Mystara Campaign: The Journey...

Potatoes
Hallonica House

Millington Klantyre’s room, in the Salonikos Rest Inn (12 Fyrmont 997 AC)

There was a knock at the door. “Come in.”

Aidan entered the room, and looked around, “First one here?”

“Seems that way,” answered Mills, too engrossed in his woodcarving to look up.

Closing the door behind him, the halfling walked over to Mills. “What you got there?” said the Aidan, pointing towards the small pouch lying on the bed.

“Some…food-thing I picked up in Armstead. Try them if you want.”

Aidan leaned in to inspect the crisps, and after a moment, picked a dried-brown flakey crisp. “What are they?”

“Potatoes” Mills didn’t raise his head. He was working the fine detail into the sculpture.

Aidan bit into the crisp. The taste was like nothing he had ever tasted before – but he found himself enjoying it. “Tastes nothing like potato,” he stated, reaching to grab another.

Aidan propped himself onto the bed next to the pouch full of crisps. There was a quick knock and the door opened – Gotryk entered with Chord following. “Good, you’re back” he said looking at Mills. “So? Any news on Croaker.”

Mills set the woodcarving aside, sheathed his carving knife and gave the priest his attention, “Nothing much really – all that could be confirmed to me by some Captain Jakov, was that Croaker was to infiltrate the orc operations in the Dwarfgate Mountains.”

“For how long?”

“Three months.”

“Alone?”

“Yes.”

“Exit strategy?”

“His own way, but he is to make use of Alfheim to get back to Selenica – safest route. Apparently this operation is a collaboration between the boys of Fort Hobart and the elves.”

“Is it just reconnaissance or something more?”

“Captain implied this is just a fact-finding mission.”

“Good. Aidan?” Gotryk now turning his attention to the halfling.

“The farrier is coming tomorrow morning to inspect, same price as last time should we require his services.”

“These are quite good,” said Chord, munching away on a particularly brown crisp.

“Potato,” answered Aidan, even though the question was not asked.

“Seriously?” asked Chord incredulously.

“So why are we here? And why are we meeting in my room instead of downstairs?” Mills asked…he didn’t like this many people in his room.

“I’m waiting for the other two before we start.”

“Other one corrected Montano as he entered the room. “Hmmm what is that?”

“Try them, bet you won’t guess what they are?” challenged Aidan. He was thirsty now – these brown flakes were rather salty. Montano tried one. “Does anyone want something from the bar?” he added – everyone confirmed.

“Chord, come with me,” Aidan said as he turned to leave.

“Wait” said Montano, as he reached into his pocket and handed the halfling his set of cuffs. “Whatever these are, they make the cut,” added Montano, his tone and expression reflecting his approval of the crisps.

“Would you believe they are potatoes?” said Aidan, leaving with Chord, right after witnessing the quizzical look upon Montano’s face.

Gotryk closed the door behind them, blocking out the noise from below, and turned to Montano, “What happened with Adelmar?”

“The guild took him, no problem. Also Janice was right; we found a home for the drakeling with one of the guild members, someone you would approve of. Trust me.”

Gotryk made a slight nod.

“How much?” asked Mills

Montano smiled and gave a momentary pause before answering, “3,000 daro,” amused by the look on their faces. “This has been an elite day for us my friends!”

Both the priest and Mills expressed their amazement on the amount. “All cash?” queried Gotryk.

“Nah, got a CLOC.”

“So where is Janice now?”

“Said she had a quick errand to run, but that it wouldn’t take long,” Montano replied, while he grabbed a few more crisps out of the pouch. “These are unbelievable. Where did we get them?”

“Armstead’s fair” Mills grumbled, while cleaning up the shavings on the table, trying hard to hide his annoyance. They were going through the bag like vultures.

At that moment the door opened with Aidan and Chord walking in carrying two large pitchers of ale and several glasses. A rather jubilant Janice followed them in. The pitchers and glasses were placed upon the table.

“Where have you been?”

“Confirming our sources,” she answered before handing Gotryk an envelope. “I’m sure Montano’s broken the news.”

“What news?” asked Aidan turning to Montano.

