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The Westgate Campaign Chronicles - serial


It took the party the better part of an hour to ferry everyone over to the other side of the large stream in the Hidden Peak area, hauling the rowboat back and forth with their improvised rope pulley. However, the practice they had with the original crossing meant there were no incidents this time. Once that was completed, Dermot checked for signs of recent travel and found Helrud's tracks. The ranger said they were likely on the route back to the Clanhome, which is where everyone had assumed the dwarf scout was going. Darrow stated his preference for returning there as well, as otherwise it might look like they were trying to make off with the hoard themselves. Both Shanni and Rahnee admitted an interest in possessing gold enough to set themselves up for life, to which Darrow pointed out that if the clan were brought in, the adventurers wouldn't have to haul it all out of the cavern themselves.

As the group retraced their steps along hidden mountain pass back to the main Giant's Peak area, they passed by the large crystal whose rays had served to point out the secret way to Helrud. Aerikoth paused briefly to study it and Dermot noticed that a message with some hastily-scrawled runes had been left at its base. Darrow confirmed that the runes were dwarven and said “See you at the Clanhome.” Shanni wondered why he had bothered to stop to write the note, but not long enough to wait for them. Dermot suggested that the dwarf scout was excited and not thinking clearly, a notion shared by Darrow.

The five adventurers, after another hour, reached the edge of the plateau above the cave next to the ridgeline path. Dermot, who by this point had a great deal of recent practice, let down a rope and then stepped back to let Darrow be first down it. The dwarf, apparently eager to keep moving, used his strength to lower himself down without incident. Shanni was next, but her grip slipped several feet from the bottom and she fell hard onto her backside. After she had gotten up and out of the way, Aerikoth tossed his staff down and then essayed the rope. The small wizard lacked strength, but managed to control his descent and stay on his feet, if awkwardly.

Shanni, still rubbing her backside, announced she had to go do something biological and moved away from the others. Rahnee followed with her climbing attempt and made it look easy, landing lightly on her feet. Dermot gathered up the rope and then clambered down the cliffside, scrambling down the last few feet and landing in a heap, although not suffering any damage in the process.

As Shanni returned, apologizing for the delay, the others were discussing what they expected would happen to the gold from the hoard. Both Rahnee and Darrow expressed a desire to see a portion of it go toward rebuilding “Veranbrok” – what they called the land of the former Hallton barony. Dermot pointed out that the Ironhelm clan had the guards, the carts and the manpower to haul the gold away, so the adventurers would be at their mercy. Shanni expressed her lack of trust in the fairness of any clan procedure, given their last experience there. Aerikoth stated that he trusted the dwarves to do whatever they deemed best for their clan. All were curious as to what would happen when they reached the Ironhelm citadel.

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At the outer entry gates, the dwarven defender guards saluted and recognized them as “the friends of Helrud” – apparently the dwarf scout had come through two hours earlier and his news about the dragon hoard had spread quickly, causing an uproar. At the inner gates, the party interrupted the guards talking about how much gold could be in the hoard. Darrow was recognized as the bearer of Haelgrim and his return was acknowledged with thanks. Darrow gave a polite bow in return, then saluted the guards as he and his companions entered the Ironhelm citadel, with Aerikoth and Shanni deep in discussion regarding their previous treatment by the clan.

As usual, Clan Greeter Rumnaher was on hand in the entry chamber to welcome them. Following a cheery greeting, he informed them that their return had been anticipated, after Helrud’s news about their find. Rumnaher said that the dwarf scout was barely coherent at first, but eventually got across that they had found a dragon hoard on clan territory. Darrow acknowledged this, mentioning that there was more gold than they could cart off, which Rumnaher exclaimed was great news for the clan. Dermot disingenuously professed not to know where the clan’s borders were, but he provisionally accepted what Helrud said. Rumnaher explained that things were still a little confused at the moment, but he expected the Prince would wish to call an audience about the matter.

The Clan Greeter mentioned their guest quarters were still available and invited them to have a drink or three at the tavern. At Rahnee’s suggestion, however, as soon as they had entered the citadel proper, Darrow led the others towards the temple to speak with High Priest Iskar. Everyone they passed in the halls seemed to be talking about gold and the finding of the dragon hoard. They encountered Iskar at the temple and confirmed to him that there was in fact a dragon hoard found, minus the dragon. Darrow pulled out a red metallic dragonscale to show the priest and told him that there was enough gold to swim in. Iskar, shaking his head at the novelty of the situation, asked them for the true tale, given the confusion and wild rumors circulating within the clan. (As a priest and clan elder, no doubt Iskar over the decades - centuries? - has at times heard very different versions of the same events from his charges. Even with divine magic it can be difficult to sort the facts, since people may truly believe different things, especially whenever personal credit or blame is involved. --R)

Darrow took the lead in explaining what they had discovered – the ruins, the caverns below, what they interpreted as signs of a red and a white dragon fighting and dying, and the grey rock-like creatures they had fought. Somewhat reluctantly in Dermot and Shanni’s case, the party acknowledged Helrud’s role in finding the place. Iskar remarked that the old Clan stories of the red dragon Edallisufanxar, “The Burning Blaze”, had mentioned nothing about its death - just that it had disappeared one day, never to return. Shanni and Dermot made reference to the presence of a “bloody great skeleton” with red dragon scales around it, a sign that it was in fact dead, also pointing out that the clan had not known how to reach the location to confirm its death.

After Iskar asked if anything but the rock-like creatures had been encountered, Darrow and Aerikoth explained about the iron golem - now cut to pieces by Haelgrim - eliciting a gasp of wonder from the dwarf priest. Dermot also mentioned the “ice walker” that he said had guarded the white dragon’s bones. Iskar then inquired about other items found, as Helrud had shown off a pair of boots from the hoard. Darrow said that he had picked up a pair of boots himself and the others had acquired a few swords and such. Rahnee said that the hoard had been surprisingly light in magic items, armor, gems and other items she had heard were collected by dragons, although she speculated that this one may simply have preferred gold. (I confess that I cannot make up my mind whether Rahnee was intentionally lowballing the dwarven clan about the valuable magic items they found - which would be consistent with my own past experiences in similar sorts of dealings - or if whatever tales of dragon hoards she read as a girl actually did lead to greater expectations. --R)

The high priest stated that their story complemented Helrud’s, which he was glad to hear. He explained that his joy at the find was tempered by what it could lead to for those who held Abbathor dear in their heart, referring to the dwarven god of greed and wealth. After making that observation, Iskar excused himself, saying that he had to go to the Council; he asked the adventurers to remain as the clan’s guests, until a proper audience could be called for them. As he departed the temple, the high priest clapped Darrow on the shoulder, telling him it was well done, bearing Haelgrim in a great victory for the clan.

(As my predecessor "R" alluded to above, the dwarven high priest showed great wisdom in asking insightful questions and listening first to everyone's version of events, rather than accepting Helrud's - or the adventurers' - words simply at face value. For example, both Dermot and Shanni's perspectives seemed colored by their recent less-than-friendly treatment at the hands of Toran Goldfinder, which is not surprising. It is also human nature to see what you do as important, and what role others play as less so, when there is a great success at hand - especially when its benefits have yet to be reaped. Furthermore, the ugliness of greed can obscure even a noble heart at times. What shall be the outcome here, I wonder? --C)


Darrow’s first words, as Iskar left the temple, were that they were rich and in a dwarven clan home, so the only thing to do was to go drink. Rahnee in response reminded him – partly teasing, partly not – that they were not rich yet. Dermot suggested that the dwarf adopt a title or epithet as part of his name, to commemorate finding the hoard, but said “Darrow Goldfinder” might not be appropriate – cleverly alluding to their erstwhile enemy Toran Goldfinder. Darrow countered by saying he’d as like be called "Darrow Hardbottom" after the way he fell down the entry shaft, eliciting a laugh from the ranger.

With all the recent stresses of travel finally released, Shanni began mumbling to herself about the unreality of the situation, whether they had actually been to a dragon hoard and back. Dermot cheerily pointed out that their souvenirs didn’t lie. Aerikoth, apparently less interested in comradely banter, announced he would retreat to the clan library, to see if there was anything he could discover further about the disappearance of the red dragon Edallusifanxar. Dermot was curious about the fact that the clan might have forgotten about a part of their history, wishing the wizard luck with his reading. Rahnee too thought the research would be a good idea for “Aeri” - the wizard frowned at her use again of the diminutive, but he refrained from speaking as he departed.

