The Westgate Campaign Chronicles - serial

Carlo-One

Villager
As the Watch began searching the guest house and grounds, the party – still without Aerikoth – headed north towards the secret well entrance to the abandoned smuggler cave. While walking on the road to the district outside West Gate, the party twice encountered mercenaries asking for directions to inns in the area, the Leaning Man and Spitting Cockatrice. After finally shaking the mercenaries and being unobserved for a space by the local inhabitants, everyone carefully climbed down the well into the cave.

Several hours passed as Rahnee, Brok-Tul, Marik and Jokull tried to make themselves comfortable in the cave. The old traps were still there, although now carefully flagged by Brok-Tul. Bats periodically flew around the cavern, the noise of their wings flapping echoing around the adventurers. Some noises were also heard in a cave pool, apparently from the fish living in it. Then, someone was heard descending the well rope.

After carefully investigating the sound, they discovered that it was Aerikoth. It was a tense reunion, with the others treating Aerikoth cautiously, as both sides explained what they had been doing. Aerikoth had found out about the Watch occupying the guest house, so he assumed the others had (literally) gone to ground. Brok-Tul commented that they felt threatened and observed that they had probably been followed by mercenaries from the guest house. Aerikoth explained that he had been with an acquaintance the previous evening, then had run into another acquaintance who had informed him of the Watch's presence. The Watch had failed to capture Zeluth, Aerikoth's familiar, and Aerikoth felt that it would not be prudent to approach the Watch on his own. Aerikoth explained that he had heard, via a paid informant, that the Watch had not found out anything of use. (A remarkable story and perhaps even true. –R).

Retiring into a back portion of the cave, Brok-Tul and Aerikoth took first watch, then Rahnee and Marik kept guard the following four hours. Jokull woke for the next shift, with Marik volunteering to pull a double shift and stay up with Jokull. Brok-Tul and Rahnee then took over, although neither Jokull nor Marik could fall back asleep. After some time, Aerikoth awoke and joined the others. They decided to venture to Castle Thalavar for their meeting with Iono via an indirect route. The party exited the well unnoticed and headed for the Market district, where they found some fruit and vegetable sellers. The merchant bantered with Rahnee about the harsh weather, crop deliveries, and rumors about pirate raids. Aerikoth excused himself, saying he had something to attend to in the Mulsantir's Gate district and that he would meet the others later, at the scheduled place. (The wizard seems busier than a one-armed juggler while spending time away from the others, yet they evince little curiosity about his activities and contacts. Or perhaps they do not think he would bother to answer their queries? --C)
 

Carlo-One

Villager
An hour or so later, the four journeyed to Castle Thalavar and joined Aerikoth, who had arrived shortly before, outside the main door. The guard, informed that they were there for Baron Pahar’s item bounty, let the group inside. Once in the entry hall, they had to patiently wait their turn while two mercenaries ahead of them attempted to convince Iono they had a dead evil magical rabbit in their possession. Iono eventually dismissed them and turned to Rahnee, who introduced herself as "Hannah Harde" (A name no doubt taken from a Waterdhavian romance novel. --R) and mentioned that she had brought a rare scroll. Iono bid them follow him into the eastern library, a more discreet area where Garis was already waiting.

Brok-Tul opened the conversation by saying that he had bad news: the Watch had temporarily taken over their guest house, apparently tipped off by someone. Iono said that his sources in the Watch had informed him that the searchers had found nothing incriminating. Iono excused himself briefly, saying that he had expected the group to come later in the day and still had some business to take care of. While engaging Garis in conversation, Rahnee discovered that he had located two “professionals” of Sembian origin that had been responsible for Captain Yar's death; Garis indicated, however, that he wanted to wait for Iono to discuss the details. Brok-Tul mentioned in turn that the Watch had found two Sembians murdered recently. Garis said he knew one of them had in fact participated in Yar's murder, but was unsure who the second one was. Garis did mention that there was one Sembian professional alive - the one he had managed to reach in time. Iono at this point returned and asked Garis to begin explaining what he had discovered.

Garis stated that he began investigating the murder of Captain Yar the day after it occurred, on the 13th day of Marpenoth, making it a little over a month ago. His first break in the case came after he approached the Ssemm guards at the dock where Yar's body was dumped. That night, they had been distracted by a woman's scream and caught a fleeting glimpse of her. The men allegedly molesting her, whose voices they also heard, had Sembian accents. Garis spent the next tenday attempting to follow up on this lead, trying to discover the men's whereabouts or the identity of the woman. Finally, he determined they were rooming above a particular tavern. Garis went there, only to find that the men had disappeared shortly before his arrival. However, the woman was still there and Garis befriended her. After several days she broke down and confided in him, confessing that she was the one who had distracted the guards at the dock, along with her male companions. (I am impressed by the capacity of this Garis, and I gather he must be the House Thalavar spymaster. There is much to learn from him. --C)

With her information, Garis was able to track down one of the men - the one now in Thalavar custody - but was unable to find his companion. One still remained unaccounted for, the one who had placed the body by the docks. Garis told Iono that the party had informed him more than one Sembian body had recently shown up with their throats slit, so the accounting might now be final. The man in Thalavar custody reported that he had been hired by a Sembian to kill Captain Yar. The name of this Sembian was allegedly not known by the killer, but Garis concluded from the information available to him that it must have been Senthur Signe, the now-dead official from the Sembian Representative's Office.
 

Carlo-One

Villager
Garis said he had been sorely puzzled by the subsequent murder of Senthur Signe, along with the other Sembians who had participated in Yar's murder, until the party told him of what they had found. Garis told Iono that he believed theirs was the missing piece of the puzzle. Iono asked the group to continue the story and explain what happened to Senthur Signe. It seemed clear to Iono why Yar had been murdered and the Fire Knife insignia left as a diversion.

Brok-Tul explained that the group had explored contacts with local Houses, but Rahnee's meeting turned up nothing beyond flirtatious offers. A contact on the seedier side informed them that Istvan Cormaeril had been warned off the Quivering Thumb the night of the killing. Although the party was unsure about its exact significance, they anonymously "interviewed" Istvan, posing as enforcers sent to make sure his allegiances remained true. According to Brok-Tul, Istvan was unsurprised at the appearance of armed thugs, and indicated he remained loyal to Tagreth Cormaeril. Brok-Tul was unsure about the story from this point, including what motivated Cormaeril to take these actions; Rahnee suggested that House Cormaeril might hide the Fire Knives organization.

