Part the seventh: Wherein the party learns that dying for a cause is not always effective
The party awoke after a night without any surprises feeling rested after the battles of the previous evening. Unagi stirred and sat up having regained consciousness after a good nights rest. Silvara began communing with Selune so that she could again use healing magic to get Unagi back on his feet. There was some discussion around what they had seen in this place last night, but there were no answers. Who was that small farmer girl? Why did the Berduskans get involved? What happened to Old Grave? These mysteries would have to wait.
Silvara completed her prayers and attended to the party, healing their wounds as much as she could, but the party had taken a real beating at the hands of the denizens of this place and there was only so much she could do. Once she had expended her allotment of healing magic the party gathered up their belongings and headed back to the surface. Coming out in the yards of the House of the Dead the party began searching through the yard looking for further clues as to the nature of what had occurred here. To the north of the main temple they discovered the burnt out ruins of what appeared to be a barracks of sorts, or perhaps a guest house or something similar - its original purpose could not be determined. It had been gutted by fire in the past and time and the elements had further reduced any clue as to its original purpose. They began sifting through the rubble and overgrown ground hoping for even a small clue.
After searching through the ruins for only several minutes they were all startled by several loud thuds. Silvara looked up and saw a cross-bow bolt embedded in a standing wooden girder and called to the party to take cover. They dived for cover behind the ruined walls as another burst of bolts lodged into the remains of the building. Shadow Flame poked his head over the edge of his cover and looked out. There was heavy brush and grass cover past the walls of the House of the Dead compound, and this masked who or whatever was firing on them. He called Ixxizigut and told the imp to fly out toward where the bolts were being fired from and see what he could see. Silvara dove over her cover in the burnt out building and darted behind the compound wall as another bolt flew past her head, barely missing her. She began moving down along the wall towards a section of the wall that had collapsed hoping it would provide cover enough for her to look out and see their attackers.
Unagi and Jean sat behind cover quietly discussing their options. Since they did not know how many attackers were out there waiting they decided it would be worth the risk to expose themselves to fire for a second and try and get a count of shots fired at them. They dove over the cover provided by the gutted building aiming to land behind the wall, exposing themselves to fire for a brief moment. It worked; they made it from the cover of the building to the wall and drew the fire from 3 crossbowmen. Once they had settled behind the wall Jean decided to use the illusionary power of the staff to conjure up an mirror Unagi to break from cover, drawing the fire of their attackers and hopefully fully revealing their positions and number. Silvara meanwhile had made it to the break in the wall and peered around into the bushland beyond. After looking for a few seconds she spotted a dark shape crouched behind a large bush, a loaded crossbow resting on one of the branches. The attacker had good concealing cover and also had a good view of the compound. She steadied herself and prepared to charge.
Ixxizigut appeared next to Shadow Flame and informed him that it looked like they faced 3 attackers who were using the bushes about 50 or 60 feet out from the wall as concealment and firing crossbows from there. Shadow Flame immediately leapt over the cover of the burnt out building, drawing fire from their foes, and dove behind the wall. He began moving up along it the same way Silvara had. Unagi broke from cover and charged out into the open immediately drawing very accurate fire. Seconds later the real Unagi charged out from cover, using the illusionary version of himself for cover he quickly surmised where their enemies were and, selecting the closest one, started running across to them. Silvara also took the opportunity offered by the illusions distraction to break cover and run at the foe she could see. With their cover blown, their foes stood up and drew their own melee weapons, preparing to meet their prey head on.
Unagi recognised the one he was charging at as Bradmor, the assassin working for the Red Dragon Trading Coster. Bradmor began casting a spell as Unagi closed, and Jean began to work some magic of her own. The assassin to the right of Unagi fired another crossbow bolt at him and hit him between armor plates. Unagi felt the sting of poison as the bolt sunk into his shoulder, but the big gladiator was able to shrug off the effects for the moment. Unfortunately the bolt slowed him down enough for Bradmor to get his spell off and a thin green ray burst from his extended hand hitting Unagi square on. The gladiator paused momentarily as he felt the strength melt from his body, his armor seemed to take on the weight of stone and his katana felt as though it weighed 100 pounds as he continued to move toward Bradmors position.
Silvara joined the assassin on the left in melee as Shadow Flame jumped the compound wall and charged to help Silvara fight the assassin. Jean finished casting her spell and a large glob of sticky webbing flew from her outstretched hand engulfing the assassin on the right in a bundle of sticky spiderweb like strands. The assassin was encased in the strands and began to slowly hack away at them in an attempt to get free. Unagi had closed the distance to Bradmor and began swinging at him with his blade as the assassin finished casting another spell. The air shimmered briefly before Unagi, and the gladiator seemed surprised as the world around him appeared to speed up, his opponents moving with supernatural speed. Then it occurred to him; the world wasn't speeding up - he was slowing down! The gladiator moved at half his normal speed, slowed by the magic worked by Bradmor who had now drawn his own blade and joined with Unagi in melee. Jean was busy casting another spell at Bradmor, a flurry of magical missiles bursting from her hand to strike the assassin who reeled momentarily from the blows.
Shadow Flame caught up with Silvara and began to fight in concert with her, each striking the assassin several times while avoiding his return attacks. The man was clearly an adept fighter wielding both a long sword and a dagger, but where Shadow Flame moved too quickly for the assassin, Silvara's armour protected her from the brunt of any hits that bypassed her parries. With the injuries from the previous night still not fully healed, coupled with the magical effects inflicted upon him by Bradmor, Unagi was not able to stand fighting for long. Bradmor stepped inside the big man's swing and smacked him across the head sending him crashing to the ground. Jean cast another burst of magic missiles at Bradmor hitting him hard and the assassin disappeared in a burst of shadowy vapour, preferring to name his own battleground.
Silvara and Shadow Flame were quickly wearing the assassin down; between them they had landed a number of powerful blows. Shadow Flame felt a searing pain scream from his back as the blade of Bradmor cut deeply. He turned and squared off against the assassin who had appeared as if from nowhere gaining surprise over the tiefling. The assassin began casting another spell as Shadow Flame pressed his attack with the twin blades. The assassin who had been tangled in Jean's web magic cut his way free and brought his crossbow up to bear on Jean, but she was ready for him, releasing another sortie of missiles at him and causing his shot to fly wide. He abandoned the crossbow and drew his blade as Jean prepared some defensive magics from the diadem she had found in the werewolf lair.
Shadow Flame pressed the attack on Bradmor hitting him hard and interrupting his magic forcing the assassin to fall back to his blades. They traded blows for a while, neither able to best the others defences. Silvara swung smoothly at the other assassin, who was gravely injured from the battle with the 2 party members. She swung her mace solidly and caught the man across the head and collapsed to the ground accompanied by the sound of cracking bone and the rain of his own blood. Once again Jean hammered the assassin with magical missiles, hurting him badly and ruining his attacks. Shadow Flame and Bradmor had been testing each others defences, pushing and pulling between themselves looking for an opening. Shadow Flame was the first to find success and hit Bradmor hard with a series of powerful swings from his twin blades. The assassin was badly injured, and once again he disappeared in a cascading flow of wispy shadow. With Bradmor momentarily in retreat, Shadow Flame rushed to Jean's aid. Although the sorceress was holding her own she was no match for a trained assassin melee combat. Shadow Flames arrival was decisive and between them they were able to quickly bring down the third attacker.
