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The Westgate Campaign Chronicles - serial

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
While they were in the Market, the group decided to stop in at Gondeth's Mageries, hoping to identify the books owned by Jamorin, the deceased necromancer. Gondeth recognized Aerikoth from his previous visit as a brother in the Art, and commented on Aerikoth's new robes. Rahnee showed Jamorin's ancient arcane tome to Gondeth and asked him to examine it. Brok-Tul said that he had attempted to use his deity's insight to divine the book's nature, but had only received a splitting headache in return. After some study, Gondeth declared that the volume was indeed very old - from a previous version of the Weave, or perhaps from before the Weave existed. This explained the failure of the identify spell. Gondeth stated that the book was imbued with magic, but did not have magical powers in itself. The subject matter was transmutation and death magic, in other words an ancient treatise on lichdom. (Would that all such materials were burned in a righteous fire! How many ills in Faerun have been caused by their existence, across the centuries. --R)

Upon hearing this, Brok-Tul's face darkened and he motioned Gondeth to step closer, revealing in hushed tones that rumors were swirling about the Night Masks now being run by powerful, intelligent undead. Some concern was expressed by all present at the possibility, although Aerikoth found amusing the others’ worries about what particular form the "wrong" of the Masks took. Brok-Tul also showed Jamorin's personal notes to Gondeth. They mentioned some artifacts and the "Seven Lost Gods" hills outside of Westgate. Gondeth explained that the hills contained the sites of old, even ancient shrines. The hills were used by many during a period in Westgate history when temples were banned in the city itself, with the old shrines mostly crumbling into disuse once the ban had been lifted.

Gondeth appreciated the trust the party had showed him, although he politely declined Brok-Tul's request to participate in enchanting items for their planned custom equipment shop. Gondeth asked the company if he could offer them compensation in exchange for the tomes. Aerikoth stated that, in compensation, he only wished to know the results of Gondeth's research - dryly adding, after Brok-Tul's face grew red, that he however could not speak for his companions. Gondeth said he understood and would offer the group 1,000 gold and a spell scroll of medium power to Aerikoth, with the proviso that the group gave up all claim on the tome for the future; results of the research would, however, be shared with Aerikoth. Gondeth unlocked a strongbox and passed the gold over, Aerikoth deciding to select the scroll at a later time. (Aerikoth's thirst for magical knowledge is becoming evident. The mage seeks power, rather than wealth, it seems. --C)

On the way back from Gondeth's, the party stopped at Aurora's Emporium, where Rahnee, with much grumbling, left a sheaf of notes to be sent to her brother Madrigal in Waterdeep; her gold pouch did not jingle nearly as much after she left. Once safely in the meeting room at the Gatereach guest house, the party reviewed their plans, with Marik's discovery of a sewer entrance near the place where Captain Yar's body had been found figuring prominently in the discussion. Brok-Tul reluctantly suggested another avenue of possible information on the Fire Knives, namely his old adversary/acquaintance Jamal, who was known to him as a Harper. Aerikoth expressed his distaste at the prospect of meeting her again, but indicated he would pursue whatever path the group thought best.

Rahnee brought up the matter of the gold received from Gondeth in return for Jamorin's ancient tome. She asserted, politely but firmly, that only Jamorin's original companions should share the wealth, as they were the ones who had taken the risks; there was general agreement that this was fair. Aerikoth, for his part, freely gave up his share of the gold, while Brok-Tul asked Rahnee to hold it for future investment in his cover business. Rahnee stated she would use her share for the company's needs. Once this discussion was completed, Jokull told the others he needed to go to the Market district to make some purchases and then attend to some personal matters.
 
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Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
After some debate over how best to contact Jamal without drawing undue attention, Aerikoth cleared his throat and offered to arrange for a message to be delivered, although did not specify how he would do it. It was agreed that Jamal could name the place and time of the meeting, so she would not feel she was falling into a trap, and that the party should not be explicitly named; only a short reference to their activities on behalf of Pahar was included in the note.

The group had an undisturbed rest during the night. They awakened and Brok-Tul was met by Janatha in the entry hall, bringing breakfast from the Gatereach Inn. Aerikoth remained in his quarters until the end of breakfast, emerging to inform the others that he had received a note from Jamal, setting a meeting at three bells in the afternoon at the Empty Fish tavern outside of West Gate. The party then headed to Shalush Myrkeer's shop for Rahnee's appointment with the merchant. (The other members of the party continue to be - blissfully? willfully? - ignorant of the mage's capabilities and actions. Rahnee in particular would do well to pay more attention. --R)

After they were ushered into Shalush's office, he greeted Rahnee obsequiously and inquired about her status in the Waterdeep nobility and her business in Westgate. Shalush paid great attention to Rahnee's banter, but seemed slightly bored with her business proposal to sell custom equipment and the introduction of Brok-Tul. Shalush channeled the conversation back to the doings of the nobility, asking Rahnee if she had any connections with noble houses in Westgate. Rahnee showed him her writ from Baron Pahar; in response to Shalush's question as to who Pahar was, she told him he was a scion of House Thalavar. Shalush appeared somewhat surprised at this, stating that he knew much about the Westgate houses and had never heard of the Baron. However, he (somewhat tentatively) expressed approval that Rahnee was associated with House Thalavar.

Shalush asked Rahnee where she was staying in Westgate and if she could get him an invitation to Castle Thalavar. Rahnee deflected his query, saying that she was not staying at the castle and she would be uncomfortable discussing specifics about her connections with Westgate nobility. Shalush then tried another tack, indicating that if Rahnee were known to House Bleth, he would be happy to invite her to the Blue Banner Inn for dinner. When Rahnee demurred, Shalush huffily declared that the Blue Banner was one of the best places in the city, regardless. Rahnee relented and agreed to a dinner there in three days' time.

After the group departed Shalush Myrkeer's, Rahnee complained of sore feet and the company decamped in the nearby Black Eye tavern, which featured half-orc bouncers and a thuggish-looking clientele. The group drew attention from a man who entered and spoke to the bartender, then approached Rahnee. He introduced himself as Khair and observed that if Rahnee was looking to hire help for a particular job - why else would a woman like her be there, he thought - he was skilled with a sword and had the eyes of a hawk. The party noted that Khair spoke accented Common and Rahnee observed to him, apparently recognizing his accent, that he was far from home. Khair said it had been a long time since he left to make his way in the world. After some banter, Khair indicated that should Rahnee wish to hire him, she could leave word with the bartender, whose name was Mard. After the group departed the tavern, Marik was dispatched with a large amount of gold to procure supplies for the guest house. (Hah! Another example of the trusting nature of the party. Just wait. --R)
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Dead and Not-So-Dead Ends

Rahnee, Brok-Tul, and Aerikoth headed toward the district outside West Gate, in order to be at the Empty Fish tavern in time for the meeting with Jamal. Brok-Tul initially lead them on a short detour into a cul-de-sac in the Mulsantir's Gate district, which he said happened to be one of his "old haunts" as a criminal. (The half-orc's candor about his past is admirable. --C). The group then separated, with Aerikoth taking a more direct route outside West Gate while Brok-Tul and Rahnee meandered around inside the city walls. After linking up at a road junction, the three entered the Empty Fish together. The group observed that its occupants spoke in low tones and ignored others present; according to Brok-Tul, the place had a reputation for being a discreet meeting spot.

Brok-Tul bought a round of Suzale and Westgate Ruby, then they found a quiet table. After some adjusting of chairs, the group had begun to settle in when Jokull walked through the door and sat down at a table across the room. He ordered a bottle of Suzale and remained at his table until approached by Rahnee and invited to join the others. Jokull indicated he had spotted the group in the Market district and decided to follow them at a distance. Jokull inquired why they were at the tavern, and Brok-Tul indicated it was to meet Jamal, the Harper.

After a short time, Jamal walked in and spoke briefly with the bartender, Guster. Brok- Tul stood up and went to the bar, offering to buy her a drink and inviting her back to their table. Jamal was introduced to Jokull, who gentlemanly kissed her outstretched hand, pleasing her to no end - not least because she could then tell Brok-Tul he could learn a thing or two from Jokull. Following some introductory banter, Brok-Tul cut to the chase and told Jamal that he believed a new organization in town had put out a contract on him, after he started his custom gear business. She was quite skeptical of Brok-Tul's story, telling him that if anyone was out to get him, it was almost assuredly his former associates, the Night Masks, not some anonymous group with an alleged link to one of the noble houses. (I'm sure it was an even sillier story hearing it in person than it looks like on parchment. The half-orc says he had a change of heart and left the Masks, but perhaps he just was not able to hack it in the organization. An uncharitable view, admittedly. --R)

Jamal asked if Brok-Tul and the group had made any progress in investigating necromantic activity in Westgate, the reason for their previous meeting. Jamal said that despite what she considered Brok-Tul's paranoid ramblings, she'd offer him help if he showed results on the necromantic problem. Jamal was informed about Jamorin's ancient tome, now in Gondeth's hands to research; she showed a spark of interest and asked for permission to speak to Gondeth about it. A heated discussion ensued after permission was initially refused, with Jamal and the group accusing each other of being unhelpful.

