The crescent moon peaks out from behind its cloud cover. The demon moon smiles at the world below.
The adventurers find themselves in the Weeping Alchemist’s Inn in the town of Adech. They are weary from delivering an agent of the Wild One’s to the authorities and desire some peace and comfort. Balbanes, Belza Daimonas, Daeilda, Faer’Theorn, and Kit Walker are sitting in the tavern, enjoying some ale, telling tales and getting to know one another. Gwent Haberdash finds himself in need of some studying and is upstairs in his room preparing his spells. The bar is bustling with customers. Not a full house to be sure, but enough to cover the owners expenses this month. A pretty barmaid brushes by Kits arm and gives him a wink. He acknowledges her advances but does not pursue any further than that. He is immersed in his new companions tales and wishes to understand them better. “I know! How about a song Balbanes?” Daeilda exclaims.
Kit is intrigued. He has met the wondrous Balbos before and is curious to see if Balbanes is comparable to his father’s talents. Belza nods her head in agreement and says with a fiendishly sly grin “Sing a song for the ladies in the room.”
Balbanes gives a gentle chuckle and pushes out his chair. He stands as tall as his tiny frame can muster and clears his throat with a light cough. He begins to sing. His voice is soothing to any within ear shot and his performance is a triumph. He sings of Lady killing and implies that he is literally a “Lady Killer”. The song itself is humorous and gets a few laughs from the audience as he sings. After his performance, he gets a standing ovation from the bar and a patron offers to buy the table a round. “Marvelous, absolutely marvelous!” Daeilda cries as she tries to snuggle up to Balbanes.
Kit pulls his chair nearer to Balbanes and says “An impressive show. You most certainly have gotten your fathers voice.” Balbanes winces as if he had just been pricked with a needle, but quickly regains his composure and presents the familiar charm.
“That is very kind of you to say.”
“So where is your father these days? Out on an adventure trying to find more stories to tell?”
“Hard to say. Haven’t seen him in six years.”
“Well I’m sure he would be proud that you are following him in his footsteps.”
“You’re probably right.”
The conversation lulls and the adventurers just sit quietly and drink. The peak drinking hour has passed and patrons begin to head home, although there are a few diehard fans still trying to get to last call. In the corner of the tavern, there is an oddity that stands out above everything else. An elderly elf, who occupies an entire table with books, scrolls, parchment, ink, and quills. He is completely focused on a tome that seems to weigh more than him and is silently mouthing words as he reads. Kit notices this and since there is a lapse in conversation at his current table, he decides to walk over and introduce himself. Kit slides up to this elf and comments “That is quite a collection of books and scrolls you have there.”
The elf jumps back and is startled by Kits appearance and exclaims “By Pelor, don’t sneak up on an old man like that! Especially one who is working on important and delicate materials!” Kit is taken aback and quickly apologizes.
“That is perfectly fine young man. No harm, no foul. But to your earlier statement, yes this is quite a collection. This collection is just a minor accomplishment of my life’s work studying the History of Gallifrey and the world itself.”
Faer notices Kit conversing with the elderly elf and decides to be social as well. He approaches catching the tail end of their conversation and comments “History you say? As in history of Davven Bearchanger because we have recently plundered his tomb and I have some tapestries you may be interested in.”
The elf begins to laugh uproariously, which quickly turns into a fit of coughing mixed with the occasional laugh in between. His fit tappers down and he wipes a tear from his eye and gently explains “My apologies young man. It’s not that I’m laughing at you, but my interests lie in more ancient history. Davven Bearchanger is an interesting subject, but there are already entire libraries full of information on the subject. I am more interested in tales and stories that were lost to the ages. Stories about when civilization was only a child. I’ll give you an example; centuries ago there was the tale of how the world was created. People believe that before this world was created, all of existence lived inside the Perpelious Samilius, or translated in the common tongue, the “Purple Worm”. It is said that this Purple Worm traveled the universe eating worlds as it desired. One day the worm decided to eat a star, but this particular star was on the brink of collapse and exploded in the worm’s belly. The worm became severely ill and expelled the world out of his stomach. And thus our world was born. An interesting idea wouldn’t you agree?”
Kit and Faer look at each other and gently nod their heads. These two have extensive knowledge of the gods and of the wild, but the story that this gentleman just told seemed insane to consider. We came from the vomit of a giant purple worm. Yeah right.
Gwent sensing a faint aura of magic coming from downstairs decides to take a break from his studies and head downstairs. Gwent notices Kit and Faer talking to an elderly elf in the corner and decides to go over and see what is going on. He approaches and recognizes the elf. “Professor Andelose?” The elf looks down and replies “Yes?”
“Professor it is me, Gwent Haberdash. I took a class from you on the cultural significance of magic in the development of the ancient civilizations.”
Andelose’s eyes widen and he opens his arms wide and exclaims “Oh Ho! Gwent it has been a long time. Forgive me for my forgetfulness. After all I have been teaching for 200 years and I can’t remember every student I had, although you did stand out from the usual student. I seem to remember you having a great capacity for history but having a tendency to spend most of your time at the dice games instead of studying. Is that still one of your vices these days?”
Gwent feels the heat rise in his cheeks and mumbles “Well I still try to find the occasional dice game, but I think I am getting better about it.”
“That is good. Games of chance may be entertaining at the moment but there is nothing like discovering the mysteries of the world in an ancient tome that nobody has seen in millennia!”
Gwent has much respect for his old professor, but cannot fathom ever giving up gambling. All Gwent ever thinks about is the rolling of the dice and having them land on seven when you have made the largest bet of the night. Gwent would never willingly give up the game. He lies and says “You are right professor. The game is actually starting to become boring to me. So what are you studying here?”
Gwent leans over the table and Andelose begins to go into technical detail about what he is working on. Gwent seems to be able to keep up with Andelose, but Kit and Faer become completely lost after he starts going into pictographs. They decide to leave the two of them to their books and scrolls and head back over to their table.
As they sit down at the table, four men enter the bar and every patron becomes silent except for Gwent and Andelose in the corner. One of the men is very large, six foot five inches with tree trunks for arms. He carries a Longsword on his left hip and a large shield on his back. His Splint mail armor is open in the center of his chest which reveals a brand placed in his flesh. It appears to be a shield with two swords crossed in the center. To his left is a much smaller man, five foot eight inches, looks very slim and thin, but has intelligence behind his eyes. He wears two swords on hips, a Longsword and shortsword. He also has the same brand but it is place on his left forearm. The other two look very similar. They are six feet tall, big boned and strong but don’t look very bright. One has a greatclub strapped to his back and the other has a Warhammer on his hip with a small shield on his back. They also have the brand but it is on their biceps.