Silvara quickly turned her attention to Unagi, and although she has exhausted her healing magic she was still a skilled healer and began dressing his wounds and applying curative herbs. Shadow Flame was wary of the reappearance of Bradmor, the assassin had proved he was adept at surprise and the tiefling was not about to let his guard down simply because Bradmor was not visible. He took a defensive position several feet from Silvara and scanned the surrounding lands. Jean began searching the bodies of the fallen assassins, but they had little besides their weapons and armor.
As Silvara tended to Unagi she was surprised by a hot stinging pain in her back. She turned quickly and saw Bradmor standing over her, his blade buried deep in her back. Shadow Flame cursed loudly and charged at the assassin as Silvara fell into unconsciousness. Bradmor turned to face the charging tiefling, but as he neared to melee ranged the assassin again disappeared, leaving only a fading shadowy smoke behind. Jean quickly ran to tend to Silvara's wounds.
The sounds of a spell being intoned rang through the area from the deeper bushland. Shadow Flame turned sharply to see a familiar face stepping out from behind cover. Obermast, the Harper bard, finished his spell and pointed behind Shadow Flame. The tiefling was unsure of Obermast intentions but turned his gaze to the direction indicated, and saw Bradmor standing in the open looking a little confused. As realisation dawned on the assassin he cursed loudly and disappeared again. Shadow Flame turned to Obermast who simply said "dimensional anchor".
"What?" said Shadow Flame, raising his blades, ready to attack the bard.
"I cast a dimensional anchor to reveal the assassin. Admittedly it was a weak one, but it seemed to do the trick" explained Obermast. "Perhaps you should see to your friends".
Deciding that the bard did not seem to pose a threat, Shadow Flame did just that. He went over and talked with Jean, making sure Unagi and Silvara were OK. The gladiator was conscious after Silvara had seen to his wounds, but he was in bad shape, as was Silvara. Obermast walked over and offered them a small bottle. "It is not much, but it should get them back on their feet. The town of Harlen's Edge is but a couple hours journey from here. We should head there so you can rest and regain your strength", he suggested. Shadow Flame took the offered healing potion and before long both Unagi and Silvara were in good enough shape to walk, albeit slowly.
"Thanks for you help," Shadow Flame said to Obermast. "But what exactly are you doing here?"
"Explanations will come in time my friend," he replied. "For now I think it is important that we leave this place. That assassin will likely not be back any time soon, but it would be wise to get somewhere of relative safety quickly. I will explain everything once we reach Harlen's Edge, a small farming town not two hours walk from here. It will speed things up significantly for you to know that your horses were cut loose by the assassins last evening as they prepared the ambush".
"You saw them preparing to attack us?" asked Shadow Flame incredulously. "Why did you wait until the last minute to help us? Why didn't you warn us?"
"I had to maintain my secrecy. I felt that you could handle them, and I guess I was right - to a certain point. When both Unagi and your priestess friend fell I felt I had to do something. Look, I'm sorry but we really should be moving on. As I had said, I will explain everything once we are safer".
Shadow Flame was not happy with that arrangement at all but he did see the logic of it so did not argue with Obermast. They set off towards Harlen's Edge, and, accompanied by the lifting tunes of the bard, we in town in short order.
The town of Harlen's Edge was small indeed. Consisting of only half a dozen central buildings - an Inn, a general store, a black smith, a jail and similar necessary establishments, it was really only a central meeting place for a community of farmers. Living in the shadow of the Sunset mountains, the locals were a hardy lot, gruff and suspicious of strangers. They headed toward the only Inn in the area, the Silver Scythe and organised themselves rooms as well as food and drinks. They quickly made friends with the owner of the Silver Scythe, a grizzled old farmer named Jenkins who was missing his left leg, and with a good application of gold coins they secured themselves bottomless tankards. Once they had settled in and were relaxing with their food and drink Shadow Flame again pressed Obermast for an explanation for his timely appearance.
"I'm grateful you arrived when you did Obermast, but I think you owe an explanation of what you were doing there. You were following us?" he asked.
"Well, yes, I was," replied Obermast. "I had to see where you were going, and to be truthful I had hoped to follow you further in an attempt to discover your plans, and of course, to ascertain your guilt".
"Our guilt?" said Unagi a bit too loudly.
"You see, a short time before you reached Asbravn, word came to us via some Berduskan militia about some folk who were being hunted for crimes in Berdusk. The description matched Jean and Shadow Flame."
"What crimes were they wanted for?" asked Shadow Flame, not giving anything away.
"Murder," was Obermasts flat reply. "I thought that if indeed those being sort were you two then I should look into it. From our time together I did not believe you would be capable of such a thing. When, only 2 days later, you all entered Asbravn and began unloading your caravans and selling off your goods I felt that it was indeed you whom the Berduskans sought. I quickly approached Sten and convinced him to let you go and to let me follow you - being with the Harpers tends to earn the trust of folk around these parts. He most certainly wasn't happy about it but in the end I was able to get to agree to my suggestion. As I was leaving the head quarters and began getting ready to trail you I received word that several other men had just arrived in town and appeared to be trailing you. This created quite a quandary for me; I couldn't very well follow you while these new comers were doing the same, so instead I opted to follow them. It turned out that they were indeed following you, and I thought it would be prudent of me to trail them and try and find out what was going on."
"So you saw them approach us during the night and saw this Bradmor talk with Unagi and Silvara?" asked Shadow Flame.
"Indeed I did," chuckled Obermast. "I must say you have quite the way with words Unagi my friend".
Unagi smiled at what he felt was a compliment, but Shadow Flame was not happy that the bard had been close enough to hear them talk with Bradmor. Obermast noticed the tieflings shortening patience and interjected quickly, "are you guilty of the charges leveled by the Berduskans?" he asked turning to Jean.
"Things are...complicated," she answered. "On the surface yes. I killed the old man, but I want you to understand they were my actions. I struck the killing blow, my companions had nothing to do with his death, I am to blame."
Obermast paused for a moment before replying, "I'm afraid it's not that simple Jean. At the very least it is known that Shadow Flame was there, and he fled with you. In the eyes of the law that makes him an accomplice. Would you care to share the circumstances with me?" he asked gently.
Jean began to go into her history and her reasoning behind killing the old man, explaining that it was not her intention to kill him when she went there, merely to question him, but she was overcome with emotion. Before she could go too deeply into the details Obermast stopped her, "my dear, would you prefer if we spoke in private on these matters? It is clear that this causes you great distress. Perhaps it would be easier if it was just me you were talking to?"
Jean looked to the party, but they indicated it was her decision. "Yes, I think I would Obermast. Thanks for your offer."
Obermast simply nodded, and after a moments pause said, "maybe we can speak of other things. You probably don't know but you are the only people to return from the House of the Dead since it was destroyed around 60 years ago."
"Really?," asked Shadow Flame intrigued. "Who else has been down there?"
"The site is quite famous in these parts," explained Obermast, " every few years some adventuring band or another seeks their fame and glory by infiltrating the ruins and trying to bring back the phylactery of the old priest. I know something of the history of that place, and since the collecting of Lore is something I am very interested in I would love to hear of what happened to you down there. I would be happy to tell you of what I know in exchange."