The others made their way back to the guest quarters, eager to stow their gear and wash up. The dwarven defender on duty in the corridor spotted Dermot carrying his weapon unsheathed and a jocular exchange ensued about the ranger’s stiff, naked sword, which continued until Rahnee and Shanni gratefully shut the door to their room, intent on washing up after their journey. Dermot entered his quarters and spent some time carefully arranging his gear, while Darrow dropped his on the ground and immediately headed for the clan tavern. A short while later, after the dwarf had wandered back to the guest quarters and then again to the tavern, Dermot, Rahnee and Shanni joined him there for food and ale, surrounded by a crowd of merry drunk dwarves.


As of the early evening of Ches 15, the party had separated and been off at various pursuits in the dwarven citadel. Rahnee had been loaned some work space by Lorn near his smithy, so she could work on repairing and maintaining her equipment. Darrow stopped by there as well, to drop off some dragonscales and see what the smith could make with them. Dermot simply relaxed in his room, while Shanni spent some time washing her journeying clothes and unsuccessfully trying to make one of Rahnee’s extra dresses fit her more petite frame.

As dinnertime came around, Darrow, Aerikoth, Dermot and Shanni eventually ended up together in the tavern area. The latter two, arriving as the dwarf and the wizard were deep in conversation, indicated they had something important to share in private. Dermot had a serious expression on his face, while Shanni sported a bright and eager smile on hers. Aerikoth said he had finished eating and would join them; Darrow drank the remaining ale from his mug as they all walked back to the guest quarters.

Once behind closed doors, Shanni happily announced that they were going to be rich. Dermot, rubbing his temples, mentioned there were other things to discuss as well. Darrow’s brother Andin, the temple acolyte, had stopped by earlier to inform Dermot and Shanni there would be a Council meeting in less than an hour. There, the two of them would be named dwarf-friends and the matter of the ownership of the hoard would be decided. As Dermot explained it, there were two ideas being offered: the adventurers could keep the items they had taken from the hoard and would be entitled to a one-fifth share of the gold; or, they could give the items back and get fifty percent of the hoard.

Dermot then said that, according to Andin, Toran Goldfinder was pushing for the half split, which the ranger and Shanni both found suspicious. Darrow took that to mean Toran wanted the items, something which Shanni had thought as well, and the dwarf wondered what he was going to do with them. Dermot concluded by mentioning that Andin had muttered about something being up with the Prince, but he didn’t know what. Darrow frowned at this, thinking that the Prince, who had been recovering slowly from a mysterious illness, might have taken a turn for the worse.

Talk then turned to the magical items that had been taken from the hoard. Shanni, with some difficulty and care, pulled out the heavily enchanted and extremely sharp short sword, saying it slipped through her fingers when she tried to hold it properly; Aerikoth called it one of the most powerful items he had ever observed. The others, with some effort, recalled the rest of the list of weapons and miscellaneous items. They all agreed that the short sword in Shanni’s possession was the most valuable and unique item, therefore likely what Toran was after. Darrow brought up earlier suspicions that Toran was trying to reopen trade with the Underdark, saying that the sword might be just the morsel for his Underdark friends to help with getting him into power.

Aerikoth then queried how the Council had reached its decision about the proposed disposition of the hoard. The wizard expressed his discontent with the one-fifth share of the gold offered if they kept the items, considering that a sum of one-third would be fairer. Aerikoth viewed the offer as greedy on the part of the dwarves, who as he put it should consider the party generous for allowing the clan to dictate what should be done with what they found. Darrow shrugged and said that the hoard was in clan territory, so unfortunately they had to follow clan law. The dwarf also said that they didn’t have a spare two tendays to be hauling out all the gold, something which Shanni mentioned would also be noticed.

The wizard continued to denigrate the clan’s claim on the hoard, questioning the extent of its actual territory and noting that they had not tried to claim anything taken from the Deep Delve. Shanni agreed with Aerikoth’s logic, but more practically thought, as did Dermot, that they did not have much of a choice. Besides, as the petite rogue asserted, her share of the twenty percent of the hoard would be as much gold as she would ever see in her life, so she didn’t care. Darrow said he wasn’t a lawyer and that Aerikoth was welcome to make the argument to the Council. The wizard appeared to draw a line under the discussion by stating that he was not overly interested in such things, he just found it slightly annoying that the Ironhelm dwarves were dictating what should be done with something they all had liberated, with some assistance from one of their members.

(It is difficult to put a line under greed. Paradoxically, the more gold that is available for the taking, the more envious and contentious is its division. This is something I used to consider normal, even acceptable, before I turned my life's page and entered into Kelemvor's service. Death does not care how much gold you have, in the end. --R)

After some further talk, all were agreed that they should keep the items – in part, because it was the opposite of what Toran Goldfinder wanted – and opt for a fifth share of the gold. Shanni’s last remaining question was what to wear to the Council meeting: the ill-fitting dress that she could not run in, or her damp traveling clothes that she had just washed.


The companions each prepared for the upcoming clan council meeting, gathering again in Rahnee and Shanni’s room. Rahnee, after doing some maintenance on her armor, had returned and changed into a formal gown. Shanni in contrast looked glum in her damp, travel-worn clothes. Dermot and Aerikoth were also in their adventuring clothes, but were more stoic about it. Meanwhile, Darrow’s sole contribution to getting ready for the council meeting was brushing the breadcrumbs out of his beard.

Just as Darrow was wondering if they were supposed to head to the council hall or continue waiting, there was a knock at the door. An excited-looking female dwarf commoner informed Darrow, after he opened the door, that she had a message from the Council: they asked that Darrow and his friends come to the audience chamber in five minutes. Darrow kindly thanked her for delivering the message and bowed, eliciting some giggles and an attempted curtsey in response as the messenger hurried away.

With some anticipation, the group made their way to the audience chamber. As they entered and approached the throne, one of the dwarf nobles gave them an unfriendly glare as he exited behind them, which was immediately matched by a deliberately rude one from Darrow. Once the five adventurers had assembled in front of Prince Dalgan, he motioned for the group to approach.

The Prince formally welcomed them, on behalf of the assembled Ironhelm Clan advisors and nobles. Dalgan also noted the presence of Clan Greeter Rumnaher, who had been invited to attend because of his knowledge of outlander ways. As this was taking place, Darrow smiled and joked with Toran Goldfinder, standing to the right of the Prince, about Shanni and Dermot’s presence there again; Toran in response just gritted his teeth.

Pleasantries being finished, Dalgan indicated that the clan council had debated many things since the company’s return, and now wished their participation. Darrow nodded politely at this and Dermot expressed that it was very humbling, while Shanni muttered something to herself. The Prince began by mentioning the dragon hoard and their collective surprise at it being found on clan territory. He then changed tack, however, and said he first wanted to put to rest the matter of the accusations of theft of clan treasure. Dalgan said it was evident to him that none who would wish the Clan harm would have returned with such a prize as the hoard must be. Shanni ceased mumbling and her eyes brightened at this.

The Prince continued, citing certain inquiries also having been made – at which High Priest Iskar gave a satisfied look – all of which lead him to not only absolve them of any suspicion, but to declare also that Dermot and Shanni should henceforward be known as dwarf-friends to Clan Ironhelm. A visible tic crossed Toran Goldfinder’s face at the announcement, while Dermot folded a fist to his chest and bowed to the Prince as several cheers erupted from the nobles. Dermot declared that new friends are a blessing, nudging Shanni with an elbow as she was opening her mouth to speak, only managing a “Charmed, I’m...” before reverting to muttering. Darrow and Rahnee, smiling broadly, expressed their thanks and appreciation.

Dalgan then called for the tale of the finding of the hoard to be presented to the full Council, who was eager to hear it. Rahnee responded by turning to Darrow and saying he was fast becoming their bard. Darrow looked over his shoulder to see who she was talking about, then joked that their bard had been a wispy little oaf of an elf. Nonetheless, the dwarf sighed resignedly as he began telling the story, while Shanni looked on with a smug expression.


