In which the party overcome the nightmares of Seawell Lighthouse, single-handedly wipe out a platoon of bandits and, after an exciting chase sequence, obliterate Daveth Portos and drag him back to Sharn.
Before Yannar had a chance to react, the figure reached out one shadowy hand and seized the hand holding the lantern. Yannar felt horrible tendrils of icy cold creeping down his arm and staggered backwards with a yell of pain, almost dropping the lantern. Shaking his head, he held the lantern back up, but the doorway was empty.
“What!?” Fade exclaimed.
“Let’s leave,” Yannar panted.
The party hurried down the spiral staircase and into the entryway on the ground floor of the lighthouse. Yannar charged up to the main door and pulled on the handle. It did not move an inch. A look of horror fell over the paladin’s face, and he stepped shakily away from the door, informing the party of his discovery. Lowering his shoulder, he rammed the door as hard as he could, but simply rebounded off the strong door. Yannar stepped aside and Zanros attempted to break down the door, but again, it did not move at all.
At that moment, the party again heard an ethereal, whispered voice, saying; “Don’t leave us here.”
“I don’t think they’re going to let us leave,” Fade said timidly.
“They don’t want us to leave,” Zanros grunted. “Let’s put it that way.”
“Are you the lighthouse keeper?” Yannar called out. “Did I just meet the lighthouse keeper?” The party listened for a long moment, but the only sound was the wind howling and waves crashing on the shore outside.
“I think it’s safe to say, we don’t talk to it,” Zanros said. “It talks to us.”
“Should we try to take the bodies?” Yannar asked. “To give them a respectful burial?” Fade stepped up to the door and attempted to detect any magic that may be holding it shut, but found nothing out of the ordinary.
“If it’s locked normally,” Zanros mused, “we should search the lighthouse keeper’s body. If anyone’s going to have a key, he will.”
The party agreed, and made their way back up to the top floor and the main room of the lighthouse. Yannar and Fade hovered by the door, while Zanros and Renauld went over to the corpse of the lighthouse keeper. The young elf searched the body’s pockets, but found nothing. As he searched, Renauld saw a strange, shadowy shape emerge from the wall behind Zanros.
“Look out!” the changeling cried. Zanros jerked back, his hand falling to his glaive, but as quick as a flash, the shape reached out and grabbed the elf’s shoulder. Zanros fell back, crying out, his hand spasming. Yannar and Fade ran over to Zanros, while Renauld turned to the wall. The figure had disappeared.
Fade and Yannar helped Zanros to his feet. Shaking his arm, Zanros walked away from them without a word and began searching through the shattered dragonshard on the floor. He found a few pieces that might be reusable and slipped them into his pack.
“So, are we going for the burial option?” he asked.
“We can’t bury them if we can’t get out!” Fade snapped impatiently.
“If you want to try and pick up the lighthouse keeper’s body,” Renauld said thoughtfully, “we could take them all down and see if the door will open then.”
“We could put the family together in one room,” Zanros said. “Say a few words…”
“Shall we put them in the master bedroom, then?” Renauld queried. “Where the woman is.”
“If we’re going to do that, we’ve got to do it respectfully,” Yannar said, stepping forward and pulling his bedroll from his backpack.
Yannar wrapped the lighthouse keeper in his bedroll and carefully lifted the corpse over his shoulder, handing the lantern to Zanros. The young elf led the party out of the room towards the second floor of the lighthouse. As Fade went to close the door of the main room, she saw a ghostly figure standing where the body sat moments ago. With a yelp, the elf slammed the door closed.
The party headed to the lighthouse’s second floor and into the child’s bedroom. Respectfully, Renauld stepped over to the small bed and quickly wrapped the sheets around the body lying there. The changeling took the body in his arms, and the party sombrely left the room. They travelled down another floor and walked into the master bedroom, where the body of the lighthouse keeper’s wife still lay on the bed. As Zanros opened the door, he saw the figure standing by the bed, but within seconds, it was gone.
Fade quickly draped a blanket over the body of the woman, and once this was done, Yannar walked over to the bed and gently set the lighthouse keeper’s corpse down next to her. Renauld stepped forward and laid the child’s body between them. For a moment, the party stood there expectantly, awaiting some sign. None was forthcoming.
“Should we try the door again?” Zanros asked hesitantly.
“We might as well,” Renauld said. “This is as good as we can do while we’re trapped in a lighthouse.”
Renauld moved to the door which led into the sitting room, but upon trying to open it, found that it would not move. He yelled in frustration, scanning the door and finding no visible locks. Zanros tried the door at the other side of the bedroom and discovered that it too was sealed.
“What do you want!?” Renauld cried out. There was no response. Brushing his hair out of his face, the changeling strode forward and slightly unwrapped the sheet around the smaller body, only to see the decomposed face of a young boy. Grimacing, Renauld folded the sheet back over the boy’s face.
“Are your family with you?” Yannar quietly asked the shrouded corpse of the lighthouse keeper. Still, there was nothing. The party thoroughly searched the room, but found nothing in the armoire or chest of drawers. Zanros inspected the doors, and determined that they were sealed with some kind of magic. With a cry of frustration, Renauld charged at the door, but the door did not even shake in its frame. On the other side of the room, Zanros knocked on the door, as if asking for admittance.
“Gods damn it,” Renauld sighed. “What about if we take the bodies again? Do you think maybe this isn’t where they’re supposed to be?”
“Maybe,” Yannar muttered. Renauld walked over to the bed, and gently picked up the body of the boy. He carried the body towards the door. As he approached it, there was a click, and seconds later, the door swung open.
Yannar took up the body of the lighthouse keeper while Zanros carried the body of the lighthouse keeper’s wife. Fade took the lantern, and together, the party made their way down to the entryway. As Fade stepped into the room, the glow from the lantern illuminated a large bronze key, sitting directly in front of the door.
“They do want us to bury them,” Yannar breathed. Fade scooped up the key and hastily used it to unlock the door. Once the door was open, Renauld staggered out, breathing in huge gasps of fresh, sea air. Slowly, a satisfied smile fell over his face.
“Air!” he gasped.
“Where shall we bury them?” Yannar asked, looking around.
“The woods?” Renauld suggested.
“Out to sea?” Zanros said.
“We’re not tossing them over the cliff!” Fade exclaimed.
“We should bury them near their lighthouse,” Yannar said.
“Overlooking the sea,” Fade agreed. “They are a lighthouse family.”
“Is there anywhere you want to be buried?” Renauld asked, glancing back at the lighthouse. Once again, the only sound was the wind, and the waves.
The party agreed to bury the family near a copse of trees by the lighthouse. Yannar explored a shed by the lighthouse and found two spades. The paladin and Zanros set to work digging a grave while Renauld and Fade watched over the bodies.
After an hour or so, Yannar and Zanros had dug three rough graves in the ground. One by one, they gently laid the bodies of the family in the graves, and quickly covered them with dirt. Setting his spade aside, Yannar stood up and looked solemnly down at the fresh graves.
“We should find something to work as a headstone for each of them,” he said. “Just to show that there were people here.”
“This may sound silly,” Renauld murmured, “but shall we put their shoes on their graves?”
“I was just thinking that,” Yannar said, smiling fondly at the changeling.
“Their shoes are all in the entryway,” Renauld noted.
Yannar hurried back into the lighthouse and came out with three sets of shoes, two large, one small. As Yannar walked back to the graves, Fade stepped over to the door of the lighthouse and locked it using the bronze key. Dropping to one knee, Yannar arranged the shoes atop the graves. Then, still kneeling, he bowed his head and closed his eyes.
“We are very sorry this happened to you,” he whispered. “We’re going to get the people who did it.”
The party regrouped, and were preparing to walk back to town when Renauld saw a small glimmer of light amongst the trees, and standing by it, a ghostly figure. Without a word, Renauld hurried towards the light, the rest of the party following close behind. As he neared the tree line, the figure dissolved amongst the thicker shadows, but the glow remained. Renauld leaned down and investigated what appeared to be a sparkling patch of ground. The changeling began to scrabble at the ground, pulling up handfuls of grass and clumps of dirt. Zanros muttered that there was something magical under the ground.
