Modern MMOs have the right idea. You collect bits of monster and put them in your backpack and don’t give it a second thought. Store them in a bank, why not? Ten years later, your wolf eyeball or cow tongue is gonna be as fresh as when you looted it.
Wenner was kinda regretting cutting off Irontooth’s head and carrying it back to Winterhaven in a canvas sack. Wasn’t a waterproof sack. Dripdripdripdrip. We tried having Wenner walk in front of us, but that didn’t work. Then behind us.
So we had a dripping bag of head, and a note. I forgot to write about the note last week! Irontooth had a note with him. We weren’t sure the goblin actually knew what the paper was for. Well, what it was MEANT to be for. He eventually seemed to have found a use for it. And then _kept_ it.
Just… ewwww. Okay.
My spy in Winterhaven suggests we keep an eye out for visitors to the area. It probably does not matter; in just a few more days, I’ll completely open the rift. Then Winterhaven’s people will serve as food for all those Lord Orcus sends to do my bidding.
… read the note. We all decided not to make long term plans to stay in Winterhaven.
Among the many people in Winterhaven who were not interested in a dripping bag of head was Lord Padraig. “Yes, yes… I must admit this is a very unique way of delivering the map of the ruins I asked you to scribe.”
“I thought the Lord Warden of Fallcrest had asked us for that map…”, I hissed.
“No, that was me. People do say we look somewhat similar. Personally, I don’t see it. So, map. You DID return having drawn the map?”
“We were supposed to draw a map?” asked Bryn, honestly curious, having slept through that time in the bar when the
Lord of Fallcrest Lord Mayor of Winterhaven had come by to wish us well and bid us gone those several nights ago.
Paladins like myself are very much interested in liberation. I had just liberated a fine bolt of cloth and was looking to donate it and inform the merchants of the rich lost treasure left behind in Irontooth’s cave (“There was treasure?” asked Bryn, startled. You play around with sleep spells, Bryn, this is what happens to you.)
Wenner casually donated Irontooth’s head to one of the dogs following us out of the Hall of the Mayor. He kept the bag, though. You don’t get good bags like that very often. The Lord Mayor had suggested that if we really wanted to get in touch with the merchants, we might try the Temple of Commerce. We proceeded there swiftly. The barking and wet tearing sounds blended into the normal hustle and bustle of a city about to be torn apart by the demonic forces of Lord Orcus. (Oops. Spoiler alert, citizens of Winterhaven!)
The Temple of Commerce was made of stone. Very tall. Someone was definitely compensating for something. Inside the grand Seal of Commerce was embossed in the floor. Around it in booths were disinterested officers of Commerce, ignoring the lines of petitioners. A dwarf argued loudly with a well-dressed gnome about some botched paperwork. The gnome couldn’t have looked more bored… we thought. And then the gnome actually managed to look more bored. It is an honor and a privilege to watch a professional at work.
While Bryn, Wenner and Sheeoil went on a search for the Commerce guild master, I excused myself and left on my errand to the Winterhaven Pan Denominational Worship and Community Center. There I donated the fine cloth from the kobold cave and half of my earnings from the adventure, 4 pieces of gold. The rooms for our stay in Winterhaven would take the rest of that money. Net profit: 0. I could sense Bahamut’s joy in my sacrifice. I gained 5 temporary points in Smug.
I returned to our inn and met the others in the common room. Wenner had gone looking for a thieve’s guild while Bryn and Sheeoil had headed to the magic shop to get Shee’s “shiny armor” identified. Turned out to be +1 Dwarven Chain mail with a bunch of minor magics applied to it — and a -1 movement penalty. Welcome to the slow side of the group, Shee.
We settled down for a good night’s sleep in obscenely expensive beds. Purrrrrr. The night’s calm was shattered by a loud BOOM!!! from the distance. Thinking that Lord Orcus has come at last to meet with his twin brothers, I get quickly dressed and armored and rush from the room. Wenner and Sheeoil are ready for bear as well. Bryn is… where IS he?
In bed, that’s where. Bryn has a close relationship with sleep. I toss him into one of his robes and carry him out of the room over my shoulder. “Wha….?” asked Bryn, sleepily.
“Big boom outside town,” I said. “Well,” argued Bryn petulantly, “it’s not booming NOW. Let me go back to bed.” “Sure,” I said, “after we’ve checked it out. But you should put on some undergarments. I didn’t want to presume –”
“Undergarments?” chuckled Bryn. “I’m a true wizard!”
“True wizards go commando!”
I privately worried that the boom (probably associated with the column of smoke curling up from well outside the town walls) heralded some sort of invasion. If Winterhaven was destroyed, its inhabitants slaughtered (or worse), who would buy our map when we finally made it?
We left town and soon came to a gigantic crater. Torches light the area. Human Rabble are digging in a recently exploded hole, overseen by a Gnome Skulk. Two Guard Drakes guarded the approach.
