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Threshold. Three days on the road and here we are. It's bigger than Rifflian. A solid town, built at the point the Windrush river flows out from its lake.
The guard looked us over as we approached the south gate. Gave Perren and Kal a second look too. Perren for his armour and massive sword; Kal just for being a wolf. Then he tries to greet us in Elvish. Came out as "olives on toast" of all things! Didn't know what to make of that. Jasynnus tried to teach him the correct pronunciation, but he didn't get any better at it.
The guard let us in, but took Perren's sword for holding in the town hall. And warned Jasynnus not to cast any spells in public. It's forbidden to practice magic in the town; apparently they don't want the place burnt down by stray fireballs.
Inside the gates I asked Kal to try to look less threatening but stay alert. He adopted a more relaxed, lazy stride alongside me. Wasn't long though before he told me someone was following us. I turned to look. Was a young boy in scruffy clothes, no shoes on his feet. He approached, wary of Kal, and offered to show us around. For a fee of course. Perren gave him whole a gold coin! Which the boy slyly pretended not to take, in case anyone was watching.
First he found us a place to stay. My friends wanted a good inn, but agreed to share rooms to keep the cost down at least. The food was decent. Beds were soft, not my taste. Kal liked them though. We wanted to rest a bit, so told our guide to come back in a couple hours. Later he took us on a tour of the town. Showed us the town hall. He would only point across the bridges to the shady part of town on the island. He said The Iron Ring operates there, and the guards don't interfere. They're the thieves' guild. Said to be slavers too. Definitely best avoided.
We needed to find work, before we ran out of money. Headed to an inn where adventurers gather, seemed a good place to start making enquiries. Let the boy go, guess he earned his gold coin after all. Said he often hangs around the south gate during the day, if we needed his services again. Could be useful in the future.
Inside the inn was lively. Ordered some wine and found a notice board with a number of potential jobs posted up. One for dealing with a runaway cleric, organising a raiding party of orcs - that sounded a bit much for our first hire. A delivery run for an elven merchant to his partner a long way up north somewhere. Then a cryptic note from a townsman looking to hire qualified evictors. Sounded interesting, no details of who or what needed evicting but gave an address to enquire further.
Finished our drinks and headed out to that address. Was a town house in the nicer part of Threshold. Turned out the man had bought a nearby castle, but on going to inspect it, found it already occupied by goblins. Said he went with two bodyguards and only he escaped by running for his life. But we reckoned we could handle a few goblins, and there's five of us, so we negotiated for the job. We agreed a fee of 150 gold, half in advance. He insisted any furnishings inside are his property and to be left in place, but we could keep any treasure or useful gear taken from intruders. Sounded like a good deal to me. He gave us a rough map of the castle, but he hadn't gone far inside. I asked for any keys he might have. He produced a set he'd been given, but didn't know what doors they were for.
So now we have our first hire, and 75 gold! Just as well, we need to buy supplies before heading out tomorrow.
The friendly guard we'd nicknamed Olive was at the town gate. Perren had to turn his sword in again. To his alarm, Olive noticed some nicks in the blade. Said his cousin was a blacksmith who could repair it though. So Perren went off to find him. Rest of us returned to the merchant's house to collect our payment.
His butler, Johann, answered the door. Wouldn't let us in, said we weren't presentable. After dealing with goblins, stirges and spiders all day, what did he expect! Jasynnus reported we'd cleared the castle except for the magically locked room and the snake. I gave back the keys and he paid us as agreed. Decent people to work for. We offered to go back if provided with a knock spell. Told him we'd be staying at the same inn as before, if the merchant wanted to hire us again.
Quite proud of our party. With the treasure taken as well, we'd made several hundred gold for our first day's work! I kept the two gems as my share though. They're pretty and my raven likes them.
Stayed another night at the inn. It's not cheap. After breakfast Perren visited the blacksmith again. Came back saying his father's sword needed more repair. Missing decorations and the inscription was obscured, but he'd need to find components first for the blacksmith to work on it.
Caldwell's messenger found us at the inn. He had acquired a spell for the locked door and wanted to re-hire us. We returned to his house; Johann took us in via the servant's entrance. He's quite the snob, I'm starting to dislike him. Caldwell was decent though, offered us tea. Jasynnus negotiated for us to stay in his castle whilst he has it repaired, as part of our fee this time. Much better than paying for the inn. Think Jasynnus wants access to the talking statue too.
We set out that morning. I foraged for food and healing herbs alongside the track to the castle. Xavian was playing with some keys; he'd pick-pocketed Johann! Guess he doesn't like him much either.
