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The Westgate Campaign Chronicles - serial

Carlo-One

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When Rahnee arrived in the outskirts of Teziir, she found Aerikoth and Darrow in conversation. Dinendal was not there, the elf having previously re-entered to the city to see if he could track down Rahnee and Aerikoth. Rahnee reported that Queron was still furious and had refused to see her. She and her other two companions then spent some time discussing their situation.

Once Dinendal had returned, Rahnee asked him to share his ideas. He expounded on his theory that Janatha was likely on the run and avoiding Teziir, therefore suggesting that Aerikoth teleport to Westgate to speak to Jandrico while the others investigated the country lodge. The idea was to find Janatha and make amends with Queron. As Darrow had pointed out, however, they did not know where the lodge was. Aerikoth recalled that the only information they had was that it was a half-day's ride from Teziir and likely southerly. Rahnee took it upon herself to carefully scout the southern reaches of the area they were in, looking for some kind of trail or path. Finding nothing in the immediate area, the party continued their search and after some time found a trail leading towards the southwest. Believing that this was what they were looking for, they eagerly followed it.

After about ten hours of travel, they decamped in a wooded area and were attacked by a group of large worgs, who managed to seriously wound Dinendal before being defeated by the other adventurers and Aerikoth's summoned dire bear. Afterwards, Darrow handed the elf a healing potion while Rahnee bandaged his wounds. Aerikoth informed the others that he unfortunately did not have his magical shelter spell available. While they were contemplating their next steps, a rabid badger charged the group, but was quickly dispatched and thrown back over by the wolf bodies.

The companions all agreed that it appeared the trail they had found did not lead to Queron's lodge. Rahnee then recommended that they find a secure, defensible place to camp for the night while Aerikoth teleported to Westgate to talk to Jandrico. Darrow agreed, confirming with Aerikoth that they could all meet up in Reddansyr afterwards. At Rahnee's suggestion, they set the time of their rendevous there for dawn on the second following day. Aerikoth said that he could not leave the bear behind to guard them, since it was linked to him, so dismissed his summoned creature. While preparing to cast his teleport spell, the wizard paused and said that he could do something for them before departing, casting a stoneskin spell on Darrow before completing his other spell and disappearing.

According to plan, Aerikoth returned to Reddansyr the morning of Alturiak 23, teleporting to the village and walking into the Giant's Folly, where he sat down with Dinendal and Darrow while they breakfasted; Rahnee had not yet appeared. He informed his two companions that he had spoken with Jandrico Swift in Westgate. The innkeeper had not seen Janatha and was rather distressed by the news of her apparent kidnapping. Aerikoth had also managed to track down Khair, a Bedine mercenary with whom the group had done past business, at the Black Eye. He said he had provided Khair with what they knew about Janatha's disappearance, to see if the mercenary could come up with anything.

Dinendal observed that their trip to Reddansyr had been uneventful and mentioned that they had tried to find a local ranger. They had been informed by Ian Gryphonhawk that Belle, who had previously adventured with Aerikoth and Rahnee, was the only one in the area with such skills. She had not been seen in town for some time, however. Growing impatient, Dinendal went upstairs and woke up Rahnee. After she finished a quick breakfast, she spoke with Ian for a bit, then told the others that she thought she might know where to find Belle. She departed the inn, asking the others to leave word if they decided to head for Westgate in her absence. Her companions, however, decided to wait the rest of the morning before setting out.
 

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Carlo-One

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An Unintended Rescue

While Rahnee was still out and Aerikoth was studying his spellbook, Darrow and Dinendal decided to spend time exchanging jokes and drinks in the Giant's Folly common room. Their banter was interrupted, however, by a recently-arrived man named Dermot Kenner, whom Ian had pointed in their direction. Dermot introduced himself and told them that he had just arrived from Teziir, looking for Helm's Shadows; Dinendal acknowledged that Dermot was in the presence of half of the group. After initial introductions had been made, the three decided, with Ian's permission, to adjourn to the side room for a more private discussion.

There, Dermot explained that he had been given information in Teziir by “concerned parties” regarding Janatha's kidnapping, specifically that she had been taken by ship to Westgate. Dermot was questioned further by Dinendal and Darrow, who noted that they were seeking a local tracker to possibly help them with the search. When it was clear that nothing could be gained from further discussion, they headed back to the common room so that Dermot could satisfy his stomach's growling.

Shortly after midday, Rahnee returned to the inn, looking somewhat weary. She immediately asked for an ale and sat down with the others. Dermot was presented as someone who had some information about their current problem; Aerikoth arrived just as this was occurring and was similarly introduced. Aerikoth observed that Rahnee had not returned with Belle, their former ranger companion who was from the area. Rahnee indicated to the mage that Belle appeared to be out adventuring and seemed disinclined to comment further, placing her booted feet on the table as she consumed her drink.

Dermot then explained he had received information that Janatha, the kidnapped daughter of Council Member Queron Ulanthar, had been recently taken from Teziir to Westgate by ship. In response to Rahnee's query about how he found this out, Dermot admitted that it was second-hand information, but nevertheless was what Ulanthar's people had discovered. A friend had told him and also asked him to find Helm's Shadows to pass it on. Unfortunately, Dermot did not know the name of the ship.

After some talk, the group decided it was willing to trust Dermot and his information - at least provisionally. Aerikoth then inquired if Rahnee had been told by Dinendal and Darrow, in his absence, of his recent conversation with the Bedine mercenary Khair in Westgate. Rahnee said she had not and the wizard, after a sidelong glance at the elf and dwarf, proceeded to explain. Aerikoth had thought similarly, that Janatha most likely would be taken to Westgate, so during his last magical trip to the city had asked Khair to search out whatever information was available. The mercenary would be at the Black Eye tavern either that night or the following night, in order to share whatever he was able to uncover regarding Janatha.

Dermot volunteered his services, saying that he did not take his promises lightly and did not like the thought of the girl in danger. He said he could be of use as a tracker, if not as much of a warrior. Rahnee took his measure with some steel in her eyes, but her mood lightened some at the mention of Dermot's tracking skills, which also caused Darrow to grin at Rahnee; both of them recognized there was a need for that in the company. A poll of the members of Helm's Shadows resulted in the approval of Dermot's assistance. Aerikoth expressed his usual indifference to the actions of the others, although the wizard stated that he was intrigued at the thought of the Council Member's underlings going against his wishes in order to provide assistance to the group. (It seems that members of Queron's organization are more concerned with the return of their master's daughter, than in ostracizing the company for Aerikoth's actions. This shows that Queron has good people in his employ. --R)
 

Carlo-One

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As the company was already prepared, it took little time to say their farewells to Ian Gryphonhawk at the Giant’s Folly and strike out for Traders Road. As they passed the crossroads area, they noticed a group of wagons in the distance. Dinendal expressed his concern at possible bandit attacks and the group changed course to see about the caravan. Once at the crossroads, they were greeted by the head of the caravan, a man named Kleneman who worked for the Guldar Company out of Westgate. As he was on his way to Teziir, he inquired if there was any trading news from the city. In exchange for Rahnee informing him that Clan Ironhelm had agreed to resume trading with the city, Kleneman told her about increased shipping trade between Westgate and Starmantle, which he found curious since he did not have an explanation for it. (Rahnee was overly optimistic regarding Clan Ironhelm's ability to conduct any meaningful outside trade at this point, which I judge in keeping with her view of the world, although perhaps the intent was there. --R)

Taking their leave of the caravan, the adventurers headed east along Traders Road for Westgate, reaching the city's outskirts in the early morning. They headed for the Gatereach Inn, where Rahnee took the lead in introducing Dermot to a somewhat bleary-eyed Jandrico Swift. Despite the early hour, the innkeeper was able to provide them with two rooms. Aerikoth took his leave of the others, going to his own accommodations elsewhere for the remainder of the night.

Late in the morning of Alturiak 24, with Rahnee still resting from their travels and Aerikoth off elsewhere, Darrow, Dinendal and Dermot decided to reconnoiter Westgate taverns in search of information regarding the ship where Janatha was reportedly being held. By the evening, Darrow and Dermot had managed to find their way back to the Gatereach, although losing the elf somewhere along the way. As time was of the essence, the group decided to head for the Black Eye tavern, to see if Khair had come up with any useful information.

When they were a short distance away from the tavern, a boy ran up to Aerikoth and pointed out a dark alley corner, running away after his job was done. The four adventurers cautiously advanced to the mouth of the narrow alley entrance, where Khair was waiting for them. As Darrow kept a lookout, the mercenary wasted no time in informing them of what he had discovered: Janatha was being held on a ship called the Black Dragon, which was currently docked at the Shore and might be departing the city at dawn. For his work, Rahnee passed Khair a large pouch of gold. After thanking Rahnee for her generosity, the Bedine mercenary disappeared down the alley.

