It may seem strange, but I follow the whispers of the spirits. I do not hear their voices speaking directly to me, but I feel their pull when I close my eyes and open myself to the feeling of their influence. The spirits are all around us, influencing, guiding and sometimes interfering with us, but like the rest of my people, I have come to put great faith in their hands. I must trust that the spirits shall show us the way. That is why, as soon as the discussion of Riddleport arose, I felt it was where the spirits wanted us to go. The direct reason for our trip to Riddleport was to have the clockwork soldier repaired so it could then be resold and provide both ourselves and Brinewall with the means to prepare our defenses.
At every turn I become more frustrated by the intense desire these city dwellers have for gold.. but I must use it to finish my task and build an enclave for my people, and anyone else who is a child of the green way.
Before we left, I took some time to speak with Master Jorune Ashstaff as well as his young apprentice “Yundi,” and as I reflect upon that meeting, even then I could see the hold Flay-leaf has upon him. I firmly believed then as I do now, Its time he was broken free of its control, and his senses returned to him. I suspect he had the potential to be a powerful druid once, but that has been consumed in a cloud of Flay-leaf smoke. I was resolved, upon return from Riddleport, I would make preparations to cleanse him of its influence once and for all. It will not be easy and he will not thank me for it, but as I see him wasting away, I know it has to be done.
After several days, we were finally prepared to leave, and so our hunting party set to the road and made decent time considering we were all crammed aboard one of the wagons. It was not a glorious start to our hunting expedition, but one must use different means to hunt other kinds of prey. This time, our prey was coin, and the bait was the damaged tin soldier wrapped up in the back of our wagon and secured for the trip. I do not mind telling you however, It is an extremely unpleasant way to travel, and I will always prefer a horse beneath me compared to the bumpy, unyielding wood of a wagon. I now look at Zuristoi’s people, and their lifetimes spent in these rolling rattle-boxes with a new respect for their fortitude and endurance. After only a few hours I was done with our transportation, but we still had a very long trip ahead, so I settled down with my brother and tried to sleep through as much of the trip as I could.
After twelve days on the road we finally arrived at the outskirts of Riddleport, and even from a great distance, I could feel my nose burning with the chemical stink along with the fetid stench of brine and rotten fish that was many times stronger then Brinewall..(although in all honesty, I did not think that was possible.) As our Rattle-box wagon trundled into the city, I was assaulted by such a clamor that I do not think I will ever forget it. I had not imagined so many people in all the world, especially gathered together in one place such as this. Everywhere was noise, people, stink and motion, until finally I found myself shaking and retreated to the back of the wagon to huddle with A’hoot until we were some place where I could get my bearings. After we passed several street hawkers who tried purchase both A’hoot and myself, we witnessed numerous beatings occurring down filth encrusted alleyways, and for the first time I began to wonder if we had made a mistake by coming here.
Although we had come to a dark and shadowed place, Thrindil seemed a touch more at ease here, which did provide some comfort as we searched for an Inn to settle in our wagon and begin the search for a powerful mage who could repair our clockwork. However, even Thrindil was cautious, and advised we mind ourselves and our belongings while in Riddleport, and I for one did not disagree in the slightest. We set up in a room at the “Brass Dwarf” before packing up our things and trying to make our first contact with one of the magi of the cypher lodge. It was well known that the Cypher mages were some of the most powerful wizards in the area, and if we were going to find someone with the enchantment needed to repair our clock-work, it would be at their lodge next to the base of the Cypher gate.
If you have never seen the Cypher gate, I can only speak of it as one of the great wonders of our world. The thought that such a thing was made by men is difficult for me to accept, such was its immense size and scale. The metal alone required to craft it must have emptied entire mines, and upon it’s long curved surface, carefully scrawled writing can be seen stretching from one end to the other of the vast gateway. Surely, such a thing must have been created by the spirits in a time long since forgotten by men, now it sits here inspiring a cabal of wizards to study and document every inch of its surface.
