Legends of the Nentir Vale

Voice of a Stranger
Darkness that comes

It’s a cold and blistery night in Winterhaven and tavern at Wrafton’s Inn is bustling. The ale is flowing and the fire is roaring. The songs of the local bard fill the air with words of love and bravery. A slender elven woman wearing long silver robes approaches the bard upon the makeshift stage. After a few hushed whispers between the woman and the bard she pulls a lute out from beneath her robes and beings to sing. Her voice is as beautiful as the new fallen snow glinting in the moonlight.

“Markelhay, our King has been taken from us,
I tell you, I tell you the King has been slain.

With a strike in the night his life slipped away,
Believe believe of the darkness that comes.

It’s a nod to the evil that lurks in the shadows,
Beware beware of the darkness that comes.

For the light has now passed and the darkness yet grows,
You’ll know you’ll know that Kamroth has come."

She recites the song again in the most elegant sounding elvish that has ever graced Wrafton’s Inn.

The House Kamroth guards that had been laughing and drinking now have faces of stone. They approach the woman and arrest her for blaspheming Kamroth, Steward to the throne. The woman does not resist and is peacefully escorted out by the guards with a smile upon her face.

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Into the Night
Lion...A man's best friend

Marius trusted the spell he had cast to keep him attached to Winterhaven’s outer wall. He had seen Kovas use it several times, and thought it would be useful. He crept within six feet of the top and relaxed, waiting to hear Delvin activate his handy new toy. He heard the shuffle and clank of the guards walking along the top of the wall. The night absorbed the duskblade’s dark grey cloak and made him all but invisible.

He chewed the inside of his lip, pondering the events of the last hour. What was Armand doing coming furtively out the back door of a house in Winterhaven’s merchant district? Had he seen through the beard and ratty cloak and spotted their father’s blue eyes and thick nose before Marius had fallen and turned his face away like a scared peasant?

He could find out. Once he cleared the wall, it couldn’t be terribly hard to run down a slow-moving luxury carriage — the only way his family ever traveled. But he couldn’t do that — couldn’t leave town at all — until he made a decision. After all his pouting and brooding, though, it ended up pretty simple. His original family ended up a total loss, and this was his new family. He was done going through life letting Armos Kamroth defile every relationship he had. It’d be better to die trusting them than to live as a shriveled husk. These were his brothers now.

The screams of terrified horses coming from the stables startled him back to full attention. He watched, listened to the guards’ reaction, which became especially entertaining after the angry roar of some kind of hunting cat came bursting out into the night. Marius took a deep breath, coiled his muscles, and sprang! Up the six feet to the walkway… rolling across the narrow pathway… and neatly down and onto the other side. Zoltan’s brother had been right — this spell was AMAZING! After a few seconds to pause and check to see if he’d been spotted, he scrabbled his way down to the ground. Finding his bearings, he took off at a trot to the southwest.

Armand Kamroth might not be his brother anymore, but he only had an hour’s head start. He would find him.

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A Wanted Man
Famous for all the wrong reasons

The parties unexpected jaunt to the Shadowfell that seemed to take a couple of weeks, but over a year had passed in the Nentir Vale when we returned.

Markelhay was crowned King of the Vale, and Marius’ father became the King’s Hand.

Thorinshield was named Warden of the East and Killian Warden of the West.

While they were gone, Markelhay was assassinated. Suspicion has been cast upon his wife and on Marius as possible assassins. Marius’ father has assumed the throne in practice if not in name, and elevated Marius’ brother to the Hand.

Marius Levant pushed his chair deeper into the shadows and sprawled his long legs out before him. The tankard of ale sat before him untouched, even though part of him would like nothing better than to get stupid, blistering drunk. Under the brim of his hat, the glow from his pipe would briefly cast an orange light over his face when he drew breath. Otherwise, he was still.

Silent.
Bitter.
Alone.

He had watched as the spellscale entered the tavern’s common room and sought out the message board, just as Marius had moments earlier. Marius watched Delvan skim over the mix of advertisements and announcements and then freeze, eyes wide and curious, at the place where Marius knew the bounty on his own head was tacked. The young sorcerer then hurried to the bar, where he no doubt learned that the sheet he saw had been superceded, the bounty doubled.

Fifty thousand regs.
That is how much his father despised him.
Fifty thousand regs.

