The party decided to rest for the night, and set out the next morning refreshed and alert. Once they exited the hostel, they gathered outside to discuss their next course of action.
“We should go to the stall first,” Yannar suggested, “because it’s open, there’s lots of people, and they’re less likely to be hostile if they’re being watched. Maybe.”
“If we’re going to have to do some killing,” Renauld mused, “maybe we should go and assassinate the one in the apartment quietly, first.”
Yannar looked unhappy at this suggestion. He turned to Fade and Zanros and said; “It’s up to you two. What do you reckon?”
“Kill!” Zanros exclaimed. “Kill!”
“No,” Fade said patiently. “I’d rather go to the one in the street. It would make more sense, because that way, if anything does start going wrong, we’ll get the Watch involved.”
“Let’s flip a coin,” Zanros said.
“Alright,” Yannar sighed. “Go for it.”
“Okay,” Zanros said. “Heads we go to the apartment first.”
Zanros pulled a gold piece from his purse, positioned it carefully in his hand, and then tossed it up. He snatched it out of the air and covered it with his hand. He held both hands out and revealed the coin, which was heads up. Suddenly, Locke began to flap about and squawk loudly.
“Cheat!” the bird crowed. “Cheat!” Zanros scowled at the raven, and sulkily pocketed the coin.
“Okay,” Renauld muttered. “So we’re going to the bazaar, then.”
The party headed to the bazaar, which was unbelievably busy. People were packed shoulder-to-shoulder and constantly jostling one another. People at their stalls yelled out, offering exotic fruits, spices, furniture and more. Zanros suggested visiting Old Gabe to find out where Jamgretor’s stall was located, and the party agreed.
Zanros led the way to Gabe’s weapon gear stall, and as they approached, the old man grinned widely.
“‘Ey, Zanros!” he exclaimed. “‘Ow are yer doin’? Do yer want any whetstones an’ scabbards? Weapons oil?”
“Not today, Gabe,” Zanros replied.
“‘Ow can I ‘elp yer?” Gabe asked, still smiling. “Bet yer after some information!”
“Of course I am,” Zanros said, grinning himself. “We’re looking for the Fockles. Where are they?”
“Urgh,” Gabe groaned. “Bastard ‘alflings! Yer can ‘ead over down that street, they’ve got a stall set up there sellin’ their crap!”
“Thanks, Gabe,” Zanros said, passing the old man a gold piece. “See you soon.”
“See yer, Zanros,” Gabe said. “You take care, now.”
“You know I will,” smirked Zanros.
The party followed Old Gabe’s directions, and soon spotted Jamgretor’s little stall. Fade and Renauld sent their birds to the rooftops to survey the area. The party could see Jamgretor behind the stall, selling some trinkets to an orc. The stall was decked out with tribal decorations, dreamcatchers and dinosaur teeth, with a large skull hanging over the centre of the stall.
“Jamgretor Fockle!” Renauld announced, stepping up to the stall. The halfling looked up at Renauld, a wary expression on his face.
“I see my reputation has preceded me,” he said carefully. “How can I help you, friend?”
“Well,” Renauld said, glancing at the items for sale on the stall. “I’m not here to buy any of this stuff, I’ll tell you that right now, so no sales pitch, thank you very much.” Renauld leaned forward. “Do you know how many people in this city want to kill you?”
“Kill me?” Jamgretor asked with a shocked chuckle. “Why would anyone want to kill me? I’m just a simple merchant, peddling my wares.”
“I don’t know,” Renauld replied. “I don’t want to know. That’s not my business. But we’ve heard whispers that you’re a wanted man, and we thought we would warn you that it might be better to take your business elsewhere.”
“I don’t think there’s anywhere else I can take my business,” Jamgretor said. “And who would want to kill me? I’ve got friends in this city! I’ve got lots of friends.”
“Have you, or any of your friends, heard of The Daask?” Renauld inquired. Jamgretor laughed humourlessly.
“You might want to keep your voice down around here,” the halfling said.
“Why’s that?” Renauld asked.
“Well, The Daask…” Jamgretor said. “Do you know anything about The Daask?”
“I know they’re a frightening bunch of monsters,” Renauld replied.
“Don’t call them that!” Jamgretor hissed. “They’re very touchy about those kinds of words.”
“I hear they’re touchy about your business operation as well,” Renauld retorted.
“Whoa, whoa,” Jamgretor exclaimed. “Wait. What would they have against me? I mean, look at this stuff! It’s not like I’m plundering goblin ruins or anything!”
“Again,” Renauld said. “I didn’t ask. It’s not my business. I’m just trying to do you a favour and give you the warning. You can heed it, or not, but if you don’t, it will be at your peril.”
“Okay,” Jamgretor murmured, his face falling. “I don’t know where you’re getting your information, but I think I’m gonna have a word with my brother. If you’ll excuse me, I’m closed for the day.”
The halfling stepped back and pulled a curtain across the front of the stall. Renauld turned to the rest of the party.
“Do we want to mention the drugs?” he asked under his breath.
“That will do one of two things,” Yannar replied. “It’ll make him a bit worried and he will leave, or he’ll get hostile.”
“We should just leave him,” Zanros said. “He’s going to his brother, so we might as well-”
“Give them an hour or so,” Fade interrupted, “and then go around to the house, to see if they’ve vacated.”
“That’s a good idea,” Renauld said.
“Alright,” Yannar agreed. “So what do you want to do now?”
“Well, it’s quite early,” mused Renauld. “Let’s go get a bite to eat. We haven’t had breakfast yet.”
Suddenly, Fade snatched out a hand and pulled a young, dirty urchin away from Zanros. The young elf stumbled backwards, and a couple of coins fell from his open purse. Fade pulled the struggling child close and looked over at Zanros.
“He was stealing from you,” Fade said.
“Oh, okay,” Zanros murmured. As quick as a flash, Zanros’ glaive was aimed at the urchin’s throat. “Why?” The boy cowered back in fear, his eyes wide and shiny. Fade slapped the blade away from the child.
