscious. Captain Scarbelly and his crew dug right into them, happy to be able to do some legal slaughter. I have to give them that, it was easy to see why they were so successful as pirates.

    The leader of the cultists, a female, decided to revert to snake form. Didn't make her any prettier. She went from normal fight to suddenly slinging spells around. Dark priests and their wound spells, that is never good. I think it was one of those spells that managed to kill an already wounded first mate of the pirate crew. This made the captain super angry though, and he went on a rampage. That was the end of that snake woman, who could not produce more spells by then I guess. The rest of the cultists tried to flee but the orcs cut them all down. With the carnage done, they laughed and left, telling us to meet them in the evening the next day.

    That was when Nev and your son showed up. I let the others go from here.

    Your humble servant Flip



    Bosslady,

    fight was good, but hard. Not just like snaping the necks of some thief. No son of yours to protect so I better fighter! Pirates came to rescue when it show that priests all not know what end of a weapon is front. May is temple of knowing things but they lack the good knowing. Cultist folk fight with long knife with weird name and magic and them held me with some spell then knock me up good. But we win because as saying is, many orcs can cull a party

    Then Nev and Orlath show up. I think now we done and they did some heal on us, but then boss priest says to talk to him. Lead us to the tombs, not good place for talk. I get suspes suspac didn't trust him but Nev said is all fine. Son of yours did some spell to see if was safe. But then boos priest turn out not to be boss priest but other snake man! He show us body of real boss who he says died when he first came to the temple when he folow Lucius from his trip to some village in the montins. He has made hidden bury place for old priest and then shape change to be him. I got a bit confuzzled here so Nev explain what is matter.

    ~U


    Honored Lady Theka!


    What has been said so far is already most of the story. Orlath and I decided to finally sneak out the backdoor of the temple and then lost our way in the foggy alleys. When the battle around the temple started, we followed the sounds, which turns out to be somewhat difficult in a fog, too. So, we came too late to be of help, but they managed without us very well.

    Yes, the old priest was really a serpent guy, but a good one. He was so sorry he missed the intrusion of others by his race into the temple, as he was busy searching for new knowledge. He is a true priest of the God of Knowledge, though. His true name is K'Stallo, and he has intercepted a note in snake language, addressed to Drac. He had to translate it for us. He has come across a draft of a speech this wannabe city leader, Drac, is supposed to give tomorrow. I copy it here:

    "This evening, Councilor Verlaine and the clergy of the God of Knowledge have been slain. Their murderers are the adventurers who of late discovered the caverns beneath our town. After an investigation by the Council and the City Watch, we have pieced together the truth.

    Chief Councilor Verlaine, that great servant to the city of Freeport, heard rumors about town of unwholesome activities at the temple to the God of Knowledge. He hired the wandering mercenaries to investigate. They made a tremendous discovery: The temple and its priesthood were a cover for the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign, a grotesque cult of serpent people. The mercenaries joined the temple to gain its secrets, but they proved treacherous to both masters. They revealed the caves beneath the city and threatened to expose even more secrets unless the Brotherhood paid them a fortune in gold.

    The Brotherhood agreed to their demands, on condition that the mercenaries accept one final task for their serpent masters—assassinating their erstwhile employer, Councilor Verlaine. The double-crossers carried out the grim job, but they quickly found themselves double-crossed. The Brotherhood refused to pay them their blood money. The mercenaries went mad with rage and slaughtered the cultists, but were killed themselves in the battle.We mourn the loss of Councilor Verlaine, but his efforts brought this menace to light—and rooted it out of town, once and for all."

    Yes, quite, I'd say Drac or whoever sent him this didn't do his homework in regards to our heritage, or he would know Orlath and me to be royals of the highest standing, not prone to wanton violence and certainly not in need or wealth or inclined to conspire with stupid cultists. But this means the city ruler is a part of this dark cult. Maybe it is time to send Lhess now. We could certainly use a paladin.

    We have agreed that K'stallo should keep up his disguise for now. There is no way Drac can use the speech in any case, as the temple still stands and the bodies of the cultists will be burned in secret as to not to alert the public yet. We cannot know who else is involved, so the temple is now our only base of security, and we will move quarters here, Orlath has decided. The guard is mostly corrupted as it seems so we'll not involve the officials in any way.

    Ever in Your service

    Nevukh




    Additional letter sent by Flip later on:


    Most High Lady Theka!


    I have to be direct here, Your Highness, but you have to do something about your son's, and partly Nev's, attitudes. At one time, he is reckless, and then he seems to want to hide from all responsibilities. He knows you have sent us here to see what is wrong with the city, despite this all being labeled as a study trip. Yet, he doesn't act on it and keeps mentioning that the city is, as the obvious name says, a free port.

    He is, as you said when we left, treating life as a game. I am but a servant and am as loyal as possible as long as I am not faced with certain destruction. Forgive me, Milady, but my will to live is greater than my readiness to die for the stupid decisions of someone else.

    Your humble servant Flip
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    For a bit of background info and some story where we lost the letters: The group that followed the two elves in the foggy streets had been the agents of the Realms they know nothing about. They have seen them a few more times without mentioning this in letters, which makes them a little bit paranoid.

    Flip and Uthas have taken to hanging out with the groups of less good repute in the city, which was how they secured the orc's help. They have, at the beginning on the next segment, already asked around to see where the wizard went who was to pay for the artifact the orcs stole. Nothing has come of it.

    The heroes are, at this point, lodged in a town house they bought, not too far from the temple district. They are still helping in the magic shop of Falthar, the adventurer friend of Ortlath's mom. Ortlath's mom had considered sending his sister several more times, but the letter Falthar sent her kept her from doing so. Of course Falthar had somewhat misjudged the situation.

    After their heroic deeds were known all over town, it was no wonder some people came to them for help. One of those was the mistress of an influential guard member, who wanted away from him and elope with her true lover, a bard. Her merchant who paid for all of her stuff was furious and had put a price on the bard's head under false pretenses. Orlath and Nevukh both fell for the "poor woman's" plight, and tried to get her and the bard out of the city, avoiding bounty hunters as they tried. If not for Jansen's agents following them, they wouldn't have survived that. Neither of the wizards knows this though; they are under the impression they had by sheer luck and their intimidating presence won the day. The two lovers escaped in a boat without as much as a backwards glance to those who saved them.