The party agreed and told Obermast all that had happened to them in the underneath of the House of the Dead. Obermast listened and scribbled notes as they went, asking for clarification on some points, but mostly just listening and writing. Once the party had told their story the bard leaned back on his chair with a big smile on his face.
"That's quite the tale. I think that maybe you know more than I do about that place, but I can fill you in on the lore surrounding the events. As you discovered down there the church of Jergal is not one of evil. Like many faiths dedicated to the dead the priesthood of Jergal is more concerned with funeral rites and ensuring the recently departed can journey to the afterlife in the greatest comfort possible. Jergal however is the scribe of the dead, he records the names of those who have died as he sees each newly dead being as another small step towards what he sees as the inevitable decay of all life. Same would consider him fatalistic, but I think he is simply awaiting a time where he can embrace the nothingness himself. His worshipers tend to be equally fatalistic, although their knowledge of death and the afterlife are often of great comfort to those who have lost loved ones. Typically, most followers of Jergal are not evil, but as with all death gods there are some who view the world with an eye towards evil, and Jergal is no exception. He does not turn away those of evil bent as long as they abide by the laws that have been set down by him and the other gods of death. However, I am sure that this was not the case with the head priest of the House of the Dead; Old Grave was well loved in these parts, the locals often took great comfort in his knowledge and many come to see him as a father figure and protector of the deceased. I did not know him, but from what I have heard he was not inclined to evil, and it seems unlikely that his changing was not related to his proximity to death. Your story all but confirms this - this young girl you speak of, it's as if Old Grave was perverted by magic and great evil. Maybe it was in his heart all along, buried and awaiting to be set free, but it sounds to me as though this young girls represents a stronger evil, a more twisted lie than Old Grave could have kept buried..." Obermast trailed off, losing himself in his thoughts.
"You do not know of this girl?" Shadow Flame prodded him.
"No, I'm sorry," replied Obermast, "she could be almost anything for I doubt that was her true form. I wish I knew more about her though."
"What of the Berduskans," asked Shadow Flame changing the topic slightly, "why did they attack the temple?"
"Over time the rumours concerning the House of the Dead became more disturbing. The townsfolk and local farmers began to fear the priests more and more. Where once they went to them for comfort and support, slowly they started to bury their own dead. They create a new graveyard, about an hour out of town and began to bury their dead there rather than use the temple. Old grave became more reclusive and would not interact with them, and when he did agree to meet with the townsfolk he was cold and distant. One day, one of the priests of Jergal came to Harlen's Edge, the young priest Kallis that you saw in the ghostly visions. He told of Old Grave and how he had turned to darkness. He brought stories of murder and of kidnapping and torture. He had a haunted look in his eye and the locals took his word for it all, he had it written in his journal. They sought help from the Harpers who came with Berduskan soldiers, and the stories go they interrupted the old priest as he was performing the rituals that would transform him into an undead creature of fell magic. A priestess of Mystra used powerful magic to destroy the focal stone that Old Grave was using to power his transformation into a lich. His phylactery was never found you know, and is the main reason that the site is still sought out by the young and the foolish."
"You know," continued Obermast, "Kallis was the only priest of Jergal to survive the attack on the temple. The others were either killed or corrupted by Old Grave. He lived here for some time afterwards as I understand it, with a local priestess of Eldath. Gleena I think her name is, she is still here tending to the local shrine to Eldath known as the Still Water Pool. It is quite likely she will be able to add further detail to the story. I know that Kallis was still trusted by the locals and took over the role of the temple, tending to the dead."
"That sounds like an idea," said Shadow Flame, "we'll go and see this Gleena tomorrow."
"I'm going to go to bed," said Unagi, "I'm done."
"Me too," added Silvara.
They both said their good nights and headed off. Shadow Flame and Jean stayed up into the night drinking a great deal of ale from their bottomless mugs.
Symbol of Eldath
The Still Water Pool was on the outskirts of the central lot of buildings that made up Harlen's Edge, caught between the worked ground of the township and the wilds of the surrounding bushland. It was a large pool of clean clear water surrounded by large rocks and green grasses and a preternatural silence hung over the place interrupted only by the rustling of leaves in the breeze and the buzzing of insects. As they walked up to the pool they called out as they could not see anyone. After waiting several minutes for an answer Jean and Unagi decided they would indulge in a little bit of a dip in the pool. They stripped off and jumped in, the serenity of the pool lifting their spirits as they laughed and splashed around. Shadow Flame waited with Silvara at the edge of the pool and before too long they were approached by a woman dressed on long flowing white robes with the waterfall symbol of Eldath on them. She was tall with long grey hair, looking about 50 years old, but they all knew she must be much older than that.
"Well met my friends, I am Gleena, keeper of the Still Water Pool, how may I help you this fine Marpenoth morn?" she inquired.
Both Shadow Flame and Silvara greeted her and introduced themselves. "My apologies if my friends swimming in your pool is inappropriate," said Silvara.
"No apology necessary my dear, it warms this old womans heart to see young people enjoying themselves so under the peace of the goddesses waters. Those who follow the way of the moon maiden are always welcome here," she said addressing Silvara, "please tell me my friends, how can I help?"
"We understand you know Kallis the priest of Jergal? We were hoping we could speak with him to ask him some questions."
A look of sadness came over her face as she said "I am sorry, Kallis passed away just this year gone past."
Shadow Flame and Silvara were both apologetic to Gleena but she did not dwell too long on her sorrow, "it is OK my friends, I appreciate your sympathies. Kallis was very dear to me, we spent the last, oh nearly 40 summers together. We were a strange couple to be sure," she smiled to herself, "and I miss him terribly..." she trailed off for a few moments.
"Gleena," prompted Shadow Flame, bringing her out of her memories, "we have recently returned from the House of the Dead, and saw many strange and terrible things down there. We had hoped that Kallis would be able to fill in some of the blanks for us."
Her eyes lit up a little as she said, "I still have some of his books, and I know that one of them is his journal from his time at the House of the Dead. He did not speak of what he saw in that place, and I never pressed him about it, and out of respect for his wishes I have never read his writings from that time. If you like I could get his books for you."
"That would be great if you would," said Silvara.
Gleena wandered off while Shadow Flame and Silvara waited by the edge of the water, while Jean and Unagi continued to swim in the pool. Gleena returned shortly and handed Shadow Flame three books; one of them was a prayer book to Jergal similar to the one they found in the House of the Dead, another was a book of names that was only about a quarter filled and the third was Kallis' Journal.
"Take them all, I do not want them," she said as she handed them over. "I hope they can help you answer some of your questions. There is one thing I would ask of you in return if you don't mind"
"We will help where we can," replied Silvara.
"I have in my possession a number of seeds of a plant known as 'the peace of the vale', rare seeds that are sacred to my faith. I would greatly appreciate it if you could take them to the Silent Hall in Iriaebor and give them to the high priestess there."
"We are traveling to Iriaebor ourselves," replied Shadow Flame, "we would gladly do this for you."
"You are very kind," Gleena smiled as she handed Shadow Flame a small velvet pouch. "Here are the seeds, please see to it that they are handed to the peace maiden Luaqua."