“He’s a kid!” Yannar cried.
“Look!” Fade snapped. “He didn’t actually take anything! We caught him in the act!” Yannar leaned down and spoke gently to the child.
“Where are your parents?” he asked. The boy looked at Yannar, mouth firmly closed, still tugging away from Fade.
“Just let the child go,” Renauld said irritably. Yannar glanced at Renauld, then handed the urchin two gold pieces. The child looked up at Yannar wonderingly, but the second Fade let him go, charged off into the crowd.
“Keep your gold pouch turned into your body,” Yannar said to Zanros. “Just be careful.”
“Okay,” Renauld sighed. “Now can we go and get some breakfast, please?”
The party went to a small tavern and enjoyed a hearty breakfast. After about an hour, they left the tavern and wound their way through the bazaar until they reached the apartment block The Daask said the Fockles lived in. The party entered the building and went up a floor. Yannar located the door to the Fockles’ apartment and leaned forward, glancing through the keyhole. Though he couldn’t see much, he could hear the halflings muttering inside, talking about drugs and The Daask.
The paladin straightened up and knocked on the door. The Fockles’ conversation immediately ceased. Yannar glanced back at the party with a frown. Renauld crouched down and peered through the keyhole, only to see a bulging halfling eye looking back at him. Renauld jerked backwards with a yelp. As he did, Zanros strode forward and kicked the door solidly. It flew open with a crunch, and Jamgretor, who had been leaning against the door, was thrown back into the apartment. Diveak, standing behind a crowded table, pulled a dagger out and pointed it nervously at the party.
Renauld stepped into the apartment and without hesitation, swung his staff down at Jamgretor. The halfling jerked to one side, and the staff caught him on the shoulder. He let out a yelp of pain, and scrambled further into the apartment. Diveak cursed in halfling, then turned to one side and yelled. This was met with a horrible, guttural growling, seemingly from an adjoining room. Renauld looked up in horror to see two Talentan clawfoot dinosaurs running round the corner, chittering horribly. Zanros charged into the room, twinkling white particles swirling around his hands. With a yell, he thrust his hands forward and a blast of icy cold hit one of the dinosaurs in the face, just as it took a snap at him. The dinosaur recoiled, shaking itself and keening.
Yannar charged through the door and, upon seeing the dinosaurs, swung his sword at the closest with a scowl. The blade hit the dinosaur’s side, but only inflicted a small gash. Renauld hit out at the dinosaur closest to him, but the staff merely bounced off the dinosaur’s thick, scaly hide. In the commotion, Diveak barrelled over to the window, gripping the bottom of the dilapidated frame and heaving upwards, to no avail.
“Come on, Jamgretor!” he yelled. “We’ve got to get out of here!” The halfling put two fingers into his mouth and whistled, shortly and sharply, twice. At this, both dinosaurs lunged forward. Renauld managed to parry the one attacking him with his staff, but Yannar was less fortunate. The dinosaur closest to him slashed out with its talons, tearing through Yannar’s tunic. Yannar screamed and fell backwards, a fan of blood spraying from his chest.
Seeing this, Zanros angrily swung his glaive at the attacking dinosaur, but missed, instead striking the wall of the small apartment. Fade suddenly flew past Zanros, shrieking loudly, tears streaming down her face. With a furious yell, she threw her hands forward and a sizzling ball of energy flew forward, hitting the dinosaur which attacked Yannar straight in the face. The dinosaur screeched and staggered back, its eyes scrunched closed. Renauld dropped to his knees next to Yannar and placed his hands over the wound. He closed his eyes and muttered a few words, and when he moved his hands, the gashes on Yannar’s chest had stopped oozing blood. One of the dinosaurs stepped over Yannar, whose eyes suddenly flew open. The paladin cried out and thrust his sword up. The blade sunk into the dinosaur’s underbelly and slid straight through its body, exploding from its back in a shower of blood. The dinosaur let out a buzzing cry and collapsed.
Jamgretor scampered towards the window on all fours, as Diveak finally managed to thrust the window open. Diveak glanced back at his brother, and then jumped onto a ledge outside. The second dinosaur lunged at Zanros, slashing at the young elf with its claws and dragging bloody wounds in his arm. The elf hissed, dropping his glaive to the floor. In the same motion, he pulled the warhammer from his belt and hit out at the dinosaur with it. The hammer struck the dinosaur on the snout, and it skittered backwards with a howl.
Yannar got shakily to his feet, and looked down at the prone dinosaur, which was still twitching and letting out a low, buzzing growl. With a scowl, Yannar swung his sword down, partially decapitating the creature. Fade, still in the doorway, looked over at Jamgretor who was pulling himself to his feet at the window. The elf threw her hand forward and strings of smoking acid flew from her fingertips. They arced through the air and his Jamgretor on the rump, beginning to burn through his trousers. The halfling screamed and danced backwards, clutching his backside.
Renauld suddenly yelled out, and Martin flew at the surviving dinosaur. The crow sunk its talons into the beast’s cheek and swiftly pecked into the dinosaur’s eye, puncturing it. The dinosaur bellowed as Martin jerked his beak back, tearing its torn eye from its socket. Martin flapped away as the dinosaur collapsed to the floor, whimpering. Renauld stepped behind the dinosaur, lodging his staff under its chin and twisting his wrists, breaking the beast’s neck with a snap.
Zanros picked up his glaive and charged towards the window. Yannar did the same, reaching Jamgretor first and seizing the halfling by the lapels of his shirt. Fade strode through the room, skirting past the table to the window. She peered out to see Diveak slowly making his way along a wooden board positioned between the apartment block and the adjacent building. Frowning, Fade climbed out of the window onto the wide ledge below. Seeing this, Renauld sent Martin out after Fade.
In the room, Zanros leaned into Jamgretor and scowled at him. Jamgretor flinched backwards, a look of horror on his face.