They begin to walk into the room, the smaller man scanning, seeming to look for something specific. His eyes fall upon the adventurers table and focuses on the blonde haired man. He turns to the large man and nods his head. The large man grunts and approaches the table with the smaller man behind him. People begin to vacate the bar just leaving the adventurers, the thugs, and Andelose with Gwent in the corner. The party is wary of the large man approaching. They ready their weapons underneath the table getting ready for a fight. The large man steps up to the table and says “You? Are you Balbanes by chance?” The smaller man begins to flank Balbanes from the back.
“Who wants to know?”
“And you are?”
“If you don’t know who I am, then you are indeed a fool.”
“Maybe, but I usually don’t inform myself on a pathetic band of thugs who probably couldn’t intimidate a little girl let alone me.”
This gets a rise out of the large man as he clenches his teeth and snarls at Balbanes. He looks up at the smaller man and gives him a subtle nod. The smaller man is as quick as a snake and draws out a hidden dagger and places it up against Balbanes throat. Before anybody could react, he had Balbanes out of his chair and moving. The smaller man gently says “Don’t do anything stupid now.”
The adventurers stand up with their weapons drawn. Gwent notices the confrontation and begins to head over with his crossbow out. The larger man says “We will be on our way with mister Balbanes here. You can either have a pleasant evening and walk away or you can die here and now. Your choice.”
Daeilda exclaims “Don’t you hurt him you bastards!”
Belza places her hand on her chin looking as if she is contemplating their offer, but she is actually preparing a darkness spell. Belza says “I prefer to die here and now!” and completes her spell by saying Vus. Darkness spills out from her completely enveloping the tavern in magical darkness. Everyone is surprised by the sudden blackout and has to find their bearings. The larger man and smaller man come together and escape through the front door with Balbanes in tow. The two other men stay behind and draw their weapons.
Daeilda approaches a figure in the darkness but it is hard to tell whether it is friend or foe. She does notice that it is a taller figure so she takes a chance and hopes that it isn’t Kit that she strikes. She winds up her quarterstaff and strikes at the targets knee. The thug cries out in surprise and wildly swings at his attacker, but due to the darkness and Daeilda’s height, she easily evades his blows. Faer hearing the thugs cries approaches carefully drawing his battle axe and prepares an undercut swing. Once he feels he is within range, he yells out catching the thug by surprise and brings his axe right between his legs, cutting his left thigh badly. The thug grunts from the blow and tries to cover his open wound with his hand. Gwent hears the open combat, but is too far away to make out the enemy. He decides to wing it and prepares to cast magic missile. He successfully casts the spell and a shard of pure energy jets out from his hand. The shard zigzags between legs and fallen chairs to accurately find its target which turned out to be Daeilda. The missile strikes her right in the back and she cries out in pain. Daeilda is not too sure what just happened. She wildly swings behind her, but she just strikes at a fallen chair.
Daeilda regains herself and tries to take another swing at her nearest opponent. She brings up her quarterstaff and plants it right under the thugs chin causing him to bite on his own tongue. Faer brings up his battle axe and swings down at an angle trying to embed his axe into the thug’s neck, but due to the darkness he completely misses his target and the axe heads for Daeilda. Daeilda hears Faer’s grunt and looks up just in time to see the sliver sheen of his axe head coming right at her. She ducks milliseconds before the axe would have beheaded her.
Gwent is still not too sure about where the enemies are so he brings up his crossbow and fires wildly into the darkness. The bolt embeds itself into the wall of the tavern. Gwent curses under his breath and loads another bolt. This time, Gwent concentrates fiercely to try and pierce through the darkness and locate an enemy. He finds a figure that is the tallest around and figures this must be a foe. He brings up his crossbow and fires. The bolt strikes right into the thug’s bicep and he now has a bolt sticking out of his left arm. He cries out in pain and drops his shield.
Daeilda continues to attack her opponent and gains some ground as she strikes him in the head, arms, and legs. She is just too quick for him defend himself. Faer prepares to cast an Inflict Light Wounds spell and tries to touch the thug, but the thug is just evading blows from Daeilda and Faer can’t get a hold of him. The thug is becoming too tired and trips over a fallen chair. He falls on the ground and Daeilda yells out and strikes him right in the temple, knocking him unconscious.
On the other side of the room, Belza moves sure footed through the darkness since she made sure to get a quick lay out of the area before she cast her darkness spell. She quickly and silently strides up to the other thug and slides her dagger right into a gap in his armor. He grunts completely surprised by this attack and bends over in pain. Kit hears this grunt and approaches with his longsword out and strikes. He swings his sword right at the target but it glances off of the greatclub which causes some sparks that light up the area. Kit sees the face of his enemy and knows that it is one of the thugs and becomes more confident with his swings. They exchange blows as Kit attacks and the thug tries to defend himself with his greatclub. Belza slowly approaches her enemy as he is distracted while fighting Kit and tries to plant her knife right into his kidney. But at the last second before her blow, he turns away and her knife glances off one of the buckles on his armor.
The thug staggers Kit with a strong blow and turns to look right at Belza and says “Gotcha!” He swings his greatclub up with devastating force right into Belza’s chest causing her to lose her breath momentarily. Kit regains himself and continues his onslaught to help protect Belza.
Belza gulps at the air trying to get a breath into her lungs. Her muscles are disobeying her and she is starting to lose consciousness. As a last ditch effort, she balls her hand into a fist and strikes as hard as she can at her chest. Her muscles immediately react and she takes in a lung full of air. She takes several deep breaths, trying to get control of herself again. She slowly gets up and stalks over to the thug that just struck her.
Kit continues trying to assault the thug. Kit is beginning to become sluggish with his blows and feels fatigue approaching, but the thug hasn’t given up any ground and doesn’t seem to be tiring. Kit feels he may soon be in trouble if this guy doesn’t make a mistake. The thug blocks a blow from Kit and quickly strikes him in the chest. Kit drops his sword and is completely defenseless and realizes death may be imminent. The thug brings up his greatclub over his head and prepares to deliver a crushing blow. Kit closes his eyes and thinks of home. The thug begins his swing and suddenly stops and loses his focus on Kit.
The thug looks down and sees a dagger placed perfectly between his armored plates with Belza on the other end of the dagger. She says “Gotcha!” and slashes her dagger out through the armor. This opens a massive wound in his abdomen and his large intestines spilled out through the hole. The thug drops his club and slowly tries to put his intestines back in his body. Belza quickly looks away at this horrific sight and Kit is just dumbfounded at what just happened. The thug begins to feel drowsy from the blood loss and closes his eyes. He drops to his knees and falls forward on his face letting his intestines fall freely out.
With the battle complete, one enemy disemboweled and another unconscious, the adventurers decide to drag out the still living enemy and question him about where they have taken Balbanes. They drag out the thug from complete darkness into the evening that is lit by the moon.
The demon moon sees all of this and smiles.
