Date: Fall, 1332 Avard
Brother Cadwhol sent Ethana and Morion to Firland, despite thick snows outside. A ship had arrived in the port carrying large and particularly valuable tome – some three feet tall and two feet wide, and weighing a considerable amount. The tome was a high priority for the monastery, and needed immediate retrieval. Morion and Ethana's contact would be an elderly lady in Firland by the name of Vassidi. They were told that they could find Vassidi at the Cranky Dwarf tavern and inn in the city.
Something about the old lady inspired a bit of fear in Brother Cadwhol, who gave them explicit instructions to treat her with the utmost respect.
Lily, having befriended Ethana, chose to go with her friend to explore more of the world.
The three of them were snowed in on their second day out, but made good time the next day to make up for it – partially with the support of Lily, and partially because a twenty-five hundred pound dire boar shrugs off the winter snows with ease.
In Firland, they made their way to the Cranky Dwarf. The stables and the main entrance were the only things above ground at the Cranky Dwarf, both of which were in the middle of a small park. After stabling Morion's horse and Ethan's boar, they made their way through the entrance and into the gently spiraling slope that led down more than six stories into the earth. In the summer, the chill of the deep earth was a respite from the heat; in the winter, the fires roared and kept the place warm and cozy.
Because Ethana was a rune priest, the dwarves of the deep tavern were happy to see here. Offering her free room and ale, they asked for her to make whatever runes she could for them to protect the ale, the dwarves, the patrons, the food, the fire, or anything she could. Ethana checked with Morion, and then started in on mugs and tankards runes.
Morion started talking with a fellow named Darren, who seemed to have maps from half the world. Darren was taciturn, seeming like he was waiting for someone, but Morion's instincts pushed him to the man.
Lily flittered about the room enjoying herself, and one of the dwarves explained the fear many people showed at Lily's presence. Another faerie often visited the Cranky Dwarf – and she often brought friends that started bar fights and drank the place dry. The other faerie and her friends came in on a ship, now and again, and although the captain paid for damages, it still took time to repair the place. Hence, their standing offer to Ethana.
Towards evening, a very elderly lady with a cane made her way through the thick swinging doors of the tavern room. She made her way a reserved seat in front of the fire, and an elven wine glass with thick dwarven ale in it soon appeared in her hand, courtesy of the Cranky Dwarf's owner. Ethana asked who it might be, and the barkeep responded that she was Vassidi.
Morion noticed that the fellow with the maps, Darren, was interested in the elderly lady – but he had his mission. Morion and Ethan both converged on her, and found her to be a sweet old lady. When Ethana stated that they were from the Star's End, there to do business, she asked for assistance in getting up and then called for her usual room. She apparently maintained a sort of office at the Cranky Dwarf, in amongst the warren of rooms carved out from the earth and the stone.
Morion, Ethana, and Lily escorted the elderly lady into the hallways, even as someone else followed them. They noticed the attentions of a lady in oddly-done red cotton clothing, quivering with energy and an intense gaze. Keeping a wary eye on the lady in red, the team helped Vassidi into her cozy room littered with comfortable divans and chairs, a small brazier to keep it warm, and plenty of blankets and throws.
There they received more details about the delivery. Vassidi, sweet old lady that she was, had not yet received the package. The ship that supposedly had it was under intense scrutiny, the Guard going over every crate and every barrel searching for contraband. She would, she hoped, make contact with someone from the ship shortly, but she would need to be out in the commons of the tavern for that to happen. The lady in red, she said, was an unknown to her – but likely others were interested in the tome, as well.
The team carefully escorted Vassidi out of her room, taking up flanking and guard positions around her to protect her from anyone, particularly the lady in red. The lady in red was outside, watching, and merely buffed her nails absently as she stared intently at the team as they walked by.
Through the grate of the swinging doors, they could see someone else waiting for them in the tavern – Darren, the fellow with the maps. Darren said something quietly to Vassidi about crows, and the old lady answered with the countersign. Darren then told them to follow him, quickly. Vassidi agreed – for Darren was her contact to get the tome.
With the lady in red following them openly, stalking them, they all went through the swinging doors and out of the tavern, into the spiraling ramp that would take them up. Darren led the way, with Ethana holding back to keep an eye on the lady in red, and Morion keeping an eye on Darren.