Greeted Olive the guard at Threshold's gate, who sent Perren's sword to the blacksmith. Then straight to Caldwell's house to get our pay. Perren and I knocked on the front door, Johann didn't look happy we'd returned. Xavian and Jasynnus were let in the back door by the cook. Horrid butler kept us waiting fifteen minutes, before fetching Caldwell.
He's throwing a party tomorrow night. Wants us to attend, but we have to look smart. Means wasting good money of fancy clothes, but the others want to go. Johann directed us to a tailor. Jasynnus bought a few items to dress up his robe. Perren and Xavian ordered outfits. Xavian's was very fine, with a frilly lace collar. Human style clothing though. Then the tailor tries to put me in a dress! Told him I only wore trousers - that started an argument. Xavian intervened. Persuaded him to make me a split robe draped over trousers, still practical and didn't look too bad.
Divided the latest gold from the castle. Kept the magical components, could be useful. The laboratory equipment we'll sell later. I checked on our mule at the inn's stables. Jasynnus went to show Perren's old shield he uses to the blacksmith, thought it might be linked to the sword. Then we cleaned up at the inn, ordered baths brought up. Gave Kal's coat a brush too.
Collected our new clothes first, then I went outside the city to gather fresh herbs. Carriage collected us from the inn in the evening. When we arrived, a servant said they'd prepared a separate meal for Kal in the kitchens. Kal followed him. Soon enough he sent a mental image of a nice side of meat.
Caldwell made a big speech about his new castle. Then introduced us, thanking us for clearing out the evil from it. Quite a mix of rich and influential guests present. A hardened man struck up a conversation with Perren. Ex-mercenary, Gavril Grozdan was now running a logging camp. Only native Traladaran in the room and "new money". The other guests avoided him.
Jasynnus found a wealthy caravan merchant, Patricius Aprenos. Approached him hoping for work leading to Kelvin. No luck there, but was warned to avoid the Traladaran. Xavian amused himself setting up the butler. Dropped the keys he stole and a love note he'd written from Johann into a lady's robe. Seemed to go unnoticed.
I found the gnome more interesting company. Little guy called Finston, representative from Highforge. Traded metal tools for the lumber produced here. But the Patriarch interrupted our conversation. Halaran was both church and town leader. Kindly man but not one to cross. Seemed pleased to have adventurers in town. Talked of civic duty, would reimburse us for dealing with the rogue cleric, Elwyn. She's holed up in a fortress, with her orc raiders. Ran away the Order of Chardastes five years ago, after practising forbidden sword craft and researching arcane magics. A rare healing relic disappeared from the order at the same time. Platinum hand bell that rang with no clapper. I tried to reply politely; said I'd talk to my friends about taking the job.
Sat with the gnome for dinner, whilst Xavian and Perren positioned themselves near the two single ladies at the party. Food was excellent, Clifton Caldwell is richer than we thought. Overheard in conversations he was a banker, the investor type. Dinner had several courses, and too much cutlery. Picked up the nearest utensil and felt a small kick against my thigh from Finston's short leg. I hesitated, hand poised over the various forks and spoons. He raised the correct spoon from the table into my hand by magic. Gave him a grateful smile. I liked that gnome. We talked of herbs, though he mostly smokes them as tobacco. And didn't know of any other druids in the area.
Xavian and Perren were both drinking. After dinner they tried approaching the ladies. Perren was reciting elven poetry. Neither had much luck, those women were clearly seeking richer, more powerful men. I just watched the room. Saw a young lord, only 16 or so, but commanding much respect. His mother in a black gown, hovering over him. Must be the surviving heir in that noble family. Told Jasynnus of the Patriarch's request; he had me introduce him. Wanted to keep his word to Rory. Halaran agreed to take the remains, have them returned to Kelvin and buried with dignity. Which leaves us free to take on the cleric.
Party was over. Another carriage took us back to the inn. Headed to our rooms, the elves far from sober. At least they had fun. And we had the prospect of more work.
Woke in the night, cold. Kal had pulled the blanket off to wake me. Then felt heat, there was fire in the inn! Told Kal to wake Jasynnus while I got to my feet. Smoke was coming under the door. Xavian and Perren were in different rooms. Jasynnus projected a magical shout to rouse them.
Threw our backpacks and armour out the window. A crossbow bolt flew back at us from the ground below. Jasynnus pushed his way out into corridor, putting out small patches of fire at a time. Looking for other residents. I called my raven to distract the shooter, and jumped from the window. The impact hurt, but was still on my feet. Kal leapt after me, landed perfectly. Four men closed on us, looked like the Iron Ring, and we were outnumbered. Heard Perren crash through another window, using a table as cover from more crossbowmen. I yelled to him for help.