“Only that Mills slaughtered 12,000 daro worth of drakes, enough for all of us to enjoy a fairly long holiday in the Ierendi Isles,” cut-in Janice cheekily, winking at Mills.

“Well it was Umbarth merchandise, All I do, i do it for you,” Mills sort-of badly sang the last line making reference to one of Montano’s soppy romance ballads. Janice laughed.

“Did you sort out the supplies,” Janice asked Gotryk. Gotryk nodded.

“So is anyone going to tell us why we are meeting in the tin-suit’s stuffy room instead of the comfort of the tables and chairs below," asked Aidan, before grabbing one of the pitchers and a glass and finding a place on the bed to sit, near Chord.

“I can only imagine to eat me out of house and home” Millington muttered under his breath.

“There are too many ears downstairs and for a little guy, your voice carries too much when you get excited,” teased Gotryk. Aidan snorted. The priest then turned and addressed Janice , “..the floor is yours.”

Janice waited till everyone got into position before she began. Montano filled his glass with ale from one of the pitchers, leaned up against the wall near the window while Mills sat back down in his chair – the only one in the room.

“Well I was speaking to Tom Eskarden back in Armstead…”

“The Hallonica man?” interrupted Mills.

“Yes” said Janice “it appears our friends in the Hallonica House have been suffering attacks on their people and merchandise travelling the Black Peak Mountain pass between Reedle and Duke’s Road Keep in Karameikos.”

“Could this be related to what you were involved in some weeks back?” asked Montano looking at Gotryk and Mills.

“No,” assured Janice, “these attacks are completely unrelated. From what Tom said, the attackers are a group of mismatched humanoid races led by a spell-caster.”

“How long has this been going on?” asked Aidan, while filling up his glass with more more ale.

“Two-three months or so, on and off” answered Janice.

“But Verun never mentioned it,” said Mills, “and we met up with him a few times. Why wouldn’t he tell us? That sort of work is pretty much our purpose.”

“I’m, thinking this has to be personal,” Gotryk replied, “probably a sensitive issue. Also I felt our last meeting with him could have gone better.”

Hallonica House has sent their own people to investigate the matter but have had no success,” added Janice.

“Verun Hallonica,” said Mills, “had all the opportunity in the world to employ us, when we were there last time, but he didn’t. Has he changed his mind – did he reach out to us?”

“No,” Gotryk answered, taking the now near-empty pouch of crisps from Chord.

“Then, why are we here? What do we hope to accomplish?” asked Aidan.

“Verun is on his way out,” stated Janice flatly. “My sources inform me that the other two Hallonica siblings voted for him to be replaced as head of the Hallonica House – my guess is there have probably been too many incidents: with House Luciu and the Al-Azrads, these attacks, and who knows what else. His term ends at the end of this month. The new figurehead of Hallonica will be Verun’s older brother, Bertram. They say he is quite amenable. Good news is, we have an in with Tom Eskarden – after what we did at Armstead on Market Day. I’ve arranged for a meet, later today.”

“As I said, an elite day,” commented Montano.

“What about this spellcaster and humanoid entourage, what do we know of them?” asked Mills thoughtfully.

Gotryk handed the crisp-pouch to Janice. “Well, it appears from the descriptions of the attacks, the wizard is some sort of defiler.” After seeing the confused look upon the faces of his colleagues, Gotryk explained, “A defiler is a spellcaster who draws his power from sacrificing the life-force inherent in all things to fuel his spells.”

“Vicious,” remarked Aidan. Chord nodded in agreement.

“Yes, rather,” added Montano.

Janice finished the crisps and placed the emptied pouch on the table and reached for the pitcher and a glass. Studying Janice carefully, Mills challenged “10 Daro says you don’t know what these crisps are made from.”

“Make it 50 Daro and we have a deal.”

“Mills don’t,” Gotryk warned, remembering his first encounter with Janice back in Corunglain.

“She is bluffing,” tested Mills, eyeing her shrewdly. Gotryk buried his face in his palm.

“That drake-armour you had commissioned back in Armstead is going to cost you a little. I’m guessing 50 Daro is a little too rich for you, Milly” stirred Janice.