    To make matters worse, the two young mages wanted to let the finally defeated bounty hunters go. After all, you don't just kill someone, especially not a seemingly helpless foe. Enter Uthas and Flip, who had followed their charges to the dock where the final showdown was, but came too late to help. While they were both amazed the two of them managed on their own, they were equally annoyed by the decision to let the bounty hunters live. Naturally, they didn't reveal themselves to Orlath and Nav, and instead showed up after the two left and killed the bounty hunters anyway, disposing their bodies as shark food.

    Orlath and Nev, having no idea their companions knew about their doings, promised each other not to tell them, as they did not want to admit that they had fallen for a woman of ill repute they couldn't have associated with either way.

    Soon after this fiasco was the annual Swagfest, a celebration to remind everyone of Freeport's colorful history. Here the heroes prevented an assasination of a wannabe council member who was giving the opening speech. No one noticed them saving the day though, which annoyed Orlath. In the following celebrations, Uthas won the rat catching contest. For all of this, they wrote letters home (each putting themselves in the best light, of course).

    Except one thing Flip kept hidden. While going on a pickpocketing spree (everyone knows servants never earn enough) he came across the lair of an aranea, a spider-shapeshifer being who often goes into the town to hunt, usually disguised as a dwarf. The spider offered to let him live if he would just leave, but Flip, having a good sense for when a being is evil and when it just makes a living, instead offered the aranea a deal. H and his friends and the spider could help each other by rooting out evil people, and they would bring her the bodies of their future foes (Flip knew all too well there would be more) if the aranea would leave the good folk alone. That was easily agreed upon, as the spider was usually catching pirates, cutthroats and drunkards anyway. He told Uthas about this, but the 3 of them agreed to keep this a secret from the two wizards. So things got a wee bit complicated with who is keeping secrets from who.

    Back to the regular stuff in the next update.
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    26th of Dhai

    Dear Mom,

    I need your advice on something important. We got an invitation to attend the opening ceremony for the new lighthouse, which seems to be finally finished (even if Uthas, who we keep sending to check up on the building efforts, says it doesn't seem to make any progress). I am not sure we should go. Well, not Uthas, anyway, he is not fit for such events. But I mean, we know the man is evil and has in the past tried to have us killed. Nev and me could not find a political way to bring him down, but I am sure he knows we tried. And I take it he doesn't care one bit about our heritage, as hard as it is to imagine.

    If we go, and it is a trap? What if we don't and then the society of Freeport will look down on us? Only the important people have been invited. Not that there is much of a society here, I really fail to see what you see in this city.

    The event is in a few days, and everyone looks to me to make a decision.

    Your loving and confused son Orlath



    Honored Lady Theka!

    Lord Drac's invitation, which I'm sure Ortlath has told you about, must be a trap. If you can't present us with bodyguards on such short a notice, please let him know that it is not safe to go there, especially not without taking Uthas along!

    Talk in town is all about who will replace Verlaine on the council, and chances are it will be decided at the ball rather than in a honest vote. A Councilor Grossette wants to challenge Drac about Verlaine's successor, it seems. So the ball might be twice the showdown, and even less safe for us to go there.

    In Your service

    Nevukh




    28th of Dhai

    "We are going!"

    Flip dropped his spoon into the porridge in surprise and Nev stoped chewing his honeyed bread. Both stared at Orlath in utter disbelief. Had he not just gotten a letter from his mother this very morning, telling him to stay put and excuse himself from the ball by claiming he had current flu going around? And had he not looked relieved about this idea just before they had started breakfast? Flip and Nev looked at each other, only Uthas remained oblivious and continued munching on a large chunk of ham.

    "We are?" Flip finally managed to get out.

    "But did yoiur mother not..." Nev started.

    "Yes, exactly. In the same letter she tells me to excuse myself, she tells me to learn to make my own decisions. So, that probably means she wants me to do the opposite of what she tells me, no? Aw, come on, you know mom! She has always been chiding us for getting into trouble when we didn't do what she told us, but at the same time she also seemed kind of proud about our achievements. No matter how much damage we accidentally racked up."

    "I don't think..." Nev tried again.

    Orlath took a large sip of tea and spread butter over fresh bread. "I'm glad I caught the meaning of her letter so quickly. We need to go shopping, buy nice dress outfits, including festive scabbards for our swords and daggers, as we didn't think to bring some. Flip needs a colorful servant uniform fit for a hero, and well, if we are to take Uthas, he needs something fancy, too, to show he's both an invited guest and my bodyguard."

    Upon hearing his name, Uthas looked up with a questioning grunt. He understood "fancy" and didn't like the sound of it at all. But if that meant he'd be able to carry his weapons into the ballroom, that would do for him. He wasn't all hot about going, but if he had to, he would not do so without a means to fight well.

    "She'll not react well if you tell her you are going," Nev tried again, but was once more interrupted.

    "I won't be telling her until it is all over, same as always when we got into things we were not quite supposed to. That's likely what she is expecting me to do." The prince's voice was hard to hear as he was chewing while talking, a behavior that would have gotten himself smacked had he been at home, no matter his age.

    "If we are going to be shopping later, I need to do something beforehand," Flip interjected, outwardly calm. He had, in fact, expected something like that. "Unless you trust me to buy my own cloths?"

    "Nah, not really," Orlath shook his head. "Your taste in clothes is not fitting for a servant of high status."

    Resigned, Flip sighed and got up to clean the table now that everyone was almost done eating. "I thought so." Orlath' exclusive taste in materials and almost gnomish colors was a real annoyance, but he would make do.



    About half an hour later, Flip was racing through Freeport to reach the less reputable district. He ducked through alleyways and into a half broken down building, leaning against the wall to catch his breath for a bit before continuing.

