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The Westgate Campaign Chronicles - serial

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Over breakfast, Rahnee somewhat shamefacedly informed Aerikoth that she and the others had decided to go to Teziir, in order to seek out Carlin or another priest that could give her an answer about the effects of embalming on Brok-Tul and Veran’s heads. Aerikoth informed Jokull that the spell Jokull had desired would be ready in the afternoon. The wizard then observed that, given the type of magic that would be required to bring their deceased comrades back to life, the condition of their remains would not matter. Rahnee, nonplussed, commented that the priest of Gond she had consulted the previous day had not known that, asking her to come back instead to consult with the High Priestess. Aerikoth said that he would be surprised if no one in Westgate could perform a resurrection - for the right price.

After some further discussion, Aerikoth said that he would not be against a trip to Teziir, in part because he was curious as to what had become of DeeDee (aka Melissa). After Rahnee had briefly explained her role in defeating the lich Ashnakzeroth to Darrow and Dinendal, Aerikoth commented to Jokull that he had received word, via his familiar Zeluth, that Jamal wished to meet him that night, at the place they had first met. Jokull declared that he would therefore stay in Westgate, while the others went to Teziir, brushing off Dinendal’s expressed desire to meet Jamal along with Jokull. In response to Jokull’s questions, Aerikoth noted that a time had not been specified, but it would presumably be after dark, at the Rising Raven Annex. Darrow, meanwhile, engaged the others in a discussion on the best place in Westgate to start a bar fight.

Looking as if he had a sudden revelation, Jokull leaned forward and asked Aerikoth “Where is the place where light and darkness meet?” Dinendal broke in and said that it was an old riddle with the answer “shadow.” The elf then told Jokull of lore he knew regarding how to get to the Plane of Shadow, while Rahnee listened with a bemused expression on her face. Jokull hesitated for a moment before declaring that of course he had no interest in going there, thanking Dinendal for the information. Aerikoth asked Jokull why he wished to know this, observing that in contrast to Dinendal’s response, it might warrant a metaphorical answer. Jokull said that it was just something that he needed to know, then quickly changed the subject.

After some further discussion, it was decided to go to the Mercenaries Guild to register the new companions as part of Helm’s Shadows, as well as to see what new jobs were available. Before departing the Gatereach compound, Dinendal went off a short distance with Rahnee and cast a cantrip on the two heads in her possession. At the Guild, Rahnee registered Belle - who still had not returned - Darrow, and Dinendal; the Guild also required a 100 gold bonding fee per person.

The guild clerk, Tara, informed them that a new 1,200 gold contract was available for the exploration of the overland route to Starmantle, to determine if it was passable again. The only other open contract was the standing one with the Quivering Thumb, which would pay 100 gold for any rare or magical beast brought in alive. In response to a question from Rahnee, Tara noted that most of the special contracts had dried up in advance of the elections, but the guild expected business to pick up again afterwards. As no deadline was given, the group decided to pass on the Starmantle contract for the time being.

As they were departing the Guild, Aerikoth excused himself for some personal business. While the rest were on their way back to the guest house, they stopped for a moment outside the Black Eye, where a man approached them - Khair, a previous acquaintance. Rahnee introduced him to Darrow and Dinendal. Addressing Jokull, the mercenary said that he had decided to seek them out to see if, as discussed during their last meeting, the group had need of his skills. Jokull indicated that he would in fact be seeking Khair’s help soon enough. Khair told him that he could be found at the Black Eye at midnight, whenever he was needed, then faded away into the empty streets.

The group stopped into the Black Eye for a drink, where Darrow tried his best to get in a bar fight, but was unsuccessful. Afterwards, Rahnee detoured briefly to the temple of Gond, where she informed the priest on duty she would not be keeping her appointment with the High Artificer. Back at the guest house, the group broke out their equipment and then set out for the Seven Hills area, with the idea of scouting it for ambush sites, wandering around the countryside for a while before hitting upon the correct path. Darrow and Dinendal were shown the old underground lair of Ashnakzeroth and discussed with the others the best way to surprise the Red Wizard, should he be lured there the night of Alturiak 8 according to their plan.

(It seems that the company has more than one piece of unfinished business, the Red Wizard's presence in Westgate being one of them. It must be difficult for such a diverse group to choose what path to pursue, especially when certain ones among them, such as Jokull and Aerikoth, actively pursue personal agendas away from the others. With the loss of Brok-Tul and Veran fresh in their minds, Rahnee's insistence on going to Teziir to find a priest to help is understandable. However, I fear that the wizard's complacency over finding someone with the ability to resurrect their lost comrades using just their heads is misplaced. Such a feat is quite rare among priests, even more so than those who are able to raise a completely intact body. --C)
 

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Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Late afternoon of Alturiak 2 saw Dinendal and Darrow back at the Gatereach, where they ran into Aerikoth briefly and discussed their explorations that day. The mage, for his part, seemed little interested in hashing out detailed plans, choosing instead to head back to his room at the guest house. The other two returned shortly afterwards as well and were talking with Jokull in the first floor room when Rahnee walked in, complaining that she had had to go all the way into the city for some tea.

Aerikoth a short time later came down the stairs and joined them, saying that he was ready to take them at any time to Teziir, should they still wish to travel there. Rahnee indicated that she did and would feel better as soon as she could speak with Carlin; meanwhile, Jokull affirmed that he would be staying in Westgate. As they made ready to travel, Rahnee momentarily panicked, unable to locate the magic bag with the heads of Brok-Tul and Veran, but then Jokull reminded her she had given it to him earlier for safekeeping.

Rahnee in preparation for the magical trip had changed into her dress and minimal equipment, but Aerikoth had to remind Darrow and Dinendal to remove their armor and weapons, otherwise they would be too weighty for the spell. Darrow took advantage of Rahnee’s offer to put his looted Hallton armor in her bag of holding and Dinendal did the same with his lute. With the wizard’s three traveling companions now ready and touching hands, Aerikoth closed his eyes and spoke several words of power, the four vanishing as soon as he had finished.

They arrived in Teziir’s Traders District a moment later, appearing outside the door of Council member Queron Ulanthar’s home, a place Aerikoth knew well. The other three congratulated the wizard on a spell well cast, no doubt glad to have materialized with all their body parts where they should be. After asking directions from passersby to the city temples, which were in the Council District, the group finally arrived at the large and imposing Temple of Helm. Rahnee inquired after High Cleric Carlin, only to receive confused looks, but was then directed to Thyxlys Jon, the head of the temple.

After the group was announced, they entered his quarters and Rahnee introduced Darrow and Dinendal; she and Aerikoth were already known to the cleric from their previous visit to Teziir. Regarding Carlin, Thyxlys Jon told them that he had departed the city that morning, bound for Turnton. Jon expressed surprise that they had not encountered Carlin on the road, leading the group to contemplate out loud the irony of their journey. In response to a question from Rahnee about Melissa’s status, Jon indicated that she remained at the temple, still unconscious. The cleric of Helm was blunt in telling them that he disagreed with Carlin’s hope of healing Melissa and that he would prefer simply to have done with the situation by putting an end to her and any evil associated with her. However, Jon said that he would honor Carlin’s wishes on the matter, for now.

Rahnee then turned to the matter of Brok-Tul and Veran’s deaths and inquired about the possibility of bringing them back, describing what had been done to their bodies. Jon confirmed that for a cleric of great power, only a part of a body would be required in order to cast a resurrection spell, but he stated that he did not have such power himself. Regarding Veran, Jon commented that as a monk of Kelemvor, it would be unlikely that he would wish to return from his judgment, in any event. Rahnee agreed, saying that she thought Veran felt fulfilled by his mission against the lich Ashnakzeroth. (I have no doubt that this was the case for Brother Veran, who was a great warrior in the struggle against abomination. I similarly have little doubt that the Order's leadership would frown upon one of us perpetually dodging our audience in front of Kelemvor's throne. --R)

Turning back to the topic of Brok-Tul’s fate, Rahnee, visibly upset, asked the cleric if it was wrong for her to not give up on the idea of returning Brok-Tul to life. Jon replied by saying it was for her to decide, not him, but that he would send word to sister temples to see if any assistance was available; he cautioned her, however, to not expect a timely response. Dinendal attempted to help by bringing up the legendary cleric Cadderly, but was ignored by Jon, who evidently had something on his mind. Jon at this point indicated he wished to speak privately with Rahnee and remained in his chambers with her for several minutes while the others waited outside.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Once Rahnee emerged from Thyxlys Jon’s chambers, she rejoined Aerikoth, Darrow and Dinendal and they were escorted out of the temple of Helm. The four then found their way back to Queron Ulanthar’s residence, only to discover that neither he nor Janatha was at home. They then went in search of an inn for the night. After some debate, the four ended up staying at the Two Swords Inn, found in the Bayside district, largely because Darrow liked the fact its name had the word “swords” in it. Aerikoth for his part was satisfied because he could get a room to himself.