The four then made their way to the Shore, which was almost entirely deserted out-of-doors. The dark night allowed Dermot to make his way slowly and unseen towards the docks, where he confirmed the presence of two guards by a ship with a dragon-head prow. After some discussion, it was decided that Rahnee and Dermot would enter the ship first, to see if they could effect a rescue. If they were not out in ten minutes, or the others heard fighting, they were to assault the ship. Aerikoth cast a spell of invisibility on Dermot while Rahnee used her magical ring for the same effect. The two invisible companions then made their way carefully onto the ship, passing the two guards on the deck without being detected.

Only a short time later, however, Aerikoth and Darrow heard cries and the sounds of battle coming from the ship. The dwarf eagerly ran for the gangplank and quickly dispatched the one guard still topside. After struggling a bit with the hatch, Darrow lowered himself into the middle of a melee, with Aerikoth right behind. The dark confines of the ship's hold had allowed for an ambush of Rahnee and Dermot by several enemies, who however were soon dispatched by the battle-enraged dwarf and Aerikoth's spells.
 

Carlo-One

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Once Rahnee and Dermot’s wounds had been attended to, the companions noticed the sounds of banging coming from a crate in the back left of the hold. Examination of that and another nearby crate showed that they had airholes. Darrow meanwhile stripped some of their fallen opponents of their gear, which had Night Mask markings. After Dermot had failed to open the crate from which the noises were issuing, Darrow applied his strength and succeeded. As the crate lid was pulled off, the form of a bound and blindfolded girl could be seen inside.

Dermot and Darrow helped her out of the crate and removed her bonds as Rahnee rushed over, calling Janatha's name. The girl seemed to still be dazed, fighting to get some space and continuing to yell. After she settled down some, Rahnee calmly asked her if another woman was there. The girl looked around and uttered Janatha's name, saying she was gone. Rahnee explained that they were friends of hers. Aerikoth, who had seized some of their fallen opponents' weapons and inspected the other crate, calmly stated that since Janatha was not there, they should be leaving and should take the girl with them. Rahnee suggested heading for the house of Thessar the Warrior, at the top of the hill in the Shore district, as she did not believe the girl was in good enough shape to make it to the Hidden House with them. The others, eager to be away from the scene, agreed. The four adventurers and their new companion made their way to Thessar's home. The girl – who introduced herself as Shanni Krowe – still weaved a bit as she walked.

Once at Thessar’s house, Rahnee knocked on the door and identified herself, saying that she needed help. Thessar immediately let the group in, noticing Rahnee's wounds and then the fact that she had several companions with her. Darrow, in a surly mood, questioned who Thessar was and why they had come to his place, but the dwarf became friendlier after hearing that Thessar had once done a service for Clan Ironhelm. As various wounds were tended to, the four adventurers began to explain what had happened and why they were searching for Janatha to both Thessar and Shanni; the girl showed an eagerness to pay back her kidnappers for what they had done.

As the group recuperated, Thessar passed out ales to those who wanted refreshment, along with some spiced wine for Shanni. The girl, still a little unsteady, explained that she must have been given a sleeping draught while out with a male companion, as the next thing she remembered was waking up in the crate. While imprisoned, she was able to hear her captors speaking about "Astorians" and "slavery" which led her to believe that would be her fate. She said she knew little about her fellow captive Janatha, just that she had mentioned her father was named Queron and that she had previously been in Westgate with someone called Swift. In response to a question from Dermot, Shanni said that she had not been able to pick up much of anything from her captors' conversations about where they had taken Janatha, although the words "Vhammos" and "docks" had been mentioned by them.

As Shanni was talking, Darrow decided to take inventory of the equipment he had seized from their dead opponents. He dismissed most of it as flimsy and human-sized, but took a fancy to a helmet, even though it had a big dent in it that would take a while to fix. Rahnee then asked Thessar if they could stay the night. The warrior generously offered to put them up for as long as they desired, but thought it would be wiser for them to leave the area. Aerikoth and Darrow questioned Shanni further about “Vhammos” and she recalled having seen the name on some warehouses in the River Gate district. The wizard explained that it was one of the noble houses of Westgate and was rumored to have strong ties to the Night Masks. Shanni recalled that their manor was also in River Gate.

Rahnee inquired if Shanni had anyone or anywhere that she could go to for protection; the girl reluctantly admitted that she did not. Darrow offered up two ideas: first, to hide out at the Hidden House; second, to depart that evening for Teziir and have Shanni tell her tale to Queron Ulanthar. The dwarf observed that in either case, they would have to roust Dinendal from wherever he was nursing his ale hangover. It was decided that it would be best to head for the Hidden House. Thessar bid them a fond farewell, asking them to return to share stories when they could.
 

Carlo-One

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Rahnee went to check the Gatereach Inn for Dinendal's whereabouts, while the other four adventurers made their way through the dark streets of Westgate to the Temple District, where they entered the Hidden House. By chance, they encountered Dinendal inside, as he had thought the others would use it as a hideout if needed. Shanni, still wary, was introduced to the elf, who was solicitous of her condition. Rahnee arrived a short time after, ruefully commenting on the terrible condition of the place. The group made themselves as comfortable as they could and discussed their situation, pausing a couple of times to chase away or kill vermin. After it was decided that they would spend the night there and set up a watch, Aerikoth informed them that he would take leave of their current accommodations and would return in the morning.

The next day, Alturiak 25, Dinendal and Rahnee decided they needed to clear the Hidden House of vermin, if the place was to be at all habitable. Darrow, Dermot and Shanni left them to it and departed the building after they had made themselves presentable. The three made a side trip to pick up Shanni's stowed gear, which she had left with a man named Zacho at what she described as a bait and tackle shop. They then decided to return to the Gatereach and found Aerikoth there, calmly eating breakfast. While Goruna the gap-toothed serving woman made eyes at Dermot, the mage explained that the City Watch had arrived and was investigating the burning down of the Gatereach guest house, which had occurred earlier that month. Leaving the others to their meal, Aerikoth went upstairs to speak to Watch Commander Meynn and was joined shortly afterwards by Darrow after the dwarf had wolfed down his food.

As soon as the Watch had departed, Dermot and Shanni went upstairs to see how things had gone. Aerikoth stated that Commander Meynn had simply desired to obtain any information they had on the incident with the guest house, his presence having nothing to do with the events surrounding Janatha's disappearance. The wizard then queried Shanni extensively about the circumstances of her time in Westgate and her kidnapping. Shanni told him about working in Zacho's shop and described an encounter with a man called "Raphy" who met her in the Market district and then brought her to Big Edna's for a drink, which apparently had been drugged. (These kidnappers were using what must have been a tried and true method for them, for such things are not done just on the spur of the moment. Sadly, this implies that they had much success in the past, with victims who were not so fortunate as Shanni to be rescued. --C)

Later that morning, Rahnee and Dinendal returned to the Gatereach. Rahnee departed shortly afterwards, having been informed by Aerikoth that Watch Commander Meynn would like to speak with her about the investigation of the guest house's destruction, having missed her earlier. Darrow ordered another ale from Jandrico Swift while the group discussed their situation, and Shanni returned to Dinendal a cloak and crossbow that she had borrowed. After a few minutes, Aerikoth got a distant look in his eyes and excused himself, departing the inn without explanation and leaving the others to their own devices. (By now it appears that the wizard has trained his companions well to not expect any sort of discussion or explanation of his activities away from the group. --R)
 

Carlo-One

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Raiding and Departing

It was mid-afternoon on Alturiak 25 when the wizard returned to the Gatereach to collect Rahnee, Shanni and Darrow. The dwarf willingly left his ale at the prospect of some action, after Aerikoth explained that they needed to go to a place outside of River Gate, where Dermot was awaiting them. The four soon arrived in the vicinity of the Rising Raven and joined Dermot, who had been stealthily keeping an eye on one of the nearby buildings.

Aerikoth explained that Jamal had informed him that a group of Astorians had come to Westgate and were staying in one of the Rising Raven's outbuildings. Dinendal, meanwhile, had apparently gone off to check the Vhammos docks for any signs of Janatha's presence. Dermot pointed out the one building where he had heard occupants inside, also observing that there was a small army of Vhammos guards off to the east.

