The Westgate Campaign Chronicles - serial

Carlo_One

Villager
This is the serialized story of the Westgate Campaign. It started as a weekly campaign in February 2004 and is still ongoing; a relaunch occurred earlier this month, after a six-month hiatus due to a change of job and intercontinental move. Given the original (real-life) start date, it uses the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (FRCS) 3rd Edition as a base, and has been played over the Neverwinter Nights (now Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition) platform. All available contemporary canon material (3rd and 2nd edition) for the Dragon Coast region were drawn on for its creation, along with some classic-style homebrew places and villains, and random D&D community inspirations.

Thanks should also go to the original (2002-2012, RIP) NeverwinterConnections.com site for providing the resources to support the campaign's launch, and now to the new Neverwinter Connections (launched in February 2019) for the scheduling calendar and player forums used by the campaign.

As part of the relaunch, I started going over the existing Campaign Chronicles, which are available for download on the Gateway to Adventure site. In part this was to remind myself of what has happened over the last 15 years, and also to do things like note down loose ends and past information that has become newly-relevant, now that several new players have joined the campaign. I also decided the chronicles could use a bit of editing and reformatting. It then occurred to me that they might be good source material for an old-fashioned serialization, with some new content added and maybe a few twists.

Below is the result. I'm not sure if we'll ever fully catch up with the main campaign action, but I'll do my best.


Westgate Icon.jpg


 
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Carlo_One

Villager
Campaign Chronicles: The Unboxing

I unwrapped the large, leather-bound journal, which had remained well-preserved under the oilcloth and string that had been placed around it with care. I discovered that there were actually three volumes, tightly packed on top of each other. I picked up the first one and carefully turned back the cover. The vellum pages underneath it were in excellent shape and the black ink stood out clearly against a faintly yellow background. The title page read:

To all those who read these chronicles: much is known, but still more is not known about the adventures and private dealings of those worthy people hereafter mentioned. One suspects that not everything that has occurred has been recorded for posterity.

At least it's forthright about it, I thought. Too many "histories" read like extended bard's tales praising their subjects (and patrons) to no end, and relating tales that couldn't possibly be known by anyone.

But that wasn't the purpose of these chronicles, either for me or - as it seemed - for their unnamed original writer. As I understood, they had been copied an unknown number of times by their possessors, all former senior initiates like myself, to be handed down to the next in line. And I was now to do the same.

I have been told that it is my last necessary task (test, perhaps?) before venturing forth into Faerun on the Order's business. When I can leave these walls, then, depends on how fast I can transcribe the tales within into new volumes, to then be preserved against the day my future successor can do the same.

My mentor had explained that this was not to be a rushed task, however. That what I learned in the process would shape my understanding of the world, and the Order's place in it. And that I would be required to put a piece of myself into it as well, by making personal annotations in the new copy of the chronicles. It was not hard to understand why it is done in this way. The lesson is that the essence of a task lies in the doing of it, not in the result, although that is necessary as well.

I knew that it would be a long process, although the Order discouraged talk amongst the initiates regarding it. Although I had never met my predecessor, I would do so now, in a manner of speaking, through the notes he left in the copy of the chronicles that I now held. I readied a fresh vellum sheet and the finest quill pen I could find, before turning the next page.
 
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Carlo_One

Villager
Prelude: “Adventuring Company Wanted”

At highsun on the 10th day of the 9th month (Eleint), 1372 D.R., a group of adventurers gathered at the Westward Eye Inn outside Mulsantir's Gate. They had all seen the following notice:

"ADVENTURING COMPANY WANTED. The Baron Pahar is seeking adventurers to undertake an important mission. Interested parties should present themselves to Jard at the Westward Eye Inn at highsun on the 10th day of Eleint."

Two less-than-worthy individuals, Hert and Terner, had already been rejected by Jard, the Mercenaries Guild recruiter, and were deep in their cups in the inn -- much to the exasperation of Ellie, the inn's serving girl. To the remaining adventurers, who had already spent some time sizing each other up, Jard explained the nature of the job: reinforcing an outpost of Baron Pahar's near the Amee hills which kept an eye on suspicious activities of the Sess goblin tribe. The offer was 100 gold per person for a tenday's watch. After some debate, all the adventurers agreed that the job was worth taking. As Jard had expressed interest in signing up an established company, rather than a random group of people, the six adventurers settled on forming the "Six Points Adventuring Company." Jard also required each of them to give a short "interview" to inform him how they could serve the Baron's cause; Jard had rejected Hert and Terner based on their poor performance.

Flavius Arcus went first, declaring himself to be a fine and brave warrior, whose sword would swing to deadly effect against his enemies.

Gumble said that he was a locksmith and experienced with all manner of devices. He also asked if Jard had seen any other gnomes recently, which Jard hadn't. Jard told Gumble that he could be very handy at the outpost.

Aerikoth Ankharat confirmed the perception of the others that he was a wizard, whose spells and arcane knowledge would be at the service of the group.

Reijn D'Auric proclaimed his knowledge of stories and song, which would be important for the morale of the outpost's soldiers. Not to mention Reijn's skills with the crossbow, which Jard thought more to the point.

Durendin Ironhelm proudly stated that he followed the teachings of dwarven god Marthammor Duin, Finder-of-Trails and Watcher over Wanderers. Durendin's hammer was put at the service of the Baron. Although Durendin became sick for some unknown reason and had to briefly excuse himself, Jard considered that of little import and welcomed Durendin to the company.

Finally, Drakar Hutark stepped forward and, in his quiet way, let the others know of his wilderness lore and experience in the wilds. Jard judged these skills to be of high importance.

Following a map and directions provided by Jard, who had sent a fast courier on ahead of the group, the Six Points Adventuring Company arrived in the outpost's area. There, they met the last survivor of the outpost, Oskerr, who had fled an attack by the Sess goblin tribe. Oskerr explained that he was one of ten soldiers stationed at the outpost, which had been overrun by a surprise sally of over three dozen goblins from the Amee Pass. After promising a generous reward from the Baron if the company could determine the reason behind the attack, Oskerr ran off to obtain help from the Baron's forces, which unfortunately were at least a day's travel away.

The adventurers carefully made their way north toward the pass and managed to surprise a group of archers and the Sess goblin captain on high ground overlooking the entrance to the pass. From this vantage point, the party was able to make quick work of the remainder of the goblin contingent deployed in front of the pass. The company found orders written in Common on the body of the captain, directing him to hold the pass. The party also examined the bodies of four soldiers lying amidst the now-abandoned outpost. The decision was made to press onward into the pass, to determine what had befallen the missing soldiers and exact revenge for the attack.

After tracking the goblins to one side of a fork in the pass, the company encountered and easily defeated another large force, with Aerikoth's spell of sleep wreaking havoc in the goblin ranks. An additional set of orders was found on this group's captain, telling him to hold that side of the pass and to prevent any intruders from reaching the forest beyond. The group engaged in a spirited debate about their next steps, the choices being to move forward or to return to the outpost. The decision to press forward was taken and the adventurers entered a peculiarly darkened forest.

A crazed druid, Yane, confronted the company, but after some tense moments was convinced by them that the adventurers meant no harm to the forest. Yane wept as he described how he had been unable to prevent the encroachment of evil into the forest; evil that demanded blood to grow, in Yane's words. Yane mentioned that he had seen goblins pass by with several live humans as captives, which Yane said would be valuable for their blood. He told the company that the evil was strongest in the area of some ruins in the northern part of the forest. Showing pity on the man, the group told him to seek safety while they attempted to deal with the evil. Moving through the forest, the party stumbled onto a wolf pack which savagely tore into the group with little warning, leaving most of them bleeding on the ground. Luckily, the remaining wolves were defeated and healing successfully given to downed comrades. Drakar noted that the wolves had been corrupted in some manner. More cautious now, the party encountered addditional smaller groups of wolves and defeated them during a search for the ruins.

At a large ruin site, the party encountered a human and his undead servitors. After a furious running battle, which left several party members bleeding, the company prevailed. A journal was taken off the body of the human, named Gaj, who served the Lord High Necromancer Zagath. The journal contained references to some dark plot of Zagath’s that required human sacrifices. The company caught its breath as they eyed what appeared to be an artificial cave entrance near the ruins.

Aerikoth, although having fought bravely, succumbed to unconsciousness after having suffered a head wound during the battle with the undead. Durendin Ironhelm, after carving a rune of danger onto a nearby ruined column, carried Aerikoth's limp body into the cave, which the group entered warily. A well-used passage led north from the entrance, forking east and west after some distance. An unused passage, explored by Drakar, lead immediately west from the entrance. The company examined some runes inlaid into the floor, which were determined to be necromantic in origin. The party went down the unused passage and entered a small chamber suitable for resting, with Gumble posting a "trigger" by the entrance for safety. Aerikoth was left in the chamber, after having his wounds tended to, since his injury was not deemed life-threatening. Gumble placed another trap outside, to keep out any curious wanderers.

After the gnomish locksmith disarmed and unlocked the door at the end of the short passage north, Flavius led the party into the chamber and all were set upon by a group of ghouls, who had been hiding in unseen corners of the room. Although the party was victorious, Gumble and Durendin were left diseased by the ghouls' touches.

Proceeding further north along the main corridor, Gumble unlocked the door at the end. While disarming the trap at the entrance to the large chamber beyond, he was attacked by two scythe-wielding acolytes jumping out of the shadows. No sooner had they been cut down, at some cost in blood, but ranks of skeleton fighters and archers engaged the company. During a raging melee, in which Reijn inadvertently knocked down some of his comrades with a spell, the skeletons were rendered into piles of unmoving bones.

After catching their breath, the company decided to descend to the lower level of the ruins. Flavius eagerly pressed ahead, setting off a trap cunningly laid on the stairs leading down. The lower level was black as ink, prompting a debate amongst the party over how much light should be used. Behind a door at one end of the corridor, the party encountered a group of zombies, one of whom seemed invulnerable. After some desperate fighting, Reijn passed Flavius a magic sword previously taken from one of the goblin captains, which was then used to destroy the zombie.

Moving carefully back down the corridor, the group opened another door and defeated a group of ghouls, at the price of additional wounds and sickness. The next door opened held a surprise: a human prisoner. The prisoner initially panicked, thinking the party had come to take him away to be sacrificed, but was calmed by Reijn. The prisoner introduced himself as Keric, a wizard in the service of Baron Pahar who had been assigned to the Amee Pass outpost. Keric explained that he and four comrades had been taken prisoner and brought to the ruins in order to be sacrificed by a necromancer. He had watched his comrades die one-by-one under the sacrificial knife, and explained he had thought the door opening was a sign that he would be next. In the ensuing discussion, Keric told the company what he knew of the necromancer, his forces, and the ruins themselves. He suggested the group try and find a cache of supplies on the upper level, which he had heard mention of during one of the sacrificial ceremonies. While the rest of the company searched the upper level, Durendin remained behind to comfort and guard Keric. This measure was approved of by Drakar, who was not as trusting of Keric as the others.