We drove our wagon up to the Cypher lodge in hopes of speaking to a wizard that could cast the spell we needed. Unfortunately, from the very beginning we ran into some difficulty, as there was a problem at the lodge which had caused them to close their doors to outsiders. There was a woman named Finella who flatly turned us away, and would not allow us to speak with any of the mages who were in residence at the lodge. We went around back, pretending to deliver supplies and entered through the kitchen despite the protests of the cook as we tried to find someone who would talk to us. Zuristoi, spoke in that smooth and charming manner of his, but even his considerable charm was to no avail as Finella demanded we leave at once and started to cast a spell that would have held us in place while we were bodily removed from the premises. Finally, a powerful mage came to the front and informed us that we were now trespassing, and lowered a wand aimed directly at us. At that point, Thrindil informed us all, that we were now breaking the law, and within moments this mage would likely activate his wand to whatever dire effect if we did not vacate the premises immediately. We would find no assistance here, and so we turned our wagon around and returned down the side street we had come, back towards the Brass dwarf.
There was a temple of Calistria here in the city that might possess the spell we were looking for, but as Thrindil explained the Goddess of Lust and Revenge, was well as the style of her worship, I felt a knot of fear develop in my gut at the thought of going there. It was at this point, Zuristoi decided to try playing some music for the patrons of the Brass Dwarf, in hopes that it might loosen their tongues. One of the serving women asked if he could keep his performance quiet, as “we were not the Golden Goblin.”.. and there was a sense of propriety to be maintained here. At that, Zuristoi decided to seek out this rowdy place in hopes of finding a lead on something that could help us locate what we were looking for. I did not think it was a good idea for any of us to travel the streets alone, even one such as Zuristoi, so I gathered my things and accompanied him down the street towards the Golden Goblin.
As we entered the Inn and Casino, once again my senses were assaulted by such a clamor that I had not imagined before. The main room was filled with a vast variety gambling tables, spinning wheels and card dealers that serviced a huge noisy bellowing crowd. Everywhere there were people, and Zuristoi seemed at ease, while it was all I could do to try and find a quiet corner and watch to make sure no one came at us unawares or made off with what little coin we had brought with us. Having found someone’s face in the crowd, Zuristoi sat down at the card-table of a blonde half elven woman. The two exchanged pleasantries, and after losing several times, suddenly Zuristoi won, and there was a message which seemed to pass between them. I later discovered that the blonde haired woman was named Samaritha Beldusk, and she had recently passed through Brinewall on her way to study at the Cypherlodge in Riddleport. Half an hour after Zuristoi sat down at her table, she took her break on a nearby balcony that overlooked the street. Before doing so, she had passed a note to Zuristoi that he should meet her and they could talk. I positioned myself close enough to make sure nothing untoward happened to Zuristoi, after all, the lesson of Desna’s pilgrim was not lost upon me, and I would not allow such an ambush to nearly kill one of our hunting party again. The kindly old woman had caused me to lower my guard, so that was a mistake I would not make twice.
Samaritha Beldusk had taken a job at the Golden Goblin, because the cypher mages had closed their doors not just to people looking for aid, but to potential apprentices as well. Fortunately, she had spoken with Finella, and had been informed that Lord Tammerhawk would be greatly interested in the services of relatively unknown adventurers such as ourselves. She sent a note to Finella, and a meeting was arranged for the following morning with the Lord of the Cypher mages.
Shortly after dawn, we left the inn and made our way through the city towards the base of the Cypher gate. Fortunately this time, instead of forcing us out, we were welcomed by Finella, and shown into the Lodge master’s quarters, past the brooding enforcer who nearly discharged his wand at us the day before. Even though we had been welcomed here in hopes that we could be of service to the Lord of the Cypher lodge, I had no illusions about the fact we were still in considerable danger. It was the only option left however, if we did not wish to turn back towards Brinewall or seek out the bladed pleasure palace of Calistria.