Aerikoth then posited that the Fire Knives were annoyed that the Sembians had used them as their scapegoats and decided to retaliate for the affront. He pointed out that the calling card with a Fire Knife symbol had likely been left at the scene of Yar's murder deliberately, a point confirmed by Garis based on the Sembian prisoner's account of the evening. Iono agreed with Aerikoth's analysis, that the Fire Knives had taken their revenge on the Sembians. He and Garis commented that events had been explained to their satisfaction. They excused themselves briefly, saying they had to confer on their next steps.

The party relaxed and took to exploring the library, except for Jokull, who stood with his arms folded, looking disappointed. Brok-Tul noted a large chest in the corner, which also attracted the attention of Aerikoth, and cast a spell to confirm that something magical was kept inside. Earning Aerikoth's disapproval, Brok-Tul cast Knock on the chest and opened it briefly for a look at its contents, which he described as a scroll to create undead, a Bodak's tooth, and a staff. Jokull pointed out that these must be the evil items House Thalavar was collecting for delivery to Baron Pahar.
 

Carlo-One

Villager
Iono and Garis returned. After reviewing their understanding of the situation, Iono stated that he faced a unique situation: the party had identified the likely source of the Fire Knives, but at the same time the Knives apparently had not acted against House Thalavar. The Thalavar Steward believed that the Knives might represent a long-term threat, but were not currently opposed to his House. Iono considered that the group had fulfilled their mission and handed out the gold due them. Jokull resisted payment, saying that his job was not yet done, but eventually took the gold at Rahnee and Iono's insistence, saying it could go towards his custom gear business. (Jokull's disappointment is evident and the Cormyrian warrior must be frustrated that his personal vendetta against the Fire Knives can go no further, at least for the time being. I understand Iono's logic, however, as it is his duty to look after his House's interests, rather than start an underground war in the city. --C). Iono paused when it was Marik’s turn, commending him for his hard work despite having been kidnapped and interrogated at the beginning. Marik gladly accepted a final share equal to the rest of the party, which was above what had been agreed originally. Iono dryly commented that he believed Marik could be of future use and would stay bought. (Rented perhaps is a better way of putting it. --R)

Addressing the group, Iono said he had a proposal he wished them to consider. He asked Rahnee if she planned to stay in Westgate and was pleased to hear her affirmative response, saying that his proposal was for the group as a whole, which had seemed to function well with her as their titular leader. Iono said it had occurred to him that House Thalavar could use such a group, one that others perceived as independent, but who could secretly accomplish tasks where Thalavar's hand should be hidden. The primary task would be to obtain information out of Thalavar's usual reach, largely as part of the group's normal activities. Iono indicated he might from time to time also desire to call on them for special services. As part of this arrangement, Iono would agree to continue to pay for lodgings at the Gatereach and would also covertly sponsor their 100 gold per head bond required for the Mercenary Guild. Iono said he believed they would fit in well there and could be extremely useful to Thalavar, citing Rahnee's information on House Bleth's relationship with the guild leadership as being of particular interest. Rahnee responded that they would consider the offer.

Iono urged the group to take the necessary time to carefully consider the proposal. In the meantime, he had a specific task for which he desired to hire them. He stated that House Thalavar, as the group was already aware, had been collecting magical artifacts for Baron Pahar. They were of an evil nature, what was required by the Baron; Iono said it was best the Baron explain why. He intended on sending the items to the baronial seat in the town of Turnon in four days' time and explained they would need to be escorted, to ensure their safety in transit. In response to a question from Brok-Tul, Iono said the group would be briefed on the items prior to transport. House Thalavar was willing to pay 100 gold to each of the group, if they agreed to protect the magical items and deliver them to the Baron. Rahnee commented that 100 gold seemed to be light recompense for protecting artifacts. Iono countered by saying 500 gold for a delivery job was quite adequate. Jokull expressed his desire to know the items' use in advance. Iono replied that it was not his story to tell, it was the Baron's, but assured Jokull that they would be used to no ill purpose. Although Rahnee and the others remained suspicious, they agreed to respect Iono's word and accepted the assignment, promising to return on day 21 of Uktar. Garis departed via a side door, while Iono escorted the group out via the main entrance.
 

Carlo-One

Villager
Upon returning to the Gatereach guest house, the company found that things had been returned to their original locations by the Watch following the search, although the wardrobe looked as if it had suffered in the process. Rahnee and Brok-Tul went to check in with Jandrico Swift, who apologized for the unpleasantness with the Watch, and mentioned that he had insisted that everything be put back properly. Everyone returned to their individual rooms and confirmed that the Watch, while apparently having been quite thorough in their search, had not removed or damaged their possessions. Rahnee and Brok-Tul headed into the city together, presumably for shopping and other errands. Marik, Jokull, and Aerikoth then went their separate ways into the city as well. By chance, these three ended up together at the Black Eye in Market, late afternoon of day 17 of Uktar.

After making their way back to the guest house in the evening, the three were greeted by Rahnee and a rather jumpy Brok-Tul, who apologized to the others about still feeling paranoid. Much discussion then ensued about possible improvements to the guest house, including a bookshelf for Aerikoth and a locked chest for Jokull. Rahnee mentioned that she had sent a message, via Aurora's, back to her brothers in Waterdeep, asking for assistance in expanding Clan Roaringhorn operations in Westgate. Some light-toned speculation was also made about "cleaning house" at Castle Cormaeril and establishing “Castle Roaringhorn” in its stead.

Due to Jokull's curiosity, conversation then turned to Brok-Tul's experience in coming back from death and his inner conflict in following different gods, having moved away from his originally chosen deity, Mask. (This is a thoughtful question and is often neglected by adventurers, may of whom seemingly care little about death. This no doubt has a deleterious effect, however, as if one does not value one's own life, how can one value the lives of others? --C). Rahnee, apparently blaming herself as the cause of Brok-Tul's inner turmoil, ran sobbing upstairs, although was eventually comforted by Brok-Tul, Jokull, and Marik. Aerikoth, who had earlier sought privacy in his room, emerged as well to see what was happening. While Aerikoth and Rahnee had a short, private talk, the others returned downstairs; Aerikoth returned to his room afterwards. Following some further discussion, everyone turned in, exhausted from their long day.

End of Chapter II of the Chronicles
 
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Carlo-One

Villager
Interlude from "R"

I meditate now upon the role of chance and destiny. We are taught in the Order that Kelemvor's realm is the ultimate destination of life's path and is to be respected as such. Yet even this seemingly certain ending to our tale is subject occasionally to the whims of fate, the roll of a die, or the overweening pride and blasphemy of those who seek a warped form of immortality. And what threw the companions described here together, other than chance? Yet certain patterns already have emerged...

In the absence of guidance from my superior, I chose to read these chronicles through in their entirety, before beginning anew and adding my own commentary. I believed this would give me greater insight into the events depicted and the paths chosen by those involved. Yet I did not wish to impose this perspective on any who came after - life is lived forward, not backward - so I have limited myself to making certain allusions, where later events are foreshadowed or can be clearly traced back to their roots.