"We will see to it," replied Shadow Flame. "Again, I'm sorry for your loss, I hope you find your peace."
"The Lady of Peace will be my comfort," said Gleena. "If you don't mind I think I will take my leave, I am filled with sad memories and would not be good company."
"Of course," said Silvara, "thank you."
Gleena smiled at them and turned to leave. Jean and Unagi climbed from the pool and got dressed as they left to return to Harlen's Edge.
They arrived back at the Silver Scythe and between them decided to stay in town for an extra night before moving on so they could rest and recover. Shadow Flame spent the time reading Kallis' journal hoping to find some answers, but the writings did not address his questions. There was no mention of the mysterious young girl, nor any deeper explanation of the events that transpired. The journal describe the slow fall of Old Grave and the perversion of some of the other acolytes; Kallis' felt that right up until he left that there was still some hope for Old Grave, after all, the old man had let him go, but the crimes of the others, in particular the acolyte known as Stid who had killed Pascha, were too foul for forgiveness. The old man had given over to darkness and in the end had embraced it fully. Kallis' was not aware of some of the more brutal acts and rites of Old Grave, and in a way the party knew more of what had transpired in the House of the Dead through the ghosts than Kallis did. There was also no mention of the Tanar'ri the party had encountered below, nor of the winged demoness they had fought when the circle of power had been breached. That Old Grave had trafficked with denizens of the lower planes was beyond question, but the entities of the young girl and the demoness appeared to be unrelated, or at least any connection was well hidden.
The rest of the party spent the time resting for the most part. Obermast spent some time with both Jean and Silvara discussing the events in Berdusk but none of them chose to share those private conversations with the party as a whole.
After a hearty breakfast in the Silver Scythes main room the party gathered their belongings and set out towards Iriaebor. Obermast requested to come along with them as he had some business he needed to attend to there, and the party agreed to him tagging along. The journey to Iriaebor would take a little more than a days march so they set out early to ensure they arrived at the city by the end of the day.
Streets of Iriaebor
They entered Iriaebor from the north gate into the lower city. Obermast had been in Iriaebor before and recommended they seek the inn known as the Wandering Wyvern at the mid point of the tor on the south side. The party agreed and Obermast lead them to the inn which was overflowing with customers who appeared to mostly be dock workers and adventuring types, with a few off duty city watchmen. There was not an empty seat in the tavern area and the party had to wait in line at the bar for some time before they were able to speak with the inn owner concerning getting a room for the night. The bad news was that the inn was full, not a single bed available. The barman was loathe to send customers to a competitors establishment but with little choice he recommended the party seek the inn called the Black Boar which was a short distance along the tor. He warned the party that most inns would not give rooms to adventurers as most inns tended to cater to the merchants of the city and their customers and patrons, and adventurers were regarded as trouble makers by most merchant houses in the city. The party thanked the barkeep and wandered off to seek the Black Boar.
The Black Boar was a large building of several towers giving it the appearance of a small keep. Upon entering the Boar the party was greeted with another tavern floor filled to brimming with customers, but unlike the Wyvern the clientele of the Boar were a lot of pompous rich kids and fops dressed in the seasons most fashionable attire sitting around trying to appear more important than their companions. Several times the party tried to get the attention of one of the employees of the Boar, and on each occasion they were rudely snubbed or completely ignored. Unagi in particular was becoming increasingly frustrated, and seeing that the big man was on the verge of bursting Shadow Flame suggested he make his way to the bar and buy them a round. Unagi and Jean headed off while Shadow Flame and Silvara grabbed the attention of one of the Boars workers by literally grabbing them and asking for a room. The young man told them he would be back momentarily, but by the time Unagi and Jean had returned there was still no sign of him. Eventually Unagi grabbed a passing employee and under direct threat of violence demanded a room for four for the night. They were informed that rooms would be 8 pieces of gold each, so they handed over the coin as the employee went to see to their room. This time he did return and handed them a key informing them that they were in a room with 2 beds on the second floor. Unagi was very unimpressed with having to pay over 30 gold pieces for a 2 bed room, but the rest of the party was so tired of mucking around they bid him to just drop it and retire for the night. As they set about going upstairs Obermast told them he would not be staying at the Black Boar and this is where they would part ways. They all said their farewells and thanked him for his company over the preceding days, and without any further fuss Obermast disappeared into the crowd of the Black Boar. The party retired to their room and slept for the night.
In the morning the party discussed what needed to be done. They needed to deliver the seeds they carried to the temple of Eldath, a trivial task that they decided to carry out first. All members agreed that acquiring potions of healing was a high priority so that they were not so dependent on Silvara for healing magic and freeing up some of her power to be put to task on other spells. Finally there was the situation with the Three Wheels; they had not decided exactly how they were going to deal with the trading coster but all agreed they needed to find out where to find Silas Coldstone and the location of any warehouses or business centres they owned.
They headed off to the Silent Hall, a large compound surrounded by a wall of thick, tall hedges. The entrance was a flower covered archway that lead into a large garden similar to a public park. There was no building within sight but as soon as the party entered they were greeted by an acolyte of Eldath, a young woman wearing a flowing white gown like the one Gleena wore. The party told her they were there to see the peace maiden Luaqua to deliver a gift from Gleena of the Still Water Pool at Harlen's Edge. The acolyte quickly rushed off to find the high priestess while the party waited in the tranquil surrounds of the gardens. Shortly a short, rather rotund woman of about 50 winters approached the party and introduced herself as Luaqua.
"I understand you have brought a gift from Gleena?" she asked of the party.
"Yes we have," replied Shadow Flame holding out the small velvet bag they were given containing the seeds of the peace of the vale plant.
"Oh gracious," she exclaimed, clearly excited. "These seeds are a rare gift indeed and we will treasure the plants that spring forth from them. I thank you all deeply for this."
The party was gracious in accepting her thanks, and given her current high spirits Shadow Flame inquired about getting some healing potions, "since we have done a favour for you my lady, perhaps we could be given a friends price, so to speak, on the purchase of some potions."
Luaqua was a little confused, "but was not bringing the seeds to us in return for a favour already given by Gleena?"
A bit annoyed that it hadn't worked out as he hoped Shadow Flame conceded that indeed it was, "I suppose then that all things are even. I would still like to purchase some healing from your temple if that is OK", he pressed.
Luaqua thought for a moment before stating, "of course, yes. The prices are 400 gold pieces for a standard potion, 500 gold pieces for an enhanced potion and 1,000 gold pieces for our most powerful potion. We could part with as many as three for each of you."
"You can't be serious," exclaimed Shadow Flame, "400 pieces of gold for a healing potion, that's robbery!"
A little taken aback by his outburst Luaqua simply said, "that is the price, take it or leave it."
Unagi had been listening to the exchange and was a little incredulous himself, "take it or leave it?" he repeated. "My lady here is my answer" as he turned and dropped trou' at the priestess, "I think I'll leave it." Shadow Flame burst out laughing as Luaqua's face turned bright red in outrage.
"How dare you! You filthy dog! Get out! All of you, get out! This is a place of peace and quiet, not a place for dirty street mongrels!"
Silvara stepped forward and started to speak, to apologise for her friends rudeness, but Luaqua would have none of it. "You too," she cried, "all of you get out, you are not welcome back in the Silent Hall."