“For that much, I ought to turn myself in,” he growled under his breath, shaking his head slightly.

The old bitterness, the old rage, the cold armor of isolation enveloped his heart, and the duskblade welcomed it like a long-lost friend. While the others had shaken off the unpleasant effects of their unexpected jaunt to the Shadowfell, the weight of gloom and hopelessness and ennui found fertile soil and took root in Marius. The spellscale’s furtive glance over his shoulder had snuffed out something in Marius’ mind. Not a glance full of hope and fun and friendship, but a pragmatic flicker of farewell and speculation.

The bounty sheet explained so much.

It explained the “toll collectors” on a road that, up until three months ago, went absolutely nowhere. It explained the company of Kamroth guards all over Winterhaven. It explained his brother’s presence in the North, far from the plush surroundings of his home in Fallcrest. It even explained the note of reticence he had sensed in Lord Killian’s communication. Now that he was Armand’s father-in-law, married into his father’s machinations, how could he do anything other than prepare a nice welcome party for naive Marius’ eventual return?

He could feel the net tightening around him even now, but he remained motionless except for the occasional puff on the pipe. How much did his father really know? That was the crucial question rolling around in his mind.
Does he know I am in Winterhaven? Probably not, since I didn’t exactly reveal myself to the spies on the road.

Does he know what I look like now? The three months growth of black winter beard hid his youthful features, but it was hard to hide the great-sword/chain combination. Did Armos Kamroth remember his disowned son’s favored weapons well enough to have warned his soldiers to be on the lookout for the distinctive combo? Had Lord Killian jogged his memory?

Does he know I am innocent of his charges? Almost certainly.

Would he have me executed if caught? Undoubtedly.

Do I care?

That question froze his thoughts. There was little that disgusted Marius more than self-pity. He thought that Nimozoran the Green had ground out of him the last vestiges his father had left, but apparently not. The duskblade gritted his teeth and flexed his hands angrily on the edge of the table, making the old wood creak. Puling and whining like a sick pup was a good way to be put out of your misery. Especially when you’ve racked up a serious hall of fame of enemies.

Orcus, Prince of the Undead
Tharizdun, the Chained God
Armos Kamroth, Steward of the Nentir Vale
Armand Kamroth, Hand of the King of the Nentir Vale
Lord Killian, Warden of the West

Not to mention his own companions. The kneeler, priest of the dead god of law and justice. Fifty thousand regs in the church coffers combined with St Cuthbert’s complete faith in the very system of laws and justice and courts that Marius’ father had spent his entire life manipulating for fun and profit? Zoltan would want to help, but he would think that turning Marius in and lawyering his case before the authorities would be “helping.”

The caster would follow the path of most fun and least resistance. Again, fifty thousand regs would provide tons of fun and still grease enough palms to take care of any resistance.

The rogue was a completely unknown quantity, but the size of the reward was not. There was no bond between them that his father’s wealth could not poison.
Everything seemed to hinge on that stupid reward. “Nine Hells! There’s probably already a team of hunters looking for me right now.” But if could make the reward go away?

He could go to Fallcrest and confront his father head-on.
He could sneak into Killian’s keep, kidnap his brother, and trade him for exoneration.
He could head north. Ride past Mistwatch and just keep going.
He could slip out into the night and start chopping necks.

What he couldn’t do, he decided, was sit here a moment longer waiting for Death to come for him. He tapped his pipe out on the floor and tucked it back into his belt pouch. Then he dropped a couple coins on the table, drew his cloak tight about him, and tiptoed out the back entrance to the tavern. After a slow scan over his shoulder to make sure he wasn’t spotted, he was gone.

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Journey into Shadow
I don't think we are in Nentir anymore

Smoke from a giant obsidian magical mirror we broke has drawn the party into what Marius suspects is the Shadowfell.

At the center of the crossroads stands a grisly marker, a signpost adorned with an ancient corpse bound to its crosspieces. The constant abrasion of windblown dust has scoured clean the placards of the signpost and turned the body into a desiccated husk. The corpse’s skin is black as night and as hard as boiled leather. The lids of the eyes are stitched closed. It’s lips are also stitched together but time has caused the lips to pull back around the stitches revealing rotten teeth and causing an eerie grin.

A lonely crossroads of five ways is marked by a withered sign, the writing upon which has faded to illegibility. The crossroads seems like any other, except for the strange aura it exudes – a sensation of vast space, limitless potential in a single bleak hollow
of land.