And even with my knowledge of this epic tale, I must admit that many questions still remain. Some individual motives and actions are hidden and may never come to light. I also have acquired greater sympathy for the flawed yet sometimes heroic individuals depicted. Judgment comes to all, but perhaps it is best reserved for the end of things, rather than the beginning. --R
 

Carlo-One

Villager
Interlude from "C"

My predecessor's writings revealed more about the task in front of me - to read and provide commentary on these Chronicles - and I now understand it better as what must be the final test of the Order's senior initiates. I believe that how I go about it may be just as important as what I learn about today's world from the Chronicles. I do not fault "R" for his choice in how to approach the matter, but I prefer to place myself in the shoes of the characters in a contemporary manner, seeing their trials and tribulations with untainted eyes and limited information. For they certainly could not know the ultimate result of their actions, instead having to do as best they could in the present moment. As must we all.

It may aid my understanding of these events and certain personages to make notes on them at the end of each chapter, then compare them as progress is made. I shall list them in order of their longevity in the Chronicles:

Aerikoth Ankharat - the diminutive wizard's origins are not defined and he does not seem to wish to reveal much about himself or his actions. He appears to be one step ahead of the situation (and his companions) in many instances, revealing a formidable information network and intellect. Aerikoth's service to the others appears to have assuaged any concerns related to his activities away from the group. I wonder if that will continue. What exactly is his relationship to House Bleth and what was the nature of the wizardly test they provided him? This is but one example to consider.

Rahnee Roaringhorn - a young Waterdhavian noblewoman with more than just a taste for adventure, it seems she has leadership qualities both bred within and learned on the city streets. It often appears that just when she has bitten off more than she can chew, she rallies and finds a way to win, or at least skirt the precipice she was about to tumble over. (She must worship Tymora faithfully.) The development of her relationship with Brok-Tul, the half-orc cleric, came as a surprise, but is in keeping with her adventurous yet caring nature.

Brok-Tul - in many respects, he is a mass of contradictions. His origin as a half-orc living on the mean streets of the Shore in Westgate, his time as a cleric of Mask, and then becoming a priest of Helm following his raising from the dead, are all ingredients in his simmering pot of a personality. Yet a certain logic, even if occasionally random, does permeate his actions. He is loyal to what he believes to be right - even if that may change over time - and is willing (perhaps even too willing) to sacrifice himself for others. His emotions in the moment often rule over him, which may be endearing to some, such as Rahnee, but can also be dangerous.

Jokull - the Cormyrian warrior appears to be split between knightly ideals of service and a burning desire to seek revenge on the Fire Knives, for not fully known reasons. He is self-reliant and like Aerikoth does not hesitate to pursue his own ends away from the rest of the party - although Jokull does not seem to care nearly as much about concealing his activities, being perhaps indifferent rather than secretive. One gets the sense that he prefers expediency to principle, which perhaps is why he no longer wears the purple of Cormyr.

Marik Tann - as a former Fire Knife, Marik has shown himself to be a friendly but calculating rogue, who seemed to have understood which way the wind was blowing when deciding to throw in his lot with the party. The matter of the Sembian gem I found to be very revealing, as Marik preferred to pursue lining up the conditions necessary for its heist while the others were more concerned about investigating the two murders. He is certainly capable, but will he be reliable? Presumably the next chapter of the Chronicles holds the answer.
 
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Carlo-One

Villager
Chapter III: Mercenaries

The morning of Uktar 18, Janatha arrived with the breakfast tray, including a new herbal tea Jandrico Swift had obtained from a Teziir merchant. Rahnee enjoyed the novel taste; Brok-Tul appreciated it, but declared he still liked ale better. Jokull, after grabbing an apple, said he had go away for a bit and would return shortly. After he left, the others went to see Jandrico about their proposed additions to the guest house. Jandrico said that he had managed to extract some funds from the Watch after their search of the Gatereach’s premises, which he intended to use on the guest house. Their list of requests was presented and noted down by Jandrico, who commented that the Watch funds would not likely cover it all. Rahnee told him that they would pay up to 500 gold to contribute. Jandrico then begged ignorance when asked his advice about setting up a small smithy, noting that he would be wary about starting a new trade in Westgate without sufficient "protection." Brok-Tul appreciated the advice and retired back to the guest house with Rahnee and Marik, while Aerikoth headed into the city on his own.

The Seven Hills
Later in the afternoon, everyone regrouped at the guest house, in advance of their scheduled meeting at Gondeth the mage's establishment. Jamal was also expected to show up at the mage’s shop, in order to hear what had been uncovered in researching Jamorin's ancient tome. Egged on by Marik, Brok-Tul disparaged the Harpers' need to investigate “everything they didn't own.” (It is interesting for me to see the sometimes visceral reaction the Harpers provoke among others. The resentment of an organization sworn to fight against evil in the world is logically puzzling, but I have encountered similar doubt and even occasional hostility to our Order's mission. I must meditate upon this phenomenon further. --C) Rahnee turned the conversation to House Thalavar's offer to sponsor them into the Mercenaries Guild, an idea which everyone liked except for Aerikoth.

Brok-Tul asked that they stop at the city’s perfume shop on the way to Gondeth's, in order to get Janatha a token of their appreciation. While the half-orc and the others went to Chalaratha's Fragrances, Aerikoth instead headed directly for Gondeth's. When Marik, Rahnee, Brok-Tul and Jokull arrived at the mage’s place, brushing rain from their garments, they saw a haggard-looking Gondeth standing silently by a large tome and Jamal in conversation with Aerikoth. Jamal greeted Brok-Tul with her usual acid tongue, while complimenting Jokull on his devastating-looking new robe. Jokull then kissed her offered hand and returned the compliment regarding her appearance.