Kal and I took out the two closest men. We were fighting without our armour. Perren didn't have his sword. He smashed a leg from the table into the leader, then grabbed his swinging mace.
Jasynnus and Xavian pushed through the fires inside. Tried to get people out. Xavian told a man to jump from the window but he was killed by a crossbow bolt.
Heard the horns of the town watch. So did our attackers, they ran off. Perren left us to chase after the leader.
Xavian and Jasynnus continued checking the rooms inside. Jasynnus found an unconscious man. He threw a mattress out the window, and dropped the man onto it. Xavian discovered an elderly man hiding under a bed, terrified. Convinced him to crawl out, then wrapped him in a sheet and carried him. Both made for the side exit, Xavian shouldering the door open.
Kal and I returned to the front door, found timber propped against it, barring the exit from the outside. Someone hadn't wanted us to escape the fire! Took us a couple attempts to shift the timber. Opened the door; a soot-covered barkeep ran out. I shouted at other people inside to come out. Everyone was panicked. Heard a man screaming, as a ceiling beam fell on him. Ran in with Kal to help, but the beam was too heavy. Xavian found me. Between us we could free the man, lifting the beam enough for Kal to drag him out. We ran back outside, before the smoke overcame us.
Checked the bodies of our attackers. Looked like hired thugs, rough weapons. No identifying markings. We suspected the Iron Ring, but couldn't prove it. The watch arrived, worked to contain the fire. Noticed the dead bodies too, started asking questions.
We were exhausted. No sign of Perren. Gathered our bags, we'd lost the alchemy set. Still some time before sunrise so we went back to Caldwell's place for shelter. Knocked on the door. Not Johann this time; a young lad answered, but he recognised us from the party. Told us Johann hadn't been seen since getting slapped across the face at the party by a rich lady. Seems Xavian's troublemaking worked. We asked for somewhere to sleep until morning. He led us to the stable's hayloft, and brought us some water to clean up.
Woke later than usual. Perren found us, said he'd chased the leader as far as the bridge to Fogor Isle, but didn't cross. Even he won't charge into Iron Ring territory alone, with no sword or armour.
Perren gave both full blades to Olive at the gate, who sent them on to the blacksmith. The guards had instructions for us to report to the Patriarch on our return. We found a modest inn, Jasynnus' bargaining got us rooms for several nights for the orc's gold. After cleaning up we headed out to Tarnskeep.
Perren didn't rise early. He drinks ale like a dwarf. Messenger from Caldwell came to the inn, he had a proposal for us. We left Perren asleep, and Jasynnus was lost in his books, so we went to visit Caldwell without them. Kal immediately snuck off to the kitchens for some breakfast.
Johann opened to door to us, not pleased to see Xavian. The butler threatened to get revenge on him, said he knew Xavian had set him up at the party. I didn't believe he'd really harm my friend though. Johann brought us tea, he was careful which cup he gave to Xavian. I drank mine, but Xavian faked clumsiness and dropped his on the floor. Not surprised he doesn't trust the butler anymore!
Caldwell offered us patronage; supplies and aid in return for aligning ourselves with him. Work for him when he needed it, not his competitors. He'd get the prestige of having respected adventurers working for him. Mentioned wearing tunics in his colours - I killed that idea. Said it would put him in danger to advertise his patronage to enemies. We agreed to talk over his proposal with Perren and Jasynnus.
We passed the time until evening. Restocked our supplies. Jasynnus traded the wand we found for a magic book from Threshold's vaults. That made him happy. We wandered about town. Found the street boy at the south gate again. But he didn't want to talk to us now, started to run away. Perren chased after, grabbed him. The boy was desperate to escape. Said he had to deliver a message. Didn't believe him. Whoever he's working for, he doesn't want to be seen with us. Perren let him go, then followed as he ran off but soon lost the boy in the crowds.
Ride back to Threshold was uneventful. Perren left us when the road split for Rifflian. Asked Xavian one night about his mumbling in the fight with Simiobolt though. The black shape I saw appear briefly on his shoulder. Kal had seen it too. The eladrin seemed reluctant to talk. Said it was a demon; came from a book. I asked if we'd see it again, he replied "maybe". Not the best answer.
At the gate, Olive asked after Jasynnus and Perren. Had to reassure him they were fine. Said the Patriarch was at the town hall and keen to know when we returned, so we headed straight there.