“You just sold us a drake, I’m flush right now,” replied Mills coolly, although everyone could see him making a mental tally. It was actually going to be a close month, lot of debts were coming due in fact. Mills figured if the smith finished the armour anytime soon, he was going to have to do some fast talking…

“So make, the, deal,” baited Janice, sensing his weakness.

“Buddy,” began Montano “think about it, she finished the crisps, never commented on them once, not a thing. Don’t do it.”

“He’s got a point,” chirped Chord, Aidan agreed.

“Fuck it. Forget it.” Mills backed down.

“We wouldn’t want you to look stupid now would we?” smiling Janice turned to the others.
“The rest of you bozos owe me 50 daro and I’m taking that out of your pay.” Finishing her drink and placing the glass on the table, she turned to leave the room.

“Can she do that?” Chord asked.

“She knew,” Mills agreed with the others, trying to convince himself that he didn’t just lose out on 50 daro.

“Potatoes,” Janice said without turning before opening the door and walking out.

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Return to Selenica
On the Road
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On the road between Armstead & Selenica (9 Fyrmont 997 AC)

The sun was high and the road to Selenica was pleasant, as the group travelled without a word in a particular moment of quiet. Mills noticed Gotryk steer his horse closer, with an intent that could only mean a talk was coming. Gods, there’s goes the peace, he sighed.

Mills used the few precious moments of silence left to brace himself for the noises that would soon be forcing themselves out both their mouths, adamant on their righteousness.

“Mills, about what happened back in the caves… with you, me and the drakes… I feel I need to apologize for going off at you like that.”

The staccato pace of the mighty warhorse’s steel shod hooves upon stone road slowed down as Mills matched speed with Gotryk’s slower, much cheaper horse. Luckily the halfling’s mule was not much slower.

Mills did not turn his head, he shrugged, “Perhaps you were a bit rough….but it happens. That’s one of the reasons I stick around. At least you’re straight forward…….” he trailed off, then adding at a much lower volume, “…even when yer wrong.”

Gotryk threw a grin up at Mills, shaking his head. “For once you’re right, old friend. The things I said about being the leader and you following orders, well, in the heat of the moment I suppose some of the old army mentality crept back in. I just wanted to say that I don’t expect any of us to follow orders. We’re not some brain-dead military unit.

“Well, not anymore anyway” he added with a grin. “I know you did what you thought was best, but see where it got us? We could have made a lot more gold selling those drakes if you hadn’t killed them.”

Mills paused. Gotryk could see disappointment play across his face at the mention of that fact.

“…Sure, we would have…” Mills agreed, “but I don’t have a dragon god telling me the future” he smiled at his taunt. He reached into his saddle bag and pulled out a pouch of dried brownish slice-flakey looking things. He offered some to Goytrk.
“Got these at the fair. New preparation of potatoes. Tastes nothing like potatoes, but they good.”

“All I knew was what we knew at the time. We were in a humanoid lair, with no knowledge of numbers, arms or layout. An invisible….something was causing us trouble with some decently powerful magic and now we were going to leave a bunch of drakes, at least trained enough to likely be set upon us at our backs. And then….” bitterness rose up in Mills suddenly, “a goddamn spell pushed us into the pit…. like a bunch of stupid jesters!” he hissed, wanted to keep his anger from showing.

… He munched his potato slices in the abrupt sullen silence that followed…

Gotryk sighed, stared at his strange potato slice and tried a bite. He had never heard the veteran warrior refer to himself in the context of anything stupid before. He chewed thoughtfully in the silence.

“You’re right again” he said, “tastes nothing like potato…”

“That spell caster really did a number on us, didn’t he? Good thing we got him when we did. Your gauntlet in his gob was quite a sight!
It all worked out in the end though, ‘cos we all worked together. What got me the most was that you cut me off and put yourself at risk. Why do that?
What if those drakes had proven to be tougher and I couldn’t get a healing on you…?”
Gotryk sighed again, frustration in his voice.

“You’re like a brother to me, you great metal-clad lummox, and I’d put my life on the line for you and I know you’d do the same. So when you jammed that door, I panicked. The spell caster was still at large and I was having something of a crisis of faith about the drakes…” he trailed off uncomfortably.

“I got any number of reasons why I did what I did. We always do, don’t we…. People,” Mills said critically. He paused to allow their emotions to subside. Easier to do when not in the heat of conflict. He knew that about people, and knew that about himself.