On the way out, Gumble locked the cell door in order to prevent any others from entering. This proved fortunate, as a group of cultists attempted to gain entry to the prisoner's chamber while the others were away. When the rest of the party returned, they discovered and killed the cultists. Keric, although weakened from his imprisonment, volunteered to assist the party in fighting the necromancer. The company moved down a long, inky passageway to a chamber whose exit was guarded by two cultists. Easily defeating them, the group moved forward to a bridge spanning a fiery lava flow, beyond which lay the necromancer's sanctum. A few party members scouted cautiously ahead, enough to see ranks of undead and cult acolytes lining the chamber.

Using a magical scroll plundered from the cult's cache, Gumble unleashed a ball of fire into the undead while the rest of the party charged into the chamber. A desperate battle began, the acolytes chanting curses down upon the company's heads while Lord High Necromancer Zagath summoned a tall skeleton warrior to his side, then plunged into melee with his glowing scythe. The company fought fiercely against all comers, Drakar's wolfish companion Daos joining the fray with her fierce teeth. A sorcerer in the employ of Zagath tossed a fireball into the middle of the battle and was shooting missiles of force into the party until he was cut down by a lightning bolt from Gumble, who used his last remaining scroll in the effort. Zagath was finally cut down and Reijn also fell in melee, his lifeblood pouring upon the floor, but was found in time and healed. While surveying their fallen foes after the chaotic battle, the party found the body of Keric, who in the end was unable to cheat death of its prize. The necromancer's throne was destroyed by the party and several of his items recovered, notably his magical scythe and the robes he had worn.

Durendin shouldered Keric's corpse and, accompanied by Reijn, went to retrieve Aerikoth, while the remainder of the party made for the exit. Upon entering the corridor to the chamber where Aerikoth had been left, they encountered a unit of Baron Pahar's guard and the High Cleric Carlin. After the adventurers were recognized as friendly by the Baron's men, the remainder of the party was summoned and introductions were made. The High Cleric explained that the guards had received word from outpost survivor Oskerr about the disaster at Amee Pass and had tracked the company to the ruins. Carlin had suspected that Zagath, who was exiled from Baron Pahar's territory some years ago, might have been in the area, so the cleric decided to personally accompany the guards. The company accepted Carlin's offer to guide them back to Baron Pahar's residence in Westgate and do what was necessary to heal Aerikoth.

Accompanied by the Baronial Guard, the party set off, leaving the ruins empty of enemies, but full of dark memories.

 
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Carlo_One

Villager
Campaign Chronicles: The first notes of "R"

I turned over the page to see the first of my predecessor's notes, written on the back, in flowing script.

"This is the first we see of the abomination's influence. 'Lord High Necromancer Zagath' indeed! He was but a pawn, if a dangerous one. As it was simple fortune that he was defeated at this point in time, perhaps we should all light a candle, or better yet, roll some dice for Tymora. --R"

A somewhat irreverent commentary, but I was forced to admit to sharing the views of "R", my long-since-departed predecessor. I did not see the hand of destiny in this mercenary company's mission to Amee Pass, which no doubt they had expected - perhaps hoped, even - to be boring guard duty.

And yet. What is the nature of destiny? Is it simply self-referential, claiming all that happens as destined to be? The gods are alternately glorious and hateful, generous and cruel, so I see no unifying fate in their hands. Kelemvor's realm is the one constant, but that awaits at the end of the path for all; it does not define the path.

With such thoughts, I turned to the next chapter.
 
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Carlo_One

Villager
Chapter I: In Service of the Baron

The company gathered in the common room of Baron Pahar’s house in Westgate, having fallen asleep the previous evening upon arrival, exhausted from their journey. Durendin Ironhelm, in fact, could not be woken from his near-comatose state; he had insisted on carrying Aerikoth until the wizard had returned to full health. Reijn earlier that morning received a note from a messenger and left shortly thereafter, muttering something about an old flame and being back "sometime." The Baron was out at a meeting, the group was informed by High Cleric Carlin, but was expected back later that morning. Carlin went to a small side room to attend to his morning prayers while the adventurers breakfasted.

An old man in dark robes arrived and Carlin briefly interrupted his prayers to introduce him as Jamorin Gellantara, an expert in necromantic lore. Jamorin had been invited by the Baron to assist in investigating what motives had been behind Zagath's actions. Uneasy introductions to the group were made, with Gumble being the first to extend a (somewhat shaky) hand of welcome.

After some time, Baron Pahar came through the door and thanked the company for their services, which had been above and beyond the call of duty. The Baron then asked the group to discuss the details of their experience with Jamorin. Two items possessed by the necromancer, robes and a magic scythe, were produced for examination. Both Jamorin and High Cleric Carlin agreed that Zagath had not possessed great power; in light of Zagath's early career as a simple village madman, however, the fact he had managed to obtain any dark power at all was disturbing. Carlin recounted to the group how he had ordered the original investigation and subsequent exile of Zagath, who at the time had possessed no real power. Durendin at this point wandered down from his upstairs bed, having finally shaken off his exhaustion. Jamorin, with some theatrics, announced that he believed he knew how Zagath had obtained his power: from a lich in the Westgate area. In fact, Jamorin said, it was to investigate stories of the lich that he had come to Westgate in the first place - stories that included the mention of a valuable artifact in the lich's possession. There was some consternation among the rest of the group about the involvement of a lich.

(A most appropriate reaction. And where did this Jamorin come from? His motives are rather suspect. --R)
 
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Carlo_One

Villager
Choices, choices

The Baron put aside the issue of the lich for the moment and said that he needed to act quickly to gather information and see off any threats to his domain. He stated that he saw three avenues of approach: a punitive expedition against the Sess goblin tribe; investigating the village of Turnton, where Zagath had first appeared; or investigating necromantic activity in Westgate. The Baron stated that while his own forces should be able to accomplish either of the first two objectives, they would welcome the company's assistance. Meanwhile, the Baron had no presence inside Westgate beyond his modest residence, which was on property owned by Lady Thistle Thalavar. The Baron put the question to the party what course they would like to pursue, then retired to the side room with Carlin to discuss a private matter. The group debated for some time, going back and forth over the merits of a punitive expedition versus investigating the village. Durendin, meanwhile, managed to overhear something of the Baron's conversation, which made reference to the Lady Thalavar.

Once the Baron was informed the company was ready, he returned to hear their decision. Although there was some waffling by the party, in the end it was decided to participate in the punitive expedition against the goblins. Drakar argued forcefully for the need to do so and Flavius for his part looked forward to the coming fight. The Baron expressed his thanks, but warned the group he did not have unlimited resources. He offered 50 gold per person, plus rights to any loot obtained from the Sess tribe. The company deemed this reasonable, although Aerikoth in particular seemed put off by the prospect of having to go after a tribe of stinking goblins. The Baron then took out a chest of gold and paid each of the remaining Six Points Adventuring Company members 500 gold, 100 for the original contract and 400 in appreciation for the defeat of Zagath. Jamorin was also given a small bag of gold for his services. Jamorin agreed to travel with the group, in order to contribute his unique talents.

After enjoying an excellent lunch at the Baron's table, the group was provided with basic maps of Westgate and informed that the Baron's forces would be ready for the punitive expedition three days hence at the Amee Pass outpost, which was approximately a day's travel from Westgate. The Baron recommended that the company do what business was needed in Westgate and then set out for the outpost, in order to leave enough time to rest and prepare for the armed expedition. After a few hours' break, the group convened in the residence's common room, the Baron being occupied upstairs with one of his guard captains. A few minutes later, Pahar came down and outlined to the group his plan regarding the punitive expedition against the Sess tribe. Baronial guard reinforcements would arrive at the Amee Pass outpost in three days, at which time his forces and the Six Points Adventuring Company would venture into the pass. The goal would be to do as much damage as possible in one day to the Sess, then withdraw.

The Baron encouraged the company to leave for the outpost that same day. The company agreed, but raised the point that they needed to re-equip themselves. Baron Pahar passed out Thalavar Company tokens, which would allow the group to use the private Thalavar store next to his residence. The Baron also mentioned that his forces would be investigating Turnton and that once the company returned, he might have some more information for them. The company agreed to the Baron's plan and departed, stopping at the Thalavar store to pick up supplies.

Departing Westgate, they headed westward along Trader's Road, then turned southwest to skirt a region of broken hills and approach the Amee Pass outpost from the south. After hearing screams coming from ahead of them, they investigated and found a panicked woman who introduced herself as Melissa. She explained that the wagon she and her brother were traveling in had broken an axle and that he was seriously wounded. She led the company at a brisk pace to the site of the alleged accident, around the corner of a hill, only to have a group of bandit fighters and archers set upon the company. The company defeated the bandits in a pitched battle and then briefly tracked Melissa, who however was fleet of foot and managed to escape into nearby woods.

(The first meeting with Melissa. She already demonstrates herself to be smarter - and fleeter - than most. --R

(The old 'damsel in distress' routine? It seems it still works on the unwary. Will have to be on guard once - if - I depart from here --C)

After arriving at the outpost, the company was greeted by the Baronial Guard captain and offered a place to rest. Oskerr, the lone survivor from the outpost’s previous guard force, was also on hand to greet the adventurers. The captain was informed by the party of the bandit attack. After some debate on how to proceed with the punitive expedition against the goblins, the group agreed to the captain's plan of a reconnaissance in force the next day, the main effort against the Sess to be made the day after that, once reinforcements had arrived.

The company awoke at dawn and was soon roused to action by cries from the outpost lookout that goblins had been spotted in the pass. Quickly mustering, the party discovered the presence of three goblin warriors led by a shaman, who was waving a stick with a white piece of cloth attached to it. In broken Common, the shaman managed to convince the group to go parley with the Sess chief, who was waiting just inside the pass. Despite some misgivings, the company advanced to the parley.

Once they were in front of the chief, whose name was Harakkah, he recognized the company as mighty warriors and offered a magic sword as a gift to the Baron as a show of respect and sacrifice. The chief explained, in pidgin Common, that a wizard with a scythe had given the tribe gold and magic to make them strong, so that they could attack the Amee Pass outpost. The chief said it was not worth losing his tribe and that he did not hate the Baron's forces, only had chosen the wrong side in the conflict. He would return in one week to see if the Baron would agree to a truce in the pass.