They quickly walked back out of the Silent Hall under the frowns of the priests and other worshippers present.
"Can't you control yourself at all?" Silvara asked of Unagi.
"Yeah Nug, have you no self control?" said Shadow Flame.
"But...you...you laughed too you," Unagi replied to Shadow Flame who just laughed at the big man. "Let's try the temple of Selune, maybe we can get an under the counter deal from our friend here," Shadow Flame said nodding towards Silvara.
"OK let's go then, but don't go pulling any of that stupidity at the High Altar," she warned. They were both at least polite enough to agree with her.
As they walked towards the High Altar of the Moon many people in the street nodded towards Silvara in greeting, many of them making way for her as the party proceeded forward; it was clear that many of the folk in Iriaebor felt a deep respect for the lady of the moon and her followers, the priesthood was well liked in the city. They came upon the High Altar of the Moon, simply called the Moontower by the locals, at the peak of the tor not far from the Castle of Bron, the ruler of Iriaebor. It was a single tower rising to a height of over 100 feet and surrounded by smaller buildings and beautiful gardens enclosed by a tall smooth stone wall. As they entered through the keep like entrance a young acolyte dressed in deep blue robes with the silver eyes of the lady of the moon embroided in silver stitch upon them, walked quickly up to Silvara.
"Welcome sister," she beamed, "welcome to the Moontower, you and your friends are most welcome indeed. How may I be of service to you today?"
"Greetings my sister," returned Silvara, "I would request that I be able to consult with the high priest of this temple on a matter of personal importance."
"Of course, I will see to it at once," replied the acolyte. "Please wait here and make yourselves at home, I will return as soon as I can."
The party waited around for several minutes watching the people come and go. It was clear that this was a popular place with the locals as it was busy with folk from all walks of life, from merchants and nobles to fisherman and street cleaners. Most everyone seemed at peace in the temple grounds and all wore smiles and were ready with hearty greetings. The young acolyte returned after a short while accompanied by a tall woman with pale skin and long black hair. She wore a long silken robes embroidered with golden and silver stars of different sizes, and the silver eyes of Selune watched out from on front of a large golden full moon. She approached the party and introduced herself.
"Well met to you all, I am , high priestess of the Altar of the Moon, called by most the moon maiden."
The party introduced themselves in turn, and once they had done so Silvara spoke, "I have a grave need to speak with you on matters personal milady."
"Of course Silvara, I always have time to speak with those of the lady, and please, let us not stand upon formality, call me Astyaril."
Silvara smiled and started to move off with Astyaril, but as they did Shadow Flame cleared his throat.
"Oh yes, sorry," said Silvara to Shadow Flame. "Astyaril, my companions wish to acquire some healing potions for themselves, would it be possible for the temple to sell them something?"
"Certainly," replied Astyaril, "please speak with our young acolyte here, Letelia, she will help you I'm sure."
"Of course milady," replied the young acolyte, "please, how can I help you," she said turning to Shadow Flame as Silvara and Astyaril walked off together.
"Well, we are in need of healing potions, we would like to buy all you can spare."
Letelia listed off the prices for the various potions of healing available at the temple; the prices were much the same for the same types of potions as at the temple of Eldath. Shadow Flame was not happy about the cost of the potions, but felt that since they were quoted almost identical prices that this was pretty much the going rate. The party parted with their gold and decided to wait until Silvara returned from her meeting.
Silvara came back to the party after about half an hour to find them generally pretty bored and on the verge of some shenanigans.
"About time," exclaimed Unagi, " I was about to leave, you know, go and find something else, anything else to do"
"It wasn't so bad Nug," said Jean, "I quite like it here. Anyway, I think I'd like to go and get some new spells, learn some new magic."
"Good idea there Jean, I was thinking the same thing," said Shadow Flame. He called the your acolyte Letelia over and asked where they might be able to find a mage who would tutor them or who they could buy magic off in the city.
"It's not really my area of expertise, as you can imagine," she replied. "I could ask around here for you if you like."
Jean and Shadow Flame agreed that was a good idea, so they found themselves waiting around again.
"So what I am supposed to do while you too go learning spells?" asked Unagi.
"You can find a way to amuse yourself I'd reckon Nug. Maybe you could start trying to find out what you can about the Three Wheels, maybe find if they have a warehouse or something like that. Try and find out where Silas lives maybe," suggested Shadow Flame.
Unagi agreed that he would give it a shot, and he headed off toward the lower city since that was where most merchants who weren't also nobles or very rich lived. Silvara announced that she would spend the day at the temple and would meet the party back at the Black Boar for the evening meal. Everyone agreed that they would meet back there later that night.
Letelia returned to Jean and Shadow Flame and told them that a mage of some fame and a scholar of the planes, Prespos had recently returned to his home in the city and made it known that he was available to act as a tutor or sage. They both thanked her for the information and headed off to the tower of Prespos.
It was a rather unimposing building, not what they had expected for a "mage of some fame", but it was serviceable alright. They approached the tower and knocked. As with most places owned by sages or wizards there was no answer and no sound from inside. Shadow Flame knocked again, and they waited a short time until the door opened a crack and a pale, balding middle aged man poked his head out and asked what they wanted in a flat, slightly nasal tone.
"We would like to buy some spells from you good man," replied Shadow Flame.
The man snorted, "buy spells? My friends this is a school not a tankard house. I do not sell spells, I teach magic," was his indignant reply.
"Uh, but we just need access to some spells so that we may make copies for our own spellbooks," Shadow Flame explained, "we do not need a tutor, thanks anyway."
"My masked friend, that is not how things are done I'm afraid," said Prespos, "I am a teacher and as such I do not feel comfortable just selling spells to those whose magical skill I have no knowledge of. If you want to learn I will teach you. The price is 500 gold pieces each per day which includes the teaching of 2 new spells, and if," he emphasised the if, "if you are capable I will consider selling individual spells to you then."
Jean and Shadow Flame looked at each other, and sensing there would be no point in arguing further they agreed to his terms, whereupon he stood aside and opened the door to let them in.
Unagi spent some time walking around the businesses in the lower city asking for any information about the Three Wheels or Silas Coldstone, but everywhere he went he was met with ignorance. The merchants and businesses wither did not know of the Three Wheels or did not care about them enough to waste their time talking. The lower city was a hive of activity, and with the winter months fast approaching everyone was hurrying back and forth trying to ensure they would be prepared for it. Consequently, once they had determined he was not there to buy or sell something, the merchants would simply chase him out of their shop claiming to be far too busy to indulge in idle chit-chat or rumour mongering. After spending the best part of 3 or more hours chasing around after a bunch of rude and often obnoxious merchants Unagi decided he was wasting his time and returned to the Black Boar to chase the bad taste out of his mouth with a few tasty beverages.
The party slowly trickled into the Black Boar as the evening arrived, and managed to get themselves a table in the increasingly crowded taproom thanks to Unagi's early return. Due to the lateness of the hour, and the fact that the local merchant population was less than helpful they decided to start afresh tomorrow trying to find out what they could about Silas Coldstone and the Three Wheels.