“My most immediate reasons were, in no particular order…I don’t like to run, I don’t like to be toyed with by an invisible fuck, and I don’t like leaving the enemy at our backs…..and for the record, again, I didn’t know about the dragon-love your order has….I mean who could have guessed that? I’d have pulled my killing blows if I’d known…”

Then he added almost apologetically, “….and I left that last one didn’t I? I’m not a drake butcher… I just wanted them out of the risk equation.”

Gotryk knew he’d sooner develop the ability to piss vintage wine than get Mills to admit there was any fault in needlessly killing the drakes, so he moved on.
“Ka does not speak to me, Mills, though I admit it might be nice if He did at times. The only guidance I have is the members of Company Fourhire, my own instincts and the principles of my faith, which I try to interpret as best I can and guide our group to success.
I’ve not shared details of my beliefs with any of you because none of you ever asked. You all seem to appreciate the healing gifts I am able to provide and for me that was enough.
“Besides,”
he added wryly “I know well your views on religion since you told us all at precisely just what you thought of priests, religion, orphans, Halflings and Specularum in general after Aidan’s Incident… Look, my order holds all life sacred, and the protection of life and culture is the biggest part of the teachings.”

Gotryk looked up directly at Mills, his eyes suddenly glowing amber, his voice taking on a reverent pitch.
“My drinking and womanizing are my expressions of the celebration of life. There is a depth and honesty of culture in a good brothel that you will find in no temple anywhere, not to mention an ample amount of creation of life I tell you! But, er, I am getting side tracked.”

He held up his hand to interrupt before Mills could derail his wagon of thought. He realized belatedly that he needed to hurry, as his friends eyes were already starting to glaze under this barrage of religious fervor.

He let the glow fade from his eyes and said “Ka, to my limited knowledge, is known to have probably manifested in at least three forms: an amber dinosaur, a giant amber tortoise and a golden dragon. I have my own theories as to why he chose to be associated with these creatures. I admit in hindsight that a drake is a far cry from a golden dragon, but at the time, I was more upset that you were killing creatures that I didn’t think needed to be killed yet. Preservation of life, remember?
I admit I over reacted back there. Together as a team we’re damn near unstoppable and I just want to make sure it stays that way, ok?"

Mills tried to keep a serious face, but a hearty laugh overtook his self-control. In between the followup snorts he barely managed to get out, “a dinosaur!? a tortise? Maybe don’t tell people about the dinosaur and tortise part, It just made me picture one of them with the short little harpsicord playing arms…playing the harpsicord, and a tortise on its back struggling to get back up”

He wiped a tear out the corner of his eye, and sobered up.“Those drakes were dangerous. There is no disputing that. If i had to do it over, i’d still have removed them as a threat…..tho i’d figure out a less permanent solution for your sake”, he added carefully.

“I was not impressed by the other two though. Aidan and Montano. They didn’t have any drake issues, but just stood by and took the show in. Either their threat assessment is off, which makes them a liability, or they can’t be trusted to have my back….and you know the saying, we all learned it, no matter which unit we served, “those that fight beside me are worth dying for…those that don’t…aren’t worth a damn.”

“Mark my words, sooner or later those two will run, and people will die….and they better hope I’m among the dead” he added dangerously.

Pointedly ignoring the mockery of his religion and their patron immortal, Gotryk wondered again at the wisdom of having three questionably borderline sociopaths as company members.

“Montano and Aidan were following my lead, Mills, and watching our backs in case the wizard struck again. If not for Montano spotting the little bastard disappearing into the rock, he would have caused us a lot more trouble.They’re like us. And there’s damned few like us, ‘cos they’re all dead.”’ He raised his last potato slice in a mock toast gesture and popped it in his mouth, chewing meaningfully and hoping Mills recognized the old infantry saying.

Mills knew when Gotryk was locked into peacemaking there was no reasoning with him. He smiled at the irony.
“…and maybe they thought I wanted to fight the drakes solo and were merely respecting my space…..which makes them idiots….but whatever the reason, they’re not military, and I doubt they’ve heard any of the sayings or would understand them.”