Told Halaran how we destroyed the temple. Offered him Perren's sack, but he declined to look at the evidence. Gave us 100 gold each - more than we'd agreed. Then we told him about the smuggling operation. Showed him the papers. The Patriarch was alarmed. Asked us to come back tomorrow, talk to a guard who knew more about the town's shadier residents. Thought maybe we could help with that problem. Retold our adventures to another scribe for the Patriarch before we left.
A guard recommended a decent inn by the water; riverboat merchants stayed there. Young lad at the desk said they didn't take pets. Told him firmly Kal was no one's pet. He agreed to charge us for three people, still cheap at only a few silver each per night. Kal was pleased to get his own bed, and breakfast in the morning. Cleaned up and headed out. Overheard the lad's father as we left, berating him for giving us a room. Scared after the fire at the last inn we stayed at. Thought we couldn't hear him. Humans never learn to watch their tongues around elven ears.
Next stop was to find Finston back in town. Heard he lived near the town hall. A smartly dressed gnome with a shorter moustache guarded the door. Told him I had a business proposition for Finston. He showed us into an ordinary looking receiving room. Then disappeared down an intriguing corridor, wider with a low ceiling. Rest of the house was clearly proportioned for a gnome or dwarf.
Finston was jovial as usual. Good to see the little guy again. Brought out a pipe for Xavian to smoke; I decline politely. He examined our note from his cousin, used an arcane ritual to reveal a hidden seal on the paper. Had our money brought out for us, then asked about my proposition. I tipped out all our gems onto the table for him to see, we'd quite a collection. Finston eagerly brought out an eye glass; used magic again to assess their quality. I asked if he had a cousin who could make protective amulets from the two larger gemstones. Said he could source some faster in trade for the stones. Kept some smaller gems back for currency, gave him the rest. He'd have the amulets delivered to us. Asked us to bring gemstones we acquired to him in future too.
Last stop was the blacksmith. He asked after Perren. I wanted a concealed dagger. Chose a small, simple blade. The sheath strapped to an arm or leg. Would fit under my robe next time we have to attend a party. The errands done, we returned to the inn for supper and turned in for the night.
Met with the guard at the town hall after breakfast. He was pacing the room when we entered; Xavian didn't trust him. Name of Riggs, knew a lot about the darker side of Threshold across the bridges. Unsafe at any time, more dangerous at night when the guards withdrew. The Kingdom of Thieves occupied most of Fogor Isle. Unpleasant but organised and self-regulating. The thieves guild had an agreement with the town guard. They keep their members under control and their nastier activities on the isle; the guard don't interfere.
The Iron Ring were newcomers. Moved into the southern tip of the isle in the last few years. The safe house address we'd found was in the area they controlled. Fighting over areas contested with the thieves guild had escalated recently. They were slavers, connected to evil cultists, who employed necromancers as we'd already found out. Suspected of the inn fire, the Iron Ring were out of control. Broke the agreement; the Kingdom of Thieves were as furious as the guard.
Returned to the inn and talked it over with Xavian. Convinced him a raid on their safe house would be too dangerous with only three of us. And no reason to risk provoking the Iron Ring further. Human problems weren't ultimately our affair. Hopefully Perren will rejoin us soon.
Approaching Threshold, we saw smoke rising from the island. Greeted Olive at the gate; Perren handed in his sword. Said his cousin the blacksmith had been looking for us. Advised us to avoid the island, war had broken out between the Kingdom of Thieves and the Iron Ring. Fine, we had no business there.
Rode through the town to the blacksmith's shop. People stared at our green fey horses. He invited us up; told his assistant to look after our horses. Poor lad didn't know what to make of them!
The smith told us the tale of Durgeddin the Black. A great dwarven smith who lived hundreds of years ago. The stories spoke of Khundrukar, his secret stronghold containing much treasure. But also talk of orcs invading, and that the site had been plundered once in the past. A dwarf had recently traded an old map for some armour repairs. Placed the stronghold near Stonetooth in the mountains.
He believed the map was accurate. Wanted to make a deal with us to explore the stronghold. The blacksmith wanted any dwarven tools or papers we found, and we'd split the profits from selling any armour or weapons bearing Durgeddin's mark. Anything else we could keep. Perren and Xavian looked excited. I insisted we had the right to buy back any marked items we could use to better equip ourselves, before agreeing. But sounded like interesting work.
Next stop was supplies. Perren left to get his dire wolf skin turned into a cloak. Xavian to buy a new riding suit that matched the green shades of his mare's coat. That left me to get the actual supplies. Refreshed our packs and bought climbing gear too. Found us cheap rooms for the night. Most places still uneasy about taking us after the inn fire. Rubbed Dandelion down and sent her and the other horses to the Feywild for the night. We cleaned up and relaxed in a tavern for the evening.