A child sits on the window sill of his room looking out at the city below. With one leg swinging over the edge, he takes in the thrill of being up past his bed time. Thinking of when he will be able to strike out into the world on his own and what kind of adventures he will have. The fantasies of a young boy. He looks up to see the moon smiling down upon him and feels a sense of unease. He shakes it off and looks down to notice something odd. A group of people coming out of the Weeping Alchemist and dragging what looks like a large rug. Silly adults, drinking their adult drinks and getting into trouble. On closer inspection, the child actually realizes that the large rug is actually a body. The child panics and closes his shutters. He runs over to his bed and hides himself under the covers. He tries to slow his breathing and hopes that he wasn’t seen.
Faer looks at his patient and attempts to clean up his wounds. None of them are lethal but they may become infected later on. Faer says a silent prayer to Pelor and wraps up the thugs leg. Daeilda kneels down next Faer and watches as he heals her attacker suppressing her silent rage. Kit walks outside looking for any signs of Balbanes or his captors and notices a cart next to the side of the inn. There are no horses attached to the cart. He figures they must have cut them loose and ridden them out of town. Belza and Gwent exit the inn and Gwent notices Kit looking at the cart trying to find some tracks and heads over to him. “What did you find?”
“Looks like they came here in this cart and fled with just the horses.” Kit stands up and says “I’m gonna follow these tracks as best I can to see if we can get a general direction they went.”
Faer comes over to the pair wiping blood off his wands with a damp cloth. “He seems to be stable now. Shouldn’t be dying any time soon I should think.”
Daeilda comes over with concern on her face and whispers “We need to find out where they took Balbanes.”
Belza says “Agreed. We should interrogate this bandit and see what we can find out about where they took him.”
Kit says “OK, I’m gonna see if these tracks lead anywhere.” Faer nods and replies “I’ll back you up.”
Gwent says “I’ll search the cart and see if they left any clues.
They break apart, each with their tasks in mind. Gwent approaches the cart and mumbles to himself “Well this may be a challenge.” He circles the cart trying to find a good starting place to climb aboard. There is none that will accommodate his height, so he decides he’ll try a running jump into the back of the cart. Gwent stands about twenty feet away and charges with all the speed he can muster with his tiny legs. As soon as he is close enough, he plants both feet down and pleads with his muscles to kick as hard as they can. He soars into the air, admiring the sensation of the highest jump he has ever accomplished. He is so proud of himself until he smashes his torso right into the bed of the cart. He exhales most of the air in his lungs with a loud “Ouuuffff” and begins to slide back down to the ground. He panics and tries to grab onto something and finds a loose board on the cart. He grabs on with his tiny fingers and stops his descent to the ground. He gives a sigh of relief and pulls himself up on board.
Looking at the cart, Gwent notices that it seems to be just a normal pulling cart. Benches on either side for passengers, extra wagon wheels on both sides, and miscellaneous equipment for any wagon repairs on the road. He does find a small chest, but it appears to only hold frayed rope and a hammer. No real leads as to where the Thugs ran off to. He slowly descends the cart and returns to Belza and Daeilda. “Nothing in the cart that will help us locate Balbanes.”
Belza is tying up the prisoner with a series of knots around his wrists and ankles. She turns to Gwent and says “Well it was a good idea to check.” Daeilda cries out “He’s waking up!”
Belza and Gwent turn and find the Thug lightly shaking his head and trying to regain focus on the world. He blinks a couple of times and finds the eyes of Belza. He gently says “Ello’ love. Here to give Reli a kiss are you?” Belza dismisses the man, but Daeilda rushes up to him and cries “Where did you take my Balbanes?” The thug is a tall black man with curly black hair and green eyes. He would almost be considered handsome if he did not have a hideous scar down running down the right side of his cheek. He also has the worst looking teeth any of them have ever seen. They look like little green squares in his mouth marked with tiny black dots that probably indicate holes in his teeth. The thug is taken a back and says “I’m sorry my dear, but I have no idea what you’re on about.”
Daeilda smacks him across the face and screams “Don’t lie to me you Bastard!” Gwent comes up to Daeilda and places his hands around her shoulders to try and calm her. “Shhhh it’s gonna be OK Daeilda. Let’s come over here and take a breath while Belza chats with our friend here.” Gwent leads her away towards the cart.
Belza calmly walks to the thug and kneels in front of him so they are eye to eye. “What’s your name?”
“Relish, love.” He gives a Belza a big grin, reveling his repulsive maw. She does notice that they do look a little like relish bits and holds back the urge to vomit.
“OK so here’s what’s gonna happen. I’m going to ask you some questions and you are gonna answer them honestly and fully. If I am not satisfied with an answer, I am gonna take my dagger here and start hacking off body parts. My friend Faer may not agree with my methods, but he will keep you alive and conscious through the whole affair until we get what we want. Understood?”
Relish looks at the dagger in Belza’s hand and understands that she means business. He nods his head slowly in agreement. Belza smiles and says “Good. Then let us begin. Who are you guys?”
Relish drops his charismatic charm and gets straight to business “We’re just a local gang in Adech. We follow our leader named Jager.”
“Why are you after Balbanes?”
“It was just a bounty that we received that said capture the Bard Balbanes alive for a substantial reward. I mean we’re talkin a lot of money.”
“Where did you take him?”
“Probably back to our hideout would be my best guess.”
“Where is your hideout?”
“A few miles to the North in a cave found in the mountains. You can find it right next to a tree in the forest that was struck by lightning.”
“How many members are in your gang?”
“Well there’s me, our leader, his right hand named Amos, the guy you killed in the Inn was named Hesh, then we have three other members who stayed behind to guard the cave named Polly, Billy ‘Four-fingers’, and Snot. So looks like five members remain. Excluding me of course.”
“Alright. Wait here while we decide what to do with you.”
Belza heads back over to Daeilda and Gwent and tells them everything she has learned. Faer and Kit return out of breath. Kit relays that he found the tracks leading north out of town, but he could not track any further due to the over grown forest. Kit and Faer are informed of the situation and now they need to come up with a plan to save Balbanes. The adventurers discuss amongst themselves in a huddle near the cart. Relish tries to figure out what it is they are planning but cannot interpret their hushed whispers. There are times when the discussion becomes quite heated, but they settle back to their whispers and continue. After a half hour of discussion, they finally break off and approach Relish. Belza kneels down and says “OK Relish, here is the plan…”
The adventurers and Relish are all packed into the cart heading out of the town of Adech with two fresh mounts leading them. Relish is tied to the cart with a bag over his head, but the things he has heard in the past five minutes bring chills down his spine. He thinks to himself “What is the matter with these people? They are insane.” Gwent holds a severed head in his hands as he is studying the face intensely. Kit and Belza are smeared head to toe with blood in the front of the cart while Faer and Daeilda sit quietly in the back. Screams of townsfolk come from behind them.