He paused to chew on some more slices. He glanced over to the halfling lounging on this mule’s huge throne like saddle, stuffing his face with plums, and Montano, almost blank eyed, composing songs in his head, both oblivious to the dangers of the road.

“Fine, you champion them if you want, but until I see otherwise…. they are what they are…. just civilians.”

“by the way, 100 yards ahead, by the “predictably fallen” tree, four bandits on the left, six on the right, two of them archers by the nearby rock outcropping….definitely amateurs……how do you want to play this?"

Gotryk grinned, relieved that Mills had spotted the bandits before he had to point them out.
“We are each brothers in blood and battle in this company, now let’s go rid the road to Selenica of some bandits!”

Later that day… (9 Fyrmont 997 AC)

“Was that you?” Janice asked, motioning with her head towards the clashing of steel in the distance as she came to sit next to him, plate in hand. “Montano caught a good one this time,” she added, as she cut a slice of the cooked hare.

“Yes. The boy needs to learn and Millington looked bored.”

Janice read between the lines “You still thinking about how things played out in Armstead?” she didn’t wait for an answer, “I’m not going anywhere. You can stop worrying. They just got lucky." She reached to feel the bruise at the back of her head. It had been a few days now and the swelling had started receding.
“Anyways, Milly is one of the finest fighters I have seen, Chord is fortunate to have him as a teacher. I saw the two of you had a talk earlier on. All good?”

“All good.” Gotryk replied almost absentmindedly.

Chord cried out fiercely as he lunged at Mills. The feint worked beautifully, as Mill’s deftly sidestepped and using Chord’s momentum knocked the boy into the dirt. Mill’s gave out a slight chuckle.

“How is he sleeping through all that?” Janice asked quizzically, referring to the sleeping form of the halfling. Aidan had gone to sleep early given his luck with the straws for guard duty.

Silence. Thought it might help blocking out Chord’s training,” explained Gotryk.

“You haven’t even asked me about Selenica,” she said, deliberately changing the topic.

“You’re right, I apologise. I’ve been somewhat preoccupied. Mostly thinking about Croaker and what he is up to. I’ll be honest, I’m more than a little concerned."

“I know,” she said softly.

“So why is it that we are returning to Selenica, besides for the lads to enjoy Darokin Day?”

“Two words, Hallonica House,” said Janice, with a sly look.

“Been there, screwed over – I think we should pass. What else you got?”

“Whoa, hold on a minute. Can it be that our priest has finally lost his faith?” teased Janice.

Gotryk smiled, “No. Nothing like that.” He let Janice finish her meal, while he got up to recast the ritual.

By the time he sat back down again, Janice was engrossed in her ledgers, “Well Red," finally letting curiosity get the better of him, “what is the deal with our friends in Hallonica?”

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Decisions
A Clutch of Dilemmas

Kobold cave near Armstead (2 Fyrmont 997 AC)

The Confession from Adelmar had taken an interesting turn.
The implication of Umbarth House, one of the great Merchant Houses of Darokin really complicated matters. It was well known by all within the Company how Janice would vote on the matter. There was no love loss between Janice and her previous employer.

Aidan licked his lips. All this talking and sitting around in a hot stuffy cave made him thirsty, problem was his wineskin was empty. The Preacher, out of precaution, had forbidden them all to leave the cave until they had ironed out some sort of plan. How he envied Mills back at the village. “What are we to do with Adelmar now?” asked the irritated halfling. “And despite him being somewhat of a Glantrian-wizard he doesn’t look like he possesses the stomach for violence, much less killing.” .

“And we cannot ignore this either,” Montano added, waving the Letter from Jarvis in his hand before placing it down on the table along with Aldemar’s other items; a coin pouch, thieving tools, a short-sword, a vial of clear liquid and an arcane-scripted gold ring.

“No, we certainly cannot. Well,” said Gotryk taking a moment to pause skeptically, “we have to assume Millington has rescued Janice and Chord and that they will be alright. We on the other hand have some decisions to make. Any ideas, how are we going to play this out?”

The three searched each other for answers.