They made their way up the spiral, the lady in red glaring at them the entire time, every footstep she made barely containing power and movement. Morion touched his powers with the arcane, and glanced back at the lady in red. She wore red steel anklets and bracelets, and red steel pins all in her hair and her clothes – and all of them glowed fiercely with arcane energies.
As soon as Darren pushed open the door, the lady in red raised a whistle to her lips and blew hard – only no sound was heard. In the distance, dogs began to bark furiously.
Night, outside, with only a few torches burning near the entrance and near the stables, made them easy targets for the large pack of dogs bounding across the snow-covered ground. Worse, the dogs wore chain and steel barding, each dog weighing over a hundred pounds.
Ethana yelled at one of the frightened stable boys to release her boar, while she barred the doors from swinging out, hoping to stop the lady in red for a moment. The dogs attacked, Morion's blade and Ethana's hammer swinging furiously. Bursts of golden sunlight sizzled out as Lily blasted at the dogs, keeping them back, and then she unleashed a blast of power that hurled dogs back away from them for a moment, giving them breathing room as snow flashed about.
Vassidi touched an amulet of amethyst and onyx triangles about her neck, and the darkness of the night became a tornado of ebony that rushed down and made the old lady disappear in the blink of an eye. Her sweet, elderly voice said, “Meet me at the Convocation, dearies.”
Ethana's boar rushed into fray, ready to defend her, just as one of the walls of the entrance to the Cranky Dwarf blew outwards as the lady in red blew it outwards with one well placed kick. There was a red blur as she cartwheeled through the team, her feet and fists a flurry of fiery blows, pain, and grim lethality. One of Morion's magical items unleashed a blast of autumn leaves, shielding them for a moment and blinding the lady in red, who fell back behind two of her war dogs. Though blinded for a moment by leaves and a blast of snow, she unleashed a command from her whistle, and the dogs attacked again, with half a dozen more moving in from the darkness to assist.
Darren fled, telling the others to do the same. Morion managed to extricate himself, fleeing into the stables to escape the dogs who suddenly had their hands full with a ferocious dire board named Aden. Aden ripped dogs open, sent them flying, and bought the rune priest time to heal herself. Finding herself alone, save for the help of a tiny faerie, Ethara leapt up onto Aden's back – and had him barrel through the doors of the Cranky Dwarf's entrance.
She galloped the dire boar down the sloping passage, knocking patrons and wheelbarrows both aside, until she reached the bottom. The Cranky Dwarf was named for Gengle Stormblade, a veteran of the Warkore Clan. Once enemies of the Rakanus Clan Ethara called family, Gengle and others like him had learned that greater enemies were out there. Gengle and his children and friends took up arms, as did half the tavern, and together they stormed back up towards the surface.
Morion, meanwhile, had managed to arrive with a contingent of the Guard. They found incinerated dogs and partially melted dog armor, but no sign of the rest of the war dogs or of the lady in red. When the dwarves and the patrons of the Cranky Dwarf made it to the surface, there was almost a fight between them and the Guard.
Ethana and Morion and Lily made their reports to the Guard, and Gengle Stormblade made sure to extend his hospitality to Ethana in exchange for any runes. After the situation was well in hand, all of them slipped away to meet up with Vassidi at the Convocation.
Nursing her wounds and calling upon the Soul Forger for additional support, Ethana and Aden made their way quietly through the night streets of Firland, Holly following along with her wings flitting quietly, Morion walking along beside them.
At the Convocation, they found Darren already talking with Vassidi in the snowy shadow of a large, bare tree, dawn some hours yet away. Vassidi poked a small chest on the ground with her cane, and Darren placed it into his pack. Then, from his pack, he laboriously pulled out an enormous tome. Morion had to assist Darren, and eventually the two men pulled out a sealed, locked book that weighed more than a full grown man.
The easiest way to transport the book was in Darren's enchanted pack, especially with the Guard looking for anyone from the ship in port, for it might have some connection to the lady in red. The team set out under cover of darkness to return to the Star's End, the cold night's air nipping at their heels.
DM's Notes: Saige wanted to play with us for a bit, and Paul and Ross were gracious enough to let her join us until her bed time. Ross had brought all of his character sheets home in an effort to work on them and perhaps get them posted online – only he forgot them! With none of his characters available, and my printer out of ink, he had to dig through older campaigns to find something of comparable level: Dolon Uther, the most despised character to betray a party I've ever had. Whee!
Reference: Campaign IX