Gondeth, leaning on his staff, approached the group and wearily asked if they were ready for him to share his findings on the tome. Gondeth said that unlocking its secrets had taken many a late-night session, with details yet remaining to be uncovered, although he had deciphered the tome's general meaning. Its language was from the time of Netheril, before the death of Mystryl, the original goddess of magic. The magics described in the book were powerful, according to Gondeth, but unable to function in the current world, due to the nature of the Weave and changes in the laws of magic. Gondeth declared that Jamorin, who had original possession of the tome, must have been an evil man, as was also shown through his personal journal. At Gondeth's offer, Aerikoth took Jamorin's journal for further study. (Let us see whether the wizard shares this knowledge later with the group. –R)

Irritated at a question from Rahnee about the apparent lack of significance of the tome in today's world, Gondeth explained that it contained the story of the creation of the first lich and could well prove valuable - and dangerous - to wizards today. He continued by saying that the book traced the history and magics of the first lich, which according to the tome had ended its journeys in the Seven Hills area outside of Westgate. After the party expressed its concern, Gondeth stated that this lich must have been destroyed when magic was disjoined upon the death of Mystryl. However, he was concerned that Jamorin had deliberately traveled to Westgate with the tome, obviously seeking something in the area, perhaps a legacy of the lich that still remained. Gondeth explained that the Seven “Lost Gods” Hills contained a shrine to Silvanus, the natural setting being most appropriate to him, and many old shrines to ancient and dead gods. Gondeth speculated that the first lich might have been worshipped as such. The group thanked Gondeth for his efforts and exited, save for Jokull, who remained behind for a few minutes, speaking privately with Jamal.
 

Carlo-One

Villager
Everyone agreed to head to the Black Eye for a drink, where they overheard several inebriated patrons discussing a Cormyrian gladiator named "Josurr Mountbatten" who had entered the next round of fights at the Quivering Thumb on Uktar 20. Josurr was referred to as a rogue Purple Dragon and some speculation was made regarding his possible involvement in the Sembian murders, as well as his odds of surviving in the arena against the "snow cat." (At least one of the adventurers’ heretofore private activities will soon come to light. –R)

After the drunken fight fans departed, conversation among the companions turned to comparing Westgate and Waterdeep as cities, as well as the information shared by Gondeth. Aerikoth declared he had little desire to pursue the leads uncovered from Jamorin's tome, which he viewed as meaningless, while the others were interested in seeing what might be uncovered. (This seems somewhat unusual for the wizard, does he not normally thirst for knowledge? –C) After the last ales were finished, the group walked back to the Gatereach guest house, Jokull admiring the clear night sky, which for once was free of rain. On entering their place, Rahnee, Brok-Tul and Marik nervously queried each other about the open meeting chamber door, until they decided it had simply been left ajar by themselves earlier. The companions then retired for the night.

Janatha was pleasantly surprised the next morning on Uktar 19, arriving as usual with the breakfast tray, when Brok-Tul presented her with a perfume bottle from Chalaratha's as a token of the group's appreciation. Pleased and excited, she wished the group a good day, rushing out to try her new fragrance. After Rahnee's bellowing summons to Aerikoth was met with silence, Brok-Tul went upstairs and knocked on Aerikoth's door. Aerikoth responded with his usual disinterest and said he would be down shortly.

When all were gathered around the breakfast table, Brok-Tul half-jokingly asked Aerikoth to chill his ale for him with a spell, which Aerikoth reacted to coldly. (This passage is evidence that the anonymous original chronicler, who appears to be scrupulously factual and neutral, does - even if very rarely - have a sense of humor. --R) Discussion turned to exploring the Seven Hills, which everyone, for various reasons, expressed interest in - except for the wizard. Aerikoth could not be convinced to accompany them, although he indicated he would go looking for them to discover their fate if they failed to return by day's end. Rahnee, Brok-Tul, Marik, and Jokull gathered their gear and headed out the door, leaving Aerikoth behind to pursue his own interests. (Was this simply a feint on the wizard's part, to further distract the others from whatever he is doing? If so, it seems to be successful. If not, perhaps something else is going on regarding his distaste for exploring the legacy of the first lich. --C)
 

Carlo-One

Villager
Late that afternoon, the four returned to the guest house, helping a groaning Marik to his room. Aerikoth emerged from his own room, having noted the return of the others. While everyone had been out, Jandrico's workmen had entered the guest house and placed the new furniture and other items requested. The adventurers, minus a recovering Marik, gathered in the common room, where Aerikoth asked how the others' venture had gone.

Rahnee said that the experience had been quite interesting, looking to Brok-Tul. The half-orc explained that they had talked to a tree - which had talked back, and had asked them not to mention the conversation to others. (This is likely a reference to an encounter with a treant. It seems none in the group had previous experience with wild forests and their magical protectors. --C) In addition to that, Brok-Tul and Marik had been affected by an old stone block, which had caused Brok-Tul's bloodlust to rise against Rahnee and had caused Marik to act strangely as well; neither Rahnee nor Jokull were affected, however. The tree told them that Brok-Tul and Marik had the "feral beast" within them, which the stone was able to call to. The others mentioned that they also had to defeat some wolves near the stone, one of which had been larger and more powerful than the others. Jokull recalled that the tree had been satisfied when told of the wolves' vanquishing, saying that there was "honor to their hunt." There was general agreement, if not eagerness, that at some point they should further investigate the Seven Hills.

When asked how his day had been, Aerikoth indicated it had been nowhere near as interesting as talking trees and whispering rocks. He said he had unsuccessfully sought Khair in the city, not knowing at this point the last time the mercenary had been seen. Brok-Tul said he had spoken to Khair two or three days previously, having asked him to try and obtain the password to the temple of Mask. Aerikoth retired to his room again for a short while, then was fetched by the others to go and settle accounts with Jandrico.

At the Gatereach, Jandrico tallied up the guest house work on his ledgers, subtracting the gold paid by the Watch as compensation. He reaffirmed that installing a fireplace was not possible without extensive remodeling, noting that Westgate normally was a temperate clime and that the cold weather hopefully was a temporary phenomenon. (Another indication of the strangeness of the winter. --R) Janatha came out of the kitchen, mentioning that they were out of carrots. Spotting the group, she took the opportunity to thank them again for the gift of perfume before disappearing back into the kitchen. Some additional discussion occurred over a few glasses of Westgate Ruby and a stout. Jandrico pleaded ignorance to a question about anyone offering weapon enchantment services. Bringing their drinks with them, the group retired for the evening.
 

Carlo-One

Villager
"Josurr's" First Fight

Day 20 of Uktar dawned bright, if rather chill. Soon after Janatha brought the morning breakfast tray, Aerikoth departed the Gatereach guest house without speaking to anyone. In the early evening, both Aerikoth and the others returned to the guest house, where Rahnee asked him where he had gone off to in such a grumpy mood. Aerikoth denied being grumpy, stating in a neutral tone that he had not been aware that greeting everyone in the morning was of great importance.

Jokull observed that he was expected at the Quivering Thumb arena within the hour, receiving advice and good wishes from the group. Aerikoth stated that he failed to understand Jokull's desire to fight in the arena, inquiring if there was more to it than the combat; Jokull in reply indicated he would speak of this to Aerikoth at a later time. Jokull prepared to depart the guest house shortly, while the others agreed to leave shortly before the gladiator matches were to start, Aerikoth retiring to his room for the duration.