In response, the group strongly cautioned the chief not to make any further attacks and agreed to take the magic sword back and put the matter to the baron. This course of action caused great controversy, as Durendin was all for killing the goblins then and there and Aerikoth supported the idea of continuing the punitive expedition. Drakar's primary concern was that the balance of nature be maintained in the future, regardless of what had occurred in the past, a stance which incensed Durendin. Gumble was of the opinion it was all a trick. After returning to the outpost and explaining what had occurred to the guard captain, Durendin nearly came to blows with Flavius when Flavius backed Drakar's position. However, Jamorin quickly interceded and put his staff between the two. Gumble managed to calm Durendin, to a degree, and convinced him to stay with the company. The Baronial Guard captain decided it would be best to mount a strong watch on the pass and to let Baron Pahar make the ultimate decision on what to do, rejecting a suggestion by Jamorin to attack the tribe while they were vulnerable. After exchanging farewells with the captain, the company made the long hike back to Westgate and arrived in the area outside Mulsantir's Gate, the location of the Baron's residence.

The company, minus Jamorin, who had excused himself for a time to pursue his private investigations of the supposed lich, returned to Baron Pahar's residence. The Baron was surprised to see the group and at first was incensed that they had not proceeded with the punitive expedition as ordered. During the ensuing explanation of what had occurred, the divisions within the group remained clear. The Baron asked Aerikoth to explain the significance of the gift of the magical sword, which turned out to be a bane to humans, and its provenance. Drakar made an eloquent argument underlining the logic of accepting a truce with the Sess, in the process upsetting Durendin again. The incident with the bandit ambush and the woman named Melissa was also raised. The Baron told the company he would consider the options with his advisors and meet up with the company four days later at his residence.

(Jamorin seems to be using his companions for his own ends with the lich. --R)

Pahar informed them that, regrettably, he could not afford to host the group any longer and suggested investigating nearby inns. Since the company was new to Westgate, he gave them some advice about the city. Notably, he advised them to not travel much after dark, then only in groups; areas outside the city were not protected by walls, while inside the city thieves and murderers roamed the night. He also told them of Thessar the Warrior, who was in the Shore district and was a friend to adventurers. The company thanked the Baron and departed to seek lodging. They walked over to the Gatereach Inn, which was only a stone's throw from the residence, and talked with its proprietor, Jandrico Swift.

After asking some questions about the group, Jandrico agreed to rent them what he had available, a large room and three small rooms; Drakar for his part preferred to sleep under the stars. Jandrico asked for one night's deposit up front, which was generously (and unintentionally) provided by Gumble for the whole group. Gumble claimed the large room and insisted on having a bath tub, happily decamping in his room and working on his current gnomish project, a pair of one-size-fits-all boots. Durendin collapsed in his own room and could not be awakened afterwards.

Flavius, Drakar, and Aerikoth set off to explore the city, with the intent of looking up Thessar the Warrior. Drakar and Flavius were overwhelmed by the size of the city and the crowds; Drakar found reason to renew his dislike of all cities, despite Aerikoth's needling in response.

The group lost track of each other, but Aerikoth easily navigated the streets to Thessar's house and knocked at his door. The others managed to find him just as Thessar came out to greet his new guests. After the company explained who they were and that Baron Pahar had mentioned Thessar's name, Thessar invited them in. Thessar asked after the Baron, whom he hadn't seen in a long time, and what the company had been doing. Gumble then arrived and was introduced. The group discussed some of the highlights of the campaign against the Sess. Asking about Thessar's history, they discovered his last mercenary contract had been ten years ago in the Giant's Run mountains, working with the Ironhelm clan to help repulse a raid by hill giants; the group recognized the clan name to be the same as that of Durendin. Thessar described the story in vivid terms and mentioned that since he had been the only surviving mercenary after the giant attacks, he had received the entire contract's gold value and retired on it. Thessar then insisted on breaking out his private ale stock and hearing some stories from the group.

(The first meeting recorded with Thessar. His role in the tale will become more apparent over time. --R)
 
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Carlo_One

Villager
Unexpected Comrades

Regrouping late afternoon at the Gatereach Inn after exploring the city, Aerikoth, Jamorin, and Gumble encountered Rahnee Roaringhorn, the occupant of the other large room on the top floor of the Gatereach. Rahnee had been disturbed by the moanings of Durendin and Flavius, but was relieved to learn it was only due to their having consumed a bad roast pig from a street vendor. Rahnee, who had a noble if rambunctious bearing, had recently arrived from Waterdeep with a cargo of horses for House Thalavar. She had the Gatereach recommended to her by Castle Thalavar's steward, Iono. She also had been advised to stop by and see Baron Pahar, if she had the chance.

After some discussion, the three mobile members of the group, now accompanied by Rahnee, went to the Baron's residence. There they were informed by the Baron that Drakar had, with great regret, departed the city for the wilds, since he could not stand the "crush of civilization" any longer. The Baron then gave the party his decision on the Sess tribe: he asked the company to go and accept the goblins' truce offer, but on the condition that the Sess report weekly to his outpost on happenings in the Amee Hills. Baron Pahar also stressed that the Sess needed to be intimidated, so that they would think twice about going back on their word. Rahnee volunteered to accompany the group, finding the matter exhilaratingly adventurous. Flavius at this point decided to leave the group, in search of other adventures.

The party departed for the outpost, fending off a wolf attack along the way, and arrived the evening of the following day. The guard commander reported that the pass had been quiet since the original parley and that the Sess goblin chief was expected to arrive in the pass the following morning. An exchange of words between Jamorin and the commander occurred, based on a perceived insult by Jamorin regarding the commander's abilities.

The company rested and then, with the Baron's forces arrayed at the pass entrance in case of attack, advanced into the pass. Sess chief Harakkah was awaiting them as promised. Jamorin, with his familiar in tow, took the lead in presenting the Baron's conditions to Harakkah, who protested what he perceived as affronts to his chieftainly pride, but in the end the goblin acquiesced to the truce and departed the pass. The company reported their success to the guard commander and set off for Westgate, arriving without incident (other than getting very wet traveling for the last five hours in the rain). As it was very early in the morning when they arrived, they repaired to their respective inns - Aerikoth having taken a separate room at the Westward Eye - to dry off and gain some much-needed rest.

Afterwards, the company met in the Gatereach Inn, much the better for their long rest. Along with friendly discussion, some pointed banter occurred between Jamorin and Aerikoth over breakfast, regarding Jamorin's information on the presence of a lich in Westgate. One of Baron Pahar's guards found the group and said that, having heard of their return, the Baron was anxiously awaiting their news. After finishing their meal, the company walked the short distance to the Baron's residence. The Baron was indeed bursting to hear what had occurred at Amee Pass and was pleased to see that the company had returned safely. Jamorin informed the Baron of what had happened, which satisfied Pahar. The Baron also agreed with Jamorin regarding the need to keep an eye on the Sess.

The Baron then reviewed the results of his guards' investigation of Turnton. Apparently little new information was found, although one of Zagath's old companions Deedee, who was a teenager at the time of his banishment, had been seen in the town about a month prior to his defeat by the company. She was described as lithe, athletic – being an excellent runner - and originally having black hair, but dyed red at her last appearance. (Sound familiar? --R) Nothing was known of why she had come to Turnton or what she did afterward. The Baron then turned the conversation to a lead he had received in Westgate on necromantic activity, possibly related to their concerns. An ally of Lady Thalavar, the well-known street actress Jamal, had received a tip from an informant and wanted assistance in following it up; the information was then passed to Pahar. Pahar asked the group if they would be willing to back Jamal up at the next meeting with the informant, to which they readily agreed. He also mentioned he had other business to discuss with them, but refused to say more until the company returned from the meeting.

After receiving directions to the Rising Raven Annex, located just outside of South Gate and where the meeting was to take place, the party set off. Outside of the building they encountered a half-orc, who appeared to be headed the same way. This was confirmed after he arrived in the same upstairs room where the party had found Jamal. After she saw the Thalavar token displayed by Jamorin, she warmly greeted the party and told the half- orc, named Brok-Tul, that she had invited a few "friends" to join them. Jamal explained that she and Brok-Tul had known each other for several years, dating back to when she had broken up an "insurance" ring run by Brok-Tul; at the time, he had been working for the previous incarnation of the Night Masks thieves guild.

Brok-Tul toothily reminisced about those days, mentioning that when the Night Masks were mostly wiped out by a band of adventurers he had gone independent. After a couple years had passed, the Night Masks somehow had been reconstituted. Brok-Tul refused to rejoin them, however, after hearing rumors about the Masks being involved somehow with "smart" undead, viewing it as a desecration of what the Masks stood for. He therefore had turned to Jamal with this information, explaining that he knew she was an enemy of the Masks and possibly could help him. Jamal thanked Brok-Tul and asked him to wait downstairs, to which he agreed, albeit sullenly.

(One sees that the party has already been presented with the crux of the coming crisis in Westgate. --R)

Jamal asked the company if they could investigate Brok-Tul's information and at the same time keep an eye on him, since it could all simply be a Night Mask trick. After Jamal and Aerikoth clashed over a question regarding Jamal's motives, Aerikoth told Jamal he refused to baby-sit a half-breed, saying it was beneath him and the company. (What arrogance! Yet the wizard does seem the most competent of the group so far. Of those remaining, that is, as nearly all his original companions have left by this point. --C) Jamal became incensed and told the company during the ensuing discussion if they weren't there to help, they could just leave; if they reached a decision, they were welcome to come back and talk to her. Downstairs in the small common room, the group debated their course, making some tense introductions to Brok-Tul in the process. It was decided that despite Jamal's attitude, it would be best to follow her request. Jamorin returned to inform her of this and was thanked, if not very warmly, and told that Jamal would send a message if and when she had more information for them.
 
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Carlo_One

Villager
A Private Little War

The company, now including Brok-Tul, made their way back to Pahar's residence. After Brok-Tul was introduced, the Baron grimly informed the group that he faced an imminent war with the self-styled Duke (previously Baron) of Hallton, Pahar's neighbor. Hallton had already burned some peasants' fields and was looking to annex one of Pahar's villages, Glees, which lay on their border. The Baron made a heartfelt plea for the party's assistance in averting war, as he felt that they might be able to intimidate or otherwise drive off Hallton's forces from the area. He was greatly relieved and thankful when the party immediately agreed to help. Pahar suggested that they depart in five days, to allow him time to organize his forces and to spread rumors of the party's deeds in the area, in order to enhance their reputation. The Baron hinted that Hallton was receiving support from a Westgate noble house, but declined to provide further details, citing lack of evidence. He asked the party to see Iono, the Castle Thalavar steward, for directions to Glees when they were ready to depart Westgate, since Pahar had to leave immediately for his lands.