When Marius asked the corpse to point us in the direction it wanted us to go, it signaled towards its right.

Marius gathers the group together and says, “Backs together while we talk, guys. We have to keep our eyes open at all times. We do not belong here, everything here will know it, and a lot of them will want to rape us, eat our flesh, and skin us for tapestries — and if we’re very lucky, they’ll do it in that order. So we know that that… thing… responds to questions… should we ask it something more specific like, ‘Which way should we go to find shelter?’ or ‘Which way should we go to get the heck out of here?’”

“I think we should ask it, ‘Which way to escape the cruel fate that has befallen you.’” says Christopher.

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Fallen Comrade
Off with his hand...

Oh no! Paracelsus’ swagger came back and bit him in the… hand! He got his hand amputated by a blade trap! Paracelsus lost more than his hand…he lost his life as well.

Sad times tonight as Paracelsus sacrificed himself for the greater good of the his comrades, those 3 that he considers closest to him. Now roaming the world of the dead he is trying to connect with nature again since in the past few months he was forced to endure the grueling sights of man-made buildings and caverns.

“We will find someone, if we have to quest to the great shrine to Pelor that is the final resting place of Onyn Mianka — perhaps the Radiant Servant of Pelor left behind an Ale (8) of True Resurrection.” states Marius.

I can’t speak for Marius, but as soon as we revive the other survivors—the Golgari Dragonborn—we’ll carry Paracelsus out. Narrows will propose that the group visit his old friend, the High Priest Ressilmae Starlight at Moonsong Temple. Narrows reveals that Ressilmae has been his mentor for many years and helped to shield him from the predations of Low Town life as a young boy.

Narrows believes that Lord Starlight may possess the power to raise Paracelsus.

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Warning Shots
Baiting the trap

Note found on the body of Brutus.

B—

Marius is no longer to be trusted. He is associated with the people who tried to murder me in an alley during a meeting with the contact. I was injured during the scuffle and will remain in hiding until the plan has been seen through. I have confirmation via raven that the assassin has received payment and is waiting to carry out his orders. Then I will be untouchable and will have true power over Fallcrest and the lands beyond.

For now Marius and his companions must be dealt with swiftly before they get too close. Burn them to the ground if necessary. Ellyium will be keeping a close eye on them. He will be at your command if needed. Once I am in my new position of power I will contact you again with further instructions.

K—

Scrawled on a sheet of vellum crossbow-bolted to the door at the Lucky Gnome Taphouse that leads back to Kelson’s private area:

K —

You threaten my people; we threaten yours.
You attack my house; we watch your stables burn.
You put prices on our heads; we take yours.

We should have settled this as men; not with fire.

— M

(attached under the M is a large, bloody, greenish ear with a very distinctive earring)

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Fire in the Night
It all comes burning down

Marius is headed home from a meeting pretty late/early, when he sees a reddish glow coming from the general direction of his hideout. Suspecting that the gang might be in some trouble, but having no idea how quickly they’d run in the total opposite direction of SLOW-PLAYING the work of unseating Kelson, et al, he rushes around the corner to see four guys lobbing lit oil-flask bombs on his building.

Marius kills two of them. Kovas and Delvan come out the back of the building, kill another one, and chase the 4th guy into the market square.

Christopher and Paracelsus find the front doors chained and two or three guys out there. The warblade dives through one of the windows and gets surrounded by the guys who are out there. Paracelsus summons a wolf to do some chomping. Business is done.

Kovas liquifies the runner. Marius starts ringing the fire bell next to the well while Delvan starts running buckets back and forth. The fire gets extinguished before the building is gone, but a sizeable portion of the roof and one wall must be replaced.

Business opens the next day… a few items are sold… the halfling and the half-elf commence repairs. Marius wanders the area gathering information. Brutus leaves a note demanding the rest of his payment (the bottom half of Christopher’s armor) and arranging a meeting at dusk at Kelson’s stables. We find a feather on Delvan?

