Freeday, Reaping 21, 552 CY (50 AN)
Aerik Sellsword, Burdwulf the Greatly Challenged, Falrest Chisoud, Hilda Giblets, Jarq’wei Loindeen, Stefan, Tuggs Nemo (with his pony, Tugglife), and Utne Jarlson and their hired mercenaries and laborers are resting and alternating watches, attempting to recover from the previous day’s tragedy. It is early morning when the men on watch see a caravan approaching. The low songs emanating from that direction suggest it is a dwarf caravan; these songs inadvertently awaken Burdwulf. As the caravan approaches and slows, a human approaches, riding a donkey. Clad in skins, he introduces himself as Atwulf Phames. He indicates he is a scout, searching for news and hunting while traveling with this dwarf merchant caravan led by Fakrag Dalikinason. He indicates that the big news is that Dolmvay to the south is possibly going to war with the settlement of Leaf.
Burdwulf and Utne proceed to discuss business with Fakrag, attempting to resupply and also get him to part with a cart and two mules. Burdwulf convinces him to give him the dwarf deal, and the dwarfs get to work rearranging their wares to part with a cart. When asked, Fakrag indicates they were engaging in business back west, but are headed back to the dwarf city of Baritherdar.
The caravan also sets to work clearing the rubble on the way to Trastow. One of their number, an older male dwarf, says he’s not a laborer, he’s a warrior, and he’s out of here. Introducing himself as Papa Deuce, he asks to join the travelers. A young human woman, having awakened at the commotion, bids farewell to one of the human workers in the caravan and similarly joins the others. Smoking a pipe, she introduces herself as Melancholia Nightshade, evidently a cleric by her holy symbol — an amulet of a mirrored face. The group allows the newcomers to join, figuring that more recruits are useful for the dangers of the road, and these newcomers likely aren’t wanted criminals in Vor Taluum.
Outfitted, the group begins its march back to Vor Taluum to perform research. The next day, Starday, Reaping 22, the group is again interrupted around 4 AM by another dwarf caravan headed east. They inquire with the caravan master, Barakragella Skallaminsdotr, if there is anything they should know about back west, but Barakragella just indicates that business was bad; they seemed to be just behind another dwarf merchant caravan. As such, they’re returning to Baritherdar. The travelers resupply, and Tuggs purchases some liquor which he attempts to place in his bag of holding. He is rudely surprised when the bag tries to suck him inside, and to his chagrin, he determines that none of his equipment is inside the bag of holding. He vows to kill that old merchant if he encounters him again. With the excitement complete, everyone returns to camp to finish sleeping.
Travel is uneventful for a day or so until one of the men on watch hears the bleating of goats at around 2 AM on Moonday, Reaping 24. Two enormous mountain goats, the size of Clydesdales, pass in the night. Tuggs awakens and tries to lure them with food in an attempt to domesticate them, but the beasts just eat the food and continue on their way. He regrets not hunting them instead.
The group returns to sleep and sets out the next morning. Around 10 AM, they round a bend in the hills to find a group of goblins skulking along the trail. The greenish humanoids panic at the large, well-armed group of humanoids, and bolts into the hills. The travelers release a volley of missile fire, and Papa Deuce ultimately charges and manages to kill one of the fleeing goblins. The others successfully flee. Once he has been searched — the goblin doesn’t really hold anything of value — Tuggs puts the corpse in his bag of holding. To his amusement, he finds that once he wraps the bag around the goblin’s hand, it pulls the goblin the rest of the way inside, stretching to accomodate the goblin’s mass.
The group travels uneventfully, avoiding Burnthorpe at Stefan’s request until reaching Caham on Starday, Goodmonth 1. That night, they drop several hundred silver pieces on the unsuspecting village, throwing a massive party. The group covers Melancholia and Papa Deuce’s expenses; Melancholia finds an alternate revenue stream as Burdwulf seems content to cover her expenses as long as she plies him with sexual favors. The group as a whole makes drunken fools of themselves, although they mostly manage to smooth things over; Papa Deuce is the only one who truly makes a bad impression. The group on the whole finds the debauchery very underwhelming, even though they dropped over a thousand silver pieces worth of gold and gems on the party to make it spectacular. With the village still gloriously hungover, Tuggs steals all the valuables out of the back room of the tavern and loads them into the cart. The group makes its way out of the village very quickly on the morning of Sunday, Goodmonth 2.