Darrow, by now practiced if not completely bardic in his tale-telling, related how they had been delayed in meeting Helrud the day of their last, much less fortunate meeting in the audience chamber. Thanks to Dermot, however, they were able to follow his tracks to a ruin in the middle of the mountains, with a large dragon statue and skeleton outside them. Their initial entrance into the cavern complex was via what he called a cistern; the dwarf related how they came across skeletons locked in cages in the first room.

The rest of their explorations were also highlighted, including the discovery of some Underdark-made crates; some kind of rock beasts that lived there; a ladder that led back up to the surface, which was opened after some work; the opening of the portcullis to the lower level; and the discovery of what he said was the first lair, guarded by ice elementals with a big old skeleton of a dragon with white scales all about it. However, they found no hoard there, as if it had been cleaned out, so kept looking. Darrow related how they ultimately had descended via handholds in the central pit to the lowest level, discovering its entire floor was filled with gold. They then met a Draconic-speaking magic mouth and defeated the iron golem guardian of the chamber with the magical items. Helrud beat feet back to the Ironhelm citadel to inform the clan, while the rest of the party was a little less quick, as Darrow put it.

Prince Dalgan appreciatively called it a fulsome and heroic tale, noting that it fit with what Helrud related, turning to High Priest Iskar to receive confirmation. Iskar also mentioned that Helrud remained under his care, having foolishly waded a rather large and chill mountain stream in his excitement to return with the news. As a result his beard was frozen, as the priest said, apparently figuratively speaking. Rahnee expressed her gratitude that the dwarf scout was recovering.

Calling what they had done a noble deed, Prince Dalgan declared the council had determined that, as the discoverers of this hoard, the adventurers should have a fair share of the clan wealth. This prompted a short statement of thanks from Dermot and some inaudible muttering from Shanni. Continuing, Dalgan said that they wished to offer the party a choice. Firstly, they could place any items retrieved from the hoard into the clan vault, then receive in turn the full sum of one-half of the hoard's value in gold, once in the clan’s possession. Dermot made a great show of being surprised at this offer, while Toran Goldfinder interjected that it would be a princely sum indeed, and a very generous one, looking displeased. (Although no proof so far has been offered in these chronicles of Toran's presumed evil nature, the fact that he constantly seeks to deceive those around him is a sure sign that he lacks the integrity a clan council member should possess. I wonder if the suspicions of an Underdark connection are indeed the truth behind his actions; it would certainly explain much. --C)

Prince Dalgan then stated that secondly, they could keep the non-dwarven items they had found and receive a fifth share of the hoard's gold, after it had been retrieved. He indicated that they could take as long as desired to decide the matter. Shanni, somewhat impolitely, asked what they were calling “non-dwarven” as Dermot looked at the others, hemming and saying it was a big decision. Koll Wallbasher, the clan’s military leader, clarified that the Prince meant that any items of clan making should be returned to the clan. This prompted Shanni to ask how they would know. Rahnee interjected, saying that she did not believe they had found anything of dwarven make. Koll explained that any such items would have the Clan mark on them. Shanni then declared they had nothing with a clan mark on it, which was backed up by Darrow. (Shanni's questions are valid, yet at the same time she displays the attitude of someone interrogating a fishmonger at the market, rather than of a guest of dwarven royalty. --R)

Aerikoth, in a more polite and respectful tone, mentioned that he had an inquiry in regards to the choice. Dalgan acknowledged the wizard and gave him leave to speak. Aerikoth brought up the fact that Helrud had claimed at least one item for himself and asked how that would affect the party. The Prince turned to Iskar, who confirmed that the dwarf scout had some oversize boots on him when he arrived, appearing to be magical. The dwarven high priest said he saw no reason why he should not keep them, as just due for his services. Dalgan asked the company if they were content with this and after a short discussion all concurred.

The Prince, having answered all outstanding questions, queried if they wished to make a decision at that moment regarding their desired reward, or sleep on the matter. Darrow, without hesitation, answered that they would like to keep the items they found and claim a fifth of the treasure. Although Dermot looked at him as if surprised, Darrow apparently missed the import of the ranger’s glance and said they had anticipated a choice like this. (It is sometimes difficult to tell from these chronicles if the dwarf is being deliberately obtuse regarding a particular matter, or if he truly is ignorant of the subtleties involved. In any case, Dermot's acting abilities seem to have been wasted. --R) Toran Goldfinder gritted his teeth yet again at Darrow’s words. The others confirmed the decision, with Shanni openly grinning at Toran as Prince Dalgan declared the matter done.


With the division of the hoard resolved, Koll Wallbasher stepped forward and stated that he would be in charge of the recovery expedition. He said that once Helrud thawed out, the dwarf scout should be able to guide them to the site. Koll was interested, however, in whatever dangers might remain there. Shanni and Darrow both mentioned that some rock beasts might have been missed, but no serious threat remained within the caverns. Dermot highlighted the fact that the swift-flowing stream they must cross was treacherous. Darrow also advised to bring climbing gear, as it was a dangerous descent to the gold.

Koll thought that was all valuable information and informed them that along with a squad of guards, they would bring a group of miners to engineer what was necessary. He stressed the need to plan carefully and told Prince Dalgan that he expected it would take a month to complete the transfer of the hoard. Dalgan agreed with his war leader that the clan should be careful in the endeavor, noting that the hoard had lain at the bottom of the pit for countless years, so a month more would not dull its luster. Dermot interjected that the adventurers should be able to return by then.

At that moment, High Priest Iskar formally asked Prince Dalgan for permission to speak. Slightly surprised, Dalgan of course agreed. Iskar raised his voice so it would be heard clearly throughout the audience chamber, proclaiming that the Clan had witnessed great deeds, accomplished by clan members and dwarf-friends, all under the wise leadership of the Prince. He affirmed that as the High Priest of Moradin, it was his honor and duty to guard the soul of the Clan and to give the word of Moradin upon its leadership. Dalgan started slightly at this and Dermot turned a quizzical look on Iskar.

The High Priest addressed the Prince, saying that the signs and portents were clear, by the vision of Moradin granted to him. He then pronounced that the period of judgment was now over and that the Clan would have a King once more. One month hence, he declared, they shall hail....King Dalgan!

Rahnee and Dermot tensed, looking around the hall for the dwarves’ reaction, while Shanni just looked confused. Dalgan, after a moment, told Iskar that he was gratified by the High Priest’s words. Darrow bowed to Dalgan as Iskar declared that the Prince had proved his strength to lead the Clan, and none should deny it. Dwarven nobles started cries of “Hail!” which were echoed by Darrow and Dermot, as Rahnee curtsied low to the Prince. Iskar turned to the company and told them that they should witness the coronation ceremony a month hence, should they be able to. Dermot and Rahnee responded in the affirmative.

Prince Dalgan asked them if they had any further words, before the Council was dismissed. Rahnee responded by saying they would take their leave, to attend to other affairs, and return in a month's time. Toran Goldfinder, whose face had grown redder during the announcement, interjected by saying that his happiness lay beyond words, and he would like to make a request. Dalgan indicated that he could proceed, as Darrow’s eyes narrowed and Shanni fixed her gaze on the clan treasurer.

Toran began by saying it was important to the Clan to trade with the outside world. Due to recent unfortunate events, he noted, this had been suspended for a time. He requested to speak with the dwarf-friends – meaning the company – regarding potential business dealings, before they departed the clan halls. Dalgan saw no reason for him not to discuss business with them before they left, as Shanni retorted that he had better make it quick. Toran expressed his appreciation and then turned to the company, saying he would find them in the morning before their departure from clan halls. Darrow nodded politely and gave his assent, as did Rahnee. Shanni, less polite, made a couple of snide remarks aimed at Toran as the Prince declared the Council completed.


Rahnee gave her blessings to the Prince and the Council, while High Priest Iskar caught Darrow’s eye with a meaningful look as the company moved to depart the audience hall. Shanni, whose mood had improved considerably, sauntered off cockily while Darrow waved to his father Boirin, standing next to the Prince as the head of the guard. Once they reached the guest quarters hallway, Dermot said he would be starting to pack his things, echoed by Shanni. Darrow mentioned that he should stop by and see Iskar before they left, and that they should at least hear what Toran Goldfinder had to say. Rahnee said she was sure what he had to say should produce a good a laugh or two, while Shanni had a ruder comment. With that, everyone except Darrow went to their rooms to start readying their packs, while the dwarf went to talk to Lorn in the smithy.