“Where’s Diveak going?” Yannar asked. Jamgretor looked up at Yannar, tears shimmering in his eyes.
“He’s getting out of here!” the halfling whimpered. “You’re trying to kill us!”
“If we let you go, will you leave town?” Yannar continued.
“You’re letting us leave!?” Jamgretor asked, glancing over at the two dead dinosaurs. “Yes! Yes! I’ll be gone! You’ll never hear from us again!”
“Do you promise?” Yannar asked.
“Absolutely!” Jamgretor exclaimed. “You’ve made your intentions clear! We’re gone! We’re out of this city! We’re going home, back to the plains where people don’t burst into your house and try to kill you.”
Meanwhile, outside, Fade loaded her crossbow and fired a bolt at Diveak. The bolt hit the halfling in the side, and he tumbled from the beam into the bazaar below. The elf turned and clambered back into the room, where Yannar was setting Jamgretor down. The halfling glanced around the room, and then charged out of the apartment.
“What happened out there?” Yannar asked, turning to Fade.
“I shot him,” Fade reported. “He fell off.” Yannar’s face fell, his eyes widening.
“What!?” Zanros exclaimed, securing his glaive. “You get all the fun.”
“What’s going on?” Fade asked, glancing at Yannar.
“I said that we would let them live,” the paladin said angrily, “if they got out of town.” Fade winced. His jaw set, his eyes livid, Yannar turned and walked out of the room. Fade hurried out after him, frowning.
“Well, that’s that business taken care of,” Renauld said after a moment.
“Right, I’m going to have a look around this room,” Zanros said, beginning to search the table. The young elf moved some papers and found 16 piles of ten gold pieces. With a greedy smile, Zanros scooped up the coins and piled them into his purse.
Renauld walked into the kitchen and searched the cupboards, taking some salted meats and vegetables for himself. He then headed back into the main room and joined Zanros in searching the table. After moving some books, Renauld found two blue gems, which he pocketed, and several boxes, five small, one large. Frowning, he opened one of the smaller boxes to reveal ten vials of light purple liquid. Eyebrows cocked, he set the box aside and opened the largest boxes, finding ten larger vials of deeper purple liquid. Zanros glanced over and commented that the larger vials appeared to be vaguely magic.
Fade stepped outside and looked over to where Diveak had fallen. A crowd had gathered, and Fade spotted two members of the Watch approaching. Her eyes widening, she darted back into the building. As she stepped into the apartment, Zanros turned to her with a beam.
“I found over 100 gold pieces,” Zanros exclaimed excitedly. “Here, you can have one.” He held out a coin to Fade, who looked at it, unimpressed.
“Oh, gee, thanks,” she muttered, taking the coin.
“I think these are the drugs,” Renauld said.
“The Watch is out there!” Fade said at more or less the same time. The colour seemed to drain from Renauld’s face.
“We’ve got two options, really,” he said. “We leave it or we take it. We can take it to Gata to prove that they’re definitely out of business.”
“Then I’d suggest taking one of the smaller vials,” Fade said. “I wouldn’t want to be walking around with something that may or may not be suspect.”
“We could give the rest to the Watch,” Zanros suggested.
“Yeah, but then they’ll know it was us who killed that halfling,” Renauld muttered. At this time, Yannar stepped back into the room, still looking unhappy. However, when his eyes fell on the larger vials, his mouth fell open. He said that he recognised the liquid as a drug named Dreamlily, a narcotic common in Sarlona.
“Let’s take one vial to show Gata,” Renauld said. “The Watch will find the rest on their own.” Zanros nodded, slipping one of the smaller vials into his backpack.
The party exited the building quickly, hurrying away from the rapidly growing crowd into the bazaar.
“Before we go to see Gata,” Renauld said, “can we go somewhere where I can sell these blue gems that I picked up? Zanros, you have local knowledge. Who’s going to give me the best deal on these?”
“I’m not sure,” Zanros replied. “But I’m sure Gabe will know.”
The party made their way to Old Gabe’s stall, who directed them to a shop owned by “a dwarven fellow with a gammy eye.” Following Gabe’s directions, Renauld found the shop, a small jeweller’s. Inside, the dwarf assessed the blue gems with a jeweller’s loupe, identifying them as blue quartz and offering 20 gold for both, which Renauld accepted.
“Fade,” Renauld said, holding a hand out to the elf. “Have ten gold.”
“Wow!” Fade said with a grin, taking the coins from Renauld. “Thank you.” She shot a look at Zanros, who did not seem to notice.
Next, the party headed to Jamgretor’s stall, where Fade found eight gold in various coppers and silvers, and Renauld found two things he deemed to be of worth – an intricately carved Talentan boomerang and a clean, whole dinosaur skull. Following this, they headed to Gata’s shop.
The goblin in the main shop nodded to the party as they entered and made their way up the stairs. As soon as they pushed open the door to Gata’s office, the spindly goblin threw out his hands, an enormous grin on his face.
“My friends!” he exclaimed. “I’ve just heard the good news! I never thought you would have had it in you. Seriously, you’re all my new best friends. I mean… It looked like an accident! No one suspects a thing, it’s brilliant! So, yeah, what can I do for you? Oh! Information!”
“Yes, please,” Yannar said bluntly.
“Information, that’s right,” Gata said, still smiling widely. “I had one of my people follow one of Daveth’s people, and… Okay, here’s what happened. This guy, he’s heading out to the west, this little town of Moonwatch, and then… I’m not sure where, from then. I think he may be based there, or around there. I mean, it’s by the coast, there’s swamps, it fits! That’s where I’d go, if I were you.”
“Sounds good,” Renauld said hesitantly. Gata leaned forward conspiratorially.
“You didn’t happen to… ah… you know… get any… things… from these halflings, did you?” he whispered.
“Now, why would you want to know that?” Renauld asked with a frown.