The morning of Alturiak 3, the group roused themselves and headed for Traders District, to see if Queron Ulanthar or his daughter Janatha were available that morning. Once they arrived at the house, Queron’s servant Bustable ushered them in, mentioning that there was a Council meeting a little later that morning, but that Queron had left word for the adventurers to be admitted. While waiting for Queron, Aerikoth intently studied a large amethyst sphere in the house study, but tripped an alarm when he touched it for closer examination. Queron’s guards responded quickly and demanded to know what the wizard was doing, as his companions arrived on the scene to find out what was happening. The guards were suspicious, but merely asked Aerikoth to return to the foyer and noted that they would have to inform their master.

Back in the foyer, Darrow half-jokingly inquired if the liquor cabinet were similarly alarmed, then joined Dinendal in pouring himself a drink. Queron arrived shortly thereafter, only to be taken aback by the appearance of a magic shield around Dinendal. The elf quickly explained that he had purchased a shield brooch in Calimshan that was irritatingly sensitive. Queron was introduced to Dinendal and Darrow by Rahnee and then greeted Aerikoth, mentioning to the group that Janatha was unavailable, as she was at the country estate of one of his Council colleagues.

Queron inquired after the latest news and happenings in Westgate, which were reviewed by Rahnee with some commentary from Dinendal. Queron invited the adventurers to come visit again after the Westgate elections, saying that there would be much to discuss. He then excused himself to attend the Council meeting and the group, after finishing their drinks, also departed the house. Once outside, Aerikoth made sure that everyone was ready for his teleport spell and then transported the four to the main room at the Gatereach guesthouse. Jokull was not in when they arrived, so Dinendal turned to examining the empty chest seized from Hallton, along with the ciphered message found in his manor.

Rahnee, after looking pensive for a little while, told the group that she wished to inform them about her conversation with Thyxlys Jon in Teziir. She explained to her companions that Jon had shared his concerns with her about High Cleric Carlin, following what had happened during the Ritual of the Hand in Turnton, and wished her to keep on eye on him. For Dinendal’s benefit, she explained what had happened with the lich Ashnakzeroth and his former servant Melissa, including the suspicion that something had gone awry in Carlin’s ritual. Dinendal enterprisingly copied the ciphered note while the others debated the group’s possible next steps. It was noted that they had five days before their encounter with the Red Wizard in Westgate, if their plans went as expected.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Later that morning, Jokull returned to the guest house and found the others there. Rahnee fetched Aerikoth from his room so that all could hear what Jokull had to say regarding his previous night’s meeting with Jamal. Jokull mentioned that she looked “different” now, commenting that it was no doubt due to a Harper spell that was designed to disguise her appearance. Dinendal inquired about who else knew that she was a Harper, and was told by Jokull that he only could be sure of their own group. In response to a question from Rahnee, Jokull said that the meeting was mostly concerned about the Red Wizard. He preferred not to discuss details, but did say that the Harpers were obviously interested in the situation and intended to make sure that the group’s actions had the desired effect. (One should always be wary of the prospects of the Harpers becoming involved in a situation. Even if there are good intentions behind their actions - which I submit may be open to interpretation - the outcome may not be to everyone's benefit. --R)

Jokull then asked to be informed about how the others had fared in Teziir. Darrow offered a pithy summation from his point of view, which was not necessarily appreciated by Aerikoth and Rahnee. Rahnee gave a lengthier account of their time in the city, focusing on what they had learned from Thyxlys Jon, the head of the Helm temple. She also declared that she planned to return Brok-Tul and Veran’s remains to Turnton and have them buried there.

The conversation then turned to their planned future encounter with the Red Wizard. In response to a question from Jokull, Aerikoth indicated that he had not yet sent the letter to be used as bait, preferring to do that the day of the intended ambush, Alturiak 8. The wizard wanted to give the Thayan as little time as possible to attempt to verify the validity of the letter. In turn, Aerikoth asked the Cormyrian what the Harpers knew and intended to do about the ambush.

Jokull replied that they did not know the exact date of the group’s planned attack on the Red Wizard, and trusted that he and the rest of the group would carry out their plans without direct participation from the Harpers. Jokull again referred to their interest in getting the desired “results” once the Thayan was dead. Dinendal made several suggestions about what the note to the Thayan should say, but was overruled by Aerikoth and Rahnee, who wished to stick to the original plan.

Given that they had five days before the planned encounter with the Thayan, the companions debated what they should do in the interim. Suggestions included visiting Clan Ironhelm, traveling to Turnton, taking a side trip to the area near Tallwell to recover the armor Rahnee and Belle had buried there, and tracking down Khair in Westgate for more information. Rahnee for her part was intent on departing for Turnton the next morning, to which the rest of the group agreed. She, Darrow, and Dinendal also decided to go to the Black Eye tavern closer to midnight that evening, to try and find Khair, while Aerikoth worked on studying magic and Jokull rested, the warrior being tired from his previous night’s meeting with Jamal.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
The next morning on Alturiak 4, the five companions set out for Turnton. On the way, Rahnee explained that she had paid Khair the night before to procure information on whoever in Westgate had been threatening them. The remainder of the journey was without incident and all arrived safely inside Turnton‘s walls as evening fell.

Rahnee and Jokull entered the temple of Helm to begin a vigil with the remains of their former comrades Brok-Tul and Veran. Meanwhile, the other three adventurers encountered High Cleric Carlin outside the temple with a pack train, as he apparently had just returned as well. Carlin was introduced to Dinendal and Darrow, the priest greeting them politely on the crisp winter night. Aerikoth inquired of Carlin about the fate of DeeDee. The cleric sorrowfully confirmed that her unconscious condition remained unchanged; he was at a loss to explain it, as was Thyxlys Jon, the head of the Helm temple in Teziir. Carlin offered them the hospitality of the temple, but Darrow declined, as he was informed that no ale was served by the Helmites. (Sadly this is a policy followed by many temples and orders. --R.) Aerikoth then alluded to the disagreement between Carlin and Jon over DeeDee’s fate, but the cleric postponed further discussion, saying that he needed to check in with the temple priest; however, he promised to join them later at the tavern.

As the three adventurers made their way into the Traveler’s Cheer Inn, Dinendal inquired about the name “DeeDee”, as in Teziir the woman had been referred to as Melissa. Aerikoth explained that she had been born as DeeDee in Turnton, but had changed her name to Melissa when she took up a life of banditry. Dinendal observed that Carlin had a tone of regret and familiarity when he spoke of her; Aerikoth in reply stated that the elf would have to ask Carlin himself about that.

After the three had seated themselves and started drinking, Carlin arrived. Karl the innkeeper poured him a drink and the cleric seated himself at their table. In response to a question from Dinendal, Carlin spoke briefly about their dead companions Brok-Tul and Veran, praising their service, although he wondered out loud why the level-headed Veran had not restrained the half-orc during their last quest together.

Carlin then turned to Aerikoth and raised the topic of their visit to Thyxlys Jon in Teziir. The wizard said that Rahnee had spoken to Jon privately; Jon expressed to her his dislike of Carlin’s stand on Melissa’s situation, preferring that she instead be executed to avoid any possible resurgence of Ashnakerzoth’s power. Although Dinendal choked at Aerikoth’s words, Carlin acknowledged their blunt truthfulness, his voice hardening as he expressed his support for Melissa, based on her many sacrifices while trying to redeem herself. For the time being, he said, she would remain in the care of the Teziir temple, at least until she awakened. (It is a measure of the honor possessed by the Helmites that Carlin could entrust the care of Melissa to the temple in Teziir, although its head would prefer her dead. I wonder if this situation will be tenable, however, as time goes on. I fear I know the answer already. --C)

Carlin inquired if there was any other reason they had traveled to Teziir and the group explained that they were seeking the resurrection of Brok-Tul and Veran, if possible. Carlin stated that he did not have that power, although he grew pensive and appeared to have something on his mind. Dinendal asked him if he knew anyone who did. Carlin said that he did not, but assumed that someone in Westgate would have such power available, albeit for a high price. (Westgate is known as a place "where anything goes and everything has its price", yet that does not necessarily mean that everything one can think of is available there. A presumption that country folk often make about cities. --R.) Carlin then excused himself, adding that he expected to see them the following day for the last rites of Brok-Tul and Veran. After the cleric departed, the three debated the significance of his words and discussed the fate of the fallen, until deciding to turn in for the night.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
The morning of Alturiak 5, Jokull finished his vigil and came to the Traveler’s Cheer Inn, leaving Rahnee still at the temple. Aerikoth was nowhere to be found and was assumed to be at his wizardly studies, until he joined the others later for breakfast. Dinendal, after attempting unsuccessfully to find some potential work with the locals, wandered over to the statue of the Hand outside the Turnton gates. While closely examining the statue, the elf was hit by a blinding flash of light and collapsed to the ground, severely injured. The gate guards quickly got him to the temple, where he was healed and revived by the priest on duty.