Rahnee carefully reconnoitered the building, noting an old, decrepit second-floor hoist on the back of it, which however did not seem to offer a means of ingress. Various options were discussed by the group, including having Aerikoth use a dimension door spell to enter the building, setting fire to the place, or attempting to climb up the backside. In the end, a quick assault through the door was selected, Aerikoth being able to unlock it with a magical chime in his possession.

The five ordered themselves for battle, Rahnee placing herself and Darrow in front and indicating that Aerikoth should use his protective stoneskin spell on Dermot. Shanni moved to the rear of the formation, sheathing her sword and pulling out a bow. Once they were all ready, Aerikoth used his magic on the door and the others went through it rapidly and silently.

Inside, they immediately faced off against an equal number of Astorians. Rahnee was wounded multiple times and Shanni caught a blow as the battle seesawed back and forth across the confined space. After a few minutes of hard fighting, however, the companions prevailed, with Aerikoth's magic assisting the axes, swords, and bows of the others.

A quick search of the area showed that Janatha was not there. While Rahnee examined a locked chest, Dermot indicated to the others that he had found a note on one of the bodies. It read: "Move the girl to the warehouse in Starmantle, for usual disposition. The special package should be delivered to the lair, posthaste" and was signed by "N". As Darrow cursed their luck, Shanni went over to the chest and was able to pick the lock, revealing some gold coins and gems, but nothing more of interest. She handed over the items to Rahnee and after some further looting of their downed foes, the group exited the building.

Moving a short distance away, they had just stopped to confer amongst themselves when a Vhammos guard coming out of the Rising Raven spotted them and asked them what they were doing. Dermot asked in return if there was a problem and the guard backed off, looking at them over his shoulder as he walked away. After putting some additional distance between themselves and the Rising Raven, the group again examined the note Dermot had found. Aerikoth recognized the seal on it as being that of the Astorians, a spiral shape resembling the letter A. The wizard also noted that the "N" might signify Nemar, about whom they had heard in Teziir.

Their blood still up from the fight, the companions huddled to share what information they had and to speculate on what had happened to Janatha. Dermot mentioned that no ships had been found near Vhammos castle during an exploration of the area, only a suspicious-looking sewer entrance. Opinion was split among the party on whether "the girl" in the note meant Janatha or perhaps Shanni. Darrow observed that since the ship they had hit had been heading to Starmantle, it would make sense if Shanni were "the girl" and Janatha the "special package" referred to. Regarding the lair mentioned in the note, none had any idea where or what that might be.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
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After the group safely made their way back to the Gatereach, with Aerikoth splitting off on the way, Rahnee decided she should go see if Dinendal needed some assistance (or could be found at all). This left Darrow, Dermot and Shanni together in an upstairs room at the inn, with drinks generously provide by Jandrico Swift, racking their brains about the situation. A while later, the three came down and Darrow told Jandrico that they were headed off on an excursion and would likely end up at the Black Eye.

That evening, the three adventurers returned to the Gatereach to find Aerikoth quietly having dinner in the back room. Darrow unceremoniously plunked himself down and announced that they had found the Vhammos docks after entering the sewers by the castle. Dermot commented, however, that the way was not direct and required "a long bloody walk" through the sewer. Darrow also mentioned that they had found some interesting side passages, including one that terminated in a chamber that had bone bats similar to the ones previously encountered in the lich's Deep Delve lair. A runed door was also in the chamber, but Shanni noted that it did not appear to have been used in a while. Darrow said it wouldn't have been a good idea to poke around there any further.

After everyone had their fill of dinner, with Goruna making eyes at Dermot as she delivered the food, the companions turned to discussing the significance of what they had found in the raid on the Astorians' hideout in Westgate. The cryptic note was re-examined, with Shanni expressing her uncertainty over the references made in it. At one point, Jandrico Swift stopped by to see if they had any further news; in response to a question from Darrow, he informed them that the harbor master could be found in the Westlight Harbor district.

As their debate resumed, Aerikoth asserted his view that Shanni must be the "girl" referred to in the note, given that Janatha would have been unlikely to be considered for the "usual disposition" of the gang, although Shanni was not fully convinced. (It appears that Shanni took offense at not being considered for "special" treatment by the kidnap gang. One would think that the daughter of one of Teziir's wealthiest men would be a more likely candidate, however. --R) All agreed, however, that they had no idea of where the "lair" mentioned in the note could be located. Aerikoth said that he would attempt to send word to Jamal, who he thought might know something about it.

Jandrico, obviously concerned about Janatha's fate, returned after a time and quietly asked if he could be of help. Dermot gestured at the Astorians' note, which was lying on the bar. The innkeeper quickly digested its contents, expressing his surprise at the mention of Starmantle. Jandrico observed that there had been rumors lately of Starmantle-bound ships with mysterious cargo, commenting that Shanni might have been such, had she not been rescued. He also retrieved and passed to Shanni a folded advertisement for an inn in the city, which he said might be of use if they were headed there. The four agreed that the next day they should plan to see the harbor master and investigate going by ship to Starmantle.

Rahnee at this point returned to the Gatereach, her search for Dinendal having proved fruitless. Dermot was somewhat disturbed by the elf's absence, although Rahnee thought he had perhaps gone to the market to pick up supplies for the Hidden House. Before the group could say much more on the subject, Rahnee perked up at the sound of a man's voice in the common room, shortly after which a blue-robed and extravagantly mustachioed man walked into view. She greeted him happily as "Maddie!" and immediately gave him a fierce hug.

Madrigal Roaringhorn engaged his sister in some witty banter and, after acknowledging Aerikoth and Darrow, was introduced by Rahnee to Dermot and Shanni. Once the pleasantries were over, Madrigal pulled Rahnee aside for a private conversation as the others looked on and wondered what this could portend; the Waterdeep-based wizard would not be in Westgate if it were not important. The two spoke in low tones for a while, then Madrigal walked back to the group, excusing himself until the following morning.

Rahnee explained to the others that she had been summoned home by her "Lord Brothers" on urgent family business, although she was still unsure exactly what was the matter and how long she would be away. Darrow said that while he did not like it, he respected the fact that Clan came first, adding that he would offer to join her if their own business was not so urgent. Aerikoth, citing a previous conversation with Rahnee about family obligations, also expressed his understanding of her need to depart. Rahnee promised to follow them as soon as she could, handing some gemstones to Aerikoth and asking the wizard to find Janatha and bring her home. She then retired upstairs to a private room furnished by Jandrico, in order to prepare for her morning departure.
 

Carlo-One

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Early the next day, Alturiak 26, the adventurers gathered once again at the Gatereach, Darrow being the first up and discovering Dinendal had returned. Once Dermot and Shanni had also come down and Aerikoth appeared, Jandrico noted that Rahnee had already left. (Saying formal goodbyes sometimes is both difficult and unnecessary, especially if there is nothing that has been left unsaid among companions. And perhaps Rahnee does not intend for this to be her final exit. --R) Dinendal said that he had hoped to see her before her sojourn, as well as his own. Aerikoth explained to him that the local Astorians had been dealt with permanently and that according to his information they should head to the Watch Docks in order to inquire after a ship bound for Starmantle. The wizard observed that it did not appear that the elf would be joining them, however, if he had heard correctly.

Dinendal appeared even more animated and talkative than usual, his mind clearly flying ahead to wherever he was thinking about. He pulled out several scrolls and pressed them on Shanni, saying that she should use them to keep the others alive amidst the confusion of battle. He then gifted Dermot with a bundle of arrows and some fine ale obtained from dwarven halls, asking him to use his wisdom for the group. For Darrow, he had a bottle of his favorite stout and a healing potion, which the dwarf accepted while asking somewhat confusedly where Dinendal would be going. To Aerikoth the elven bard then passed a parchment full of notations in the margins.

Only after he had finished with his words and gifts did Dinendal explain that he had been called to Cormyr. The elf said that he would be traveling there as a favor to Jamal and Jokull, saying that the Purple Knight had apparently found something of interest; Jamal had then called upon Dinendal for his unique skills - whatever they were - to help the man. Aerikoth said that he had presumed as much, when Dinendal had first mentioned journeying.

As the group finished their breakfast, Dinendal mentioned that he would at least be able to accompany them to the Watch Docks. The five were able to locate the building without much difficulty and inquired about passage to Starmantle from the clerk on duty. After checking his files for the docks schedule, he said that there should be a ship departing from the Urdo docks in Market district at Highsun that day. The group then made their way directly to the docks, where they were informed that Captain Halfoy and his ship, called the Sea Sprite, would be departing in several hours, with passengers asked to arrive at the docks at eleven bells in order to be ferried out to the vessel. (It seems that Dinendal slipped away at this point, having already said his lengthy farewells. I must say that the elven bard/cleric came across in these chronicles as rather flighty, although a true companion. --C)

For the rest of the morning, Darrow, Dermot and Shanni spent their time wandering amongst the vast shelves of Shalush Myrkeer's shop. Unsure of what exactly to get for the sea voyage, Darrow settled on a spare suit of studded leather armor, not wanting to have to rely on wearing his heavy plate aboard ship. The three were disappointed to find out that potions could only be had in the temples, as they had been hoping to find all they needed in the shop. With time pressing, they decided to head straight for the docks.