They did not seem hostile or in any way concerned about discovery. I approached in friendliness, and the drakes let me by and the gnome was all too willing to talk. The combat clock suddenly began ticking. Sigh. I had a bad feeling about this.
Sheeoil moved up a little, Bryn took partial cover behind some bushes, and Wenner headed over a small ridge, doing a perfect 10.0 somersault in the air, landing lightly on his overly padded feet and disappearing into the rubble beneath the excavation. Rolled two natural twenties for that.
What a waste.
The gnome invites the three of us he knows about to see what they are excavating. It’s massive dragon bones, bones of a long dead mighty warrior. What a sight he must have been in life! I silently pray to Bahamut to bless these long dead bones. Because it would be bad if they came suddenly to life. Bryn trades some technical excavation talk with the gnome. A rabble lets out a shout, comes running up holding a shiny object, hands it to the gnome, who wraps it in a cloth and places it carefully in his pouch.
“Well, we’re done here. Oh, I believe it is time for you to die.”
A halfling slinger we hadn’t noticed stepped from the shadows and started flinging rocks at Wenner, who had been creeping stealthily toward the gnome all this time (unfortunately, his dice had gone on vacation after the double crits, and he was seen). The slinger drummed him into unconsciousness.
The gnome took potshots at me with a crossbow while Sheeoil and Bryn took on the guard drakes. Bryn tried to sleep the gnome, but the gnome was having none of that. Sheeoil worked his was to the edge of the excavation until he was in range to heal Wenner, who came back to the fight with a flurry of shurikens.
It was a close fight as they all seem to be. Sheeoil kept Bryn and Wenner healed and had one to spare for me as well, since after Wenner went down, I had the gnome, the slinger, and two drakes on me for awhile. Bolstering Strike and Lay On Hands could not keep up with that kind of damage.
When the dust cleared, we were standing and they were not. I bent to the gnome’s body and removed the carefully wrapped, shiny object from his pouch. It was a slightly dented silver mirror. Maybe magic? I don’t know, so I gave it to Bryn.
We heard some whimpering from a crate in the camp to the side of the excavation. Opening it, we discovered a battered, bruised and broken human. “I am Professor Douven Staul,” he proclaimed. “I am an archaeologist; we were excavating these ancient bones when this gnome and his rabble attacked. They left me alive, I don’t know why. While I was in the box, I heard them talking about a mirror, perhaps that mirror in your wizard’s hands. They said something about getting the mirror to a “Keleral” for a ritual. I do not know where this ritual would be.”
“All I want to do now,” said the professor, “is to return to my dear wife. I have her picture here in my locket, she is so beautiful, let me…” The professor groped at his neck. “I guess the gnome must have taken it.”
“Oh, could this be your locket?” asked Wenner, holding up a carefully wrought necklace attached to which was an engraved silver locket. “I, uh, found it in the grass.”
“Why, yes!” said the professor. He opened it and removed a small portrait of a radiantly lovely human woman. He handed the locket back to Wenner. “The locket is yours. This portrait is precious, though.”
“Yes, your wife is very lovely indeed,” says Sheeoil, “but what can you tell us of this mirror?”
“Ah, yes. The mirror. We did not expect to find that here, but it is clear that this is a mirror belonging to one of the wizards who sealed the rift. Two hundred years ago, a cult of the demon prince Orcus created a rift in the void connecting this realm with that of the demon’s at a place not far from here.”
“When the rift was opened, foul creatures invaded our plane, battling the legionnaires of the Kingdom of Nerrith, a power in those days. With much death and pain, the legionnaires pushed the demonic forces back through the rift to their own hellish plane. Many wizards participated in the ritual to seal that rift. They doubtless used tools such as your mirror, tools of no innate magical properties but catalysts and focii for powerful enchantments. They built a keep there and named it Shadowfell. Troops were garrisoned there for hundreds of years, but with no sign of demonic presence, the garrison was called to other duties and the keep has lain abandoned since. Abandoned by creatures that crave the light of day, at any rate. Now nobody knows or much cares to know the original purpose of the keep. They know only to stay away.”
“If someone is looking for artifacts from that long-ago battle, they can only be preparing to open the rift once more. I will leave you to decide what to do with the mirror. I would assume you would be heading to the keep, then?”
“Yes,” I said, “we have a map to draw.”
“A map? We were going to draw a map?” asked Bryn sleepily. “Shouldn’t we then have, oh, parchment and charcoal or some other items to draw a map WITH?”
We returned to Winterhaven and took our leave of the professor. Bryn bought mapmaking materials — turns out they sell cartography kits with everything needed at the local scribe’s. All of us return to our beds and finish our interrupted rest. Then spend another day in rest to get all our dailies back.
Most of us are just over 300XP from level 3. I don’t know how long we’ll be in the Keep — or how long it will take even to GET to the Keep — but I expect we’ll probably ding, even Sheeoil, before we’re done there.