After a while, Darrow returned and roused the others, who were getting ready for bed, thinking it would be smart to make sure they got to see Iskar before their morning meeting with Goldfinder. Aerikoth put down the book he was studying and joined Darrow and Dermot as Rahnee and Shanni made themselves decent, Shanni sliding something from her pack into her boot as she finished. The five adventurers made their way to the temple, where they found Iskar and Darrow’s acolyte brother Andin.

As Darrow bowed a greeting, Iskar welcomed them and mentioned that he had just been filling in Andin on what had occurred at the Council. The high priest confirmed that he had wanted to see Darrow before the meeting with Toran Goldfinder, then queried the group what they thought of the Council proceedings. Darrow thought it was interesting that Goldfinder wanted the items they found pretty bad, at least that seemed to be the case. Darrow explained that Andin’s warning ahead of the Council meeting was what had let them make the decision so quickly.

Dermot commented that the coronation announcement had felt “a bit now-or-never” as the ranger put it; Iskar told him that he was wise to see that. The high priest asked if they had noted Toran's little dig at the Prince, with an allusion to his illness precipitating the closing off of the clan, which prompted a grunt from Dermot. Iskar remarked that even at the moment of the Prince's triumph, Toran still tried to undermine him. However, the high priest had seen the Prince's health improve, and the signs and portents were all good for the clan. Now was the time to make the Prince properly a King, he concluded, yet much could happen in the month before the coronation.

Darrow said that meant Goldfinder was going to be desperate, while Rahnee advised that Iskar take very good care of Prince Dalgan during the next month. Iskar acknowledged this, but said he feared that whatever Toran planned would not be so obvious. Perhaps what he intended to speak to the company about would contain a clue to his plans, the high priest noted. Darrow promised to keep his ears open.

Nudging Shanni, Dermot stated that the only thing of much significance they found in the old dragon’s crates was a nasty little knife. Iskar looked puzzled and wondered why Toran would care about that. Darrow observed that it was very heavily enchanted; Aerikoth had not seen anything its equal, including the clan’s ancestral axe Haelgrim. Iskar did not think it likely that Toran would want to wield it against the Prince. The wizard explained that its potent enchantments meant it could only be used by someone with a special kind of training. Iskar believed it was best that such an object did not remain with the Clan, part of why they do not trust objects not of dwarven make.

Shanni eventually produced the enchanted short sword from her boot, after juggling it a bit and complaining that it was kind of “slippy”, like it didn’t belong in this world. She placed it on the ground and Iskar failed in an attempt to pick it up. This further reinforced his opinion that it was best not to deal with such items, but would leave it to them, to do what they willed with it outside Clan walls. He also advised them not to show it to Toran. Shanni slightly awkwardly scooped the weapon up and back into her possession.

Rahnee mused that if Toran had a Shadowdancer, as they called them, at his call and were he to give that blade to the shadowdancer, the assassination of the Prince would be almost a deed done. Iskar said that none existed within Clan halls, as he would know if anyone had such skills, as Shanni asked what a shadowdancer was; Dermot also looked uncertain at the mention of the name. Rahnee asserted that she knew two in Waterdeep and called them special kinds of thieves, trained to slip through space by way of shadows. Shanni looked a little dubious at that. Aerikoth confirmed that was the training and skills the sword required of any that would wield it. After some additional banter, Iskar advised them to rest well and have their minds be alert on the morrow.


Once back in the guest quarters, each of the adventurers prepared in their own way for their last night’s stay inside the citadel. Shanni rigged a trap inside the door to her and Rahnee’s room, not being the trusting sort, while Rahnee kept a naked longsword by her bed. Dermot loaded a crossbow and placed it within reach, sleeping lightly. Aerikoth went to bed after allowing his familiar Zeluth to perch in the clan’s outside guest cave, since the raven preferred being out of doors. Darrow simply settled down to rest and soon was snoring loudly. (I would call these the actions of paranoid adventurers, but in fact Toran Goldfinder has been out to get them. --R)

As the day of Ches 16 dawned on the surface, the dwarven citadel began stirring awake. Darrow was up first and joined Dermot in knocking on the door to the ladies’ chamber, as Aerikoth exited his own room, wizard staff in hand. Impatient for breakfast, Darrow knocked more loudly and started shouting at Shanni after she asked who it was, announcing they were the Cormanthor elves. Some more pointed, grouchy joking was exchanged as the door opened and Shanni finished removing her trap. Rahnee, backed up by Shanni, then told the others they had heard someone trying to get into their room last night. Dermot speculated that it might have been some drunk, unsure where they were. Shanni said that at that point she didn’t care, just wanted to get the hells out of there fast.

Dermot and Darrow were suggesting they pack their bellies in advance of their trip when Toran Goldfinder walked up and greeted them in a surprisingly cheery manner. The party managed to respond politely to this, although Shanni just wrinkled her nose. Toran queried if they could discuss their business then, which received tepid assents from Darrow, Dermot and Rahnee. Shanni however announced that she was going to eat, so asked if they could do it over breakfast. Toran gave a forced-seeming laugh in response and excused his rudeness, declining to join them while saying he would return to the guest chamber in a half hour. Darrow agreed it was best not to discuss business before he’d had his first ale, so Toran and his two guards, who had hung behind in the background, took their leave.

At the clan tavern the party was hailed as dwarf-friends and hoard-finders, their food and drink coming out quick as the tavern keeper could bring it. They settled down at one of the tables and began talking about their upcoming meeting with the clan treasurer. Dermot reckoned he was going to offer them money for something, a notion Rahnee quickly agreed with. Shanni just was sure that he was getting “sod all” from her, as she put it.

The petite rogue then tucked into her porridge speedily and gulped down her goat’s milk, saying she just wanted to get out of there fast and asked where they would be going next. Rahnee in response reminded them of their promise to go talk with Losifan Urdo at the Mercenaries Guild in Westgate, which the others vaguely remembered. They agreed they had nowhere else they needed to go at the moment. Rahnee mentioned to Darrow, Dermot and Shanni that their adventuring company – of which she and Aerikoth were the remaining members – had done work for House Urdo in the past, lived through it and got paid. Dermot remarked that this was the best kind of work and Shanni seemed interested in repeating the experience with House Urdo. (Rahnee must be referring to the "Urdo Isle" adventure, which ended with the party's fleeing ship being attacked by the young adult red dragon Gonzo. Of course she is correct, they got paid at the end of it, but it seems she left out some important details. --C)

Changing the subject, Rahnee asked Aerikoth if he thought Teziir merchant Queron Ulanthar would be interested in running caravans to “Veranbrok”, what she called the previous Hallton barony lands surrounding the village of Tallwell. She admitted that there would not be much profit for him in the beginning, looking thoughtful. Rahnee optimistically stated that as the area got back on its feet, then Queron would have a place to sell his goods. Aerikoth also was uncertain as to the profits he could expect, suggesting that Queron perhaps would be willing to assist Rahnee’s efforts to revitalize the area, especially considering their rescue of his daughter Janatha. Darrow said they could front a little money for the first caravan or two.

Rahnee affirmed that she would use her share of the hoard money towards helping the village, along the lines of what Darrow had suggested. (A noble intent. But adventurers' promises are often difficult to keep. --R) Her thoughts regarding Tallwell turned blacker as she swore to find whoever in Westgate had backed the self-styled “Duke” Hallton, considering them to have just as much blame for Hallton’s slaying of their former companions Brok-Tul and Veran and the desecration of their bodies. Dermot and Shanni eyed their vengeful companion warily as Darrow got up to have a conversation with the tavern keeper about the business of brewing and selling ale. Aerikoth, who had been standing quietly, said something under his breath and squeezed his free hand tightly.


With breakfast done, the five companions returned one last time to their rooms, to pack up and go. They assembled in the guest quarters’ corridor as Shanni finished packing, which included checking to make sure nothing had been disturbed in their absence. Darrow mentioned his desire to start a brewery in Tallwell and that the Ironhelm tavernkeeper might come out and run it for the right price, which found favor with Rahnee. She gave a happy laugh at the prospect, but then stopped as she heard the clank of armor coming down the hallway.