Finally, Renauld pulled a small wooden chest out of the earth. White light spilled from every gap in the chest. Renauld eagerly flicked open the rusted latch and opened the lid. A blinding shaft of light spilled out as soon as Renauld flipped the lid, and the changeling recoiled with a hiss, his eyes scrunching closed. The chest fell to the floor and a glowing lantern spilled out.
Renauld got to his feet, wiping at his streaming eyes. Fade picked up the lantern and examined it, explaining that it was an everbright lantern which would never go out. Renauld took the lantern and held it up, walking in the direction of Seawell. As he walked, however, the strong beam of light coming from the lantern twisted in the air and began to glow behind the party. Renauld turned with the light, which led off down the coast.
“Do you want to follow it?” Yannar asked.
“We should probably do so,” Renauld sighed.
The party followed the light as it led them along the clifftop. Eventually, they reached a path leading around an outcrop of and sloping down onto a small, rocky beach, upon which the glow of a fire could be seen. Renauld suddenly became aware of something behind the party, and spun around, the light of the lantern remaining on the path. He saw a hunched figure dart off into the bushes.
“I just saw something over there,” Renauld hissed, readying his staff. Fade readied her crossbow, stepping up next to the changeling. The party cautiously approached the scrub where the figure had vanished.
“Is it the same thing from before?” Yannar asked.
“I’d say so,” Renauld mumbled.
Suddenly, Zanros charged forward, pulling out his glaive as he did. He skirted around a squat tree, closely followed by Renauld. Both men saw a small, reptilian humanoid, cowering behind the tree, holding a crude shield and a wooden spear.
Zanros raised his glaive, but Yannar yelled out; “Who’s there!?” Zanros halted in his tracks, and the creature slowly stood up to its full height.
“I have no quarrels with you,” the lizard hissed.
“Zanros, stop,” Yannar instructed, as he and Fade walked over to the creature.
“In that case, who’s your quarrel with?” Fade asked it.
“My quarrel is with these humans,” it replied.
“Which humans?” Renauld asked. “The bandits? The lighthouse family?”
“These humans in this area,” it said after a moment’s thought.
“Did they look like this guy?” Zanros asked, pulling out the wanted poster. The lizard took the poster in one scaly hand and studied it closely. Then, he looked up at Zanros, almost seeming to smile.
“This no good,” it said. “All humans looking the same.”
“What have the humans done to you?” Yannar queried.
“What have they done to me and my people?” the creature hissed. “They see us, they chase us off and they hunt our food. They treat us like monsters.”
“Is it them?” Renauld asked, pointing to the cliff edge. “Down there?”
“They are part of them, yes,” the creature said.
“So why have you been following us?” the changeling demanded.
“I did not know at first if you were good people,” it replied. “Now I see that you are good. You treat the dead with respect.”
“Do you want to come with us?” Fade asked. The creature thought, then shook its head.
“No,” it replied. “I have no interest in your cause.”
“Do you want something from us?” Renauld inquired.
“No,” the creature repeated. “I am scout. My job to protect village.”
“Then if you don’t mind, we really have to get going,” Renauld said impatiently. The reptile nodded, and with that, the party slowly made their way over to the slope leading down to the beach.
The party carefully picked their way down to the beach, and stopped behind a jutting cliff face. The party peered up the beach, where they could see vague shapes in the darkness which were likely tents. Behind them was a larger shape, presumably a pavilion, and behind that, a tall structure atop which was the fire they had seen from the clifftop.
“I don’t like the idea of going down there if there’s going to be lots of people,” Yannar muttered.
“We’ve got to do this sooner or later,” Renauld said. Fade offered to send Locke out, to count how many were at the camp, and whether Daveth was among them. The raven flew out across the camp, and returned moments later. He squawked that he saw people, but forgot to count them. When Fade irritably asked if he saw Daveth, Locke replied in the negative.
“Why don’t we head back up the cliff?” Yannar suggested. “See if we can see anything from overhead?”
The party agreed, making their way back up the path to the top of the cliff. As they reached the highest point, they noticed two figures walking ahead of them. The party paused, then inched their way forward, keeping a good distance from the duo ahead of them. The pair were clearly armoured, and seemed to be engaged in a heated debate. Renauld loaded his sling, while Fade quietly prepared a spell. The party followed the arguing pair until the party drew level with the camp. At this point, Renauld held up a hand, and the party halted. Peering down, the party could see someone tending to the fire atop the wooden tower. To one side was the pavilion, surrounded by five differently-sized tents.
Once the party had surveyed the camp, they continued after the duo, who were still oblivious to the four people following them. After a few minutes, the pair stopped, still bickering with one another. The party stopped in their tracks, with Renauld readying his sling and Yannar quickly loading his shortbow. The two men turned around, and as quick as a flash, Fade spat out a word and thrust her hand forward. The man on the right’s knees buckled and he slumped to the ground, unconscious.
The second man looked down at his fallen comrade in shock, and as he did, Renauld loosed a sling bolt at him, but it flew wide. Seeing this, Renauld ordered Martin to snatch any horn he might find on the bandit. Yannar fired his bow at the same time, but missed as well. The bandit pulled out a cutlass and swung at Martin, who managed to flap out of the way. With Martin out of the way, Renauld fired his sling again, but the bandit stumbled out of the way as he took another swing at Martin. Renauld yelled at Martin to attack, and the crow dove forward, slashing the bandit across the right cheek, and then the left, with his talons. The bandit howled, blood streaming down his face, and Martin pecked at the bandit’s nose, tearing a chunk from its bridge. More blood poured out, and the bandit collapsed to the ground.
Renauld called Martin back to him, as the party rushed towards the prone bandits. Zanros quickly dropped to his knees and began searching the bodies as Fade pulled a length of rope from her backpack and began to unwind it. Zanros threw a satchel of crossbow bolts aside and pocketed a number of gold pieces. Fade tied both bandits up, and then picked up the crossbow bolts.
Renauld crouched down and slapped the sleeping bandit across the face. The bandit stirred, clearly groggy.
“Are you with Daveth?” Renauld snarled. The bandit turned lethargically towards Renauld, his eyes still misty.
“What?” he mumbled. “Where’s Daveth?” Renauld slapped the bandit again, and this time, he turned to Renauld with full awareness. “Who the hells’re you?”
“Are you with Daveth?” Renauld repeated.
“What’s goin’ on here!?” the bandit cried, struggling against the rope which bound him to his bleeding, unconscious comrade. Teeth gritted, Renauld cast a glance over at Zanros, who nodded and placed his glaive against the bandit’s throat.
“Whoa!” the bandit hissed, leaning as far back as he could. “Whoa, whoa! What you wantin’?”
“Are you with Daveth?” Renauld asked for the third time.
“Yeah,” the bandit said nonchalantly. “Yeah, we are. What of it?”
“Is that his camp down there?” queried Renauld, nodding to the camp on the beach below.
“Yeah,” the bandit said in that same insolent tone.
“Guards?” Renauld hissed. “Weapons?”
“Yeah,” the bandit repeated.
“How many?” Renauld asked.
“I dunno,” the bandit said. “We’ve been on watch for the past few hours. I’ve no idea how many are up.”
“How many are down there altogether?” Renauld snapped.
“Couldn’t tell you,” the bandit answered with a wry grin. “There’s hundreds of us.”
Unimpressed, Renauld glanced over at Zanros, and the elf pressed the glaive against the bandit’s neck, breaking the skin.
“Alright, alright!” the bandit whimpered. “There’s about half a dozen of us at the moment!”
“Oh, we can totally kick their asses!” Zanros said excitedly. “Let’s go!”
“What weapons do they have?” Renauld asked.
“Well… we got crossbows,” the bandit said. “We got swords. We got powerful sorcerers as well!” Zanros pushed the glaive down harder, and more blood seeped down the bandit’s neck.
“Alright, maybe there’s one sorcerer,” the bandit hissed. “Maybe he ain’t that powerful.”
“Alright,” Renauld sighed, getting to his feet. “Slit their throats.”