On Moonsday, Goodmonth 3, the travelers arrive and get epically drunk in Batun. Aerik and Falrest abstain, staying with the cart. This turns out to be just as well, as the next morning, Burdwulf, Hilda, Jarq’wei, Melancholia, Papa Deuce, Stefan, Tuggs, and Utne return to the cart naked, battered, and missing most of their equipment, as they were all apparently beaten and robbed while drunk. As they go into town to investigate, they notice several wanted posters that were not there before, apparently depicting some local bandits. Asking the hungover townsfolk in the tavern, they explain that last night was completely crazy, as another group came to drink. Something happened, and they ended up conjuring a magic carpet and all these wanted posters appeared. That’s about the time the demons appeared and abducted the other gang.
The travelers suspect the bandits used the Die of Fortune they stole from Utne.
The group searches around town to track down the bandits, eventually finding a pile of their things guarded by some tall, wolflike humanoid wearing judge’s robes and a judge’s wig. After some discussion, Utne decides to speak with this entity. It indicates that their items are currently being regarded as evidence, and that the bandits from the previous night are guilty of stealing an object known as the Horn of L’krusk. They are to be judged by the infernal court. Would the travelers be willing to act as character witnesses for or against the bandits? After conferring, they agree; Burdwulf, Hilda, Jarq’wei, Papa Deuce, Stefan, Tuggs, and Utne will go, while Aerik, Falrest, and Melancholia will remain behind. The devil gestures, and it, the objects, and the seven travelers are consumed by flame.
Aerik, Falrest, and Melancholia agree to stay for a day or so while they wait. Falrest and Melancholia discuss theology, talking about the differences between Ragnock, the Rock Underneath, and Melancholia’s own nameless deity — while Ragnock represents the earth itself and the bounty it grants, Melancholia’s own deity speaks of indulgence and having a good time for oneself.
Burdwulf, Hilda, Jarq’wei, Papa Deuce, Stefan, Tuggs, and Utne find themselves in a courtroom hurtling through the void. The judge is a large, red, demonic creature with wings and a fiery whip; it wears a red judge’s robe and a white judge’s wig. The bandits from last night are all in attendance, as is some manner of fiendish bailiff. The judge asks the witnesses to come forward, and the travelers offer their testimony about how the bandits took advantage of them and stole their gear while the group was inebriated. The travelers are then ushered to another room to await deliberations. When they are recalled, the judge reveals that the bandits are sentenced to an eternity of servitude in the City of Dis for their crimes. The leader is about to speak in their defense when the judge cuts him off, and the bandits are consumed by flame.
The bailiff then explains to the travelers that their gear will be returned to them in seven to ten days, once it has been processed. The judge indicates he will see them all again very soon.
It is the next morning, Waterday, Goodmonth 5, when the travelers reappear near their cart. They decide to wait another day before they leave the following morning. They pass by the settlement of Heaminster and the homestead of Wyehill, instead deciding to stay and party in Hibluff. They arrive in Hibluff on Freeday, Goodmonth 7, and spend their silver on another epic party.
The next morning, the group awakens to learn they insulted the town elder in their drunken stupor; they make amends by publicly apologizing to him. As the villagers are about to disperse, riders arrive from Caham, indicating the travelers are thieves, that they came to their town and then stole all the gold they spent. Falrest and Utne explain that the guardsmen are mistaken; didn’t they see all the wanted posters for the bandits in Batun? Why, the travelers themselves were robbed in Batun by these bandits. The guardsmen concede that the bandits probably stole the loot, and the travelers demand a public apology from the Caham guardsmen, who willingly agree, apologizing for their rash accusations.
Later that afternoon, Clement and two hired thugs arrive in town. He finds Jarq’wei and indicates he found the wizard Eutaric’s spellbook. He did a bit of checking, and suspects it’s worth somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 sp. Jarq’wei is aghast, but agrees to meet him in five days on the steps of the Great Library in Vor Taluum. The meeting will be at noon. They each agree they can bring two guards with them. Clement stays in town for the rest of the day; when they are out of earshot, though, Jarq’wei admits he thinks Clement is trying to betray him for this book. He decides he’s going to press his own advantage when he meets back up with Clement in five days.
Clement leaves town on the morning of Sunday, Goodmonth 9, but the travelers decide to stay behind for another day. They depart for Vor Taluum on the morning of Moonday, Goodmonth 10, arriving that afternoon. They send Melancholia, Papa Deuce, and Stefan in separately, in case there is trouble. Aerik, Burdwulf, Falrest, Hilda, Jarq’wei, Tuggs, and Utne arrive within a half-hour of them, but the guards give them no issue, other than asking for their business in town.