At the Urdo dock, the guards on duty pointed them towards the sailor Neddy, who was in charge of the pinnace that would take them out to the ship. He informed the adventurers that price for them would be ten gold, if they vowed to defend the ship against any corsairs. Darrow gladly paid his money, excited at the prospect of fighting pirates, while Dermot and Shanni more reluctantly passed the sailor their fares.

After about a half-hour, the pinnace arrived at the side of the Sea Sprite and the three were helped on board. Captain Halfoy greeted them briefly, mentioning that the mage Aerikoth was already in his cabin and studying, not wishing to be disturbed. While shouting instructions to the crew, the captain also explained the rules of the ship to his new passengers, which were essentially to stay out of the way and obey the captain. As the ship got underway, the adventurers talked eagerly of their upcoming voyage of discovery.
 

Carlo-One

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By late afternoon that day, stormy weather appeared and the captain asked Darrow, Dermot and Shanni to go below decks while it lasted. The three compared notes on how they could pass the time, while the ship appeared to lose momentum and they could hear the captain cursing on the main deck. Aerikoth emerged from his cabin and after briefly checking the weather on deck, returned below decks. A few words of greeting were exchanged, then the wizard went back in his cabin to continue reading.

As the storm grew stronger, evidenced by the sounds of thunder and some water seepage from above into the cabin deck, the three in the common area heard some faint retching noises and some thumping. Deciding that if it was the wizard that he should not be bothered, they instead went out on deck to see what was happening. The storm had not relented and the captain, evidently not in a good mood, ordered them back to the cabins.

Once more below decks, the three - now wetter for their trouble - eventually decided to investigate the faint retching and thumping noises they kept hearing. In the corner cabin, apparently used for storage, they discovered the sounds were coming from inside a large cabinet. As it was jammed shut, various unsuccessful attempts were made at opening it, which attracted Aerikoth's attention. By this point, it was evident that someone was inside, cowering fearfully before Darrow and Dermot's efforts to break apart the cabinet, which Shanni observed had been barred from within.

After some additional efforts by the group, the person announced that he was coming out. Following about a minute of work, a man emerged, partially covered in vomit and wearing clothes little better than rags. Quickly moving to sit on the floor, the man commented that the group was persistent, as Dermot asked him if he were all right. Somewhat wide-eyed after noticing Aerikoth's staff, he asked who they were. Dermot told him that they were passengers and asked him in turn who he was.

The man introduced himself as Errend and complained about his bad luck. He had not expected that sailors would find him, but was betrayed by the sickening motion of the ship and the unexpected presence of passengers belowdecks. Errend then asked if they were going to turn him in, Darrow replying that it depended on why he had stowed away. Errend stood dramatically for a moment, declaring that the tale would chill their bones, but then thought better of it, carefully sinking to the floor again before relating his story.

Errend related that he had been working as a caravan guard until the winter hit and trade dried up between Westgate and Teziir, due to the cold and banditry, along with reports of weird creatures being spotted near the road. He then tried to find a livelihood in Westgate, which was difficult, so he ended up living at the Shore ("not a nice place" in his words.) Down on his luck, he heard about a job that would be easy money, no questions asked, where he just had to show up at a particular place at night. Errend said that things got fuzzy from this point, but he thought that he put up a fight before everything went dark. Meanwhile, as Shanni was listening to Errend's description of what happened, her face began to assume a haunted expression.

Errend said that afterwards he woke up in some place that had to have been a temple, although he had never seen it before. He saw that he was not the only one there, as a couple of others were trussed up next to him. While he was lying there, one of the other captives was dragged off. After about a minute, Errend described hearing a wet scream, then nothing more. He was then put in a dark room with the remaining prisoner. After having gone to sleep and then waking up again, Errend described feeling like he had been drugged. After he regained his wits, he could see that it was night out and he was back in the same alley he had started from. He then decided he had better get out of Westgate while he still could. Not being rich, he stowed away on the ship, describing how it hadn't been too hard to get past the guards, hiding among some barrels. Then he found some tools and barred himself in the cabinet, figuring that no one could get it open and he could sneak away whenever was best, once they reached port.
 

Carlo-One

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In response to questions from Shanni and Darrow, the stowaway Errend said that he could not remember anything further to identify the temple he had been taken to in Westgate, it having been too dark. Dejectedly, he explained that he had been hoping to make his way to the Order of Kainen in Starmantle, in the hopes that they would take him in. He described the Order as a noble brotherhood of warriors and expressed hope that he could become a squire or the like. Dermot probed his memory further, asking if he could remember any smells from the temple. Screwing his face up in thought, Errend was able to recall a kind of sweet and cloying smell in the temple, with a bit of a metallic tang in the air as well.

At this point Darrow declared that he did not see any reason to turn Errend in to the ship's captain, although he could not speak for the others. Dermot appeared to be thinking it over, while Shanni stated she saw no reason to either. Aerikoth, having remained silent until this point, noted his indifference but asked a question of Errend, inquiring who had told him to meet at the spot where he was abducted. Errend said the person had not used his real name, as he was simply called Dagger, but he was understood to work for the Night Masks.

Errend could shed no further light on the circumstances of his release after being kidnapped, although he said the fact that he came out of the experience with no money or other possessions on him proved it had not simply been a dream. (So says many a drunk waking up in an alley the next morning, although Errend's tale appears to be too detailed to be simply the ramblings of a poor sot. --R) He was eager to not be turned over to the ship's captain and said all he wanted was to get to the Order of Kainen in Starmantle; should the party help him, perhaps one day he could do them a favor in return. In response to a question from Shanni, Errend admitted that he knew nothing of Starmantle, other than that the Order was supposed to be located in the western sector of the city.

After a bit of discussion, Darrow decided to go ahead and offer to pay the captain for Errend's passage, although he warned the stowaway not to take him for a sucker and ask for any handouts in the future. Errend rushed to praise Darrow's generosity and promised never to ask for anything again, also saying that he would be in the dwarf's debt. Aerikoth then advised Errend to clean himself up as the others went to speak to the captain. (Darrow's kind-heartedness is gratifying to see. The dwarf has a gruff exterior, but he clearly has a soft spot for the underdogs in life. Perhaps he identifies with them, in some way. --C)

As the group stepped out on deck, Captain Halfoy greeted them cheerily, observing that the bad weather had passed and they should be arriving in Starmantle in an hour. Halfoy's cheer quickly evaporated when Darrow informed him of the "extra passenger" and at first the ship captain vowed that Errend would walk the plank. Halfoy’s anger turned to surprise and then pleasure, however, when Darrow counted out the gold for Errend’s passage. He informed the group that the ship would arrive at the Northern Docks district of Starmantle and that they should make whatever plans necessary before landfall.
 

Carlo-One

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Below in the ship’s cabins, Errend was informed that he was now an official passenger and the former stowaway again thanked Darrow for his generosity. The four adventurers then briefly talked among themselves about their initial plans for Starmantle, before Shanni suggested they quiz Errend some more about his experiences in Westgate. Shanni went back to where Errend was sitting and settled on a crate, while Darrow ambled over to listen in.

In response to Shanni's careful questioning, Errend confessed he was none too certain as to what had happened to him. At first he was thinking it was some skullduggery on the part of the Masks, but he did not see how the dark temple fit in to the thieves guild. He still could not understand why he had been let loose, commenting that his family was supposedly cursed, but that fortune had evidently favored him this time. Darrow inquired about the curse and was told by a shamefaced Errend that there was supposedly Yuan-Ti blood in his heritage, although you could not tell by looking at him.

Shanni asked Errend for further details about the circumstances of his hiring by "Dagger" in Westgate. Errend said that he had met his Night Mask contact once before in a tavern, then had run into him a couple of times afterwards when coming through the city as a caravan guard. The last time they met, Errend asked him for work and was told to meet in the alley where the kidnapping took place. Moving on to a different topic, Shanni showed Errend the broadsheet she had been given by Jandrico Swift and asked if he knew anything about the Vulture's Roost inn in Starmantle. Errend pleaded ignorance to that and any other information about the city, other than knowing the district where the Order of Kainen was located.