Following the talk with Pahar, the group returned to the Gatereach Inn to discuss their next steps. Gumble excused himself to work on his gnomish project, the one-size-fits-all boots, which he thought was nearing a breakthrough. It was decided, after talking with Jandrico Swift, to seek out Jard, the Mercenaries Guild representative at the nearby Westward Eye Inn. Rahnee met privately with Jard in his room upstairs and coyly attempted to extract information from him on Hallton. He informed her that he had heard of no mercenaries from Westgate being hired by Hallton and commented that the Mercenaries Guild usually stayed out of such squabbles among the local gentry, which could be politically sensitive as well.

After Rahnee shared this information with the company, they decided to head to the Market district to try and gather any rumors circulating about the Pahar-Hallton conflict. Jamorin excused himself once they reached the district, saying that he had other matters to attend to. (The group seems remarkably incurious about Jamorin's activities. --R) After Rahnee's dickering with an onion salesman, who said he had heard nothing of any trouble outside the city with food supplies, the group entered Gondeth's Mageries. Gondeth informed Aerikoth, whom he acknowledged as a fellow practitioner of the Art, that he had not heard of any mages hired in Westgate for service in Glees - in fact, Gondeth had never heard of Glees. After a minor argument about Gondeth's decision not to offer for sale any magical protections, the group departed the shop. The company then wandered into the Purple Lady in the Mulsantir's Gate district, which they discovered was an upscale establishment featuring exquisitely garbed ladies available for conversation, along with fine drinks. They spent some time with Lady Lanta discussing the situation in Westgate, then departed; Brok-Tul generously paid the "optional" gratuity prior to leaving. (This seems like a fine idea for an establishment, although the conversation may not be healthy for one's gold purse. --C)

After four additional days spent pursuing their separate interests, the company regrouped mid-morning of the fifth day at the Gatereach Inn. Accounts were settled with Jandrico Swift, with Gumble generously paying Rahnee's bill. During conversation over breakfast, Gumble confessed that he planned to move on and visit the Giant's Run mountains. Durendin Ironhelm had departed, leaving Gumble a message saying that Durendin's father was gravely ill; the message also mentioned that Gumble's gardener relative, whom Gumble had been seeking all this time, may have been seen near the Giant's Run. Gumble and the group exchanged heartfelt goodbyes and Gumble passed on a magical ring to Aerikoth, saying he would need it more than Gumble. (The gnome was probably the most decent of them all. I wonder if he ever got those one-size-fits-all boots made. --R)

The company traveled to Castle Thalavar in the Mulsantir's Gate district and met with Iono, the castle steward. Iono treated Rahnee with deference and mentioned that the horses she delivered were doing very well; Lady Thalavar was quite pleased with them. Iono then gave the group directions to Glees and, at Brok-Tul's request, provisions for the journey. Iono also introduced them to Captain Jaxson, an officer in Baron Pahar's guard, who was serving as a messenger between House Thalavar and Pahar, and who would accompany them to Glees.

After departing the city via the road outside of South Gate, the company walked almost eight hours until they reached a main fork in the road, hearing sounds of fighting in the distance. When the company investigated, they were set upon by dire wolves and also a group of Hallton's soldiers, who had apparently just killed a patrol of Pahar's men. Jaxson died, fighting bravely, although the party was victorious. No message was found on Jaxson's body, so it was assumed he had a verbal message from Lady Thalavar to pass on - one that was now lost.

Shortly after dusk the company arrived in the small village of Glees and made their way to the one inn. Several of Pahar's guard were inside and one was sent to notify Pahar of the party's arrival. The reunion with a tired-looking Pahar was a somewhat bitter one, given the presence of Jaxson's body and the news the party passed on of the other dead guards, although Pahar was glad to see the group.

With Pahar was a man named Aratae, whom Pahar introduced as an informant from Hallton's lands seeking to earn a bit of coin (and oppose Hallton's injustices while he was at it). The party showed Pahar a variety of equipment taken off of Hallton's men, all of which was identified as lightly magical by Aerikoth. Pahar commented that this fact helped explain why Hallton's soldiers were defeating Pahar's forces so easily.

Aratae, the baron explained, had provided confirmed details on a large patrol of Hallton soldiers near Glees. While the information was appreciated, the group, led by Rahnee, made it graphically clear to Aratae that he had best not be setting anyone up for betrayal; Aratae appeared to get the message. The group, with Aratae now accompanying them, left a tired Pahar to his preparations for bed and went down to the inn's common room. Luckily, the innkeeper was still serving and the company spent some time discussing events and plans.
 
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Carlo_One

Villager
Aratae outlined what he knew of Hallton's troops in the area, namely that about a dozen were fortified in the northeastern corner of Glees' fields, which were to the east. Hallton was known to have a spellcaster, but he had not been seen around Glees. Hallton's manor lay a fair distance to the east and Aratae wasn't exactly sure where it was. According to Aratae, Hallton enjoyed picking up local women when he traveled, which was frequently. Aratae said that he was the son of a small-time farmer and had lied about his travel plans to Hallton soldiers in order to reach Glees.

The innkeeper, somewhat wide-eyed, asked if the group was the Six Points Adventuring Company. He was very glad to hear that confirmed and said he was honored to have the group at the inn. He explained that a nondescript person had passed through several days before, talking about how the company had "destroyed a necromancer in his lair, fighting mummies and zombies and whatnot!" He said they were famous and was sure that the "Hallton scum" wouldn't stand a chance. Jamorin arrived towards the end of the discussion and was caught up on events, although he remained secretive about his activities. After Jamorin's arrival, Rahnee agreed to share a room with Brok-Tul for the night, giving up her room for the mage's use.

The company rose the next day and met in the now-empty common room, with the exception of Jamorin, whose aging joints had frozen and left him painfully bedridden. Innkeeper Undt brought them some warmed-over stew and bread, all that was available. The company reviewed its equipment over breakfast and talked strategies. Two of Pahar's guard came down the stairs and informed the group that the Baron was ready to see them. The guard then completed the evacuation of the village, taking Undt with them. Conferring with Baron Pahar, the party learned that his main force, with High Cleric Carlin, was out of necessity defending his baronial seat at Turnton. Hallton's main army was drawn up near there, along with Hallton's mage. Pahar's few available soldiers near Glees were to guard the evacuated villagers and accompany them to Turnton if the company failed to eliminate the threat to Glees. In response to questions from Brok-Tul and Rahnee, Pahar indicated that he didn't care how the party accomplished the task, for example by killing all of Hallton's men or intimidating them into never coming back, as long as they no longer posed a threat.

After the party declared themselves ready to confront Hallton's men, Pahar thanked each of them individually and departed to oversee the refugees. He also ordered a messenger to wait in the area by the Turnton-Glees road fork for news from the party. After some further discussion and a rest period, in which Brok-Tul prayed for spells and the others separated, the group headed for the fields to the northeast. Arriving in the fields, the group saw several smoldering fires among the crops. Aratae, taking great care not to be observed, scouted the entire area and reported back on the soldiers' camp, which was in the northeast corner of the fields behind a set of barricades. After a final check and a short strategy session, the party headed into battle.

At first, a few of the soldiers were dazed and confused by spells launched by the party. The Hallton commander yelled to his troops to 'ware spellcasters, although none could be seen by them. Once the party engaged in melee, however, the Hallton forces swung into action effectively, the archers opening up on the big form of Brok-Tul and the swordsmen running into the thick of the action. Aratae's backstabbing tactics dropped two of the archers before he was chased and cut down by swordsmen. Meanwhile, Brok-Tul and Rahnee fought in a swirl of weapons, Brok-Tul summoning a creature to assist. The enemy soldiers were too much for them, however, and both were cut down and lay bleeding on the ground. Surveying the situation after the battle, having only two wounded soldiers left to back him up, the Hallton commander decided to call a temporary retreat and headed east toward Hallton territory.

With great constitution and some of Tymora's luck, Rahnee managed to recover enough to heal herself and then Brok-Tul and Aratae, who were both at death's door. Aerikoth, having avoided melee and the Hallton soldiers' notice, returned to the site of the battle. After some debate over their next steps, Aratae helped put out some of the fires, which appeared to be burning out, then the group retreated to the Glees inn. Aerikoth managed to get the ale keg spigot working, while Rahnee delivered the mixed news from the battle to Pahar’s messenger at the crossroads. She warned him that Glees was not yet safe for the refugees' return and that the company would try and do as much damage as possible if the village were assaulted.

Returning to the tavern, Rahnee sat down with the others and contemplated the situation they faced. As the afternoon waned, Aratae departed to scout the approaches to the village, in order to prevent Hallton's soldiers from potentially taking them unawares. Jamorin descended from his room and joined the planning discussion, which was dominated by Brok-Tul's ideas for various makeshift traps and devices and Rahnee's suggestions on strategy and tactics. Aerikoth observed that, given Glees' strategic location near to the road connecting Westgate and Turnton, it would behoove the self-styled Duke Hallton to seize and hold it. During the conversation, to Rahnee's consternation, it came out that no one in the group had pinned down the Baron regarding a reward for their efforts. (Planning ahead does not always seem to be one of the group's strengths. --R)

After the group exited the inn and began examining defensible locations, Undt approached and greeted them, explaining that he had snuck back to the village to see about his inn, which meant the world to him. Undt agreed to help provide supplies for Brok-Tul's devices and pointed out where cooking oil, lamp oil, buckets, and various sharp implements could be found. He also told Rahnee that all the town's cows were gone, putting an end to her idea of stampeding a herd of cows at the Hallton forces. The group spent several hours gathering things, and Brok-Tul as a result was able to construct two spike traps and a few firepots and sludgepots. While this was going on, Aerikoth summoned his raven familiar and sent it out over Hallton's lands to scout. A good deal of debate was had regarding where to best place the spellcasters and the various traps, with the consensus being to trap the roads into town and the inn door. Undt was told by Brok- Tul to leave and return to the other refugees' hiding place for his own safety.

As the others finished setting up and darkness fell over the village, Aerikoth went to the fields and retrieved his tired raven familiar. He returned to tell the company that Hallton's forces, around a dozen soldiers, had been spotted camped for the night east of the Glees fields at a distance of an hour's walk or so. The news energized the company, who seized on the idea of launching a surprise attack on Hallton's forces at night.

Abandoning their prepared positions, they crossed the fields and carefully made their way through the dark countryside, taking close to two hours to reach the area with Hallton's men. The sound of crackling campfires alerted the company to the soldiers' presence. Jamorin summoned his familiar, which was sent around the southern end of the Hallton camp. Unfortunately, the soldiers' night watch spotted the familiar and the Hallton commander called out a warning to muster. The remaining men poured out of their tents and readied their equipment. Pickets on the northern side of the camp then spotted the company and Hallton's forces charged.

Coming around a clump of trees, the commander caught Jamorin in the open and with three swift blows ended his life, although the commander was badly burnt by Jamorin's last spell. Archers were able to target Brok-Tul's large frame, despite his wielding the shield dubbed Picnic Table. Rahnee went down under the press of numbers and lay bleeding on the ground. Aerikoth exhausted his spells and used a scroll to summon a tyrantfog zombie; it proved only a momentary distraction for the magically-armed soldiers, but allowed breathing room for Aerikoth to disengage.