The cart heads into the forest and follows a recently made path. It travels north keeping near the face of the mountain to their east. They travel for forty-five minutes when Kit pulls on the reins to slow the horses. He notices a burnt tree ahead that looks like the lightning struck tree that Relish had described. Belza whispers “Alright, we’ll hoof it from here.” Everyone jumps out of the cart except for Relish who is tied down. Belza comes over to Relish and says “OK here is what’s gonna happen, I am gonna cut you free. If I should come to regret this decision, I swear I will cut you open, rip out your guts, and hang you with your own intestines. Are we clear?”
Belza cuts Relish’s bindings and he takes off the bag over his head. He nods with obvious fear in his eyes and says “Crystal clear.”
“Good. Gwent you ready?”
Gwent nods his head and tosses the severed head he was holding into the forest with an audible Thunk as it hits a tree. Relish looks away at the remains of his departed partner. “Bastards.” He whispers under his breath. Then Relish recalls something his dear leader once said when they found this hideout and claimed it as their own. A pact. He smiles to himself.
Belza whispers “OK. Gwent, you are going to disguise yourself as Hesh. You and Relish here are going to march Faer in to the hideout as a prisoner saying that he was the only member alive after the fight. Try to convince the guards to come in with you so that we can get in undetected. Once you are inside, see if you can find Balbanes. If not, just present Faer to Jager and try to get everyone inside there. When you are ready to surprise them, say ‘Looks like a storms a comin.’ We’ll bust into the room to catch them off guard. Faer will easily escape his bindings and join the fight. Relish, if you want to live, you will get down and stay out of our way. If not, we will cut you down with the rest of them. Agreed. Alright let’s go.”
Relish holds his hand up and says “Hold on one moment. Although this sounds like a good plan, there is an easier way for you to sneak into the hideout. A secret entrance.”
Belza looks puzzled “A secret entrance?” She scolds in a hushed whisper “Why didn’t you tell us about this before!”
“You never asked.”
“Where is this entrance?”
“A few hundred feet to the north hidden by brush”
“Why should we trust you?”
“Listen, I am just looking out for my own neck now. Your plan may turn out fine, but I have some reservations myself. These guards may be dumb as a sack of rocks, but they know Hesh and me. If they think one thing is odd about us, they will draw down on us faster than you could ever hope to help us. By then, your element of surprise is gone with a couple of your teammates as well which you are going to need if you want to kill these guys. So I offer you an alternative option that will give you the same results with a much greater chance for success.”
Belza stands quietly contemplating this proposal. The adventurers look at each other seeming to come to the same conclusion silently. This idea did seem a lot safer and much more likely to help Balbanes. Everyone nods and Belza says “OK we’re gonna give this a shot. You guys wait here with Relish while I scout ahead. If I’m not back in five minutes, kill him.”
Kit draws a knife and holds it to Relish’s throat and whispers in his ear “With pleasure.”
Belza dives into the brush pushing back hanging tree limbs and evading gnarled roots sticking out of the ground. About one hundred yards into the brush, she turns east towards the mountain. The forest ends and there is about ten feet of open ground between the mountain and the forest. Belza steps from the trees and looks around but finds nothing there. She walks to the mountain and continues heading north searching for this cave entrance. After another one hundred feet, she finds an arrangement of brush leaning on the mountain. She approaches with caution and carefully removes the foliage. Behind the brush is a small cave that leads into the mountain. Belza peers inside, but only sees darkness and hears nothing but an intermittent dripping of water hitting the ground. Satisfied, she turns back to the forest and heads back to her party’s camp. Belza quietly returns to camp and whispers “So I found the entrance. Doesn’t look like its guarded so this looks like are way in. Everybody ready?” Everyone draws their weapons and gets into formation.
Gwent says “We should keep Relish in front with Faer just in case someone stumbles upon us.”
Belza nods in agreement “Alright Relish, you ready?”
Relish takes in a large breath of air and lets it out and says “Ready.”
“Alright, you got point.”
Relish and Gwent take the lead with Faer behind them. Belza and Daeilda and Kit remain about thirty feet behind them. Relish knows the layout of this area very well and knows exactly where to step, but Gwent, with his stubby frame, is having difficulty. They come to the cave entrance and stop. Relish looks down at Gwent and nods, then turns to Faer and nods. He enters the cave with Gwent and Faer behind him. Belza, Daeilda and Kit wait thirty seconds in case they have fallen into a trap. They don’t hear anything and proceed from the tree line and enter the cave.
The cave is very dark. There is a light source at the very end of the tunnel that seems like it is one hundred feet away, but it is difficult to tell. The cave looks like it is a natural formation with a few worked parts to expand any areas of the tunnel that weren’t big enough for a tall dwarf or a crouching human. The entrance is damp and has the smell of dead vegetation, perhaps moss or some sort of mushroom. There is also a breeze coming from up ahead that carries the smell of stale bread, onions, and some stew. It seems like someone had just eaten dinner or is just sitting down now. Other than the dripping water at the entrance there is a barely audible mumbling that seems like it is coming from the depths of the cave. It is hard to tell what it is they are saying, but it seems like two people conversing.
Gwent and Relish step further into the tunnel with Fear immediately behind them. Belza, Daeilda and Kit enter the cave thirty feet behind them. Gwent whispers in Relish’s ear “So how often do you use this entrance anyway? Seems pretty old.”
“Not very often. Mainly it’s used to lose a tail when we got someone tracking us, but that doesn’t usually happen. Actually, I’ve never used this way before.”
As they delve further into the cave, it begins to expand out allowing everyone to stand comfortably and stand two abreast. Relish subtly looks back to see where everyone is. The rear guard is about thirty feet back which should be close enough.
They are about half-way to the light source at the end of the tunnel. That’s when Relish begins searching above him. He sees the bar about five feet in front of him and prepares himself. He looks down and sees the device right in the middle of the floor. Relish takes a couple of steps forward to distance himself from Gwent and Faer. He slams his foot on the device and immediately jumps into the air and grabs onto the metal bar. He turns his head and says “So long Suckers!”
With no time to react, the adventurers just ready their weapons. They fall into a trap that was well hidden and well designed. The floor had folded in on itself about sixty feet from the center where Relish is hanging. Everyone slides down the floor with nothing to grab onto and are dropped into a chute that descends down to the lower levels of the cave. At the end of the chute, they are spat out into a prison cell big enough to fit ten large men. The floor has a layer of water on it that is about ankle high. The cell itself is roughly thirty feet by thirty feet by fifteen feet high, has strong steel bars and reaches from the floor all the way to the ceiling. The hole in the ceiling where they dropped from remains open, but they can hear the closing of the tunnel floor above them.