More smoke on the horizon from Threshold than before. More trouble indeed. Eli was impressed; never seen a large town before. Said she came from a small village in the Borderlands. She'd come prepared though. Eli pulled out a long heavy robe from her pack, hooded to cover her unusual features. A spiked circlet to disguise the horns on her forehead.
Sent the horses away and approached the city gates. Heads on spikes now up on the city walls. Glanced quickly to check the guards still wore the Patriarch's colours. They did, but most looked rougher, more like mercenaries. And they took more time questioning people entering Threshold. Spotted Olive, the blacksmith's cousin. Headed over to him. Sold us merchant licenses for five gold pieces each, hinting it was the easiest way to avoid questions. New rules meant turning in blades longer than a dagger, to be kept at the city hall as before. Also warned Eli the guards would now attack at the slightest sign of magic being cast; couldn't trust them to recognise a friendly spell or stop to ask questions first.
Streets were quieter, damage to buildings from rioting. Headed straight the blacksmith, who was very pleased with the tools and books. Had some glasses with rune-covered lenses, allowed him to read the Dwarven script.
Talked about the troubles in Threshold, fighting on Fogor Isle spilling over. Kingdom of Thieves locked in a turf war with the Iron Ring. Thieves acting openly in the main town at night now. Someone had tried to assassinate the Patriarch and the Captain of the Guard. The failed, but the captain's deputy had been killed the attack. And they'd fireballed the barracks, killed half the town gaurd. Said his cousin had been lucky to be out on duty when it happened. Explained all the mercenaries brought in then.
Blacksmith took the items with Durgadin's mark to evaluate. Xavian and Perren gave him the tokens to retrieve their swords from the city hall, polish them up. Invited us to return for dinner the next day, could talk more business then.
I needed to take Perren to the temple to get help; Xavian assisted in marching him up there. Eli wanted to look for her friend. Suggested asking in the adventurer's inn we'd visited before, left her there to make enquiries as we headed up to Threshold's north gate.
Rejoined Eli at the inn, she'd found us some rooms. Heard her friend had left about a week ago, in a party with a handsome half elf waving a treasure map around. Girl sounded very naive. Young lad arrived looking for Xavian in the evening. Messenger from Gavril Grozdan, wanted to see us on business. Agreed to head out to the logging camp tomorrow.
The black dragon's words still bothered me. Wanted to investigate, but didn't know where to start. Talked to Eli and Xavian over supper; said we should find a sage or chronicler. The innkeeper suggested a merchant living in Threshold, Mundus Sebastopoulos. An educated man, with a huge interest in history. Might know of encounters between dragons.
Headed to the rich part of Threshold, looking for Mundus the merchant. Felt safer here, private guards around the houses. Butler answered the door, told him I'd come about some historical research. He invited us in, brought refreshments while we waited for Mundus. The house held numerous artefacts, proudly displayed. This merchant had definitely made some money. I muttered to Xavian to behave himself. The elf seemed to approve of his treatment here though.
Reminded Mundus how we'd seen him before, at the Patriarch's party. Sought his assistance for some information about elven encounters with dragons over the past couple hundred years. Tried to keep it vague, told him we'd encountered a black dragon in a mountain cavern who'd been angry at the sight of us and uttered an Elven name, Darksbane. Avoided telling him there was a family connection. He guessed the location though, that we'd found Khundrukar's stronghold. He wanted an artefact we'd retrieve in exchange for his time and research, but would look into it.
Dinner was at the blacksmith's house as planned. A good meal. He was excited to report he could enhance the elves' swords with what he'd learnt in the dwarven books. Let us take one of the shields back, he'd keep the other. And we agreed to split the profits on any dwarven items again in future, if we decided to return.
My raven returned in the early hours. Used my gift from the Feywild and we talked at length.
He watched lots of people coming and going in the day, armed men. Later in the evening, saw two bundles taken out of the tavern, put over some men's shoulders. A huge man and another. The cover slipped on a bundle, he saw a flash of black hair.
He's a smart raven. Figured this must be the person and young one and followed them. Flew after them to the north of the island near the docks, but was spotted and driven away with rocks and darts. He came back quickly. Could not pick up any sign of them, so he believes they are still in the general area. A small enough area he can lead us to.
He did well. Decided to give him a name. Esgal, from the Elvish for hiding.