Aerikoth broke in and indicated he would have no objection to Jamal's queries, as long as she did not try to balk Gondeth's research. Somewhat surprised, she replied that she wanted results as well and would certainly agree. Jamal said that, once she had spoken with Gondeth and obtained information to her satisfaction, she would recontact the group, and asked where they were staying. Aerikoth countered by saying that she could expect another visit from a raven soon. Jamal said she appreciated the visits from Aerikoth's familiar, apparently liking ravens, and obtained the familiar's name - Zeluth - as well as the knowledge that he liked corn. Jamal stood up, offering her hand to be kissed again by Jokull, and sauntered off.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
The party headed back to the Gatereach guest house, where Rahnee changed into her leathers in preparation for exploring the sewer entrance in the Harbor Loop that Marik had found. Jokull mentioned that he knew its location, having briefly explored it himself once, and could lead the rest to it. (Evidence that the wayward Cormyrian has his own private agenda, as will become more apparent. --R). After descending into the sewers, Aerikoth lit a torch and the party carefully began exploring. They encountered and messily defeated a pack of diseased sewer rats not far from the entry point. Exploring further, Brok-Tul noticed a faded old mark of the Night Masks indicating danger; it seemed that the mark was at least several years old. Brok-Tul expressed his frustration at the apparent abandonment of the sewers by the Masks and neglect of the old methods. During some additional exploring, the party was attacked by several dire rats, which were easily finished off after being hit by Aerikoth's sleep spell.

After running into several dead ends in the maze of sewer corridors, the group retraced its steps and ventured into a new area, where they encountered a giant spider. After it was safely dispatched, the party noted that its newly-spun web had blocked the door leading forward. Brok-Tul slashed at the web and managed to only make a small rent in it. Aerikoth applied his torch more effectively, leaving nothing of the web to block the party's path once it had finished burning. The group advanced cautiously into a large chamber with a fetid pool in the center. Brok-Tul spotted a large number of diseased-looking rats congregated there, all of whom rushed the group, along with some of their dire cousins. Once the creatures were all gone, the group explored the remainder of the sewer area, coming upon a room with another exit to the surface. In the room was a green slime, which once killed yielded a single gold piece inside its jellied carcass.

The only other thing of note in the chamber was a large, dried bloodstain under the exit to the surface. Brok-Tul identified the bloodstain (from his long experience) as being around a month old - placing it around the same time Captain Yar was reported killed. The stain was smeared leading in the direction of the door, as if whatever had made it had been dragged in that direction. Having finished their exploration of the sewer area, the party clambered up the sewer chain to daylight, coming out in the Harbor Loop district, some distance southeast of the original entrance they had gone down. While the group attempted to clean up, Jokull thoughtfully noted that the coin he had retrieved from the slime was Cormyrian. Based on an idea of Brok-Tul's, the party headed to the Temple District, thinking that perhaps one of the clerics could tell something about the coin's provenance. There, they ran into Marik, who had completed his shopping expedition for the guest house. Although most of what he had asked about would require extensive (and expensive) remodeling, he at least had been able to order a table and chairs for the meeting room.

After pausing to wash in a fountain, the party headed to the temple of Tymora, where a priest took the coin for examination, but regretfully declared there was nothing he could do. Rahnee thanked him for his time and made a donation to the temple. Once outside the temple, Aerikoth pulled Rahnee aside for a hushed conversation. Rahnee then inquired after the nearest baths, becoming disappointed when Brok-Tul explained the last public one had closed down some years before after a series of murders on the premises. On the way back to their guest house, Rahnee said she had to stop and use the bathroom.

(This first foray by the company into the Westgate sewers was a messy business, evidently. As my predecessor 'R' highlights, it was not the first time for Jokull, however - what was he doing down there? Pursuing his individual vendetta, perhaps. --C)

Once back at the guest house meeting room, the group assessed what information they had and re-examined the scribed report on Captain Yar's death. They concluded that they must have discovered his murder site at the Harbor Loop sewer entrance with the bloodstain below it. It was decided to leave a message for their Thalavar agent querying if a Speak with Dead spell had been used on the captain's body.

Some other possible avenues of approach against Houses Bleth and Cormaeril were then discussed. Rahnee gave Marik a large gold pouch in case he was able to find Khair, the mercenary from the Black Eye tavern, and convince him to gather information for the group. While discussions were going on, Marik absented himself briefly, returning with a crossbow and modified grappling hook that could be shot from it. Marik mentioned that he had picked it up in Sembia and noted that he might be able to scout rooftops if necessary. Brok-Tul asked Aerikoth if he could possibly charm one of the House guards and extract information that way. Aerikoth indicated he did not know that particular spell, but might be able to acquire it on a scroll. The mage was somewhat skeptical that Gondeth would have the spell, but said he would nonetheless inquire. The party then split up, with Marik leaving the house, saying he would be back shortly.

The group passed an uneventful night at the guest house and - except for Rahnee - ate a fine breakfast, reconvening in the meeting room. Rahnee could be heard moaning periodically upstairs; apparently the trip to the sewers had been none too healthy for her. It was agreed to split up and pursue different tasks: Marik was to see if Khair was at the Black Eye and also scout the area around the Blue Banner Inn; Brok-Tul and Jokull were to pursue the idea of renting a property from which to set up Brok's custom equipment business as a cover; and Aerikoth was to check on Gondeth's progress in researching the ancient tome found in Jamorin's belongings. After a few hours, the four reunited over the lunch table in the Gatereach common room. Brok-Tul went to check on Rahnee, who was weak but appeared on the road to recovery.
 
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Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Encounters at the Blue Banner and Castle Cormaeril

Brok-Tul looked in on Rahnee again after lunch, helping her to the guest house’s meeting room and settling her in one of the newly-delivered chairs. The half-orc cleric then headed off, saying something about hunting down supplies. The others soon joined Rahnee and confirmed that she was up and moving, if not very happy. Marik summarized the results of his scouting the Blue Banner Inn. He had observed that three City Watch guards were outside the door to the street, while two House Bleth guards were inside the door and another two by the stairs leading up, along with five armed nobles in the inn's main room. The guards were described as alert and well-equipped. Marik also observed that the outside of the inn, which took up much of the city block it was on, was fortress-like, with steel bars and shutters framing the windows. He indicated that he hadn't seen anyone he recognized while he was at the inn.

In response to a question from Rahnee, Aerikoth told the others he had spoken with Gondeth, who had agreed not to reveal any results of his research on the ancient tome to Jamal, should she visit him. Gondeth had described it as a difficult translation from Netherese and to return in a tenday. Jokull said that he and Brok-Tul had attempted to find a place to set up the custom gear business, but had failed; a message was left in the secret location asking for Thalavar support in this endeavor. (The half-orc is nothing if not persistent whenever an idea gets into his head. However, this leads me to question whether persistence should in fact be considered a virtue. --R). Aerikoth mentioned a place he had run across in the Harbor Loop, an establishment named the Quivering Thumb, which hosted contests featuring pit fighting and martial prowess. The proprietor informed Aerikoth that some of the city's notables habitually attended the matches, with the next one due to occur in two days' time. Aerikoth suggested that some of them go to the match as well, which met with general agreement.