Zanros grinned wickedly and whipped his glaive across the bandit’s throat. A gout of blood sprayed out, and his head lolled back with a choked gurgle. Zanros cut the unconscious bandit’s throat, then searched him. He found more gold, and a satchel of coloured potions. As Zanros rummaged through the bandit’s pockets, Fade untied her rope and put it in her backpack
The party marched back down the slope, weapons at the ready. Once they reached the beach, they snuck along the base of the cliff, concealed in deep shadow. As they edged their way towards the camp, they saw that there were four bandits sitting around a fire pit inside the pavilion.
Quietly, the party decided to split up, with Zanros and Renauld moving around to come at the pavilion from the sea, Yannar approaching from the path, and Fade going to the tower. As Renauld and Zanros moved towards the pavilion, one of the bandits, a bald dwarf, cried out; “Hold on! I think I see something!”
Hearts racing, both men ducked behind one of the tents. Renauld stumbled and dropped to his knees. The dwarf peered out for a moment longer, before turning back to the fire pit with a grunt.
“My imagination,” he grumbled. Yannar approached the pavilion from the other side, and as he came into the light of the fire, the dwarf leaped to his feet, shouting; “I knew I wasn’t seeing things! They’re over there!”
Zanros hurried around the tent and flicked an orb of acid at the dwarf. It landed short, however, and began hissing on the floor of the pavilion. The dwarf spun around with a growl, and as he did, Yannar fired his shortbow at the closest bandit. The arrow sunk into the bandit’s side, and he staggered forward with a yowl. Renauld stepped out from behind the tent and ordered Martin to attack.
The crow flew forward, swiping at a female bandit with his claws. The bandit managed to leap out of the way with a shriek. The dwarf pulled out a Morningstar, and the bandit behind him pulled out a crossbow, firing a bolt at Yannar. It hit Yannar, denting his armour but not piercing it. The bandit next to him, a wild looking man with long hair, also picked up a crossbow, firing at Zanros, but missing. The woman made several hand gestures and flicked a hissing green bolt of energy at Martin, who managed to narrowly avoid it.
Zanros charged into the pavilion and swung his glaive at the dwarf, who managed to parry the blow with his Morningstar and swing at Zanros. The Morningstar hit Zanros in the chest, and the elf staggered back with a grunt. Yannar approached from the other side and fired his bow at the sorceress, but as she struggled with Martin, she moved, and the shot went wide. Renauld, moving closer to the pavilion, commanded Martin to attack again. The crow slashed at the sorceress with his talons, clawing at her arm and drawing blood. With a hiss, the sorceress waved her arms, and a shimmering aura fell about her.
Meanwhile, Fade crept towards the tower. The man atop it, older and with a white beard, had a crossbow in his hands, but clearly could not see what was going on, as he was swinging it around wildly. The female elf snuck to one of the wooden support pillars of the tower and ducked under it, breathing heavily. When she was sure that the bandit atop the tower had not seen her, she threw her hand at the support pillar opposite her, flicking acid which hit and began to burn through the wood.
The bearded bandit turned to Yannar and fired a crossbow bolt, which hit the paladin in the shoulder. Yannar yelled out in pain, and, his eyes bulging, lunged forward, swinging his sword down in a looping arc. The sword sliced into the bandit’s armour, and he collapsed to the floor, blood pouring from his body. With a snarl, Zanros swung his glaive at the dwarf, but the blow was once again parried. Renauld stepped up and swung his staff at the dwarf, catching him in the side of the head. The dwarf cried out and swung his Morningstar at Renauld, connecting solidly and sending the changeling back.
Martin slashed at the sorceress, raking more bloody cuts in her arm. The bandit nearest to Yannar dropped his crossbow, and in the same motion pulled out a longsword. He swung the sword at Martin, but the crow easily dodged the blow. The sorceress, now bleeding quite severely, weaved a spell and threw an orb of acid at Renauld, who managed to avoid it.
Underneath the tower, Fade threw more acid at the burning support. The hissing grew louder, and more stinking smoke poured from the wood. Abruptly, there was an enormous crack, and the tower began to lean to one side. Fade rushed out from under the tower and charged down the beach.
The dwarf looked to the tower, a look of horror on his face. While he was distracted, Zanros swung his glaive around and neatly decapitated the dwarf. Yannar stepped forward and swung his sword at the sorceress, who was also staring at the tower, but the sword bounced off of the sorceress’ shimmering form. The sorceress turned to face Yannar, and as soon as she did, Martin was on her in a flurry of claws and wings. Seconds later, the sorceress slumped to the ground, blood gushing from her tattered neck.
From the tower, there was a prolonged creak, and then another deafening crack as the entire structure collapsed. Sparks whirled upwards as the fire erupted, and the bandit atop the tower was incinerated. The remaining bandit dropped to his knees and cried; “Mercy! I beg of you!”
“Where’s Daveth?” Zanros hissed, pointing his glaive at the bandit.
“Of course you want Daveth,” the bandit spat. “Maybe if you all head to Seawell, you can die with the rest of the village, because that’s where he’s headed with the rest of us!”
“We were told that there’s six of you,” Renauld said. “Where’s the sixth?”
“Sixth?” the bandit hissed. “No, there was only ever five of us here, and the two on patrol.”
Renauld quickly moved off and began searching the tents, but did not find any more bandits. While he was doing this, Zanros swiftly brought his glaive down on the bandit, cutting a huge gash into his neck. The bandit let out a horrible croak and collapsed onto his side.
The party immediately began charging towards Seawell, afraid of what Daveth and his bandits might be doing to the town at that very minute. As they moved through the forest, Renauld used his natural magic to heal both Yannar’s and Zanros’ wounds.
After more than an hour, the whole party was absolutely exhausted. They hunkered down for five minutes, catching their breath and swigging water from their waterskins. As he reclined on the grass, Renauld noticed that they were once again being followed by the reptilian creature.
“What do you want?” he groaned. The rest of the party turned to see the lizard man emerging from the trees, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
“You are interesting humans,” it said. “You kill other humans, then you run back to the town?”
“I ain’t no human,” Zanros grumbled.
“Yes, we’re not human,” Yannar said gently.
“All look the same to me,” the reptile said.
“Do you want something from us?” Renauld asked the creature once again.
“No,” the lizard said. “I just doing my job of making sure the village is safe.”
“We won’t attack your village,” Yannar said.
“Why did you attack the other humans?” the reptile asked.
“Because they’re murderers,” said Renauld.
“They are bad, bad people,” Yannar emphasised. The reptile cocked its head, looking from Renauld to Yannar, clearly confused.
“I see,” he muttered. “They are murderers so you murder them?”
“Yes,” Zanros said.
“Not sure that I understand humans,” the reptile said.
“You don’t need to,” Zanros snapped. “Go away.”
“But why are you in such a hurry now?” the creature inquired.
“Because they’re attacking the human town,” Fade said.
“So, you have killed the humans,” the lizard said slowly, “and now you run back to stop the humans killing more humans.”
“Yes!” Zanros exclaimed.
“I think you misunderstand us,” Yannar said patiently. “Not all humans are the same. There are good humans and bad humans, as with every race. We try to do good, but sadly, sometimes it comes to killing the bad people.”
“We really can’t stop,” Renauld grunted, getting to his feet. “So, if you are just doing your job, we have to move on.”
“I see,” the reptile said, lifting his spear. “But if I am to stop you here and these humans wipe out the settlement, what is to say that the then troubles will not stop for my village?”
“You think that by Seawell being wiped out your village will be safe?” Renauld asked incredulously.
“Yes,” the lizard croaked.
“You do realise that the people who will be sacking Seawell are very, very bad,” said Renauld, “and will probably come after you afterwards?”
“Really?” the lizard mused. “This is interesting. Maybe it would be in our best interests to stop these people, then.”
“I think that would be a good idea,” Renauld exclaimed.
“Would you like to join us in stopping these people?” questioned Yannar.
“Not me, no,” the reptile said. “But maybe someone will come for you.”
“Thank you,” Renauld said hurriedly. “We really have to go now.”
The lizard gave the party a quick nod and then rushed off into the forest. The party watched after him for a second, then took to their heels in the direction of Seawell.
By the time the party reached the first houses on the outskirts of Seawell, the sun was coming up, a fiery orange band on the horizon. There was no smoke, and no one could hear signs of trouble, however, as the party approached one small house, Renauld saw flashes coming from the back garden. He alerted the party to this, and together, they charged around the house.