Toran Goldfinder arrived with his guards and once more offered his greetings. Dermot acknowledged this with a deep nod, while Darrow declared he could be civil, now that he’d had his ale, and bowed in response. Aerikoth as usual stood calmly, holding his staff in front of himself with both hands and remaining silent. Toran smiled and said that he saluted the bearer of Haelgrim as he headed to the outside world, asking when Darrow intended to return. Darrow admitted that they didn’t rightly have a plan, but based on the tasks ahead of them, he guessed they would return no sooner than a tenday or two. Shanni chimed in and said that maybe it would just be to pick up their share of the hoard, breezily saying they had to go and give the things they had found a good test.

Toran, as if beginning a prepared speech, explained that as the one responsible for the Clan's wealth and trade, he wished to explore every opportunity to increase benefits for the Clan. In a querying tone, he raised the fact they had spoken of a human noble in Teziir who would be interested in trade with the Clan. Toran also addressed Shanni and expressed his hope there were no hard feelings for any previous misunderstandings.

In response Shanni yawned a little, obviously deliberately, as Rahnee informed Toran that they were speaking of Council Member Queron. The clan treasurer then asked if he should send a trade mission to the city, whether it would be able to find and converse with him, which Rahnee answered in the affirmative. Darrow confirmed that Queron would be the right man in Teziir to discuss trade with and had a good impression of the clan, as Darrow and his companions had helped him in the past.

Toran showed enthusiasm at this and said he hoped to open up new opportunities for the Clan, this sounding like an excellent one. He stated that in matters of trade, however, one must show that one has something special to furnish; he believed one of the items from the dragon hoard might be just the thing. Dermot quirked an eyebrow at this and looked at the others, as Toran continued talking about how such an item would be a token of Clan Ironhelm’s bounty and new prospects. He then asked if any of them had an item they would like to sell - at an excellent price.

Shanni expressed her disbelief at this while Darrow, supported by Rahnee, commented that there was plenty of dwarven arms and armor which would be considered special by humans. Toran dismissed this, saying that Ironhelm had always traded the wares of its smithy, so something unusual to attract more attention was what was needed. Shanni facetiously suggested Helrud’s boots, which had a nice pair of laces in them according to her, which prompted a forced laugh from Toran. He asked if there was nothing else that they had which would be worth, say, ten thousand gold.

When this question was met largely with obfuscation and indifference, Toran pointed out that such an item would be difficult to sell, given the need to find someone with the necessary wealth and interest, modestly terming himself such a person. Shanni replied by telling him there was no point in selling something you can make better use of while travelling. After another forced smile, Toran alluded to the fact that oftentimes, having objects of great value can be dangerous, since one must constantly protect them, and what better place than the citadel of the clan for that? Darrow bluntly said they were used to danger and Rahnee termed the ten thousand gold a drop in the bucket for an item such as he was describing. Toran countered by saying that ten thousand was a princely sum.

Dermot, playing ignorant, questioned what “Lord Goldfinder” was expecting, as the real bounty was the hoard, according to the ranger, with their “little souvenirs” just tokens. He then paused meaningfully and asked if there was something he had in mind, wondering out loud how would anyone know what was down there. Toran, perceiving an opening, thought perhaps they could show him what they had found. Wordlessly, Darrow pointed to his boots while Dermot said the most superb thing he had seen was a sword, producing his cold magic short sword. Toran inspected the sword and agreed that it was nice indeed, but was still curious why they were willing to forego half of the dragon hoard’s gold, for the items they kept. Dermot told him that this way was easier and the ranger’s assertion of the practicality of their choice was echoed by Shanni, Rahnee and Darrow.

Toran appeared skeptical but gave up further probing, leaving them with a thin smile and an offer to do business in the future. Before he left, he confirmed that they would be at the inauguration a month hence; Darrow assured him of his presence while Shanni sported an obvious smirk. As soon as the clan treasurer and his guards had disappeared around the corner, Shanni asked if they could go now.


The consensus among the companions was that Toran Goldfinder had been after the Shadowdancer blade, but Dermot and Shanni both wondered how he would know it had been part of the hoard. Shanni was eager to get out of the citadel and suggested they talk afterwards, a sentiment echoed by Dermot, who said he didn’t like the sound of Toran’s “dangerous” talk about having possession of valuable items outside the clan walls. Rahnee excused herself to get into her armor for the journey, then joined the others in heading for the dwarven citadel exit. (I understand why the company believed that Toran was after the most valuable - and dangerous - magic item in their possession, yet the logic is not sound. How indeed would the clan treasurer know of its existence, since they had not shown it to anyone within the citadel walls? Yet intuition can play a valuable role in guiding one's actions, where facts are not fully available. Certainly Toran wanted something out of their conversation and his dissembling manner was not convincing. --C)

When they reached the chamber leading to the gates, Clan Greeter Rumnaher offered a brief salutation and then asked Darrow for a word, pulling him aside for a conversation in dwarven. Shanni, somehow ending up last in the marching order, had the chamber door shut in her face and had to bang on it, a little panicky, to get Rahnee to open it from the other side. As the conversation between the dwarves went on, Dermot took the time to ready his weapons. Shanni, at first relieved not to have been locked in the citadel, became impatient and started edging for the outer door, asking if they could go now. However, a few moments later the conversation ended and Rumnaher wished fair travels to all.

Once past the inner gates, Shanni became cheery again, even waving good-bye to one of the dwarven defenders as he saluted them. Darrow saluted back and then, after the guards were out of earshot, told the others to wait up after they passed the outer gates. As they walked by the guest cave, Aerikoth’s raven familiar Zeluth winged out of it and took up a position above them. Soon, they were through the outer gates and at the Ironhelm valley entrance.

There, Darrow called a halt and informed them that Helrud had left them something buried in the corner of his tent in the hills; that was what Rumnaher had wanted to talk to him about. Shanni thought it was suspicious and suggested they just keep going. Rahnee countered, saying that it was not suspicious, and they were dwarf friends. Darrow reiterated that Helrud had buried something for them and had asked Rumnaher to tell him. Aerikoth queried when exactly the dwarf scout had done this and Darrow said he didn’t know, as Helrud was apparently still recovering and not up for talking. Having provided her vote on the matter, Shanni spent the rest of the conversation in the treeline, watching and looking for any threats. Rahnee urged them to detour to pick it up, since it was not too far, and the others agreed.

The five adventurers trod the now-familiar path into the mountains, hiking the ridgeline trail and roping up to the plateau as they had done before. As she had the last time on the way back, Shanni said she needed to go and went into the nearby cave for a short period, before returning with an impish grin on her face. Aerikoth failed on his first attempt at ascending the cliffside, but managed the second one well enough, and there were no further incidents during the journey to Helrud’s campsite in the Giant's Peak area.

Darrow immediately went for the tent, tucking his axe and shield away as he began looking in the snow at its corners. Rahnee called to him to let Shanni check things out, before he pulled anything out of a hole. Shanni explained that there might be a trap, but the dwarf said there was no trap and pointed to a patch of disturbed ground. He nevertheless backed away, grumbling, as Rahnee told him that she wanted to have Shanni check it. She reminded him of the fire bomb heads at Hallton’s manor, which had nearly claimed Darrow’s life. The dwarf poo-pooed the danger as Shanni, having looked the ground over carefully, informed the others that it just looked like someone buried something.

Shanni, still cautious, hacked a long stick off a nearby tree, then poked at the disturbed earth with it. As the ground was frozen and resisted her probing, she swore under her breath and started chipping away at the earth with her sword. Darrow protested the delay, saying that Helrud would not have trapped something and then told them to go dig it up, a point with which Aerikoth agreed. Just then, they all heard a thunk as Shanni’s sword hit something solid.

The petite rogue carefully cleared the earth off the thing’s surface, admitting that there was nothing of concern there, although she still argued that someone else could have put it there, or another person could have overheard Helrud's plans. Shanni’s ministrations revealed a little dragon figurine, which Darrow picked up and held out for the others to see. Aerikoth confirmed, at Rahnee’s request, that it was not magical. The black stone it was made of appeared similar similar to the stone in the underground chamber of the hoard, the wizard also observed. Darrow averred that it was not precious, but it might be worth something if they wanted to sell it, although he would probably hang onto it. The dwarf still wondered, though, why Helrud had wanted them to have it.