    The aranea was already awaiting him, having felt him moving through the building. "I take it," the eerie voice of the spider sounded, "you need me to eliminate more of your enemies?"

    "I'm not sure yet," flip gasped. "But probably, yeah." He started to explain about the ball – by now, the spider was pretty much up to date on the Freeport situation. "I'd like you to be me at the ball. You can do that, right?"

    "Being you?" The aranea was amused. "Yes, but your friends would notice, would they not?"

    "Not if we make you think and act like me! You do this all the time, being someone else. I'm sure you will do fine." Flip looked pleased with himself, and also somewhat admiring of the aranea. The spider was, in turn, pleased to see someone was holding him in any regard, and agreed. Having some fun and probably food and removing some evil from Freeport was a good combination in his eyes.



    1st of Rhune

    Looking their best, the party – minus Flip and plus the aranea - arrived in the evening at the Sea Lord's Palace at the center of the Old City. At five stories high, it was by far the largest building in the area. A 15-foot-high stone wall enclosed the grounds of the palace. Twin large, black, cast-iron gates faced the street and allowed access to the courtyard. Four guards stood watch over the entrance, checking invitations. The landscaping within was well tended, with tall trees and numerous gardens of flowers. A white stone path lead from the gates to the palace beyond.

    In the guard room, two more guards checked their invitations a second time. They paid little attention to the actual visitors, though, which caused Uthas to snort. The floor of the busy entrance hall was covered in a mosaic depicting a battle at sea between a pirate ship and a giant, purple squid. Ornate, golden double doors stood closed at the end of the hall leading to the ballroom. Two smaller doors sat in the right and left wall. Well-dressed guards stood before them, preventing access to the rooms beyond. Before they could introduce themselves to anyone, a butler came to politely lead them to the sitting area to the right to wait for the chamberlain. It was well decorated, and many paintings lined the walls. Two large couches sat in the center of the room, and a number of chairs were spread throughout.

    "Sure knows how to live, this Drac," Flip-Spider said.

    "This is no life," Uthas was about to counter the point, but Nev made a gesture for them to shut up and wait in silence.

    The door swung open, and a halfling hustled into the room, breathing heavily. He took a minute to hike up his black pants over his protruding belly and smooth out his silver-buttoned jacket. After bowing deeply, he addressed all. "Greetings heroes! Milton Drac welcomes you to his home. I am Tomas Fleetfoot, High Chamberlain of the Sea Lord’s Palace. You are to be honored tonight at the ball for your deeds in defense of Freeport. We don’t have much time, so please pay attention. In a few minutes, I will lead you into the hallway as a speech is made in your honor. The Sea Lord will then introduce you to the gathering, and you will enter the ballroom and approach the dais. The Sea Lord will present you all with the Order of Drac, a very great honor you know, and the ball will begin. Any questions? Good. Let’s go.“

    Tomas lead them all into the hallway. The gold double doors now stood open, revealing the large ballroom. There were two single golden doors on either end of the room, in the middle of each wall. The floor was covered with polished black marble. At the far end of the room, a semi-circle of windows, about half as wide as the room itself, jutted out into the garden outside the palace. Many colorful tapestries depicting various maritime scenes covered the walls. Large glass spheres hung from the ceiling. They glowed with a yellow light that illuminated the room.

    In front of the windows was a dais with 13 polished oak chairs. One chair in the middle was larger than the others. The chair directly to the right of this chair was draped in black cloth. The guests were spread out around the room, at round tables. The center of the room hads no tables, leaving room for dancing. A group of minstrels waited to the right of the dais. Standing in the center of the dais was a tall man with an angular face. He wore a long, light-green robe with a jeweled belt. He looked toward the so-called heroes and then addressed the guests.

    "Thank you all for coming to this grand ball to celebrate the completion of the lighthouse. Soon all the world will speak of the greatness of Freeport. As a glowing beacon, the lighthouse shall shine forth to all peoples, proclaiming the unspeakable power of our glorious city. Tonight, however, we honor the heroes who have saved us from the traitor Verlaine and the dark Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign. If not for their vigilance, our fair city might have fallen under the domination of unfathomable evil. Come forward, my friends, and accept the Order of Drac and our sincerest gratitude.“

    The room erupted in applause. Uthas groaned, a sound luckily drowned out by many clapping hands. Nev and Orlath looked at each other and shrugged, then walking up in front of Flip-Spider and Uthas. Milton handed each hero a gold medal with a pirate ship engraved on it, shaking their hands as he did, wearing a fake looking smile all the time. They were then shown to a table near the dais, and the music and merriment began.



    Among the serving boys and girls running around in the ballroom was the real Flip, having called in a favor with someone who owned him a saved marriage after a drunken night. The halfling was disguised with fake black hair and a few painted on birthmarks. He watched everyone carefully, making sure he listened to all gossip very carefully. You could always gain more information as someone who was not really being seen, he knew. He just hoped the spider would behave and Uthas, who knew about the whole scam, would make sure Nev and Orlath wouldn't overreact in case they would find out.

    There were two main topics of conversation. The first was the political intrigue surrounding the nomination of a new councilor to replace Verlaine. The council was currently broken up into two different factions. Five members were loyal to Drac, while six members followed Lady Elise, the leader of the opposition. Lady Elise needed only one more councilor in her camp to be able to override Milton on the council. Of course, Drac would like to maintain his control over the council by getting his nominee elected. Speculations went wild about how this current power struggle would conclude.

    The second topic was, of course, the lighthouse and its real purpose. Many of the people at the ball had seen or learned interesting pieces of information about strange goings on at the lighthouse. To flip's dismay, they were usually shutting up about the interesting parts once anyone, even a servant, came near. Knowing or saying too much was a dangerous affair in Freeport, so it seemed. He hoped his companions would be careful with their own words.



    While Orlath, as usual, excelled at making small talk and playing on his status both as a hero and royal blood of the main land, Nev soon got bored with it all. A glass of pearl wine in hand, he lazily walked around the guests, trying to glean something useful. He talked a bit with some of the females, but none of them was really raising his interest, and he ddoged the hero worship of a young warrior who could not stop going on about how he wanted to be like them. Finally, he came to where one of the council members, a bard with ties to the elven pirates, regaled his audience with hero stories and decided to stay there a while.