Delvan is up on the roof sunning himself when he spots a glint of light from a rooftop on the far side of the market square. Careful evaluation suggests that it may be someone watching us with a spyglass. Marius and Kovas climb up the back of the building, while Christopher approaches from the market side and Delvan prepares to glide into the fray if need be. Kovas jingles on his way over up onto the roof — the spy tries to stand but Marius trips him, so he just rolls off the side of the building! Christopher takes care of him at ground level, while Marius slides into the interior of the building, down the rope that the spy had used to climb to the roof. Discovers a satchel with lots of white feathers, some paper, a note from Kelson, and a crate with three ravens (which we assume, but haven’t yet had time for Paracelsus to check, are trained to go to Kelson’s hideout).

Group meanders down to the stables. Paracelsus talks to the horses a bit, while Marius and Christopher and Kovas look around. We gather at a table set up near one end, with another note from the eloquent half-orc. Christopher wants to leave a sack of pots and pans for him, but Kovas brought the real armor, so we put that on the table… and hear an ominous -click-!!!

BOOM! Fireball trap catches three of us. Paracelsus gets the horses out without panicking, and the rest of us rush to the door to find Brutus and four other thugs. Brutus is wearing Christopher’s armor and mocks him. Marius expresses his anger at the ham-handed way in which Brutus and Kelson have handled this situation. Brutus says he follows orders from Kelson.

Marius: “You hide under Kelson’s skirt.”
Brutus: “Kelson pays me to hide under his skirt.”

Marius makes a comment about the type of fellow who gets paid to do work under another fellow’s skirt. Brutus gets mad and demands his payment. Marius says, “Come and get it.”

Ruckus ensues – Christopher acquits himself especially well, absorbing tremendous damage without wavering in his position. Brutus flees after three of his flunkies die, but not fast enough to get out of range of Delvan’s Magic Missile that splits his domepiece. Well — not really — Christopher would have been sad if that happened!

Last thug got away while we moved to get out of the area before the guard arrived, dragging Brutus’ body with us, on which was found another cute satchel with the note from Kelson.

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Search for Answers
Returning home

The full moon created bold patterns of light and shadow across the grounds of Kamroth Manor. Two guards spoke softly to each other as they patrolled the low wall that encircled the estate. They were both burly men, bearded and helmed, and moonlight glinted off their oiled chainmail and the scabbards of their swords.

“Oy! Didja hear about the ruckus in Lowtown the other day?”

“Ruckus in Lowtown? How’s that supposed to stand out from any other day?”

“Not every day a gang of little folk starts stabbing people in the streets!”

“Wha?? Yer daft! Where’d you come by such nonsense?”

The pair stopped as the first guard replied, defensively, “From the barkeep at the Red Dragon! You want to call ‘IM a liar?”

“Well, not to his face. But still, that sound ridiculous!”

“Don’t mean ‘t’weren’t true. Also heard there was some kinda fella with horns leadin’ em!”

“Horns!?”

“Horns.”

“Now I know you’re daft. Let’s pick up the pace — I know the big man ain’t around but the boss might still be checking our time.”

Their voices grew softer as they continued their rounds. After their voices and the soft clinks of their armor could no longer be heard, a long shadow rolled over the top of the wall and landed lightly on the inside. Cloaked and hooded, but with a greatsword prominently slung over one shoulder, the figure knelt by the wall and hurriedly scanned for movement. Spotting nothing, he rushed forward to the shadows created by a row of bushes, then froze and listened. He heard an old cracked voice singing softly from the stables, that old sappy refrain “Careless Love.” The swordsman turned that way and crept o the large wooden outbuilding that smelled of horses and straw. He could see a bit of candlelight between the boards, and as he leaned against the side, he could hear the singer working on a jingly bit of tack — probably a bridle. The hooded figure peered over his shoulder once more, but there were no guards in sight. He reached up then and scratched the wall three times, then paused, then scratched twice more. The singing stopped, and he heard the soft clank of the bridle being laid aside.

“Marius? Is that you, you young fool?”

“Who else, you smelly old fart?” the lanky swordsman replied as he swept into the barn and pulled his hood back to reveal a wide grin.

“What are you doing here, you fool??? You know everyone has orders about you.”

“Yeah, yeah — but I know you better than that. And I’m not staying long. I just need to know where the old man is. Is he here?”

“Nope – rode out two days ago. But then, he hasn’t been home more than a night or two at a time this whole month. That man is busybusybusy.”

“I bet. Know why?” As he asked, Marius reached under his cloak and drew out a full wineskin. “For you, oldster. Better than anything he will give you.”