Zanros reached the small, unkempt garden first, seeing two bandits hammering at the door. Two more bandits lay on the ground, dead. Before them was a charred patch of ground. Zanros quickly surveyed the scene, and then leapt forward, swinging his glaive at the closest bandit. The glaive sunk into the bandit’s poorly armoured side, and with a pained scream, he fell to the ground. Yannar stepped up behind Zanros, readying his bow.
“Zanros, down!” the paladin cried. Zanros dropped to his knees and Yannar fired an arrow directly into the bandit’s side. The bandit roared, clutching his now heavily bleeding side. Renauld charged around Zanros and clubbed the bandit with his staff. The bandit’s eyes rolled into his head and he collapsed backwards, striking the wall before slumping bonelessly to the floor.
Zanros began to rummage through the pockets of the bandit he slew, and Fade did the same to the other, finding thirty gold pieces each. As they did this, a window opened on the second floor of the house. Someone peeked out, but then immediately cowered back inside.
“We’re friendly!” Renauld called up to the window. For a moment, there was nothing. Then, an elderly man with wild white hair and thick goggles peered out of the window. “What happened here?”
“What happened here?” the man asked in a deep, well-spoken voice. “These bandits, they attacked the village!”
“Do you know how many there are?” Yannar queried.
“I can’t say,” the man called out. “There were four that attacked my building. They’re all dead now. Thank you!”
“How long have they been here?” Renauld asked.
“Oh, they’ve only just arrived,” the man said, “in, ooh, let’s say the last fifteen minutes.” Yannar told Zanros to show the wanted poster to the elderly man, and Zanros did so.
“Have you seen this guy?” Yannar asked. “Did he go past your building?”
“Yes!” the old man cried. “Yes! I’ve seen him! He was in the centre of town.”
The head suddenly disappeared, and seconds later, the front door of the house was thrust open. The man charged out, a small box in his hands.
“Take these!” he yelled. “It’s dangerous out there!” Yannar took the box and opened it, finding it full of small vials.
“What are these?” the paladin asked.
“Ah, yes, of course,” the man mumbled. “The four this side are alchemist’s fire. The four this side are vials of acid.”
The party quickly divvied up the vials, and Yannar handed the empty box back to the bizarre old man with thanks.
The party hurried on, soon coming to the inn they had visited the evening before. The sounds of yelling and breaking glass came from inside. Zanros kicked open the door and instantly ducked as an unconscious bandit flew out from within the inn. Inside, the party could see the Kalashtar barman they had met before standing on a table, swinging a bar stool at a couple of bandits who jabbed at him with short swords.
Zanros leaped to his feet and swung his glaive at one of the bandits. The bandit had watched his friend spill out of the door, however, and managed to dodge the attack. The other bandit swung his sword at the barman’s legs, but the Kalashtar easily managed to leap over the blade, and land nimbly back on the table. Renauld suddenly leaped through an open window and Martin flew in after him, attacking the closest bandit with his talons. The bandit howled and dropped his sword as nasty gashes were opened in his cheek.
Fade carefully climbed through another window as Zanros dropped his glaive and pulled out his warhammer. He swung the hammer at the bandit in front of him, but missed. The bandit retaliated, wildly swinging his sword at Zanros, who deftly dodged the blow. Fade ran to the bar and ducked behind it, loading her crossbow. Zanros swung his warhammer again, this time striking the bandit directly in the head and knocking him down.
Yannar stepped into the inn and swung his sword at the bandit near the barman. The blade cut into the bandit’s armour and he fell backwards, blood pooling onto the floor. Fade suddenly leaped out from the bar, crossbow at the ready, only to see that both bandits had been disabled. She sighed disappointedly and made her way to the table, where the barman was climbing down to the floor.
“Are you okay?” Renauld asked the barman.
“I’m fine,” he replied. “I’m fine, now. Thank you.”
“We thought you’d want to know,” Renauld continued, “that the lighthouse keeper and his family are dead.”
“Oh?” the barman panted. “That’s terrible, but we’ll come to that later. Come on, there’s still more bandits in the village.”
“Barricade your door,” Yannar instructed. “We’ll go and get these bandits.”
Fade handed the barman the key to the lighthouse as he led them to the door. Once there, he pointed to a house across the way.
“I saw some bandits go in there,” he said. “I think you should check it out.”
The party gave him their thanks and hurried over to the small house. The door was hanging off its hinges, and there was screaming coming from within. Yannar plunged into the house with the rest of the party close on his heels.
In the living room of the house, two bandits harassed a man armed with a candelabrum. The rest of his family were huddled in the corner, with one small boy wailing in fear. Yannar burst into the room and hit one mace-wielding bandit with his sword. The bandit yelled out and turned to Yannar with a pained, incensed expression. Renauld quickly stepped up behind Yannar and smashed the bandit over the head with his staff. The bandit fell to the ground, unconscious.
The second bandit turned on Yannar, but was distracted by Fade stepping into the doorway. Seizing the opportunity, the father of the family hit the bandit in the head with the candelabrum, and the bandit dropped to the ground, his ear swollen and bleeding.
“Can you take care of these guys?” Renauld hastily asked the man.
“That’s fine,” the man panted. “Do any of you need magical aid? I’m a minor adept, I could lend some assistance.”
“What can you do for us?” Renauld asked.
“Are any of you wounded?” the man asked.
“Yes, I am!” Renauld exclaimed. Nodding, the man put his hands on Renauld’s chest, and the changeling suddenly felt a renewed sense of vigour.
“Thank you,” Yannar said, looking at the man with admiration.
“No, no,” the man said. “Thank you.”
The party left the house as the man tended to his family, and headed to the town square. As they neared the open marketplace, they saw bandits loading barrels and crates into a covered wagon tethered to two stationary horses. One of the bandits, while reaching down for a large box, spotted the party, and turned to someone inside the wagon.
“Hey, Daveth!” he cried. “We’ve got trouble!”
A hulking figure stepped off the wagon, and for the first time, the party saw Daveth Portos in person. He was just as grizzled as the wanted poster made out, but much taller and broader than any of them had imagined. He stood at least six feet two, and was well armoured, with a clean, undamaged breastplate covering his wide chest. He surveyed the party with an expression that bordered on contempt, then looked at his men.
“We’re done here,” he grunted in a deep, gravelly voice. Portos spat on the floor and then clambered back into the wagon.
With a yell, Yannar charged towards the wagon, while Fade fired a crossbow bolt at the nearest bandit. The bolt glanced the bandit, who had been watching Portos until that point. Zanros and Renauld also ran towards the wagon, and as they drew near, Renauld sent Martin forward. The crow flew at the wagon, clawing at the bandit who sat in the back.
Suddenly, there was a shout and a crack of reigns, and the wagon began trundling out of the town square. One of the bandits swung a cutlass at Martin and caught the crow in the wing. Martin let out a squawk of pain but continued after the wagon. Another bandit began to run after the wagon, screaming; “Wait, wait, wait! You’ve left us behind!”
Yannar picked up the pace, desperate to catch up with Portos’ wagon. Fade threw a handful of acid at the fleeing bandit, but it landed short. Zanros swung his glaive at a bandit, who dodged, while Renauld screamed for Martin to continue attacking the bandit in the back of the wagon. The crow slashed at the bandit’s face with both talons, before tearing a strip from the bandit’s cheek with his beak. The bandit tumbled from the wagon, squealing horribly, his face a mess of blood and torn flesh.
The wagon picked up speed and was gone, leaving only a cloud of dust in its wake. With an agitated caw, Martin flew back, settling on Renauld’s shoulder. The bandit following the wagon stepped forward and was suddenly thrown into the air as the ground beneath him exploded upwards, showering the marketplace with dust and chunks of broken stone.
Yannar staggered forward, blinking dirt from his eyes. Suddenly, he was on top of the bandit who had been thrown back, bleeding and white with dust. As quick as a flash, Yannar placed his sword against the bandit’s throat.
“Where’s Daveth going?” Yannar yelled. The bandit didn’t reply, simply coughing and rolling around on the floor, his eyes streaming and his lips bloody. Fade commanded Locke to follow Portos as far as he could, and then report back on where the wagon was headed. The raven squawked and took off.