    Flip-Spider was doing what he was there for. Sniffing out lizardfolk. His arachnid senses were quite accurate, but he had had no luck so far. The food and drink offered didn't make his hunger lessen; while he could consume them, it was more like sweets and spoils than a real meal. If he would find one of the lizards other than the old priest who he knew to be on their side, he would probably devour the unfortunate one right away.

    As luck would have it, Flip-Spider passed the table of some of the councilors a bit later. One of those present at the table clearly had that underlying lizard scent. An overweight one, but that might just be the shape shift; Flip-Spider had the same shape-shifting abilities after all. When the man got up for a bit, trying to make his way over to where Drac was, the aranea stepped into his way. "Excuse me, councilor? Could we have a word with you?"

    "We?" The lizard man, posing as a Brock Wallace, or so Flip-spider had heard him addressed, looked around in confusion.

    "My companions are waiting outside;" the fake Flip assured, pointing to the eastern door leading out of the ballroom. "We have to show you something that is not for everyone's eyes."

    This made the lizard even more nervous. But then, the fake Wallace seemed to catch himself. "Very well, if you insist. I can hardly refuse you, after all you did for us. And, I may have a proposal for you as well."

    With the same sort of eager smile he had seen on Flip's face, the spider led the councilor out and towards the stairs to the basement. "Down here, I'm afraid. Better safe than sorry."

    Fake-Wallace nodded, trying not to be too worried. "Suits me fine," he said. "I would not want Drac to hear anything, myself."

    Drac? Flip-Spider wondered, but decided not to ask. Was this a set up attempt? This lizard shapeshift smelled as if he had talked intensely with Drac recently, if Flip-Spider remembered Drac's scent right. Yeah, that must be the trap Flip had warned about. Well, there would be no set up now. Except the one he himself had for the fake councilor.

    A few minutes later, one muffled, panicked scream sounded from the basement, but no one heard over the music and laughter of the party.
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    The evening was quite fun, and interesting information could be gathered as well. At least, that was what Orlath was telling himself while he had too much to drink and talked to too many people. What was likely important or not somewhat swam all together in his unsober brain, but he would later be able to relay some important details:

    – how the chamberlain had confessed he had seen a "strange sign" in a book that made someone jump out of a window and had barely managed to leave the room himself without doing the same.
    – that no local artisans were involved in the works on the upper lighthouse levels.
    – the lighthouse used some green metal called "serpent's blood" but what exactly for the merchant he talked to could not say.
    – supposedly, strange lights where seen at night at the lighthouse, and then two dead "creatures" had been found. Sister Gwendolyn was somewhat confusing to talk to as she kept trying to stop him from drinking, so he was a bit unsure about the details.
    – the upper levels of the lighthouse had been closed off for a while now.
    – several magical things – he couldn't remember the details – had been brought from the mainland.


    Nev was not that much more lucky. While listening to song and talk, he found the split in the council both fascinating and tiresome. Sister Gwendolyn, who was the aunt of the hero worshiping warrior, filled him in on the happenings of the last few years, but it basically came down to "he said, she said" and Nev was hesitant to believe anything at face value. The sister also mentioned the lighthouse workers being scared, especially at night. Strange noises at night, flashes of light and some strange creatures found dead. From the descriptions, they sounded like owlbears.

    At some point, he noticed Flip was missing – Uthas was talking battle with some other warriors, as usual – and decided to look for the halfling. Knowing Flip better than his friend knew the rogue, Nev kept both eyes out for a small figure "liberating" items from rich guests. What he saw instead was a young human woman doing just the same thing. He remembered having talked to her before – she seemed shallow and boring at the time. Just a ruse, he now guessed, as he was trailing her process through the room, being more interested in her than finding Flip – or the whole of their mission – now. He didn't care she took things for a sport from people who had too much money to begin with, but she might be worth the pursuit, being human or not.

    One of the reasons he had gotten into trouble so much back home was his fondness for the other gender. Any interesting woman, sometimes even more than one at a time, would cause him to even forget his magical studies. And he was usually too focused on the females to note if they had any males in their lives or worse, were married. In the last years, he had had to perform quite a few expeditious retreats due to this oversight. He had promised himself not to make the same mistakes outside the Realm, but here he was again, chasing the hem of a dress without taking into account possible retributions.

    He bumped into the lizard posing as temple elder, Thuron, shortly before he was close enough to probably strike up a conversation again. "Has Drac made any attempt to compromise you yet?" K'Stallo-Thuron asked. "For he will certainly try, I know him that well by now."

    The elf shook his head and began relaying the bits and pieces of information he had gathered. "Other than that, the two factions of the council each have their replacement candidate for the murdered Verlaine, but that seems to be normal. Drac might not win this time around but from what I heard, he will do anything, including murder if needed, to make his candidate happen."

    K'Stallo-Thuron nodded. "Yes, and probably try to blame it on you again. Just try to have no opinion on anything, no matter what side tries to lure you in."

    The elf could easily agree with that. The High Lady had been very specific in that regard once he had written her about her son's rogue decision to go to the ball anyway. Being neutral would be their best option, despite working against this whole unholy Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign stuff. "I'll see what more I can find out," he claimed while making a beeline for the woman he fancied, catching her just after she had liberated a purse from some heavily painted elderly woman. "Hey again," he smiled widely. "Care for a dance? We didn't get the chance earlier."




    Orlath was about done with having no opinion. He stifled a yawn after his 50th or so dance with one not-so-young woman of standing or the other, all the time wondering how Nev got all the younger ones. Of course, he knew it was because he was the prince – the younger women didn't want to seem imposing by coming to him for dances and he could not impose on them without making it look like they had a chance of some sort. But Nev was of high enough standing to face similar problems, yet he never really seemed to have them.