The party awoke in the morning and met downstairs for breakfast. They discussed how they were going to approach finding out some information about the Three Wheels and where they might be found. There really was no other choice but to simply continue where Unagi had left off yesterday, but this time they hoped to find a willing informant with the right amount of coin changing hands. They felt that the lower city was still their best bet considering that the Three Wheels operated, at least to their knowledge, using overland caravans rather than barges. They headed out shortly thereafter with the intention of simply finding a merchant and asking for help.
It turned out that this approach was entirely unnecessary. They had not descended into the lower city for long when their path was crossed by a small caravan bearing the wheels within wheels insignia of the Three Wheels rolled in front of them at a cross road not 50 feet away. It was pulled by two horses driven by a burly man dressed in traveling leathers. Another man sat upon the roof of the caravan with a large crossbow at the ready, and four guards on horse back holding lances and heavily armed escorted the caravan. They waited for the caravan to pass and began following it from a discrete distance. The roads were crowded even at this early hour, but the caravan and its guards presented a menacing front and the crowd moved to let them past. Jean moved across to a small alleyway to provide some cover for herself as she began casting a spell of invisibility. Once it had taken effect she moved up closer to the caravan. They continued to follow the caravan for some distance before it turned off the main road into a narrow alley and they quickly hurried forward so as not to lose sight of it.
As they rounded the corner they saw the caravan moving slowly through the alley as there were several crates and piles of refuse hampering its progress. As reached roughly the middle of the alley a dull whooshing sound echoed down it as a huge wall of fire burst forth from the ground blocking its progress. The party stopped and waited as the horses drawing the caravan reared up and began whinnying in terror. Jean stepped back and took cover behind a small stack of wooden boxes behind the caravan as a second wall of fire ignited behind her blocking her off from the rest of the party. Unagi did not stop to think as he cried out and ran forward, leaping through the rear wall of fire. Shadow Flame and Silvara exchanged a look that clearly said "what the hell just happened there?", although they were both able to resist following Unagi's rash course of action and held their ground. Unagi landed on the other side but was badly burned by the magical flames. He did not stop to worry about his injuries as he drew his katana and charged at one of the mounted guards at the rear of the caravan. The caravan was trapped between these two 20 foot high walls of magical fire, and the horses drawing the caravan began to buck which drew the caravan closer to the forward wall of flame. The two lead guards rode forward and quickly killed the two horses to prevent them from pulling any closer to the wall.
The caravan guard turned around to face Unagi, dropping his lance and drawing a long sword from its sheath, he swung down hard using the height advantage offered by his horse to full effect. They fought for several seconds between them, Unagi landing a couple of solid hits without taking much in return, when he noticed he was no longer alone. He didn't stop to take stock of the situation however and continued pressing his attack against the mounted guard. Jean however had a full view of the new participants in the battle; around 8 humanoid creatures faded into view as if they were ghosts. Each wore heavy armour elaborately decorated with arching spikes and blades with ornate baroque decorations etched into the metal, and each wielded a large equally ornate two handed sword. The creatures had long faces and pale yellow skin, their ears swept up into long points like the ears of elves only much more exaggerated, and each had swirling tattoos painted on their skin. Jean recognised them as being of the same race of creature as that of the one she saw in her vision when she used the Legend Lore ability of the staff upon itself. The new comers paired up and started fighting with the guards of the Three Wheels who reacted with the skill of veteran warriors and joined in battle without a moments pause.
Shadow Flame and Silvara stood behind the rear wall of fire listening to the battle rage. Without any magic to dispel the wall of fire or otherwise bypass the heat it radiated Silvara could do little but listen - Unagi may well have survived leaping through the flames but she was not confident she could do the same. Besides there was the question of why exactly would she do so. Shadow Flame had already pointed out that whatever was going on behind the flames was not their fight, and had chosen to wait it out as well. However Shadow Flame had one course of action not available to Silvara - he was able to scale walls with minimal hand holds, and he did so then, climbing the nearby wall and swinging from window ledge to balcony until he had climbed over the wall of fire and dropped to the ground on the other side. Silvara had little recourse but to sit and wait for the watch to arrive, which, from the sound of shouting from the main road, they would do any time now.
With Unagi enlarged and in a better position Jean cast another spell, this time a spell of levitation upon herself and began floating up to the top of the building, hoping to get a look at the spell caster perched up there. Shadow Flame surveyed the battle; he did not know what these creatures were but at least 2 of them had dropped to the blades of the Three Wheels guards. The caravan driver had continued to fire crossbow bolts at the attackers, and though he was not as skilled as the sniper on the caravan roof, he had put some good shots in on his opponents. It was short lived however as magic missiles rained from both directions of the alleyway, pummeling the man to the ground where he lay dead. As the man dropped the rider fighting Unagi leant back in his saddle and thrust his chest forward; as he did a shower of small thin metal and bone spikes burst forth digging into Unagi. The big man stopped and looked down for a second at the spikes protruding from his neck and other gaps in his armour before dropping unconscious to the ground.
Jean reached the roof of the building and moved quietly across to the sorceress who was casting at the guards below. She was also of the same yellow skinned race as the attackers below and was dressed in heavy, metal plated battle robes and leant upon a long iron staff. Jean closed up behind her and spoke to her: "I saw the pact your people made with the Arcanaloth." The sorceress spun quickly around yelling out in a harsh guttural dialect that Jean did not recognise. Jean tried again, saying "I mean you no harm." Clearly she was not understood as the sorceress continued to speak in the same language.
Shadow Flame made his first foray into the battle, not to fight, but to administer a healing potion to Unagi who lay bleeding on the ground. The fighter swallowed the last of the milky liquid and sat up.
"What the hells are you doing Nug?" asked Shadow Flame as the gladiator pulled small metallic spikes from his body, "this isn't our fight, just stay back OK?"
Unagi pulled a final spike from his collar bone, looked at Shadow Flame then simply stood up and charged back into the battle. Shadow Flame sat there for a moment wondering what the hell had gotten into Unagi before retreating from the battle zone to make good on his own suggestion. During the time Unagi was down 2 of the Three Wheels guards had fallen and at least 4 of the attackers lay dead as well. As Unagi got back to fighting distance with his original opponent, who was still fighting, one of the yellow skinned warriors pushed his two handed blade through the mounted fighters throat and he dropped dead to the ground. Unagi cursed loudly and the yellow skinned warrior turned to him with blade raised. Unagi looked at the creature for the first time, he knew that others had joined the battle but this was the first time he had looked at one of them. The two stood looking at each other for several seconds before the warrior decided Unagi wasn't his target and broke off, charging across to help on of his companions with the final mounted soldier.
As the warrior ran off Unagi saw another of them, this one dressed in tight fitting heavy black cloth drop from the roof above him and begin casting a spell. With no immediate target Unagi surveyed the area looking for one of the Three Wheels. He saw the last of them surrounded by 3 of the attackers and began running across to get his piece. As he did so the wizard who had dropped from the roof finished his spell and a ball of flame hurtled from his outstretched hand toward the caravan. As it reached the caravan it exploded in a ball of fire that quickly expanded to fill the alleyway. The caravan blew apart under the impact of the fireball, and Unagi, who had been caught in the blast was hurled across the alley landing hard against the alley wall. He did not get back up.