End of Chapter VIII of the Chronicles


Interlude from "R"

This curious tale of dwarven clan intrigue raises some questions to my mind. First of these is who sent Darrow Ironhelm the original message box with the replica of the clan's ancestral axe he bore named Haelgrim. Although it must have been someone from the faction seeking to put him on the throne, this seems like an extravagant gesture, not least because of the days of travel needed to reach the hinterlands of Westgate. Even if Toran Goldfinder truly was the mastermind behind these events, such an act does not seem to be his style or one befitting a haughty noble. It sounds more like a couple of the younger hotheads came up with this "great idea" over a few Ironhelm ales and decided to act on it.

Another question is the role of fortune in these events. Every time the company - with its changing members - visits the clanhome, it seems another layer is peeled back from it. In this case, the ugly politics and scheming involved in the succession to the throne was laid bare. It was a matter of luck that led to Rahnee spotting the furtive placement of the "unwanted gem" on Shanni, who otherwise would have blithely continued on with her business and no doubt been (fraudulently) exposed as a thief, with dire consequences. But while thinking more on this matter, I ask myself if it is merely a coincidence that her patron goddess, faithfully propitiated, was Tymora? Those of us who follow Kelemvor's dictates are prone to thinking in certainties, since there is no thing more certain than death. Although I do not believe in divine intervention in such relatively petty matters, it is undeniable from my own experience that some people are notably more luckier than others, a fact which has implications for the ordering of the universe.

It is also notable how each of the party members had an important role to play in matters. Shanni's roguish skills offered a discreet way of getting rid of the "unwanted gem" after it was found; she also was central to the exploration of the hoard caverns. Dermot tracked the dwarf scout Helrud to the Hidden Peak area and appeared to at least somewhat moderate Shanni's temper, which I would say was the second greatest danger to the group while in the dwarven citadel. Aerikoth's erudition supported their decision-making throughout. Finally, Darrow, by rejecting an opportunity for the throne and then by defeating the iron golem guarding the hoard, was pivotal in the future of his clan. Although one should not assume that a hoard, once found, causes no further trouble.
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Interlude from "C"

Knowing that my predecessor as senior initiate "R" has already read these chronicles while inscribing his commentary, I must conclude that this is not the last we have heard of the disposition of the abandoned dragon hoard. The company has done very well out of its find so far, with the magical items they kept; perhaps they become fabulously rich later? Yet somehow I doubt it.

The encounter with the spectre Unanin in the Deep Delve was brief, but troublesome. "R" did not mention it at all in his summary, although I have noted he tends to write more in the margins of the chronicles, rather than saving up his thoughts for later. As is the case with all undead, I oppose their very being and cannot believe that Unanin's presence under Clan Ironhelm bodes well for the future. Yet other histories I have read recount how various powerful undead beings have preferred to isolate themselves and have no interaction with others, only striking at those who are brave or foolish enough to disturb their lairs. Indeed, it is difficult to think what Unanin would want from the Ironhelm dwarves, that would make a difference in its un-life.

I shall continue with recording some of my reflections on each of the central personages, taken in order of their appearance, as more of their individual natures is revealed in each chapter. I see the purpose of studying and pondering these chronicles being not simply to gain knowledge of the events contained within, but to understand the nature of the world and how we evolve within it.

Aerikoth Ankharat - what struck me most about the wizard in this chapter was his role with the group, insofar as he actually was with it the entire time. I have become used to seeing references to his absences - many times with little explanation - but his presence, as "R" previously alluded to, bolstered the group in many ways. His intellectual curiosity was perhaps the most evident trait, as he encountered for the first time the aboveground ancient ruins of the dragon kingdom, as well as magical marvels such as the iron golem belowground. This trait did not endear him to everyone and perhaps was distracting at times, yet his thirst for knowledge appeared authentic. His acerbic view of the Ironhelm clan's claims on the hoard I thought could have contributed to a more serious rupture within the party, yet the wizard - intentionally? - did not pursue the matter further when things came to a head. In this particular matter, his opinion aligned with that of Dermot and Shanni, which is something of a novelty.

Rahnee Roaringhorn - the young noblewoman adventurer was in her element, given the mix of politics, exploration and fighting involved. A hint of tragedy still followed her, but she seemed to bond with Shanni over their everyday challenges, as well as the fraught perils of dwarven intrigue and exploring the Hidden Peak caverns. The two of them had previously cleared the air over matters affected by Rahnee's loss of her previous mate, Brok-Tul, that tension at least being resolved. I do not believe it was strictly luck that led Rahnee to spot the planting of the gem on Shanni, either. The noblewoman evidently has had training in such matters, no doubt necessary for facing the challenges of a place such as her home of Waterdeep.

Darrow Ironhelm - although his was no doubt the deepest involvement of any the company in the events related to his clan, such is his straightforward nature that I feel I have relatively little to add to the chronicles' account. With most other people, the offer of a throne - even if done in a manipulative and perhaps poisoned manner - would have caused much angst in its consideration, or at the very least a sleepless night or two. Darrow's rejection of the idea was seemingly never in doubt, although I imagine he must have at least briefly considered the possibility. His nature is rebellious, or perhaps chaotic is a better way to put it, and he recognized that being placed in a position of such authority would result in great unhappiness, both for him personally and for his clan. Such self-knowledge and the ability to act on it is a sign of maturity.

Dermot Kenner - the taciturn ranger displayed more of his thoughtful nature over the course of events, as well as his tracking skills. He considered all of the angles when faced with each problem and contributed much to their solutions, such as the clever melting of the ice blocking the caverns' entry grate. It was also interesting to see his take on the ownership of the hoard, betraying a certain amount of erudition in such matters, beyond that of a simple woodsman. His diplomatic attitude with Prince Dalgan also helped smooth over tensions involving the visitors, in particular offsetting Shanni's fiery temper. He, Shanni and Darrow made an effective team in the initial exploration of the caverns, which implies experience in such ventures. Yet we still know almost nothing about his time before he fell in with company.

Shanni Krowe - both the adventuring skills and the volatility of the "petite rogue", as the chronicler calls her, was on full display as she fought the pressures of being wrongfully accused and, for a time, unwillingly confined in Ironhelm. Although her temper and occasionally nasty gestures toward the dwarves stand out from the others during this period, I must ask myself if I would have felt any different, essentially trapped and put on trial in an unfamiliar place. Shanni also apparently did not do well underground - perhaps a touch of claustrophobia? - which no doubt contributed to the situation. A vein of greed was exposed by the prospect and then the reality of finding the hoard; not surprising, perhaps, but avarice is not a quality to be sought after. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that she appeared to do the best out of all of them, in terms of the spoils from the dragon hoard.
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Chapter IX: Fighting the Fire Knives

Return to Westgate

Starting from Helrud’s campsite near Giant’s Peak, the five adventurers – Aerikoth Ankharat, Rahnee Roaringhorn, Darrow Ironhelm, Dermot Kenner and Shanni Krowe – faced a long trek to return to Westgate. They made their way back to the ridgeline trail without major incident, although Aerikoth fell again while traversing the cliff face, wounding his pride. A hike of four hours placed them at the Mountaingate Crossroads on the Shining Plains trail, where they turned north for Trader’s Road. A small detour to avoid a couple of bears on the way did not slow them down much, but it was still very late at night before they reached the Shining Plains Crossroads, the area of the intersection with Trader’s Road.

Aerikoth wasted no time in casting a spell to summon a magical hut, which the party immediately entered, a fatigued Shanni staggering past the door first. As the company hastily doffed their traveling clothes and tried to dry off from the rain, Dermot queried Rahnee regarding what kind of work she expected her friends in the city – meaning House Urdo – would want to give them. Rahnee had little real idea and conversation soon halted as one by one they bedded down, Darrow being the first to start snoring. Dermot, still pensive, listened to the rain on the outside of the hut until he fell asleep.

At dawn on Ches 17, light leaked through the hut door, signifying that the sun had risen. With various degrees of grumbling, the company got up and made preparations to resume their journey, only waiting for Aerikoth to finish studying his spells. Shanni and Rahnee in particular were looking forward to staying in a warm inn with a bath, a bed and clean clothes. They also wanted food and drink that wasn’t sausages and ale. Dermot, curious about Darrow’s experience, empathetically asked the dwarf if he felt weird being away from his clanhome. He admitted that it was odd speaking human all the time, not having chairs the right height, and warned not to get him started about the ale. Darrow however said that he thereby got a chance to see the world as it is, not stuck away someplace, as he put it.