Late that afternoon, the five adventurers were summoned to an audience at Baron Pahar’s manor, with High Cleric Carlin also in attendance. As the group arrived in the entry hall, Dinendal briefly informed Rahnee of what had happened to him at the Hand, assuring her that he was now fine. Once they were ushered into the reception room, Pahar and Carlin welcomed them. The cleric said that he had heard of what had happened to Dinendal and asked the elf to recount it for all present. The bardic priest gave a somewhat flowery accounting of his mishap, although limiting the tale to the facts. Carlin confirmed that Dinendal, as an acolyte of Corellon, was able to sense the divine magic present in the Hand.

After Dinendal finished his story, Rahnee inquired if the Hand disliked elves, which drew a surprised chuckle from Carlin. For Darrow, the tale simply had confirmed that Dinendal was as daft as he had thought. Dinendal asked Carlin if he had missed an instruction where the Hand was not to be touched. The cleric replied that all in Turnton knew not to touch the Hand, so there had been no specific warning, but that the Hand had not been able to be activated previously by anyone except Carlin. Therefore, no consideration had been given to a warning, an oversight for which Carlin apologized.

In response to a question from Rahnee, Carlin indicated that the Hand had without a doubt changed as a result of the ritual conducted with Ashnakzeroth’s phylactery. Carlin was more concerned about the “how” of the change than the “what”, however. Dinendal asserted that a mage of sufficient quality should be able to determine the nature of the enchantments on the Hand, but was immediately contradicted by Carlin, who cited its ancient nature and recent divine dedication to Helm.

Carlin also told them that he had been changed, in addition to the Hand, as a result of the ritual. His powers and connection to Helm, he said, had been heightened over the past tenday. Dinendal interrupted, asking if Carlin had discussed this with Thyxlys Jon in Teziir, only to receive a cold stare from the cleric, who rebuked him by saying that his conversations with Jon were his own business. Darrow elbowed the elf and muttered to him that he should let Carlin finish, after which Dinendal held his tongue.

Pahar at this point joined in, mentioning that he and Carlin had been discussing how to use this newfound power for Turnton’s benefit. The Baron declared that they intended for Carlin to remain in the town and study the Hand further, his presence also providing more protection for the community. As a result, the Baron said he would be willing to spare a group of soldiers and a priest of Helm to assist, if Helm’s Shadows wished to rule Hallton’s lands for themselves as an ally of Pahar; beforehand, Pahar would not have had the resources to spare. As the proposition was a weighty one, the Baron asked the adventurers to consider it that evening and then meet again at eight bells in the morning to discuss their answer.

While the others began talking, Aerikoth spoke for the first time and inquired to whom exactly would be given rulership of the lands. The Baron confirmed that it would be given to Helm’s Shadows as a company. How tasks would be divided amongst them would be up to the company, and he recommended that they discuss this matter. Rahnee told the others to ask any other questions they might have of the Baron that would impact their answers. None had any further inquiries, Jokull declaring that he had made up his mind and saw no reason to refuse. As the meeting ended, Pahar offered the group the hospitality of his manor for the evening.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Over breakfast the following morning on Alturiak 6, the company gathered in Rahnee’s room to debate accepting rulership of Hallton’s lands. Rahnee raised two points: firstly, that their presence in Tallwell would benefit the Baron because he viewed them as reliable, but secondly that Pahar and Carlin might want the group out of their way in Turnton. Darrow, in a similar vein, declared that he did not know exactly what to make of either the Baron or the High Cleric, but thought it was fishy that Carlin had grown in power shortly after the ritual of the Hand. Dinendal’s thoughts were to accept Pahar’s offer and continue their plans while working from Tallwell.

While Jokull contentedly ate and let the others debate, Rahnee asked Aerikoth for his thoughts on the matter. The wizard asked if she was inquiring about the Baron and the priest or about the question of rulership; she replied that she would welcome his thoughts on both. Aerikoth commented that he thought it likely that some part of Ashnakzeroth had survived and was affecting Carlin’s powers, noting that the creature had previously survived a greater catastrophe, that being the loss of magic completely, than being destroyed by a mysterious stone effigy shaped like a hand. While Aerikoth stated that he was not overly interested in rulership, he nevertheless considered it quite a privilege to be bestowed on the group and recommended that it be accepted, if all were willing.

At this point, Dinendal suggested using his divine powers to attempt to detect any malice or deception on the part of the Baron and High Cleric. He said that he was not usually suspicious of others’ motives, but then again was not normally flung to the ground like a wet sock, as the elf put it. Dinendal opined that of the two, the Baron would be easier to read in this manner. Aerikoth said that he saw no reason to attempt this, as the priest had been open about the changes in the Hand and in himself, also noting that if Carlin had been attempting deception, there would be no logical reason for him to bring up the issue. Rahnee interjected, saying that if some part of the lich had taken over Carlin, that Carlin could then control the Baron, who would believe anything the priest told him. Rahnee also noted that if Dinendal’s spell were detected, it would be viewed as a sign of mistrust, which the elf acknowledged.

Rahnee at this point asked for Jokull’s thoughts. The warrior said he was as concerned for Carlin as the rest of them, but did not believe that the cleric would intentionally cause them harm. As for Hallton’s lands, he stated that he cared little for the consequences and believed they should take them, given all that could be done there. Rahnee asserted her support for taking the lands as well, based on what she called the payment in blood and death that had been given, and also the fact that their rulership would be a tribute to what Brok-Tul and Veran had believed in. Darrow grunted in response, saying that he did not feel particularly qualified to rule a bunch of humans, but declared he would help.

As the discussion on Hallton’s lands was wrapping up, there being general agreement on accepting rulership, Dinendal raised with Rahnee the conversation he, Aerikoth, and Darrow had conducted with Carlin the previous night. The elf observed that the cleric had been evasive regarding possibilities for Brok-Tul’s resurrection, then asked Aerikoth if he had the same recollection. The wizard confirmed that Carlin had apparently not wished to speak of it. Rahnee noted that Thyxlys Jon had behaved similarly when questioned in Teziir and indicated that she would speak privately to Carlin on the matter. (It is instructive to see how, when one desires something badly enough, its denial can itself be denied. I would interpret the responses from Carlin and Thyxlys Jon - that they were not capable of resurrecting Brok-Tul from just his mangled head - as quite clear in nature. The clerics each speculated that someone in Westgate might be able to perform such a ritual - which is perhaps possible, but it was also a way to soften the blow and provide some hope to people who are not prepared to fully accept reality. --C.) The group then talked lightly about who would have what responsibilities in ruling Hallton’s lands.

An hour later, Aerikoth finished studying his spells and returned to Rahnee’s room. In the meantime, Dinendal had excused himself to say his daily prayers to Corellon, while Jokull had decided to go out by the Turnton barracks and practice his sparring. Rahnee, Aerikoth and Darrow therefore represented Helm’s Shadows as they returned to the Baron’s audience chamber to deliver their decision. Pahar was pleased at their acceptance, saying that he took neither them nor their assistance for granted.

In response to a question from Rahnee, Pahar indicated that they need not bother notifying Westgate about the situation, as the domain of the authorities there extended only so far as their city walls. Pahar then reviewed what was known of Hallton’s lands. The only town of any size was Tallwell, which possessed a smithy and an herbalist as well as the surrounding farmlands. To the north and south of Tallwell were small landholdings with a few families each. All were poor, possessing little beyond their land and a few animals. East of Tallwell were the former baron’s personal holdings; freeholders had once worked his lands, but had long since fled his tyrannical rule. The existing Tallwell barracks would hold Pahar’s ten soldiers easily and the priest of Helm planned to establish a shrine in town.

Rahnee in turn said that she understood it would take time to gain the trust of the people on Hallton’s lands. She planned to be the figurehead leader, while Jokull took charge of their defenses, Aerikoth lent what assistance he could, and Darrow started an ale brewery. Pahar said that they appeared to have a plan. He could offer no further information, other than noting the challenges they would face: beasts, monsters, and Hallton’s still-unknown patrons in Westgate. (Adventurers' grand plans often come to nothing, whether due to failure or simply the distraction afforded by another shiny object being presented to them. As we shall see, the dwarf is in fact the best prepared - or perhaps most motivated - to follow up on his intentions. --R)

Rahnee informed the Baron that the adventurers had a commitment in Westgate on the 8th of the month, so could not go to Tallwell before then. They agreed that the Baron would send his soldiers on ahead and, in the event of any resistance, they would fall back to Glees and await the companions there. Darrow spoke up and declared his support for Helm’s Shadows and their commitment to rule the lands, but caveated this by noting that his first commitment would always be to Clan Ironhelm. Pahar saw no conflict in this, leaving the dwarf satisfied.

As the three took their leave of the Baron, they started discussing various plans for their new lands, including the need to rename them soon, in order to avoid calling them “Hallton’s lands” in the future. Rahnee and Darrow agreed to collect Jokull and Dinendal in town and then head for Westgate, with Aerikoth teleporting on ahead.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Burning Down the House

While Jokull ended up volunteering to stay in Turnton for a little while longer to review the status of the militia, Aerikoth departed the town via spell and Rahnee, Darrow and Dinendal headed out on foot, complaining about the rain. Early evening of Alturiak 6, the three arrived at the Gatereach compound, only to discover the smoking ruins of the guest house and the other outbuilding; the inn for its part appeared to be unharmed.