At this point the sailor Neddy came down to inform them that the ship would be docking in about a half an hour, as it was now starting her approach into the harbor. After he returned to the main deck, the four adventurers discussed the difficulties that would be involved in finding the Astorians and the kidnapped Janatha in Starmantle. They then decided to go up top to see the ship come into harbor.

Despite some rain from a leftover sea squall and the post-sunset darkness, they watched the captain expertly yell orders to his crew and navigate the ship into its dock. Sailor Neddy made sure they got off the ship properly, but could not inform them of where the Vulture's Roost was located. Wandering off the dock and on unfamiliar territory in the dark and the rain, they found a local passerby to direct them to the inn.
 

Carlo-One

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Starmantle

Upon entering the Vulture's Roost, the group took a look around the slightly seedy inn’s interior. A harlot standing nearby immediately sized them up and approached, striking up a conversation. Shanni, perhaps not unexpectedly, reacted with visible disdain and Darrow with disinterest, but Dermot was more willing to engage in talk. With the ice broken, Shanni asked about a "friend" named Pehlen, but the name meant nothing to the harlot, who instead pointed out Devins, the innkeeper. With that business concluded, the woman turned her attention back to Dermot, evidently the most approachable of the party, and introduced herself as Lita.

The group went over to Devins, after Dermot disengaged himself from conversation with Lita, and again mentioned the name Pehlen, as Shanni showed the innkeeper the flyer she had received. Devins seemed pleased that the inn's name was being advertised so widely and introductions were made, with the group explaining that they had come from Westgate. Devins promised to see if he could locate Pehlen if they bought a few drinks, which they did, seating themselves at a nearby table. The innkeeper also mentioned in passing that the road leading into the city had recently been cleared of beasts by an adventuring group. (This must be the Scarlet Company that the party had met in Reddansyr at the Giant's Folly. Apparently they put the party's observations to good use; no doubt there was considerable coin gained from the contract, as well as some measure of fame. --C)

After a short time, Devins returned and informed them that Pehlen didn't seem to be around, but he might be there in the morning. He deflected a pointed question from Aerikoth, saying that it would be best for Pehlen to talk about himself, also indicating that he had some rooms available for the night. Despite Aerikoth's irritation at the innkeeper's lack of helpfulness, he was willing to stay there, as were the others. As they were debating the room arrangements, Dermot noted that a pair of inn patrons by the door had hurried off to somewhere else inside the inn and had not returned, observing that they had appeared to be a woman and her bodyguard.

As the others arranged to take two double rooms, Dermot mentioned that he thought it would be worth it to "talk" to Lita more, since she likely knew the place well. Devins, apparently in a generous mood, then offered to give the remaining single room to Shanni, who gladly accepted it. It was understood that Darrow and Aerikoth would room together, with Dermot taking the other room for his tete-a-tete. Lita had just begun to get friendly again with Dermot when Aerikoth walked up to her and abruptly asked how much she charged for her services. Somewhat startled, she indicated it was ten gold for the night. The wizard then asked Dermot if he had the coins or would require some more. At this point Shanni sniffed and walked off, Darrow doing the same after smirking a bit first, saying he was going to turn in. Aerikoth then followed the dwarf upstairs, leaving Dermot and Lita in conversation.

The next morning, Alturiak 27, Devins arranged for breakfast for the group as they trickled in. Shanni was the last to arrive, coming in from the outside and wet from the rain. As she came in, Dermot was puzzling over his observation from the night before of the couple who had appeared to go to the kitchen, but never came back out again. His speculation was put aside, however, when Shanni peremptorily put a scrawled handwritten note down on the table before them, saying that he - meaning Pehlen - must have got away while they were busy. She said she had seen the note pushed under her door and ran outside to see if she could spot who had left it, but to no avail. It was signed with a "P" and said "Speak to Barzog. Guards have him." Dermot, putting two and two together, commented that Devins must have given her the single room so that the note could be delivered to her. (The ranger is perceptive and was evidently not too distracted by his "conversations" with Lita the previous day. --R)

Over a breakfast of fishcakes - what they ate in those parts, said Devins - and fresh bread, the party discussed what to do next, the obvious move being to locate this Barzog that the note referred to. Darrow and Shanni went over to the counter to talk to Devins, who informed them that the jailhouse was located in the city's eastern sector. With that established, the four finished their breakfast and departed the inn, Shanni needling Dermot on the way out about his previous night's experience.
 

Carlo-One

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Once outside the Vulture's Roost, Darrow hailed a passing member of the city patrol and inquired about the jail, which the dwarf was informed was in the Eastern sector. After wandering in the general direction of the area, the group spied a gallows and deduced that the jailhouse should be near, finally identifying the right building. (Land navigation has never been a strength of this adventuring company, although to be fair it is often difficult to get one's bearings in a new city. --R) Before going in, they briefly debated what tack to take with the guards and with Barzog, Aerikoth during the process making a comment about Shanni's previous capture that riled her.

Upon entering, Darrow went up to the sergeant on duty and asked to speak to Barzog, saying that it was related to some business dealings in Westgate. The sergeant informed them regretfully that only family members were allowed to speak to prisoners. Darrow then arranged to provide twenty gold "proofs of kinship" to the guard, who declared everything to be in order, pointing the way up to the cell where Barzog was being held.

Making their way carefully past a large patrolling dog, the four adventurers arrayed themselves outside of Barzog's cell. The half-orc was barely awake and they could only tell he was alive at all by the smells and belching coming from his location. Darrow took the initial lead in talking to the criminal, who admitted to having been put in jail after a fight at the Muddy Ogre. Darrow said that they might be able to exchange favors, for example getting Barzog bailed out, mentioning that they had been directed there by someone whose name began with P. Barzog took that as a reminder to attend to some bodily functions, further sickening Shanni. Aerikoth meanwhile studied him unblinkingly.

Despite her distaste for the half-orc, Shanni bantered with him after he expressed a crude interest in her, in the hopes of persuading him to cooperate. She then went back down to talk to the sergeant in order to clarify Barzog's situation, while Aerikoth and Darrow discussed their new-found friend. Reporting back to the others, she said that the half-orc would be in lockup for at least ten days, prompting a discussion among the four about how best to proceed. It was decided to try and get some more details out of Barzog first, although Darrow had little luck. Shanni again used her wiles to elicit from the half-orc some key information, such as the fact that his half-brother Helten, who ran the Muddy Ogre tavern, was in fact the one who had Barzog jailed for fighting. (Although Shanni evidently has something of a temper, I find impressive her ability to hold her nose when needed - in this case literally - in order to manipulate the targets of her attention. --C)

Unwilling to question Barzog further in a public place about Pehlen or other potentially sensitive topics, the group departed the jail and made their way to the Muddy Ogre, as it appeared that Helten would have to drop his complaint if Barzog were to be freed. The barkeep inside informed Darrow that they did have a good dwarven ale, prompting the dwarf to immediately purchase two of them. Darrow also asked about Helten and was told that he would be easy to spot: just look for the tattoos.

As Darrow drained his first mug, the others looked around the large tavern space, hoping to spot someone fitting Helten's description. Shanni and Dermot after a short time noted a large, shirtless half-orc with extensive tattoos walking by. Darrow greeted him, complementing his ale and requesting that he speak with Darrow's friends. While Aerikoth intently studied the half-orc, Shanni took the lead in talking with him. Helten showed what he thought of his half-brother by spitting on the floor as he pronounced Barzog’s name. Shanni introduced herself and the others as a group of "freelancers" – Dermot’s idea – who were interested in taking Barzog away for a job.
 

Carlo-One

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Helten appeared to like the suggestion of having Barzog leave the city, especially when Dermot broached the idea of compensation. However, the half-orc proprietor pointed out that if the group did any "adventuring" in town with Barzog after his half-brother was released from jail, that could cause him problems. Darrow made an initial offer of ten gold, which Helten ignored, saying that he would return in a while after the group had a chance to talk about their offer. After a brief discussion with Dermot and Shanni, Darrow waited for his chance to grab Helten again while the proprietor was making his rounds, offering fifty gold for Helten to drop the complaint and get Barzog out of jail.

Helten made a show of considering the offer, commenting that the group must want Barzog pretty badly. He then observed that he got a lot of pleasure from seeing Barzog rot in jail, maybe one hundred gold worth. Darrow objected, using colorful language in his argument that one hundred was an outlandish sum, also suggesting that the group's friendship would be part of the deal. Helten pondered briefly and then said that fifty gold would be enough, along with a favor they could do him. He then asked to see the color of their gold before agreeing, so Darrow pulled out a small satchel and counted out the gold, grumbling.