“I know, I know. But I’m too old to be running off now.” His voice creaked as he tilted the skin up and took two swallows. “That is fine, boy,” he said, then resealed the skin and laid it gently aside. “And you too young to be running around like this. You a damned fool.”

Marius nodded, then asked again, “What’s he up to?”

“Not rightly sure, kid. He don’t invite me up for tea, y’know. But him and the Lord Marshal been thick as thieves just about every time he HAS been home. And nothing good ever comes of those meetings.”

“Heard anything about a big meeting coming up in a week, maybe ten days?”

“Yar — look around at these pretty new horses. Big Man brought them in two weeks ago, says, ‘Grover, you sack of wine, I want you to baby these lads. They’re to be gifts for highborn folk, and I want each one marked special with its own new lord’s sigil on its barding and tack. Have it all ready before the 1st day of Yellowsky, or I’ll have your eyes out myself.’ Sounded like he meant it, too, so I’ve been at it night and day. Look here — ” the old groom picked up the bridle he’d been working on, and Marius recognized the wolfs-head sigil of House Killian.

“That’s goodlooking work, especially with your old claws.”

“Shut your mouth ‘fore I shut it for you, boy.”

“Heard anything weird from Lowtown lately?”

“Didn’t HEAR anything weird, but I SAW sommat out of the ordinary. You know I have to go to Lowtown for pipeweed — can’t afford any of the fancy schmancy stuff they sell up here… Well, out I come from the smokeshop with my sack of weed, and I see this elfy fellow in ratty kit even for Lowtown, hurrying up the street. Looked like he might’ve slept in somebody’s chicken coop the night before, ‘cause he had a bright white feather stuck in his cloak. Wouldn’t remember it, ‘cept that he was in such a hurry that he bumped into this little fella, and the little fella just up and stuck him! Stuck him and run off. I tried to chase ‘im, but then arrows started flyin’ at the poor elf! I dunno what happened after that, ‘cause I got shut of the whole place! But I know what I heard — I heard a wolf snarl and a man get his throat tore out while he was screaming. I know that. Guess I’ll have to make this sack of weed last for a while — I’m not goin’ back down — “

Heavy footfalls from outside caught his attention, and Grover snatched the bridle out of Marius’ hands. “Get out of here, boy!” he hissed. “And be careful! Don’t want to see your head hung over the gate.”

Marius Levant shot a waspish smirk at the old groom, who snickered to himself, before he pulled his hood back over his head and faded back into the shadows at the far end of the barn. He tripped over a feed bucket, and swore softly to himself as he fell heavily into a haystack. He held very, very still as the two guards from earlier sauntered in and chatted with Grover for a while. From the volume of the conversation, Marius suspected that they’d had a few nips of something strong during their walk around the grounds. He grabbed his sword and scabbard, holding them tight to prevent any noise, and stood again. Suddenly he grinned wickedly and released them. His fingers darted into his spellpouch, from which he pulled a tiny ball of wool. With a few softly muttered syllables, he flicked the pinch of wool towards the three men. All three spun, putting their backs to him as they heard the scream of a mountain lion from somewhere out on the grounds. The horses nickered and neighed anxiously, and in the commotion, Marius slipped out the back of the barn into the night.

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Run-in with Kelson
Cutting off the head of the rat

Kovas, Paracelsus and Narrows recovered the Arnleif weapons from the Beliard Keep and sold half to the Wolves of Winterhaven.

Then, they travelled to Fallcrest to set up shop. We wandered into the Lucky Gnome to get information and hire someone to sell the weapons in Marius’ store front. We hired a halfling called Alton Montajay to watch the shop. We hired a half elf called Ellovyr to stand guard.

Kelson summoned us into the back room and demanded info about the Dragon burial ground. Narrows managed to convince him that had they found anything other than Douven Stall’s body, they wouldn’t be in his office! He then demanded protection money.

They learned from a disgruntled employee (the half elf) that he had been meeting with robed men in back alleys lately.

They pretended to leave town, but returned disguised as mendicants of Pelor. They followed Kelson and tried to assassinate him. He escaped and the heroes have chase lying in wait outside the back door of the Lucky Gnome. Kelson never returned so Narrrows broke into Kelson’s office.

Just before Narrows tried to assassinate Kelson, the heroes heard the masked figure discussing the up-coming council meeting with Kelson. The were discussing that someone needed to be assassinated, but the heroes did not hear any names mentioned. It was said that a raven would be dispatched to carry the news.