“Well, I mean… I just don’t want any unfortunate substances lying around,” Gata said defensively, “where little street urchins could find them. That would be terrible! I’d… I’d just like to dispose of them. Doing my civic duty, you know how it is.”
“Nope,” Zanros said quickly. “We found nothing.” Gata studied Zanros closely, then leaned back, his expression suddenly nonchalant.
“Well,” he said. “It’s a shame you didn’t find anything, ‘cause… I mean, I’ve got some things that might be useful to you. I haven’t got any use for them. But I’m sure I can find some people that would have use for them. I mean, if our business is done, then… It was nice doing business with you. Anyway, I suppose I’ll see you all around.”
“Okay,” Renauld replied. “Well, I think our business with you is done.”
“Oh,” Gata said, taken aback. “O-okay, then. Well, take care. G’bye. I’ll see you around. Or not.”
The party turned and walked away, leaving Gata looking somewhat perturbed behind his desk.
“Hopefully that’s the last we’ll see of him,” Renauld said as the party left the shop. Fade suddenly stopped in her tracks. The rest of the party did the same and turned to Fade, curiously. The female elf looked gravely at Zanros.
“Can you give me the vial?” she said. Zanros did not reply.
“Can I throw it at Gata?” Zanros asked with an insolent grin.
“No,” Fade replied sternly. “Just give me the vial.”
“Aw, why?” Zanros groaned, beginning to pout.
“Because I said so!” Fade snapped. Zanros thought for a moment, then his face was lit by a mischievous grin.
“One gold,” he said. Fade’s eyes widened, her cheeks beginning to grow red. Yannar suddenly grabbed out at Zanros, but the young elf ducked out of the way with a loud laugh. Fade glared at Zanros and furiously swiped at him, but he managed to dodge this, too. Yannar stepped back, his mouth tightly closed, and wiped his hair out of his face.
“Give me the vial!” Fade shouted. “Now!”
“No!” Zanros cried, still grinning wildly. Renauld, watching this, shook his head impatiently.
“Can we maybe concentrate on getting to Moonwatch?” he sighed.
The party continued on their way, discussing their options in travelling to Moonwatch. While travelling by boat would take less time, the party decided to try and secure a place with a trade caravan. As they headed towards the west gate, Fade asked why Zanros wouldn’t give up the vial.
“I was going to throw it when we get out of town,” he replied. “Good Gods! I’m not getting rid of it in town.”
“I am very, very sorry,” Yannar said quietly.
“No one asked,” Zanros murmured.
Sometime later, Yannar’s wound began to hurt again, so Renauld used his magic to dull the pain as best he could. The party also visited Old Gabe once again, to find the best place to sell the boomerang and skull Renauld found at the Fockles’ stall.
“Oh, I know someone ‘o specialises in all fancy antiques,” Gabe said. “‘E’s on the way out to the west gate, conveniently!”
The party headed to the small shop, which smelt of oil and rich wood. Zanros, Yannar and Renauld headed inside, while Fade, who still seemed angry, waited outside. The shop was filled with weapons, some of which dated back to the great Last War. As he was browsing, Yannar spotted a sword which looked very much like the sword given to Fade by the hobgoblin.
Renauld approached the counter and asked the shopkeeper how much he would get for the boomerang. The shopkeeper took the boomerang, inspected it for a moment, then smiled.
“Ah, yes!” he exclaimed, his accent bizarre and thick. “Yes! Very nice! Very nice craftsmanship! This finest boomerang that I’ve ever seen! There’s definitely a place for it in my collection! I give you 150 gold for it!”
“What about with the trinket?” Renauld asked, handing the shopkeeper the dinosaur skull. The shopkeeper looked at the skull and frowned.
“With the trinket?” the shopkeeper asked. “This is a bit of a shitty trinket! I give you 151 gold for them both!”
“I’ll take it,” Renauld said.
“Very good!” the shopkeeper said, putting the boomerang and the skull behind the counter and handing Renauld a small bag of coins.
“Excuse me,” Yannar said, gesturing to the sword on the wall. “That sword, over there. What does it do? Is there a particular enchantment to it? What is it?”
“That sword?” the shopkeeper exclaimed excitedly. “I tell you! It has a story and history! It ancient draconic sword. It used to execute the prisoners! The balance of the blade… weight to swing speed ratio…”
Yannar listened patiently to the shopkeeper’s lengthy explination, determining that the sword was slightly better than his old longsword.
“Thank you very much for the information,” he said when the shopkeeper finally finished. “That’s brilliant.”
“Is pleasure!” the shopkeeper cried with a grin. “I love talking about weapons. Come back any time.”
Outside the shop, Yannar gave his old sword to Fade, who sold it in the shop for seven gold and five silver.
The party then made their way to the west gate of Sharn. As they approached the bustling gate, everyone heard a booming voice in the multitude of people.
“COME ON!” it cried. “LOAD THAT OVER THERE! STACK THAT ON TOP! STACK IT ON TOP!”
The four party members turned to one another, smiling, and headed in the direction of the voice. They passed many people loading up House Orien caravans, several horses and a few children. Eventually, they saw Jerich, gesturing wildly, instructing people. Yannar walked over to the merchant, holding his arms out affably.
“Jerich!” he exclaimed. Jerich turned to Yannar and grinned widely. “Would you mind if we joined you on your travels? Where are you headed?”
“OH, I SEE YOU’RE WANTING TO JOIN THE CARAVAN, ARE YOU!?” Jerich bellowed, pulling out a crumpled map and tracing the caravan’s route with one pudgy finger. “SO, ARE YOU WANTING TO JOIN ON AS PASSENGERS OR CARAVAN GUARDS!?”
“Passengers, if that’s alright,” Yannar replied.
“OKAY THEN!” Jerich thundered. “WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO!? HOW LONG WILL WE BE KEEPING YOU!?”
“We’ll be going to Moonwatch,” said Yannar.