The sorceress on the top of the building continued to call out words that Jean could not understand. Jean needed to speak with this woman, to find out what she knew, so she began casting a spell that would allow her to understand the speech of the sorceress. As Jean intoned the words of the spell the sorceress began swinging her staff in the direction of Jeans incantation. Jean completed her spell as the sorceress narrowly missed knocking out her teeth. Jean could understand the sorceress who was calling out "coward! Show yourself! You have no honour, show yourself and fight" a she continued to swing at the area where Jean was standing. Jean tried again, "I mean you no harm" she said, but then quickly realised that while her spell allowed her to understand the sorceress it provided no way for the sorceress to understand her. As she realised her mistake the sorceress managed to get a lucky swing in that smacked into Jean's arm.
'OK then' she thought, 'if I have to fight you to get you to talk so be it' and began intoning a magic missile spell. As soon as she completed the spell she appeared in front of the sorceress who opened her eyes wide in surprise, and excitement, as they fell upon the staff of knowledge...
As the smoke from the fireball cleared a figure stood amoung the ruin of the caravan apparently untouched by the flames that had engulfed it only moments before. It was a man, with long flame orange hair tied back in a severe pony tail and very pale, white skin. He was dressed in the manner of a rich merchant, his ruffled shirt, knickerbocker style pants and long black stockings all of the latest fashion. He leant upon an ebon walking stick with a gold, jewel encrusted handle, and as he turned toward the wizard on the ground began intoning the words of a spell. The wizard wasted no time and was already casting a spell of his own; as he completed it a wave of icy cold wind burst from his hands turning the air a pale blue. The cold washed over the red haired man who simply stood and continued to cast his spell, seemingly unaffected by the powerful magic unleashed by the wizard. The red haired man let loose his own spell and a ball of black fire burst from his hand, growing red as it sped towards his target, exploding in a burst of flame like the fireball unleashed at his caravan only moments before. The remaining attackers ran to help the wizard as the last Three Wheels guard had been killed in the explosion of the fireball he had unleashed at the caravan. The wizard was badly injured by the fireball hurled by the red haired man and lay gasping for breath as another spell was unleashed upon him; the red haired man smiled to himself as half a dozen thick, black, rubbery tentacles burst from the ground around the wizard and proceeded to slap and pummel the remaining yellow skinned ambush party.
As the black tentacles sprang to life below the sorceress turned and shouted down at the group below, "I see it! A'gazh! Khorle! I see it!". Jean's heart sank as she heard the name of the staff being called out to those below.
The wizard looked up at the sorceress, and as she finished speaking he looked at the red haired man who had begun incanting the words to another spell. A look of frustration crossed his face as he spoke a short series of guttural words and faded from view. The remaining attackers also faded from view as did the sorceress facing Jean. As they disappeared the walls of fire also disappeared, and several watch guards ran in from both sides, blades drawn. One of them stepped forward and began to survey the damage; his face paled as he saw the dead lying about and the destruction caused by the fireballs.
"Nobody move," he yelled with a shaky voice, "the watch captain will be here any minute, so until then everyone just stay where you are!"
As the watch sergeant finished calling out his orders Silvara rushed across to Unagi to check on him. The sergeant began to object to her disobeying but when he saw she was a priestess of Selune he stopped and did not say anything. Silvara checked Unagi for signs of life, and after a moment she turned towards Shadow Flame and mouthed "he's dead".
Shadow Flame hung his head and shook it, 'stupid Nug' he thought. His train of thought was interrupted by the arrival of the watch captain who entered the alleyway and called out "everyone surrender your weapons to the watch members and stand down, we will be interrogating you all in due time."
At this announcement the red haired man stepped forward and approached the watch captain. "My dear friend," he began, " my name is Silas Coldstone of the Three Wheels Trading Coster. It was my caravan that was attacked by these...things," he said motioning toward the bodies of several yellow skinned warriors. "Might it be convenient for us to talk for a moment, in private?" he asked of the captain who simply nodded and lead him to an area where they could talk quietly.
Shadow Flame looked around at the dead and noticed something very strange. The bodies of the Three Wheels guards were not human; even though they looked human while they were alive, in death they were starkly different. Each of them had dark blue skin covered in metallic and bones spikes the same as those that had hit Unagi early in the battle. They had long narrow noses and pointed ears, and even their faces were not free of the spikes that protruded from their bodies.
His investigation was interrupted by the return of the watch captain who walked up to Silvara and called Shadow Flame over. "This man dead?" he asked motioning to Unagi.
Silvara nodded yes.
"Silas Coldstone has explained the situation to me, and under normal circumstances you would all be under arrest." Shadow Flame started to object but the captain cut him off, "no point complaining, even if you're going to say you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time it still looks suspicious. Seems to, err, me, that you were probably following this caravan for, umm, questionable reasons, when you were caught in the cross-fire. Silas agrees with me."
"Silas agrees with you?" Shadow Flame exclaimed, "it's not for him to agree or disagree with anything is it?"
"Look, right now I do not have the resources to take you in, so, since there is a priestess of Selune who seems to be friends with you, I'm going to release you into her custody until I can sought this mess out."
"Release into her custody? I did nothing wrong! We did nothing wrong. You're nothing but a shill to Silas aren't you?"
"Milady, I'd advise you to keep your friends under control," said the captain ignoring Shadow Flame's accusation. "Now don't leave the city my masked friend, if you do you will be hunted down and arrested. We will have questions for you before too long. Where are you staying?"
"At the Black Boar," answered Silvara.
"What? Why are you telling him that? Just because he's in Silas back pocket doesn't mean we have to take this seriously?" exclaimed Shadow Flame. "Come to Iriaebor and get arrested for walking down the street!"
"Look, just make sure he doesn't go anywhere OK milady?" the captain asked Silvara.
"I will captain, thanks," she answered.
Shadow Flame stood there unbelievingly as the captain walked off and started seeing to the investigation and clean up.
"What the hells was with all that, yes captain, no captain, crap?" asked Shadow Flame.
"It was just easier to tell him yes wasn't it? Least now we can leave and go and figure out what to do about Unagi."
"Oh yeah, Unagi. Stupid Nug, what the hell was he thinking?" Shadow Flame said to himself. "Silvara, can we get him raised at the Moontower?"
"I think so," she answered. They picked up Unagi between them and started moving off toward the High Altar of the Moon. About a block past the alleyway Jean appeared next to them and looked at Unagi.
"He's dead?" she asked quietly. Shadow Flame and Silvara both nodded. "Stupid Nug," Jean cried, "what was going through your crazy head?"
"Don't worry yet Jean, we are going to the Moontower to see if we can get him raised," explained Silvara.
A spark of hope returned to Jean's eye before she paused and asked, "raised?" Again Silvara nodded. "You know that when you are raised you lose some of your health, your vitality, permanently right?"
"I know," replied Silvara. "I don't think we'll be able to get him resurrected, and if we can it'll cost."
Jean nodded; she new it would be unlikely for them to get Unagi resurrected, but she was determined to try.
They arrived at the Moontower not long after, and as they entered through the gate several acolytes rushed over and began asking if Unagi needed healing. "No," said Silvara, "he is dead. My we speak with Astyaril please?"
One of the acolytes nodded and quickly ran off towards the tower. Silvara set Unagi down on the ground and they sat and waited for the high priestess to arrive.
"My friends," she called out as she approached. She looked down at Unagi sadly and said "what would you have me do?" to Silvara.