As I said before, the party chased Kelson back to the Lucky Gnome Taphouse. Kovas had the brilliant idea to use his boots to carry the two others up to the rooftop where they could run, jumping from roof to roof, to beat Kelson back to the taphouse, but he never arrived.

Narrows decided to pick the lock to the back door and enter. He ransacked a storeroom before he heard Brutus, the half-orc bouncer making his rounds. Kovas tried to distract him by making a ruckus in the front of the taproom. None of Kelson’s thugs had connected Kovas’ new dragonborn form to the others. So, while Kovas distracted him, Narrows slipped down the hall and fired through a curtain at point blank range—using sleep poison laced bolts. Sadly, Brutus managed to chase him back down the hall toward Kelson’s office and slice into Narrows. Narrows escaped out the back door and managed to lose Brutus. He then hid and doubled back, catching Brutus as he tried to get back into the back door of the Lucky Gnome. Luckily for the group, Kovas had tied the handle of the door with a rope. Narrows shot him—this time having the good sense to run like heck until the poison had time to work.

In short, the heroes kidnapped Brutus. They ran into a female human and a male human as well as a halfling. Kovas carried Brutus’ hog-tied form rolled in a rug. The heroes made to lose the ruffians in the Market just North of the Tap Room.

Paracelsus was using his animal allies to try to intercept any ravens that might be leaving Fallcrest while Kovas and Narrows tried to deal with Brutus. Then, when the group tried to slip back to Marius’ storefront undetected, he cast an obscuring mist. Narrows managed to hide and cast darkness. The crowd in the market panicked and it seemed that the heroes had evaded the ruffians.

Paracelsus then went back into the market—still dressed as the beggar that the ruffians had seen before. suddenly, he felt the chill of a knife blade in his side. He caught sight of the halfling rogue calmly walking on into the market crowd.

He was severely wounded, but not wanting to give away his disguise he made to leave calmly. Then, an arrow caught him in the back as he fled. Realizing that he was in mortal peril and that neither Narrows nor Kovas knew where he was, he muttered an incantation in an ancient and unknown tongue. A wolf appeared lunging through the crowd after the halfing. As paracelsus fled he saw the wolf tear out the throat of his assailant!

Narrows realized that neither Kovas nor Paracelsus had made it back to Marius’ shop and hid in the snickleway behind to keep watch. He caught Paracelsus just before he entered the lane and whispered for him to keep walking. One of the ruffians had marked Paracelsus’ mendicants cloak with a white feather!

Later, the heroes managed to get Brutus into the cellar of Marius’ shop. Narrows is keen to ask Brutus a few questions when he come around…

After the whole party united at Marcus’ shop, we decided to gather information regarding the assassination that is supposed to occur during the council. Paracelsus went into the woods to talk to the raven’s that are helping him find the one Raven that is carrying a message sent out by Kelson. Zultan went to a church to reconnect with his god in prayer and meditation while the rest of the party (Birdman, Giuseppe, and Christopher) were trying to interrogate Brutus the Half-Ork whom some of us captured last time. He was kept in the basement of our little shop.

They came up with a risky story to retrieve information from Brutus. Giuseppe played the helping hand to Birdman, who portrayed an assassin rogue from a different town. He claimed having unfinished business with Kelson (i.e. Kelson owes him money) and he is here to collect it and dispose of Kelson. Thus he wanted information from Brutus about the whereabouts and current plans of Kelson. Brutus quickly realized the true intends of our party and he decided to play along. Clearly, he was looking to make money out of this situation. He agreed to gather information for the price of 250gp. Information should be exchanged quite anonymously the next day. After the ‘agreement’ was reached, Brutus simply got up, despite being ‘tied up’ and put on his clothing and proceeded to go upstairs. Birdman had told him that he had taken care of the party upstairs. When Brutus looked around there were some signs of fighting but no blood was on the floor and in the corner was a big warrior with very shiny armor. Brutus laughed:" I’m going to bloody up this place just a little bit. And also forget the 250 gold pieces." tossing the Birdman the coin purse. “This armor will suffice for all the troubles haha.” Then picking up a war-hammer from the shelves he takes a swing at Christopher’s head. With a crushing noise the hammer comes down, but Christopher is able to, by the power of all his martial expertise, still pretend that he is dead. Then Brutus simply walks out the front door into the night…

After Paracelsus and Zultan get back to Marius’ shop they are concerned about the safety of the party. Zultan takes the first watch of the night and Paracelsus takes over for him for the last part. During his watch 5 creatures, similarly dressed to the ones’ he had battled in the market square, appear in the night and toss fire-grenade like objects into the store and onto the roof of the building. Paracelsus quickly calls for his companions and promptly uses his skills as a druid to cast water onto burning objects..