The group convenes at a lower-class inn, The Cursed Sword, deciding to lay low after spending so much money on the road. They pay for rooms and settle for the night. In addition to research over the next few days, they would like to set up a meeting with the captain of the Black Hawk mercenaries, to discuss what happened to his men. Sergeant York is amenable to this. The next day, Hilda goes searching for information from the local criminal element while Melancholia goes to check out the Great Library at the Imperial University to assist in translating the eldritch cipher found in the cabin atop Mt. Deathfrost. Utne goes to check things at the local Church of Pelor-Who-Is-Paladine. Hilda finds that four thieves — Aenbehrt, Gaenbert, Helmund, and Jaenbald, their accomplices during the Bloodworth Estate robbery — were tried for the crime. They apparently dropped the names of their accomplices, although that information hasn’t gone into law circulation; apparently, the local Merchants’ Guild is hanging onto it. They apparently dispatched an assassin to parts unknown; he is named Osvanpyw de Rais, and he is supposed to be one of the best. He only makes one attempt on his victim’s lives, as one is all he needs, and he usually makes it appear as an accident. Since he is so skilled, his targets — Hilda and his companions, no doubt — are probably presumed dead. The assassin has not yet returned to claim his pay, although that is not necessarily so odd, as the distance he had to travel was unknown. Also, there have been a series of murders and mutilations in the vicinity of the burned-out Bloodworth Estate by some serial killer known as the Butcher of Bloodworth. Utne’s clergy contacts reveal similar information about the mutilations in the estates at the edge of town.
In the Great Library, Melancholia meets the librarian, Gerho Markenbruck, who seems pleased to see a cleric in his library. She and asks him about historical or linguistic documents. He directs her to the appropriate section, and she searches around, but finds no books to assist with translating her documents. She does, however, find a scroll bearing the symbol the others described seeing in the Bloodworth Estate and in the dungeons beneath Mt. Deathfrost, the circle with three lines. The scroll appears to be bound with a wax seal and tied with a ribbon; the ribbon is tied to a key with a heart-shaped bow. With nobody around, she slips the scroll in among her other documents and exits the library, feeling slightly guilty stealing from Gerho.
That evening, the group reconvenes. They decide to keep the scroll without reading it for now, just in case it’s cursed. When Hilda and Utne both mention the murders in the city, this prompts Melancholia to ask just exactly what they’re investigating. The group proceeds to briefly explain the horrors in the Bloodworth Estate, and the dungeons atop Mt. Deathfrost.
That evening, at the stroke of midnight, their gear returns in the middle of their rooms in a puff of brimstone. There is also an extra Kharha-style carpet they did not previously own, probably being the magic carpet reported among the bandits.
The next day, Falrest and Melancholia hit the library again to see if they can find anything further. The only thing is note is that they find a door to the older section, but it appears nailed shut and bound with beams of wood; it is clearly not in use. They think they may return to ask about that if other research yields no information.
Jarq’wei also sees if he can find information regarding Eutaric or his spellbook. He doesn’t, although it does occur to him that if he can encounter a comprehend languages spell, he might be able to break the glyphs Utne copied from the Mt. Deathfrost cabin. He does pay to borrow a wizard’s laboratory long enough to cast identify on the carpet, which is evidently a flying carpet_ activated by stating the word, "_Marhaba." The carpet holds two riders.
Jarq’wei also sets up the meeting for tomorrow, slipping money to Felix, proprietor of The Sapphire Wand, a local public bath. Felix has a secret passage to The Cracked Cup, a tavern next door, and will allow Jarq’wei and his associates to use it to escape. Additionally, he will allow them to come armed and clothed for tomorrow’s meeting. Clement and his men will be told to undress, as normal, so they’ll walk into the meeting unarmed. Felix’s staff will also take the afternoon off.
When Jarq’wei explains his plan, Utne decides to throw some money around at The Cracked Cup to lead any investigators to think they’re staying there.
The next day, Earthday, Goodmonth 13, they prepare for the meeting. Falrest will deliver the message to Clement at the Great Library, instructing him to meet Jarq’wei in an hour at the Sapphire Wand. Stefan will be acting as a porter at the bathhouse. Melancholia and Papa Deuce and will be with Jarq’wei — Burdwulf has purchased Melancholia a slinky, low-cut dress at Jarq’wei’s request. Tuggs will be in a nearby alley, watching in case something goes wrong. The others will be waiting at The Cracked Cup.