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Letters from Industrious Hands
Carnival (Af)Fair

House of the Industrious Hands (16 Felmont 997 AC)

Mother Amelia pressed firmly, sealing the final letter with The Church’s seal. “Liam!” she called out. Turning her eyes downwards, she observed as she opened and closed her hand in an attempt to relieve the pain. The length of the letters had been longer than she had originally planned but it was necessary given the gravitas of the topic.

“Mother Amelia, you called,” stated the tall young man standing in her doorway. He bowed his head deeply as a sign of respect letting his long chestnut-coloured locks fall. The old cleric smiled as his head lifted and he was forced to wipe away his hair from his face.
In the many years she had served in Nemiston, Liam was by far her favourite acolyte to have graced the Church of the Industrious Hands. Soft-spoken, obedient, intelligent and pleasing on the eyes, she had developed high hopes for him within the religious order.

“Yes Liam, I did. Pack some belongings, you will be going on a little excursion.”

“Excursion Mother?” Liam asked, the frown on his forehead betraying his confusion.

Handing him four sealed letters along with a small leather pouch she explained, “Take this, use the money to hire yourself a fine horse, be sure. I want you to travel to Dolos.” Liam took the coin pouch and letters.
“Deliver the letters to the head of the temples there. Personally,” she stressed the last part, “there is no room for error.”

“Mother Amelia, I believe there are only three Temples in Dolos – yet you have given me four letters.” said Liam.

She nodded…

After Liam had left, Mother Amelia sat in her chair rubbing her writing hand thinking back on her conversation with Montano. It was a pity the bard was not a man of the cloth, he would have given excellent sermons.

All of her sudden she broke her reverie with the sound of her laughter as she remembered one of The Church’s most popular tenets. She continued to laugh, while massaging her hand.

“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”

Somewhere in Selenica (19 Felmont 997 AC)

Gotryk marvelled at the detail of the letter unable to suppress a smile. In just a short few days Janice had come to know everything about Armstead; Everyone and everything from the village’s main trade, its merchant routes, its finest and worst accommodation it had to offer, the local cuisine, local gossip and even archaic lore, religious or otherwise.
His amusement on her abilities of information gathering were interrupted by the entrance of Montano.

“I take it, by the silly look on the your face that we’ve received word from Janice?” asked the bard, motioning towards the letter.

“Yes,” replied Gotryk rather absentmindedly, still wearing the bemused look.

“So, we going or not?” Montano queried while pulling up a chair to sit next to him.

Gotryk merely nodded.

“Good, because our walking pillar of armour has already started to pass comments about the intellect of the city and its people.”

Gotryk laughed.

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The Ana Radeeya Restaurant
Selenican Vendetta

The Ylari (16 Felmont 997 AC)

Sitting deep in thought, on a comfortable mattress amidst a sea of various sized and coloured pillows, in his personal private booth of his favourite Selenican Restaurant, Ibrahim Al-Azrad pulled methodically on his moustache as if in an attempt to straighten it. He was more than a little annoyed. He had paid a sizeable sum to have the adventuring guild hired by the Lucius brought before him. Someone would have to pay for this failure.

He looked to his right and admired the sleeping form of Afifah, a local dancer of the establishment. Distracted with the view, he momentarily forgot his annoyance as his fat hairy hand pushed aside the girl’s dancing cloth, revealing her bare ass-cheek underneath. Grabbing hold of it, he gave it a slight squeeze – the girl half-moaned in her sleep. Undeterred by her discomfort and somewhat inspired, his swarthy hand began to explore her body.

His appreciation was cut short, by the sudden intrusion of his two guards escorting a short man, of Ylari origin, into the room. The man, dressed in travel gear, was promptly shoved to stand in front of him.

“Nazeer,” said Ibrahim annunciating the little man’s name slowly, “it appears your magic, which was paid for upfront, has failed. Instead of entertaining three new guests as had I expected, I found myself entertaining one only. That hardly seems fair, don’t you think?”

Nazeer was very much aware of what had transpired that night.“I…Lord Ibrahim, let me make it up to you. Allow me to reimburse you the monies,” he pleaded, shifting uncomfortably.

“But Nazeer, I do not want your monies,” said Ibrahim while shaking his head. “I want what I had asked for.”

“Of course my lord, let me just prepare my spells and…” replied Nazeer, motioning to leave, but the guards quickly blocked his escape.