“MOONWATCH!?” Jerich shouted. “I’LL SAY FIVE SILVERS! WE’VE GOT A COUPLE OF EMPTY CARRIAGES! YOU CAN KIP IN THOSE!”
Soon afterwards, the caravan set out, rolling through Sharn’s west gate just after noon. The party sat in one open carriage, looking around as the urban sprawl of Sharn gave way to beautiful Brelish countryside. As Sharn disappeared into the distance, Renauld seemed to grow happier and happier.
The first night, the caravan stopped by a woodland. While the members of the House Orien and most of the party sat around a campfire eating cooked meat, Yannar moved off to the very edge of the forest and sat against a tree, closing his eyes. He stayed this way for almost an hour, until he sensed someone nearby. He opened his eyes to see Fade standing in front of him, an anxious frown on her face.
“Hello,” Yannar said cautiously. “What is on your mind?” Fade stepped forward and kneeled by Yannar. For a moment, she didn’t say anything. Then, she looked up at Yannar, clearly upset.
“I’m sorry, Yannar,” she whispered, “but I had to stop that halfling. I’m useless at close range. I couldn’t even grab Zanros, so I don’t think I could ever grab a halfling. I only wanted to slow him down… guarantee that he wouldn’t start the trade up again. He seemed much smarter than his brother, and I thought if he escaped, we’d spend days trying to find him again. But I was stupid and reckless. I didn’t take into account that he might fall.”
“You were reckless,” Yannar said thoughtfully. “But stupid? No. Not at all. Fade I… I’m sorry for the way I acted earlier. I think I was expecting you to have heard me, which isn’t fair. I was just disappointed, I suppose, and I let that get the better of me. I think very highly of you.”
“You shouldn’t think highly of me,” Fade muttered, looking away. “I’m not like you, or any of them. I just do what I can to survive. It’s all any of us can do. I’ve done all kinds of things, things that would make you even more disappointed in me, but I find it’s only now that I’m reflecting on these things, and doubting my actions. I’ve had no feelings toward anything I’ve been paid to do. Sometimes I will do something just for the chance of making someone’s life a little more bearable. I’m not a fighter of injustices, or inherently cruel. I just try to survive. If I don’t…” She trailed off, closing her eyes for a moment. Then, she looked up at Yannar, tears trickling down her cheeks. “I can’t go into battles worried about what you’ll think of me. You nearly died this morning, when that dinosaur attacked you. Had it been one of the halflings, how could I have protected you if I thought you’d think less of me for doing so? I admire that you want to take the high road in all things, but that road is too high for me to survive on.”
“I understand,” Yannar said. “I’m sorry, I do appreciate what you did for me this morning. Without you and Renauld I wouldn’t be here now. It was unfair of me to treat you as I did. You were doing what anyone else would have. It wasn’t your fault. If it means anything, if it is at all a comfort, my opinion of you hasn’t changed. You made a mistake, one that anyone could, and you were judged incredibly harshly for it. I can only hope that you can forgive me. And Fade, if you… if you ever join the high road, I promise that I will be there to help you survive. Not that I think you would need the assistance.”
Yannar reached out, taking Fade’s hand in his own and squeezing. The elf looked down, taken aback for a moment. Then, she smiled and squeezed back. When Yannar released her hand, she stood up.
“Thank you, Yannar,” she said. “Speaking with you has helped me settle a great deal. And please don’t punish yourself for this. The fault lies with both of us.” Yannar stood too, and smiled.
“I hope I’m not crossing any lines by doing this,” he said. “If so, I am sorry.” He leaned forward and kissed her gently on the forehead. “Thank you for talking to me about this. I’m just sorry I was not the one to speak first. I’m glad you feel better. If you need anything more, I’ll be in the carriage.”
The party travelled with Jerich’s caravan for two more days. The country became more and more pleasing to look at, and the air seemed to grow cleaner the further away from Sharn they got. Day and night, the party talked, telling each other their stories. Despite his youth, it seemed Zanros had led a rich and varied life. After his parents were slaughtered by warforged, he was taken in by his grandfather, and trained in the art of combat. Zanros had since made his living as a bounty hunter.
Fade told her friends that she had fought in the Last War, as had Yannar. Renauld spoke the most, not only informing the party that his family had been killed during the Last War, and that he was taken in by druids, who trained him and gifted him with Martin, but telling many other stories, most of them hilarious, some of them rather rude. At night, the caravan would form a circle around the campfire and everyone would eat. The assembled group would sing songs, or hear larger than life tales told by Jerich.
The party also used the opportunity to prepare themselves for the days ahead. Fade studied her book of spells intently, while Yannar practiced with his new sword. By the time the caravan rolled into Moonwatch on the fourth morning of travel, the entire party felt more ready to face whatever obstacles lay in their path.
The town was small and quaint. In the town square, where the caravan stopped, was a huge marble statue of a white horse, rearing up on its hind legs. The inscription identified it as “THE MOONWATCHER.” Jerich and his crew began to unload their produce and carry it to the general store, tavern and shops in the town. The party took their leave, thanking Jerich for the journey.
“HOPE YOU’LL BE TRAVELLING WITH US AGAIN SOMETIME!” Jerich boomed. “PROBABLY NOT THOUGH! WHAT WOULD THE CHANCES OF THAT BE!? AH HAHAHA!”
The party wandered into the town hall, which, according to Jerich, also served as the town’s jail, courtroom and Watch House. Behind the desk was a small, elderly clerk with round glasses perched on his thin, beak-like nose. As the party entered, the clerk looked up and smiled widely, revealing all of three teeth.
“Ah, how can I help you today?” he asked in a thin, reedy voice.
“We’ve just arrived,” Renauld said. “We’re on the trail of a particularly nasty bandit that we’ve been told is in the area. Have you had any reports of-”
“Bandits around here?” the old man interrupted. “Hmmm. Ah! You want to be talking to old Jorge in the… um… in the tavern. He’s had quite a nasty run in with these fellows.”