Ellias Tammerhawk was a gruff wizard of Chelish descent who had a keen eye and a sharp wit despite his never ending pursuit of the esoteric. There was a no nonsense approach that made things very clear at the start of exactly what he wanted. One of the other Crime lords was moving against him, and scholars he had sent for were being intercepted before they could arrive in Riddleport. Tammerhawk wanted us to find those responsible and put a stop to what was happening. A Tien scholar was overdue, and Lord Tammerhawk feared that he had been taken like the others. This was a local matter, and as such he did not want to risk open warfare on the streets, that is where we came in. Any survivors were to be found, and those responsible were to be punished.
Here at last, was something I could come to grips with. For the first time since we had arrived in Riddleport, I could feel the will of the spirits humming in my chest as a hunt was called and I could clearly see their purpose in bringing me here. Tammerhawk was a powerful man, and although the hive of Riddleport did not encourage fairness and mercy in its leaders, having his favor would do well for us if we had business here in the future. Thrindil and Zuristoi began to ask questions about access to knowledge and resources that Tammerhawk had, in order that we might begin our search. But a good hunter knows that your prey will not hide in bush that has already be searched by another hunter. I spoke to Lord Tammerhawk, telling him that we would find who had done this, in exchange for a spell that would repair our clockwork. If he would cast it for us then we would see to it his will was done. After he agreed to our terms, we set out for the docks to investigate.
I was done hiding in wagons and shivering like a child at the seemingly endless hordes of people in Riddleport. My blood was up as we took to the hunt and I found purpose in the search for our prey that distracted me from the filth and squalor that surrounded us. My brother A’hoot felt is as well, and together we moved through the city like hunting cats in our eagerness for the kill. Zuristoi found an old dwarven fisher who told us about a building down by the dock which had been abandoned for some time before being recently “reoccupied” as we moved down by the docks to take a closer look, we realized we were not alone. I noticed a group of toughs who kept a sharp lookout over the building, and so we gathered they were probably scouts and guards set to watch for any approach and alert the thugs inside of intruders.
We approached quickly, but they were alerted to our presence as soon as I cast a spell upon my brother which made his teeth longer and more vicious. We set upon them and closed the distance as fast as we could. A’hoot surged forward and had mauled all three of them to some degree as the rest of us moved into position. They turned and fled into a different warehouse behind them as the fight moved inside the building. We were fully armed, and they had little more then saps with which to attack A’hoot’s armored bulk, as a result the fight was over quickly as the rest of us moved into range and joined in the attack. We still did not know exactly who these people were, and the power structures within Riddleport were like a maze of influence between different crime lords one must navigate carefully. Furthermore, although my blood was up, we did not wish to leave an obvious trail of bodies that could be traced back to the Cypher Lord who had hired us. I stablized the one who had been nearly killed, and we interrogated the scouts about the building they were watching.
As it turned out there was another Crimelord who was interested in the events happening here on the docks. A tremendous half orc named “Boss Krote” had sent his thugs to intercept anyone leaving the building, it was only luck and a sharp eye which had discovered them before they could have in turn ambushed us on our way out. There is a saying among the huho’tach, an ambush turned, visits mischief upon its maker tenfold. We patched the thugs up as best we could, and sent them back to their boss with a warning not to interfere in Alligia’s Business. As of this point we were still a mystery, and we wanted it to stay that way. After interrogating the thugs, they informed us that people and crates of salvage had been sent here from a ship called the “Lionfish.” Now that we had the name of a connection, we continued into the warehouse from a side door. Thrindil had secretly unlocked the narrow side door that was on the other side of the warehouse and I prepared for battle by transforming myself into a Firepelt. Thrindil assisted me by quickly placing the armor over my body, then we proceeded inside.