Told Xavian and Eli what Esgal had found out for us. Decided to go after Cornelia and her child today, before they could move them again.
Visited the blacksmith again to buy tools. He looked tired, up all night studying the dwarven books. Sold us a crowbar and a dozen iron spikes for a good price. Then threw in the mallet we'd forgotten for the spikes. Some thieves we make!
Fortunately only the normal city guard were present on the Threshold gate. Told us our merchant passes expired tomorrow, needed to renew them.
Returned to the blacksmith. Hadn't realised his name was Vladimir, but was his name Eli had borrowed for her rouse on Fogor Isle. Asked him about the mercenaries being members of the Iron Ring. Told us not to speak of it, was no proof to the rumours, but people who said as much disappeared. Rumours also said the Duke would send his men in soon to deal with the situation if no improvement.
Got supper back at our inn. Mundus had left a note for me. Said he'd sent word to the capital to confirm his findings. Used an elven courier, would know by the next evening. Elf must be fey stepping to cover the distance so quickly.
Quiet day in Threshold. Visited Mundus in the evening, eager to hear what he'd found. Arrived at his house and saw two dragonborn striding away from the area. 7 or 8 feet tall, wearing full plate mail. Unusual sight here.
Mundus appeared quite shaken. Was claiming he'd not found anything. Had conferred with a sage named Bismark in Specularum, but his lead had proved false. Wanted his shield in payment, then wanted us to leave. He'd been silenced!
Ran down the street after the dragonborn. Caught them mounting up at the town gate. I called to them in Draconic, to wait as I would speak with them. They ignored me. I challenged them on their dealings with Mundus; one of the dragonborn replied it was none of my business. I pressed him, giving the Darksbane name. He was still dismissive, said if I knew anything about Darksbane he wouldn't have to be here. When I claimed that as my paternal name, he only said "we know who you are" and advised me not to remain in the area! The dragonborn rode out of town. Their purpose here had been to prevent me learning anything.
Frustrated I returned to the inn with my friends. Gavril had left a package for us, some magical items from his own adventuring days. Included some armour better than my own. That was a more pleasant surprise.
Xavian and Eileithyia wanted to look into the Threshold problems. I didn't mind trying to help, but we couldn't take on the whole Iron Ring. Made an appointment to see the Captain of the Guard tomorrow at 10.
Eli sat in the bar, listening. Came up to our rooms later. Told us four off duty guards had been in. This wasn't their usual tavern. Complained they got more than their share of the dangerous missions. Didn't sound happy with the mercenaries. And one of their own arrested for being too close to the Kingdom of Thieves. Xavian guessed that was Riggs.
Rose early, decided to visit our friend Finston before our appointment with the captain. Outside Finston's house, two dwarves in impossible looking plate armour had joined his usual two gnome guards. The gnomes recognised us, waved us in. Butler said we could join Finston in his private dining room, but might find it uncomfortable. Led us into the smaller areas of the house. Sat on the floor under a low roof sharing tea and muffins with the gnome.
Showed Finston the cat's eye gem from Durgeddin's hold, gave us three hundred gold for it. Then asked about the political situation in town. Finston was worried about the lack of trade. Had merchants would couldn't sell goods, and Highforge needed timber. Would have to leave town himself if situation worsened. Offered us a way out too if we needed.
Told us the Patriarch wasn't himself. Not acting, didn't seem to care anymore. Retreated to Tarnskeep and never seen at the town hall. Eli carefully asked about the Patriarch's background. Finston thought he was clean. One of the first high priests to adopt the Duke's new pantheon of gods; given Threshold as his reward.
Renewed our merchant passes at the town gate, then headed to our appointment. Decided Eli should lead the conversation, being the most diplomatic. I'd watch for reactions. More guards around the town hall than usual, both town guard and mercenaries. Gave our names and shown in, but Kal not allowed to enter. The "saviour's wolf" had gained a reputation of his own, it seemed.
Captain Teracles had a simple office. Plain desk, family crest on the wall behind it. He wasn't alone though. Introduced us to Grunarch, captain of the Nightraptor mercenaries and old friend of his. The Nightraptors had a longstanding name, came to the area from the Empire originally. Grunarch shook our hands, testing Xavian's strength as he did. The eladrin more than held his own; Grunarch looked suitably impressed.
When the captain asked our business, Eli gently suggested we could be the saviours of Threshold. Offered our services for stealthy operations beyond the capabilities of the guards. Teracles seemed shocked at first; Grunarch was more stoic. Both men hid their emotions well. The captain wanted an assassin taking out. Claimed the man was responsible for the attempts on his and the Patriarch's lives. Hiding in the main town somewhere, and thought to be a magic user. Teracles seemed enthusiastic about wanting the man dead, said if brought back wouldn't last long in the cells. Guards would seek revenge on him. Grunarch looked smug at the idea too.