“Thank you,” Renauld said.
“That’s no trouble,” the clerk said. “I take it you’re here from the… the city? It’s about time they sent someone. They’ve been sending missives and letters for weeks now about these people. Terrible, unsightly lot, marching through the town at all hours! I tell you, this used to be such a nice neighbourhood! What’s happening to the world?”
“Oh, Gods,” Fade muttered.
“All these Karrnathians coming in,” the old man continued. “Warforged taking jobs! Honest labourers can’t get a day’s work. Warforged are working all hours, middle of the night, keeping people up with their banging! Working for practically nothing…”
“Well, it’s been lovely chatting to you,” Yannar interjected patiently. “But we really must get on with these bandits.”
“Yes, of course!” the clerk said. “Time waits for no man. What a nice young fellow.”
The party left the town hall and crossed the square to the tavern. Renauld pushed the door open to see that the place had been completely ransacked. Tables were overturned and there was broken glass everywhere. A portly, middle-aged man with his arm in a sling was struggling to push a broom across the floor.
“We’re closed,” he grunted, without looking up. “Can’t you see?”
“What happened!?” Renauld asked.
“What happened?” the man snorted. “Bandits came in in the middle of the bloody night and wrecked the place!”
“You wouldn’t happen to be Jorge, would you?” Renauld asked. The man looked up at Renauld incredulously.
“I’m the only person in here,” he said. “Jorge runs the inn. I ain’t his damn wife!”
“Jorge,” Renauld said patiently. “We’re here to take care of the bandits.” Jorge’s face instantly lit up.
“Well, why didn’t you say so?” he said. “Come in, come in. Is it just you on your own?”
Renauld stepped aside, and the rest of the party walked into the tavern. Jorge assessed them, his smile widening with each person who walked in.
“Hello,” Yannar said.
“Oh, brilliant!” Jorge cried. “It’s about time they sent someone to deal with these menaces. I tell you what, they just came in, sat down and ordered some drinks, and then, all of a sudden, got up and wrecked everything! Chased all my customers out, beat me down to the ground, took all my money and all of my food and half of my drink, and left!”
“Do you recognise this guy?” Zanros asked, holding up the wanted poster. Jorge studied the picture of Daveth, and then shook his head.
“Can’t say I’ve seen him,” he muttered. “Why, you think he’s behind it?”
“We do indeed,” Zanros said. Jorge coughed loudly, covering his mouth with his free arm.
“Do you have any idea where they are?” Renauld asked. “Or where they’re staying?”
“I can tell you where they came from,” Jorge said. “There’s a little settlement out to the west of here called Seawell. It’s right on the coast. They said they were heading back there. I think that’s probably why they stole all my stuff! I bet they’ve got a camp out there! Insolent bastards. I bet they’ve burned Seawell to the ground and taken all their stuff, so now they’re raiding us!”
“Would you like me to heal your wounds, as best I can?” Yannar offered.
“I’m sorry,” Jorge muttered with a frown. “I don’t have any gold. I can’t afford that kind of magical healing.”
“I don’t want money,” Yannar said. “I’m just offering because you look in pain.”
“Well… thank you!” Jorge exclaimed, clearly surprised. “If you could do something about my arm, I could clean this place up.”
Yannar stepped forward, gently laying his hands on Jorge’s arm and closing his eyes. After a moment, the paladin stepped back and nodded. Jorge flexed his shoulder, and then, with a huge smile, tore off his sling.
“Bloody marvellous, that is!” he cried joyously. “Thank you, thank you so much. If any of you want drinks or anything…”
“I think my friend here would like a drink,” Yannar said, gesturing to Renauld with a smile.
“I’d love an ale,” Renauld exclaimed.
“Certainly!” Jorge said, moving behind the bar. “Certainly. This is a great help, thank you so much.”
“Do you have any pickled onions at all?” Fade asked bashfully. “For the bird.”
“I’ll see what I can rustle up,” Jorge said with a carefree laugh. The bartender poured Renauld an ale and pulled a jar of pickled onions from under the bar.
“Thank you,” Renauld said.
“Please!” Jorge scoffed. “If there’s anything else I can do to help you, just ask.”
“Well,” Renauld said, after swigging from his flagon. “We’ll try and take care of these bandits for you. Hopefully, you’ll never have to deal with them again.”
“Thank you so much,” Jorge said again. Renauld finished his ale, then set the empty flagon on the bar.
“Jorge, can you tell us how to get to Seawell?” Renauld asked.
“Oh, yes,” Jorge replied. “Certainly. Certainly. It’s a bit out of the way, the caravans don’t go past there or anything, but you should be able to reach it on foot… by nightfall, if you leave soon.”
“Okay,” Renauld said, turning to his associates. “Let’s go now.” The party gathered their gear. As they did, Yannar thanked Jorge for his hospitality.
“You’re welcome!” Jorge exclaimed. “You’re welcome any time! If you’re passing by on your way back after killing all those bastard bandits, stop by! I’ll be happy to give you a free drink or two.”
“We will!” Renauld cried cheerfully. “Thank you.”
The group left the tavern and started towards Seawell, following the numerous signposts. As the group walked down the street, Fade looked from one to the other with a shy smile.
“Locke likes pickled onions,” she said quietly. “He says he won’t eat anything with eyeballs. He can’t eat stuff that looks at him. He won’t eat bugs or anything. Pickled onions almost look like eyes, but they don’t look at you. He‘s a very weird bird.”
“I agree,” muttered Renauld with a grin.
After a couple of hours, the party crested a ridge and caught their first glimpse of the sea, a misty, almost ethereal band of blue in the distance. Sometime later, they saw a little settlement perched on the clifftop, a small path leading down to the bay.