That night, the Quivering Thumb was packed, the entry fee having been waived and the normal betting limit raised to 100 gold. The group noted that Palla the Light and Sehlmari Ssemm from the Mercenaries Guild were at the arena again. Rahnee, Brok-Tul, and Marik all placed bets with Drugo the oddsmaker, who was giving 2-1 odds on Josurr in his fight with the snow cat. (This strikes me as rather low odds, so most likely the proprietor is deliberately promoting the popularity of betting on Josurr, with an eye toward future fights. An observation drawn from a previous life. --R) The other fights were the veteran fighter Boran versus the barbarian Ru'allah, to first blood, with the winner of that contest facing Gagh in a battle to the death.

Stanslav, the Thumb's proprietor, opened the bouts by introducing the fight lineup, starting with “Josurr Mountbatten,” described as a fallen Purple Dragon mysteriously driven to exile, versus a vicious snow cat from the mountains of Impiltur. As Stanslav's introduction ended, "Josurr" came up from the gladiator pit and strode forward into the arena, a magical barrier falling over the entrance once he was inside. His purple armor bright under the lights of the arena, Jokull – his face hidden by a helm - was greeted warmly by the audience, who applauded his dramatic gestures. The snow cat then entered the ring, coming up from a separate trap door inside the pit. As it began to stalk Jokull, the warrior threw his shield away and flourished his sword, drawing gasps and calls of appreciation from the crowd. The cat leaped at him and in a fierce, brief engagement was defeated by Jokull, who in the process received a nasty claw scratch to his side. Stanslav declared "Josurr" the victor, who as he exited the ring was heard by the crowd to say "...too easy." (Jokull seems to have a natural flair for the arena. --C)

The other fights were also entertaining. Boran triumphed by waiting for Ru'allah to overextend himself before scoring first blood. In the final match featuring Gagh, the half-orc fighter taunted Boran, who maintained his composure and traded blow for blow once Gagh closed in for the attack. Alas for Boran, Gagh was too strong, and in the end stood bloody and victorious over the veteran's corpse. As Brok-Tul, Rahnee, and Marik collected their gold from the oddsmaker, Aerikoth departed the arena, as did Jokull, who quietly slipped out after the final fight.
 

Carlo-One

Villager
Black Magic for the Baron

The morning of Uktar 21, Rahnee left the house early on an errand and returned to find Aerikoth and the others assembled in the guest house common room. She inquired if anyone knew where she could find a Bloodback Spider, explaining she had been informed that her mage brother wanted one. Aerikoth commented that he had heard of the spider, which was supposed to have its habitat in the Dragon Coast region. Rahnee, unsure exactly of why her brother wanted the spider or whether it should be sent to him alive or dead, mentioned that she had copied out some notes for her brother from Westgate's Naturalist Guild, but hadn't bothered to remember the details of their contents. Jokull commented that he had to go see the Quivering Thumb proprietor, after which he would be ready to accompany the others to meet Iono at Castle Thalavar. Jokull returned after a short while and the group departed, Brok-Tul making a detour to the Market to pick up a piece of equipment before meeting up with the rest outside the castle.

Upon their arrival, Iono guided the party back to their usual meeting room, where Garis was waiting for them. Before discussing the proposed Mercenaries Guild sponsorship, the reason for Garis' presence, the Thalavar steward opened up a chest containing the evil magic items to be transported to Baron Pahar. The group spent a few moments looking at each other, no one moving to take the items, until Jokull stepped forward and volunteered. Rahnee commented that she suspected he, out of all of them, was best suited for this difficult task. Jokull then took possession of a cloth-wrapped staff, a large tooth, and some magical scrolls. Iono stated that they would receive payment from him at the castle, once they had delivered the items and returned to Westgate.

Rahnee tactfully inquired about the terms of the Mercenaries Guild contracts, as Aerikoth was hesitant to become a member, but was willing to assist the others in assigned tasks. After Iono explained that all involved had to be bonded members, Aerikoth reluctantly put aside his pride and agreed to join, with reservations. Garis indicated that he would be the group's future contact regarding their Guild business and would pay them their bonding fee - 100 gold per person - at their next meeting. The party agreed to meet him at the Empty Fish tavern, outside of West Gate, the evening of the day after their return to Westgate, whenever that occurred. Garis told the group that they would be his eyes and ears within the Guild, and he would meet with them periodically and anonymously to discuss Guild doings. Brok-Tul asked a question about what cover story they should come up with for joining the guild. Marik in response dryly suggested that they should say they liked coin, apologizing for the complexity of his idea. Both Iono and Garis wished them luck and the group headed back to the Gatereach guest house to pick up their equipment for the journey ahead. As they were departing the city, Jokull passed the magical staff to Aerikoth to carry.
 

Carlo-One

Villager
By late afternoon, the group had reached the Turnton-Glees crossroads. Wary of previous wolf encounters in the area, they proceeded along the road to Turnton with caution; not unwarranted, as it turned out, since they were set upon by a group of bandits led by a young woman. Aerikoth began hurling spells into the fray while the others fought off bandit swordsmen and archers. Then the front ranks of the party were hit by a fireball, Brok-Tul taking the brunt of the flames. After the defeat of the bandit mage and remaining fighters, the woman cried out "not again!" and ran for the dense forest underbrush, slipping away and tripping a deadfall just as Brok-Tul was catching up to her.

Aerikoth identified her as Deedee, also known as Melissa, who had attempted an ambush on an adventuring group Aerikoth had previously accompanied to Turnton. (This woman is nothing if not persistent. --R). Rahnee recalled being told that she had been part of a bandit gang and a champion runner at one point. Brok healed himself with divine magic and the party tended to their wounds before continuing down the road. The presence of wolves in the area did eventually make itself felt, as the group was attacked by a pack in a wooded area north of Turnton. However, the adventurers defeated them in a quick battle, then hiked another hour to reach the outskirts of the town.

At the town walls, which appeared to have been newly reinforced, Rahnee showed her baronial writ to the guard captain, who straightaway saluted and apologized for not recognizing her. Brok-Tul also showed his writ and the party was allowed to pass, although Marik received some looks from the guards. At Rahnee's insistence, they went directly to the manor house. There, they were received by the guard, who stated that the heroes of Glees were always welcome. Although it was late, Baron Pahar received the group and was introduced to Jokull and Marik. Pahar welcomed them, clearly pleased, and stated his appreciation for their escorting the magic items to Turnton. Commenting that the High Cleric Carlin should be present for the items' turnover, Pahar asked that they reconvene in the morning, when Carlin would be available. The baron directed them to the manor's guest quarters, where the tired adventurers turned in for the night.
 