As they begin to regain control of themselves, they hear the distinct shink-shink of someone sharpening a knife. They look around to find a larger room, the cave walls surround them and are about ten feet away all around the cell. Towards the front of the cave, they see a man with a butcher’s apron and a cowl over his head, hiding his face. He is covered in blood and holding a very large hunting knife and a whetstone. He is standing next to a table that looks like it has a wide variety of torture tools and a tortures rack that is empty but has stains of blood soaked into the wood. He giggles “Ohh goodie! More things to play with. I really do enjoy my play things, but they tend not to like me. Will you like me?” He turns around and walks behind a curtain with several light sources on the other side so that it looks like there are three people behind the curtain instead of one.
Faer grunts as he stands up from the water covered floor, “Is everyone OK?” Gwent replies “I’m good.” Daeilda shakes her head “Yeah, just a headache.” Kit stands and says “Fine here.” Belza remains on her hands and knees. She slams her fist into the water splashing water back on her face, “Dammit. I can’t believe I let that asshole lead us into a trap like this. I’m so stupid.” She slams her palm into her forehead repeatedly in frustration. Faer kneels down to Belza and grabs her hand to stop her from hitting herself. “It’s OK. None of us thought he would actually turn on us. This is on all of us. But the past is the past and there is no use bellyaching about how we got here. How are we going get out of here?”
Daeilda approaches the door and tests the lock. It appears to be a good looking lock made out of strong steel. A swift kick to the door is not going to do it. Daeilda whispers “Lock looks pretty strong so we either need a key or we need to pick it open.” Belza leans back on her knees and stands up straight. She says “Well, I have some tools with me, but if it’s a good lock like you say, I may not have the proper equipment I need.”
Kit pipes in “What about those?” Kit is pointing at the table next to the torturers curtain. There is an assortment of knives and pliers needed for the torturers craft, but sitting in the middle of the table is a tool case full of thieves’ tools. There are several styles of lock picks, a wax mold to make keys, several knives and weights for disabling devices.
Belza comes over to Kit and says “Yeah. Those could work. How do we get them though?”
Gwent cracks his knuckles and lets out a little chuckle, “He he he. Why don’t you leave that to me?” Gwent steps up to the cage and mumbles a few words under his breath while he performs intricate hand gestures. After a minute of preparation, he says the word Kro Haal and the set of thieves’ tools lifts into the air. Gwent mimics wrapping up the case of tools and a few feet away, the tools magically wrap themselves up. Gwent then beckons the tools over with an open hand and the tools slowly glide through the air, between the jail bars and plant themselves right into Gwent’s hands. Everyone is thoroughly impressed with Gwent’s abilities and pat him on the shoulder.
Gwent hands Belza the tools and Belza opens them up admiring the pristine craftsmanship of this set of tools. She takes a look at the lock and decides what tools she need and grabs them from the set. She kneels in front of the door and inserts her picks into the lock. Slowly and gently, she places each tumbler into position. After the final tumbler drops into position, she begins to turn the lock and hears an audible click. Everyone freezes, wondering if the torturer heard the lock. After ten gut wrenching seconds, everyone lets out a sigh of relief.
Belza slowly opens the door, in case the hinges are rusted and will squeak, but the door opens quietly pushing water out with it, creating a small wave. Belza puts away her new found picks and slowly draws her dagger, looks at her teammates and puts her finger to her lips. She slowly wades out of the water onto dry stone and quietly approaches the curtain. She peaks around the side and finds the torturers back to her, setting up tools and testing shackles. Belza sneaks behind him, raises her dagger over her head, and plants the dagger in the back of the torturers neck, severing his spinal cord immediately. The torturer drops to the floor and is dead before he knew what happened.
Belza pulls out her dagger and returns to her party “Done.” Everyone nods and begins searching the area for a way out. Kit walks over to the table with the torturers tools and grabs a couple and puts them in his bag. Gwent asks “What do you need those for?”
“You never know.”
Gwent looks at Kit warily and turns back to look for an exit. Daeilda searches near the torturers rack and finds a small chest in the corner. “Hey! I found a chest.” She opens the lid and finds a pouch filled with various coins, two scrolls, and a vial of green, bubbly liquid. Everyone gathers near and Daeilda gives the potion and scrolls to Faer and Gwent. “Here. I think you should handle these.”
Gwent and Faer intensely study the scrolls, trying to remember specific words and phrases from their studies and they correctly identify that there is a scroll of purify food and drink and a scroll of remove fear. Faer also studies the potion and identifies that it is a potion of remove fear. They place the scrolls and potion in their packs and continue to search for an exit.
Belza cries out “Over here!” and points to a hole in the wall that was hidden by the cave formation itself. It leads to a wooden spiral stair case that leads to the upper levels of the cave. Belza says “Ready?” and Kit draws his Longsword and replies “Let’s do this.”
Kit slowly ascends the stairs with Belza, Daeilda, Gwent, and Faer behind. They reach the top of the stairs and find that they have emerged back in hallway that they originally enter in. To their right is the tunnel with the secret entrance. To their left is the light source they saw. The tunnel gently curves to the right leading further into the cave. Kit nods to Belza and signals that he is going left. Belza nods and tells everyone behind her what the plan is.
Kit silently walks down the hallway on the right side while Belza and Daeilda are on the left side. Gwent and Faer are bringing up the rear. As they are walking down the hallway, they notice that it is well lit in this part of the section with torches every few feet. They also notice that as they travel further into the cave, the stonework of the walls is becoming more and more intricate in style. This part of the cave was built by master craftsman. As they travel a few hundred feet down into the cave, they notice a wall in front of them that diverts the path into two directions, left and right. As they approach the intersection, Belza peaks around the corner and looks to the right, while Kit peaks around the corner and looks to the left. Belza sees that the path continues a little further and turns left but otherwise nothing else. Kit see that the path turns to the right instead and also sees a guard sitting in a chair placed in the corner of the hallway.
He appears to be asleep and has not noticed Kit. Kit taps Belza on the shoulder and points in the direction of the guard. Belza looks around the corner to see the guard and pulls out her dagger. She silently approaches her prey and slashes her dagger across the guard’s throat. He grabs hold of his gushing wound and tries scream for help, but Belza’s cut was too deep and had severed the guards vocal cords. He slowly drops to the floor as blood seeps out of his hands. He slumps backwards and allows his hands to drop to the floor as well. He begins to lose focus on his surroundings and slips into death’s embrace.