Another hour or so later, the party reached the town. By this time, the sun was starting to sink below the horizon. Fade took a crossbow bolt from her quiver and held a hand over it. Slowly, the tip began to glow, increasing in intensity until it illuminated the buildings either side of the party. A couple of grizzled, bearded men walked about the place, most with nets or other fishing equipment. Zanros stopped one of the men and asked about Daveth.
“Never seen anyone like that around here!” the man grunted, squinting at the wanted poster and belching.
The party followed sounds of merriment until they found an inn. Yannar pushed the door open, and at once, the place fell silent. Numerous old fishermen stared at the party as they inched their way towards the bar. A few of them murmured to one another. As the party approached the bar, Renauld noticed that the barman was tall, fair-skinned and very handsome, with a presence that seemed to emanate from him. He leaned in and whispered to Yannar.
“The guy behind the bar looks like a Kalashtar,” he said. “Maybe you want to talk to him.” Yannar turned from the men he was looking at and followed Renauld’s gaze to the bar. When he saw the barman, his eyes widened.
“What can I get you to drink?” the barman asked as the party reached him, not looking up from the tankard he was cleaning.
“Mead,” Renauld said eagerly.
“He’ll have some mead,” Yannar said. Then, more quietly; “We’ve heard that you’ve had some problems with bandits in this town.”
“Yeah,” the barman said, pouring mead into the tankard he was holding. “There’s been a few bandits around these parts. They’ve caused the townsfolk quite a bit of trouble. It’s quite unsettling, I thought there’d be someone out from the city a bit before this.” The barman handed Renauld his mead, and for the first time noticed Yannar. A smile broke out over his face. “Ah, didn’t expect to see someone like me around here! We’re a bit out of our way, aren’t we?”
“Yes,” Yannar said, chuckling. “Pretty far.”
“I didn’t expect to see a Kalashtar serving behind a bar,” Fade noted.
“Neither did I,” agreed Yannar. “How did you find your way over here?
“Oh, you know how it is,” the barman said. “Once you leave Sarlona, there’s not really many places for us to go. I’ve been drifting around, serving beer. Thought I’d help out the community, you know. Do some good.”
“So,” Renauld said, sipping his drink. “Can you direct us to these bandits? We’re here to take care of the problem.”
“Yes, yes,” the barman replied. “Certainly. I don’t know exactly where the bandits are, but there should be a lighthouse about an hour’s walk down the coast. We haven’t heard anything from the lighthouse keeper or his family recently. I’m not sure if the light’s been on. There’s been a few ships gone missing. It’s quite bad reef out here. Very dangerous for the ships. So, if I were you, that’d be the first place I’d look.”
“Okay,” Renauld said. “Well, thanks.” The barman nodded and went on cleaning tankards. Renauld finished his drink and the party walked away. As they did, Yannar heard a voice in the back of his head saying; “Be careful out there, light bringer. Some bad people.”
The party left the inn to see that it was full dark. Bunching together, they made their way along the coast, with Fade holding her glowing crossbow bolt out to light the way. They moved out of the small town within a few minutes, and soon began to pass trees, at first a few, then many, until they found themselves walking along a narrow woodland path. As they walked, Yannar told his associates what he had heard as they left the inn.
“That’s not particularly helpful,” Renauld muttered.
“I know,” Yannar sighed. “We already knew to be careful, but if he know that there’s something especially bad, I thought I’d warn everyone. Please be careful.”
“I was already going to be careful,” Renauld said. “He hasn’t told me anything I didn’t know already.”
Suddenly, the party heard something moving through the bushes. Renauld readied his staff, Yannar his shield and Zanros his glaive. Fade’s arm shifted into her crossbow, and she loaded it. The party proceeded cautiously, saying nothing, eyes darting back and forth. As they reached a bend in the path, they noticed a figure crouching behind a gnarled, overhanging tree. Freezing in her tracks, Fade threw the glowing crossbow bolt towards the figure. The bolt hit the path just in front of the figure, which hissed and retreated into the tangled undergrowth. The party moved on guardedly. As they passed the crossbow bolt, which was rapidly losing its illumination, Fade plucked it from the ground.
Nearly two hours later, the party reached the colossal lighthouse. Several full moons illuminated the cylindrical structure with somehow eerie silver light. The wind blowing off the sea whistled noisily. Renauld was now at the head of the party, holding aloft a burning torch. He moved slowly forward, with the rest of the party close behind. As they neared the lighthouse, Renauld discarded the torch. Fade took Yannar’s hand, Renauld grabbed onto Zanros’ cloak, and the party shuffled on, moving around the lighthouse until they reached a small set of badly rotten wooden steps.
Fade stepped onto the first stair, which creaked under her weight, but didn’t break. She slowly made her way to the top, followed by Yannar, Zanros and Renauld. At the top of the steps was a small wooden door. Fade took the cold metal handle and pushed gently. The hinges of the door let out a loud creak, and the elf jerked, her hand quickly falling away from the handle.
“It’s going to start creaking,” Fade whispered shakily. “What should I do?”
“I have oil,” Yannar said, slipping off his backpack and pulling out a lantern. “Do you want to put some oil on it?”
Fade took the lantern, scooped out some oil and rubbed it into the hinges of the door. She handed the lantern back to Yannar, then slowly pushed the door open, her teeth clenched. This time, however, the door swung inwards without a sound. Fade peered in, but could only see darkness.
Fade stepped in carefully, with the rest of the part following. Yannar’s hand hovered over the hilt of his sword. The party found themselves in a small, circular entryway. The moonlight pouring through the door illuminated a small table with a couple of lanterns on it. Renauld examined the lanterns, discerning that both were only half full. Carefully, he lifted one lantern up and poured the oil from it into the other. He lit the full lantern and handed it to Yannar, before passing the empty lantern to Zanros, who slipped it into his backpack.
Yannar lifted the lantern and shone it around the room. There were three doors set into the walls, all of them dark, warped wood. To the side of the right-hand door was a set of hooks, on which were a number of coats, two child-sized. Under the coats were different sets of boots and shoes.