Carlo-One

Villager
After breakfast was delivered to their rooms the next morning on Uktar 22, the party - minus Aerikoth, who for whatever reason was unable to rise from his bed - went to the audience hall to await the Baron and the High Cleric, who were still conferring privately. Jokull had unthinkingly occupied the Baron's throne while waiting and had to be discreetly reminded to vacate it after Pahar and Carlin arrived. Rahnee then had to whisperingly remonstrate him about the poor protocol of not standing in nobility's presence, after Jokull took another seat while the rest stood. In response to their questions about the purpose of the evil magic items they had delivered, Pahar explained regretfully that this was a closely held secret and it had been decided by he and Carlin to inform Rahnee, in private, of their reasons; they would rely on her conscience in deciding what to tell the rest of the group. Rahnee, despite some grumblings from the others, accompanied the two back to a private room, reemerging after a half-hour had passed.

Upon her return, the party mentioned the bandit encounter and listened to Carlin explain how the young woman Deedee had been a follower of the necromancer Zagath. Zagath was a lunatic prophet who had been driven out of Turnton by Carlin close to three years previously. Afterwards - exactly how was unknown – he had gained necromantic powers. (This is an especially troubling aspect of Zagath's history, as will be seen. --R). Zagath died after being defeated by the group of adventurers Aerikoth had previously accompanied.

Brok-Tul then brought up their experiences at the Seven Lost Gods hills, which Carlin was able to shed some light on, having traveled and studied the area. The High Cleric was aware that an active shrine to Garagos the Reaver was in the hills, which could have accounted for the bloodlust that Brok-Tul experienced. At this point Baron Pahar excused himself, saying that he had to inspect some of the reconstruction projects in the area. He indicated that Carlin would be available to accept turnover of the magic items, once Aerikoth had recovered. Brok-Tul and Jokull went to the Temple of Helm, where Jokull prayed while Brok-Tul privately spoke with Carlin.

By late morning, Aerikoth was able to rise and join the others in the audience hall, where Carlin was waiting to receive the items. First Jokull, then Aerikoth, gave the items in their possession to Carlin, who thanked the group for their valuable service. Brok-Tul asked to borrow a book on Helm's teachings, but Carlin said that their temple was not wealthy and did not have books to lend. However, Carlin suggested that Brok-Tul speak with Jokull about the faith, as the temple priest had noted Jokull's devotion to Helm. Carlin commented that perhaps words from a comrade would mean more than those from a book, in any case. Wrapping the staff's head in a cloth to hide its evil appearance, Carlin excused himself, saying he could be found at the temple if needed, and gave the blessings of Helm for their return journey.

The companions decided to depart immediately, although Brok-Tul stopped at the town's general store briefly on the way out while the others waited in a light rain. Marik decided to remain for a while longer in the town to see if anything of interest was happening, saying he would accompany the next caravan headed north.

On the way back to Westgate, the group - not entirely unexpectedly - encountered another wolf pack in the area where the road forked to Glees. Jokull suffering a nasty bite wound during combat, but was soon tended to by Brok-Tul's magic. In a wilderness area two hours further on, two feral dire badgers attacked, but were easily dispatched with the help of a dire wolf magically summoned by Aerikoth. When they finally reached the city, it was night and all were grateful for a chance to sleep in their own beds, awakening late the next morning, the 23rd day of Uktar.

(As yet there is no explanation provided for the presence of these foul magical items in Turnton. What kind of secret could this small town in the countryside hold? And why was Rahnee alone chosen to receive it? --C)
 

Carlo-One

Villager
So You Want To Be A Mercenary...

Marik arrived late morning, having accompanied a caravan described by him as consisting of three nags fit to be dog food. With all present, after Aerikoth came downstairs to join them, Rahnee decided to relate to the others the fate of the magic items delivered to Baron Pahar. She explained that, because of a promise made, she could not discuss the full story, but told them that the items would be destroyed. She said she was satisfied by the truthfulness of Pahar and High Cleric Carlin, her senses being augmented at the time by a spell cast by Brok-Tul. (Rahnee may be young, but she is not always naive. She and Brok-Tul sometimes make a formidable couple. But not always... --R). Brok-Tul mentioned his talk with Carlin, which led to a serious discussion about Brok-Tul’s bond with Rahnee and the conflicting commitments he had between Mask and Helm. The companions stopped their conversation only because of a need to assuage their hunger at the Gatereach. There, a pixie messenger arrived looking for Brok-Tul, who went off without offering further explanation.

The others made their way to Castle Thalavar in order to receive their reward from Iono. Iono heard the account of their travels in his private chamber and paid them the 500 gold as promised, wishing them well at their planned meeting with Garis that eve. Iono cautioned them not to return to the castle unless there was dire need, with all communications to be handled through Garis in the future. The subject of vampires in Westgate came up again, Iono confirming that he had heard multiple reports pointing to this - including from the party and from Jamal - but that details were lacking. (The threat grows, yet the good and great of Westgate do little, it seems. --C). After returning to the guest house, Rahnee developed a fearsome headache and retired to her chamber, leaving the others on their own for the afternoon. With Brok-Tul still missing and Rahnee indisposed, Aerikoth, Marik and Jokull made their way to the Empty Fish tavern that evening, to receive gold and instructions from Garis for joining the Mercenaries Guild.

The next morning, after Brok-Tul had returned and Rahnee had recovered, the group sat down to compare notes. Marik admitted to having received 500 gold from Garis - the group's bonding fee with the Guild - and somewhat reluctantly put the pouch on the table for Rahnee to take. Marik stated that they were to take Guild jobs and report back to Garis on what occurred. Aerikoth commented that Garis' instructions were more detailed, although Marik was essentially correct. One interest of Garis was to discover who among the nobility had supplied the so-called "Duke" Hallton with the magical equipment his troops had used against Baron Pahar. According to Aerikoth, Garis believed that, seeing as how the mercenary guild did not cater to common tasks, any maneuvering by the nobles might be done through hired mercenaries. This implied that the House that secretly supplied Hallton may in fact be playing a bigger game. Marik commented that they were being set up as a stalking horse - not the first time that this had occurred.

Marik said Garis had asked them to see Varen Malavhan, the head Mercenaries Guild recruiter, and pay him the bonding fee. The group understood that an elaborate backstory for their actions would not be needed, given that they had the necessary gold and easily fit the mercenary mold. Rahnee, with no objections from the others, suggested they keep using "Helm's Shadows" as their official name. (This appellation will have a much greater longevity than is warranted. --R). Marik commented that he understood the Guild had a pretty good reputation for honest dealings and was regarded as relatively neutral, although it was connected in various ways to the noble houses. Having agreed on their story, everyone broke off to make individual preparations to depart for the Guild headquarters in East Gate district.
 