Inside the inn, Jandrico Swift expressed his pleasure at seeing them unharmed, as he was unsure if anyone had been inside the guest house when it had burned down early that morning. The innkeeper said a note had been slipped under the inn’s door at the same time, and he passed it over to them. Aerikoth then walked in the door and was similarly welcomed by Jandrico and his three companions, who had been similarly unsure of the wizard’s fate. Aerikoth also looked at the anonymous note, which implied that the house had been burned down because of the adventurers’ continued presence in Westgate.

In response to questioning from Aerikoth, Jandrico related the little that he knew about the fire, which had evidently started at the guest house and then spread to the other outbuilding before it could be put out. Rain had come in the morning, which had helped prevent the fire from jumping to the main inn building. Jandrico accepted the apologies and concerns expressed by Dinendal and Rahnee for the damage done, given that the target was clearly their adventuring company. The innkeeper said that he was at least content that no harm had come to the companions, also saying they were welcome to whatever drinks they liked from the bar. He then got a determined look in his eye and departed the inn, saying that he had urgent business regarding an “insurance policy.”

After a round of drinks had been consumed, the four adventurers went outside to more closely examine the ruined guest house. Aerikoth observed that all of the containers inside, including the empty chest from Hallton, had apparently been removed prior to the fire being started, with the exception of his bookcase. Rahnee commented, the wizard agreeing, that whoever had done this had been unsure of which trunk they were looking for, so took them all. Darrow asked if Aerikoth could “wizard up the spot” where Hallton’s chest now was. Aerikoth thought for a moment and then indicated he could attempt to locate a specific object. Dinendal suggested that they could ask any nearby warehouse guards if they had seen anything suspicious before the fire. Aerikoth agreed that would be a prudent next course of action, as he did not have the necessary locate object spell prepared.

The four therefore wandered over to where two House Thalavar guards stood guarding a nearby warehouse compound. The guards, while sympathetic, unfortunately had no information of import to share regarding the circumstances surrounding the fire. Having had no luck there, the adventurers returned to the Gatereach to ask Jandrico’s kitchen helper Goruna some questions. She told them that she had arrived around seven bells that morning while they were still putting out the fire. In response to questions from Aerikoth about any wagons or the like in the area, she thought a bit and then said she had passed some at the Westward Eye, but that there were always wagons and such at the inn because of the traders. Her well of knowledge apparently exhausted, the group asked her to tell them if she remembered anything further of use, Rahnee handing her a gold coin.

The somewhat morose group then went to the bar and poured themselves another round, commiserating about their situation. Aerikoth was still focused on investigating the circumstances behind the fire, noting that some of the inn’s guests from the previous night might have seen something, and also suggesting that the Westward Eye could have served as a point for inconspicuously gathering their stolen items. The group agreed that they should question Jandrico further when he returned. Rahnee speculated that he had gone to speak to the Night Masks, prompting Dinendal to express his concern that they might be behind what had happened. Rahnee noted that her comment was a mere conjecture, while Aerikoth deprecated the idea of the Masks being involved, asserting that they would not care about Aratae and reminding the others that this had all started with the delivery of Aratae’s remains and a note to Turnton.

Discussion turned to who else might be responsible. Aerikoth said he thought it was whoever had been assisting Hallton in his designs of conquest, with the others throwing out other possibilities. (As usual, the wizard - however opaque about his activities - is on point with his logic. --R.) Rahnee said she would head to the Black Eye to try and see if Khair were available and had any useful information; Darrow and Dinendal said they would join her. Aerikoth indicated he preferred to stay behind at the Gatereach, in order to talk to Jandrico when the innkeeper returned.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
The following morning, Alturiak 7, the group reunited to break their fast at the Gatereach. Aerikoth had departed the previous night, without having been able to speak to Jandrico, in order to sleep elsewhere; meanwhile, Rahnee, Darrow and Dinendal had crowded into the only available room at the inn. Over their meal, Rahnee indicated that she would like to go see if the Hidden House was still standing, or if their nameless adversaries had destroyed it as well. Aerikoth commented that he saw little reason to burn down a building that was barely a building to begin with. This did not convince Rahnee, who felt it could be done as an additional warning to them.

Aerikoth and Rahnee also further questioned Jandrico Swift regarding what he could recall about the previous morning’s fire. The innkeeper could not remember anything out of the ordinary, as he explained that he had awoken to the smell of smoke, saw the flames coming from the guest house, and organized the response. He dismissed the idea that any of his guests were necessarily involved, pointing out that it was hardly necessary to stay at the Gatereach in order to torch the outbuildings. Rahnee observed that all of their chests had been removed prior to the fire being set, implying that a group had done it, which strengthened Jandrico’s belief that his guests were not responsible. Rahnee also mentioned that they were trying to figure out how such heavy items could have been removed without being heard. The innkeeper in response suggested wizardry, although noting it was not his specialty. Jandrico somewhat stiffly excused himself, saying that he would inform them if he could recall anything that would help. (The innkeeper appears to have lost the most out of the destruction of his buildings, which the adventurers are being rather insensitive about. If Brother Veran were still with them, perhaps he would have provided a different perspective. --C)

The companions agreed amongst themselves that they had probably worn out their welcome with the innkeeper, for which they did not blame him, and Rahnee went after Jandrico to ask if he wished them off the premises. He said that they were welcome to stay in the one available room, although he observed it would be cramped for an adventuring company and that he would have to charge them like any other guests. (This is a diplomatic way of saying that yes, he would prefer them off the premises. Subtlety is wasted on some, however. --R.) Rahnee returned and informed the others, who agreed that this arrangement would be fine for the short term, before they left for Hallton’s lands, now termed the “Barony of Veranbrok” by certain members of the company. (Although a touching tribute to their dead companions, the name does not exactly roll off the tongue. It also betrays the self-interest of those who wish to impose it on the actual inhabitants of the land. A romantic and ultimately impractical gesture. --R)

Conversation then turned to what they planned to accomplish that day. Rahnee somewhat shamefacedly mentioned that she had fallen asleep rather than having gone to the Black Eye at midnight to seek out Khair. She therefore wanted to see if the mercenary was by chance around during the day. Aerikoth said that he needed to compose the letter designed to lure out the Red Wizard, as well as scribe a scroll to prevent the mage from magically escaping the fate they had planned for him. If Aerikoth had time later, he also planned to search the city using his magic for some of his personal items that had been taken. Rahnee and Dinendal desired to visit Castle Thalavar, in order to inform the steward Iono of what had transpired with Hallton and see if Thalavar had any information on the fire. Aerikoth was cool to the idea, but deferred to the others if they wished to proceed. Finally, Rahnee mentioned that she still had two gems in her possession, which could either be sold and the proceeds distributed, or kept for later.

At this point the companions heard loud cursing from outside the inn and went to investigate. They found Jokull standing by the guest house ruins, the warrior having just arrived from Turnton. They brought him up to date on what they knew about the destruction of the guest house and the results of their (limited) investigations. In response to a question from Rahnee, Jokull indicated that the troops Pahar had assembled to assist them in Hallton were adequate to the task, although their training could be improved. Dinendal, supported by Rahnee, asked if they could meet with Jamal, in order to compare notes. Jokull was reluctant to bring them all to her location, which he felt would risk her disguise, but agreed to ask her about what had happened to the Gatereach and if she knew anything about Hallton’s patron in Westgate, as requested by Rahnee. At this point it was decided that while Aerikoth worked on his magic, the others would seek out a jeweler and see if they could get a good price for Rahnee’s two gems.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Around dinnertime, the companions, minus Jokull, regrouped at the Gatereach inn. While their meal was being prepared, in response to a question from Darrow, Jandrico commented that his “insurers” were not happy with what had happened with the fire that destroyed the inn’s outbuildings, mentioning that he might get some satisfaction as a result, if not his full investment back. Jokull returned just as dinner was being served, earning a suggestive gap-toothed smile from Goruna as she delivered the meal, lamb with mint sauce. Dinendal had some philosophical objections to being served lamb, but nonetheless consumed it with a guilty relish.

Rahnee handed Jokull a pouch full of gold as he took his seat, explaining that it was his share of the proceeds from the gem sale; the others had received theirs earlier. While some preferred wine, ale, or simply water, Rahnee and Dinendal asked Jandrico for some tea, only to be informed that the inn’s stock of tea had burned along with the outbuilding. This prompted Rahnee to swear, with feeling, to kill those responsible. (Sometimes it is the small pleasures in life that we miss the most. --R)

After the innkeeper and his assistant had excused themselves, Jokull informed Dinendal that his “friends” had agreed to meet the elf, once their current business was finished. (I assume that this is a reference to Jokull's Harper contacts. The Cormyrian warrior has been very secretive about them, especially as of late, which likely signifies that a plot is brewing. --C) Meanwhile, Rahnee had confused Aerikoth with a half-serious request that the wizard make her smarter in order to face their many challenges. He at first wondered if she intended to take up the Art, but was told that it was his mind and counsel that interested her.