Still a little groggy from the previous day’s travels, they took longer than expected to find the right trail heading east. Once they were properly on Trader’s Road, six more hours of walking put them at the western outskirts of Teziir. A short debate was held about whether to stop in the city and perhaps say hello to Council Member Queron Ulanthar, to let him know to expect a trade embassy from Ironhelm. Darrow and Rahnee, who had suggested this, were however fine with the preference of the others to continue. Dermot pointed out that there was plenty of daylight left and Shanni reminded them that House Urdo was expecting them soonest.

The petite rogue, having got her way, was nonetheless still grumpy as it began raining again on them while they passed by the city limits. They continued on another four hours to the Reddansyr Crossroads, at which point Dermot cheerily stated that they were at least halfway there. This earned him a sharp comment from Shanni, who kept her face buried in the hood of her cloak and trudged along dejectedly. Darrow then cheerily commented that the only way it could get worse was if it snowed.


A number of hours of further travel brought them into some hills. In the foggy weather, they were suddenly set upon by some wild animals, including a group of badgers. Dermot was mauled before they could kill them all and he had to borrow Darrow’s ring of regeneration afterwards to heal. After a little while, Dermot pronounced himself much better, although he ruefully mentioned he could use a ring like that for his armor as well.

Just then, the ranger spotted something in the distance and Shanni cocked her head, also hearing something. After a few seconds, Dermot told them to get off the road and behind a nearby ridge, and to be quiet. Shanni pulled her magical cloak tightly around her in response, as they headed for the ridge crest

As soon as they were over it, they heard and saw what had originally driven the animals their way: two hill giants. The party was surprised and one of the giants picked up a nearby boulder and tossed it at them as the other charged. A general melee ensued as Darrow held the one giant at bay and the others scattered to provide the other giant with less of a target and employ their ranged weapons. Darrow suffered a large gash in his shoulder but managed to bring down the giant in front of him, as his companions finished the other one off.

A little dazed from the battle and now even more tired, the company trooped back to Trader’s Road and continued east. It was another four hours before they reached the outskirts of Westgate; Rahnee said she could begin to smell the port. By that point, Shanni was lagging significantly behind the others, while Darrow was still grumbling about the encounter with the giants.

The dwarf, however, was aware enough to whistle to the ranger, who from sheer inertia was still heading east into the city, in order to direct him to the south, where the Gatereach compound lay outside Mulsantir’s Gate. Rahnee meanwhile went back to make sure that Shanni did not collapse by the side of the road. As they passed the Gatereach compound gate, Rahnee remarked that the guest cottage was being rebuilt and Darrow took a quick look at the construction site.


Inside the Gatereach Inn, which they were all relieved to enter, Jandrico Swift greeted them after Rahnee and Darrow announced their presence. The innkeeper regarded their travel-stained clothing as they filed in and Rahnee made known her desperate need for some tea. Jandrico said he would go inform Goruna that tea and breakfast was needed. The innkeeper also mentioned that Barzog, his other employee, was off getting supplies, otherwise he would have been there to greet them as well. In response to a question from Rahnee, Jandrico said the three rooms nearest the stairs were available, then excused himself to see to their breakfast.

While Shanni slumped on a barstool, already having fallen asleep, Rahnee started figuring out the room assignments. Aerikoth stated that he had other arrangements, just as the inn’s serving woman marched in with their food and drink, Jandrico trailing behind her. Goruna gave them a hearty greeting, reserving a special gap-toothed smile for Dermot. The ranger suddenly seemed a little hesitant about staying at the Gatereach, mentioning that he might need to look around town, before uncertainly returning Goruna’s smile. Rahnee nudged Shanni to try to wake her, but the exhausted rogue instead wobbled and fell off the stool as Darrow took a wedge of bread and ham and began eating.

Rahnee was curious about Aerikoth’s plans, so the wizard informed them that some time ago, with the assistance of Thessar, he had purchased a house outside the city walls. Rahnee was surprised but thought it wonderful for him to have his own house. (It is remarkable that Aerikoth finally shared this private information with the others - although on the surface it seems harmless enough. It is equally remarkable that Rahnee thought to follow up on the matter, rather than being immediately distracted by something else, as so often occurs with questions regarding the wizard's affairs. --R) Meanwhile, a barely awake Shanni grumbled and tugged on Dermot's cloak to get back upright and onto a barstool. Rahnee, eating with as much gracefulness as possible while quickly putting food in her mouth, urged Shanni to eat first, then go to sleep. Once Goruna and Jandrico had left to go about their business, Dermot told Rahnee that it would in fact be best if he stayed there, now that he had thought about it.

As the party dug into their meal, the half-orc Barzog – their acquaintance from Starmantle – arrived carrying a large number of packages. Grinning broadly as he put them down, Barzog greeted the company as friends. This elicited a cheerful reply from Rahnee, but notably less enthusiasm from her tired companions, who listened to her banter with the half-orc. Barzog declared himself happy with his current circumstances at the Gatereach, comparing employment there favorably to his time on the slaver ship and in the Starmantle jail. (It is gratifying to see some further good come out of the company's quest for the return of Janatha from the slavers. Barzog, first encountered while in prison, seems to be a rather crude personality, but genuine in his appreciation for a better life in Westgate. --C)

After Barzog went back to work, Rahnee suggested that they could all gather back at the Gatereach the morning of the following day; everyone agreed it would be a good idea to get some much-needed rest. She said she would send word to Losifan Urdo, the Mercenaries Guild leader whose House now held the position of Croamakrh, that they were back in town and see when he wanted to meet. Rahnee and Shanni, who was carried upstairs by Dermot, took the large room, while the ranger and Darrow each got their own smaller rooms. Aerikoth, before departing for his own house, said he would return that evening for dinner.


True to his word, shortly after hour 18, Aerikoth re-entered the Gatereach bar room and found Darrow, Dermot and Shanni there. They informed him that Rahnee was not feeling well enough to get out of bed, largely due to the blisters on her feet. As the wizard leaned his staff on the bar and took a seat on one of the stools, Dermot showed him a curious letter that had just been delivered by a boy. On its page were the symbols of a raven taking flight, a crooked staff and a harp; the three of them had just been trying to figure out what it meant.

Glancing at the letter, the wizard indicated that the harp was obvious, but not the other two. He asked if Dermot had any affiliation with the Harpers, but the ranger replied that it was a mystery to him. Turning over the page, he looked at the seal of the White Stag stamped on it. Darrow brought up the fact that Aerikoth had a raven familiar; the wizard, going with the idea, said that the raven symbol lead him to believe that it was a message for him or his associates. He mentioned previous contacts in Westgate with Jamal, who was affiliated with the Harpers, that had been accomplished via his familiar Zeluth. Shanni was skeptical of the idea that it was meant for Aerikoth, mentioning that before the wizard had arrived, the boy had given it specifically to Dermot.

Jandrico Swift at this point entered the room, saying he had prepared a balm for the Lady Rahnee's feet; she seemed to be getting better. He inquired if they needed anything. Shanni politely asked for some food, while Darrow signaled for both food and ale. Aerikoth then informed the others that he would send Zeluth out to look for her – meaning Jamal – explaining that unlike himself, the raven actually seemed to like her.

Dermot retrieved the letter and folded it until only the raven-taking-flight symbol was shown, then held it up for Jandrico Swift to look at. As the innkeeper glanced at it, the ranger asking the innkeeper if it meant anything to him. Jandrico replied that it was a raven rising from a tree branch. Darrow then asked a “trivia question”, as he put it, about whether there was a tavern called “The Twisted Staff” in Westgate. Jandrico said there was not, but there was a “Rising Raven” inn, outside the River Gate. Dermot noted this as he tucked the letter away and Aerikoth confirmed that they had met there a time or two before, if his memory served.

Dermot, interested in pursuing the matter further, asked if the other three were all right with arranging the Urdo business. Shanni said rather bluntly she wanted to go buy some clothes and Darrow opined there was no reason they couldn’t mix the two. As Goruna and Jandrico brought in dinner, Dermot slung on his cloak and pocketed some food for the road. The ranger awkwardly returned Goruna’s smile as he took his leave and the others began to concentrate on their meal. Once that was through, Darrow and Shanni departed on their shopping expedition and said they hoped to possibly make arrangements with Urdo as well; Aerikoth, for his part, preferred to remain at the inn.