The conversation turned to the prospect of the following day's scheduled dinner with Shalush Myrkeer at the Blue Banner. Rahnee confessed that she was apprehensive about the lie she had told Shalush about having contacts with House Bleth. Discussion ensued on the best way to approach the dinner, while at the same time covering the party's tracks. It was decided that Rahnee, in her current weakened state, should stay at the guest house for the time being, while the other three would separately seek out information at the Blue Banner. Aerikoth mentioned that he had previously volunteered his services to House Bleth, but had at the time declined to participate in the mage trial he was told was required. (Some further insight into the wizard's independent activities. --C)

Marik, Aerikoth, and Jokull later arrived in a loose group outside the Blue Banner. While the other two went through the door, Marik briefly distracted the City Watchmen with a story, then entered himself. Jokull purchased a bottle of Westgate Ruby and sat in the back of the room, far away from Aerikoth, who chose to occupy a table in a quiet area on the other side. The bartender observed that Marik had been in earlier, alone, and two guards standing nearby walked over and questioned Marik about his business at the inn. Marik explained that he had been waiting for someone earlier and that now he had stopped in on his way home from an errand. The guards told Marik to enjoy his stout, but then kept a close eye on him as he finished the drink, then departed. While Jokull was purchasing another drink at the bar, Aerikoth approached the Bleth Seneschal, who - after some prompting - recalled his earlier conversation with Aerikoth regarding employment possibilities. Aerikoth expressed renewed interest in being "examined" by the chief Bleth mage, which appeared to amuse the two nobles with the seneschal. Hull, the seneschal, told Aerikoth to return in five days' time if he were serious, in order to meet with the House Bleth mage. Aerikoth indicated his assent and departed, while Jokull remained and chatted up the bartender.

Some time later, the party regrouped at the guest house meeting room and filled Rahnee in on their activities. Marik limped in last, wounded, explaining that he had made an independent foray into the sewer area beneath South Gate looking for an alternate entrance into the Blue Banner. He succeeded only in finding some rats and a stink beetle. Marik expressed his frustration that the Bleth guards had zeroed in on him during his second visit, leading him to depart early in order to not attract too much attention.

Jokull commented that after Aerikoth departed, the Bleth nobles were snickering about him, but Aerikoth just shrugged and said he was not surprised. Jokull continued, explaining that from his conversation with the bartender, he had learned that the Bleths, as exiles, clearly were opposed to the current Obarskyr regime in Cormyr; Jokull had pretended to share their views. However, he noted that nothing incriminating was said. Jokull mentioned that, using the alias "Josurr", he had successfully made friends with the bartender. The bartender had promised to save him a seat at the following night's bardic competition, which would be the inn's dinner entertainment. Rahnee said she would draft a message to be delivered to the Bleth Seneschal at the Blue Banner, in an effort to introduce herself prior to the dinner. She then made arrangements with Jandrico Swift to have it delivered, the group afterwards retiring to their separate rooms in the Gatereach guest house.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
The following morning, Rahnee received a note from the Bleth Seneschal, informing her that he would be willing to entertain a formal appointment with her at the Blue Banner two days hence on Uktar 11. After receiving the note, Rahnee told the others she had to run to Aurora's Emporium in order to send a note to her clan leaders. Upon her return, Aerikoth passed her his sketch of the Blue Banner's interior, which she thanked him for and studied. Brok-Tul by this point was absent again, having set out again in his seemingly monomaniacal quest for supplies, dragging Marik along with him.

After some discussion about the upcoming dinner at the Blue Banner and how to best get at Cormaeril, the other suspect House, Marik walked in, mentioning with a grin that he had managed to get lost in the crowd while on the shopping expedition, leaving Brok-Tul to continue his quest alone. Marik was tasked with finding a suitable junior member of Cormaeril that enjoyed going slumming, so that the group could possibly get to him outside of the Cormaeril castle. Marik said he would look up Khair, the Bedine sword-for-hire at the Black Eye, in order to seek his assistance. Rahnee and Marik set out for the House of Silks, recommended by both Jandrico Swift and Janatha, so Rahnee could buy a new dress for that evening’s dinner with the merchant Shalush Myrkeer. Jokull told the others he would go to the secret message drop in the meantime, and Aerikoth departed to attend to other matters. (The wizard does seem to take advantage of the others' distractions to quietly go about his business - whatever it may be. --C)

Once everyone had concluded their respective business, they reassembled at the guest house. Jokull showed the others a secret communique from the Thalavar agent, which stated that they had been unable to use Speak with Dead on Captain Yar's body, due to lack of a suitable caster, and that no additional funds for buildings beyond the guest house would be approved. Marik said he had paid Khair to locate a suitable scion of House Cormaeril to target. The party discussed how best to set themselves up for the dinner, then broke to make themselves ready.

Prior to Rahnee, Jokull, and Marik departing for the Blue Banner, Brok-Tul was dispatched to obtain a fan for Rahnee while Aerikoth retired to his upstairs room at the guest house. Marik loitered outside the Blue Banner, looking for anything unusual, as Rahnee and Jokull entered. Jokull (in his alias "Josurr") inquired after Shalush Myrkeer at the Blue Banner's bar and was directed to Shalush's table. Shalush greeted Rahnee and pleasantries were exchanged, with Jokull fading into the background, acting as Rahnee’s bodyguard and taking up a position standing by the wall. A Blue Banner guard, noting Jokull's drawn sword, requested he put it away, which he did, although only after Rahnee's confirmation.

The dinner, accompanied by a bottle of Westgate Ruby and much cut-and-thrust conversation between Shalush and Rahnee, was excellent, although the service was marred when a Bleth servitor dropped a potato in Rahnee's lap. Bleth Seneschal Hull and Palla the Light, the head of the Westgate mercenary guild, arrived late and occupied a nearby table. Noticing Shalush, Hull came over and introduced Palla and was introduced in turn to Rahnee. As dinner was finishing, the bardic competition began, the first song being presented by Moriando. Marik, who had come in briefly earlier to get out of the rain, re-entered and had a drink while listening to the bards. Moriando sang, in a serious and haunting manner, what he said was an ancient ballad of love between an elven queen and a wizard of Netheril. The second bard, Lenton, took a more contemporary and ribald tone, playing a song about Azoun IV of Cormyr encountering a dryad in the forest while hunting. After the bardic competition and dessert was finished, Shalush excused himself, the hour being late. Rahnee, Jokull, and Marik regrouped a short distance away from the Blue Banner and walked home, the streets dark and nearly deserted. (But who won the bardic competition? No doubt Lenton, if common room cheers were the deciding factor. --R)
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Rahnee, Jokull, and Marik arrived at the guest house shortly before Brok-Tul returned, carrying a fan purchased at Rahnee's behest. Aerikoth made his way downstairs a few minutes later, having heard the others enter. Comments were made by those who had attended the Blue Banner dinner on the bardic competition (very entertaining), the food (hot and leaving a greasy stain, according to Rahnee), and the fact that the Bleth Seneschal and the head of the Mercenaries Guild were seen together. Rahnee said she had successfully spun and danced a tale for Shalush during their conversation, thereby avoiding any pitfalls regarding their mission. (In other words, the young Waterdhavian noble got lucky in diverting unwanted attention from their rather flimsy story. Although no doubt her charisma played a role as well. --R)

After noting that the next event of interest would be the matches at the Quivering Thumb arena the following night, the group fell to discussing ways to target the Fire Knives. One idea was to set up a false lead for the Knives and the city militia to follow. Aerikoth dryly observed the futility of setting a trap for a guild of assassins, pointing out that the party did not even know how to contact them. He advised instead to see how events unfolded at the arena and during Rahnee's appointment with the Bleth Seneschal. After additional discussion, the group decided to break for the night.

Janatha brought in the breakfast tray the next morning as usual, and the group fell to their meal. Rahnee made the observation that Aerikoth was one of the most self-controlled men she knew. Aerikoth ascribed this trait to the discipline learned in his youth, combined with studying the Art. Others openly wondered whether Aerikoth ever cut loose, perhaps wearing velveteen pantaloons or the like. (It is during exchanges like these that I am most glad that these chronicles are not illustrated. --R). Following breakfast, the party decided to spend the time to scout out the Cormaeril estate, home of the other Westgate House identified as possibly harboring the Fire Knives. Rahnee wrote a short missive to be placed in the Thalavar secret message drop, noting "Merc Guild may be aligning with foreign house; not confirmed, but you should be wary." After Rahnee had completed the drop, she returned to the nearby crossroads where her companions were waiting. In the interim, Brok-Tul, Marik, and Jokull had discovered a hidden entrance in a well to an underground chamber. Aerikoth declined to follow them down to investigate, and they soon came back up.

The group separated upon entering Cormaeril Vale. Aerikoth split off from the others, who approached the estate gate guards acting as if they were lost travelers on a picnic. Once they had moved off, Aerikoth approached from a different direction, pretending to be gathering plant specimens and knowing nothing of the Cormaeril grounds. The other four, continuing their routine of lost picnickers, approached again for another look. The guards gave out no information and asked everyone to move away from the gates, since they did not have business with House Cormaeril. They told the group that to enjoy the rest of the Vale, if they desired. While the main group then took a path to the Shore district and scouted the walls between it and the Cormaeril estate, Aerikoth struck off on his own, heading back toward the West Gate district.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Deaths at the Quivering Thumb
The group returned to the Gatereach guest house, Aerikoth arriving about an hour later than the others. Plans were made for attending the Quivering Thumb arena games that evening, with discussion centering around Rahnee and what she should wear to have the most impact. Marik commented that he had other business to attend to and said he would be back later. Rahnee, Jokull, and Aerikoth made their way to the arena, located in the Harbor Loop district. Brok-Tul, meanwhile, had been focused on a new "war fan" project for Rahnee, forgetting about the arena, and was forced to catch up.