Zanros dropped to his knees next to the bandit who Martin had disabled, finding a pouch of gold pieces and another set of five multicoloured potions. Renauld stepped up next to Yannar and roared; “Where is he going!?” By this time, the bandit had stumbled to his feet, and was waving his hands blindly before him. After a moment, he opened his eyes, which were red and teary. He saw the party standing around him, and turned to see that Portos’ wagon had disappeared. A look of horrified realisation came over his face seconds before his entire head was obliterated in a shower of blood, brain matter and broken skull.
The party looked up to see a huge figure emerging from the ground, at first obscured mostly by the dust cloud. But as the dirt in the air cleared, the party could see that a creature that seemed to be made of earth and rock was pulling itself up, as if the very ground had suddenly come to life.
“It’s an elemental!” Fade cried, fear plain on her face. Yannar swiftly pulled the vial of acid from his backpack and tossed it at the elemental, which shattered on the creature’s rocky body, but did no discernable damage. Fade gritted her teeth and threw both hands forward, a spiral of fire flying out and engulfing the elemental.
Zanros stepped up next to Fade, and he too began to throw fire at the elemental. It let out a low rumble as choking grey smoke began to pour from its rocky form. Renauld moved to the side of the elemental and tossed a vial of alchemist’s fire at it. The vial erupted on the elemental’s chest, adding to the conflagration surrounding the creature.
Suddenly, with a grinding roar, the creature shook itself, torrents of falling dirt extinguishing some of the blaze as it did so. The elemental looked at the party, and with an enraged cry, beat its flaming fists on the ground. Then, moving with eerie speed, the beast picked up the nearby corpse of a bandit and flung it at the party. Fade and Renauld leaped away from each other as the body sailed past them.
Yannar threw his vial of alchemist’s fire at the beast, but the vial ricocheted off the elemental’s arm and shattered behind it, sending up a plume of flame as it did. Fade regained her composure and threw more fire at the monster, joining Zanros, who continued to throw a funnel of flame at the elemental. With a roar, the elemental shambled back and threw up a rocky arm to protect itself.
Scowling, Renauld stepped forward and struck the elemental with his staff, but to no avail. The creature looked down at Renauld, and with a growl, hit the changeling, who flew back and landed in a crumpled heap, blood streaming from his mouth. Seeing this, Yannar charged up to the beast and hit it with his sword, which seemed to glow with a blinding white light. The blade cut through the beast’s rocky body as if it was soft clay, and with a final grating howl, the beast crumbled into dirt and rocks.
Yannar turned and hurried over to Renauld, helping him to his feet and laying his hands upon him. A white light rushed through the changeling, and he threw his head back with a gasp, the flow of blood from his mouth slowing and then stopping altogether. Renauld shook his head and stepped forward, and as he did, he noticed a small metal disc on the floor behind the remains of the elemental. Renauld carefully leaned down and picked up the disc, which Fade identified as an elemental binding disc. Though she said that the disc’s energy was expended, the elf put the disc in her backpack.
At this time, Locke returned, saying that he lost Portos in a forest around a mile north of Seawell. The group debated whether they could afford to rest, and in the end, decided that if they didn’t, they would be too exhausted to fight Portos. They checked into the inn, where the barman, who identified himself as Katzura, offered them free accommodation.
Some hours later, the party walked back into the main room of the inn, which had been cleaned up while they slept. Renauld had healed his wounds, and everyone felt healthier and more ready to face Portos.
“I really want to thank you for what you did this morning,” Katzura said. “I’m sure if you ask around, the townsfolk will be happy to help you out in any way they can.”
“We should ask around town,” Fade said. “Someone may have overheard something from one of the guards, saying where they’re going off to next.”
“Are you alright?” Yannar asked Katzura. “You weren’t too hurt, were you?”
“Oh, no,” Katzura replied. “No, I’m fine. I managed to handle myself, but I’m glad you came along. It might have got a bit tricky with four of them.”
“Do you have any idea where Daveth might be headed next?” Renauld asked.
“No, sorry,” Katzura said. “He headed out on the north road. He could be anywhere. If he’s just following the road up north, that’ll take him as far as Aundair.”
The party walked out of the inn, preparing to go into the town. Yannar stayed behind, however, and spoke quietly to Katzura while the others waited outside.
“What did you mean by what you told me before we left town the first time?” Yannar asked.
“I wasn’t sure where you were going,” Katzura replied. “I just wanted to make sure you were aware of the bandits.”
“Okay,” Yannar said. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” said Katzura.
Yannar rejoined the party, and they walked into town, observing several people working to repair the damage done by Portos’ bandits. Among these was the man whose family they had saved earlier that morning, who was hurrying about, tending to people’s wounds.
As the party approached the town square, they heard a familiar voice calling out to them, and turned to see the frizzy-haired old man running towards them, a large satchel under his arm.
“I was hoping I’d bump into you again!” he exclaimed. “I thought you might need some assistance in recovering from those bandits. I’m not sure, are you going after their leader? I saw him escape. Excellent work with the alchemist’s fire and the acid and so forth! That’s what I like to see!”
“Throwing it at elementals?” Fade asked with a smirk.
“Precisely!” the man cried, opening his satchel and pulling out a small leather pouch. “I’m sure some of these will come in handy.”
The old man opened the satchel to reveal five coloured vials – precisely the kind that the party had found on several bandits.
“What are these!?” Fade exclaimed.
“Oh, yes,” the man mumbled. “Let me show you. The green ones will cure your wounds. The blue ones will protect you with an ethereal armour! The yellow ones will help you to jump and the red ones will help you endure the elements.”
“What about the purple ones?” Fade asked.
“Oh,” the man said, starting to blush slightly. “They don’t actually do anything.”
“So why is it there?” Renauld asked. “What’s its purpose?”
“Just makes it look better,” the alchemist said. “Don’t you think five’s a nice round number?”
Fade took the pouch of potions and opened it, taking out the purple potion. She discarded this vial, much to the old man’s chagrin, and then placed the pouch in her backpack.
“Well, thank you very much, sir,” Renauld said. “Whoever you are.”
“What is your name?” Yannar asked.
“My name is Serrin Membrane!” the alchemist announced with a proud grin.
“Thank you, Mr Membrane,” Renauld said.
“You’re welcome, sonny,” Serrin grinned. “The least I could do.”
The party next approached the father, who was still tending to people’s wounds. As they walked over to him, he looked up, busy, but clearly grateful.
“Are you okay?” Renauld asked. “Are your family okay?”
“Oh, yes,” the man replied. “Thank you, thank you so much. I didn’t have time to properly thank you this morning. I hate to think what would have happened if you hadn’t come along. We’d all be dead!”
“What did you do with those bandits?” Renauld queried.
“They’re tied up,” the man said.
“Still?” Renauld asked.
“Yes,” the man answered. “They’ve regained consciousness but they’re not particularly helpful. I think one of the fishermen has them in his shed. We’re trying to decide what to do with them.”
“We should go and see them,” Yannar suggested.
The party asked the man where the shed was, and then walked over to it. As they did, Fade offered her rope to Renauld, as it was weighing her down, and the changeling gladly accepted it.
Within minutes, the party reached the fisherman’s shack, squat, dank and stinking of fish. Renauld pushed open the door to see the two bandits sitting back-to-back. A seaweed-strewn fisherman’s net had been used to bind them together.
“Remember us?” Renauld asked as he walked into the shed.
“No,” the bandit on the left grunted.
“Where is Daveth headed?” the changeling snapped.
“Oh, he got away then?” the bandit asked with a laugh. Renauld went to say something else, but before he could, the bandit leaned forward and spat at him. Renauld leaped back, a disgusted scowl on his face, while the bandit grinned defiantly. Renauld stepped forward and hit the bandit with his staff. The bandit jerked his head backwards and Renauld’s staff struck the bandit square in the mouth. Without making a sound, the bandit spat out a couple of bloody teeth and grinned up at Renauld again.
“Where’s he headed?” snarled Renauld.