“There is no time for that Nazeer,” interjected Ibrahim, his tone indicative of the seriousness of the situation. “Everything is a mess. The remaining two will now be on their guard, city officials will mostly likely be involved and worst of all the Lucius will get to hear about it…I’m not happy Nazeer. I was promised three guests which I did not receive. And here you are, in the middle of the night, dressed as if you were leaving the city.”

“But I –“ Nazeer’s voice began to break.

“No buts. You are not a man of your word Nazeer. Do you know what I do to men who break their word to me?” Ibrahim’s voice darkened. The girl began to stir. Ibrahim nodded to the guards and they immediately began to move towards the little man.

Without warning, Nazeer moved forward away from the approaching guards exclaiming “Back! By Al-Kalim, get back or I kill him,” with his one hand outstretched pointing towards Ibrahim while his other, held up in a defensive position. The guards stopped mid-stride, unsure what to do. By this stage Afifah had awoken and after quickly assessing the situation had pulled herself into a protective ball in the corner of the private room.

“Nazeer,” said a rather amused Ibrahim, waiving the guards to hang back while he slowly rose to his feet, “your magic failed you once tonight, you sure you want to trust on it a second time?”

“Stay down, I’m warning you,” threatened a rather nervous Nazeer.

As Ibrahim stood, towering over the little wizard he declared rather ominously, “Nazeer, you have made enough mistakes for one night. It is time to stop.” He took a step forward.

Without warning several glowing bolts escaped from the wizard’s outstretched hand all flying in the direction of the obese merchant. At this point Afifah screamed in alarm. Intuitively Ibrahim made a quick arcane gesture and the glowing bolts stopped inches away from his body, as if they collided with an unseen barrier, before blinking out.

Ibrahim then lunged to grab the wizard, who in turn failed to evade the large man’s grasp, as one of his hands hands found its way around the little man’s neck threatening to strangle him.
The wizard instinctively reacted using one hand to fight his way free, rather miserably, while the other reached into his pocket to pull out a stoppered vial of murky-green liquid.

“Ustaaz!” cried out one of the guards as a warning who had noticed the vial. The attempt to smash the vial on the Al-Azrad merchant was foiled as Ibrahim’s hand closed around the wizard’s wrist and instead was forcefully swung back breaking the vial on Nazeer’s face.

Almost immediately the murky-green liquid began eating at the flesh. Nazeer cried out from the pain while the curled-up dancer screamed from the unravelling horror. Upon realisation of the liquid’s nature, Ibrahim pushed Nazeer away from him. The push dropping the wizard to the floor.

“Shut her up,” ordered Ibrahim while he watched the wizard deform before his eyes; hands melting away as they attempted to protect the decaying face.
Well this evening had gone terribly wrong, Ibrahim thought to himself.

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That Night in Nemiston
Carnival (Af)Fair

The House of the Industrious Hands (13 Felmont 997 AC)

Mother Amelia sat patiently as Captain Eldmire’s men searched the House of the Industrious Hands. She had taken a much needed rest, as her legs were tired from the day’s activities. She was getting old, she thought. “So, what makes you think he is here Captain?”

“We, got an anonymous tip saying he, the elf, was hiding out here,” replied a rather uncomfortable Eldmire. He liked the priestess, she was good for this town and he hated doing this – but what was he supposed to do? Ignore the message?

“Anonymous, you say” she muttered to herself more so than actually asking.

“Yes I’m afraid. One of my men -” Captain Eldmire started to explain but was cut short with a hand-wave by Mother Amelia indicating her disinterest in the details.

“May I get you some tea, coffee – something else?” asked the elderly priestess warmly.

“-Er no. This shouldn’t take long.” Why was she being so nice thought the Captain. “I apologise for the inconvenience we’ve caused Mother Amelia.”

“No harm. You are just doing your job.” They would have left the town by now. Fortunate that they were here when they were – otherwise things could have gone really badly for everyone concerned.

“So, Andreas?” queried the now fidgety Captain

The militia man, returning along with two of his colleagues just shook his head despondently. Sighing, Eldmire turned to the Priestess, “I believe we have been misinformed or purposefully sent on a wild hunt. Either way I offer you our sincere apologies for disturbing you so late. If there is anything we can do?”