On entering the Quivering Thumb, which had a sizable crowd present, they were asked by an arena employee to pay 5 gold per head as an entry fee. The employee explained the rules of the arena: no magic; fights were either to the death or first blood; and betting could be conducted with the official oddsmaker. Stanslav, the proprietor, announced the start of the fights. Gladiators were slaves, criminals, and the occasional volunteer. Slaves and criminals would earn their freedom and a rich reward if they lasted through a year’s cycle in the pits; the current favorite Gagh, a half-orc fighter, was two-thirds of the way through his time.

The group made their way to the arena’s corner, where Rahnee placed a 50 gold bet (the limit for common customers) with the gnomish oddsmaker Drugo on the third match, taking the favorite Gagh. Nearby were two Sembians engaged in conversation: Senthur, a younger man with expensive clothes; and Gord, an older man with a patch over one eye. Rahnee encountered Palla the Light, head of the Mercenaries Guild, who was at the arena with Sehlmari Ssemm, guild quartermaster and morale officer. Palla placed a large series of bets with Drugo, totaling several hundred gold.

The group found seats on the benches around the arena as the matches began, the Sembians sitting to their right. The first match announced by Stanslav was the barbarian gladiator Ru'allah versus a jungle panther, which a bloodied Ru'allah managed to finish off in front of the cheering crowd. The second match was to first blood and featured gladiators Boran and Leonariams, the latter sporting a horned helmet. The two circled each other for a time, exchanging taunts and insults, until Leonariams lept forward and slashed Boran with his axe, Boran wounding Leonariams in turn. Stanslav ruled that Leonariams had drawn first blood and was the winner, earning the privilege to face half- orcish champion Gagh in the final match, after healing was applied.

During the break between the second and third matches, Aerikoth approached the Sembians and held a conversation with Gord in one corner of the arena, while the others discussed current events and talked with the Mercenaries Guild members. In the final match, Leonariams and Gagh began by exchanging insults, of which Gagh got the better, then they fell to blows. The two fought savagely, with Leonariams using his axe deftly while Gagh wielded a huge sword. Gagh, although dripping with blood, in the end was the last one standing.

Rahnee collected her winnings from the oddsmaker. An argument then ensued with Sehlmari Ssemm over some philosophical points on death and the arena, ending when Palla came over and indicated to Sehlmari that it was time to depart. (The practice of arena fighting seems bloody and brutal, with little to recommend it to civilized persons. I wonder what position Rahnee took on the matter? The others, it appears, were sanguine about the evening's entertainment. --C). The party soon followed suit, with Jokull hanging back to talk with an arena employee at the entrance. Of note, the sellsword Khair was spotted at the arena, departing shortly before the party.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Marik met up with the rest of the group outside of the Quivering Thumb, as night fell over Westgate. When after some discussion the group began to move off, Khair stepped out of the shadows and motioned Aerikoth over to a side alley for a whispered conversation. Brok-Tul noticed the diversion and moved to cover Aerikoth's back. After Khair departed, the group carefully traveled back to the guest house, watching for anyone on their back trail.

Once safely at the house, the others asked Aerikoth about Khair. Aerikoth informed them that Khair, per his instructions, had located a dissolute young Cormaeril noble named Istvan and had been following him. That night, according to Khair, Istvan had gone to the Quivering Thumb, but had been persuaded while still outside not to enter the establishment.

After speculating briefly on the significance of this, the party decided to explore the cave they had discovered underneath a well in the district outside West Gate. On a pillar near the cave entrance, a faded-out symbol was observed by Brok-Tul; however, it was unfamiliar to both him and Marik. As the others explored, careful to avoid traps that had been placed around the cavern, Aerikoth smirkingly revealed that the cave had been last used by a group of smugglers in 1369, the year that the Dhostars were replaced by the Cormaerils; the smugglers had not been seen in the area since. Aerikoth explained that he had obtained this information from one of the local area’s residents. (The mage likes to keep information close to the chest, whether out of spite or caution it is not clear. Decide for yourself, later. --R)

Despite a thorough search, the party discovered nothing but traps and some old, dry cocoon husks, which were destroyed based on general principles. Brok-Tul also noted an ancient symbol of the orc god Gruumsh carved into one cave wall, probably dating from before Westgate was founded. Returning to the guest house, the group reviewed their options. Regarding Khair, Aerikoth indicated he was still following Istvan and might have more information in a few days' time. Aerikoth's test with the Bleth mage was in two days' time, on Uktar 13. Rahnee still had her meeting scheduled with Bleth Seneschal Hull on the morrow, although she ruefully admitted that it seemed pointless now. Brok-Tul mentioned he had been approached about participating in the gladiatorial games, but had declined. However, he thought it might be an option in the future if it would help in joining the Mercenaries Guild or in impressing House Bleth.

Marik commented he had heard at the Rosebud open-air tavern that a valuable gem from Athkatla would be arriving in town in a tenday, to be sold to an unknown party using the Sembian representative office as a middleman. Marik mentioned that he had a contact who might know somebody willing to buy the gem. (Marik's personal business now surfaces. Once a thief... --C). Brok-Tul had a strongly negative reaction to the idea of going after the gem, claiming that authorities could call upon magic to track such a thing. Jokull, who had quietly listened up until this point, commented that the mission for him did not necessarily end with the Thalavar contract, and he would do what was necessary to finance his own goals. When challenged by Rahnee, however, Jokull was noncommittal and indicated that he did not plan on taking any immediate actions. After a friendly challenge to Marik involving arm-wrestling, Brok-Tul noticed the Fire Knife tattoo on Marik's arm and attempted to divine magically if anyone else nearby had the same tattoo, but obtained a blank from the divination. Tired from their activities, the group dispersed to their rooms for the night.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
In the morning, after finishing his breakfast with the others, Jokull departed after mentioning that he had something to do before Rahnee's meeting with Bleth Seneschal Hull. Rahnee for her part was clearly in a bad mood, mostly being unhappy at the prospect of meeting with the seneschal - an event which had lost its original purpose, in her mind. She decided to take out her frustrations on one of the guest house’s common room chairs, hurling it against the wall with great force, sending splinters flying, then stormed out.

Later that morning, Jokull returned to find the companions regrouped in the common room. With the destroyed chair set to one side, they were discussing plans for the encounter with Hull at the Blue Banner. Aerikoth excused himself from participating in the meeting with the Seneschal, explaining that he believed he had not been linked by House Bleth to the group, and in any case had his own approach to the Bleths planned for Uktar 13. Rahnee indicated that Jokull would accompany her in his role as a bodyguard. Brok-Tul and Marik planned to try the back door to the Blue Banner, in the hopes of finding an alternate way of entering the building.

At the Blue Banner, Rahnee found Seneschal Hull awaiting her at a corner table with a fine bottle of sherry. Formally polite, although not unfriendly, Hull inquired as to the business of Clan Roaringhorn in Westgate. Rahnee said that her family was interested in obtaining business connections in the city and would be willing to offer the services of a small group of mercenaries, Clan Roaringhorn's business specialty, to House Bleth in return for future assistance. Hull found the offer interesting, at least worthy of an eyebrow raise, and inquired about the monetary compensation involved and what sort of future favors Rahnee would require. Rahnee in response was noncommittal, indicating that any future favors would be in line with services rendered to Bleth.

Switching subjects, Hull suggested that perhaps Rahnee could be of more immediate assistance, asking if she had been at the Quivering Thumb arena the previous night. When she answered in the affirmative, mentioning that she had met Mercenaries Guild leader Palla the White there, the seneschal revealed that Senthur Signe, the deputy chief of the Sembian Representative office, had been attacked and killed after departing the Quivering Thumb. Hull was interested in hearing if Rahnee had observed anything unusual related to Senthur’s presence that night, inside or outside the arena. Rahnee said that she knew nothing about it, other than that Senthur had made some disparaging comments about others in the arena.