Following dinner, Aerikoth indicated that he wished to attempt magically locating their stolen objects. The wizard agreed to accompany the others on the way to the Black Eye, where they would try to meet up with their “other friend” as Rahnee put it, meaning the mercenary Khair. Before they departed, Dinendal insisted on once more trying to break the cipher of the note found at Hallton’s manor, although his efforts proved unsuccessful.

Once outside in the rain, the party divided. Jokull and Dinendal accompanied Aerikoth to the Castle District, where the mage began his magical search, focusing on locating the chest they had originally taken from Hallton‘s manor. Rahnee and Darrow meanwhile continued on to the Black Eye as planned, in order to see if Khair was there and had any information for them. Jokull and Dinendal, who had become tired of standing around Aerikoth in the rain, also eventually headed to the seedy tavern, having been assured by the wizard that he did not need their protection.

At breakfast the following morning on Alturiak 8, Aerikoth arrived last to the Gatereach and found Rahnee, Dinendal and Darrow hungrily devouring a plate of Goruna’s griddle cakes with honey. The three had crowded into a single room at the Gatereach with Jokull the previous night; the warrior apparently still needed sleep, as a result. The wizard inquired how things had gone the previous night and was informed by Rahnee that it seemed House Cormaeril, as the head of the Fire Knives, had serious issues with them. Aerikoth for his part confirmed that he had been able to magically locate Hallton’s trunk at Cormaeril Castle, also having disposed of some guard dogs in the process. The wizard observed that all evidence pointed to House Cormaeril as being Hallton’s secret backers. Dinendal, inspired by the information, again tried to crack the ciphered note, to no avail. (The company's main enemy in Westgate is now finally revealed and confirmed with magical evidence. This makes the planned ambush of the Red Wizard, who has been housed with the Cormaerils, of even greater import. --C)

Aerikoth said that he would soon head to the wizard shop of Gondeth, intending to purchase magical supplies for the upcoming battle against the Red Wizard. Aerikoth’s familiar Zeluth, as planned, had delivered his note that morning to Cormaeril Castle. This would hopefully result in the Thayan arriving in the Seven Hills around middark. Dinendal gave some bits of assassin vine, collected during his previous expedition to the Seven Hills, to Aerikoth for presentation to Gondeth, in case the other wizard would find them of use. As Aerikoth departed, Rahnee began drawing a map of the Seven Hills for the others, in order to point out major features of interest in the area.
 

Carlo-One

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Supporter
Death of a Thayan

By early evening, Rahnee, Aerikoth and Darrow had gathered again at the Gatereach inn for dinner, deciding to take a corner table in the common room. Dinendal previously had informed Rahnee that he wished to visit a temple in hopes of decoding the Hallton cipher, whereas Jokull had not been seen since that morning.

When Jandrico and Goruna brought out their meal, the innkeeper in a low voice mentioned that he understood this might be a special night for the adventurers, so he had prepared wyvern steak, a rarity, for them. After Jandrico departed, Rahnee softly questioned what he had meant by his statement, prompting Aerikoth to comment that the innkeeper had probably overheard their conversations at some point. Darrow for his part was oblivious to anything except the juicy meat.

The three thoroughly enjoyed their meal and the complimentary bottle of Westgate Ruby that Jandrico had provided. As they compared notes about their last two days, it came out that they had independently tried to visit Gondeth’s shop, which had been closed since at least the previous day. In part to walk off their meal, the three decided to determine if that were still the case and headed for the Market district. There, they were able to confirm that the magic shop was still closed; a passing commoner informed them that Castle Thalavar and Audara Imryth’s tower had also been shut to the public for the past two days. The three pondered the information and after some discussion, decided not to try to enter Gondeth’s locked shop. Instead, they turned back toward the Gatereach, intent on preparing for their upcoming confrontation with the Red Wizard.

Late that evening, the five companions reunited by the smoking ruin of the Gatereach guest house. Rahnee confirmed they were all ready, then the company set out for the area outside South Gate in order to pick up the path into the Seven Hills. They arrived about an hour before midnight, which was intended to give them enough time to scout the area a final time and set up for the arrival of the Red Wizard. Rahnee took off to scout, moving slowly and stealthily around their designated ambush site.

Meanwhile, the others made final preparations for combat, as both Aerikoth and Dinendal cast spells of protection and support for their comrades. Just as Jokull was impatiently complaining about the length of time Rahnee had been scouting, she returned to report that all was clear. Dinendal then moved off to take an overwatch position on the likely route of approach of the Red Wizard, while the others finished placing themselves in ambush positions and casting spells.

As the companions settled down to wait, the night sounds seemingly grew louder, as all of their senses were on edge. After what seemed like an eternity, the Red Wizard and two accompanying dark shapes suddenly appeared. The mage began to cast offensive spells while his undead guard moved to engage the adventurers. Full-on battle was joined, with Dinendal returning from his position to assist. The two undead servants fell relatively quickly, in part thanks to a dire wolf conjured by Aerikoth, leaving just the wizard to be dealt with. A timely knockdown from Jokull interrupted one spell and then Darrow moved in with his axe, temporarily enchanted by a spell from Dinendal, to cleave the Thayan’s throat.

Once the battle was over, the group took stock of their condition. All of their wounds were treatable, although Dinendal complained, teeth chattering, of having felt part of his life force drain away after being touched by one of the undead. Aerikoth took possession of the Red Wizard’s things, leaving only the trademark red robes. After this was done, Jokull produced a small packet and placed it into one of the deceased wizard’s inner pockets. At this point the companions decided that it would be better to vacate the area and headed back to the Gatereach.
 

Carlo-One

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At the inn, Jandrico welcomed their return, noting the late hour and that Darrow had magical sparkles emanating from his body. The dwarf in a taciturn manner joked that they had been to a costume party, having attended as a band of adventurers. As the innkeeper went to gather some leftovers for them, the adventurers discussed how the battle had gone. Jandrico returned with the food and the group dug into it, also sharing out some drinks hoarded by Dinendal for the occasion; the elf still shivered from the undead touch he had received during battle. Jokull observed that he had been unable to hit the creatures accompanying the Red Wizard with his un-enchanted sword, acknowledging that Dinendal’s weapon - a gift from Rahnee – had, however, been effective when necessary.

Jokull asked Aerikoth if the Red Wizard had possessed anything interesting or incriminating on him. Aerikoth noted that he had been carrying a staff, some scrolls, assorted jewelry for magical enhancements, and healing potions, in addition to a bracer which Aerikoth had given to Rahnee. In response to a question from Rahnee, Aerikoth indicated that he would be able to use both the staff and the scrolls.

Rahnee then turned to Jokull and informed him of what they had recently learned about the closure of Gondeth’s shop, Castle Thalavar, and Audara Imryth’s tower. Jokull mentioned that he planned to see his “friend” soon, referring to Jamal the Harper bard, and that hopefully everything would work out according to plan. By this point, the companions had eaten and drank their fill, and the effort they had put forth that night caught up with them, causing them to retire to their beds.

The next morning, Alturiak 9, was bright and sunny. Aerikoth joined Rahnee, Jokull, and Darrow at the Gatereach for breakfast; Dinendal continued resting in a room upstairs, still not fully recovered from the previous night. While Rahnee and Jokull were debating whether to try and contact Thalavar or to find Jamal that day, a messenger boy arrived with a note for Jokull from his “lady friend.” The warrior took the note silently and the boy cheerily ran off. Jokull, after perusing the note, commented that it looked like they were going to see Jamal after all.

Jokull led the others to the East Gate district, once there asking the others for directions to the Old Beard tavern. After they found the place, they entered and briefly pretended to be patrons, then Jokull noted to the bartender that he was there to see a friend, heading for the corridor past the common room. The warrior knocked three times on the door and was let in by Jamal, along with the others.

Jamal, who as Jokull observed was for once not in disguise, greeted them warmly but tiredly. She was introduced to Darrow, whom she had not met, and recognized his clan name, which made the dwarf brighten. The Harper then quickly turned to business, asking Jokull what had happened the night before. He informed her that the Red Wizard had been dispatched and the evidence left in his robe, as had been agreed. Jokull’s companions were taken somewhat aback by his mention of evidence, but Jamal ignored them as she questioned the warrior closely about exactly what had occurred, apologizing for her directness, but saying it was necessary.

She then explained that The City Watch had been informed of a possible altercation in the Seven Hills and went to check it out around dawn that morning. The Harper organization had been the one who informed them, she mentioned, and one of their "friends" had gone along with the Watch detail, to ensure they found the Thayan’s body. The wizard's body was there, robes intact, but with everything else looted. The evidence was there as well, she continued, but it implicated House Cormaeril and Thalavar in dealings with the wizard, rather than Cormaeril and Urdo as had been planned.