Belza wipes her blade on her sleeve and peers around the corner. Kit goes to the opposite side of the wall and also peers around the corner. They both see the same thing. The adventurers find themselves in a larger cavern that is dissimilar to the cave they have been exploring. It is approximately one hundred feet by fifty feet by thirty feet high. It seems to have been worked by master stone craftsman who have turned a dingy cave into a masterful audience chamber. Pillars that look like men have been crafted into the stone walls seeming to hold up the mountain above them. There are torches placed on the hips of the men on each pillar, fully illuminating every corner of the room. The floor is clean and polished white marble stone. At the far end of the room, there is a large, ornate table big enough to fit twenty men. It includes a large chair that is fit for a high lord or a king. There is no food on the table but there are used pewter plates and cups that are out of place on this extravagant piece of furniture. To their right is the dais that sits a large stone chair, made for a giant rather than a man. Behind it is a large Statue of a Creature that stands atop a pile of human skulls. It is wearing a helmet that looks dented and battered. It only wears a cloth around its waist so you can see many scars and battle wounds on its muscular body. In its right hand, it holds a large mace over its head that looks brutal and demonic in nature. In its left hand, it holds what looks like a human. The human looks like a toy compared to the beast and is screaming, trying to escape its grasp.
In the corner of the room, between the throne and the table, you see two men talking to another in a chair. One of the men is smaller and has a sword on each hip; the other is large and has an excellent looking shield on his back. On closer inspection, the man in the chair is Balbanes. He is neatly tied up and is conversing with his captors.
“Gentlemen, is this really necessary?”
“Shut up! You are not leaving my sight again. Not after what you did to Snot. Guy won’t be able to walk straight for a week.”
“I told you before. That wasn’t me. A rock fell on his head. Honest.”
The large one pulls back his arm and delivers a devastating punch to Balbanes face. Daeilda gasps in horror at this sight and quickly covers her mouth with her hands.
The smaller one says “Hey. The missive said they want him alive. We may not get the whole bounty if you keep bruising up his face like that.”
“It said they want him alive. He’s alive ain’t he? Who cares if we bruise that pretty face of his?”
“I’m just sayin.”
“Noted. Now go grab us some chairs. We’re gonna wait here until that courier comes back with further instructions”
“That’s gonna be days away boss. He’s knocked out cold.”
“No he ain’t. He’s fakin. And with a bounty like his, I ain’t lettin him out of my sight until that chest of gold is right in front of my eyes.”
The smaller one goes to the table and grabs two of the smaller chairs. He brings them over in front of Balbanes and sets one up for himself and the larger man. After seeing this, everyone returns around the corner so they cannot be seen and discuss what the plan is.
Faer says “OK, so we have a bit of a gap between us and them. We’ll want to close that quickly and quietly so I think Belza and Kit should approach from the right side. Once you guys are within range to accurately strike, we’ll come out running and screaming. They will turn around to us and you hit them hard. Then we engage. Who wants to help Balbanes out of the bindings?”
Belza speaks up “Well I’ll be closer so I’ll go untie Balbanes.”
Faer nods “OK, but before you go I’ll cast a spell on you.” Faer brings out his holy symbol of Pelor and begins a quick prayer. He finishes by saying Pelor, shield us from the unholy blight and his hands glow brilliantly. He gently touches Belza and a transparent shield covers her entire body. She tries to touch her hands but an invisible force pushes it away. Belza draws her crossbow and readies a bolt. Kit has his longbow ready. Gwent asks Daeilda if he could climb on her shoulders since he would be the slowest of the group. Daeilda agrees and kneels down so Gwent can climb onto her shoulders. Daeilda stands up and has her quarterstaff in her hands. Gwent draws his crossbow and readies a bolt on Daeilda’s shoulders. Faer draws his battle axe.
Kit and Belza crouch down and try to silently move into the audience chamber. The chamber is well lit and they are completely exposed so they hope they don’t make any noise as they move across the floor. Balbanes shakes his head into consciousness and looks across the room to find Kit and Belza coming towards him. Due to the blow to the face, Balbanes is not in a very rational state and thinks that this is just a dream. He blurts out “Hey look! My friends are here! Now you guys are in trouble.”
Kit and Belza freeze in the middle of the room as Jager and Amos turn to them. Kit curses under his breath and fires an arrow at Jager. Jager sees this coming and turns around. The arrow strikes right in the middle of the shield on his back and sticks in the shield. Daeilda sees that they are in trouble and runs into the room with Gwent on her shoulders screaming “Balbanes!”
Kit readies another arrow and fires at Amos, striking him on his right ear. Jager turns to see Daeilda running and screaming, and quickly kicks out his chair with incredible force and draws his Longsword and shield. Daeilda can’t react fast enough to evade the chair and is entangled and tumbles to the floor. Gwent is launched into the air when Daeilda falls and is heading straight for Jager’s face. Gwent panics and tries to grab onto Jager to keep from hitting the floor and finds himself face to face with this giant of a man. He smiles and jams his thumbs into Jager’s eye sockets. Jager cries out in pain at this sudden attack.
Amos sees this, quickly draws his two swords and strikes at Gwent to get him off of Jager. He slices his Longsword across Gwent’s back and Gwent cries out in pain and immediately lets go of Jager to drop to the floor.
Belza rushes over to help Daeilda get loose from the chair and stands her up on her own two feet. Faer charges from across the room with his battle axe over his head screaming.
Kit drops his longbow and draws his Longsword and charges right at Amos, but Amos is quick as a viper. He deflects Kits charge and Kit finds himself running past Amos instead of through him. Daeilda screams and flies at Amos trying to strike his face, but Amos easily blocks Daeilda with his two swords.
Jager stands tall and stalks toward Daeilda. He brings his sword up for a devastating blow that would decapitate an unsuspecting Victim. At the last second, Daeilda turns around and pulls her head back, but not enough. The sword slices down at an angle, cutting her from the left eye to her right jaw. A thin line of blood appears from her wound and begins to trickle down her face. She is stunned but still standing as if surprised by the events that just occurred.
Gwent tumbles away from the battle and tries to cast a spell. He gets up on his knees and says Gaaf Vaak and points directly behind Jager. There begins to emit a sound like someone is charging right behind Jager, but there is no one there. Jager reacts and immediately turns around, but finds nothing there except Kit who is in combat with Amos.
Amos twirls his blades in his hands and walks towards Kit. He swings his Longsword in a lazy attempt at a slashing attack across Kit’s chest. Kit deflects the blow easily and Amos smiles to himself. As Kit was watching the lazy attack, he did not see Amos’ Shortsword coming from below. Amos pierced Kit in the lower right side of his abdomen. The sword punctured Kit’s liver and he began to bleed internally. Amos pulls his sword out and Kit places his hand over the wound.
Belza runs over to Balbanes dropping her crossbow. She draws her dagger and begins to cut the rope that binds him to the chair.
Balbanes says “You came for me.”
“Of course we did, now help us get out of this alive!”
Belza finishes cutting the rope and Balbanes rubs his wrist to get some feeling back in his hands. Balbanes says “OK. I’ve got just the thing.”