Hull switched back to discussing Rahnee's offer of a group of mercenaries, inquiring if she had any local references or had worked for the Westgate mercenaries guild. He mentioned that Westgate suffered from a surfeit of mercenaries and that one could not be too careful in selecting them. Rahnee indicated her group had not worked for the guild and commented that this was sometimes a useful quality. Thanking Hull for his time and his sherry, Rahnee then took her leave, with Hull wishing her well and stating she would be welcome to arrange a future appointment, should she have anything of interest to offer House Bleth.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Rahnee rejoined Brok-Tul, Marik, and Aerikoth at the guest house. Jokull had been delayed for a short while on the way back from the Blue Banner, telling the others he had stopped by the Market to purchase supplies. Rahnee reviewed the meeting with the Seneschal for those who were not present, remarking that she suspected the Bleths had investigated her background beforehand, which might have implications for Marik and Aerikoth. Marik frowned and rubbed his chin, while for his part Aerikoth seemed unconcerned. Rahnee then brought up the murder of Sembian official Senthur Signe. Aerikoth, with a slight smirk, told the others there were several stories going around about the murder. One rumor was that Senthur had been bedding the wife of a senior Night Mask member. Aerikoth considered more intriguing the rumor that the Cormyrians had killed Senthur, as he was notoriously anti-Cormyr. Aerikoth noted, with Rahnee's affirmation, that his body had been found in the Harbor Loop, the same district in which Thalavar Captain Yar's body had been discovered.

Jokull, in response to a question from Brok-Tul, said that he knew no one from Cormyr in Westgate who would do such a thing, although the warrior admitted he actually knew few of his countrymen in the city. He also asserted that such an act of assassination would run against the core of Cormyrian morals and state policy. Brok-Tul was somewhat skeptical of traditional Cormyrian restraint, given all of the recent upheavals in that country. (I too would caution the reader on ascribing high moral values to anyone based solely on their geographic origin. --R). Aerikoth, smirking again, rhetorically posed the question as to why the Cormyrians would want to kill a Sembian dignitary. Jokull quickly responded that they wouldn't, prompting Aerikoth to ask who, then, would benefit the most from hostilities between Cormyrians and Sembians in Westgate.

At this point, a knock on the guest house door was heard and Janatha entered. The serving girl was stiff and appeared concerned, asking the group if they had heard about the murder of the Sembian representative. It turned out that a unit of the City Watch had arrived at the Gatereach Inn and asked to see the group for questioning related to the murder. They assured her they would go see the Watch and cooperate fully, and Janatha departed.

After walking into the back room of the Gatereach, the party saw Jandrico and Janatha talking with the Watch Commander, who had three guards along with him. Jandrico appeared his usual calm self, while Janatha looked visibly nervous. Introductions were made to Watch Commander Meynn, who politely questioned the group about their presence at the Quivering Thumb arena the previous night and what they had seen regarding Senthur Signe. Rahnee stated that she had not paid much attention to the Sembians, but she noted that Senthur had been making insulting comments of some sort. Brok-Tul provided some additional flavor, but also stated that he recalled nothing specific. Meynn turned to Aerikoth, mentioning that Aerikoth had been observed talking with the other Sembian accompanying Senthur that evening, Captain Gord. Aerikoth confirmed this, explaining that he had discussed Gord's experiences as a sea serpent hunter; Meynn commented that Gord was indeed known as a famous hunter.

Meynn followed up by querying if anyone knew when the Sembians had departed or if anyone suspicious had been observed hanging around the streets after the match. Aerikoth said that the Sembians had departed well before their group, and that Palla the Light had left shortly before they departed the arena. He also mentioned that Senthur had made several insulting remarks about Cormyr during the fights. (Very observant of the wizard. --C). Brok-Tul and the others affirmed that no one suspicious had been seen on the streets. Marik asked Meynn if there were any suspects. Meynn was noncommittal in response, but indicated there was a 1,000 gold bounty sponsored by the Sembian Representative Office for information leading to the capture of the responsible parties; if anyone obtained such information, they should approach the Watch. The Watch Commander finished by saying he was pleased with the party's cooperation. At the same time, he suggested that they not leave the city for the next few days. Leaving Meynn to finish his business with Jandrico, the group retired to the guest house for private conversation.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
After the group had assured themselves of their own innocence regarding Senthur's murder (A prudent precaution that shows they are not completely trusting of each other. --R), Rahnee, Jokull, and Marik headed for the Harbor Loop for some additional investigating of the area in which the murders of Captain Yar and Senthur Signe had occurred. Aerikoth retired to his room, concentrating on preparing himself for his upcoming mage test with House Bleth. Brok-Tul, for his part, was absorbed in a tinkering project.

In the Harbor Loop, Marik chatted up Fynn, the bartender at the Rosebud Outdoor Tavern. He told Marik that the chief Sembian representative to Westgate, Maurian Selkirk, was offering a 1,000 gold reward for information about the murder of Senthur Signe. Fynn also commented that Senthur was known for being an anti-Cormyr "prick." Some of the tavern's patrons also shared various rumors that were swirling around, prominent among them being that the Cormyrians had Senthur killed. (Even a relative recluse such as I should know that if tavern rumors say one thing, it is best to look for the truth somewhere else. --C)

While Rahnee, Jokull and Marik were exploring the streets by the House Ssemm docks, two Ssemm guards approached them, demanding to know their business. Although mollified by Marik's excuse of having dropped a fivestar coin into the sewer opening, the guards warned that strange events had been occurring nearby, notably the two murders in the past month. While exploring the sewers, the group noted the same dried-up old bloodstain previously linked with Captain Yar's murder, finding nothing else new besides rats.

After returning to the guest house, Rahnee drafted a note to be left for their House Thalavar contact, inquiring if any business had been done with the murdered Senthur. The three companions further discussed the predicament of investigating the Fire Knives and Jokull boldly stated he would be willing to draw them out, by exposing himself as a Cormyrian come to destroy them. The others agreed that would certainly draw attention to him. Exiting the guest house, the three made their way to the secret message drop without incident. Rahnee read a response and made a mark on a note from Thalavar that had been left for them, in addition to leaving her new inquiry.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Tests
The group passed an uneventful night, awakening the morning of the 13th day of the 11th month, Uktar. This was the day Aerikoth was to submit himself to be tested by the House Bleth mage. While discussing the day's coming events after breakfast, during which Aerikoth displayed stoicism regarding his pending trial, he recommended that Jokull and Marik swing by the Black Eye tavern to see if Khair had any news to report. The wizard then rose calmly and departed for the Blue Banner. Jokull and Marik, joined by Brok-Tul, made their way to the Black Eye and met up with Khair. The sword-for-hire confirmed that Istvan Cormaeril, the dissolute young noble he had been tailing, had been warned off the Quivering Thumb arena the night of Senthur Signe's murder. Khair thought Istvan was a weak link in House Cormaeril. Brok-Tul asked Khair to meet them that night at the nearby docks, at highmoon, with any additional information Khair could provide on Istvan's movements.

The three returned to the Gatereach guest house, noting that Aerikoth had not yet returned from his test. Marik told the others that Istvan was the arrow pointing to House Cormaeril being in league with the Fire Knives, with him being barred from the arena so that he would be elsewhere when Senthur's murder occurred. The others agreed with Marik's point and began discussing how to kidnap Istvan and make him reveal his secrets. Marik departed after a few hours, stating he was going to look up some contacts.

By nightfall, neither Marik nor Aerikoth had returned, leaving Brok-Tul, Jokull, and Rahnee to contemplate their next steps. Jokull shared his limited knowledge of the Cormaeril leadership, to which he thought Istvan was related, although it was not clear how closely. Lord Kargerth Cormaeril was the current head of the House in Westgate; Jokull described him as young for the position, being in his 40s. Kargerth had taken charge of the House immediately after its forced exile from Cormyr and had a reputation for fair, if tough, business dealings. Lord Tagreth Cormaeril, Kargerth's uncle, was the oldest living Cormaeril noble. Tagreth's brother - Kargerth's father - had disappeared during the flight from Cormyr. (A notable point. Perhaps Kargerth - or even Tagreth? - had seen an opportunity to increase their influence in the House. Such disappaearances are rarely random. --C) Tagreth had a very low profile in Westgate and reportedly seldom left Cormaeril Castle.

As the night wore on and the appointment with Khair grew closer, the three decided to pick up some standard-looking leathers at Shalush Myrkeer's shop, in preparation for snatching Istvan. At the shop, they overheard the guards talking about investigating the murder of Senthur, with an eye toward earning the 1,000 gold reward offered by the Sembians; the guards planned to go to the Black Eye and discuss it further over drinks.