Helten said as soon as they did the favor for him, they had a deal. He explained that he had a problem by the name of Helga. She ran the Rusty Cutlass inn, over in the western part of the same district, and was always talking bad about Helten and the Muddy Ogre. He thought this was bad for business and asked the adventurers to shut her up, not caring how they did it. He concluded by saying that if he didn't get any reports of "that sow" badmouthing him, as of sundown the following day he would complete his end of the deal. Dermot said that this didn't seem so bad, to which Helten replied that they hadn't met her yet, asking them to return the following evening to finish their business.

After the half-orc proprietor walked off again on his rounds, the group conferred amongst themselves. Darrow thought the new task would offer a good chance for a bar fight, although how exactly that would keep Helga from talking about the Muddy Ogre was not obvious. Aerikoth observed that they could instead simply offer Helten the one hundred gold he had originally asked for, but the others were keen to see what could be done with Helga first.

It was only a short walk to the Rusty Cutlass, where Helga the half-orc proprietoress greeted them warmly as new customers, trumpeting her rooms as cheap, neat and clean – unlike the lice-ridden ones at the Muddy Ogre. She was a little taken aback at Darrow declining the rooms and then slightly puzzled after the others asked how her business was going. Dermot after an uncomfortable pause took the plunge, explaining that they were there to have a word with her about Helten. This prompted some yelling from Helga, who it turned out had spent ten years as Helten's wife before leaving him, alleging in the process that he'd "done things" with humans, elves and animals.

Aerikoth dryly expressed his amusement with the situation, while Dermot gamely tried to argue the logical merits of leaving any hatred of Helten behind her. Helga volubly agreed that she wanted nothing more to do with that "pig-humper" ever again, which however was not exactly what Dermot was looking for. She also complained about the two hundred gold that she claimed Helten owed her. Darrow then interjected, saying maybe he could offer her something – an attraction for her inn – in return for not speaking any more of the “scoundrel”. Darrow explained that he was a fight-loving dwarf and offered to take on all comers in a pit fight with blunted weapons the following night, staking fifty of his own gold. Helga could sell ale and charge an entrance fee, with Darrow only taking a quarter of it. This proposal appealed to the businesswoman in Helga, who agreed, but only on the condition that Helten show up to the fights and promise not to say a word during them. She promised in turn to not say a word ever again about Helten. (The dwarf's insistence on bar fighting as the way to resolve this situation - admittedly, his preferred solution to many different situations - for once has borne fruit. --R)

Darrow said he would tell Helten about the event, as Dermot looked on with a puzzled expression. Helga then advised Darrow to spread word around town over the next day, proclaiming a two gold entry fee to the event and the chance to place wagers with the house on the match outcomes. Their business concluded for the moment, the four adventurers then beat a retreat through the Rusty Cutlass’ exit. (Not having been in these types of situations myself, it is fascinating to read these examples of negotiations with various personages. The party seems to be following an unusual strategy, however, which I am not sure I could replicate if placed in their shoes. --C)
 

Carlo-One

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While Darrow was looking forward to the fights, Shanni and Dermot were less happy with the way things had gone, as the need to do more favors further complicated the situation. Aerikoth reiterated his view that they could pursue the option of simply offering Helten the hundred gold. Shanni did not think it was likely he would accept it at this point, commenting that they had placed themselves in the middle of a relationship fight. The group turned back towards the Muddy Ogre, with Darrow grumbling that somebody else would be doing the talking when they got there, as he'd had enough for the day.

Before they all reached the inn, Dermot and Shanni offered to start spreading the word around town about Darrow's upcoming fights, as time was of the essence. Darrow and Aerikoth agreed, deciding to then go brace Helten themselves regarding Helga's demand. The two adventurers pulled up seats in the Muddy Ogre before a roaring fireplace and then flagged Helten down as he was making his rounds of the place.

Darrow informed him that they had reached an agreement with Helga, with a catch. First, they had to arrange for Darrow's pit fights - which Helten thought would be great fun - and second, Helten's silent presence there would be required. The half-orc was unsure about this part of the proposition, but when Darrow assured him that Helga had sworn an oath to say no more against him afterwards, he assented.

After Darrow had sworn on his beard that he would not throw any fights, Helten affirmed that he would put some coin on him and hopefully make a tidy profit. Helten then departed and an ale arrived for Darrow. The dwarf and Aerikoth talked animatedly before the crackling fire about the challenges they faced in finding and rescuing Janatha, as well as their more immediate concerns over the next day.

About an hour later, Shanni and Dermot came in out of the cold, glad to join the other two by the Muddy Ogre’s fireplace. As they warmed up, Dermot mentioned they had heard that Bagra's Tavern, in the Eastern sector, was where some of the rougher crowd gathered. This prompted a discussion about potential opponents for Darrow. The bartender came over at this point, asking for Darrow and presenting him with an ale, on the house. Shanni said she was thirsty, so the dwarf passed it over to her. The companions took the opportunity to ask the bartender more about Bagra's Tavern. While he said that it didn't have the class of the Muddy Ogre, he admitted that they would get decent crowds some nights, with musicians playing and some mercenaries in attendance.

After the bartender had left, Darrow scratched his forehead in thought and then advised Shanni to be careful about the drink she had received. She said she was way ahead of him and surreptitiously poured it out. Dermot suggested that they head for Bagra's and the four exited the inn into the snowy night.
Once having arrived inside Bagra's Tavern and finished brushing the snow from their clothes, they took in the crowded lower-level room. Dermot was impressed by the musicians and took up a space at the bar, while Darrow spotted a group of mercenaries who he thought would like a good fight.

Drinks were purchased and Darrow introduced himself to the mercs, informing them of the fights at the Rusty Cutlass the following night. One of them called Jenks had a reputation as a fistfighter and confidently predicted that he would lay Darrow out at the fights. Moving on, Darrow found a dwarven patron and talked for a while in their native tongue, reporting afterwards that he was interested in attending the fights as well.

While debating who else they should try and interest in the fights as they enjoyed the music, the adventurers noted two newcomers in scarlet cloaks who had just entered the tavern. Darrow recognized them and waved them over, reminding them of their last meeting in Reddansyr. The taller human, who looked like a fighter type, hailed Darrow and commented that it was a long way from the Giant's Folly. His halfling companion also greeted them, boasting of the Scarlet Company's deeds in reopening the Starmantle road, which somewhat embarrassed the fighter. Introductions were made all around, with Juril and the halfling Slipster respectively being taken aback or sniggering at Darrow using the nickname "Beast" for Shanni. Slipster was eager to attend the fights, once it was known that betting would be plentiful, and the halfling said he would see how many of the others in the Scarlet Company could attend.

Darrow bought a round in order to be friendly, although with a close eye on his coin pouch while around Slipster. The dwarf was deliberately vague in response to a question from Juril about their current work. After the drinks were finished, Juril and Slipster took their leave, saying they should be going to meet their companion Firewine, but promised to attend the fights at the Rusty Cutlass. Aerikoth then reviewed for the others what was known about the Scarlet Company, mentioning that a sorcerer was among their number, as well as a few others. The wizard also described how Rahnee and their former minstrel companion had aided the company with a map during their last encounter in Reddansyr.
 

Carlo-One

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On Alturiak 28, the group split up after breakfast in order to spread the word about Darrow’s fight night at the Rusty Cutlass. Later, as the sun was setting, the four adventurers made their way back to the Vulture's Roost. Shanni was the last to arrive, joining the others in the common room. After a short wait for Darrow to get himself ready, during which time the others speculated on exactly how much ale he intended to drink before combat, the four adventurers made their way to Helga's establishment, which was tricked out for the fights. The half-orc proprietoress went over the rules with the dwarven fighter, which were quite simple: no real armor or weapons; and the choice of fighting barehand or with clubs would go to Darrow's challengers. When asked, the dwarf said that he was "born ready" and went off to a side room to divest himself of his armor.

Once Darrow emerged, Helga went over to say something to him privately, then the show was on. Helga began whipping the crowd of mercenaries, adventurers and other sundry types into a state of excitement, while also taking care to point out where they could buy ale. Helten, the half-orc proprietor of the Muddy Ogre, by then had also arrived, along with a couple of his bodyguards. He remained silent, however, sticking to his end of the bargain.

Helga declared that there would be five challengers - five of the meanest fighters around, all of whom wanted the 50 gold that Darrow had put up as a stake. The combatants had to stay in a square carpeted area, keeping at least one foot in or be declared the loser. Once a fighter went down, that would also be considered a defeat.