Rahnee asked Jamal how this had occurred, while Darrow looked lost. Jamal explained that there were sealed letters on the body showing that both Cormaeril and Thalavar had been doing business with the Thayan - and would do more, if they gained the Croamarkh's palace after the election. According to Jamal, the Cormaeril evidence was exactly as the Harpers had crafted, but the evidence they had concocted against House Urdo had somehow been replaced by false House Thalavar documents. (Finally Jokull's actions at the site of the Red Wizard ambush have been illuminated. The warrior evidently had been asked by the Harpers to place this evidence on the body of the Thayan, with the objective of influencing the upcoming Westgate election. Just as evidently, the end results did not go according to plan. --C)
 

Carlo-One

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Evidently feeling slighted by Jamal’s words, Jokull angrily stepped forward and told Jamal that she should know exactly what had been in the planted evidence, since her friend had given it to him. Jamal heatedly replied that this was the case, stating that the original documents must have been switched. Darrow commented that it sounded like things had not worked out the way they had wanted. Jokull, growling, said that he had understood that Jamal and the Harpers were to have prevented any interference, causing her to retort that the adventurers were the only ones outside the Harpers that had known about the meeting with the Red Wizard. She said that the evidence must have been tampered with following their departure, since the Watch could not have done it, according to her agent there.

Rahnee observed that someone could have followed either them or the wizard to the meeting in the Seven Hills. In response to a question from Jamal, both Rahnee and Darrow told her that it was unlikely they were followed, the dwarf noting that they had waited a good hour there and not seen anyone besides the wizard. Jamal said that she had her own doubts regarding whether someone could have followed the Thayan, but acknowledged that it was not outside the realm of possibility. Darrow and Aerikoth also commented that Jandrico had apparently known ahead of time, the mage citing their wyvern steak dinner as proof. Aerikoth further noted that Gondeth was aware of the meeting, prompting Jamal to dryly comment that she doubted he would have switched the evidence.

In response to a question from Jokull, Jamal said that there was little they could do for the moment about the situation, while Darrow observed that it was likely they had a traitor in their ranks. (The dwarf has a refreshing way of getting right to the point with his common-sense observations. --R) Softening, Jamal thanked the group for taking care of the Red Wizard, saying that her primary concern had been to find out exactly what had happened the previous night. Aerikoth dryly observed that the others seemed to be fine with planting false evidence, but were now upset that someone else had tampered with it. After some pointed words with Aerikoth, Jamal asked the others to contact Garis, the Thalavar agent, if they learned anything; she commented that Garis had been shocked to find out what had happened with the evidence. Aerikoth and Rahnee observed that Castle Thalavar and Gondeth’s mage shop had been shut recently, something which Jamal said had been done for reasons of security, and the situation would likely continue.

Jamal then said she would have to depart soon, putting a hand on Jokull’s shoulder and asking him to forgive her if she had seemed frustrated. She promised to keep them informed of any developments and asked them to think of anyone who might have known or figured out what they were planning with the Red Wizard. Jokull took her hand and declared that it was his decision alone to plant the evidence. Aerikoth made the point that only he and she in that room had known about it beforehand. After some final goodbyes, the adventurers left the room, Jamal planning to depart herself shortly thereafter.

The four went first to the Hidden House to confirm it was still standing. Rahnee, Jokull and Darrow then returned to the Gatereach to fetch Dinendal, finding him revived and in the back room with Jandrico, breaking his fast. The elf was noticeably in a more celebratory mood than the others, not yet having heard the bad news from Jamal about the false Thalavar documents. After finishing his meal he agreed to go with the others to the dilapidated building, a former shrine to Leira. Rahnee pulled aside Jandrico for a private conversation before leaving.
 

Carlo-One

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Supporter
Reunited with the others at the Hidden House, Dinendal and Darrow commented on its poor condition, this being their first time there. Rahnee cautiously requested the others to clear the main floor before speaking, then calmly asked Jokull to explain his actions and if they should expect little surprises like this from him in the future. (I had been wondering if the chronicles had simply not mentioned any discussion between the party members about the incident. I do not understand why they had waited so long to ask Jokull what he was doing with the Red Wizard’s body after the ambush, but it seems consistent with their unquestioning attitude about many things. I suppose they may simply have been distracted and unobservant, which Jokull took advantage of. –C). The warrior stood firm, showing no regrets as he explained that he had not told them anything about the planted evidence because it was his decision and his crime alone; they would not have known anything about it, had events turned out as planned. He also noted that he had said that the Harpers would find a way to make sure they got the results they were looking for. As an aside, Rahnee quickly explained to Dinendal what had happened to the evidence planted by Jokull.

Jokull then folded his arms over his chest and declared that he was tired of explaining himself and preferred to focus on what they should do now. Rahnee then brought up her earlier conversation with Jandrico, telling the others that his “insurance brokers” had apparently informed him that the adventurers were about to do something important. Rahnee noted that Jandrico appeared uncomfortable discussing the topic and had no wish to introduce her to the “insurance brokers.” Darrow suggested that they be found and the information beaten out of them, while Jokull stated that the group should go force the information from Jandrico.

Conversation then turned on whether they might expect a visit from the City Watch in the near future, which Rahnee thought a possibility. Darrow said that now might be a good time to get out of town, perhaps to either the newly-christened “Barony of Veranbrok” or his clan halls. Rahnee pointed out that they could now stay at the Hidden House instead of the Gatereach. Jokull returned to the idea of confronting Jandrico, with which Rahnee reluctantly agreed, after Jokull promised not to hurt the innkeeper. (Again, the dwarf shows a common-sense grasp of the situation. Their guest house was just burned down and an unknown traitor in Westgate caused the Harper evidence planted on the Red Wizard to be switched out. The other ideas on offer are to relocate the company to a burnt-out, infested building or to harass the innkeeper whose guest house was just destroyed. --R)

Rahnee declared her intent to go find out what the Watch knew about the death of the Red Wizard and she departed the Hidden House. The others, after briefly continuing their discussion, were interrupted by several dire rats coming up from the basement. After disposing of the vermin, the four adventurers descended under the house, searching the underground area for any additional threats. Several slimes and oozes were also encountered and dispatched, with only relatively minor wounds sustained in the process.

At the end of the underground passages, they encountered what appeared to be a ritual chamber, with coins arranged in a pattern around a broken stone altar. Aerikoth observed that it looked to be the work of the woman Marise, the former resident of the Hidden House. The wizard explained to Darrow and Dinendal that she had been thought to be a madwoman, when Brok-Tul had first found the place and she had fled from them using a now-collapsed passage. Later on, they had encountered her in Teziir and discovered that she was a priestess of Leira, the dead goddess of illusion. She had promised to get in touch with them at the Gatereach afterwards, but had failed to, despite saying she was interested in developing an alliance with Brok-Tul against the Thayan presence in Westgate.

Jokull speculated that with Brok-Tul gone, perhaps she had simply decided to move back in again. Before departing, Dinendal took the initiative to leave a note at the broken altar, without naming names, asking her to get in contact with them at the Gatereach. Once the four had returned to the upstairs, burnt-out portion of the Hidden House, they decided to return to the inn. Aerikoth made his way there separately, in order to check on Gondeth’s shop, which was still locked.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Later that evening, a snow-encrusted Rahnee returned to the Gatereach inn at dinnertime, encountering Aerikoth and Dinendal at the bar; meanwhile, Jokull and Darrow had apparently headed into the city in order to find out what the word on the street was about the Thayan incident. While sitting down to a tasty meal of chicken marinade, Rahnee filled her two companions in on the results of her investigations.

The City Watch had been informed the previous day of a brutal confrontation out in the Seven Hills. When they arrived at the scene, they found the dead Red Wizard, still wearing his robes. There was a bag underneath the body containing letters from House Cormaeril and House Thalavar to the wizard. The Watch had informed the Croamarkh, Rahnee said. She had the feeling that the Watch was not sure of what to do next and was waiting for orders. Rahnee observed that the situation seemed to benefit House Urdo, which implied that they had a hand in it, or perhaps someone else was setting it up to appear that way.

Following Rahnee’s commentary, Aerikoth and Dinendal made their own observations about the political situation and possible next steps for the adventuring company. As the three were talking, a blue-robed man walked up to them, placed his hands on his hips, and addressed Rahnee, asking what a Roaringhorn like her was doing in a place like this. She froze and, without turning, asked Aerikoth to tell her if there was not a man bearing a resemblance to her and wearing blue robes, standing behind her. The wizard in response arched an eyebrow and stared at the newcomer.

Rahnee quickly got over her surprise and shouted “Maddie!” for it was indeed her brother Madrigal, who then had to suffer a sudden, fierce embrace from his sister. Rahnee commented on his new mustaches, which he declared made him look more distinguished, twirling one for emphasis. In response to a question from Rahnee, Madrigal admitted that he had someone from Aurora’s Emporium teleport him to Westgate, rather than doing it himself. Rahnee then introduced her “fifth brother” to Aerikoth and Darrow; Dinendal apparently had slipped out of the inn just prior to Madrigal’s arrival.