    The hour was getting late, and food, wine and too much dancing must have done a number on his mind, because for a moment, he thought he saw Flip among the servants. He looked again, but couldn't see any halfling in the mingle anymore. It must have been because he was so used to seeing Flip as a servant, which he after all was supposed to be, the elf convinced himself. Drawing the moonsilver pocket watch from his robe, he checked on the time. It was early morning already. If Drac would have planned to do something to them, he would have by now. They would be able to excuse themselves anytime soon.

    Talking of Drac – the Sea Lord looked decidedly distressed, running through the guests as if he was looking for someone important who had gone missing. Orlath put on his best I'm-politely-concerned face and interrupted the man. "Is everything alright, Lord Drac?" he asked with all the sympathy he could muster.

    "What? Oh, yeah yeah." Drac looked non too happy about being stopped by anyone. "You have not, by any chance, seen councilor captain Wallace recently, have you?"

    "I'm afraid not. Last I saw of him, he was wanting to get some air." Orlath totally made that up, but he secretly enjoyed giving the evil lord false leads. "He seemed to have been a little annoyed about one of the other councilor's comments." He left that vague on purpose, sure Drac would fill in what he thought was the truth.

    Drac grunted. Then he suddenly smiled in an attempt to be charming. "How are you enjoying the evening?"

    "Quite spectacular," Orlath lied with long years of practice in such talks. "I hope you do not only hold parties when a lighthouse is completed, because that would be a waste of your talents."

    Drac looked slightly pleased, but before he could answer, there was a sudden disturbance on the the dance floor. The music came to a sudden halt as a man wearing a long, brown robe tied by a dirty rope-belt shuffled into the room. He was unshaven, with long hair and a beard. How he was able to get by the guards was a mystery.

    People moved aside as the intruder reached the center of the room. In a raspy voice, he spoke. "Heed me well! The words of an old man should not be ignored. In the ancient scriptures of Yig, it is written:

    "The Yellowed Sign once again shall appear.
    Then the time for Yig’s revenge will be near.
    As the finger of evil rises toward heaven,
    One must pay heed to the calling of his brethren.
    Search below the waves for that which was unmade,
    And return with the Serpent carved of Jade.
    When the madness is unleashed upon the land,
    The icon of jade alone shall stand.
    The end of the creature from outside
    Contained within the Serpent deep inside.

    Remember these verses well, citizens of Freeport. The prophecies of Yig do not lie.“

    The old man then transformed into a small snake. A guard stepped forward and stabbed the serpent with a spear. It vanished in a puff of smoke. This all happened so fast that Nev, standing close by with the girl, didn't even have the time to try and detect for magic.

    "What nonsense is that? Guards! How did he get in? Band, keep the music playing, no guests of mine will be bothered by such tricks." Drac, having lost all his good humor by now, basically hissed.

    Orlath faked total disinterest. "I'm sure just a cheap magic tricks of your political opponents. Happens in the Realm all the time."

    As soon as Drac was out of earshot, K'Stallo-Thuron came over, looking concerned. "I think this prophecy or whatever it was is of great importance. Please meet me tomorrow morning at the temple. Well, or whenever you wake up."

    Orlath nodded. It was time for them to take their leave. He waved to Nev and Uthas – the latter looking rather drunk by now, the way he was singing with some of the other warriors - but he could still not make out Flip. Where did that little no-good halfling hide out? It would not do to leave without his servant.

    As if he had read the elf's thoughts, Flip appeared through one of the ballroom doors, looking like he had been in and out of his clothes. A female, maybe? Orlath doubted it; Flip had never shown any romantic interest that he knew of. Or maybe he had gotten into a shuffle. Orlath waved to him, indicating they would be leaving. Flip nodded and followed them without a word. With a chuckle, Nev commented on Flip looking as if he had eaten a whole ox and drank the wine for it, too.




    Flip watched as a disheveled looking Flip-Spider left with the others. Which meant it was time for him to make a run for it as well. As he knew all he could probably find out by now – and had a few "liberated" items in his pockets as well – the halfling was fine with that. Just when he tried to retreat to the kitchen and take the back exit as it was fit for a servant, a large toad jumped right into the dessert he was handing over to one of the ladies. With a screech, the older woman fell of her chair fainting. A small gnome, probably not even a teenager yet, came jumping after it in a panic. Flip recognized the boy as the apprentice of the High Wizard Tarmon. With his usual quick thinking, he grabbed the toad. "Your master's familiar?" he asked as he steered boy and toad away from the commotion around the lady. He could not afford to be noticed.

    The boy nodded. "Very sorry, it won't happen again. Burkhart is old and senile, you know, but he can still be quite useful at times. "

    "No worries," Flip chuckled. "It was kind of fun. Say, would you be able to introduce me to your master? Not now but maybe tomorrow? I'm not who I look to be," he assured the worried looking gnome. "I'm one of the heroes of the evening, but I am also a servant and had to take on a role to serve my prince." He hoped the rather obvious lie, as he was in Drac's uniform, was lost on the young boy, and that the apprentice had not seen the other Flip leaving.

    "Eh, sure, I guess. In what matters though?" The gnome looked to where his master was making ready to leave.

    "In matters of an evil we need the help of an experienced wizard." Flip put all the weight on "experienced" as, despite Tarmon likely being aware of the relative high rank the two nobles he had to watch over had in the wizard world of the Realm, he could not have failed to notice the lack of any hands-on experience. Indeed, Realm wizards, especially of the noble kind, we known to be rather theoretical or driven by fancy.

    "Will do," the boy nodded. "Master Termon likes to help out the younger mages." With that, he smiled and made for his waving master.

    "No doubt," Flip chuckled again. A senile toad. Wizards....
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    2nd of Rhune


    Bosslady


    I has talk with fighters from mercenary guild. They says agree to your idea of make them protect the Realm protectarites on the south lands. I has not tell Ortlath about it as you said. I do not know why so but whatever you say bosslady.

    Has been no danger at party save lack of alcohol. Must have drink bit too much, Flip was double in weird way, being a servant of party and guest also. Have asked but he say I have soft head. I no have soft head. I just not good with talk and write and numbers. I good with tactic.