Said we'd consider it, gave them the name of our inn. Could return to us with more details when they had them. As we left, I asked if they'd considered discussions with the Kingdom of Thieves. Join forces against the Iron Ring. The captain said all agreements were off now since the fighting broke out between the thieves guilds. His response seemed a too well prepared though.
Rejoined Kal outside as we left. He smugly reported how nervous the guard told to watch him looked, and how the rest had given him a wide berth! None of us liked the feeling we got from the captains. Didn't trust them. Teracles' plan felt like we were being used.
We still needed a ritual. Didn't want to shop around too widely in Threshold and give away our intentions. Returned to Finston, the gnome had asked to be kept informed anyway. Sold us some gem dust to aid the ritual at a heavily discounted price, to help the Patriarch. But didn't know anywhere to buy a ritual scroll for tracking.
Was up to Xavian and Eileithyia to design a ritual. I suggested casting it directly on Esgal, let the raven fly to the location and report back. I talked to him, prepared and soothed him as they cast the magic. Esgal took flight and was pulled away; we waited for his return. He reported losing the trail south of Threshold in the vicinity of Caldwell's castle.
We knew where to look now. Sent a note to Captain Teracles saying we'd be leaving town on business for a few days. That should cover us until we returned.
Returned the bell of Chardastes to the temple. Then paid a visit to Caldwell's house. Johann answered; not happy to see us. Had a curt exchange with Xavian, told us Caldwell had gone to Spectularum to avoid the unrest in Threshold. The troubles had also stopped the construction work. Xavian said we suspected intruders at the castle. The butler dismissed the idea, then looked alarmed when we said we'd go check it out anyway.
Decided to head out immediately, before Johann could warn anyone. Didn't trust him. Fetched our gear from the inn, and summoned our horses.
Same deal at the town gate, guards ordered to escort us to the town hall. We played along this time. Grunarch was there again too. Captain Teracles claimed the assassin was planning another attack. Wanted us to go that night. Said he'd also be attacking an Iron Ring safe house, would let slip the plan to draw some men away from the assassin. Agreed his informant would bring our weapons to our inn, then lead us to the assassin's house in the main part of town.
Found ourselves a quiet place to talk afterwards. The captain's plan made no sense given both he and Grunarch were in on the conspiracy. More likely a safe house of the Kingdom of Thieves they were attacking tonight. Decided to warn them.
Found the Leaky Dinghy, was a really dirty tavern. Xavian ordered us three "dark and dirty"s. Barkeep gave us the rum-based drinks for a few coppers. Wasn't pleasant to drink. Sat and waited. Ten minutes later a woman entered, talked to the barkeep and left by a side door. We followed her out, led to the latrine area. Even more unpleasant.
The Kingdom woman asked what we wanted, told us to be quick. Gave her the captain's plan, said we suspected the safe house would be one of their. She'd seen lighter guard patrols today, usually a sign they were preparing for something. Asked where the safe house was. Teracles had implied Fogor Isle, said we'd hear the shouting. Had to be just across the river from the main town. The woman didn't confirm anything, but looked alarmed and hurried off. Seemed we'd guessed right.
Made our own preparations. Then updated Finston on the situation. Might need the gnome's help later. Showed Finston the jet rune dice, said they were fairly rare, from the Shadowfell. Gave us 150 gold for each one. I'm sure he'll sell them to the right collector for more.
The informant found us after dark. Led us south through the town. Heard fighting across the water. He pointed out a smart town house. One light visible on the second floor. Then he pulled back, but I saw he stayed to watch us. Some men ran out, last one locked the door. Saw a tail as he ran down the street; more Iron Ring wererats. We scouted the outside, servant door to the side looked a better option.
Kal heard nothing beyon the door. Xavian picked the lock, entered a kitchen. Kal was quietest of us; pushed door to next room open. An empty dining room. Xavian was worried about wererats from the cellar. Placed a chair and piles of crockery over the kitchen trapdoor to alert us to anything.
More rooms downstairs all with fine furnishings. All empty. First floor had an office and servant area; sound of snoring from there. Kal heard someone pacing above. Second floor was the master bedroom, light coming from inside. We wanted to talk to this assassin, if possible. Xavian knocked and pushed the door open.