Even now I find it difficult to describe what it felt like as a firepelt. If I were to give it words, I suppose: pure Exhilaration, would be the only thing coming to mind which gave it any justice. A’hoot and I climbed over the top of some crates which alerted Allegia’s Thugs to our presence, but the time for subtly had passed and the time for blood had come. Ahoot came down among them and they turned to attack as I leaped down off the boxes and tore into a nearby thug. It is difficult to fully explain the joy and pleasure I felt as my teeth ripped into the flesh of my prey and there was a heated wash of copper tasting blood in my mouth. I bit through his neck and crushed his windpipe, then turned to swipe at another as A’hoot also slashed at a different thug. I was consumed by the kill and could only feel the power of my new form as A’hoot and I murdered them. There was no grace or art in this fight, only butchery as we tore them apart amid savage claws and the spray of blood. Thrindil and Zuristoi were able to hit them with magic several times before the last thug went down. Fortunately we were able to take one captive, who sneered defiantly as he tossed his weapon down and surrendered.
I had not returned to my human form, but A’hoot and I watched carefully as the thug led us to one of the crates where a woman was being kept. Zuristoi could see that she was was in dire condition, so he pulled her out and channeled healing energy into her body which brought her back to consciousness. Thrindil then ordered the remaining thug to remove his weapons and climb into the heavy shipping crate where the woman had been kept. Zuristoi had assumed he was going to remain in the crate until he was discovered and released, but none of us were prepared for the reality of the situation. I had a few moments to calm down after the fight, but I was still filled with the need to kill, and as Thrindil asked a confused Zuristoi to remove the woman from the area, he also instructed me to “destroy the evidence.” and pointed towards the box with the captured thug. Perhaps it was the predator talking, but it made sense the more I considered it, because as of this point no one knew who we were. A band of two bit thugs thought of us as a Allegia’s henchmen, but if we left a survivor then other crime lords could eventually put the pieces together and figure out who had intervened on Tammerhawk’s behalf. The Cypher mage could not afford to have the Crime Lords unite against him, but neither could we afford to have them notice us and decide to take revenge directly or punish Brinewall for interfering in their affairs.
I would not order my brother A’hoot to do it, so I leapt into the crate while the Street thug screamed in terror and soon the room was filled with my roars and the wet sounds of meat being ripped apart. There were splashes of blood on the sides and my instincts took over as I used claws and teeth to finish the thug as we were confined in the crate. I was horrified with myself, but at the same time I cannot deny a certain exhilaration as I was able to give vent to the need for violence in my Fire Pelt form. I jumped on the edge and emerged from the silent crate covered in his blood as I stopped myself before committing the sin of eating his flesh. The taste of his blood still filled my mouth as I returned to my human form and I could not suppress a deep shudder. Zuristoi was understandably displeased, but agreed to help us as we cleared the bodies and filled the crate with corpses from the other thugs in Allegia’s employ. After that terrible moment, we locked the warehouse up behind us and moved on the Lionfish.
The mood was grim as we realized what we would have to do. When it came to Allegia’s thugs, there could be no survivors left alive to draw the ire back towards us and Brinewall. They would have to be killed to a man, and so we set off towards the Lion fish by stopping by an old dwarf fisher woman down by the docks. The boat itself was at Anchor in the harbor, so we needed a skiff to take us out there quietly. So far, the old dwarf had proven to be both helpful and discrete, valued traits in a city like Riddleport as I was quickly coming to learn.
We were rowed over to the Lionfish, but the fight to take her was very very messy. The ship itself was captained by a Gripli Alchemist who fought by throwing vials of ice oil and stepped out to stab me from the shadows at every opportunity. Unfortunately we alerted them before we could get A’hoot on the boat, so Thrindil spent much of the fight man-handling the gangplank down into the skiff moored to the side of the Lionfish. Zuristoi fought like a lion, and attacked the others while I engaged the captain and several of his men. At one point, the Gripli captain had stabbed me several times, and I did not know if I could fend off another attack before he landed a killing blow. I backed up against the railing as we fought and simply dropped backwards into the black water of the harbor to get away from the fight. Fortunately, I did not catch the disease that is carried in the harbor water, but I was careful not to draw any of it into my lungs as I surfaced and climbed slowly back up into the boat. After the battle, Zuristoi healed me by channeling energy into my body after the terrible wounds I had taken from the captain’s blade and his many alchemical bombs.