    Son of yours have had weird magic acidental. You know small ball of fire he make some time? Tried make bigger ball of fire. Got hands burned so not can write to you. Priests say it magic injury, so not heal with spells. Was funny to watch but orlath he says not laugh at him. You not learn with no oops he says.

    Then Nev tried to make small ball of fire, but he no good with element stuff. He almost burn down temple as nothing hapen first and when he go out of safe room priest have to try spell in, ball of fire forms late and went boom in hallway. Nev almost heal with spells but also not write but I think he not write because of ashamed at oops and not for not able to hold a pen. I knows he can do that magic writing thing.

    Flip gone do some searching for what he say is top secret. I think that bottom secret, not top, because I can't see. Flip he is a bit strange last days but maybe because you make him do stuff Nev and Orlath not supposed to know also.

    This morning before acidental at temple, we all talk to high priest, he say old story of legend about what this prophecy at party was about. Just wish he talk slower and not with so many big words. I not that good in other talk but orcish yet.

    This Jade Serpent (means snake Nev explain and I know jade is green stone!) io Yip... or yap... some koboldish name anyway. Well its in temple of yip or yap. Somewhere bottom from sea. Now there is good story of pirate called Black Dog. Like that name, easy to fit in head. He captain of pirate ship and wrote some notes called log if I get it right this says where is the entrance for temple of yip yap.

    Orcs of pirate ship we now friend with say they know story and tell us all bout Black Dog. He got so rich he hide all his treasure, they say with traps and all. He was best pirate some 50 years back. Then he just up and gone. Must have goten dead as now haunts cave with his treasure in they say, but who tries find all the stuff never come back.

    We found man named Gareth who was in crew of Black Dog then, and with some talking to he says where cave entrance is. He want lots of money for and son of yours wanted to pay but Flip and me tok him by scruff and tells him to spit it out or be spit out so we not pay. Nev says we do not going to get treasure just entrance for temple. And we can find entrance for it because of Black Dog log thingy.

    So we got orc pirates to take us in rowboat to cave. They too say not to steal Black Dog's stuff. Bad juju to take from legend ghost. We went in cave and there was sort of lake inside. A weird turtle-crab thing attacked us. Orc pirates make short fight and make soup from it on beach of lake. Then they tried to take a saber stuck in the ground but that thing way eeevil. Bad ghost pops up and we all ran back to boat and left saber. Just Nev and Orlath not run. But ghost thing went away when no one touched the saber.

    I not wanted to go on but have duty to Orlath so had go with. Pirate all stay behind wish me luck and say they are not for fight with ghost. They are right with it, but not choice of mine! So went in and there is a fake picture in next cave. What you call iluson. The others not see it fake so had to remind that I not fooled by such stuff. So we back in boat and I row us to other cave part.

    Then come to dirty pool of water but was dead end so we all go back all in boat as dang cave is full of water, and then we come to beach at chamber with stakes. Some stakes had skeleton on it but no undead. Flip said that this was people trying to get the treasure before. By how dead bodies were in sand he make pattern of trap and we gots through. Flip, he is very clever and good friend. He shows me some way to find traps here and there.

    Then finally we come to door with warning. Son of yours knocked and asked to talk to the ghost Black Dog. Son of yours sometimes bit loose in the head you know that bosslady? Could has have goten us all spooked up or worse killed.

    So we tell them we not want treasure and have come with orc pirates to pay respect and all and then Orlath ask about the temple door. I was more want to hear pirate storys and he has lots talk about adventures. He tell me and Flip go get orcs to tell stories to. Orcs come as not want anger ghost but then orcs see Black Dog is old ghost wanting to talk sometime so we all sat down and share stories.

    Oh, the temple doors, Black Dog say his mate Tom tried open the temple door by puting hand in serpent mouth but then he got hit with poison trap and almost died. Flip shook had says his own fault and also Black Dog very clever for not going in there. Black Dog just bit mad, says if we go in there and find treasure, we should pay some tribute for he was one who found door. Nev said sure but Flip was not looking so cool about it.

    So we back in boat again and – bosslady, why always me have to row? Orlath and Nev are both strong warrior, not strong as me but they can row! But no, let the half-orc to it. I'm fighter no servant. Flip says he needs to be the rowman, not sure what is but he always shout commands at me in boat.

    So we take yet other long water filled hall in boat. Water runs strong here and we almost bump into rotten boards nailed over water way. On the boards it said danger and to keep out. Orlath hacked the boards kaput with his sword. Then we come to the door Black Dog was been talking about. We come at beach and there was green wall what Flip tells us is all made of the jade stone. There on the wall they carved 2 of the serpent people with robes all red – not good with green, got head pains from looking – and some sort of tower all wound up like a snake. Flip says the wall pictures are a murrall or some like that but I know carved walls are carved walls.

    Door was in middle of carved snake people and on door was another carved picture of a snake. Flip says now it is called a relief but why it is a relief that it is carved I don't get. There was writing under it. Orlath did some magic stuff and then says there is written that you must put arm in mouth of snake as the poor pirate in story has done. But also says there is some illusion in there and probably that was why tom pirate thought snake was biting.

    Then I was a bit dumb but all came out good. See I ain't affected by illusion so I just put my arm in and turned knob. Flip and Nev all yell NO but too late and it worked. Snake door went all open and we went all in.

    So we was at top of a sunken tower. Means instead of going up from down we had to go down from up. Just that down was all covered in water. Stairs all flooded. Another snake statue was in center of the room and more of pictures on wall. Some place there was scribbled in red. Its snake language so Ortlath only can read with his magic. He says it was a praying chamber. Well I thought so from the statue and pictures and all. The red writing was a warning of the yip yap god abandoning its followers. That's why I not much with gods, no better than mortals with them go up and about at whim.

    So we have no way of going under water for long and was stuck. So, you guess it bosslady, we row all the way back and collect pirates and tell Black Dog we come back next day with potions for under water and if he want to follow us in. He is dead already and door not trap for dead people. Black dog says yes, he eager to have another adventure. Pirates all want come along also and safe their city from stupid cult people.

