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Headed to the Patriarch's castle, to talk further about the cleric. Smart but functional-looking place. We waited maybe then minutes. Then met the gnome, Finston, on his way out. Smoking his herbs again. We talked, he seemed concerned about the inn fire.
Then we were shown in. Told the Patriarch we'd come to take the job. He offered 100 gold each for dealing with the Elwyn and her orcs. Scouts had determined she was holed up in an old iron fort. He'd prefer her brought back alive if possible, for a hanging. And to recover the bell of Chardastes if we could. Jasynnus haggled again. They agreed to 50 gold in advance, however we took a healing potion each instead of the coin. I wanted everyone carrying one from now on, just in case. We talked about equipment. Halaran offered to open the town vault to us, if we succeeded on this mission for him. Said we could buy or trade for magical items the town had collected from adventurers over the years. That sounded very promising.
Told Halaran of Elwyn's defeat; he asked if we had proof. Perren brought out her head. The Patriarch looked disgusted, told him to drop it out of sight. Jasynnus gave him Elwyn's papers too. Then he asked after the bell. I handed it over. Told him how the bell had aided us after recovering it. Halaran was unsure whether to sent the bell to the capital, or keep it in their local church. Either way would hold a mass to celebrate the return of the bell. Received our remaining 50 gold each, and as promised, we could request a search of the town's vaults for magical equipment to purchase.
We were invited to a banquet the next night. Xavian had lost his smart outfit in the fire. Spent his share of the treasure on even finer clothing now. Perren visited the blacksmith. The mithril blade was good enough metal to melt down, could use it to partly repair his father's blade. Perren gave him the gold bracelets in payment for work and future work. Jasynnus looked for shops with books.
Met back at the inn for dinner. Sitting the common room afterwards, some guards came asking for Perren. Insisted he go with them. We all followed. Led us to the barracks, then turned, entering a tavern called the "Bill and Arrow". Inside was full of guards. Perren looked ready for a fight. Then one man starts telling the story of the Patriarch's face when he saw Elwyn's head! Seemed they wanted to thank us. I stayed for one glass of wine then left Perren there, drinking with the guardsmen for the rest of the night.
Carriage arrived at the inn, took us to the banquet at the castle. Xavian's new outfit made him look grander than many other guests there. Some of the women were now copying my custom styled, split robe and trousers - I chose to ignore them. Dinner was uneventful. Some big speeches, Halaran thanking us for dealing with Elwyn and returning the bell.
After the meal, Perren and Xavian started drinking and chatting to the ladies. The merchant Mundus approached Jasynnus. Claimed to be a learned book-reader himself, but only wanted to talk about human history. Wasn't impressed by Jasynnus' reading of only elven books to date. We found Finston instead, good company as always. Never runs out of cousins to talk about, with his extended gnomish family. Convinced me to try the herbs he was smoking. Strange flavour, not really pleasant. Then tells me it's dried beetle dung, admitting it's an acquired taste.
Finston spoke to Jasynnus about magic, specifically illusions. Jasynnus said he only dabbled. When asked for a demonstration, he made my robe appear dirty for a moment! Then he spots Mundus and uses his ghost sound trick to suggest he broke wind, embarrassing the merchant in front of other guests. Seems he's learnt from Xavian how to make mischief.
We hadn't seen Perren for some time. Concerned at his disappearance, I asked Kal to find him. Didn't take the wolf long to track him down. Kal returned, reporting he'd found Perren in a closet with a female. Commented on how strange their positions were, compared to how wolves do it. He'd not disturbed them though.
Xavian preferred to move amongst the various ladies in the room. Then turned his attention to the young lord, Florian. He seemed interested in Xavian, but his hovering mother deftly steered the conversation away from any talk of our adventures.
I started making enquiries about further work. Finston told us the giants were causing trouble in the north, and the Iron Ring was active again in the capital. Halaran said his scribes had examined Elwyn's papers, and he had concerns. Wanted us to discuss business with us in the morning.
Perren staggered back into the room, an equally drunk lady on his arm. Asked the Patriarch to marry them; he flatly said no. Perren started begging. Finston volunteered to provide a gnomish wedding service, said he had a cousin who was a priest. The diplomat was grinning too much. Definitely up to something, but Perren was too drunk to realise. Finston took five gold from the elf as his fee, then sent Xavian to fetch ten more pints of ale for the ceremony. Told Perren to drink them all. The lad passed out long before finishing. Finston had saved him from any prospect of a real marriage that night. Fortunate we were staying the night at Tarnskeep, didn't have far to carry him.