We were close now, as we discovered papers and maps in the captain’s quarters with detailed plans for Allegia’s ill conceived move against the master of the Cypher-lodge. After some negotiations with the dwarvish fisherwoman.. (in which Thrindil seemed to make new friends as always.) she agreed to gather a crew and sail us the short distance up the coast to the rendezvous point. Upon reaching the hidden cove, we could see a cave where Allegia’s latest victim was moored, A Tian vessel which had been carrying a scholar from half way around the world in Minkai. We sailed the Lionfish up the into the harbor and quietly moored our ship nearyby before disembarking and making our way into the dock.
The cave split into two tunnels, so we investigated the tunnel to our right and found it ended in a ledge over a pit filled with trained warhounds. The beasts had been horribly mistreated, and I grieved at seeing them, so filled with mindless rage. I hoped that after all this was Over I could perhaps take them back to the grove and tend them back to health. I could not get through the them however, and their noise had certainly alerted the others of our arrival. .. so we prepared for combat and made our way down the other passageway to the left.
Once inside we found that the passageway expanded out into a large cave ..where Allegia had prepared to make her stand. Allegia herself was of some kind of race I had never seen before, her skin shimmered and there was an quality to her body that led one to believe she was not fully human. As she appeared from around a pillar in the room, she held the tian scholar in front of her with a hand crossbow resting aimed at his throat. More thugs came from around the pillars and the situation deteriorated into a standoff.
Zuristoi, Thrindil and I all spoke, trying to negotiate and buy time, but as she made offers to us, our cover was becoming thin and I realized that we were running out of time to act. I stepped aside and gave A’hoot the command to take the Scholar and hold him on the ground. My brother surged forward and took the scholar from a shocked Allegia as her thugs cried out and attacked us. He threw the scholar on the ground, protecting him while several thugs moved towards us on the attack. Allegia and one of her henchmen tried to reach the lever which opened up the dog kennels below. Thrindil summoned an earth elemental in their path, while I stepped forward to engage Allegia with my club. She was very quick, and danced with her blade as it snapped back and forth in a seemless order of attacks. We traded several blows as A’hoot tore into her henchmen, finally she landed a cut on the side of my arm, but it started bleeding fast enough that the poison smeared on her blade was not able to do its work. Thrindil’s elemental took out the last thug and moved to attack Allegia from behind as the summoner commanded it to stop. He shouted at Allegia to stand down or die, and so after a moment of looking around at her fallen henchmen, she surrendered her weapon. I would take no chances, so I struck her from behind with my club to knock her out while we tied her up and prepared her for transport back to the Cypher lodge. Zuristoi healed the Tian scholar, who was grateful for our rescue.
We were taking a chance, leaving Allegia alive, but I had no doubt that Tammerhawk would make sure that loose end was tied up… permanently. Upon returning, Ellias was overjoyed at the return of his scholars as well as the capture of his rival. Both were swept away by servants who heeded his commands quickly and efficiently. That was when the situation turned, as he informed us that.. the greater make whole spell was a recently researched conjuration that he did not.. as yet, have access to. We explained what we needed it for, and he nodded in understanding before offering to broker a deal for the clockwork to his sources in Magnamar. Our role in its acquisition would be erased, and he would take a generous cut of its sale in exchange for handling all the details such as transport and repair. We haggled briefly as Zuristoi fought hard to get us a better deal.. and we did finally reach an agreement that was more to our liking. The three of us would receive 2500 gold each, in addition a trade route would be established between Riddleport and Brinewall using the “Lionfish” Because the Lionfish was flying Riddleport Colors, merchants would be desperate to book passage for freight and passengers too valuage to risk attack by pirates. Therefor the new dwarvish captain of the Lionfish stood to make a tidy profit along with Brinewall.we were also free to take any loot or salvage from the lionfish or Allegia’s warehouse as our own.
It was not a great deal, but I sensed danger… Tammerhawk was a crime lord of Riddleport after all. So I feel we left with as good of a deal as we were going to get. We thankfully sold the wagons, and with loaded packs, headed back on the road towards Brinewall..