Meanwhile, Brok-Tul had led a band of soldiers on a chase away from Rahnee's prostrate form, disdaining a chance to escape; however, they eventually caught up to him and put him down, pouring arrow after arrow into him until he was dead. With all hope seemingly lost, Rahnee's iron constitution allowed her to recover enough to stumble away from the fight, joining Aerikoth in a slow retreat back to the fields of Glees. On the other side of the ledger, Hallton's soldiers had lost perhaps half their number in the fight and their commander had been sorely wounded.

Rahnee, severely wounded, and Aerikoth slowly made their way back to the inn in Glees. Rahnee's bleeding was eventually staunched with Aerikoth's help and she carefully took off her dented armor and went upstairs, collapsing into unconsciousness for several hours. The innkeeper Undt arrived and was relieved to see the two of them alive, although he was horrified by Rahnee's condition. He handed over a healing kit and some ale that he had brought with him in order to help her regain some strength. Undt also brought the good news that High Cleric Carlin and some of Pahar's men were on their way, the Baron's forces having defeated their enemies in front of Turnton. Rahnee and Aerikoth explained that the threat to Glees had been blunted, but not removed, which worried Undt. Undt said that he understood that Baron Pahar's men were tired from the fighting at Turnton and few in number. He volunteered to run back to the refugee camp and tell the soldiers to hurry.

Aerikoth exited the inn and called his raven familiar Zeluth to him, sending the bird winging eastward to spy out Hallton's forces. The raven was spotted by some nervous Hallton soldiers at the edge of Glees fields and chased away, but not before the bird had taken note of their number and position, reporting this back to Aerikoth. At this point Aratae found the companions, having carefully worked his way around Hallton's forces to return to Glees. Rahnee and Aerikoth filled him in on what had transpired. As they were talking, they heard the jingle of armor and voices coming from the direction of the fields - Hallton's men. The party quickly moved behind the inn for cover and Aerikoth pulled out a piece of parchment. A loud snap and a death cry was heard as one of the soldiers sprung the trap laid by Brok-Tul across the path to the fields. The Hallton commander sent a patrol of three men forward to scout the inn. Once in view, Aerikoth stepped out and read arcane words from his parchment, causing a massive fireball to spring forth and engulf them. Two fell, while one miraculously avoided the effects and charged, but was cut down by the remainder of the party. The commander and another three soldiers responded and charged around the building corner, hoping to catch the mage, but were defeated in turn. (A much more effective battle plan. The party appeared to have learned from their earlier over-eagerness. --C)

A short while later, after the group had looted the usable equipment from the soldiers' corpses, High Cleric Carlin and a small squad of baronial guards arrived. After a brief discussion, all agreed to proceed to where Brok-Tul and Jamorin's bodies lay, in hopes that Carlin might be able to intercede with his patron deity Helm and restore them. Once the site of the previous battle had been reached, Carlin asked for an account of how the two had died. Rahnee took the lead in describing how they had fallen, Brok-Tul sacrificing himself by attempting to draw Hallton's soldiers away. Rahnee offered to pay whatever price the cleric required to aid Brok-Tul; she was told that the price was not monetary, but that this was acceptable.

Carlin then entered a trance, slowly chanting a hymn to Helm. After some time and apparent effort, Carlin shouted "BY HELM'S WILL, SO SHALL IT BE DONE!" and the breath of life returned to Brok-Tul. Rahnee moved to comfort and assist the dazed and still near-dead Brok-Tul, while Aratae looked wide-eyed at the high cleric. The group moved to get out of the rain, Carlin declaring he had to rest before attempting the same with Jamorin. Aratae approached Carlin and told him, with wonder, that he was a blessed man.

The rain having ceased, Carlin moved to Jamorin's body and began his prayers. Aerikoth observed closely and noted that after a time beads of sweat broke out across Carlin's brow. It was clear to all that the cleric was struggling, much more than with Brok-Tul. At the end, Carlin collapsed, exhausted. After reviving, he explained that Jamorin's soul had been further from his reach than Brok-Tul's and had been unwilling to pay the necessary price to return to the realm of the living. Rahnee, kneeling, expressed her thanks to Carlin for bringing back Brok-Tul and mentioned the "price" as one she willingly shared. As for Jamorin, on Aerikoth's advice Carlin called down holy power on Jamorin's corpse prior to burial, to avoid any possible necromantic taint. Rahnee took possession of Jamorin's staff and robe and Carlin led Brok-Tul away for a private word, while the others began preparing Jamorin's gravesite. Brok-Tul returned and rapidly helped complete the task.

(Jamorin's evil nature must have been too much for the High Cleric. Perhaps a blessing to the rest of the party, who mostly seemed willfully ignorant of it. --R)

Once the last clod of dirt was in place, Carlin inquired whether the company planned to return to Westgate or go on to Turnton. The decision was made to accompany the high cleric's party returning to Turnton, in order to see Baron Pahar. The four adventurers - Aerikoth, Aratae, Brok-Tul, and Rahnee - turned their faces west and began their march to the Turnton crossroads, leaving behind a brown mound of earth to mark their passing.
 
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Carlo_One

Villager
Campaign Chronicles: the first chapter

I turned the last page of the first chapter with both relief and satisfaction. It was difficult not to become personally invested in the fate of the party, although the chronicles had been recorded many years ago, and my emotions would influence nothing about their fate.

I noted that the comments of "R" in the margins seemed to betray a knowledge of future events, in some instances. He must have returned to his annotations after completing his reading of the chronicles. I was unsure whether that was standard practice for senior initiates, as I had received little guidance on the task. Yet I decided that I would continue to make my own notes, as "C", without such foreknowledge. One does not live life in reverse, after all, and uncertainty towards the future is of necessity part of the path.

As "R" had commented, the nature of the growing vampire problem in Westgate had already presented itself, yet the party's service to Baron Pahar meant that it was diverted onto other paths outside the city. Considering how they fared against Hallton's forces initially, perhaps this was for the best, as it seems they were not yet capable of facing stronger enemies.

Jamorin's presence cast a shadow over their activities and I have to admit that part of the feeling of relief I experienced was at his permanent disappearance. Yet his quest for knowledge of an ancient lich, I already knew from other sources, was not buried with him.
 

Carlo_One

Villager
Chapter II: House Thalavar’s Need

Chapter II: House Thalavar’s Need

An Odd Couple

After exiting the Rotten Root tavern in Mulsantir's Gate district, where he was working as a bouncer, Marik Tann was engulfed by darkness and fell into unconsciousness. Marik woke up, somewhat dazed, in a room inside Castle Thalavar. When Jokull of Arabel first entered the room where Marik had been locked up, Marik accused Jokull of being a thief and warned Jokull that he was more than capable of defending himself, despite the sword on Jokull's hip. Introductions were made and Jokull explained where Marik was. Jokull then said that he had heard Marik was involved with a local assassins guild. At first Marik denied this, saying he was merely a bouncer at a local tavern. Eventually, with his hand on his sword hilt, Jokull asked what Marik knew of the Fire Knives.

Marik cagily said he knew a little about them. He explained that they were ex-Cormyrian nobles and still had many contacts with the nobility, but he was not aware they were in Westgate. Marik thought the local guild, the Night Masks, wouldn't allow it. Jokull then stated that he and House Thalavar needed help in tracking down the Fire Knives in Westgate. Marik said he would help as long as he was well paid.

Jokull told Marik that he knew Marik used to work with the Fire Knives; Marik reluctantly confirmed the story. He said he had left them, not on very good terms, about three years ago. Marik asserted that he could still recognize some faces in the organization, though it wouldn't help to start naming names, because those changed every day. Later, after Jokull insisted on knowing exactly why he had left the Fire Knives, Marik admitted that he had been kicked out for beating up the wrong noble. Jokull then asked Marik what he could do to help find the Fire Knives in Westgate and Marik presented a few suggestions. Among other things, Marik mentioned that back in Tilverton, the guild had hidden themselves in the city's sewers, so it was possible that they done the same in Westgate as well.

Jokull told Marik to make himself comfortable and went outside to summon Iono, the Castle Thalavar Steward. After Jokull returned, Marik asked him why he was doing this - why did Jokull want to find the Fire Knives? Jokull refused to reveal his personal motives, but he showed his Purple Dragon tower shield to Marik, who, although surprised, nodded with understanding. They both agreed on the irony of an ex-Fire Knife working with a former Purple Dragon soldier. Iono arrived and, after hearing Marik's tentative commitment to work against the Fire Knives, mentioned that he believed the Fire Knives might be connected with two of Westgate's newest noble houses, Cormaeril and Bleth, both exiles from Cormyr.

After Iono left, Jokull resumed his questioning, asking Marik about his past connections with the guild. Marik tried to avoid the subject by responding with questions of his own, but eventually he was convinced to speak about his work for the Fire Knives. Marik said that, in the beginning, the jobs were quite simple. The leaders of the guild would ask him to beat up an enemy (or a client), or scare customers into paying their debts to the guild. Slowly he progressed through the lower ranks of the guild, but he never heard any details of what was going on with the higher-ups in the Knives' organization. Marik revealed that besides the usual smuggling activities and charging inns or taverns for "protection" (from the Fire Knives themselves, of course), the guild often dealt with politics, because of their connections with the nobility, and performed assassinations. Marik did not speak much more about his removal from the guild, other than that he had messed with the wrong people, and was still paying for it.

The final topic of their conversation was to determine Marik's compensation - a subject Marik had insisted on raising quite frequently. It was agreed that he would not be paid until the job was done, except regarding whatever equipment he needed for protection. When the proposal was presented to Iono, he asked Jokull what he thought of the offer and of Marik's capabilities. Jokull agreed that opposing the Fire Knives was a dangerous task, and though he wished things were different, the only option they had was working with an ex-Fire Knife. Marik added that the low number of ex-Fire Knives who could remain alive was proof enough that he was more than capable, and Iono agreed to the proposal. Jokull was relieved that he was finding aid in his quest and believed the Steel Regent, Alusair of Cormyr, would be pleased once this threat was eradicated, as would Jokull himself. Iono handed Marik a sum of gold to allow him to buy the necessary supplies for their investigation and asked that they return to the castle the afternoon of the following day to discuss details.

When Jokull asked for a suggestion regarding a good inn, Iono said that they could stay at the castle for that night. Departing the castle, Jokull lead Marik to the Market district, and they quickly found the store that Iono had indicated. While Marik went to buy a chain shirt and a scimitar, Jokull went looking for a map of the city. Once they had both bought maps, they left the store. On the street, Marik warily asked Jokull if he was known as a Purple Dragon. Jokull said that he had been a sergeant in the army and the men in his family had fought for Cormyr for many generations. However, while his fame lied mostly with his family's name, that name had been left behind in Arabel. Nevertheless, Marik was a little bothered, believing it might not be a good thing if they were seen together.