Brok-Tul and Jokull accompanied Rahnee back to the guest house, so she could stash her own distinctive leathers and put on a hood, making her hopefully unrecognizable. As the three re-entered the city via Mulsantir's Gate, however, the City Watch officers on duty stopped them. The Watch commented that seeing them for the third time that evening, after having changed clothes and added helmets, made them curious. Rahnee identified herself as the Lady Rahnee, indicating that the others were her retainers, and commented that the rain had soaked their other clothes. After answering questions about their lodging and receiving a warning from the Watch about recent murders, the group was allowed to proceed into the city.

Khair noticed them enter the Black Eye. Without overtly giving a sign that he recognized them, he walked out to a deserted spot close to the docks, and was joined in a few minutes by the three adventurers. Cloaked by night, Khair informed them that Istvan, a creature of habit, had gone to the Purple Lady in Mulsantir's Gate district. If Istvan's pattern held true, he would then indulge in some cheap whores afterwards, plucked from the street. Khair warned that Istvan usually traveled with two guards. Sometimes he bought whores for the guards as well, but it was not guaranteed. (Ah, the fickleness of young nobles. --R). Khair also commented that Istvan did not seem particularly concerned while on the streets, in spite of the recent murders, which the party thought was notable. Before walking silently off, Khair stated that what occurred with Istvan was not his concern, but that he would appreciate a token of gratitude, should they find success.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Rahnee decided that she would pretend to be a streetwalker in order to entrap Istvan, passing her hood to Jokull for his disguise. Making their way to the Purple Lady, the group noticed that two professional-looking, if bored, Cormaeril guards were loitering outside the entrance. While debating whether or not to take out the guards, two prostitutes showed up and started complaining that Rahnee and the others were taking up their corner, one of them mentioning in passing that she expected "Isty" to be out soon. The two resisted leaving the corner, saying Isty paid well, but in the end Rahnee was able to pay them off and swapped outfits with one of the women. (The young Waterdhavian noblewoman, although lacking in modesty, certainly does not lack for boldness. --R)

Soon after, Istvan came out of the Purple Lady, inebriated and looking for some more fun, motioning his guards to accompany him. Brok-Tul and Jokull played the role of interested customers for Rahnee’s streetwalker, then allowed themselves to be run off by Istvan's guards. Wanting Rahnee (who was calling herself "Magda") for himself, Istvan gave his guards some coin and directed them to the other two prostitutes, who had taken up residence at an opposite street corner. Istvan and Rahnee then strolled off in the direction of Cormaeril Vale - shadowed at a distance by Brok-Tul and Jokull.

Rahnee and Istvan stopped behind a building outside West Gate and things had begun to get hot and heavy when Rahnee's two companions, hooded and helmeted, burst on the scene and assaulted Istvan. After a brief, savage fight, Istvan was left unconscious and bleeding on the ground. Brok-Tul revived him with a healing potion and began interrogating him - roughly - while Rahnee (as “Magda”) played the role of a helpless victim. Brok-Tul, with Jokull looming as a silent threat, demanded to know who Istvan gave his allegiance to, mentioning his knowledge that Istvan had been warned off at the Quivering Thumb. Istvan protested, saying he had indeed departed the area and, contrary to Brok-Tul’s subsequent assertions, hadn't talked at all about what had happened to the Sembian. Istvan said that he got "the message" and of course followed Lord Tagreth, but that he could only be pushed so far. Istvan agreed with Brok-Tul’s decision that "Magda" had to be killed for witnessing the scene, and the young nobleman staggered off with a sneer after quaffing a healing potion.

While departing the area, Brok-Tul smeared some blood on Rahnee, in order to be consistent with their chosen cover story of Rahnee having been mugged. The three adventurers made their way back to the guest house without further incident, Brok-Tul bopping Rahnee in the face once home in order to strengthen the evidence for their story. After hearing the blow and Rahnee's squeal, Aerikoth descended to the guest house common room, frowning and asking about the source of the noise. The others welcomed Aerikoth, observing that he had survived the Bleth mage test, and promised to explain things. Just then, Marik knocked on the outer door, which was stuck, and was let in. In response to a question from Brok-Tul, Aerikoth stated that after passing the test, he was, however, not a member of any guild or organization, other than the party. Brok-Tul, with commentary injected periodically from Rahnee and Jokull, then narrated what had happened with Istvan. Aerikoth commented that they should have questioned Istvan more closely. Brok-Tul countered by asserting that circumstances had prevented it. Aerikoth also said they should have killed Istvan, an opinion the others disagreed with. (I am unsure exactly what the encounter with Istvan proved. I am forced to agree that if he was to be interrogated in such a manner, more should have been uncovered in the process. At the same time, I am troubled by the brutality of this action and its logical consequences, as raised by the mage. Would I act similarly, if I felt the need was great? --C)

The wizard retired to his room while Rahnee, Jokull, and Marik decided to go to the Gatereach for a drink. Jandrico Swift served them personally, Janatha being gone for the night. Rahnee and the others conversed about the alleged attempted mugging of Rahnee, about which Jandrico expressed his concern. They agreed to take his advice and report it to the Watch the next day. Before going to bed, Marik promised to fill them in next morning on what he had been up to that night.

(I am forced to applaud the brilliance of the wizard's obfuscations and strategy of sharing only the absolute minimum about his activities with his companions. Essentially they are none the wiser as to what happened with House Bleth, except for the obvious fact that Aerikoth is alive and presumably passed whatever ordeal had been set before him. --R)
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Janatha arrived mid-morning at the guest house with a breakfast tray and was greeted by Brok-Tul, who then went upstairs to rouse Aerikoth. The half-orc discovered the mage, along with his excited-looking raven familiar Zeluth, reading a small note. Aerikoth explained that it appeared Jamal wanted to have a word with them; the note read "Rising Raven Annex, upstairs, sundown." Joining the others at breakfast, Aerikoth and Brok-Tul shared the news about Jamal. While eating, Marik apologized about missing the encounter with Istvan, saying he had been contacted by two of his sources with time-sensitive information. He said the source who claimed to have information on the Sembian murder was a bust, but that the other source had urgent information on the Sembian gem transaction. The buyer's name was Wale Thynn, an Archendale merchant staying at the Jolly Warrior along with two armed guards. (It occurs to me that perhaps Marik was employing some of his street smarts in deliberately avoiding participation in the assault on Istvan, while making further plans to heist the gem. --C)

Jandrico Swift knocked on the guest house door and let himself in. Brok-Tul met him and was asked if Aerikoth was available. Brok-Tul returned to the common room, sending Aerikoth out to meet Jandrico. Aerikoth then returned to the room and asked if the party planned on meeting Jamal that eve; everyone agreed on this. Rahnee, Jokull and Marik departed to report Rahnee’s alleged mugging to the City Watch, while Brok-Tul declared he was going to get some perfume for Jamal, asking Rahnee for some gold to make the purchase. Aerikoth accompanied the three for a time, then turned off south.

In the early afternoon, the company regrouped at the guest house. Aerikoth arrived last, wiping melted snow from his head. The three who had reported the mugging incident to the Watch were not impressed by the Watch's competence - although from their description of the Watch clerk's reaction to their story about the mugging, it seemed that the feeling was mutual. Amid some light talk, Rahnee asked Aerikoth if he had heard yet from Gondeth about the ancient book of necromantic magic, but Aerikoth shook his head, indicating that Gondeth had asked to be left alone for a tenday with his research.

Discussion turned to plans for the upcoming meeting with Jamal. Marik initially voted not to tell her anything, but Jokull protested that she belonged to an organization - the Harpers - that promoted good, so there was no reason to hide the truth from her. Rahnee observed that Jamal was not cooperative when she thought she was being "lead down the country lane." Aerikoth said he thought it would be best to see what Jamal had to say first, since she was the one who had requested the meeting. Rahnee finally threw up her hands and said she would leave it to the "slick-tongued devils" to carry the conversation, while she and Jokull propped up the wall trying to look tough. Aerikoth and then Jokull went up to their rooms, while the other three discussed the secret gem deal about which Marik had obtained information on. Marik indicated he had a possible buyer interested, if they could get their hands on the gem. They then also retired to their rooms for the remainder of the afternoon.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
At dusk, the party met in the common room. Brok-Tul showed the others the perfume bottle he had purchased for Jamal and gave another bottle to Rahnee as a gift. They then split up for the trip to the Rising Raven Annex, Aerikoth making his way directly and unerringly there, while Jokull trailed behind the remainder of the group, who followed an indirect route, to guard against potential watchers. The snowstorm outside continued, a fierce wind blowing against everyone's bodies. At the Annex, the party overheard some mercenaries complaining about the first snow of the season. Rahnee led the group upstairs to the waiting Jamal.