“I ain’t telling you shit,” the bandit said with a smirk. Renauld lashed out with his staff again, hitting the bandit in the face. There was a sickening crack and the bandit’s nose changed shape. Blood squirted from both nostrils and the suddenly swollen bridge of his nose.
“Where is he going?” Renauld shouted.
“I ain’t telling you shit,” the bandit repeated, still grinning through a mouthful of blood.
“Tell me,” Renauld said coldly, “or I’ll have my bird peck out your eyes.” Martin, perched on Renauld’s shoulder, stood to his full height, spreading his vast wings and hissing low in his throat. The bandit looked up fearfully at the crow, then looked back to Renauld.
“Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait!” he cried. “I… I don’t know where Daveth’s gone, but I can tell you where we were going. Um… it’s a little old abandoned ruins, just up north in the forest.”
“Locke did manage to follow him into the forest,” Fade said quietly.
“Don’t ask me any specifics,” the bandit spat. “Daveth didn’t tell any of us where it was.”
Renauld kicked the bandit in the ribs, and then turned on his heels, marching out of the shack. The rest of the party followed, and Fade, the last to leave, slammed the door closed. The bandit doubled over, coughing up thick gobs of blood.
As the party walked along the boardwalk, Yannar noticed several fishermen heaping the bandits’ belongings against a building. He walked over and had a brief search through the pile, finding a couple of potion pouches which he distributed among the party.
The party returned to the inn and had a brief lunch with Katzura, before making off along the north road in pursuit of Portos. As they neared the outskirts of Seawell, a weak, dusty voice called after them; “Hold on!”
The party stopped, and turned to see a wizened old man hurrying towards them.
“Wait just a second there!” the frail geriatric cried. “I heard… that you were heading out after those bandits!”
“You heard right, old dad,” Renauld said with a smile.
“Well, would you like… me to loan you some of my horses?” the old man asked.
“That would be lovely!” Renauld exclaimed.
“Very good,” the pensioner said, grinning toothlessly. “I’ve got them all saddled up and ready out the back.”
“That’s lovely,” Yannar said happily.
The party followed the hobbling old man around the back of a barn to find four horses hitched to a splintered wooden post.
“Do you want any money for them?” Yannar asked.
“Oh, no,” the old man said. “So long as you… bring them back to me. That’ll be fine!”
Each party member untied and clambered onto a horse. Once they were all mounted, Renauld looked down at the beaming man.
“Thanks, dad,” he said softly.
The party rode out of the town and headed up the north road for around three quarters of a mile. At this time, Locke began to frantically flap his wings.
“Over there!” the raven cawed. “That’s the path he took!”
The party entered the forest, as the road quickly degraded into a narrow, winding dirt path, forcing them to fall into single file. Wagon tracks were evident in the mud and grass either side of the path.
Some time later, the party heard raised voices up ahead. Everyone dismounted, and cautiously led their horses along the path. Slowly, the trees opened out into a wide clearing, at the head of which was a stone ruin with stairs leading underground. Portos and his men were gathered around the wagon, and Portos was berating one of the bandits. The party, hidden amongst the trees, tethered their horses and readied their weapons. Cautiously, they moved into the clearing, but one of the bandits spotted them.
“Daveth!” he cried. “They’ve caught up to us!”
“Fuck!” shouted Portos, jumping onto his wagon and grabbing the reigns. One of the bandits also clambered onto the wagon. Fade’s arm morphed into a crossbow, and with a cry, she launched a fizzling bolt of energy at one of the horses pulling the wagon. The horse whinnied in fright and pain, rearing up on its hind legs. Portos cursed again, tugging on the reigns. The horse’s front legs returned to the floor and it began to canter forward.
Renauld yelled out a command and Martin flew forward, aiming straight for the open back of the wagon. He flew through, but Portos threw up one chainmail-clad arm, blocking the bird’s attack. Zanros and Yannar charged forward, with Yannar drawing his bow and firing an arrow at the horses. The injured horse pulled the wagon around sharply, however, and the arrow sunk into the canvas of the wagon’s cover. As the wagon began to roll away, Portos swung his arm out, striking Martin hard. The bird screeched in pain, flapping backwards, before attacking Portos again.
In the clearing, the remaining bandit swore loudly as the party approached, then turned and ran down the stairs in the ruins, crying; “Help! Help! We need help out here!”
Fade ran forward, ethereal armour forming about her, as Renauld launched a sling bolt at the wagon, only for it to ineffectually bounce off the canvas cover. Zanros charged up to the wagon, and just before it got away from him, swung his glaive down, slicing through the armour of the bandit in the back of the wagon.
Yannar, meanwhile, had charged back to the horses. He freed his horse, leapt on it, and with an authoritative command, spurred the horse forward. Seeing this, the rest of the party did the same, hurrying back and mounting their horses.
In the wagon, Martin dug his talons into Portos’ cheek, tearing at the skin. Blood spewed down his face, and with an agonised roar, Portos hit the crow hard. Martin crowed weakly and spiralled to the ground, landing in a bloody, unconscious heap.
“Martin!” Renauld screamed, spurring his horse on harder. Yannar’s horse thundered ahead, and the paladin steered his horse around Martin. Renauld followed at speed, leaning down and scooping up the unconscious bird. Clearly distressed, the changeling put a hand over Martin’s bruised body, and the crow suddenly let out a loud squawk, flapping his wings.
Zanros was the last out of the clearing, and as he rode, a huge crossbow bolt skimmed across his breastplate. He looked back to see a bandit emerge from the ruins, accompanied by a hulking warforged who was hurriedly reloading an enormous crossbow.
Portos’ wagon burst from the forest, speeding along the main road and throwing up spumes of dust. Yannar followed close behind, with Renauld, Fade and Zanros catching up quickly. The bandit in the back of the wagon leaned out, blood dribbling from the wound in his chest.
“Daveth, what the hell do I do!?” the bandit shrieked.
“Just chuck everything at them!” Portos barked. “Get them off our tail!”
The bandit began to hurl barrels and containers out of the back of the wagon. Fade steered her horse around an oncoming crate, and then fired a crossbow bolt at the wagon, which unfortunately went wide. A sack hit the ground just in front of Renauld and exploded in a cloud of white powder. The changeling rode through the cloud, eyes closed, teeth gritted. With a yell of frustration, Fade reloaded her crossbow and fired again. This time, the bolt flew true, striking the bandit in the throat. He let out a choked scream and fell backwards into the wagon.
Yannar reached the wagon, and as he rode alongside, fired his bow at the nearest horse. The arrow sunk into the horse’s flank, and with a horrible shriek, it stumbled inwards. Fade, also nearing the wagon, threw her hands forward, sending a jet of flame at the wagon.
“Burn, bitch!” she hissed. There was a crack inside the wagon, and the canvas began to burn. Scowling, Portos leaned out of the wagon and tossed a dagger at Yannar, which cut a gash in the paladin’s leg. Suddenly, there was a flash in front of Portos’ eyes, and he dropped the reigns, his expression growing blank.
While Portos was dazed, Yannar rode ahead of the wagon, turned on his horse and fired an arrow straight into Portos’ shoulder. This seemed to bring the bandit round, and with a roar, he grabbed the shaft of the arrow and yanked it out. Suddenly, the two horses collided, and the injured horse collapsed, going under the wagon as it left the ground, flipping over and landing on the burning canvas, which collapsed, sending sparks whirling into the air.
Renauld and Zanros skirted around the crashed wagon, but Fade’s horse collided with it, and the elf was thrown from its back. Fade yelled out a few words and managed to hit the ground supernaturally softly. Yannar leaped off his horse and regrouped with the rest of the party, who also dismounted. They looked at the burning wagon for a moment, until the canvas was torn apart and Portos strode out, face streaked with blood, a huge battle axe clutched in his hands.
“Alright, you fucks,” he snarled, his face a twisted mask of rage. “Let’s see what you’re fucking made of!”
Renauld stepped forward and made a gesture, causing blinding white light to explode in Portos’ face. With a yell, the bandit threw an arm over his eyes. However, the glow quickly faded, and Portos lowered his arm, an unimpressed sneer on his face.
“Is that it?” he laughed. Zanros threw his hand forward, tossing globs of acid at Portos. They hit the bandit’s armour, smoking but not penetrating. Portos shook his head and sneered; “Pathetic!”