We met with the Patriarch in the morning. His concerns lay in the north near the border. Elwyn had dealings with an evil temple, he suspected not dedicated to Leptar but a far worse god. He implied it was Tharizdun, but would not name him directly. He'd hire us to investigate the temple and deal with any evil cultists we found, as we had Elwyn. But he wouldn't require the same bodily proof this time. Offered us 600 gold, and another healing potion we decided Xavian should carry.
The Borderlands sounded like good hunting. Orcs, goblins and the giants Finston mentioned live there. There's an outpost we can use as a base. Out of Halaran's jurisdiction, but he'd write us a letter of introduction to the commander of the keep. Couple of days travel to reach it. I asked Halaran to lend us horses, since he considered it an urgent matter. We'll take our mule along to carry supplies.
Finston caught us as we were leaving. Asked for a favour, to deliver a package a cousin of his at the keep. Said he'd be the only gnome working in the counting house. Wouldn't say what it was, just a small box, but we didn't mind taking it. Then he shows off a new pipe he'd just bought for five gold. Perren groaned, remembering the night before. Finston gave us buttercup herbs for smoking, said it was milder and inoffensive. Perren asked if he had a spare pipe. The gnome smiled. Gave him the one he'd bought with Perren's money, as yet unused.
Didn't go back to Caldwell. Jasynnus didn't want restrictions on who we could work for. Think I prefer the freedom too. We're known in Threshold now for returning the bell. Can find our own work.
Decided to visit Patriarch Halaran. Headed straight out to his residence at Tarnskeep. If the rumours of the Duke coming were true, Threshold didn't have time for us to waste.
The Patriarch's guards had been reinforced with town guards, some mercenaries. Looked like they weren't getting along well. Challenged us at the gate; Xavian was abrupt with the guard. Gave our names as the Saviours of the Bell. The guard left to report our presence.
An older man hurried back, apologising for the rudeness. The Halaran's chamberlain, he greeted Xavian and myself in reasonable Elvish then led us up to the keep. He spoke freely to us. Said the Patriarch was down in spirits, had been betrayed by his people. He wouldn't see us willingly.
The chamberlain created a ruse instead. After warning the guards, he introduced us as trade delegates. Also coached us on the correct etiquette. Eli pulled off the flourished gestures rather well. Xavian attempted to copy him, but for an eladrin noble was surprisingly unconvincing!
Halaran's appearance was less than immaculate, not as we'd seen him before. He recognised us immediately. Told him of the captain's plan to have us take out the assassin. He wasn't interested. Said Teracles was capable of taking care of matters; his demeanour despondent.
Xavian muttered something about magic being present. Quickly Eli distracted the Patriarch in discussions, allowing Xavian to focus his arcane skills. Eventually he was noticed, the guards summoned and we were escorted out.
The guards released us outside the Patriarch's chambers. Xavian told us he'd detected an aura of enchantment, tinged with necromantic magic powering it. Took someone powerful to maintain that kind of spell on a high priest like Halaran. Told the chamberlain. He summoned a servant to give us a tour, let us search the keep. Couldn't find the source of the magic though.
Eli asked about the assassination attempts. Apparently the man had appeared in Halaran's bedchambers, stabbed him in the arm and fled through the wall. Suspected he only wanted to draw blood for the enchantment. The assassin sent after the captain had reportedly killed his second in command, then fell himself to the captain's sword - but only the captain was left as witness to what really happened.
Nothing in Threshold made much sense! Couldn't trust or understand the Captain of the Guard's motives, but the Patriarch was cleared affected by some evil. Seemed the clearer target to go after. Started planning a tracking ritual to find the culprit. The chamberlain fetched us a sample of Halaran's hair to assist us.
Returned to Tarnskeep first. More mercenary guards than before, tried to stop us entering. Patriarch's own guard waved us through. Reported our success to the chamberlain. Eli said it would take Halaran a few days to fully recover from the enchantment. The Duke's representative was expected to arrive in only one or two days time, carrying his signet ring. He'd have full authority to speak for the Duke. We might need someone of station to speak for us, maybe Finston or a wealthy merchant from the empire.
Guards tried to escort us back to town to the captain, said it was urgent. Eli replied smoothly, said if it's urgent we'd best hurry. We galloped off on our mounts, leaving them behind. Discussed our options returning to town. Decided we'd go along with the captain's plan, though it was likely a trap. Perhaps we could talk to this assassin.
Wagon headed north and we were given our weapons back. Olive told us to stay hidden. When we arrived at the keep, he told the mercenaries the wagon contained supplies, smuggling us inside. Then took us to the chamberlain. We filled him in, showed him the evidence we'd collected.
The duke's envoy had arrived, man called Justintine. Was spending the day with the patriarch. Halaran wasn't fully recovered but doing better at least. Justintine had called a council meeting tonight, to hear from the town nobles and merchants then make his ruling.