After pleasantries were exchanged and Darrow offered to buy them an ale, as he approved of family reunions, Madrigal produced a letter from Rahnee and inquired if he might meet Brok-Tul. Rahnee’s face fell as he asked the question and after a few moments of stuttering, she finally managed to tell Madrigal that she was a widow, after having lost Brok-Tul and another companion, Veran, while over-matched in battle. A fierce glint in her eye, she informed him that the murderer no longer walked the world, although it remained to them to find out who had controlled him. Madrigal expressed his condolences at the sad tale and also his approval of her Roaringhorn spirit, saying that he had originally come to deliver a scolding from their elder brothers, Vastarr and Kuldos, but under the circumstances would refrain.

Rahnee continued on and informed her brother of Brok-Tul’s “half-breed” status, explaining that his father’s heritage was orcish, as Aerikoth intently looked on and Darrow tried to lose himself in his ale. After initially spitting up part of his drink, Madrigal managed to recover, declaring that Brok-Tul must have been an excellent priest of Helm. He also agreed with Rahnee that it was probably best that his heritage had not been mentioned in the letter sent to the family.
 

Carlo-One

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After some further banter, Madrigal explained that he had located Rahnee in Westgate by checking with the Mercenaries Guild, who had her name listed under the “Helm’s Shadows” entry. Rahnee told her brother about their recent acquisition of Hallton’s lands, while Madrigal counted out the 700 gold he owed her for previously sending him a Bloodback Spider carcass via Aurora’s Emporium. Rahnee then asked how long he would be staying, to which Madrigal replied that it seemed he was not needed, as there were no nuptials to discuss. Rahnee said he was always needed and welcome, but in any case they could not offer him hospitality for the night, as their place had recently been burnt down. Madrigal wryly observed that her company did not seem popular with the locals. Rahnee qualified that by saying it was only a particular group of locals and Darrow helpfully clarified that whoever had done it would get an axe to the face; meanwhile, Aerikoth silently sipped his water. Rahnee, in response to a question from Madrigal, said that it was not the Night Masks who had done it, but she still needed to confirm her suspicions.

Aerikoth at this point interjected a question about Rahnee coming to Westgate at the behest of her elder brothers. She confirmed that this was so, as something of a test for the Roaringhorn clan, to deliver a shipment of horses from Waterdeep to House Thalavar. Darrow with a straight face expressed his surprise that she did not get lost along the way, which earned him a raspberry and an explanation that this was what the scouts were for. Rahnee explained that if she had failed in her charge, she would have agreed to return to the City of Splendors and be wed to someone to be chosen for her. Aerikoth noted the irony of her leaving to avoid matrimony, only to find that in Westgate. (A pithy philosophical observation from the wizard. How many times in life do we mistakenly seek to escape something, only for it to find us in the end, and to our benefit. --C)

Madrigal said that, as he was not going to remain in Westgate, he had best be moving on; he could always return at will, now that he was familiar with the location. He exchanged farewells with Darrow and Aerikoth, then went with Rahnee outside the inn for a private discussion. After a while, Rahnee returned alone, talking with her companions for a while before they decided to retire for the evening.

The next morning, Rahnee, Darrow and Aerikoth had just settled in at the Gatereach bar when Jokull and Dinendal arrived, looking the worse for the wear. The serving woman Goruna accurately diagnosed their condition, pantomiming drinking a jug while grinning a gap-toothed grin. The companions attempted to eat their oatmeal, but the rank smell wafting off of Jokull and Dinendal battled for their senses’ attention. In response to questions about where they had been, Dinendal indicated they had been at the Rising Raven. Jokull called brusquely for a glass of Westgate Ruby, apparently looking to cure his hangover with more of the same, while Jandrico Swift regretfully informed Rahnee that the Gatereach’s tea supply had not been restocked, having burned down with the outbuilding.

As Jokull and Dinendal battled to get fully awake and understand what was going on around them, Rahnee told them of Madrigal’s visit, also mentioning that her brother had offered to “sweeten the kitty” if they took the Mercenaries Guild contract to explore the road to Starmantle. The group then discussed their plans, deciding that they had little reason to stay in Westgate and wait for the elections. Rahnee raised the fact that Darrow could use their help back at his clan home. The dwarf offered two reasons to return: the first being that the lich Ashnakzeroth, according to legend, had established a laboratory in the clan’s deeper delves; the second, a quest for the lost axe Haelgrim, wielded in the past by the clan’s heroes and a symbol of strength and leadership. Darrow related the legend of how Relan Ironhelm had died while using it to fight off a horde of creatures threatening a mining party in the lower delves, although the exact nature of the battle was not fully known. Darrow admitted that he wanted to find the axe for himself, when asked by Jokull. The others agreed to travel to Clan Ironhelm and assist Darrow, Rahnee adding that they might also be able to recruit fighters for their lands in “Veranbrok.”
 

Carlo-One

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Detour to Teziir

Their path decided, the companions made preparations to depart, with Jokull and Dinendal going off to bathe. Rahnee settled up accounts with Jandrico and informed the innkeeper that they would be gone for at least several days. The group then headed out, initially thinking that they would go to the clan lands via Turnton, but this was nixed by Darrow, who pointed out that Turnton was south and they needed to head west, along Traders Road. After a number of hours of traveling in the cold, the party arrived at the Reddansyr crossroads and decided to head for the village rather than camp outdoors.

It was very early on the morning of Alturiak 11 when the companions entered the Giant’s Folly in Reddansyr. Jokull, for some reason not as awake as the others, paid Ian Gryphonhawk a gold and immediately went upstairs to one of the common rooms to sleep. Darrow was more thirsty than tired, immediately downing an ale as Ian welcomed the others. Rahnee formally introduced Darrow and Dinendal to Ian, who was the proprietor of the festhall and also the town leader. In response to a question from Rahnee, Ian said that he had still heard nothing from his son Killian, but asked them to keep an ear out for any news if they were heading out toward Starmantle. Dinendal and Darrow both drank some of the available stout before Ian showed the group upstairs to their rooms for the night; Aerikoth took the one suite available, while the others shared a common room.

By late morning, everyone except Jokull was up, gathering in the inn’s common area for breakfast. Aerikoth told the others that he intended to stay for the day, in order to scribe a spell he acquired into his spell book. The wizard indicated that he could catch up with them in Teziir, if they decided to move on. Rahnee shrugged, saying that the day was already half gone and that they were in no rush, so would not mind staying themselves. Rahnee inquired after their former companion Belle, but was told by Ian that she had not been seen in Reddansyr for some time. Her father was still alive and had apparently recovered from the illness that had prompted Belle to return to the village and care for him.

Over breakfast, Dinendal was reminded of tales of Waterdeep’s underworld, bantering with Rahnee about rumors regarding the activities of “The Serpent”, an infamous elven exile and crime lord. Aerikoth excused himself and went up to his suite, to pursue his wizardly studies, while the others continued their conversation. Jokull finally roused himself and joined the others, gladly wolfing down the oatmeal and bread on offer.

By early evening, Jokull had again retired to his room. Aerikoth, having just finished scribing his spell, rejoined the others in the common area, desiring food and drink. Dinner was brought out, consisting of lamb and potatoes; as usual, Dinendal made a show of praying for forgiveness for eating the “slaughtered baby meat”, enjoying it nonetheless. An offhand comment from the elf about belching a prayer prompted a comment from Darrow and led to a friendly wager on a burping contest between the dwarf and the elf. Dinendal set the terms as a flask of ale to the one who could belch "Her Majesty's Last Girdle", a common Cormyrian round.

As the two began to drink and warm up for the contest, Ian came over and, after inquiring about the quality of the dinner, asked if he could bring up a proposal. Rahnee agreed and asked Ian to join them. The innkeeper sat down, mentioning that he actually had two things to bring up, the second of which he would save for morning. The first involved the Scarlet Company, a mercenary group who had recently taken the contract to explore the Starmantle road. Ian asked Rahnee and the others if they would talk with the Scarlet Company, since “Helm’s Shadows” were actually the last ones to have traveled down that way, when the company had taken on a group of trolls by the Reddan River bridge. After a bit of discussion, they agreed to share their experiences with the mercenaries.
 

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Rahnee led the others over, although she had trouble finding the back room for a minute. Mutual introductions were made between Helm’s Shadows and the Scarlet Company, which consisted of its leader, a warrior named Juril; Ayllan, a sorcerer; Firewine, who wore cleric’s robes; Elebril, a ranger; and a halfling rogue called Slipster. Juril explained that his company had taken the Mercenaries Guild contract and had promised Ian to keep a look out for his son; however, they had not previously traveled south of Reddansyr and could use experienced counsel. (On some occasions, listening too closely to adventurers' tales can spell trouble, or simply be a waste of time, if one is not interested in gathering stories for tavern talk. When dealing with a reasonably experienced company that has no hidden agenda, as was the case with Helm's Shadows, it can be profitable to learn from others' efforts. The Scarlet Company indeed ends up benefiting from this, as will be seen. --R)

Rahnee mentioned the encounter she and her companions had with trolls and manticores on the road south, by the river bridge, describing what she considered the best tactics to employ against these monsters. Dinendal was very interested in the tale and took copious notes, also interrupting periodically with questions. Rahnee’s recounting was also interrupted by an outburst from Ayllan, who after a whispered exchange with Slipster shouted at the halfling that he had cheated at dice and owed the sorcerer money. Juril restored order and had Rahnee continue with her story, Darrow also offering some tactical tips. Once Rahnee had finished, Juril thanked them for their information and willingness to assist. In response to a question from Rahnee, he indicated that his company had no fixed abode, but roamed the Dragon Coast.