With no equipment on him, Balbanes begins to hum a simple tune. He holds out his hands and says Lorvaas and a spectral violin appears in his hands with a bow. He checks the tuning and when satisfied, he begins to play an inspiring tune. His allies hear the music and immediately understand that Balbanes is fine and begin to fight with a renewed vigor. They go on the offensive to defeat their enemies.
Faer begins to cast a cure light wounds spell in his hand while running towards Daeilda. He jumps into the air and completes the spell by saying Pelor, heal the faithful. But Faer lands a little bit short of Daeilda. He slides across the floor not sure if he will reach Daeilda in time to save her. He just runs out of momentum when he reaches out and touches Daeilda’s ankle. She is imbued with life and her wound begins to heal with no scar to be seen.
Daeilda turns around towards Amos and charges. She trips up Amos with her quarterstaff causing him to fall to the floor and then she strikes him in the head with the other end of the staff. Kit stumbles over to Amos and places his sword over his chest. He then lets his own weight fall on the sword and pierces Amos’ chest. Amos lets out one gasp of air and collapses back to the floor. Jager sees this and screams in fury. He lashes out at Kit with his Longsword. Kit is surprised by this and cannot pull his sword free from Amos to defend himself. Jager slashes across Kit’s chest causing him to fall to the floor defenseless and clinging to life.
Faer quickly picks himself up and prepares another cure light wound spell in his hand by saying Pelor, heal the faithful. Belza strides over to Jager and tries to place her dagger in his belly, but cannot find a place to get through his armor. Jager catches Belza in the act and knocks her back with a blow from his shield. She shakes off this attack and tries again. She slashes across his arm to try and disarm his shield, but only caught a glancing blow across his splint mail. Jager growls at Belza and slashes his sword at her, but she easily dodges out of the way.
Gwent stands up and finds his crossbow on the floor. He picks it up and fires a bolt right at Jager, but it whizzes right by Jager’s head. Daeilda moves to Jager and flanks him on his back with Belza in front. She strikes out with her quarterstaff in several places causing him to turn around and face Daeilda.
Belza takes advantage of this and finds a gap in his armor on his backside. She takes her dagger plunges her dagger through the gap piercing his stomach. Jager is stunned with pain. He looks down and gives a gentle cough as blood begins to ooze from his mouth. He drops down to his knees not actually able to believe what just happened. Belza takes her dagger out of Jager’s back and holds it above her head with both hands. She slams the dagger into the top of his head and snaps the handle off of the dagger. Jager’s eyes roll to the top of his head and he falls down flat on his face. The battle is over. The Adventurers have won.
Faer quickly steps over the dead Jager and moves to heal the badly injured Kit. Faer places his glowing hands over him and his wounds begin to heal quickly. Balbanes stops playing his ghost instrument and it immediately begins to fade away. “You guys came for me…”
Daeilda sees Balbanes and rushes over into his arms. He is taken aback to actually see this much emotion coming from Daeilda, but he gently returns her embrace and holds her in his arms. Gwent hobbles over holding his back with his left hand and says “Of course we came. We weren’t just gonna leave you here and let you succumb to whatever fate you were heading towards.”
“Thank you. All of you. Gwent, you need a little help there?”
“Well now that you mention it.” Gwent takes a seat on the ground, no longer able to stand on his feet.
Balbanes breaks from Daeilda and kneels next to Gwent. “Don’t worry about it. You’ll be back to your gambling self in no time.”
“Please. I bet you one gold piece that you’ll muck this up. How bout it?”
“Ha ha. Not on your life.”
Balbanes begins to hum deep in his throat. He begins to place his hands over Gwent’s back and says Dun. Gwent’s skin begins to connect and start to scab. “Should have minimal scaring.”
“Is everyone else OK?”
Kit gets up into a sitting position and says “Never better.” He grunts as he stands on his feet.
Faer looks up at Balbanes and says “What about you? That fist to the face couldn’t have been pleasant.”
“This? Na. I’ll have a black eye in the morning but otherwise it won’t kill me. Makes me look distinguished.”
Belza steps into the circle and says “Well now that we’re all happy and healed up, Balbanes what the Hell man! Why did you give our surprise attack away?”
“Sorry bout that. I really wasn’t in the right state of mind. I didn’t actually think you guys were real. Thought it was just a dream.”
“Right. Well now that we have Balbanes, what do we do now? Is there an exit?”
“Yeah just down that way, but it’s guarded.”
Daeilda speaks up “How many?”
“There were two when they brought me in, but another guy came in from the way you guys came. He chatted with Amos for a minute before heading towards the other guards. If he is there, you’ll have three to tend with. What? What’s wrong?”
Belza is looking at everyone and they all nod in return except Balbanes who looks confused as to what’s going on.
“He’s the guy that tricked us and sent us down a trap to be tortured.”
“Ahh. So revenge?”
“Yes. Revenge. Come on.”
They head down the tunnel Balbanes pointed to moments ago. It is dark inside but at the end of the tunnel, they can see the light of dawn peeking into the cave. As they get closer to the entrance, they see three people. On the right is a woman leaning against the walls of the entrance. On the left, they see a man with what looks like four fingers on his right hand. And in between them is the familiar face that is Relish.
Belza takes point on this and looks at Gwent and Daeilda. She points at the woman and signals right. She looks at Kit and Faer and points at Four Fingers on the left. Then she points at herself and points at Relish. She looks at Faer’s battle axe and points at it. Faer looks at his weapon, shrugs and hands over his weapon to Belza. She nods and holds her left hand up in the air with three fingers. Everyone understands, at zero, strike.
They move into position and no one is heard. Belza holds up her hand, three, two, one, zero and everyone attacks simultaneously.
Gwent fires a bolt right at the back of Polly’s head. The bolt tears through flesh and hair to effectively scalp the back of Polly’s head. Immediately, Daeilda takes her dagger and slashes it across Polly’s throat letting her bleed out on the ground.
Faer brings up his shield and pivots so that the edge slams right into Four Finger’s neck. Four Fingers drops to the ground holding his neck and trying to get air into his lungs. He scrambles on the ground when Kit steps up to him with his sword over his head and brings it down on his neck. Four Fingers’ head is cleanly severed and blood begins to spurt out of his neck.
Belza sneaks up on Relish and slams the back of Relish’s head with the haft of the battle axe. Relish staggers forward seeing stars in his vision and turns around as Belza swings the battle axe across his stomach. She slices open his belly and exposes his intestines to the outside world. She then slams the head of the axe into his gaping wound. Relish is speechless and is unable to utter a word due to his surprise and the unbearable pain he is in. He falls to the ground with blood on his lips. Belza leans over, whispers in his ear “I always keep my promises.” and turns away to let him bleed out.
Faer, with his merciful nature, goes to Relish and takes the axe from his stomach. It tears away pieces of intestine with it. He wipes off the organs from the axe and raises it above his head. He plants the axe firmly between the eyes of Relish. Faer puts a boot on Relish’s face and heaves the axe away with a meaty thunk as it is removed from bone and brain.