Carlo-One

Villager
At the Mercenaries Guild, Rahnee identified herself as the group's spokesperson to the clerk in the entry hall, who directed them upstairs to see Varen Malavhan. Varen, a robust-looking and well-dressed man still in his prime, first confirmed that they had the bonding fee and then took down their full names; Jokull hesitated briefly before giving his family name, "De'Angelus." Varen also recorded the company name as "Helm's Shadows" with a nod of slightly puzzled interest, commenting with a smile (and asking Rahnee to pardon his language) that at least it wasn't "Ale and Whores For All"; Marik, however, thought this was an excellent suggestion.

Varen said he assumed they had previously spoken with a guild recruiter about guild rules, and Rahnee confirmed that they had talked with Jard at the Westward Eye. Nevertheless, Varen took pains to outline Guild rules, so that no misunderstandings would occur. He explained that membership was provisional for the first year, during which the company might be called upon by the Guild to do up to three contracts, with no choice in the matter. Under normal circumstances they could pick and choose among the contracts that were made available. In response to a question from Brok-Tul, Varen stated that as long as the company could complete the contracts’ terms, there was no limit to how many they could take on at once. During the provisional period, if a company did not satisfactorily complete a contract, the Guild could exercise its right to assign them another contract with no associated fee. This would only happen once - should failure occur twice, the company would be expelled. Varen commented that the guild had strict rules, but that the rewards were worth it.

Varen requested to be informed of each person's professions and skills, for the Guild to have as a reference. Rahnee explained that she had experience organizing mercenary companies and knew her way around a weapon as well. Brok-Tul said his strengths were "muscle and persuasion" and that he also knew some minor healing magics. When asked what god he followed, Brok said that "Helm works for now." Varen noted down Aerikoth as the company's mage and Jokull as a warrior; Jokull also stated that he was a blacksmith. Marik, the final member to present himself, commented that his skills lay in "subtlety and persuasion" but he was also familiar with most commonly used weapons.

Varen then asked if they had an outside sponsor or were self-employed, Rahnee indicating the latter. (One must not reflexively speak the truth in all situations, is useful to remember. --C). In response to a question from Varen, the group noted they had no real restrictions on type of employment, although they would not wish to fight a dragon just yet, nor, per Brok-Tul, conduct assassinations. Varen's face darkened at Brok-Tul's words and he firmly stated that the Guild had no dealings with assassins. Finally, Varen confirmed that the scope of Guild contracts extended largely to Westgate and neighboring areas of the Dragon Coast. Varen said that he already had a job in mind for the group, asking them to return that evening after he had done some checking on it. The party agreed and took their leave, making their way back to the Gatereach guest house.
 

Carlo-One

Villager
That evening, back at Mercenaries Guild headquarters, Varen explained that he had an obligatory assignment for them, which would count as one of the three required during the company's provisional year. Before providing an explanation of the contract, Varen first asked Rahnee how she and the others had come to the attention of the City Watch; the Guild officer evidently had done some investigation of the group’s background prior to the meeting. Brok-Tul initially pleaded ignorance, but Rahnee then explained that they had been one of many groups investigated in the wake of the murder of the Sembian official; in the end, nothing incriminating had been found against them. (The half-orc's impulsive talk, which could have led to problems with the Guild, here is again mitigated by Rahnee's glib tongue. --R).

Varen appeared satisfied with Rahnee’s explanation and outlined the task at hand: the recovery, dead or alive, of a fugitive Guild mercenary named Klendt. Klendt, a traps specialist, had been hired as part of a company along with Jarroth, a fighter, and Yindh, a stealth specialist, to guard a merchant's daughter from threats of assassination. Approximately a tenday prior, the daughter had been discovered in the house they were guarding, violated and killed. The other two mercenaries also had been slain, both pierced by a blade through the back, and the valuables in the house were missing. Given the circumstances and Klendt's notorious use of a blade enchanted for backstabbing, the Guild had investigated his whereabouts and discovered a hideout that was used by him, an old watchtower located to the east along the Dragon Coast.

Varen refused to give more details about the situation when asked, saying that the merchant in question did not wish his family circumstances to be public knowledge. The Guild was very serious about pursuing the matter, however, given the violation of the contract by Klendt and its tragic results. Varen said the Guild had already compensated the merchant with blood money and would pay Helm's Shadows 500 gold for Klendt, dead or alive, the objective being to uphold the Guild’s honor. The group would be welcome to any treasure found with Klendt. Rahnee and Brok-Tul raised the possibility of returning the funds to the guild treasury, in compensation for Klendt's theft. Varen said he did not expect this, but would certainly welcome it and would also consider the possibility of reducing the number of the company's obligatory missions in return. The contract was accepted and Varen gave Rahnee a map showing how to reach the watchtower.

Once outside Guild headquarters, Aerikoth, who had asked the most pointed questions about the situation during the meeting, observed that Varen was not telling the whole truth, beyond simply withholding the name of the merchant. Rahnee and Brok-Tul did not find this surprising, Rahnee saying that she had not expected Varen to do so, nor should Aerikoth. The group decided to head out that night, after gathering the necessary equipment. After some time had passed, the company regrouped outside of East Gate and headed down the coast along an old path, toward where the map said the watchtower would be.

(The vile tale of Klendt's betrayal seems forthright enough, yet none believe it to be fulsome in its truth. 'Tis indeed the case that the company has only the word of the Guild recruiter as to the circumstances of the contract and its target. Could this Klendt be an innocent? I can hardly believe that to be the case, though, in Westgate. --C)
 

Carlo-One

Villager
After close to six hours' travel, the group spotted the watchtower in the distance, outlined against a nearly-full moon. It being the dead of night, the only sounds reaching them were that of the breeze coming off the sea and occasional animal noises. Marik carefully scouted the base of the tower and observed that it was crumbling and cracked, apparently abandoned. No other way to enter was apparent save through the front door, which Marik indicated was trapped. Neither he nor Brok-Tul could figure out how to set off the trap without being injured in the process, so they took up positions a fair distance away and began shooting at the trap with their crossbows, hoping to set off the trigger. After about a minute, the trap was sprung, spikes falling across the entrance, and the party carefully entered the darkened tower.

The first level of the tower had ruined furniture and rubble strewn across it, with stairs leading upwards at the opposite end. Brok-Tul yelled for Klendt to come down and surrender, but received only silence in return. After careful searching, Marik discovered a gas trap laid across the stairs, which he was unable to disarm. Brok-Tul indicated he could summon a "giant gerbil" to set it off and did so, the party staying well away from the cloud of gas released; the animal appeared unaffected by it.