    So we go back tomorrow. Orlath says to being the snake fake priest, priest always good in temple.

    I really tire of writing so I make Flip tell you after tomorrow.


    ~U



    3th of Rhune


    Most High Lady Theka!


    Uthas has already given you the breakdown of our first foray into the caves, I hear. Now to the fun part where we really got to it.

    We went back with the orcs – this time including captain Scarbelly, who wanted to see the famous ghost himself – Black Dog the ghost, Snake-Thuron and your old friend Loremaster Falthar. The prince made the mistake, in my eyes, to mention our plans to him, and it seems he found his adventurer's dust again. Don't take me wrong, the man is a fountain of knowledge and contacts and ideas. He's skilled with magic and all, but he has been holed up in his curio shop for 15 years now.

    He did fine, no worries Milady, but now he talks about leaving the shop for us to tend for a while while he wants to go up and about and tying up some lose ends. He is not ready for the world out there, as it has very much changed in the last 15 years. Yeah, so I like the guy and am worried. Could you maybe talk to him?

    Anyway, we were back in the sunken tower's top. It was a bit too crowded for my taste, with us, the two sages and 5 orcs. Not to mention the ghost, who didn't really take up space but we can tell you, having a ghost slip right through you is a very uncomfortable thing.

    Black Dog floated down to see how it looked there. Turned out we only needed water breathing spells for the next level. Under it, the water could not reach as it was magically contained. The two sages might have discussed it all day if we had not prodded them on. The water way way too cold to do debates there, and asides, we ran into a little issue when one of the orcs grabbed an amulet from yet another statue of a serpent. Immediately, a shadowy snake ghost manifested and attacked. Black Dog tried to interfere but found the other ghost too mad and powerful. Snake-Priest turned it, or more, utterly destroyed it.

    We made out of the water level and Nev dried us all up, including the orcs which meant quite some hot air and steam. Then we saw the heads. Luckily, not real ones, but carved – serpents again, of course – with some glow magic in glass like balls among their fangs. At least we didn't need light magic or lanterns. There was also an altar with the same serpent theme and a jade bowel on it. And it turned out the damp smell had not been just us, but the old pillows lying about in the room had some part of it.

    Now your son had what he called an 'instinctive reaction' to the pillows. Something to do with a childhood event and mold diseases. Whatever the reason, he decided to produce a fireball to torch them. Not his small one he barely used to manage, but the larger form he tried at the temple earlier. In close quarters. In overcrowded close quarters. The sages were, to our luck, immune or resistant to fire; they had not a burned hair on them. Scarbelly had an amulet of elemental protection and didn't lose much but his hair. Orlath himself must have remembered to invoke his own elemental protection this time before trying to get us all killed. Uthas threw me, Nev and one of the orcs behind the altar, where I heavily bumped my head and was almost crushed by the orc and half-orc, as there was precious little space. We got still burned somewhat, me less since the others were all on top of me. The other 3 orcs went down in a blaze of glory. The water above us was caught as well so we had more hot steam produced.

    It took the priest and the Loremaster hours to heal the 3 torched orcs and the rest of us up enough to continue. They weren't happy with Orlath, and Scarbelly grumbled something about payback once we were out. Something about always wanting to spank an elf, and an elf prince all the better.

    At least, the affair brought us to the attention of another ghost. One high priest Alisstar, a serpent, of course, who was trying to complete a ritual to set himself and his brethren free of their ghostly existence in the temple. Turned out the amulet the orc found was one of the things he needed. We had to persuade the orc to give it up. We agreed to help him find the rest of the stuff and he said he'd help us with that jade serpent.

    Black Dog went ahead through (literally) the other levels while we made camp, being all exhausted and hurt and out of healing magic. He returned saying he found more ghosts, almost all mad and aggressive. He also said Orlath should toss another fireball down a level – without us anywhere close - if he wanted to get rid of the rotten pillows and bedding down in what according to the high priest ghost was the acolyte chamber. Orlath did that, but then was quite exhausted as well.

    So here we are, awaiting tomorrow with a bit of worry.


    Your humble servant Flip
    My Story Hour campaigns. What are they up to this week?

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    4th of Rhune

    Honored Lady Theka!


    It is getting harder and harder to keep it from Ortlath that we are writing to you as well. And I dislike having this secret from him. But, as you command.

    We are back from the temple, and the temple is now gone! The Loremaster was a great help, I'm so glad he decided to become more active again.

    After we woke up early this morning, instead of having breakfast we had 4 undead acolytes to deal with who, if the priest can be trusted, only attacked us to be killed and end their existence. We obliged. Fighting uncorporals is frustrating though, I need to get myself a sword or saber with some magical extra I think. Never saw the need for it back in the Realm, where we mostly dueled for fun.

    After disposing of the poor acolytes we came to a prayer room. I am wondering what kind of weird god this Yig really is, doing so much harm to those who worshiped him. The room was a nightmare, the wall the usual serpent, this time in a mosaic form. The eyes glowed, as if it was alive. I didn't dare look into them, being sure of some evil magic going on. But Uthas and Flip both did and promptly went to attack us. Orlath had to magically hold both of them so I could serene touch them. Scarbelly had the sense – amazingly enough – to cover the eyes with a bed sheet from his equipment. Falthar took a book from the altar with him; unfortunately, as he confirmed, it wasn't anything helpful to our search for the missing ritual items.

    Before we could get one level down, we had to fight a wraith. The Loremaster tricked it to attack him, and he had an amulet repelling, and in this case destroying, attacking special undead types, so that was easy for a change. Level down we found the temple's infirmary, with two more undead serpent priests stuck there in eternal sickness. Can you imagine they could not leave their beds for centuries? Really, this Yig god is not on my good side.

    The two told us what they remembered in their half mad state before we killed them on their request. We got some valuable information about the missing items, too. One of them, the armor called Serpent Scales, was actually still on one of those shadow priests, however that works with an uncorporal creature. It was a warrior priest in the training room yet another level down. He immediately challenged us to a training fight. It was like he didn't get he was dead, and that we were not his acolytes. On the bright side, this meant that he was not out to kill us. But we needed the armor off him and, ideally, him ending his pitiful existence as well.