Balbanes steps up buckling his equipment back into place on his body. He looks at the carnage and turns to Belza “Remind me not to get on your bad side.”
Belza nods and walks back inside the cave.
Everyone gathers together and Kit says “What now?”
Balbanes proposes “Well, as you guys were demolishing these guards, I had a look around the audience chamber and found a large treasure chest. Maybe we should go check it out.”
Everyone agrees and they step back into the cave. As they enter, they notice that there are bloody foot prints on the pristine white marble floors. Belza sits by the table and is looking forlorn, lost in her thoughts. Kit walks over to Belza and places a gentle hand on her shoulder “You OK?”
She jumps and remembers where she is. She replies “I’m fine.” She stands up.
“Balbanes found a treasure chest. Let’s go see what spoils we have earned.”
This immediately perks up Belza’s spirits. The treasure is always the best part of a journey.
Everyone heads over to the chest which is tucked away in the corner of the dais and the wall. Daeilda asks “Is it locked?” Belza takes a look at it and says “Yeah but not very well. Should have this open in a jiffy.”
She pulls out her new found tools and begins to pick the lock. After sever minutes, there is a loud click as the lock is picked and the chest opens. They peer inside and find a bag of various amount of coins, an Adamantine armband with filigree carvings, a coral saucer, a piece of Chrysoberyl, a Mahogany tray carved with flowers, a Bloodstone, a cotton tunic with a royal crest of a Manticore, a piece of Tiger Eye Turquoise, a piece of Lapis Lazuli, a hammered brass wine cup, a Skill Shard, a Scroll of Bull’s Strength, a Wand of Cure Light Wounds, a Scroll of Knock, a Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds, and a Scroll of Remove Disease. There is also an Everburning torch sitting above the chest that the adventurers take.
“Looks like we got quite the haul.” says Gwent.
Belza chimes in “Indeed, but now what? Why were these men after you Balbanes?”
Balbanes shrugs his shoulders and says “I honestly have no idea. They said they received a bounty to capture me alive, but I have never seen a bounty for my head anywhere in this part of the world. So it seems odd that there is a secret bounty out for me. We should learn more.”
Kit asks “How?”
“Well they said they were waiting for the missive to return to give them further instructions on where to drop me off. If we wait here, the missive will return and we may learn something from it.”
Faer nods “OK so what are we going to do for the next couple of days.”
Balbanes smiles “Eat, drink and be merry! For we are alive, and that can’t be said about some people in the world.”
So the adventurers make camp and loot the cave for any valuables they may have missed. They loot the bodies of the dead, taking armor and weaponry. They sit and talk to fill the time.
Thinking of ways to kill time, Gwent approaches the giant throne and investigates further. The throne is about twenty feet tall and seems impossible for Gwent to be able to climb up there. He also took some time to look at the statue as well. He has a fairly substantial understanding of history under the guidance of Andelose, but he has never even read about a creature like this. He casts a detect magic spell to see if there is any magical aura emitting from this place. He says Siiv Lah and immediately finds a faint magical aura at the base of the statue. He concentrates further and finds an arcane mark that has been placed on the statue, but it is not visible. The detect magic spell forces the arcane mark to appear in bright red letters. It says Kroniid and from Gwent’s understanding of Draconic, it translates into “Conqueror”. Gwent, becoming curious by this statue, decides that he should find Andelose in Adech and inform him of this discovery.
The adventurers wait five days in the cave and are becoming concerned that the missive is not coming. Just as they are about to pack up and leave for Adech, a young man on a horse comes galloping up to the cave entrance. He deftly dismounts and runs to the group of adventurers. “Letter for a mister Balbanes.”
The adventurers are confused “Shouldn’t this be for Jager?” Belza says.
The young man shrugs, “I got instructions to deliver this to a mister Balbanes.”
Balbanes says “Who gave you these instructions and where?”
The boy shrugs again, “Hard to say. Older man I think, but kept his face covered. He gave me these instructions in the Dwarven city of Vohdor.”
Balbanes shakes his head, “I am Balbanes.”
“OK. Here you are.”
The boy hands over the letter and quickly runs back to his mount. He turns his horse around and darts back into the forest. Everyone looks at Balbanes as he gently opens the letter with his dagger and unfolds the letter.
Congratulations on your daring escape. Your friends must really care about you. You should appreciate this. My apologies for not delivering this letter in person. I feel it would be a grievous mistake if we were to meet with all of your limbs functioning. In due time. In the mean time, eat, be merry, and enjoy the company of your friends. You are never far from my thoughts.
A Secret Admirer
Balbanes hands the letter over so that everyone is able to read it. Everyone is thoroughly confused at the contents. Kit asks “So if this letter was delivered from Vohdor days ago, how the hell did he know that you had escaped and that we helped you?”
Balbanes looks thoughtfully at the ground and replies “Have any of you ever heard of Scrying?” He looks around and sees that Gwent’s eyes open wider.
“Scrying is a form of magic that allows the caster to observe people or places from worlds away. Usually those being viewed can sense when they are being scryed upon, but a sufficiently experienced wizard can scry a person without them even realizing it.”
Kit holds up his hand and says “So you’re saying you have a powerful wizard watching over you. Great.”
Gwent grabs a hold of the letter and feels a faint aura of magic coming from it. “Hold on guys. I sense something.” Gwent waves his hands over the letter and says Siiv Lah. He finds the source of magic; it is an invisible arcane mark. He places his hand over the mark and it starts to become visible in red ink. The arcane mark turns into a symbol. It looks like a rotated S with a line slashing through the middle to make a sort of X. There are two dots on the left and right of the mark. Balbanes quickly grabs the letter and turns white.
“This is a Segno mark. It is a musical mark to symbolize a repeating frame, but it has a more personal meaning to me. This is the unofficial symbol that my family took. Only we would know about it and what it means to us. Since my mother is dead, there could only be one person in the world who would understand the connection between me and this mark.”
Daeilda whispers “Your father.”
Balbanes nods. Faer says “So your father must be the Secret Admirer then. He was a spectacular Bard and would be able to scry like you said. Right?”
“Those things are true, but this isn’t my father’s style. My father always craved the spotlight. If he wanted to see me, he would just burst into the room at the most inconvenient moment and say ‘Miss me?’ This cloak and dagger business is definitely not him. But he is involved somehow. I don’t know.”
Belza says “Well we’re not going to figure anything out by sitting here and thinking. Let’s head back to Adech and we’ll figure something out from there.”
Balbanes nods his head and places the letter in his backpack.
The adventurers pack up all their gear and spoils and head back to Adech. They emerge from the cave into bright and brilliant daylight and find themselves on the road again.