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Nimzoran the Green
An old mentor

He had been away from his new… friends? allies? companions? He wasn’t even sure what to call them yet… for three weeks. He had ridden hard from Winterhaven and gotten back to Fallcrest in a day and a half. He went about his usual routine, popping his head into different hidey-holes and letting certain people see the big grey hat that was his trademark. He ducked into the Red Dragon, the Silver Unicorn, and the Blue Moon, as well as several unnamed holes where naughty folk might gather to play cards, whisper secrets, and make naughty schemes. Studiously avoided the Lucky Gnome, though. Let Kelson hear that Marius Levant was back in town and wonder why he wasn’t around. After his pub crawl, he reversed his cloak and tucked his hat away. It didn’t precisely make him anonymous, but with a bit of a stoop to his walk, he drew far less attention to himself. He shuffled through the Lowtown market square, made his way through the crowd around the King’s Gate and into the wooded area between the Gate and Nimzoran’s Tower. With a bit of careful searching, he found the hidden path that went up the side of the bluff on which the tower had been built. He wanted this to be a private visit, less obvious than walking right up to the front door.

He paced carefully from the path to the tower, turned left, and took 17 carefully measured steps. He drew his dagger and tapped softly, three-then-two, against what appeared to be a nondescript section of the stone tower. After a long moment, though, cracks appeared and a door swung open to reveal a little bald child, scrawny but clean and maybe 10 years old. The child said nothing, just looked at the lanky adventurer with a pair of bright green eyes. He dropped to a knee and smiled.

“We’ve not met, little one. I am Marius, and I once served Master Nimzoran as you do now. Do you have paper?” The waif pulled a scrap from a pocket of the plain woolen outfit and handed it to him. Marius dug around in his gear until he found his quill and inkwell. The waif turned their back to him and bent slightly, and held a hand up for the inkwell. Marius grinned, knowing the routine well. This one was new.

Nimzoran the Green believed in a very strict method of teaching. First, he believed, potential apprentices must learn to listen. They learned this by being silent — utterly silent — usually for the first three months or so of their evaluation. They must also prove their willingness to obey and their ability to learn. Since both of those traits were hindered by natural pride, the master removed all reason for such pride. Plain clothing, empty quarters, shaved head, and — oddest of all — no name. None at all. For Marius, namelessness and silence had lasted over six months. The bitterness at the core of his being resisted Nimzoran’s attempts to tame it with reason or willpower. Finally the wizard summoned him to the training area and growled, “Boy, you’ll be no mage. Your mind is too hard, your heart too angry, to absorb the subtleties of the Art. But I know who you are — no, don’t speak it aloud — and I appreciate the reasons for your hate. I’ve searched my library high and low, and I believe I’ve found the answer. You read Elvish, yes?” The old man tossed Marius a heavy scroll case. “Read this, Levant. Read it, and tell me if the way of the Dusk Blade will suit you.”

Back with the new potential apprentice, Marius had shaken the reverie away, tapped his quill into the inkwell, and — holding the paper against the back of the youngster — scrawled:

“Master N – Lev. returns with information, and with questions. May I join you?” He inked the distinctive glyph that the wizard had given him to verify any messages and handed the paper to the child.

“Take this to your master, little one. He will instruct you further.” As the door closed, he had sat down and leaned back against the wall, taken a bit of traveling bread and jerky from his pack, and chewed thoughtfully. So much had happened in the last months! First the Blackbrier Gang; then the black-clad elf; the events around Winterhaven… the haunting evil of Orcus and — woven through it all — the horrible dreams of the Red Woman who seduced him and slaughtered him in a new way in every dream. He had learned so much of the Dusk Blade Way, but now his mind was racing with so many questions. He needed help. He needed guidance. He needed a safe place to rest.

The door cracked open again….

The door cracked open again and the young boy quietly motions for Marius to enter the tower.

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