“No need to apologise Captain. You and I are old friends and as for what you can do – you and the boys,” she said turning to his men with a slight grin, “Well, I expect to see all of you in church this week.”


The Shady Dragon Inn (13 Felmont 997AC)

Janice couldn’t believe what had transpired within the last few hours. She was a little annoyed with Cord for not waking her up sooner. “Provisions, water…?”

“All packed on the horses,” Cord replied. He didn’t like it when Janice was upset with him.

If only Cord had woken her up. She thought back on the day’s events, earlier in the afternoon, in particular her conversation with the hostess of the Black Diamond Tavern.

“Twitchy. It’s what they call him.”

Janice ignored the comment, “You sure, it was the short man with the black hair who set it all up.”

“Yes, as sure as I’m sitting here" nodded the hostess. “I heard he came by earlier and made the arrangements, gave them a description of Twitchy, said they could find him at the carnival. He told them he would personally be settling Twitchy’s tab, practically told them to cheat in the game.”

“That doesn’t make any sense. Why would he do that?” asked a confused Janice.

“No idea Red. Maybe he gets a kick out of spending money. Don’t really care. So how much daro you think that is worth?"

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Distractions

The Guild’s Hall in Akorros (20 Klarmont 997 AC)

“You know you have to go with them?” her question sounding more like a statement, while pouring him a drink.

Grabbing hold of the glass, Gotryk slowly nodded his head.

Placing the bottle on the table and stoppering it, she looked up at him “I know you worry, but things will be fine. I have made arrangements to arrive there earlier, set the others up and get the usual info like we planned. Content Not Found: montano is more than capable of handling this. You sure you don’t want me to join you thereafter?"

Tilting his head back he finished the drink, before replying, “No. They are already thin on the ground as it is and given what we have heard about the Woodchuck Boys they might need an extra pair of eyes.” His hand reached out to rest on hers, but she delicately slipped hers away.

“They’re not happy about this, the group separating,” she carried on as if nothing had happened. “You need to tell them –“

“Not now,” he cut her short, a little too sharply. The cleric mentally chastised himself.

“When? It is best they hear it from you.” She moved to take the bottle, but his right hand quickly closed around it keeping it firmly on the table. She lets go of it reluctantly.

“After," he replied, pulling the cork out. “Best not to distract them.”

“Yes, we wouldn’t want anyone distracted…”

Her footsteps drowned out by the sound of an emptying bottle.

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Separated

The Guild’s Hall in Akorros (19 Klarmont 997 AC)

Putting down the pencil, Janice looked up the junior and answered “No, no, no…you’re misunderstanding boy. You have taken on two work assignments at the same time with each job being elsewhere, hence the Company needing to split to undertake both jobs.”

“What? But we swore that would never happen again. The Company charter strictly forb-” exclaimed Cord, while looking around for affirmation and finding none.

“It is nothing like that," interjected Montano as he put out the cigarette. “This is guaranteed. More money, more exposure, more networking. Both assignments have the potential to reward the Company with a healthy and steady stream of income. A golden opportunity, literally. Success could mean the Company would need to expand and perhaps let go of its smaller contracts. I know many of us are tired of the constant copper runs.”

“I still don’t like it; splitting up.” Cord continued – raising his hands and shaking his head somewhat disapprovingly.

At that point, Janice firmly asserted “Failure is not an option for Preacher.”

“It never is.” Montano answered coolly, before briefly locking eyes with her.

“Other woman, I don’t trust. Her name, I forget it?” said Croaker, sitting across from Montano, in his broken Darokinian, while picking at his teeth with a dagger.

“Oana Luciu I think it was,” replied Montano thoughtfully, while lighting up another cigarette. “

The conversation is suddenly broken by the sound of a chair scraping across the floor as a man at the back of the room stood up. “This,” he said rather flatly, while placing a wood-carving on the table next to him, “is stupid!” No one said a word as the tall man walked out.

Immediately as the footsteps of the tall man are out of earshot and without missing a beat, the halfling piped up “Soooooo," eyeing out the wood-carving mischievously, “who wants to team up with Milly?”

The awkward lingering presence of the halfling’s question is suddenly broken by the musical sound of a lute…

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