His face unreadable, Yannar strode forward, ghostly light running up and down the blade of his sword. With a defiant yell, he brought his sword down, and when it hit Portos, white light exploded from it. The whole party shielded their eyes, and when they lowered their arms, Portos was lying on the floor, armour split in two, blood trickling from his mouth and nose.
Zanros cheered and slapped Yannar on the back, but Renauld strode forward, a worried look on his face. He dropped to one knee and inspected the prone Portos.
“He’s alive,” Renauld sighed. “Barely.” The changeling put a hand on the deep wound in Portos’ torso, and slowly, it stopped bleeding.
“Tie him up,” Yannar said flatly. Renauld nodded, first stripping Portos of his battle axe and armour, then pulling the rope out of his backpack and firmly tying it around Portos. As he did this, Fade hurried over to where her horse was trotting around aimlessly and brought it back over to the party.
Yannar and Zanros picked Portos up and slung him over the back of Renauld’s horse while Renauld searched through Portos’ possessions, finding more potions, a pouch full of gems, which he gave to Yannar, and several identification papers for Daveth Portos, Daveth Newport, Daveth Tarrin and more. Next, he searched the wagon, but could not find his lost box. The changeling climbed out of the wagon, clearly flustered and agitated.
“He’s still alive,” Yannar said. “We’ll find it for you, whatever it is.”
After some debate, the party decided to head back to Seawell to rest. Other than a few grunts of pain, there was no sign of life from Portos. By the time the party reached the town, the sun was almost down. They first visited the old ostler, who grinned widely when he saw Portos lying unconscious over the back of Renauld’s horse.
“I see you got the bastard!” he cried gleefully. “Well done! That’s what I like to see, justice being done!”
“If we need to, could we borrow your horses again?” Yannar asked.
“You certainly could!” the old man replied. “I tell you what, I’ll sell them to you for a discount rate, if that’s what you want. 50 gold each horse. Fine, fine steeds they are. They’re worth a damn sight more, but I’ll be happy to let them go to a good soul such as yourself.”
“Can I pay you in these gems?” Yannar asked, showing the ostler the gems taken from Portos. “Would you accept those?”
“Oh, I’d like to,” the geezer said regretfully. “But I wouldn’t have the first clue how much they’re worth.”
“Then I’m afraid we’re going to have to pass on the horses,” Yannar sighed.
“That’s fine,” the old man said, nodding. “That’s fine. If you change your mind, then… just let me know.”
“Thank you very much,” said Yannar. “They were brilliant.”
“You’re more than welcome,” the ostler replied. “I’m glad they served you well.”
The party next headed to the inn, where Katzura once again gifted them free rooms. Renauld looked at Portos again, and determined that it would take at least a day’s rest for him to come around. The party decided to take it in turns watching Portos while the rest slept.
The next morning was drizzly and overcast. Yannar and Fade insisted that the party start out towards Sharn, but Renauld, desperate to find his package, asked for the opportunity to talk to Portos before heading off. The party conceded, and waited until mid-afternoon, when Portos finally came round.
As soon as he stirred, Renauld slapped him across the face as Yannar drew his sword and aimed it at the bandit’s throat. Portos grunted and shook his head, slowly looking around the room. Suddenly, he seemed to realise where he was and went to move, only to find his limbs bound by 50 feet of rope.
“So,” Renauld hissed. “Did you like what we had?”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Portos growled.
“Where’s my property?” Renauld asked.
“What property?” snarled Portos. “What the hell are you on about?”
“You know,” Renauld snapped. “You and your men stole from me. I want it back.”
“So?” Portos sneered. “Me and my men have stolen from I don’t know how many people. Why the hell should I remember you?”
“Well, how many people have beat you and tied you up?” Renauld asked with a sick grin.
“Alright, then,” Portos sighed. “Granted, not many. That don’t mean I’m gonna be helping you!” He glanced around the room at the people glaring down at him. “What are you all playing at? You’re pathetic!”
“You’re the one tied up on a bed,” Renauld snapped.
“So what are you gonna do now?” Portos laughed. “Leave me here? Give me a nice little holiday, bit of a spa? You can get to massaging my feet, if you want.”
“No,” Renauld said. “We could take you to the Watch and you can spend the rest of your miserable life in jail.”
“Yeah,” Portos sneered. “You can try.”
“We did,” Zanros interjected. “Hence why you’re tied up on a bed.”
“Yeah?” Portos spat. “Well I don’t see the Watch around at the moment. So what are you really after, eh?”
“I told you,” Renauld growled. “I want my property back.”
“Well, be a bit more Gods damn specific, if you please!” Portos yelled.
“A black box,” Renauld said, gesturing with his hands to indicate the size.
“Had half a dozen boxes could fit that description,” said Portos.
Renauld turned to the rest of the party, his cheeks flushed, and said; “Could you leave please?”
“Are you going to be alright?” Yannar asked.
“I’ll be fine,” Renauld snapped. Somewhat reluctantly, Yannar, Fade and Zanros shuffled out of the room and into the corridor, closing the door behind them.
“I’m going downstairs to get a drink,” Zanros sighed, walking away. Fade rolled her eyes, watching the young elf disappear down the corridor. After a moment, the sounds of irritated murmuring ceased. Yannar stepped up to the door and knocked gently.
“Is everything okay in there?” he asked. The door opened and Renauld stepped out, looking very perturbed.
“I need some time to think,” he muttered. “You watch him. I’m going to go for a walk.”
Without another word, the changeling trudged away. Yannar watched after him for a moment, then stepped back into the room, followed by Fade.
“So what are the Watch offering?” Portos asked as they entered. “What’s my bounty up to now? Let me guess. What am I at? 4000 gold? No, higher, higher. I haven’t gone up to six yet, have I? That would be brilliant! You know you’re a made man when you get up to 6000 gold, that’s when they start sending the Dark Lanterns after you, but to be fair, you don’t look like that kind of calibre. Fine, let’s say 5000 gold. Am I right?” Neither Fade nor Yannar replied. “Aah, close enough!”
Some time later, Renauld returned, clearly still troubled about something. Fade and Zanros met him outside of the room.
“Alright,” Renauld sighed. “Let’s take him to Sharn.”
“Okay,” said Fade, visibly relieved.
The three of them walked into the bedroom, where Yannar sat on a chair watching Portos, who seemed to be asleep.
“What’s the plan?” the paladin asked, getting to his feet.
“We’re going to Sharn,” Renauld said.
“Are you alright?” Yannar asked.
“We’re going to Sharn,” Renauld repeated.
“Okay,” Yannar whispered. The party decided to walk to Moonwatch, and then find some way of transport to Sharn.
For a short while, Yannar carried Portos over his shoulder, but the bandit struggled and kicked at every opportunity. Yannar threw Portos to the ground, untied his legs and used the free rope to drag him along. Even so, Portos made the journey as difficult as he could, dawdling, shoving and kicking loose pebbles at whoever was in front of him.
By the time the party finally reached Moonwatch, it was early evening. A few everbright lanterns illuminated the town square, making the marble statue of The Moonwatcher seem to glow with eldritch light.
“Zanros,” Yannar said. “Do you know if there’s anywhere where I can sell these gems?”
“I’m not sure,” Zanros mumbled. “The general store?”
“I can try that,” Yannar said. Renauld said that he would stay in the square and watch Portos while the other three visited the general store. Fade did not seem happy with this, but agreed anyway. However, on reaching the general store, the three found the it closed. Yannar turned to return to the town square with a sigh, only to be confronted by a small, bright-eyed boy looking up at him.
“Are ya after buyin’ some stuff?” the child asked.
“I was looking to sell something, actually,” Yannar said with a smile.
“Alright then!” the boy said cheerfully. “Me dad owns the general store, an’ we ain’t got much business, so do you want I could go get ‘im for ya?”
“That’d be great,” Yannar said. “Yes, please.”
With a gap-toothed grin, the child hurried around the back of the store, and returned moments later with a kindly-looking old gent who opened up the store and led Yannar, Zanros and Fade inside. The store was surprisingly large, and smelled of vegetables and pleasant spices.