“We’ve got three doors to go through,” Renauld said in a voice that was not much more than a whisper. “What do we do?”
“I would suggest opening each door in turn,” Yannar murmured thoughtfully, “having a look inside, and if there’s stairs up or another room, we’ll explore the rooms first.”
“Which door first?” queried Fade.
“Left,” Renauld said determinedly. Yannar nodded, stepping forward and pushing the door on the left open. He held up the lantern to reveal a small bathroom.
“It’s just a bathroom,” he informed his associates. “There’s just a bath and a sink.”
Yannar moved to the door on the right and opened it. Inside was a pantry. Most of the shelved were bare, and on the floor was a smashed jam jar and a few potatoes. On the far wall of the pantry was another door.
“Check the next door along,” Renauld whispered. Yannar stepped into the pantry and pushed open the door. Through it was a combined kitchen and dining room. One wall was dominated by a large stone hearth, with cupboards lining another wall. One cupboard’s door was hanging off, revealing that the cupboard was empty.
The party moved through the dining room and opened the door. The next room was a storeroom, containing only a few empty boxes. There was no other door to go through, so the party made their way back to the entryway.
Yannar gently pushed open the centre door in the entryway and held up his lantern. It illuminated a stone spiral staircase which led up into the lighthouse. With a nervous sigh, Yannar began to make his way up the stairs, closely followed by the rest of the party.
Partway up the stairs was another door. The party stepped through it into a workshop, littered with work benches. One the floor was a discarded hammer, the only tool the party could see. Two doors led off from the workshop. Renauld insisted that the party head through the left door, which Yannar carefully opened. Through it was a small bedroom. On the wall were a couple of empty shelves. The bed in the centre of the room was bare. As Yannar approached the next door, he heard a faint buzzing sound coming from the room beyond.
“There’s a whirring noise on the other side!” the paladin cried, stepping back from the door. Renauld stepped forward and listened for a moment.
“It sounds like a swarm of insects,” he muttered. “Most likely flies.”
“Oh Gods,” Yannar hissed. Renauld closed his eyes, then, with a deep sigh, pushed open the door.
The changeling stepped into what was clearly the master bedroom. The room was lavishly decorated, but clearly in a state of disrepair. Lying on the bed was the partially decomposed corpse of a woman. A cloud of flies hovered above her. Renauld walked through the room without looking at the body. Zanros stopped suddenly, his eyes widening. He turned to the bed, brow furrowed.
“I can hear something,” he muttered.
“The flies?” Renauld asked.
“No,” Zanros said. “Something else.”
Brow furrowed, Renauld took the lantern from Yannar and inched his way over to the bed. Once he reached it, he put the lantern on the floor, dropped to his knees and peered under the bed. Other than cobwebs and shadows, there was nothing there.
The party continued on, moving through the bedroom and entering the next room, a sitting room containing a comfortable looking sofa and two upholstered chairs positioned around a long extinguished fireplace. A bookshelf sat against one wall, with another bookshelf lying on the floor. Books were scattered everywhere. Fade walked over and searched through them, but found nothing of use.
“Well, if we ever want to become lighthouse keepers,” she muttered, “we’ve got the books for it.”
Through the next door was another small bedroom. The bed here was made up, but did not look recently slept in. The party made their way through the door here and found themselves back in the workshop. Renauld led the party back onto the staircase. As they walked up, both Zanros and Fade looked back with expressions of horror.
“What?” Yannar gasped.
“I heard a door opening,” Fade whimpered.
“Do you want to go back and see what that was?” Renauld asked.
“No!” Zanros replied instantly, his eyes wide and filled with fear. “We’re going up!”
The party continued up the stairs, stopping at the next door they came to. Renauld pressed his ear against the door, hearing the wind blowing loudly, clearly coming in through some opening. Carefully, he pushed the door open, and stepped into another storeroom with two doors leading in different directions. Large chunks of broken glass littered the floor. The party stepped tentatively through the room to the door to the left.
As soon as Renauld opened the door, the party was hit with a terrible smell. Renauld gagged and stepped back, while Zanros let out a fearful whimper. Shaking his head, Renauld stepped into what was clearly a child’s bedroom. Against the far wall was a wardrobe and a small bed, under the covers of which was a tiny lump. Yannar closed his eyes and looked down, cursing in Quori. Fade put a hand on Yannar’s shoulder, stifling sobs. The party hurried through the room, opening the door on the far side and stepping into the next room, a playroom. A rocking horse lay on its side, and broken toys were scattered about the place.
Fade, at the back of the party, suddenly heard a voice behind her whisper; “Mirval.” She shrieked, spinning around but seeing nothing.
“Fade, what’s wrong?” Yannar asked, concerned.
“I heard something!” she whimpered.
Renauld quickly pushed open the next door to reveal another child’s bedroom. The window was open, and the wind howled through. The door on the other side of the room led back into the storeroom. The party returned to the staircase and made their way up, finally reaching the top. They made their way through the door here and found themselves in the main room of the lighthouse. The huge light in the centre of the room was smashed, and a pulverized dragonshard lay on the floor before it. Through the cracked glass light, Renauld could see the hazy outline of what appeared to be an unmoving, seated figure on the other side of the room.
The changeling slowly made his way around the light. As the figure came into view, he saw that it was the lighthouse keeper, propped up in a chair with his throat slit. Fade, second into the room, saw the reflection of a shadowy figure moving quickly across the corner of the room. The elf gasped and turned around, but again saw nothing.
“Okay,” she said in a thick, trembling voice. “I want to get out, now.”
“We might as well,” Renauld sighed. “There’s nothing here.”
Renauld passed the lantern forward to Yannar, who turned to exit the room. The paladin held up the lantern which immediately illuminated a figure standing in the door. Though the light illuminated the doorway, the figure remained in shadow, black and featureless.
In a voice that seemed to come from every corner of the room, and yet exist only in their heads, the party heard the figure whisper; “Why?”