Jamal greeted the party, observing that she had not met Marik before and expressing surprise (mostly) and pleasure that Brok-Tul had brought her a bottle of "Divinity" perfume as a gift. Marik was introduced as a former "businessman" in the line of "protecting" Sembian nobles; Jamal commented that it must have been similar to Brok-Tul's former profession. She then got down to business, asking what the party had to tell her. Rahnee said curtly that Jamal had summoned them, prompting Jamal to turn to Aerikoth with a sly grin and ask if that was what he had told the rest. Aerikoth dismissed her statement and asked again what Jamal wished to know.

Jamal said she naturally wished to know a lot of things, beginning with why Gondeth had been instructed not to let her near their ancient magic tome. Aerikoth indicated that this was because it was their tome, a fact grumpily acknowledged by Jamal, who said she supposed she could hear about it once Gondeth had finished his research. Brok-Tul interrupted, impatient, and Aerikoth turned the topic of conversation to the murder of Senthur Signe. Jamal naturally had heard of the incident and the 1,000 gold reward offered by the Sembians. She commented that the murder did not seem to be the Night Masks' style. Aerikoth then raised the topic of Istvan Cormaeril, asking if Jamal knew of him. She did indeed, commenting that the "pervert" frequented the Purple Lady down the street from her house and had even propositioned her once. Aerikoth continued, informing her that Istvan had originally been at the Quivering Thumb the night of the murder and had been persuaded not to attend the arena matches. The wizard then asked Jamal what she thought of this.

Brok-Tul at this point broke in, saying that while getting the perfume, he had overheard Istvan being muscled by some toughs; Istvan was asked who really ruled his house, his answer being Tagreth. Jamal was surprised to hear this, stating that Tagreth was known as a recluse. She had heard nothing of any Cormaeril involvement in Senthur's murder and was skeptical that it had been done in order to intentionally pin it on Kargerth Cormaeril, which was Brok-Tul's idea. She thought that if this were the case, information would have come to light by now. She commented that the murder had been very professional and no evidence had been left, besides the bloody knife trail under Senthur's chin and the body lying between the Quivering Thumb and the Sembian office. However, she agreed that the murder must have been done to send a strong - perhaps final - message. Marik raised the probability of a connection between Senthur's murder and that of Captain Yar. He pointed out that both were professional jobs, with little evidence, and done in the same area.

Jamal promised to make inquiries among her sources about the Cormaerils, but continued to be skeptical that the murders were the work of the Masks. She mused that if the Cormaerils were involved, it might have something to do with the elections for Croamarkh due to take place in three months. She said that House Cormaeril, like most of the other noble Houses, wanted to put someone forward in the election. However, she couldn't see Tagreth being elected, or wanting the position of titular head of the Cormaerils, which she said he had declined when the family arrived in Westgate. Shifting gears, Jamal stated that she had continued her investigations into necromantic activity in Westgate, discovering that people were now whispering of vampires loose in the streets of the city. Brok-Tul thought it must be related to his information that intelligent undead had assumed control of the Night Masks, speculating that there was now a power struggle between them and a new group that had tried to fill the original vacuum left by the destruction of the old Night Mask organization.

Brok-Tul then asked Marik to reveal his arm, tattooed with the Fire Knife symbol. Jamal recognized it and commented that it was the same symbol on the card left with Captain Yar's bodies, then seemed at a loss for further words. Recovering, after some smirks from Brok-Tul and Marik, she said that a Fire Knife presence might help explain things, but that the Masks were strong - stronger still if Brok-Tul was right about their leadership - and she couldn't see why the Knives would be so blatant as to leave a calling card. Brok-Tul indicated he might be able to get proof about the Masks, if he could get into the Temple of Mask, but the password had changed and he ran the risk of being "converted" to undead if he came in off the street. (The crux of the matter is once again revealed! The half-orc bumbles about on occasion, but his warnings could not be more clear as to the nature of the real threat to Westgate. --R)

Mentioning she only had the Annex meeting room for a short time more, Jamal arranged to meet with the party in four days' time at Gondeth's, at dusk, in order to hear the results of Gondeth's research. She also remembered she had forgotten to mention a curious fact about Baron Pahar, for whom some of them had worked previously. She stated that House Thalavar was collecting evil magic artifacts to be passed on to the Baron, and would pay if the party could bring any to them. After eyebrows were raised, Jamal explained that she didn't know why this was being done, the Thalavars not being willing to give a reason.

As the party prepared to depart, Jokull, who had remained silent for nearly the entire time, asked Jamal if he could speak with her alone. Surprised, Jamal agreed, and the others left, Marik warning Jamal to keep his secret. Downstairs, Aerikoth set himself close to the fire with a warm drink, seemingly unconcerned about the passage of time, as the first three departed the inn, followed several minutes later by Jokull. (The Cormyrian warrior is at least somewhat discreet with his own agenda, but bold action appears to be his preference, rather than staying completely in the shadows. --C)
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Endgame
The four companions, after returning to the guest house, agreed on separate courses of action. Rahnee and Jokull would leave a secret message for the Thalavars requesting a meeting, as Rahnee felt it was time to inform Thalavar Steward Iono of their discoveries. Meanwhile, Brok-Tul and Marik would go to the Black Eye and the Rotten Root, looking to spread rumors about the Fire Knives in the hopes of shaking free more information.

At the Black Eye, Brok-Tul and Marik encountered Khair, who seemed uninterested in Marik's tale of an unnamed Purple Dragon in Westgate seeking to track down a former Fire Knife operative as part of a personal vendetta. (This must be a version of the story Jokull had wished to spread about himself. –C). Brok-Tul whispered that it could mean the Knives were making a big move in the city. Khair stated that he was a simple sellsword, uninterested in great affairs as long as he was paid. Khair then commented that he heard Istvan Cormaeril had not been seen since the previous night, inquiring perhaps if his bonus was therefore in order. Marik in response passed Khair a small sum of gold. Brok-Tul then asked Khair if he was interested in obtaining the Night Mask temple password, in return for further gold. Khair declined, showing no interest in meddling with the Masks, and departed. The two also found relatively little interest in their rumors from Mard, the Rotten Root bartender and a contact of Marik. Mard instead pressed them on the matter of the Sembian gem; Mard thought the transaction would happen in the next tenday.

Meanwhile, Rahnee and Jokull had stopped at the Spitting Cockatrice to see if they could pick up any information before heading to the secret message site. Some talk was heard about the Sembian 1,000 gold reward for information about Senthur Signe's murder, still unclaimed. Rahnee, her back covered by a watchful Jokull, dropped off a message requesting a meeting, and retrieved a note answering Rahnee's previous missive. It indicated - without naming names - that the Thalavars had done no business with Senthur and requested the party investigate the murder, as it could be related to their task of ferreting out the Fire Knives. Reassembling in the guest house, Aerikoth having returned in the meantime, the adventurers compared notes on the night's endeavors.

The next morning, day 15 of Uktar, Janatha brought a lighter breakfast tray than usual, explaining that Jokull and Marik had risen early and taken their breakfast in the common room before heading out on business. After Janatha had departed, having been asked by Brok-Tul to bring more washing supplies, and Aerikoth had arrived in the guest house common room, Brok-Tul speculated that Janatha might be a slave or otherwise controlled by Jandrico Swift, saying that she appeared terrified of him.

Rahnee was more curious about Baron Pahar's odd need for evil magical artifacts, prompting Brok-Tul to comment that he still believed it had something to do with Jamorin's book. Janatha, towels and soap in hand, re-entered the guest house with the kind assistance of Jokull, who had just returned from his errand. Brok-Tul attempted to draw Janatha out about conditions at the Gatereach, mentioning a "friend" who wanted to work at the inn and querying about the pay, but Janatha told him he would have to talk to Jandrico about such things. After she left, Brok- Tul indicated to Rahnee he was sympathetic to Janatha, seeing her being taken advantage of. Jokull, however, stated that he had not seen any evidence of her maltreatment by Jandrico. (This speculation about Janatha appears to have been one of the half-orc’s random thoughts that in fact had little to do with reality, as will be seen later. –R)
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Conversation turned back toward analysis and speculation regarding House Cormaeril and House Bleth and the circumstances surrounding the murders of Captain Yar and Senthur Signe. Aerikoth suggested the possibility of approaching the Watch with what they knew about Istvan's warning the night of Senthur's murder, terming it an option to put pressure on the Cormaerils. Brok-Tul was doubtful, believing that the warning could rebound against the party. Rahnee thought it could be done, if they claimed they were simply trying to get the 1,000 gold reward for information on the Sembian's death and had done some investigating. However, Rahnee thought it best to see if there was any word from the Thalavar agent prior to going to the Watch. Aerikoth declined to go with the others to the secret message site in the stormy, cold weather, believing it unlikely the Thalavars would be so efficient as to already have responded.