With still a few hours to go before the evening, Jokull and Marik stopped at a nearby tavern. Jokull was still unsure of Marik's intentions; Marik said that his only intention was to get enough coin to go to a peaceful place, one that was as far away as possible. If Marik could eliminate the reason for being forced to be on the run, even better. Jokull asked if he would return to Cormyr, as the kingdom still needed capable men to clear the lands of the remnants of the Goblin Wars. Jokull spoke of his kingdom with pride, but Marik indicated he did not yet know where he would go afterwards. Sitting at their table in the Black Eye tavern, they spoke of many things, until the time came to return to Castle Thalavar and get some rest after a long day. As they both knew, the next day would be even longer.
 

Carlo_One

Villager
A Baron's Thanks

Meanwhile, as the Six Points Adventuring Company approached Turnton, Brok-Tul was overcome with weakness following his ordeal. Two members of Carlin's baronial guard detail, using Brok-Tul's shield Picnic Table as a sledge, spirited him on ahead to the Temple of Helm.

The rest of the party arrived shortly afterward outside the town walls. By the entrance to the main gate was a large stone statue of a hand, sculpted in a warding gesture. Carlin was recognized by the guards and the party was let through. Disdaining a stop at the inn, the party pressed on to Baron Pahar's manor, passing the Temple of Helm and the town's general store on the way. The party noticed that there was a remarkable lack of damage in and around Turnton, given the fact it had been in a state of siege just recently. After waiting in the entrance hall, Carlin escorted the party to Pahar's audience hall, where he warmly greeted them and excused a tired Carlin.

Recent events were discussed with the Baron. Regarding the party's suggestion to go after Hallton, Pahar demurred, saying that he neither wanted to completely disrupt the balance of power, drawing unwanted attention upon himself, nor strain his limited resources. Pahar made the point that Hallton evidently had a powerful, unknown sponsor who likely had not exhausted their resources. Pahar led his tired guests to temporary quarters where they could rest and have their needs tended to. Rahnee requested that her armor be cleaned and mended. After a few hours' rest, the group reconvened in Pahar's audience hall, Rahnee arriving in a flowing green gown to the surprise and praise of the others present.

Pahar settled into his baronial chair and began to discuss rewards for the party. Visibly upset, he confessed that he had largely been bankrupted by the conflict with Hallton, and had not been a rich noble to begin with. He stated that he had relatively little to give in terms of money. Aerikoth spoke up at this point and told the baron there were other rewards than monetary sums. Pahar agreed, smiling, saying that he had thought of this and appreciated Aerikoth's observation. The baron then produced personalized writs for the four adventurers, giving them honorary captaincies in the baronial guard along with free passage and use of any of the baron's resources throughout his domain. He also mentioned that the group could keep the arms and armor they had collected from Hallton's defeated forces, although he would appreciate any donations they could make. Finally, he passed a small pouch of gold to each, saying that it was a token of his respect.

Pahar said that he had some good news for the company, and a proposition. While the baron could no longer afford to keep an adventuring company on the payroll, he had recommended their services to House Thalavar in Westgate. He explained that Thalavar, a sometime ally of his, could use the services of a relatively unknown group in order to undertake certain special assignments. The group would receive a bonus simply for discussing the prospect with Iono, the steward of Castle Thalavar. After some time for discussion, the party willingly agreed, stating they would depart for the city when Brok- Tul fully recovered. Pahar asked them to make sure to say good-bye before they departed Turnton. After departing the Manor, the party went to the general store for some provisions, including a set of new clothes for a somewhat embarrassed Aratae. Aratae headed for the local inn after his purchase, while Rahnee went to the temple to look in on Brok-Tul, and Aerikoth remained behind to talk with the merchant.

The next day, a visibly-recovered Brok-Tul, Rahnee, and Aerikoth made their final preparations to leave Turnton. Rahnee had been left a note by Aratae, saying that he was going to visit his home village and would try and catch up with them in Westgate. The three departed Turnton and made their way to Glees, where the recently-returned villagers hailed them as heroes. At the roadside inn they greeted Undt, who had returned and reopened his business. Undt was excited to see them and thanked them again for saving his inn. He pointed out where the Hallton soldiers' equipment, previously retrieved by the party, had been stacked. The three went through the equipment and picked out what they could carry, leaving the rest for the Baron's men. After they had finished sorting through the equipment and consuming a few ales gratefully provided by Undt, Undt insisted that the "heroes" say a few words to the village patrons in the inn, which included two baronial soldiers. Rahnee took the lead in speaking to the people assembled in the common room, thanking the villagers and calling Undt a hero as well for providing aid during the crisis. Brok-Tul also received some bashful attention from one of the female villagers. The party departed to the cheers of those present.

After arriving in Westgate, the group made its way back to the Gatereach Inn. Jandrico Swift greeted them and expressed his sadness at hearing of Jamorin's demise. He then asked the company what they wanted to do with a package of books that the inn's staff had found under a loose floorboard in Jamorin's room while cleaning. Rahnee claimed them, so Jandrico removed the dirty wrapper for her and handed over two books, indicating that he of course had not opened them. The weary group then went upstairs to their rooms.
 

Carlo_One

Villager
Audience at Castle Thalavar

In the morning, Rahnee gave Jandrico Swift a note to courier to Castle Thalavar that informed Iono of their arrival. After breakfast, the courier returned with a message that the group was expected at the castle at their earliest convenience. When the party attempted to settle the bill for the night, Swift indicated that he would carry them on account if they planned to continue staying there, as they were trusted patrons.

At the castle, once Rahnee gave her name and that of the company, the guard allowed them to enter. Iono greeted them in the entrance hall, expressing his sadness at the loss of Jamorin and for the demise of Baron Pahar’s messenger, who had accompanied them in departing Westgate. Iono then led the group to an empty side chamber, where he gave them a short, private briefing on two people they were about to meet: Jokull, a well-respected former soldier of Cormyr, and Marik, a former Fire Knife. The party then accompanied Iono to the audience hall, where Jokull and Marik were sitting, and made introductions.

Iono began by indicating that the two Thalavar guards in the chamber were of the highest honor and would not speak of their discussion to anyone else, nor should the group. He then asked Marik to tell his tale. Marik, originally from Tilverton, explained he had been kicked out of the Fire Knives in Cormyr and had spent the last few years wandering, ending up in Westgate. He had awoken the previous day in Castle Thalavar, having been kidnapped by Thalavar agents, and after some discussion with Iono and Jokull had been made an offer to assist them against the Fire Knives in Westgate. Marik had been unaware that the guild was in Westgate and was not happy to hear of their presence, although he was willing enough to assist House Thalavar against them - in return for compensation.

Iono continued, saying that he considered the Fire Knives the most urgent threat facing House Thalavar, given the guild's vendetta against Cormyr and House Thalavar's close business ties to its Obarskyr rulers. Two exiled Cormyrian noble houses, Bleth and Cormaeril, now resided in Westgate and were suspected of sponsoring the Fire Knives. It was Iono's idea to put together a small band of adventurers, unconnected to House Thalavar, to identify and help neutralize the threat. He stated that their group was yet well-known in Westgate, a considerable advantage in this respect, and each member could bring unique skills and talents to the task. In response to some doubtful questions from Brok-Tul, Iono promised to discuss compensation and details of the mission and what was specifically known about the Fire Knives, but indicated he first wanted to know if the Six Points Adventuring Company would be interested in the task; for their own reasons, Jokull and Marik had already agreed to help. Brok-Tul, Rahnee, and Aerikoth agreed to discuss the matter and moved to the back of the chamber for some privacy. As Iono took his seat, he watched the discussion across the room begin.
 

Carlo_One

Villager
Rahnee quietly studied her two companions for a moment or two and then finally said, "He is right that nobody knows us here. That would leave us a lot of latitude. And it is not necessarily a bad thing to have a noble patron. The Gods only know that it's worked for the Roaringhorn Clan time and again - in both directions. I tend to think we invite ourselves to the party." Her eyes twinkled and she shrugged. "Besides which, what else do we have planned?"

Brok-Tul rose and went with Rahnee and Aerikoth to the back of the room, but from his facial expression seemed to be certain they would be heard anyway. Also, with some surprise, he looked back at the two others who were to join them, and frowned. "If they're gonna join us, they better do it now so we can parley reward as a team. If we all go together on our rewards, we'll trust each other more. I don't like that Fire-Knife. He's way too lackadaisical. Just knowing he got himself caught by Thalavar's men is disturbing enough to doubt his skills. If he got caught by Thalavar, he'll get caught by the Knives again and coerced to betray our plans. Better to take Thalavar's offer, come up with a reward, and investigate what Thalavar really wants from us, not just what he tells us. We're being set up, I can feel it."

Aerikoth stood calmly as he listened to first Rahnee and then Brok-Tul, his expression emotionless as they spoke. His relaxed demeanor remained as he put forth his own thoughts in a tone that sounded as indifferent as if he were bartering for produce at the market. "I wonder why they need us. I would think that a true noble and potent house would not rely on a relatively unknown group, such as we are presently, to handle, as Iono stated, House Thalavar's greatest threat. No, I would think a truly powerful house would crush those that threaten them, but then again the ways of some are completely alien to me." Aerikoth's eyes narrowed and looked distant as he thought for a moment in silence. When he next spoke his voice and expression remained icy calm. "I am in agreement with Lady Roaringhorn on taking Iono up on his offer. We can always change our minds and if nothing else it may create some opportunities that are not evident presently."

Rahnee interjected, "Of course we are being set up, Brok-Tul. I think that is a given any time you deal with a noble house." Her smile was self-mocking. "It is obvious that House Thalavar wants something done that it cannot do - for whatever reason. It may be as simple as its known agents are being watched, and countered, whereas we, the unknown mouse in the pantry, can slip through the shadows to play in the grain. I too do not trust the Fire Knife, Brok-Tul, but perhaps that can be turned to our advantage somehow."

Rahnee studied Iono and the two men across the room. "It is apparent that Iono has already reached a deal with those two. Whatever our fee may be will come separately from that, I think. But you both speak with wisdom. We are in agreement then?" Brok-Tul snorted in response. "On the takin' the job, yeah. On the reward, no. I want my armor an' shield completely refitted and enchanted, and my weapon too before we go. Afterwards, I'll expect a nice house on the city's outskirts, a small title with a nice place to start renting out for some revenue. Plus a thousand gold. We're taking on an entire hidden network of assassins, after all." Rahnee stared at the big half-orc in stunned amazement and then began to chuckle quietly. "Fine, Brok-Tul, I'll add that to the negotiations. Aerikoth, what would you consider fair recompense, based on what we do not know about the real task?"