Silvara looked at her friends and said, "is it possible for him to be resurrected?"
Astyaril looked at Silvara, and after a moment nodded and said, "yes, I can cast the spell if you need me to. I would not do it normally, but since you are close to the Lady of the Moon I will do it for you Silvara, if you ask it of me. But I will warn you, it will not come cheaply. I would ask of you and your friends a donation of 50,000 gold pieces to the church for casting this spell on your friend."
"50,000 gold? You're kidding right?" Shadow Flame burst out. "How much to have him raised?"
Astyaril looked at Shadow Flame, believing his outburst was provoked by grief. "10,000 gold," she replied. "But again, that is only because Silvara is his friend. Otherwise it would require a donation of at least twice that." She looked again at Shadow Flame, "if you need time to discuss it I understand. I will leave you to talk about it, it is a big decision. Please come and see me once you have decided what you will do." She then walked off and spoke briefly with Letelia who then walked over then the party members.
"If you would like Astyaril has asked me to see to your friends body while you talk. We will look after him and give him a comfortable place to...rest."
They agreed, and after they were sure Unagi would be looked after they began to discuss what they were going to do.
The decision was not easily arrived at. Silvara and Jean were in favour of having Unagi resurrected, both of them insisting that if they were in Unagi's position they would want them to do the same. Shadow Flame was much more resistant to the idea of the resurrection. 50,000 gold was almost all of their coin; if they used it then if one them died there would not be enough money to be resurrected. He argued that given the way Unagi almost threw away his life in a fight they had no business entering that a raise dead spell was a reasonable course; why should Unagi get the benefit of a resurrection for his rash actions and force a raise dead on anyone unfortunate enough to die later? Both Jean and Silvara were adamant. Silvara argued that whatever happened next was irrelevant - Unagi was the one who was dead, there was no reason to raise him when they had the power to resurrect him.
Angry at their resistance Shadow Flame decided to "shop around". Jean and Silvara waited at the Moontower while Shadow Flame tried the other major temples in the city. It took the bulk of the remaining day for him to do so, and after asking at the Silent Hall and the Golden Bowl he determined that Astyaril was the only priest in the city (who was available to him) that could cast a spell of resurrection. He returned to the Moontower, and after telling Jean and Silvara he finally relented and agreed to the resurrection knowing that they would not agree to a raise dead spell instead.
They went and spoke with Letelia about their decision and she quickly went and spoke with Astyaril. Returning after several minutes she informed them that Astyaril would be unable to cast the spell that night and that she would have to wait until the morning so she could commune with Selune rested and refreshed. The party understood how divine magic worked and agreed. They returned to the Black Boar to think about what had happened that day.
Once they were in their room and had some privacy Shadow Flame asked Ixxizigut a few questions concerning the nature of those that had attacked the Three Wheels caravan.
"What were those creatures? The ones with the yellow skin?" he asked.
"Who are they?"
"Not such an easy question to answer master, their history is long and I am not knowledgeable in such areas," the imp explained.
"Well, where to they come from? You must know some things," prodded Shadow Flame.
"Githyanki," mused the imp, "they live in the Astral Plane. Warriors all of them, even the wizards are seen as warriors - magic is just another tool to them. They hates the Mind Flayers, the Illithids, like nothing else. Chant is they were once enslaved by Illithids and broke free, but Ixxizigut knows very little of such things. The Gith are very, um, reclusive? They hates all but themselves and do not tolerate outsiders. Ixxizigut has seen them attack Baatezu without pause. They are fierce warriors."
"And what of those with the blue skin and the spikes all over their bodies?" asked Shadow Flame.
"They are Bladelings master."
"Bladelings?" asked Shadow Flame.
"Creatures of the planes as well," continued the imp, "natives to the battle plane of Acheron."
"What would they be doing working for Silas and the Three Wheels?"
"I cannot say master, but they are mercenaries by nature so probably paid for their services. They are loyal to none but themselves and their kind, but they honour their contracts and are common as mercenaries."
Shadow Flame mused on the imps answers briefly before dismissing it back into invisibility and silence. The net was being cast wide and it seemed to Shadow Flame that the answers they sought would not be found on Faerun.
Waking early, the party met up in the tavern area of the Black Boar and had breakfast. They did not say much to each other, the words from the previous evening still fresh in their minds. As they finished their meal they were approached by a young man, maybe 16 years old judging from his bad teenage mustache. He wore serviceable street clothes covered in a blue tunic that sported a stylised image of a running stick figure with puffs of dust rising from its heels. He paused at the parties table before announcing, "I have a message here for you I think. Are you Shadow Flame, Silvara of Selune, Jean, and Unagi?"
"That we are," replied Shadow Flame holding out his hand.
The young man handed him a rolled up piece of parchment with a wax seal of a caravan winding through several portals stamped into it. Shadow Flame broke the seal and began reading the parchment. The young man cleared his throat and held out his hand. Shadow Flame continued to ignore him so he cleared his throat again.
"What are you waiting for?" demanded Shadow Flame, "you were paid already to deliver this message weren't you?"
The delivery boy was a little dejected as he nodded his head.
"Well, then your job is done. Enjoy your day," said Shadow Flame as he resumed reading the parchment.
"What does it say?" asked Jean.
Shadow Flame cleared his throat and began to read.
Greetings my esteemed colleagues,
I would be delighted if you would accept my invitation to meet at my private room in the Black Boar Inn. I would like to speak of matters mutually beneficial and to make a business proposal. I will make myself available at the dining room of the Wandering Wyvern on the evening of the 28th Day of Marpenoth. You will be able to recognise me as I will very likely be the only Githzerai in the room.
Zulik Kor’Shek of the Planar Trade Consortium
"Planar Trade Consortium," mused Shadow Flame. "That was the group that the Ogre Magi was a member of right? Estavan was it?"
"Yes, Estavan," replied Jean. "Are we interested?"
"We should probably see what they want at least," said Silvara.
"I agree," said Shadow Flame. "I can't say I really care much for these slavers nor the various merchant costers we find ourselves visited by, but it's worth a look."
"I'm in then," said Jean, "but we have other business first of course."
"Of course," replied Silvara, "but once this is done we should be ready straight away. Resurrection is a powerful spell; Unagi should stand up immediately in the best health he's been in for some time. There will be no ill effects at all. It'll be like he was never dead."
With that they left the Black Boar and headed to the High Altar of the Moon so that their friend could be brought back to life.
Astyaril was waiting for them as they entered the gate to the temple. They handed over the required payment to an acolyte and were told to wait while Astyaril cast the spell. It took only a few minutes before Unagi walked out of a nearby building, walked up to them and said, "what's up?"
Silvara spoke with Astyaril for a few moments before returning to the party and indicating it was time to go. As they left the grounds of the Moontower a protracted debate broke out amoung themselves regarding the huge hit they had just taken in their funds. It took them some time to reach an agreement; Unagi would pay them all back 12,500 gold each, and all monies in the future would be split evenly with all party members expected to watch out for their own finances.
With that settled the party explained their visit from the messenger and the message they had received. The decision was made to head to the Wandering Wyvern later that evening to meet with Zulik Kor'Shek and see what he wanted. The rest of the day would be spent relaxing and getting ready for whatever happened next.