Jokull, after accompanying Rahnee and Brok-Tul to the message site, returned to the guest house and informed Aerikoth that there in fact had been a message, asking to meet at the Old Beard inn in the East Gate district. Aerikoth shortly afterward departed, leaving Jokull resting in his room. Meanwhile, Brok-Tul and Rahnee pursued their own business in the city, before returning to the guest house.

Marik walked in shortly before sundown, shrugging off rain from his cloak and grinning about how much fun he had had that afternoon. He was informed by Rahnee that he would have to go back out again, to accompany the others to the Old Beard. The note from the Thalavar agent had said to "listen for the shadows," which Rahnee interpreted as a reference to the group's secret name used with Iono, "Helm's Shadows." Brok-Tul again brought up the temple of Mask, saying he believed that once they could somehow get in there and figure out what was going on, they could solve half of their troubles.

On edge with anticipation, the party - minus Aerikoth - made their way across the city to the Old Beard. On the way, they speculated about Baron Pahar's strange need for evil magical objects and, as often occurred during Rahnee's conversations, there was a diversion into how she treated her numerous brothers. Marik and Jokull went through the door of the tavern first, with Rahnee and Brok-Tul entering shortly afterward and sitting at a different table. Several mercenaries and sailors were present, some of whom were talking about how best to claim the large reward offered by the Sembians. The sailors - admittedly, rather drunk - thought that the murderer likely would have fled by ship and planned to try and figure out which captain had taken him aboard.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
As Brok-Tul and Rahnee slipped out of the common room to explore the rest of the tavern, a man who had been talking with the sailors detached himself and trailed behind them. Once they were alone, hushed words referring to "Helm's shadow" were exchanged and the man - who introduced himself as Garis, a Thalavar agent - invited Rahnee and Brok-Tul into his private room. After some tense moments, Rahnee agreed to inform Garis of what they had discovered about Istvan Cormaeril and the night of the Sembian's murder.

Garis showed surprise at House Cormaeril being implicated, taking time to ponder the significance of the information. He said that he had been able to identify those responsible for Captain Yar's death, but admitted he had been puzzled by what happened to Senthur Signe; Garis believed that the party likely had the missing piece of the puzzle. Marik and Jokull came by the room to check on Brok-Tul and Rahnee, receiving a sign from Brok-Tul that the situation was under control. Garis told them he would set up a meeting at Castle Thalavar with Thalavar Steward Iono in two days, asking the group to come in the afternoon and pretend they were delivering magic items for Pahar, in order to provide a cover for their presence at the castle. Garis could shed no additional light on why Pahar in fact wanted evil magical artifacts, nor what would be done with them. (The Baron, it seems, is reticent to share this information even with close allies. Or perhaps Garis does not see it as his place to divulge it, if it is indeed known to House Thalavar. What appears as a minor mystery now will eventually play a critical role in the struggle against the abomination. --R). Garis said he knew nothing more of events at the Temple of Mask, when Brok-Tul asked, advising him to raise it with the Steward. Garis then left, saying he would see them in two days.

The party then had great fun playing the role of increasingly drunk tavern patrons, in order to provide a cover for their activities at the Old Beard. After finishing their evening at the tavern and while heading for home, a drunk accosted Jokull, asking him if he had anything to do with the Sembian's murder, since Jokull looked like he was from Cormyr. Jokull manfully held his silence and the drunk was soon distracted by a nearby prostitute. Jokull expressed his disdain for the man after he moved away.

Once they reached the guest house Rahnee and Brok-Tul explained in detail what had happened in the meeting with Garis. Rahnee said she expected Istvan, who had not been seen since his "interview" with Brok-Tul and Jokull, to turn up dead. She also expected that an attempt against Garis might be made, and - most importantly - that the group would be in similar danger in the two days before the meeting with Iono. Several possible courses of action were debated. The party ended up deciding to keep a round-the-clock watch that night at the guest house, then would hide out in the abandoned smuggler's cave under the well outside West Gate the following day. (This seems somewhat paranoid, as there is no evidence presented here that "Helm's Shadows" are known to the murderers. No doubt the pressures and dangers involved in the investigation have taken their toll on the group over time, so their actions are nevertheless understandable. I shall remember this, should I find myself in a similar situation. --C)

The night of the 15th day of Uktar passed slowly. Rahnee and Jokull took first watch, while Brok-Tul removed all of his stored equipment from the hallway armoire. Brok-Tul retired to his bedroom, while Marik remained, clearly on edge and claiming that he kept hearing noises. The three in the hallway exchanged speculation on how an enemy could attack: using fire? Posing as the City Watch? Coming through an upstairs window? They decided to move the hallway armoire to block the stairs leading up and sleep on the first floor, for better safety. Marik went upstairs and retrieved some extra bedding, then watched Rahnee and Jokull manhandle the armoire up the first flight of stairs, blocking the stairway door. Marik then joined Brok-Tul in the main bedroom.

Four hours passed and Rahnee went to wake up Marik and Brok-Tul, apparently interrupting a dream Marik was having about Lady Thalavar bringing him ale. Rahnee gratefully went to bed, while Jokull preferred to doze in the hallway, sword at the ready. After snuffing most of the torches to embers, Brok-Tul sat down with Marik and bantered in low tones about the Harpers, which produced some laughter, and discussed their tactical situation. Rahnee rose early, spent some time brushing her hair, then joined the others, waiting for dawn.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
In the early morning, Janatha arrived at the guest house with a breakfast tray and an extra pot of tea. Jandrico had thought they would need it, since the City Watch had arrived and wanted to speak with them. A nervous Janatha explained that the Watch had arrived an hour previously, but Jandrico insisted on his guests having a decent breakfast before being disturbed. Janatha knew nothing more, other than having overheard one of the Watch mention "the Sembian," and departed with a curtsey. Rahnee speculated about the possible threat to the party from someone impersonating the Watch, while pouring the tea into a potted plant – she clearly being suspicious of everything, at this point. The party secreted some of the food on their persons, for future use, and warily exited the guest house.

Outside, they found a squad of the Watch grumbling at having to be out in the rain. The party was informed that Commander Meynn was inside and wanted to speak with them; they went into the Gatereach and found him and several other Watch members with Jandrico Swift. After a series of somewhat forced pleasantries, Meynn asked Rahnee if they could meet privately in the guest house. Rahnee acquiesced, and Meynn and two of his Watch guards entered, Meynn leaving them in the hallway while he sat down in the meeting area with the group. Meynn commented first on Aerikoth's absence, which Brok- Tul blamed on him having to complete some sort of mage test in town. Rahnee commented that she thought Aerikoth actually had a woman on the side, which produced roars of laughter from Brok-Tul and wry comments from Marik, while leaving Meynn puzzled at the reaction.

Meynn then got down to business, stating that the Watch had discovered another Sembian's body, found two days previously in an alley near the Black Boot in the River Gate district. Marik commented that he knew the place - horrible ale, worse clientele. Meynn commented that the Sembian appeared to be in the "thug" profession and that apparently he had also had a partner, who was missing. Meynn brusquely asked the party if they knew anything about the murder, which produced protestations of their innocence. Brok-Tul pointed out that Cormyrians, for example Jokull, had been getting unfair suspicions pointed their way, citing the incident the previous night with the drunk. Meynn said he had little faith in views held by drunken rabble, but did find it interesting that the party included a Cormyrian and that Aerikoth had been observed dealing with the Sembians at the Quivering Thumb the night of Senthur Signe's murder.

Rahnee countered by saying that they had been planning to go to the Watch that day to share the results of some investigations of theirs, prompted by the 1,000 gold reward. A comment from Marik prompted Meynn to note that Marik had a Cormyrian accent, and Meynn was further intrigued by Marik's admission that he had previously done business in Sembia. Rahnee and Meynn bantered a bit about Rahnee's reasons for being in Westgate, provoking an amused smile from the Watch commander. Observing that the group had already breakfasted, he politely requested that they vacate the guest house for the remainder of the day, while his men turned the place inside out. Some minor protestations followed and Rahnee made a point of telling Meynn that her silk dresses should not be damaged. As she was leaving, Rahnee told Meynn that Istvan Cormaeril had been warned away from the Quivering Thumb the night of the Sembian's death, breezily ignoring Meynn's half-veiled threat of hauling her off to the Tower for more questioning.
 

COMING SOON: 5 Plug-In Settlements for your 5E Game

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