Suddenly an arrested look crossed her face. "Ahh, why not? What if Clan Roaringhorn had sent an envoy to Westgate to investigate getting the appropriate patents, whatever, to open up a trading house here? Even if these other Houses teleport someone to Waterdeep to check on the story, I am covered. Clan Roaringhorn IS a member of Waterdhavian nobility after all." Her eyes sparkled as her mind churned. "We get House Thalavar to set us up with a house and whatever else is necessary. Then we can work both sides of this problem: the nobility as well as the dark streets. And if I am recognized from my earlier searches for information, tis simple enough a response. I was here early testing the market, subtly and quietly. Hmm…the Lady Roaringhorn with her entourage that includes her personal wizard, her bodyguard…Brok, just how well known ARE you here in Westgate? Any potential problems?" Grinning, she added, "And of course the house could be part of our payment. It would give us a base of operations here in Westgate."

One of Aerikoth's eyebrows raised slightly as he heard the thoughts and ideas for payment come issuing forth from his comrades. "I shall wait to hear what the steward has to say when regarding compensation for our efforts. At that time I shall make any requests I may have for alterations as needed to suit my desires. I am sure those he serves have an idea of what they plan to offer." The short, olive-skinned man then glanced at both his comrades for a moment and spoke in a calm, almost apathetic voice. "Your ideas have a modicum of merit but I think it might be in our best interest to see what is expected of us and then to hear what House Thalavar offers as remuneration. I am not overly familiar with the ways of the aristocracy of these northern lands but I can easily see how demanding certain payments might be misconstrued as an insult. In my opinion we should wait to hear what the exacting details of the task are and what our employer is willing to offer."

Nodding to Aerikoth's words, Brok-Tul turned back to Rahnee. "I can be your bodyguard: good cover story. Fits in with what Helm wants of me anyway. And…the Masks don't want me comin' near 'em, an' have me on blackout. So I can't expect their help. I'm pretty well-known on my blocks, an' am sure one out of ten agents would recognize me from the old days. I could pass as another half-orc though if I use the refit of my gear as a disguise, and wear a helmet in public." He nodded also to Rahnee and then looked over to Iono. His eyes were thoughtful, concerned.

Rahnee commented, "And if you are recognized, Brok-Tul, then it's simple enough - you're running a con game on that poor dumb stupid noblewoman." Nodding decisively at Aerikoth's words, Rahnee added, "All right, let us see what House Thalavar really wants from us." Stepping between the two men, she sauntered languidly towards Iono. "Six Points accepts your commission, sir. Of course, that acceptance does depend on the final negotiated fee." Her smile was friendly, slightly wicked, but her eyes were serious as she looked at the Steward.
 

Carlo_One

Villager
Iono smiled with pleasure. "Indeed, I am glad to hear that your company is interested in undertaking this mission. Call your compatriots over and I shall discuss what House Thalavar is willing to do to support you. I shall also offer you what information we have on the threat posed by the Fire Knives - and exactly what we expect of you." Iono pulled a sealed letter from a pouch. "Before I forget, Lady Roaringhorn, we received a missive for you recently, please take this."

After taking a seat in one of the chairs, Rahnee cast a quick look at the sealed message - a look that was enough to cause her to break the seal and open the message. As Iono began speaking, Rahnee's eyes quickly followed her brother's almost illegible handwriting. At the end, she refolded the parchment and slipped it into a small pocket on the backside of her swordbelt. Her face remained politely interested as she languidly crossed her legs to rest a booted foot on the opposite knee. But her fingers fluttered across her raised knee and then rapped twice against the the dagger hilt barely seen above the top of her boot, and her eyelids were half-closed as she looked at Brok-Tul. *Interesting news*

Brok-Tul came over once he saw Rahnee sit, and sat next to her in a chair. After watching her read the note, he furrowed his hairy brows at her expression and reaction. Noting her lidded eyes, he nodded and then reverted his attention back to Iono. "Well, I see that you are indeed interested, for which I am pleased," said Iono, who appeared satisfied and slightly relieved. "I will discuss exact compensation with your adventuring company in private. However, I shall discuss what House Thalavar is willing to provide all of you in this endeavor." Iono cleared his throat.

"First, supporting a base of operations. Castle Thalavar and any Thalavar holdings are out of the question, since they would link you to us. However, I believe your group can relatively easily find reasonable long-term lodgings, preferably private, which we will compensate you for. Second, we will advance a portion of your fee for you to purchase additional personal equipment. Third, any major expenses you may have that are of great importance to your success, you may submit for reimbursement, at my discretion."

Iono's tone hardened. "Now, I shall talk more of what House Thalavar wishes in this matter." He went on to describe in detail how a certain Captain Yar, one of Thalavar's most trusted ship captains in the Westgate-Cormyr trade, had been killed two weeks prior, his corpse found by the House Ssemm docks in the Harbor Loop district. On the body, placed in plain view, was a fancy playing card bearing an image of a dagger, oriented point down, and surrounded by flame. Rumors recently heard about a resurgence of the Fire Knives and their old vendetta against the ruling Obarskyrs of Cormyr appear to have been confirmed by this act, as the card carried the unmistakable symbol of the assassins' guild.
"It was clearly intended to send a message," continued Iono. "The body otherwise could have simply been dumped in the harbor. We interpret it as a clear warning to any, particularly our House, who wish to have strong ties to Cormyr, business or otherwise. As business with Cormyr accounts for a considerable amount of our income, this is very worrisome, as you can imagine." Iono paused for breath. "We already have increased security for our operations and are on the alert for anything suspicious. However, we need information about our enemy in order to eliminate the threat. Who in Westgate houses the Fire Knives? Where is their headquarters? What are their plans? Why choose now to strike and in this fashion? House Thalavar is not without resources to defend itself, but must know where and how to strike. Our own agents, unfortunately, may be too well known for this task. And..." Iono's voice darkened as he paused. "We cannot know if we ourselves have been penetrated by Fire Knives. Only with a group brought in from the outside, such as yourselves, can we be sure of this."

"I understand that some of you may need to attend to other matters before embarking on this mission, as this will, I expect, take your full attention once you begin. We will also need to agree on a method of secret communication, to avoid having you come to Castle Thalavar so often. If I may make a suggestion, you as a group should consider adopting a new name, at least for this mission, which you can use to refer to yourselves in communiques." Iono concluded, "I shall of course entertain any questions by the group and, when Lady Rahnee, Aerikoth, and Brok-Tul are ready, privately talk of their fee."
 

Carlo_One

Villager
Jokull adjusted himself on his chair and began to speak. "As I said, Cormyr is particularly vulnerable since last year. The kingdom has not yet fully recovered from the Goblin Wars. Many have died, one of our greatest cities is in ruins, and beasts roam the countryside. We do not have enough men to both rebuild our defenses and stand up against those who strike from the shadows. If that was not enough, so-called noble families have commited outright treason, and King Azoun IV was killed. Her Highness Princess Alusair now struggles day by day to bring Cormyr to its former glory, but the situation is dire nevertheless. That is why these traitors and...murderers...that call themselves Fire Knives have chosen to strike at this time. That it why they will try to bring every one of Cormyr's allies and acquaintances to ruin." Jokull hesitated for a moment, looking into Iono's eyes, and continued. "But you may rest assured, I will not allow any further harm to come to Cormyr or House Thalavar."

Rahnee explained to the group that the sealed letter passed to her by Iono was from her brother and required her to attend to urgent family business over the next day or so. She planned to check back with Iono regarding how to contact the group, or would ask at the Gatereach Inn. Rahnee told Brok-Tul and Aerikoth to negotiate in her absence regarding compensation, although she would want to sign off on any final deal. Meanwhile, Marik, having already reached his own deal with Iono, headed off to, as he put it, "settle up a few things." He planned to recontact the group at the Gatereach Inn, not wanting to enter Castle Thalavar again.

Iono stated that he hoped they were satisfied with the offer of a reasonable accommodations for the group, grimacing when Brok-Tul raised the prospect of a manor and servants. Iono said he would leave it up to the group to find something suitable and suggested talking to Jandrico Swift as a starting point, since he was known for quality services and discretion with clients. Before making his offer to the group, Iono told Jokull that he would receive the same compensation as the others, although Jokull was pursuing this mission for his own personal reasons. Jokull said he wouldn't need any additional compensation, but Iono stated that House Thalavar had sufficient resources to reward him properly for his work. Iono then laid out his offer: 1,000 gold for the mission, with 500 gold provided in advance, and plain, untraceable magical daggers for each adventurer. The group agreed, with Aerikoth complimenting Iono on the munificence and generosity of House Thalavar.

Aerikoth raised the question of how communications would be handled with Iono or another Thalavar agent, given the need to operate in secrecy. Iono indicated he still needed to finalize his plans; however, he told the group a secret location would be established where messages and small items could be left by Thalavar agents for the group and vice versa. It was agreed to prepare a suitable location at the outskirts of the city; when Rahnee returned to speak with Iono, he would pass her the details. Iono also recommended that the group adopt a new name, at least for the duration of the mission. That way, in an emergency the group could have a sealed letter delivered for Iono's eyes only at the castle and signed under the new, previously unknown name. Iono apologized for the elaborate precaution, but explained, his face darkening, that it was necessary given the possibility that House Thalavar had been penetrated by the Fire Knives.

Iono then provided further guidance for the mission against the Fire Knives. House Thalavar's objective was to unmask the Fire Knives in Westgate, discover their hideout and who, specifically, was sponsoring them. Going further, Iono wanted to understand why the Fire Knives had chosen to take their battle with Cormyr to the docks of Westgate, murdering Captain Yar. Iono made it clear that the mission was not to eliminate the Knives, but rather their threat to House Thalavar in Westgate - a distinction understood well by Aerikoth, but one that made Jokull visibly unhappy. Once House Thalavar had the full picture, Iono said it would take the "necessary measures." Should the group have suggestions as to the form of these measures, Thalavar would of course consider them.

After sending one of the guards to fetch the magic daggers, Iono outlined some additional information for the group. Detailed information on Captain Yar's murder was being scribed and would be given to Rahnee when she next saw Iono. The exiled Cormyrian houses, Bleth and Cormaeril, were fingered as probable sponsors of the Fire Knives. House Bleth was based in the South Gate district, residing at the Blue Banner Inn while their castle was being built at a nearby site. Cormaeril's castle was on the northwestern edge of the city, adjacent to a wooded vale. After some additional discussion, Iono distributed the advance payments and daggers and asked that Tymora smile upon their deeds.