The first fighter announced by Helga turned out to be a drunken halfling, who was there to show his "HIN PRIDE!" Darrow quickly stomped him into the ground, to the roars of the crowd, then took a rest break next to Aerikoth and Dermot; the ranger had cheered heartily for his dwarven companion. The dwarf looked wistfully at the ale keg, but eventually decided against a drink. Meanwhile, Shanni was busy chatting up Juril, the fighter from the Scarlet Company.

The second challenger was a mercenary who chose to use the clubs. He went at Darrow hard and got in a few painful hits, coming back gamely after Darrow's answering blows, but the dwarf's power and skill in the end were too much and the man finally fell to the ground, unable to move. One of the tavern guards hauled him away and Darrow used his rest time to apply some healing, as Aerikoth complimented him on his performance.

Darrow declared himself ready and Helga enthusiastically announced NUMBER THREE! who turned out to be a big bruiser of a half-orc mercenary. The half-orc chose to use his fists and boasted that he would make Darrow eat dirt. The dwarf remained silent and got to work as soon as Helga called for the fight to start. While the half-orc was a good fighter, Darrow's fists repeatedly struck him in his kidneys and other vulnerable areas, making the large brawler eventually collapse to the floor.

This time, over in his corner, Darrow accepted a drink along with some more healing. A private word was exchanged with Aerikoth and the dwarf put a ring on, but he was then quietly upbraided by Helga, who had witnessed the action. The dwarf readied himself and walked back into the fighting area, displaying his ringless hands to her.

Next up was the mercenary fighter Jenks, famed for his fisticuffs, whom Darrow had previously encountered at Bagra's Tavern. Jenks naturally chose fists and the fight was on, to the roar of an excited crowd. Jenks struck quickly from his fighting stance, cutting open Darrow's lip, then traded jabs with the dwarf, expertly moving to take advantage of openings. After landing a solid right to Darrow's head, however, Jenks left himself open to a massive combination from the dwarf, who laid the mercenary low. After Jenks managed to get up, he shook Darrow's hand, congratulating him on being the first ever opponent to beat him, then limped away.

Darrow retired to the back room for a few minutes' rest and to apply more healing to his battered body. Helga meanwhile was whipping the crowd up, announcing that the last challenger was a SHE! Darrow then stepped out of his room and stood before the crowd, ready to face his final opponent, to a mix of yelling and drunken cheers.

Helga swung open a door and called out to what was behind it...a pig in a dress. As the crowd catcalled, Helga paraded the pig around, yelling out that Helten knew her well, having "given her the SHAFT plenty o' times!" The pig indeed squealed when it looked in Helten's direction. The large half-orc's face turned beet red and, after shaking his fist silently at Helga, he stormed out. A grinning Helga raised Darrow's hand and declared him the victor, as he and his companions looked on bemusedly.

(It seems that Helten's ex-wife got everything she wanted out of the event. Who says half-orcs aren't cunning? We shall now see if the party does as well as Helga, dependent as it is on Helten keeping the bargain to drop his complaint against the imprisoned Barzog. Darrow will receive a good amount of coin and got the chance to participate in a series of fights - apparently one of his greatest pleasures in life - so the dwarf at least came out ahead in the business. --R)
 

Carlo-One

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As the crowd at the Rusty Cutlass ordered more drinks and started thinning out around the fight ring, the Scarlet Company members present came over to congratulate Darrow. Slipster thought the whole thing had been great, while the fighter Juril was obviously a little shocked by the event. Firewine, their cleric, was solicitous of Darrow's health. Juril somewhat shyly said goodbye to Shanni, while Firewine explained that the Scarlet Company was having a meeting the next day at the Order of Kainen, which the adventurers would be welcome to join.

As they watched the other adventuring company depart, Darrow, Aerikoth, Shanni and Dermot also noted the presence in the crowd of Helena and her bodyguard Myrghal, whom they had previously encountered at the Vulture's Roost. The four then talked some more about the fights, afterwards agreeing to go see Helten in the morning and find out what sort of mood he would be in to receive them.

The next morning on Alturiak 29, Darrow returned to the Rusty Cutlass, accompanied by Aerikoth, Dermot and Shanni, in order to pick up his share of the previous night's take. Helga cheerily greeted the dwarf and spent an entire minute counting out his gold. Shanni however looked none-too-pleased (this seems to be her default attitude --R) and Dermot stood off to one side, scowling with his arms folded in front of him. Aerikoth remained silent and watchful, as was his wont.

Once the coins were all in his pouch, Darrow expressed some doubt as to whether they would do him any good, considering what had happened the night before with Helten. Helga shrugged and stated she would keep her part of the bargain, as the "pig-humper" had kept his. The group then took their leave, with Dermot making some threatening comments on the way out that appeared to make little impression on the half-orc proprietoress.

After the group had started making their way through the streets towards the Muddy Ogre, Darrow announced that he planned to keep his mouth shut with Helten, as it only seemed to land them in trouble. He hoped that the coin at least would be enough to pay Helten off, although he said it was not that much, less than a hundred gold. Shanni was not surprised and said that she had expected Helga to fleece them.

At the tavern, Helten was found in the middle of making his rounds. Darrow tried to hide himself behind his companions, while Shanni assumed a sheepish expression and apologized to the large half-orc, who unleashed a torrent of cursing and complaining, Dermot meanwhile attempted to appear stern and immovable. Helten after a while grudgingly admitted that the "she-devil" had kept her word, and no one could say that he would go back on his.

Helten then asked them to tell him again what they planned to do with Barzog. When Shanni said they had work for him that would get him out of town, Helten said he would get his "scum of a half-brother" out of jail as long as they blew town within two days. After that, he said he might remember something else that Barzog needed to be locked up for, along with anybody he might be with. As he departed for the jailhouse, the half-orc proprietor made it clear that he never wanted to see either Barzog or the party again.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
After discussing possible ways to get rid of Barzog after obtaining what information they could from him, the group exited the Muddy Ogre. Aerikoth headed directly for the Vulture's Roost, their agreed-upon meeting point, while the others took more indirect routes. Shanni said she wanted to purchase a cloak with a hood to keep the rain off, as well as perhaps check out the docks and see about picking up Barzog from jail.

Shanni and Dermot decided to stop first at the prison. The sergeant of the guard said that they had just missed Helten and indicated that some paperwork still needed to be completed before Barzog could be freed. Somewhat frustrated, the two then departed for the Vulture's Roost. Upon entering the inn, Dermot and Shanni noticed Aerikoth at a nearby table, and also saw Helena and her bodyguard Myghal, who departed immediately after they arrived.

As the two joined Aerikoth, the wizard inquired regarding how things had gone at the jail. In response to a question from Dermot, he informed the others that he had been speaking with Helena and Myghal, who were from the Order of Kainen. Helena had been interested in knowing if Aerikoth, as a fellow mage, was aware of the activities of Wiljur, the local practitioner of the art. Aerikoth noted that Wiljur was under suspicion of working towards dark ends. (This clears up at least to some extent the mystery surrounding the couple, who had been seen by the company at various times around Starmantle, but introduces a new one in the form of Wiljur. "Dark ends" for a wizard could mean many things. --C)

Darrow arrived and observed there was no Barzog with them; the others explained the delay with the paperwork. After discussing their options, the four decided to head back to the prison to see what was going on, despite the rain and hail outside. Once at the prison, the sergeant greeted them again, mentioning that they seemed impatient. Shanni stated that they would wait there, so as to not miss Barzog's release. The sergeant noted that these things took time, pausing and then coughing meaningfully. The import of his actions was not lost on the group. Uttering a short oath, Darrow "accidentally" dropped a small stack of coins on the sergeant's desk. The paperwork went remarkably fast after this and soon the group was standing in front of Barzog's cell, where the sergeant informed the half-orc that he was to be released into the custody of the four adventurers.

Barzog expressed his gratitude and his expectations that the group would set him up with something to wear besides his filthy underclothes, all that he had on him when he was arrested. In response to a question from Dermot, the half-orc indicated that he had nowhere in particular to go, so would be happy to go wherever "da bosses" wanted. First on the list was getting some clothes for Barzog. He led the group to a nearby store, where a halfling merchant was happy to sell Barzog an old suit of leathers in his size, in exchange for the ten gold that Darrow had provided the half-orc. The merchant was less happy when Barzog stripped down in the middle of the store to put on his new outfit, as was the rest of the group, who averted their eyes too late.

After perusing the rest of the merchant's stock, the group headed out into the city. Somewhat disoriented in the rain, they took a roundabout route to the Vulture's Roost, passing by the headquarters of the Order of Kainen, which Barzog regarded uneasily, but denied having anything to do with. Once at the Roost, the half-orc became very enthusiastic about the prospect of getting some ale. Dermot said that they could get one round, but then would need to talk, and went off to order some ales from Devins.