Creeping up the stairs, the party encountered another trap on the landing of the second level. While they were debating what to do, a thunderstone exploded in their midst and a previously invisible figure attacked their front ranks, swinging his sword wildly. The tangle trap at the top of the stairs was triggered, but only slowed up the party for a short time. Seeing the tide turn against him, the man ran for the other side of the tower, screaming that he surrendered, but was cut down by the party members pursuing him. (Apparently they considered it easier to fulfill the contract with a dead body. --R)

A number of items were found on his corpse, including the notorious backstabbing sword, which seemed to prove that it was indeed Klendt who had attacked them. While the others were searching the body, Aerikoth noticed a flicker of movement in the night outside, as the wizard had been keeping watch through a set of windows near the top of the tower. He warned the others that they had company, of an unknown type. Brok-Tul, tension in his voice, asked Marik to set some traps, but when Marik indicated that he was unskilled at the task, Rahnee led the others carefully down to the first tower level, to see if the strangers had entered. When no trace of others was discovered in the tower, after some debate it was decided to carefully exit, with Marik using his stealth skills to try and outflank any enemies outside.
 

Carlo-One

Villager
Three figures garbed in black awaited the group: Night Masks! One large individual, clearly an enforcer, carried a battle-axe, while the other two sported swords and crossbows. The lead figure, the smaller male, spotted Rahnee and Brok-Tul exiting. He quickly told the company to come no further and asked if they were with Klendt - to which a negative answer was given, Rahnee asking him the same question in turn. The large male recognized Brok-Tul and told the lead rogue, who was observing Aerikoth as he emerged from the tower, that Brok was an old "petty" enforcer. Marik, who had circled around the Night Mask group to block their retreat down the hill, commented on this and brashly began flirting with the female rogue, armed with a crossbow, who in response drew her blades and said she would welcome using Marik's entrails for fortunetelling.

The lead rogue, brushing off a comment from his enforcer that the Masks could take their opponents, told Rahnee that, since the Masks' business with Klendt had evidently been interrupted, perhaps both sides should simply go their separate ways. Stating that their business with Klendt was the recovery of several items, and that the items most likely had already been recovered, no more business was possible. The rogue reached out and tapped on the enforcer's back briefly, then repeated the question of whether they could leave amicably, looking back at Marik.

Rahnee told the others to let them pass, but Marik did not leave his post. The rogue, patience apparently ending, stated that they wished to leave...now. Marik instead made a quip at the female rogue - his last, for the lead rogue called out "Execute!" and the three Night Masks rushed Marik, who went down in a flurry of blades and blood. (An example of a person's character determining their destiny. --C). The Masks then took off westward, with the party in pursuit and Aerikoth taking a commanding position on the hillside from which to call down magics upon the Masks. Seeing that they could not successfully escape by running, the Masks turned to fight, but were defeated by Marik's enraged companions. Returning quickly to where Marik had fallen, Rahnee forced a healing potion down his throat, but the liquid pooled in his dead mouth. Jokull meanwhile had sought to bandage his wounds, finally giving up after it was clear there was nothing to be done.

After the initial shock of Marik's death had worn off, on Aerikoth's suggestion Brok-Tul and Rahnee set about the grisly task of disposing of the Night Masks’ bodies, chopping them up and throwing them into the sea. (The wizard is ever practical about such things, it seems, including getting the others to do the dirty work. --R). The party refused to give up hope that Marik could eventually be resurrected, Jokull being particularly adamant about finding assistance in Westgate. The group wearily set off for the city, Jokull bearing Marik's body on his back.
 

Carlo-One

Villager
A Matter of Priests and Rogues

When challenged on their return by the City Watch at the East Gate, the party explained they had lost a man in an ambush and sought the temples, so no further questions were asked. Upon arriving at the Mercenaries Guild to report the completion of their mission, Jokull stayed in the entrance area with Marik's corpse, while the others ascended to speak with Varen Malavhan. As Brok-Tul had made some comments interpreted as hostile by the clerk, two guards with swords at the ready were in place in Varen's office, which also happened to be occupied by Palla the Light, head of the guild. Palla expressed her condolences to Rahnee, mentioning that Varen had just commented on his surprise at the party's quick return, since they had just left the night before.

Rahnee affirmed that the party had completed their mission, but unfortunately had been ambushed by others at Klendt's hideout. Brok-Tul took the opportunity to remove Klendt's head from a sack and place it on a table, along with a female head. Varen, face wrinkling, confirmed that the male head was Klendt's and observed that he must have died terrified, based on the expression on his dead face. Brok-Tul then said the female was the one who had killed their companion, throwing down Night Mask insignia upon the table to emphasize her affiliation. Varen showed surprise at the presence of the Masks and asked for an explanation of events. Rahnee and Brok-Tul provided a summarized version, commenting that with the Night Mask "hit gang" there, Klendt would have been dead that night regardless.

Although the gems and coins Klendt had taken from the merchant were not recovered, Varen was satisfied that the party had completed the contract, so he paid their fee and also offered his condolences for Marik. Rahnee inquired whether the guild had any special arrangements with temples, with an eye toward resurrecting Marik, but Palla indicated that there were no such deals. She explained the guild was generous with its contract fees and mercenaries could spend their gold at the temple of their choice. As the party prepared to leave, Brok-Tul retrieved the head of the female Night Mask. Varen mentioned that they should return to register any new members, if needed, and that a range of contracts would now be available to the group, since they had successfully completed their first task. Descending the stairs, the party collected a shaken Jokull, who had earned the respect of the clerk with his dedication to watching over Marik’s body, and departed.

There being no temple of Helm in Westgate, the party decided to try the temple of Tymora first. Upon arrival, Rahnee explained to the temple priest that her friend had met with the wrong side of the Lady's Coin and that she wished to speak with his soul. When the priest asked questions about Marik's chosen deity, Brok-Tul had an outburst, telling the priest that it did not matter and that Marik should be brought back regardless. The priest retorted that bringing back the dead was not an everyday matter, but consented to speak with Marik's soul - for the reasonable fee of 120 gold.

The group headed upstairs to a private room for the ceremony. Although he was successful at reaching Marik's soul, the priest could only keep the channel open for a limited number of questions. In response to the question whether Marik wished to return to the living, the party was told by the priest "Of course I do, you idiot!" - bringing a chuckle forth from Rahnee and confirming that it was indeed Marik they were talking to. However, Marik's revelation that he was a follower of Mask shocked some and led the priest to refuse to attempt to raise him, citing temple policy. Aerikoth debated the logic of this decision with him, but the priest would not budge and Rahnee eventually called an end to things, thanking the priest for his efforts. (Is it ironic that they had no luck at the temple of Tymora in resurrecting their comrade? Or perhaps luck has less of a role to play in such things. --C)
 

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