Aerikoth separated from the group once outside the castle, promising to meet them in several hours at the Gatereach Inn. Brok-Tul and Jokull proceeded to the Gatereach, devising a plan to have Jokull meet and befriend Brok-Tul by "accident" at the inn in order to better conceal their mission. Once at the inn, Brok-Tul asked Jandrico Swift about possible permanent lodgings, given Brok-Tul's impending "retirement" and possible future business involving the reworking of martial equipment. Jandrico showed Brok-Tul the Gatereach guest house, which had been empty for several months, and the two stuck a preliminary deal. Aerikoth arrived, sporting a new set of robes, and the three briefly discussed Brok-Tul's pending deal.
 

Carlo_One

Villager
Campaign Chronicles: interlude from "C"

I stopped reading and shut the leather cover of the journal, as it would shortly be time for my evening meditations. After the party's rather disastrous battle with the Hallton forces, they seemed to have recovered well, and even managed to strike a favorable deal with House Thalavar. I appreciated seeing the detailed thought put into the negotiations with the Westgate noble house - I shall remember these considerations for any similar future dealings I may have.

While it was heartening to read of Turnton's unscathed nature after the Hallton siege, I found it strange and not congruent with the story being told, that of an outmatched barony barely holding its own against its neighbor. What had truly happened during the battle there? I also found the reference to the statue of the Hand at Turnton's gates intriguing.

My predecessor "R" was silent in his thoughts during the previous section. Of course, with the party now focused on the Fire Knife threat, they had seemed to forget about other problems. I wonder what was in Jamorin's hidden books, for example...
 

Carlo_One

Villager
First Steps

Aerikoth had again departed on his own business and Marik was still tying up loose ends when Rahnee returned to the Gatereach Inn. Jokull also had recently returned, having made a short foray into the sewers to reconnoiter for a possible Fire Knives hideout; all he found were some diseased rats, which he was forced to dispatch. Brok-Tul expressed surprise at the results of Jokull’s expedition, since under the old Night Masks the sewers had been known for being deadly with traps and other dangers. Brok-Tul took the opportunity to seal the deal with Jandrico Swift for leasing the Gatereach's guest house. Terms of the lease were 400 gold per month for three months, each month's payment due at the beginning of the month. Any of those staying at the guest house would also have their existing account at the Gatereach taken care of. Jandrico passed over four keys to the house at Brok-Tul's request. Brok-Tul kept up a running patter about plans for his "customizing business," which Jandrico politely listened to while finishing the paperwork.

While examining the guesthouse, Rahnee filled the others in on her discussion that day with Iono of House Thalavar. Most importantly, he had spoken to her about the secret message location, imparting the following directions: from the southwest corner of the Spitting Cockatrice compound, located in the district outside West Gate, walk 10 paces west to a spruce tree. From there, walk 2 paces north, and 6 paces west. An old tree was there, with a hollow space where a knot would normally be. Jokull's wish to write down the information was denied by Rahnee, in the interests of secrecy. The group decided to visit the location, in order to fix it in their mind. As cover for their trip to the area, they stopped first at the Spitting Cockatrice, an inn catering to well-heeled merchants. Brok-Tul had the idea of advertising for his "business" as additional cover. While there, he queried the innkeeper - who was somewhat taken aback by the half-orc’s approach - whether a notice about the business could be posted. After receiving multiple "no's", and drawing some attention from the inn's guards, Brok-Tul deferred to Rahnee. She smoothed over the notice issue and asked the innkeeper if he knew of a good scribe or crier. He recommended checking the Temple District for a temple scribe and looking in the Market for a crier.

Rahnee, in need of a map, led the group to Shalush Myrkeer's sprawling shop in the Market district. Brok-Tul asked for an appointment with Shalush and was politely refused multiple times by the assistant, with the half-orc again drawing guards' attention. Rahnee stepped in, explaining that she was visiting nobility from Waterdeep in search of new business to conduct. The shop assistant indicated that Mr. Myrkeer was always glad to make time for visiting nobility and would inform Rahnee regarding her appointment on the following day. Rahnee thanked the man and said she would send a messenger the next day, walking out with a regal bearing, Brok-Tul and Jokull in her wake. The group then went to the Temple district and entered Fortuneboon Hall, the temple of Tymora, in search of a scribe.

After some time, the entire group - Aerikoth Ankharat, Jokull of Arabael, Rahnee Roaringhorn, Brok-Tul, and Marik Tann - found their separate ways back to the Gatereach Inn. Aerikoth and Marik, at Brok-Tul's direction, received keys to the Gatereach guesthouse from the unfailingly polite Jandrico Swift. Jandrico however refused Brok-Tul's request to place traps near the guest house, citing potential problems with his clientele. After moving themselves to a more private gathering-spot, the first floor guesthouse’s master bedroom, the group conferred about what they knew so far. Marik related a tale he had obtained from an "independent source" that corroborated what Iono, the Castle Thalavar steward, had told the rest of the group about Houses Bleth and Cormaeril and the murder of a Thalavar ship captain. Marik also noted that the City Watch was keeping quiet about the incident and added that the Thalavars had a reputation for honest dealing. Rahnee mentioned the existence of the secret message drop near the Spitting Cockatrice to Aerikoth and Marik and promised to show them where it was. Tired from their activities, the group separated, after some discussion regarding which rooms each would take. Rahnee and Brok-Tul ended up with the master bedroom, while the others took individual rooms upstairs. (Well, now it seems more clear why the Lady Roaringhorn puts up with the antics of the half-orc, who should probably give many thanks to Tymora for his blessing. --R) Aerikoth selected one with a window.
 
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Carlo_One

Villager
The next day, the party gathered downstairs, then headed to the Gatereach for breakfast. A bleary-looking Rahnee demanded tea, which was provided by the indefatigable Jandrico Swift. Jandrico told Brok-Tul, in response to a question, that the group could install a bathtub and small kitchen in the guest house if they liked. Janatha, a pretty young woman previously not encountered by the group at the Gatereach, brought a serving-tray of tea to their table. Brok-Tul asked her if she could tell him if anyone from Houses Bleth or Cormaeril came to the inn, which she agreed to readily, but then became puzzled when Brok-Tul also asked her not to tell them of the group's presence. Brok-Tul explained that he simply wanted to approach them himself, if they came to the inn. She agreed politely, although after she left the party overheard her in the distance asking Jandrico if it was all right to follow Brok-Tul's instructions. (Janatha's introduction shows her to be a somewhat naive girl, although intelligent enough to not simply follow the half-orc's instructions. --R)

Aerikoth commented on Rahnee and Brok-Tul's voracious appetites and queried if there was a particular reason for it. After some banter about the possibilities, Brok-Tul mentioned that he had a book which belonged to a slain comrade that should be identified. Following some additional wolfing of food, the group adjourned to the guesthouse for privacy. Brok-Tul, at Rahnee's bidding, showed the group the copy of the official City Watch report on the murder of Captain Yar, originally given to Rahnee by Iono. The report tracked with Iono and Marik's accounts and added details about how the body was found near the Ssemm docks in the Harbor Loop. The party debated for some time the merits of presenting themselves as mercenaries to the two suspect Houses, with Marik's possible notoreity as a former Fire Knife being something of a sticking point. The desire to set up Brok-Tul's cover business was also discussed. In the end, it was decided that they should split up, with Jokull and Marik - acting as Rahnee's "major-domos" - going to confirm her appointment at Shalush Myrkeer's for the following day at hour 10.

Meanwhile, Brok-Tul, Rahnee, and Aerikoth went to the Westward Eye to try and get additional information out of Jard, the Mercenaries Guild recruiter. Jard cheerfully agreed to have some glasses of Westgate Ruby bought for him by Rahnee while they engaged in conversation. Jard also remembered Aerikoth as being part of the group who had won the original Amee Pass outpost contract offered by Baron Pahar. Expressing his appreciation for their deeds, Jard noted that none of the others who had accompanied Aerikoth appeared to be around. Rahnee explained their absence as the "turn of the coin." (I wonder - is it truly due to providence that none of Aerikoth's companions remain from the campaign against the necromancer? There are still questions to be answered there. --C)

Rahnee then, rather disingenuously, informed Jard that the company was without a contract and that she had heard some of the Houses - for example, Bleth and Cormaeril - might be hiring, although she understood most didn't usually recruit outside talent. Jard confirmed that fact with a chuckle, noting that the original contract with Baron Pahar, for example, had been on behalf of a minor rural noble who was less choosy about what mercenary groups he employed. Regarding Bleth and Cormaeril, Jard indicated he hadn't heard anything unusual about their hiring efforts, but added with a wink that since it was Guild business, he wouldn't talk to outsiders about it if he had. In response to Rahnee's question about what it took to join the Mercenaries Guild, Jard told her it required three things: a year of probation, during which they had to accept any contract given them by the Guild, although they could opt out of one of their choosing; a bond of 100 gold per person; and their first assignment to be on behalf of the Guild and uncompensated, as a sort of "test run." Jard told Rahnee if she were serious, to go to Guild headquarters in East Gate and ask to speak to Varen Malavhan, who was in charge of recruiting.

After departing, the three agreed that joining the Guild at that time was unwise, although they were split regarding the fairness of the terms. Aerikoth thought the terms were preposterous, although Rahnee stated they were more or less normal for a professional mercenary company in a large city. The three headed to the Market district to stop by Aurora's Emporium on an errand for the Roaringhorn clan. Marik found them there, while returning from his own errand to Shalush Myrkeer's shop, and informed Rahnee that her appointment with Shalush had been confirmed. He also mentioned that Jokull had gone off on "other business." Marik had taken the initiative to walk by the Ssemm docks area and told the group that there was a sewer entrance very close to where Captain Yar's body had been found. Marik said he had poked around in the sewers, encountered a large spider, and decided to come back up. (The sewers of Westgate contain many ills. --R) (This is something I shall mark well for the future, should I find myself there. --C)
 
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Carlo-One

Villager
Campaign Chronicles: interlude from "C"

The intervening months since I last took up this pen have been...unusual, to say the least. Departing the monastery and journeying on behalf of the Order as a senior initiate is not something that is supposed to occur. And yet, I was thrown (if that is the correct word) into a mission nonetheless, which took me far from here. This was a valuable lesson in itself: to not assume that the Order's rules are immutable, at least when comes a time of great need. It gave me the insight that one should follow the Order's purpose and craft rules to serve that purpose, rather than follow rules blindly. As a lesser initiate, it was the rules one was taught (and punished for breaking) that were central to life. I believe this is still a necessary process, but my eyes have been opened further as to how the world really works.

As to the mission, it was indeed fortunate that I was sent along, as the only member of the Order who understands the Draconic language. The mission leader afterwards praised my efforts, furthermore hinting that I might find antecedents of the situation contained within these Chronicles. I may say no more about what occurred, for that is a different story, but I am eager once again to take up this final exercise, to see what lessons it contains and how it sheds light on the Order's mission today.
 

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