The next day, Ches 19, Shanni was quite late to arise, finally joining the others mid-morning for breakfast at the Gatereach. Aerikoth and Dermot had already been out and about in the city, including running into each other briefly at Shalush Myrkeer’s shop, before returning to the inn. Over the meal, Dermot handed out an impressive amount of gold to his companions, explaining that he had been out selling some of the spare trinkets collected by the group. All appreciated the extra coin and Rahnee also shared out some gold with group, although the amount was not as substantial as the ranger’s.

As Shanni dug into her oatmeal – ignoring the sausages that came with them – she lamented that she had not been as successful over the previous day. She mentioned she had gone out for a late walk, to try and sell some of the gems they had found, and also ask around about enchantments like that on her magical blade. In response to a question from Aerikoth, the petite rogue said she had just made some general inquiries about special weapons, not mentioning hers specifically. Darrow brought up Gondeth the mage, who had a shop in the Market district, and Rahnee and Aerikoth both thought it would be useful to show the blade to him, as he had previously helped the company. Shanni however was more cautious about the idea, even though they assured her he was trustworthy.

Once breakfast was over, Rahnee got a sick look on her face and ran upstairs after excusing herself. Aerikoth took his leave more leisurely, indicating that he would return to the Gatereach in two hours’ time, thereby allowing the company to proceed together to the meeting Darrow and Shanni had scheduled with Losifan Urdo at the Mercenaries Guild. After the wizard departed, Darrow, Dermot and Shanni went out to see the Spring Equinox festival being celebrated in the streets of Westgate.


Unwelcome Mercenaries

Late morning on Ches 19, Aerikoth, Rahnee and Darrow met up at the Gatereach inn. Darrow had informed Rahnee, just before the wizard arrived, that Dermot and Shanni had some urgent shopping or something to do, so did not return with him. The dwarf also related that they had stopped by the Black Boot Inn, pursuing rumors about disappearing Westgate citizens, and had cultivated a new source by the name of Lomilith. He was an elven hedge wizard who made coin by casting cantrips. Darrow described how the elf, who was eager enough to help, nearly cried when presented with five gold and being asked to keep his ears open.

The three adventurers agreed to head out for the Mercenaries Guild, once Darrow had changed into his armor; Rahnee was wearing hers and he did not want to be underdressed. They set out into the streets, even more crowded than usual because of the spring festival. Darrow was quite taken with the concept of a festival beer garden and looked forward to visiting one later on. The crowds got them turned around a bit, but eventually they made it through the River Gate district, where Darrow pointed out the Black Boot, and to East Gate where the Mercenaries Guild headquarters was located.

Outside the guild’s building, Aerikoth halted and pulled the others side for a moment. The wizard explained that he had heard rumors that the Scarlet Company, whom they had previously met in Reddansyr, had been hired by House Cormaeril. He was unsure if the guild knew about them, but wanted to share the information with Rahnee and Darrow, in any event. Rahnee recalled meeting them at the inn with the boat on the roof; both she and Darrow thought they were good sorts. All three wondered, if the rumor was true, if the Scarlet Company knew the reputed character of the Cormaerils.

Inside the guild headquarters, Tara the clerk recognized “Helm’s Shadows” and informed them that Losifan Urdo was expecting them, directing the three adventurers to his upstairs office. There, the Mercenaries Guild head recruiter welcomed them and made some pleasant small talk to begin. He mentioned that increased duties in Westgate meant it was unlikely he would be able to accompany caravans and exchange tales under the stars, as occurred during their first meeting at the Reddansyr Crossroads, at least for a while.

Turning to business, Losifan first confirmed with Rahnee that the company was available for hire. He then informed them that House Urdo had been coping with the Fire Knives assassination threat well enough, but House Cormaeril might be looking to challenge their authority in other ways, having hired the Scarlet Company mercenary group in the past tenday. He went on to explain that they had not registered with the Mercenaries Guild, making them an outlaw company from the Guild’s perspective and giving Losifan the authority to act against them. He admitted that he had little information about their activities in the city, but could not imagine that they would be to House Urdo’s benefit. He then offered Helm’s Shadows a 1,500 gold contract to remove the Scarlet Company from Westgate.

After some back-and-forth, during which Losifan clarified that they could “remove” the Scarlet Company any way they saw fit, Rahnee indicated that they would attend to Urdo’s problem as soon as possible. Losifan also mentioned there recently had been a spate of temporary kidnappings of lordlings from various Houses – all except Cormaeril and Vhammos had suffered – which saw the nobles eventually left trussed up in their underwear on the city streets at night. Darrow and Rahnee brought up rumors of common folk going missing and wondered if there was a connection. Losifan confessed he had not heard of anything special regarding the commoners, who tended to disappear in normal times, being victims of crime or ending up floating in the harbor, after falling into the sea drunk. He said that the City Watch would welcome any information they might happen to run across on the situation.

Aerikoth, Rahnee and Darrow took their leave and walked out of the building, heading back to the Gatereach. Aerikoth was dismissive of the guild’s reasoning regarding the illegality of unregistered groups in Westgate, but was nonetheless willing to go along and accept the contract. Rahnee said she would prefer to talk to the Scarlet Company as friends, to see if they had unknowingly stepped into a tall pile of purple worm pilings, as she put it. Darrow suggested asking around inns near Cormaeril Castle as a starting point and Rahnee queried Aerikoth if that would be near his house. The wizard indicated that it was outside West Gate and was not far from the castle, with the Spitting Cockatrice and Leaning Man inns nearby.

(I have noted that the wizard has strong reactions to different types of authority. He appears outwardly respectful and generally appreciative of the role and privileges of the nobility. His relationship with Baron Pahar of Turnton is one example of this, as were his interactions with the nobles of Clan Ironhelm. However, he completely disdains temple authorities and has been dismissive of the Mercenaries Guild from the beginning, having to be convinced by the others to register along with them. Something in his background is likely the key to this behavior. Does he come from nobility himself? Possible, though we know almost nothing of his circumstances before arriving in Westgate, and he has never claimed such. I believe that something in his past must also explain his apparent hatred of religious authorities. It is remarkable, but I do not recall ever seeing a reference to him propitiating any gods, not even cursing using their names, unlike all of the other members of the company. --C)


By the time Dermot and Shanni returned to the Gatereach around mid-afternoon, Rahnee had retired to her room with more stomach complaints. That left Aerikoth and Darrow to explain what had occurred at the Mercenaries Guild meeting with Losifan Urdo. Their companions also thought Losifan’s treatment of the Scarlet Company was rather harsh, and agreed that the best course of action would be to try to find them for a talk before doing anything else.

Darrow enthusiastically suggested a tavern crawl – in fact a reasonable strategy for searching out the mercenaries – concentrating in the area outside West Gate. The four made their way there, at which point Aerikoth excused himself to go to his house – which he indicated to the others – and catch up on his magical studies. That left Darrow, Dermot and Shanni on their own to investigate the various local inns.

By early evening of Ches 19, the three had returned to the Gatereach to collect Rahnee, who by that point was up and about again. The Spring Equinox festival had begun and the inn was abuzz with talk. Darrow was eager to get going to the beer garden, where they could sit outside, mingle and make ale disappear – perhaps while picking up some information as well. They decided to leave Aerikoth to his wizardly studies and head for the Harbor Loop, the epicenter of the city-wide party.

Darrow was not disappointed by the garden of beer, located at the Rosebud Outdoor Tavern, and enthusiastically indulged in drinking and arm wrestling. The other three, more slowly getting drunker, kept an eye out for any activity that might be of interest. Rahnee spotted a young nobleman having a conversation with a whore and then departing. In light of what Losifan Urdo had told them about the temporary kidnappings of lordlings, she signaled to Dermot – who was arm wrestling Darrow at the time – to catch up when he could. The dwarf soon forced the ranger’s arm to the table, at which point the two of them and Shanni, all of them ironically play-acting drunk while not very sober, weaved through the dense crowd and out into the street after Rahnee.

For some reason their collective tracking skills were off, but eventually they found near the neighborhood sewer entrance an unconscious guard from House Bleth. He soon revived, complaining about having been ambushed by a sorcerer, and told them that his charge, Lord Anubin Bleth, was missing. After a search of the area the four companions, although not fully equipped in either body or mind at that point, decided to head down into the sewers, where they believed the lordling must have been taken.
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