    Scarbelly, who is quite the clever orc, came up with the idea of the orcs fighting him one by one, pretending to be his students. They could not harm Vrosh – that was the undead's name – because of the armor he wore, we had been told as much. The armor had one slight vulnerability though, where it must have been damaged by a superior opponent a while back. The two shadows in the infirmary had told us where the damage was. If we looked closely, it was clearly to see. The spell to disrupt undead worked wonders, although we all had to try several times because the armor, despite us aiming right, absorbed much of the magic.

    Uthas brought the armor to the shadow priest once we were done while the rest of us kept searching the next level. And what do you know, more undead in the mess hall. They, too, had no idea they were dead and thought we, of all things, might be food! Orlath and the priest somehow managed to get through to them about their undead status. They were all confused after that, but we didn't attack them as they had not asked to be killed. We figured the ritual we were collecting the components for would take care of it, and it did in the end.

    We then found a makeshift prison with another poor soul trapped in it. This one talked in riddles, or rather, wanted us to solve an easy riddle before giving us any information. This way, we found out where the Venom of the Serpent was – hidden in yet another statue of their god. Again, we sent Uthas to deliver it upstairs once we had retrieved it. In the time we needed to do so, the Loremaster had found the high priest's journal entries. In there is an interesting bit of insight about the Unspeakable One. It is said he might not be of this world. Do you think it is possible? I am not all that versed in religion, do our scholars ever mention this?

    We had a comical moment, too, as we encountered the shadows of the high priest's assistants. They hated each other and seemed to have been fighting all the centuries, wanting each other dead. Each of them asked us to kill the other. After some laughter (and also feeling bad for them of course) we obliged both of them.

    Unfortunately, just when we thought we were about done and it would be an easy day, we found the sacrificial chamber with a whole lot of undead. Seems the priests have sacrificed sentient creatures – which definitely makes their god evil in my eyes – and only Orlath's and mine fireballs could take care of the matter. Ash not does good zombies make.

    Then we found the most curious thing – a hatchery. From what the Loremaster got from the journal, the priests of Yig were chosen before birth and hatched in the temple. The room was full of mostly broken eggs. It seems that once the fate of the temple became clear to some, they destroyed the unborn to prevent them from sharing their fate. There were still stones in there giving off magical heat, which was welcome after the dampness of the temple. The orcs were very interested in them, because it could keep warmth in their ship without risking a fire. Scarbelly and the orc shaman present came up with a way to carry all 8 in a rug between them.

    One of the eggs was intact, and we took it along out of curiosity. This now causes some issues, but more on that later.

    We also found what must have been a rich waiting room once. Orlath wanted to fireball the room because of more molded fabric but he was all out of spell energy. Good thing that, too, I am still a little bit mad at him for the incident in the altar room. Black Dog's ghost was all excited about the first real treasure here, a jade serpent statue which was a replica, as it seemed, but still very valuable. The orcs agreed to take it along and drop it in the dead pirate's treasure hoard later. Other than that, we found a stuck door with water seeping out under it, if just very little. We didn't dare open it, as it looked very much like the original entrance leading to the open sea.

    Oh, yes, there were more statues. One of them was quite tall and had yellow light coming out of its eyes. The light illuminated a double door with the usual snake carving. The most curious thing; when standing in the path of the light it was shining right through us!

    We could not get the door to open, and it was Flip who finally discovered that the statue had eyelids we needed to close for the magical light to stop. After that, the doors opened up to what the snakes in the infirmary had named the Serpent's Pit. It was basically a large amphitheater in half moon shape. And yeah, more rotting pillows and such, and Orlath almost had a panic attack about it. I have no idea what his issue is, he doesn't tell. It must have been a long time back in his past, as I know him almost his whole life.

    And there was a large undead snake. Yes, undead undead undead. And we were all out of magic so we had to manually hack it apart. Luckily, the orcs and Uthas did most of the work, and that spear Scarbelly had taken from the warrior priest earlier seemed to be quite the help. But they were at it for quite some time, nobody wanting to risk being bitten. I picked up some additional colorful orc language while watching.

    We then removed the Fangs of the Serpent and went back to the undead priest. He was happy enough to have everything he needed, but one thing, it seemed. He needed the blood of one of us as he was, well, undead and had no blood to give. K'Stallo agreed to do this, after all, they were his people, if from centuries back.

    The ritual itself was strange, including the mixing of blood and venom and a lot of weird snake language. When all was done, the Jade Serpent disengaged itself from the altar and we could take it. The high priest had just time to thank us before he ceased his cursed existence. Unfortunately, the whole tower began to shake badly, and we had to hurry up through the water – with some difficulty with the heat stones and all – and out of the building, back into the boat and off. The whole caves shook, and Uthas and two of the orcs panicked about being buried alive.

    But, after dropping off Black Dog and his new treasure, we all made it out. Had to promise the ghost we'd check in on him every now and then. He must be very lonely.

    We had to wait for the tide to be right before we could leave the caves so we slept in there. When we came out finally, it was just dawn, and a lot of ships and boats of all types filled the waters around Freeport. We were back just in time before the lighthouse was supposed to be opened that night. Milton's Folly had no scaffolding anymore, and if we would not know of the dark secret it held, we might have liked the view.

    We parted ways with the orcs and decided to prepare for the night. Scarbelly made it clear that, supportive of our endeavor as he and many other pirates were, they would not risk life and ship to this, as they would, if needed, always find another port to sail to. That is fair enough, I suppose. I would do the same thing. I am not even sure now if we should just let someone else finish this, but there seems to be no one else.

    We will now set out to Milton's folly to see what we can do. It would be impossible to get close by day, but I am sure, Milady remembers the invisibility rings Orlath and me had so much fun with at the ambassador party last year? We did not give them all to the royal treasurer as instructed. We kept 5 of them, I am reluctant to admit. But now, maybe for the first time, we can do something useful with them.


    Ever in Your service

    Nevukh
    My Story Hour campaigns. What are they up to this week?

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