“Tell me what you’re wantin’,” the shopkeeper said.
“I have these gems,” Yannar said, pulling out the pouch of gems. “I was wondering if I could sell them to you? Would they be any use to you?”
The shopkeeper took the pouch from Yannar and inspected a couple of the gems, before saying; “Um… I can offer you 50 gold for each of ‘em.”
“That will be fine,” Yannar said. The transaction was made, with Locke cawing his approval.
“Is there anythin’ else you want to buy or sell while you’re here?” the shopkeeper asked. “I’m open, I might as well. I want to go down the tavern, though, so make it quick. Don’t just browse the shelves.”
“Yes, of course,” Yannar said. “You head off to the tavern, that’s all I wanted to do. Thank you very much for opening especially for us.”
“That’s fine,” the shopkeeper replied. “Kids, I just can’t tell ‘em no.”
“Well, I very much appreciate it,” said Yannar.
“Come on,” the shopkeeper said. “Buy us a drink with ya newfound wealth.”
“Yes, alright,” Yannar replied with a smile.
Zanros, Fade, Yannar and the shopkeeper went to the tavern, where Jorge greeted them with a huge smile.
“Ah, friends!” he yelled. “Good to see you! I didn’t think you’d be calling back in here. Look, tell me, what are you having to drink? Anything, it’s on the house. It’s the least I can do.”
“Oh, I can’t accept a free drink,” Yannar murmured with a shy smile. “I’ll give you some money.”
“No, absolutely not!” Jorge exclaimed. “I refuse to take any money from you. You’ve saved me I don’t know how much in business! I would have had to shut up for weeks while my arm healed, and look at it now!”
He flexed his arm with a grin, which Yannar could not help but laugh at. Fade ordered a glass of water and retired to a table on her own to think, while Yannar brought Zanros and the shopkeeper drinks.
After half an hour or so, Fade, Yannar and Zanros bid Jorge and the shopkeeper goodbye, and walked back to the town square. When they got there, Renauld had moved into a small side street, where he was leaning against a wall, bleeding from the nose, while Portos lay bruised and unconscious on the ground.
“What happened?” Yannar exclaimed, walking into the alley.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Renauld snapped.
“He’s not dead is he?” Yannar asked, glancing down at Portos.
“He’s a very bad man,” Renauld said flatly, “and we should take him to the Watch now.”
“Now?” Yannar queried.
“Right now,” Renauld replied. “Let’s get him back to Sharn.”
“It’s too late to get horses or anything,” Zanros said. “There’s a livery, but it’ll be closed at this time.”
“We’re going to have to wait until tomorrow,” Yannar told Renauld quietly.
Reluctantly, Renauld followed the others to the tavern. When Jorge saw the party enter, he looked perplexed, but wore a huge smile nonetheless.
“Friends,” he said. “I told you to come back soon, but I didn’t think it would be this soon! Hahaha! What can I get for you?”
“Would you like a drink?” Yannar asked Renauld. “I’ll look after Daveth.”
“No,” Renauld sighed. “I don’t want a drink.” Yannar stopped in his tracks, clearly taken aback.
“I’ll have a drink in place of him,” Zanros said.
The party stayed in the tavern’s sparse rooms, once again watching Portos in shifts, and headed to the livery at first light. The owner, a very tall, slender man, agreed to rent the party four thoroughbred horses for 20 gold each. Renauld once again took Portos on his horse, and the party set off for Sharn.
The journey took them three days. At night, they camped, ensuring that there was always someone to keep an eye on Portos, and feeding him only enough for him to survive. When they reached First Tower, a small hamlet marking the entrance to Sharn, rain was pouring from the tumultuous grey sky. An armoured guard stopped the party, and asked them what their business was in Sharn.
“Bounty retrieval,” Fade said.
“We’re here because we caught Daveth Portos,” Yannar added.
“Oh really?” the guard asked, unimpressed. “Let me see.” He walked over to Renauld’s horse and grabbed a handful of Daveth’s wiry, greasy hair. He pulled the bandit’s head up, only to receive a wad of spit in the eye.
“That’s him alright,” the guard growled, wiping at his eye. “I’m sure Captain Empattin will be pleased to see him. Go on.”
The party moved into Sharn, slowly making their way to the Daggerwatch District in Upper Dura. Rain poured down gutters and from roofs, and as they neared the Watch House, their horses trotted through increasingly deep puddles. Fade split off from the rest of the party to purchase supplies, asking Yannar to collect her portion of the reward. Renauld looked very depressed. Yannar asked if he was alright, but got no response.
At the garrison, the party found Empattin waiting outside the Watch House, a big smile on his weathered face.
“Got the news that you were coming,” he said loudly as they approached. “Tell me this is true.” Yannar leaned over and pulled Portos’ head up by the hair. Empattin looked at Portos for a moment, then turned to two Watchmen standing either side of the door. “Come on, get him off the horse. Get him in my office.”
The Watchmen yanked Portos roughly off the horse and dragged him into the Captain’s office. Empattin followed, with the party behind him.
“Seriously, this is exceptional,” Empattin said. “You’ve all done a good job. You’ve earned every gold piece of the reward. Shame he got so beaten up on the way, though.” Empattin suddenly punched Portos full force in the face. “But, you can’t be blamed. Contracts, eh? It’s a shame we Watch can’t do things like that. Wouldn’t that be great?” At this, he delivered a swift kick to Portos’ ribs. “Terrible thing. But, anyway, here you are. I’ll write you a letter of credit for your reward. Just take it to any House Kundarak bank and you can redeem it instantly.”
Empattin scribbled out a letter of credit and held it out to the party. Zanros grinned eagerly and reached forward.
“I’ll look after it!” he exclaimed. Yannar snatched the letter away and handed it to Renauld.
“Renauld can take it,” he said.
“Alright,” the changeling replied, neatly folding up the letter and putting it into his pocket.
“Again, thank you,” Empattin said. “These fine armed men will keep him for a while, then ship him off to the citadel where he’ll stay for a very, very long time.”
Empattin opened a door, and the two Watchmen dragged a struggling Portos away.
The party left the Watch House and headed to a House Kundarak bank, where a squat dwarf exchanged Empattin’s letter of credit for 5000 gold. The party split this up, with Yannar taking Fade’s share.
Shortly afterwards, they met up with Fade, resplendent in a new outfit, and Yannar handed the elf her cut. Yannar said that he wanted to go to the weapons shop to sell Portos’ battle axe and armour. Fade and Zanros agreed to accompany him, but Renauld declined.
“Daveth sold my property somewhere in Sharn,” he informed his associates.
“Well, we can look for it,” Yannar said reassuringly. “We’ve got no other goals right now.”
“I’ll go and ask around,” Renauld said.
“Are you sure?” Yannar asked. “I don’t mind coming with you.
“It’s something I have to do,” Renauld said solemnly, moving off on his own. Yannar watched him forlornly for a moment, before walking on with the rest of the party.
When they reached the weapons shop, the shopkeeper welcomed them with a huge grin full of pearly white teeth.
“Okay, welcome to shop!” he cried. “How can I help you?”
“I have this armour and this battle axe,” Yannar said, presenting the items to the shopkeeper. “I was wondering how much they were worth.” The shopkeeper inspected both things for a moment, then shook his head.
“Mm… armour no good,” the shopkeeper said. “I don’t like armour. This weapon is… is good weapon, but I not interested. Mass produced during war. Not interesting to me. Very nice, well crafted, though. It maybe worth 300 gold to someone who buy new. I don’t want.”
“Do you know anywhere I could sell these?” inquired Yannar.
“Plenty of shops in bazaar,” the shopkeeper said. “One will buy.”
Yannar then asked the shopkeeper if there were any swords he could buy which would be better than the hobgoblin’s sword. The shopkeeper showed him a few swords, but none seemed as good as the paladin’s current weapon. The shopkeeper then offered to buy Yannar’s sword for 500 gold pieces.
“No, that’s okay,” Yannar said politely. “But thank you for the information.”
“No problem, any time,” the shopkeeper said. “If you find any rare weapons, bring to me. I always interested.”
Yannar, Fade and Zanros left the shop, and headed to the tavern where they had arranged to reconvene with Renauld.