The chamberlain gave us tabards of the patriarch's guard so we could blend in, and guest rooms to stay out of the way until evening. Asked a page to bring us writing samples from the patriarch's office, of all the guests attending the council meeting. Xavian had suspected Vesta Glabas of being the female culprit wanting to take power. She was the young lord Florian's mother we'd met at Tarnskeep. Her writing seemed to match the notes we'd gathered.
As people gathered in Tarnskeep's grand hall, we slipped into the back. Eli cast her ritual spell to appear human. Since the mercenary guards had been falling out with the patriarch's own guards, now they lined opposite sides of the hall. Each had archers on the balconies above too. Kal stayed out of sight with the patriarch's archers. Vesta was mingling in the crowd. Captain Teracles was watching his guards, glancing at Grunark occasionally. Halaran looked to be still affected by the enchantment, but he was exaggerating it somewhat.
The envoy addressed the crowd, then let individuals speak. Merchants were grumbling about the lack of trade. Then Vesta spoke up, calling for new leadership for Threshold. I caught a glimpse of something moving behind the patriarch's dais; Kal ran down the balcony to look for me. He smelt sewer, that meant more wererats. I whispered to Xavian, we pushed forward in the crowd.
Eli wasn't with us. She addressed Justintine, handed our evidence to him. Teracles accusing us of being criminals. The crowd erupted with shouting. Saw a guard fire a crossbow bolt across the balconies, then the room turned to chaos. The guards were fighting each other. Wererats surrounded Halaran.
The patriarch's guards tried to drive the crowd out of the hall to safety, but it also seemed at times they were attacking people. Then some of the nobles started fighting back. Teracles shouted to protect the envoy; Xavian didn't trust him and teleported to the captain's position. Teracles swung his sword in Xavian's direction, but was really trying to kill the Justintine.
I threw lightning bolts at wererats. Summoned my fey drake and ordered him to protect the patriarch. Then moved in to help Xavian. The mercenaries had landed a few blows on the envoy; I restored him as Xavian protected him.
Eileithyia locked eyes with the patriarch for a few moments, Halaran helping to clear her sight. She shouted over to us that there were illusions everywhere, creating the confusion. Grunark joined Teracles, and Eli's fire bolts set him ablaze. Teracles let loose a blast of magic and disappeared for a moment.
Gavril had joined the fighting. The rest of the townsfolk were slowly escaping, though a few had fallen to the guards including the merchant, Mundus. We needed to stop the illusions, innocents were dying. Spotted a noble in the corner of the room, looked far too calm and focused. Pointed him out to Eli who moved closer and started her fiery attack on the man. The illusion broke suddenly, confusing everyone for a moment. The illusionist retaliated throwing lightning bolts at Eli but our warlock friend finished him.
Teracles came after me for keeping the envoy alive, had to heal myself against his attacks. Kal had run down from the balcony; he charged into the captain. No longer focused on fighting the illusions, Halaran pulled a silvered mace and shield from the arms of his throne and attacked the wererats. Our side was clearly winning now. Gunark shouted to Teracles to retreat as he ran off.
The captain headed for the exit behind the dias. Xavian and Kal followed him, only to find the chamberlain instead. Another illusion. Eli could the real chamberlain and the doppelganger, she didn't hesitate attack the enemy. Kal followed her lead and finished him off.
The fighting stopped. The chamberlain looked over the Gavril and just said "do it". They already had a plan to draft in the lumberjacks as temporary guards for Threshold.
Justintine commanded us to follow him out with the patriarch to talk. After reporting all we'd discovered, the envoy issued official orders on paper and applied the duke's seal. Halaran would stay in power, and Vesta would be stripped of lands and titles.
Halaran opened the town vaults to us, said we could select an item of power as a reward. Also made us first citizens of Threshold, giving us free movement in and out of the town. And meant not paying taxes. Useful since he was giving us Vesta's confiscated town house as well.
Reported back to Halaran and delivered Greta's letter. He invited us to one of his dinners in two days time, said he'd get back to us about a reward.
The Patriarch's dinner was attended by the usual selection of Threshold's nobles. For our rewards he opened the town vaults, allowing us to choose a magical item we could each use. The church also promised us two thousand gold's worth of items, whether we needed more healing bells or curses now or in the future.
Much less desirable, he insisted we pose for a sculptor who'd been commissioned to craft busts of us to go in St Yaleford's Church once rebuilt.
Met Finston at the dinner. The gnome had business reasons for returning to Highforge soon and invited us to go with him. I was delighted at the offer and the others agreed. We were going to visit the gnomes!