The man inside seemed to recognise us. Suddenly saw his skin fall off, underneath a demon creature with horns. Xavian tried to talk to it; then Eli threw a fireball at it. Just as fast, it turned back into a man. With a burning hole in his chest. Xavian hadn't seen a demon at all, was an illusion.
Heard guards shouting, breaking down the door to the house. We'd been set up to commit murder. Quickly Xavian barred the bedroom door. Eli looked at the dead man, horrified. Said she could perform a ritual to take his appearance, but needed a few minutes to cast it.
I dragged the body into the wardrobe. The guard ran up the stairs. Xavian, Kal and myself braced the bedroom door as Eli started casting. The guards tried to force the door, they failed. Started chopped at the door with axes, caught my shoulder. Asked Kal to scare them, buy Eli more time. He howled ferociously; heard the guards jump back started. Then the lieutenant berating them, "Fools! You know she has the wolf in there!"
Door came down as Eli finished casting and slammed the wardrobe door shut. In the man's voice, she demanded to know why they were in his house. Told them they'd be paying for the damage to the bedroom door. The lieutenant looked confused. Stuttered out he'd heard of a murder here. Eli acted very offended, and escorted the guards out.
The guards stayed though, watching the house. We still needed to escape. Searched the house; got the man's name from some papers in his office: Claudius. Xavian found a large travelling chest. We pushed the body inside. Eli wanted to take him to the temple, pay them to bring him back to life if possible. She cast another useful ritual for a floating disk. We loaded on the chest onto it. Then we strode out the house.
Eli bluffed the guards saying he couldn't stay in his house, now too traumatised. Would go to an inn for the night. Xavian and I were his escorts. The lieutenant didn't want to let us go, but Eli was too intimidating as the wealthy town man. He sent two guards to watch us, the mercenary type.
At the inn, she gave them 20 gold each to get drinks and enjoy their evening. A generous bribe to leave us alone. The guards saw us up to our rooms. As soon as they left, we snuck back out. Headed to the north gate and the temple.
Had to get out of Threshold, avoiding the guards. Headed for the docks. Eli picked a safe route, while I watched for people. Ducked into buildings at times. All the boats locked away for the night. Found a boathouse with a new lock on it, wasn't good enough to stop Xavian. Large fishing boat with oars inside. Carried it down the beach as quietly as we could then locked the boathouse up again. Feeling guilty, Eli left 25 gold pieces inside for the owner. Loaded the crate onward and pushed off. Kal swam behind the boat as we rowed up the river. Took a wide path around the gate house and pulled up on the shore to the north near the temple.
Halaran presented us with the rewards we requested. A cloak for Xavian, a wand for Eli, a staff for myself. And a ritual scroll he said was for our fourth party member. Eli took a moment to read it; the magic would strengthen Kal's attacks in combat! The patriarch hadn't been able to resurrect our innocent victim. His family had been compensated. Thankfully, we weren't being held responsible for the death.
They had Threshold cleared out in a week. Iron Ring dealt with, mercenaries driven out of town. Riggs and Olive were both promoted to watch sergeants, in charge of Folgor Isle and the main gates respectively. A new captain of the guard was brought up from Specularum; Gavril's cousin. Caldwell had been brought back in chains for questioning. His butler Johann had disappeared, Xavian had a mixed response to that news.
We moved into our new town house, lots of rooms for us all. Doorstep had been marked by the Kingdom of Thieves as off limits too. Lots of party invites arrived, we'd become desirable company.
Checked our supplies, all seemed in order. Picked up a small bag of flour - Perren had always wanted some around for detecting traps. Xavian wanted to buy better thieves tools. He returned from the Leaky Dinghy with an interesting story. No one from the Kingdom had met him directly, but someone pick-pocketed 25 gold pieces and left a set of tools in his other pocket!
Set out for Highforge early in the morning with Finston, his servant Ross, and his two dwarf guards. Met two young nobles at the gate; twin brother and sister, Quintus and Quintica from the Verona family. Let them travel south with us.
Quintica was talkative. Left Eli to make the polite conversion. Sounded like the noblewoman was feeling out our political position. When the road split we parted company with them. Quintica told us to look up their uncle if we visited Kelvin, at the Guilded Rose Inn.
Finston told us about Highforge. Mostly below ground, and true entrance not where people think. Their King Dorfus Hilltopper isn't fond of big people. We could look around but warren areas best avoided, tight passages where we'd get lost. Warned us never to comment on a gnome's moustache, even a compliment could be taken badly.
Talked about gnomish inventions we might see. Machines with cogs and gear, powered by elementals. Including a bowless crossbow that usually worked - sounded dangerous.