The discussion done, Aerikoth silently left the inn, while the others gathered back in the common area. The wizard was gone for a while and upon his return was informed by Dinendal that he had been “blown away” in the belching contest by Darrow. Aerikoth confirmed with the others that the group would be leaving in the morning, then went up to his suite for the night.

The morning of Alturiak 12, Rahnee arrived in the Giant’s Folly common area and was disappointed to learn that no hot tea was available. Darrow in the meantime appeared to be quite satisfied with the ale that he ordered and quickly knocked back. As the hour was relatively early, the rest of their group had not yet come down when Ian Gryphonhawk asked the two of them if they would meet with one of Ian’s other guest, a young woman named Khalen. Ian briefly explained that she had been attacked by bandits and had found refuge in Reddansyr, but wished to travel on to Teziir. After confirming with Rahnee and Darrow that their group planned to pass through Teziir, and that they would consent to speak with Khalen, Ian went and fetched her.

Khalen, who appeared to be a blonde woman in her late teens, was initially somewhat shy while making introductions, but after Erinetta brought breakfast for the three, she soon warmed to Rahnee and Darrow. Somewhat haltingly, she explained to them that she had been traveling from Marsember with a male wizard companion named Brindan when they had encountered a gang of bandits led by someone called Nemar. Brindan had managed to save her by casting an invisibility spell on her after she fell in combat, but was not able to save himself. The two had originally been headed for Westgate, to start a new life together, but now Khalen was more interested in revenge. She had heard from Ian that a diviner lived in Teziir who might be able to assist her in finding Nemar, one of whose companions had been observed as having a strange-looking tattoo.

Rahnee expressed her sympathy for Khalen’s desire for revenge, as did Darrow, although the dwarf was skeptical of a diviner’s abilities to solve her problem. After some additional questions and discussion of Khalen’s situation, Rahnee and Darrow provisionally agreed to help her get to Teziir, pending the agreement of their other companions. As Rahnee idly strummed the lute she had earlier “borrowed” from Dinendal while he was drowsing, the elf came downstairs and inquired with Ian regarding the missing instrument. The innkeeper merely pointed over to Rahnee in response, whereupon Dinendal’s expression brightened and he went over to retrieve it. At about the same time, Aerikoth put in his appearance, wizard staff in hand. Khalen looked wide-eyed at the staff as Rahnee made introductions and Erinetta fetched breakfast for the latecomers.
 

Carlo-One

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Rahnee explained about Khalen’s situation, as Khalen re-told her story for Aerikoth and Dinendal. Jokull’s absence was also discussed; Dinendal believed it better to leave him alone with his hangover and personal demons. Talk then turned to how Khalen could best approach Isyio, the diviner in Teziir. Her mission of vengeance also prompted comments of both support and concern from her new comrades. Dinendal took the opportunity to copy out a sketch of the tattoo, as described by Khalen, possessed by the bandit.

The group decided to waste no more time in Reddansyr and set out for Teziir. Rahnee confirmed with Ian that they were all set and left a message with him for Jokull about their destination, as the warrior could catch up with them either on the road or in the city. Although the day was bright and sunny when they started out, it soon turned to rain for the remainder of the several-hour journey along Traders Road to the outskirts of Teziir.

Once inside the city, Dinendal and Darrow urged Khalen to report the bandit attack to the City Watch. She was reluctant to do so, however, fearing that this might tip off the bandits to her survival. Rahnee and Aerikoth advised visiting the Temple of Azuth, if Khalen wished to find the diviner, as that was his last known location. The group decided to head for the temple, as it was relatively close to them.

Inside the temple, the priest recognized Rahnee after she greeted him, also noting that she had some new companions. She explained that they sought Isyio again, on Khalen’s behalf. The priest asked Khalen to explain her troubles, which she described, despite turning red at an initial wisecrack from Dinendal about her impatience. The priest also noticed her impatience, but expressed his sympathies over her traumatic experience.

Having obtained Khalen’s story, and a copy of the tattoo sketch from Dinendal, the priest then asked Khalen for something of value to leave temporarily in bond, to demonstrate her seriousness. Considering her closely, the priest asked that she leave her ring behind; Khalen appeared shocked by the suggestion. Despite her vehement refusal to consider leaving the ring, the priest indicated that she could return the following evening at sunset for an answer to her petition. Rahnee and Dinendal thanked the priest for his consideration, while Aerikoth made some pointed comments about the priest’s behavior, including in an unknown language, before departing. (The wizard has serious issues with priests, of whatever god, and his unrelenting rudeness in temples is seemingly tolerated by his companions. I must wonder, did they expect to simply show up off the street and ask for an important favor at no cost to them? One would think that the hard life of an adventurer would lessen a sense of entitlement, rather than foster it. More charitably, Khalen has just suffered a traumatic experience and is no doubt still shaken and on edge. The normally imperturbable wizard's display of emotion, though, appears less justified - although perhaps some similar trauma in his personal history is the source of his behavior. --C)

Once outside the temple, Khalen apologized for her temper, prompting chuckles and understanding from Rahnee. Darrow told Khalen not to worry, as she would fit right in with them – excepting Aerikoth, who rarely showed emotion. Rahnee then suggested that they find a place for the night and get a warm meal under their belts. Dinendal informed the others that he would check the city entrance for Jokull, in case the warrior had managed to catch up with them.
 
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Before they moved on to the Two Swords inn, where the company had stayed the previous time in Teziir, Rahnee asked Khalen if she were still opposed to notifying the Teziir authorities about the bandit attack. Khalen said that she preferred to wait and see if first the diviner would help. Darrow for his part thought that their “friend” in Westgate, Khair, might be able to shed some light on the tattooed men, given his connections and the likelihood that they were fencing at least some of their stolen goods in that city. Aerikoth, who had remained silent, then drew Rahnee aside for a private conversation.

After all were ready, they wandered through the city to the Bayside district, where the Two Swords was located, continuing to discuss Khalen’s situation and how best to handle it. The innkeeper welcomed them back and mentioned that there were three rooms available, although he was somewhat taken aback when all of the adventurers said they wanted private lodging. After some negotiation, the group took the available rooms, Khalen uneasily agreeing to share one with Rahnee. As the others worked out their needs for the evening, to include bathing and laundry, Aerikoth decided to take a walk. Shortly after the wizard had departed, Dinendal made his way to the inn, reporting that he had seen no sign of their companion Jokull.

As evening rolled around on Alturiak 12, Rahnee retired to her room with a cramped leg, suffered no doubt as a result of all the walking done over the previous days. Khalen for her part was eager to visit the flophouse in the Point district, where she believed she might pick up information on Nemar’s bandit gang. Dinendal expressed some doubts over leaving Rahnee behind in the inn, but Darrow and the others allayed his concerns.

Aerikoth led them to the Point, where they were able to locate the flophouse, a building in none-too-good condition. A few thuggish types loitered in the large, dark common room, along with the man in charge of the place. Taking the direct approach, Khalen went right up to the man and asked if he had seen a man she was supposed to meet here called Nemar, describing his tattoo. When one of the thugs began making crude remarks about her, Darrow started returning the insults, clearly spoiling for a fight.

As Dinendal covered his eyes, the “innkeeper” rebuked the thug, whom he called Corvey, for insulting possible paying guests. Khalen tried calming Darrow down, as the dwarf wanted to use his axe on either the patrons or the flophouse itself, then she reminded the innkeeper about her question. He made a show of pondering, glancing over to one of the thugs briefly before saying that he did not know the person nor recognized the tattoo. Khalen promised him a gold coin - nothing more personal, as he wanted - if he remembered more information. As he declined the offer, a thug departed the place. The four adventurers then took their leave, following the thug but then losing track of him outside of the flophouse.

A stubbornly determined Khalen then re-entered the flophouse, with Dinendal trailing behind. The innkeeper again refused to take her gold, although she offered it to him with no strings attached, telling him she would be at the Two Swords if he remembered anything. The two adventurers then left, as the man glared daggers at their backs. The group moved off a short distance from the flophouse, by the water, to discuss what had happened. Dinendal expressed his suspicion that the flophouse keeper was on the take from the local underworld and/or scared of being seen as a snitch. The elf also worried that the local thugs now knew where they and Rahnee were staying. Khalen for her part seemed lost in thought, exchanging a few words with Aerikoth about her past.
 

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters

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