Falrest delivers Jarq’wei’s note to Clement at noon. At 1 PM, Tuggs spies Clement and his two mercenaries coming to the Sapphire Wand; Clement wears a pack on his back. From the back room, Jarq’wei, Melancholia, and Papa Deuce hear a commotion; Jarq’wei quickly undresses and puts on a towel, coming out of the back to speak with Clement. Clement is upset that he and his men have to undress, as that sounds very suspicious to him. Jarq’wei tries to allay his fears, particularly since he and his associates are clearly undressed — and Felix helpfully notes that everybody undresses in the baths. Clement calls no deal, and walks back out.
Tuggs tries to tail him, but Clement quickly spots him, shouting for guards. The guards arrive, asking if there is any problem here; Clement and Tuggs both agree there’s just been a misunderstanding. Clement then leaves.
The group meets at The Cracked Cup, indicating the plan went south. Jarq’wei, angry, contacts the local underworld and inquires about hiring an assassin for Clement. Deciding that’s too expensive, he settles on hiring someone to steal the spellbook. They agree on fifty gold pieces; 35 up front, 15 on delivery.
Hilda also takes the opportunity to research about Clement’s hired goons, and learns they’re just heavies, probably from some tavern or other. Not being official mercenaries, he lets the Black Hawks and Thieves’ Guild know.
The next day, Freeday, Goodmonth 14, is relatively uneventful, although Jarq’wei gets his book delivered in the evening. He casts read magic to decipher Eutaric’s script, and is amazed to find he’s a wizard of the fifth circle, clearly capable of potent spellcraft. Assuming Jarq’wei can hold onto the book without it being stolen or him being killed for it, he should have a potent spellbook for years to come.
The next day, the group prepares to decipher their documents. Jarq’wei has prepared comprehend languages from Eutaric’s spellbook, although his previous casting of read magic evidently lets him decipher the cabin runes.
The rambling treatise describes blasphemous rites and dark inanities such as like “Look Upon The Seven Faces of Immensity Look Upon The Breaker of All Things” and “This Is The Fifth Octacle, This Is The Greater Servitude.” Among the runes are dispelled protection runes indicating the cabin was once a magical fortress. There are also several references to a “bound and conquered god” as well as repeated references to the names The Twin Inquisitors Eizethrat Nexx and Gorgulos Nexx, Vorgen Pox, Nazir An-Azat, Exalted Interrogator Aetheldredd Aleph, Aervik Narn, and Praetor-Pontifex Cyris Carnithrax Maximus, all of whom are said to be “resting in splendor” and “gracing this place with death and that which they liberated from life” — in other words, buried in “crypts beyond the black tunnel” with their grave goods. Amid the writings, there is also an incomplete formula for trapping and channeling the energies of tortured and obedient souls in some manner of liquid.
Jarq’wei prepares to read the scroll, so the group breaks the seal, but finds no eldritch curses. In contrast to the ramblings from the cabin, this is written in archaic Common, albeit annotated by a more recent scholar. It speaks of a lost, ancient city called Duvan’Ku, ruled by the kindly King Porgotna. He had a beautiful daughter, Princess Turuvna, but she labored under a curse — when she was of marrying age, each of her suitors committed a terrible crime, causing great scandal among the royal family. Her last suitor was a general in the army, but after winning her hand, he led a massacre against innocent peasants. The King, upset that his daughter was continually hurt by these constant betrayals, put his daughter into a magical sleep so her misery would no longer trouble her. He declared that only a man of worthy heart could break the spell and claim his daughter’s hand. He sent his daughter’s torpid form to a distant outpost, to rest at the top of a tower. He sent two guardsmen to ensure that no harm came to her, and charged his court wizards with fashioning a key that would only work for a man worthy of his daughter’s love. The man claiming his daughter’s hand in marriage would inherit the kingdom and all its treasures. He then hid the key, only to be found by someone of true courage.
Meanwhile, the evil general sought the Princess, but his hate turned him to a wicked creature sustained by his hate. He apparently learned of the tower’s location, but was unable to enter, and now serves as a perverse guardian. The King was so overcome with guilt regarding his daughter’s suffering and his own spell that he died and the kingdom of Duvan’Ku was lost to the mists of history. The more recent annotations also indicate the location of the tower, to the west of the Azagirn.
The group discusses the dichotomy between the two accounts of Duvan’Ku, and wonders where they should focus their energies. Falrest and Melancholia decide to return to the Great Library to perform a little more research.