Once Barzog was happily drinking, Shanni took the lead in alternately cajoling and interrogating the half-orc. She explained that Helten had been difficult to persuade, but that in the end he wanted to see Barzog busily engaged in work somewhere. (Somewhere far from him, Darrow added under his breath.) Barzog confessed to having some friends who sometimes had work, as he put it, although they did not like strangers. Barzog offered to introduce them to his "friends" who the half-orc explained needed "tough guys" and also might be interested in Aerikoth, since they did not have a wizard of their own. Despite Shanni's repeated questioning, Barzog would only say that they sometimes had to escort cargo for a couple days, starting in Starmantle and then leaving the city.

Barzog then said he could go talk to his friends about having the group work with them, with everyone meeting together at night; he said that his friends did not like doing business in the daytime. Darrow was the first to observe that Barzog could simply just run off, prompting the half-orc to express his incredulity at the idea. Barzog, however, ceded the point and then asked which one of them wanted to accompany him for the rest of the day. After the adventurers spent some time looking at each other and then arguing about who should go, Darrow volunteered.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
The dwarf and the half-orc were gone for about an hour, leaving Aerikoth, Shanni and Dermot at the Vulture's Roost. On their return, Barzog happily accepted another round of ale from Darrow, who explained to the others that they had a meeting set with Barzog's "friends" at dusk, by the docks. Over the next couple of hours at the inn, Barzog remained immune to further questions and blandishments, instead producing a large quantity of gold and starting to drink his way through it. The half-orc's speech gradually became even cruder than normal, but more incomprehensible as he slurred his words, so there was a positive side to his drinking binge. Only after he was physically unable to continue did he stop. Devins, having made a fair amount of coin that afternoon, allowed Dermot to take Barzog up to an available room in order for the half-orc to sleep it off. Aerikoth meanwhile had found a room of his own, in order to study his spellbook.

Shortly after Dermot had returned to report on Barzog's condition to Darrow and Shanni, all three were quite surprised when Rahnee Roaringhorn stepped through the inn's door and greeted them with a wry smile. Her companions were pleased to see her, mentioning that they had only been in Starmantle for a couple of days themselves. Rahnee explained that she had been “dropped back” at Jandrico's establishment in Westgate, where she was informed of the others' destination. She then eagerly listened as Shanni brought her up to date on the group's efforts to track down possible leads to Janatha's whereabouts. (It is good to see Rahnee rejoin her companions, who as I have observed before seem uninterested in each other's private business; no questioning or explanation regarding Rahnee's short sojourn with her family in Waterdeep is mentioned. Or perhaps the chronicler deliberately did not record it? Something to ponder. --C)

In response to a question from Rahnee, Darrow described the "friends" of Barzog that he had met earlier that day as a bunch of bandits - tough, skilled, possibly pirates. The dwarf had some doubts as to their professionalism, however, if they employed Barzog on a regular basis. As the four were discussing whether or not to venture out into the rain, the former stowaway Errend walked in, looking much improved in his new squire's tunic. Errend also showed some newfound manners and gallantry while being introduced to Rahnee. He explained that he had been looking for them in order to properly thank them for their help. He said that he was now a bonded servant to a member of the Order of Kainen, Sir Robin, known as "the brave" in some local minstrel songs. Before departing, Errend invited the group to visit the Order and talk to Sir Robin, should they wish.

By dusk on Alturiak 29, Aerikoth had not yet emerged from his studies and the others were disinclined to disturb him. Rahnee decided to take Errend up on his offer and visit the Order of Kainen while Darrow, Shanni and Dermot went to meet Barzog's "friends". Barzog first had to be woken up, Darrow again volunteering to deal with the half-orc after an underwhelming show of enthusiasm from his companions.

Once Barzog was downstairs and mobile, the three followed him out of the Vulture's Roost to the Northern Docks. There, the first mate of The Blind Man, who was called Red Ortho, welcomed Barzog back with a barked order to get down to the ship's hold to help clean up, while he talked business with Darrow and the others. The half-orc protested, but then slunk away, muttering, to obey the order.

Red Ortho then turned his attention to Darrow, who he admitted looked pretty tough. He said he had done some checking around and that Darrow had quite a rep in the city. If the dwarf and his companions could get a job done for him, he said, then they could sail with him when the ship left at midnight. Dermot played the part of an enthusiastic ruffian, while Shanni decided silence was the best option.

Ortho explained that he needed his crew working on the ship and could not afford to send them off to collect certain things owed them before they sailed. Cutting to the chase, he said that Councilman Jebers owed him 100 gold and a token, the latter item apparently conferring privileges on Jebers that were now revoked. Ortho did not care how they accomplished this and in response to a question from Darrow said that Jebers should not be talking about what he had done, if he was smart. Shanni broke her silence to confirm that they should not involve the name of either Red Ortho or his ship, but pointed out that Jebers would surely know who was behind them. Ortho said that of course he would know, but again would not be talking.

Since the group were evidently up for the job, Ortho told them that Jebers normally went from the Council building to the baths in the Eastern sector and gave them a description of their target. He also mentioned that the usual fee paid to a group sailing on a run with The Blind Man was 500 gold, to be split however they wanted once the voyage was over. Ortho was a little confused when asked by Darrow and Shanni about their duties, but said that if they were willing to collect for him, they would be all right, as the coin was good and they were not the types to be talking about it afterwards. (Of course Red Ortho is being deliberately vague about his ship's business, as he assumes the party already knows about it, having been introduced by Barzog. This is what comes from having friends in low places. --R)
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
The three – Darrow, Dermot and Shanni – then headed off the docks and toward the Council building, which they found closed for the evening. A passing mercenary pointed them in the direction of the bath house, which was just north of Bagra's Tavern, after Darrow mentioned he could use a bath after his long journey. The three discussed some preliminary plans on the way there, the basic idea being for Shanni to lure Councilman Jebers out of the baths to a place where Darrow and Dermot would be waiting.

The three entered the bath house and were greeted by a chatty attendant, who explained the rules of the place and pointed out the changing area. After they had changed, they scoped out the place further, noting the steam room below as well as the bathing pools on the main floor. As the steam room was otherwise unoccupied, they modified their plan to have Darrow and Dermot waiting there, while Shanni would attempt to find Jebers and have him accompany her downstairs. Darrow and Dermot decided to get back into their normal clothes, in order to be more intimidating.

After some time had passed, Darrow and Dermot heard Shanni and a man approaching their hiding spot in the steam room. Stepping out suddenly, they blocked the exits as Shanni faked surprise at their appearance. Jebers made a show of protecting Shanni, who was included in Darrow and Dermot's threats to make Jebers disappear if he did not hand over the gold and the token that they wanted. Talking fast, Jebers said that he would go upstairs and get what they wanted from his locker, asking them not to harm the girl. Darrow and Dermot allowed him to leave, again menacing Shanni.

A couple minutes passed and then the bath house attendant appeared, presenting Shanni with a token. He explained that Councilman Jebers sent his regrets, but had been forced to leave suddenly, and had asked the attendant to give it to her, saying he was sorry. Shanni accepted it and then went back upstairs to change, before meeting the other two outside the bath house.

Once they were sure no one was following them, Darrow, Shanni and Dermot returned to the Vulture's Roost. Rahnee was nowhere to be found, however, and Aerikoth remained locked in his room, studying his magic. As there were still some hours before midnight, the three decided to provision themselves in advance of their upcoming voyage into the unknown, as well as reconnoiter the ship some more. Shanni went over to Devins and let the innkeeper know that they would be gone for a short while, out on a little stroll, in case their friends asked about them.

The cold, snowy night lent a certain urgency to their movements, although they were careful not to be seen by the ship's watch as they made their way to vantage point near it. A passing patrolman did query their intentions, but Darrow fed him a story about taking their bearings while they looked for an armorsmith, which satisfied the man. After the patrolman continued on his rounds, however, Darrow got the idea to question him further about the ship and took off after him, leaving the other two at their station. Returning shortly afterwards, the dwarf reported that they had a nice chat, up until he had inquired about the ship, at which point the patrolman became real quiet and rather peeved.

After noting some of the items near the ship, including a caged wagon, the three moved on and stopped first at a strong-smelling leatherworkers' shop. Shanni was interested in a hooded cloak, but none were at hand. The three afterwards went to the Temple of Waukeen for some healing supplies, then found an open store which sold bolts of cloth which Shanni thought might be useful for crafting a hood.
 

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters

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